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    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Fertility Treatments

    Did y'all read about this?

    Smokers, lesbians, and single women, but not fat women or women over 40, would be allowed to get fertility treatment through the National Health Service under recommendations from the British Fertility Society. The cutoff is a body mass index of 36. Rationales: 1) "Obese women are less likely to get pregnant and more likely to encounter health problems." 2) "The NHS is already stopping women who are obese from having fertility treatment," so let's make it official. Fertility Society's view: "Continued inequality of access to treatment is unacceptable in a state-funded health service." Cynic's view: Evidently, some inequalities are more unequal than others.

    I don't tend to spend a lot of blog time complaining about the policies of governments that are not my own, but this is, no doubt, on its way to the US.

    And one more thing: what about the severely underweight women (often celebrities and trophy wife types) who are VERY likely to get fertility treatments and also very likely to encounter health problems?

    There is Silence in the Streets; Where Have All the Protesters Gone?

    There is very little in this world I hate more than editorials like this.

    There's very little need for me to comment, though, because lots of good folks have done it for me.

    Blue Crab Boulevard says it:

    Andrew Rosenthal, in the New York Times, makes a plaintive lament about the lack of protesters in the streets today. Ah, the good old days of marching in the streets, revolution in the air, teach-ins, sit-ins and all the est of the fun and games of that era. ...

    Laments like this reveal more about the person making the comments than about the world as it is. Rosenthal mourns that there is no draft to motivate the young to rise up. What Rosenthal doesn't admit, or remember is that it wasn't all heady idealism. There were also riots and bombings in some places. Many of the protests had much more than just an anti-war agenda, many were openly pro-communist. Many more protesters wanted not just the end to the Vietnam war, they had other political irons in the fire. A good portion of the protesters were swept along by the enthusiasm - they were not really true believers.

    In the rose-tinged hindsight of people like Rosenthal, it was all good and driven by people with high ideals. It was not quite as he would paint the picture.


    Matthew Iglesias knocks it out of the park, as they say:

    Have I ever mentioned that I hate baby boomers? Sometimes I think this is irrational on my part. Then along comes Andrew Rosenthal's infuriating contribution to today's New York Times editorial page. In essence, he went to hear Crosby, Stills, and Nash play, started thinking about the old Crosby, Stills, and Nash shows he's seen, waxes nostalgic about the sixties, and demands to know why the kids these days aren't as awesome in terms of mounting an anti-war movement as the kids were back in his day.

    Well, what's happened is that a broad coalition of boomers who've managed to grow up, along with the vast swathes of the American public either too old or too young to have been at Woodstock, are trying to avoid the catastrophic mistakes made by the anti-war movement in the late 1960s. Specifically, we're trying to not link the war question up with a broad countercultural movement that managed to become less popular than the war itself. Specifically, rather than engaging in a lot of self-indulgent political theater, contemporary anti-war people have managed to get the vast majority of the Democratic Party -- along with a few Republicans, like the desperate Chris Shays -- to shift toward a position favoring an end to the war in Iraq, and we're now hoping the 2006 midterm elections will put such politicians in a position where they have the power to do something about it.

    There's just very little reason to think that organizing mass demonstrations or getting more people to listen to "New Kicks" or "Celebration Guns" would advance any important political goals in a useful way.


    Metadish:

    I actually had a similar conversation with my parents a few weeks ago, despite the fact that, being not yet 50, they are both too young to have seriously engaged in the anti-Vietnam movement in the first place. My mother's specific complaint involved the lack of modern protest music. I responded by playing the beginning of "Hail to the Thief" and declaring it to be a more intelligent critique of our current situation than almost anything produced by the hippies. ...

    The hippies lost their war because they fought it poorly. To win our war, we need to do a much better job of making our views mainstream. So far, we're succeeding, albeit at a much slower pace than would be ideal.
    Aging Boomers can complain all they want about the lack of excitement accompanying the current anti-war movement, but they failed where we still have the chance to succeed, and that's how history will judge us.


    I couldn't agree more with all of the above. One more thing: the economic climate was very different at that time. Just saying.

    Katrina Anniversary Round-up

    1. The Washington Post tells us about the Katrina-inspired works of art coming on the one year anniversary.

    2. NYT's coverage includes a lot about the children of Katrina, including an interactive feature. Also, considers Bush as president in the aftermath and anniversary.

    3. The Progress Report: An Unhappy Anniversary

    4. Adolph Reed: When the Government Shrugs

    5. Mia White: New Orleans: Repeating Its Mistakes?

    Prepping for the Primaries

    Now, I didn't go crazy blogging on the primaries this year because, well, eh.

    1. The Spitzer-Suozzi race is, well, not exactly a race. I guess it's always possible that a tortoise-hare situation could happen, but, by possible, I mean there may be a .000000000000000000000000000001% chance.

    2. As far as the Attorney General's race, I CAN'T STAND CUOMO. I'm also not a big Mark Green fan. So, I'll vote for Maloney, who I think would be fantastic, but I know won't win. Or, I'll give in and vote for Mark Green just so as not to throw away the chance to basically vote against Cuomo. The fact that Maloney doesn't have a chance just shows how utterly insulting NYC politics are.

    3. The Assembly race kind of sucks on my district, the 74th. I basically don't like any of the three Democrats: Brian Kavanagh, Esther Yang, or incumbent Sylvia Friedman. I think, maybe just to be contrarian, I'm going to vote for Yang. They all have some things going for them, don't get me wrong, but on a lot of the major issues (housing, bars and clubs, redistricting, term limits except for Yang), they're so off. And I don't even want to get into Friedman's health care bill. All of these people mean well and their proposals are meant to help people, but their ideas are just not sustainable. It's like with Social Security: we don't want to get everyone further entrenched in the current system because that system's going to break. The other thing is that I think candidates in my district are only looking out for one, fairly small, community, not for the district as a whole.

    One of the only things I dislike about living in my neighborhood, a neighborhood I am actually passionate about, is that it's impossible to get someone decent elected, because most of the time they won't even run. I've actually thought about running for City Council (you won't get me to Albany, sorry).

    In the general election, I'll vote for the Republican, Frank Scala, even though he already lost once and hasn't the slightest chance.

    If you want more info on the race though, this is the best you can get.

    4. I don't get to vote in Brooklyn's 11th congressional district, but I'm pretty charged that the New York Times endorsed Yassky.

    So, in conclusion, I don't know how much I'll be blogging about these elections because there are so many shoo-ins or it-doesn't-matters. But thanks for asking!

    On the Emmys

    I guess I'm late on this post. Well, I'm late on all the posts coming up because I did another disappearing act. (Let me just say that working 2 jobs and going to school full-time is a killer, but the other problem is that Veronica Mars Season 2 is now on DVD.) Anyway ...

    One of the problems for me with the big awards shows is that I assume that whatever it is I am watching and loving is most definitely better than whatever I'm not watching. So, I am outraged at the defeat of Project Runway, my new flame, by The Amazing Race, which I have never seen but assume is awful. Also, anything that beat Arrested Development or Weeds makes me mad. Then, I find out that the last season of Six Feet Under was eligible but wasn't nominated!!!???? I truly believe that's as good as television (art?) gets!

    Anyway, this is why, as the Omnipotent Poobah advised me 'round Oscar time, I should simply get over it.

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Triumph of Television

    It seems fitting that my 1000th post should extol the virtues of extolling the virtues of that most virtuous of art forms: television. Despite the fact that the bitch has my job (seriously, someone offer me living writing about television and I'll forego the Dr. I'm working to put in front of my name), I love, love, love Heather Havrilesky and it's fantastic to see her spread her wings a bit with a larger word count and a grander scheme in piece.

    She makes all the points I so love to make about television's perpetual improvement: Television has become a more reliably fulfilling and commercially uncompromised medium than film. This is largely due to the rise, in the last decade, of the serial drama, with its season-long arcs, slow-simmering character development, and diverse permutations, all of which have allowed TV writers more creative range than ever before. Instead of concise, often formulaic, self-contained episodes, we're treated to rich, complexly plotted stories about tortured Mafia families, soulful Muslim CIA agents and intergalactic spirituality crises that we end up caring deeply about.

    And situating TV's artistic leap as fundamentally an effect of serializing does my heart good. There's something fascinating in the way that serial art forms have been for so long maligned (soap opera, comic book, "series" novels), but that element, precisely that element, is the element recuperated and now lauded for its artistic (rather than sentimental) merits.

    I also burst with pride for "my shows" mentioned in the article, especially Six Feet Under and Battlestar Gallactica.

    I was also tremendously gratified by Havrilesky's note that Tivo and DVD as viewing methods have distanced the art of television from its formative profit motive. Exactly.

    If I know my readers, and I think I do, you'll get a kick out of the letters written to Salon in response to the piece - as always, the freaks come out of the woodwork. Blaming television-lovers for everything from poverty to the election (or whatever it was) of President Bush. Also, everyone has to come out for "their shows" that didn't get play in the article and, as usual, the Wheedon posse know how to stand by their man better than anyone else's. And, naturally, some fogies (no disrespect to older people, just to these older people) show up saying that the original Star Trek and The Avengers are really good TV. Mmmmm-hmmm. Finally, a few people who apparently didn't read the article have to weigh in on how only the rich can afford to watch good television because it's all on premium cable, whereas film is affordable. Please. I don't own a television and I'm a television FANATIC. One reason why: it's more cost effective to rent one disc of 6 hours of television vs. one disc of the same price with a 90 minute movie on it. Obviously, some people can't afford to go around renting movies, but, if you can rent DVDs or video, you can watch good television.

    But wait. I want to go back to something I said earlier. I'll just quote myself: There's something fascinating in the way that serial art forms have been for so long maligned (soap opera, comic book, "series" novels), but that element, precisely that element, is the element recuperated and now lauded for its artistic (rather than sentimental) merits.

    I need to clarify. Because part of what's cool is that, when we laud serial television, we are, to some extent, praising sentimentality. Or, if not praising it, acknowledging that it is fundamental to (or can be fundamental to) great art.

    But one itsy bitsy quibble: why is it that the only way we can save television from the cultural cemetery of the middle-brow is by putting it above film? There are things television does better than film, but not everything. Honestly though, after the beating TV has taken for the past 5 decades, film can take a punch or two, I guess.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack

    God help us. The New York Times tries to deal with the topic of transitioning in lesbian relationships. In the Sunday Styles section, no less.

    Why?????????????

    The Odd Couple: Andre and Big Boi



    Whether you're an Outkast fan or not, Jonathan Dee's 6-page profile is an incredibly sensitive, insightful, stomach-deep piece of pitch-perfect music journalism. It's a beautiful short story about a fascinating relationship, told with driven subtlety. It brought tears to my eyes, actually. You must check it out.

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    Gather the Women at the Crossings



    Some of my beloved blogfriends have recently been questioned, or are questioning, whether or not they get to be/should be called "feminist" because of what the word connotes. I'm pretty comfortable with the label myself.

    Until I see something like this and think I'd rather eat glass than join the festivities.

    I Guess Grand Theft Auto and Trans Fats Haven't Spoiled All of Them

    Check out this awesome letter to Ask Amy.

    Dear Amy: A letter from "Mr. Old Fashioned" shocked me. He doesn't believe that mothers should serve in the military.

    As a 14-year-old girl hoping to one day become a Navy pilot, his letter made me sick.

    So it is OK for a father to serve his country but for a mother, that's not acceptable?

    Mothers in the military are women who are bravely serving our country. All parents over there, not just the women, are probably homesick and want to see their kids more than anything in the world. Singling out women in this situation is not OK, and questioning a mother's love for her daughter is cruel.

    -- Future Pilot


    Dear Pilot: "Mr. Old Fashioned" seemed to be trying to make a point about women leaving their children while they serve in the military. Many readers were riled by his highly insensitive comments, especially at a time when fathers and mothers are facing unexpected and dangerous deployments.

    As a girl and future Navy pilot, you are in an excellent position to react to Mr. Old Fashioned, and your remarks are on the mark.

    Weekend Homework

    Everybody:

    1. KC Sheehan's "Doing Justice: Bad Writing which considers Martha Nussbaum's famous takedown of Judith Butler in the New Republic and then reaches into questions of language and feminism more grandly, is a fascinating read.

    2. In The Chronicle Leonard Cassuto goes "Beyond Peyton Place" on its 50th anniversary.

    3. The indomitable Rachel discusses Oliver Stone's new film in Erasing Black Heros By Making Them White.

    4. Friends don't let friends see Snakes on a Plane. Yes, it will be very, very, very kitschy. I still won't let you go. Instead I offer you The Illusionist for your perfectly summery movie, with no snakes, no plane, so Samuel L. Jackson.

    San Francisco:

    5. Celebrate the 10th birthday of Bitch Magazine! At The Women's Building, 3543 18th St (between Guerrero and Valencia), 6pm-8pm. $15 advance tickets, $25 at the door. Keep Bitch alive!

    New York:

    6. Check out this article in NYT on blacks and Hispanics (lack thereof) in specialized New York schools.

    And, finally, just stay the hell away from Jones Beach on Saturday, folks. 311 is playing.

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Bitch-Time: Feminist Definitions of Desire

    I love Shake's Sis, but I hate threads like this where everyone has to prove their desires are politically correct. Excuse me if I don't believe all of you that say you're only attracted to women who are in the bloom of 2200+-calories-per-day health, never (NEVER) wear makeup, and never even began shaving their legs. It's also good if she has some kind of quirk that would make her unattractive to everyone other than you. And, of course, if these women put on heels, the desire goes right out the window. Even though, naturally, it's really just about her personality anyway.

    I believe that some people are attracted to those women in exclusivity, but I highly doubt it's as common as people (mostly men, because its their desire being policed) on feminist blogs would indicate.

    While I'm leaving myself wide open to hate today, let me just say that I've been known to think conventionally attractive people were attractive. I know, I know: I'm a sinner. I love the guy on the thread that's like, "My girlfriend is naturally thin. She's Japanese. She's hot."

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, sexual desire is interesting in that it can't be magically made to conform to your politics. Some people's desires and politics probably align, but, amongst us way lefties, I'll bet it's few and far between.

    Transracial Adoption

    I was excited to see this article in NYT about "transracial adoptions," specifically, white couples adopting black children.

    Prometheus 6 responds here:

    You have to wonder what made them say they specifically want a Black child. 'What do these people think they are doing?' is exactly the question that occurs to me, but it's an honest inquiry...not a challenge. (There's more, by the way, and it goes in different directions, so ...)

    Now, this probably won't make me popular, but, if I were going to adopt a child, I would specifically look for a black or Latino child to adopt. Not because I think I am particularly equipped to negotiate the incredible challenges of raising a black child as a white person, but because I know how, in this racist culture, many of these children will never be adopted and will spend their lives in foster care, whereas white children are snapped up as embryos. So, yeah, I'd walk in the door and say, "I want to adopt a child, preferably black or Latino."

    What I would not say is, "love makes a family, so I won't notice the color of my child's skin." That's stupid. I would not say, "This child will never feel alienated or isolated because I'll love them so much that race won't matter." That's stupid too. Nor would I say, "Gee, maybe I'll take the child out so that they can experience playing the dozens like 'real black people' do."* That's just so stupid.

    (Robert O’Connor, 39, who was raised by a white family in Rush City, Minn., recalled his struggles growing up in a small town with few other blacks. Throughout his youth, he said, he felt awkward around other blacks. He did not understand black trends in fashion or music or little things like playing the dozens, the oral tradition of dueling insults.)

    My fear would not be that the child would not be exposed to enough 'black culture'. I'd say at least half the music I listen to and books I read are by black artists. And, as the saying goes, some of my best friends are black. ;) My workplace is far more black than white. My neighborhood is racially diverse, plus I live in NYC, so it's not like you have to search around to see a black face in really just about any neighborhood (Staten Island notwithstanding). The films I like are often fairly (though probably not enough) racially diverse and blah, blah, blah. And, let's get real: people growing up now can't not be exposed to 'black culture', even if some of it is the worst mainstreamed crap (just like all the white worst mainstream crap) in the world.

    My concern would not be exposure to black culture, but that I wouldn't really feel like I could prepare someone for being the object of racial prejudice, having never experienced it myself. But I hardly think that changing foster homes every six months is any better.

    Also, it seems like more and more programs are sprouting up for adopted children of races other than their parents wherein they can build relationships with people of their own race. Obviously, this can't replace parents, but ... we're not dealing with ideal scenarios here.

    Families never work. Even the ones that do don't. I think accepting that racial difference will be an issue is fundamental to the process. If I were selecting white families or individuals to adopt black children, I would definitely be freaked by people who said, "It will be no different from raising a white child," and other such things.

    I would be very wary of trying to force some kind of 'authenticity' on my child, as I would be wary of trying to force 'assimilation'. If my kid didn't like Spike Lee films, I'd be really disappointed, but I'd be disappointed because I love Spike Lee and am always disappointed when others don't share that preference. But I wouldn't be forcing it down her/his throat like, "But you're black, honey! You have to like this or I'm failing as a parent to a black child!" I think it's important that white adoptive parents not bring stereotypes to bear on their child of what it will mean for that individual child to be black.

    I think that, at the same time, I'd become more conscious of what the mix was of influences to which they were exposed via my own tastes and what that communicated to him/her.

    Anyway, I think it's frankly tragic that so many black children go without permanent families because white people either prefer white children or are afraid to participate in some kind of "genocide".** If, and this is a big if, I were to overcome my immaturity and selfishness enough to have a child (I mean this only in my own case, not that everyone who chooses not to have kids is immature or selfish), this is how I would like to do it.



    * Robert O’Connor, 39, who was raised by a white family in Rush City, Minn., recalled his struggles growing up in a small town with few other blacks. Throughout his youth, he said, he felt awkward around other blacks. He did not understand black trends in fashion or music or little things like playing the dozens, the oral tradition of dueling insults.

    ** Rhetoric around the issue has softened considerably since the National Association of Black Social Workers, in 1972, likened whites adopting black children to “cultural genocide.”

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    Something Fishy

    (And I don't mean that in the whole sex-gender way.)

    Everyone's talking about the Census. It's very cool. I love a good census. But it's the way they're talking, people. For example, the title of an article in the NY Post, WHITES DECLINE IN CITY might make you think that it was whites and only whites, as a racial group, whose numbers in NYC declined. But guess what? The percentage of blacks in NYC declined too!

    ???????

    Into Africa

    Your favorite paper, and mine, The Paper of Record that is, published a piece a few days ago called Into Africa which was interesting. Or it's concept was.

    And much as it may strain the limits of good taste to say it, Africa — rife with disease, famine, poverty and civil war — is suddenly “hot.”

    Beginning early in the decade with a trickle of celebrity fact-finding missions to strife-torn sub-Saharan nations (Bono in Ghana, Bono everywhere) that became a torrent within the last couple of years (Clay Aiken in Uganda, Jessica Simpson in Kenya), Africa has now been embraced by the masses.

    Those who work with or study Africa-related causes report that tourism in many African countries is way up, that students are increasingly choosing to study and volunteer there, and that money is pouring into Africa-centric charities — from grassroots efforts organized at churches and suburban dinner parties across the country, to larger aid organizations. Even among hipsters, clothing decorated with the image of Africa is beginning to replace last season’s Che Guevara T-shirts.


    I can hang. It sounds, even, like my kind of thing to read. But Alex Williams feels the need to blast us with this as his last paragraph:

    The larger question is whether soccer moms and flyover people will continue to care about Africa once the celebrities move on. As Mr. Musto said, “Just like a trendy restaurant lasts 18 month, so will interest in Africa.”

    Hmmmm. "Flyover people" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? A slur is born. But anyway, that's not what this article is even about. The article seems to take stock of a national trend. Let's take a look:

    Celebrities, celebrities, celebrities ... Genevieve Parker, a 17-year-old student at the Potomac School in McLean, Va ... Daniel Millenson, a Brandeis University sophomore ... dollar-wielding Bills — Clinton and Gates ... A recent celebrity-dotted fund-raiser at the Puck Building in Manhattan featuring Kevin Bacon as the master of ceremonies — Donna Karan and Iman attended ... 125 people banded together at a Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., restaurant ... parishioners at Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wis. ... Jay-Z on clean water, Gwyneth Paltrow on aid to children, and Lucy Liu on AIDS ... Lindsey Lohan, Alyssa Milano, Don Cheadle.

    A whole lot of soccer moms in that bunch! What that whole last paragraph implies is very much the opposite of the way the rest of article reads: celebs have gotten a bunch of people, mostly other celebs and A-list types, to give a whole lot of money to different causes on the continent of Africa. Whether soccer moms and flyover people are involved is really only one teeny tiny piece of the puzzle.

    Plus, the construction of that last paragraph makes no sense. We're given to assume that soccer moms and flyover people are not cool, not trendy, don't know what the hell is going on until it's over. Then Michael Musto, of all people, shows up discussing trendy restaurants as an apt comparison, when not one of those "soccer moms and flyover people" would ever visit such a restaurant and, if they did, they'd be led out of the "soccer mom and flyover people" category, because, "soccer moms and flyover people" is shorthand for another shorthand, let's say "people who go to the [get ready to cringe with all your might] Olive Garden instead of a trendy restaurant in MePa".

    As for the article itself, I admit I am susceptible to the trendiness of certain social issues. You'll note how quickly I became all about local and organic when Michael Pollan's book came out. For me, I don't think I'm into this stuff because celebs are. I'd much rather read about their clothes, workout regime, ridiculous purchases, and sex lives. I think it's because the media actually starts covering this stuff and then I get into it from reading about it more often.

    Also, while that Paltrow ad APPALLS me (I can't believe she did that - I'm sure that Natalie Portman's next) and I'm not a big fan of the opening to Madonna's new concert, I think it's good for celebs to try to use their money and influence for causes they believe in. I sure as hell would. So it's Africa right now - alright. It's their money and influence. Just try not to be so disgusting about it.

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    "God" is Dead or What Happens When Religion is "Cool"



    No one needs to be told that the thing about trends is their imminent demise. Or that nothing is more uncool than the thing that was cool two weeks ago. Or that whatever fad you personally threw yourself into most deeply in your teenage years (whether it's evangelical Christianity, alcoholic clubbing, or death metal ear-to-ear and head-to-toe) is likely to be the site and subject of your most cringe-worthy memories.

    It is, therefore, no surprise that 88% of Southern Baptist teens are leaving the church upon, or not longer after, graduation:

    Dr. Frank Page, the denomination's new president, says SBC churches need to counter that statistic by finding ways to make themselves more relatable, more pertinent and significant to students before they graduate.

    "We're seeing a societal trend where a large number of young people are opting out of the church," Page notes. "Estimates of 15 to 20 million people now in America have said they are Christians but they simply don't want to be a part of the church," he says.

    Some blame the church "drop-out rate" among young people after they graduate on the secularist influence of America's public schools. However, the SBC's president observes, "The sad thing is that we're seeing that number of dropouts from church [among] those who went to public school and private school, and that's an unfortunate trend."


    A trend for a trend, I'd say. For a decade and a half, youth groups have been crescent-fresh party-time, complete with their own bands, their own witty sloganed t-shirts, their own slang, their own Christians-Gone-Wild spring breaks ("mission trips"), their own pretty boy "trend-setter" leadership. And what did they get: the same thing every other trend got: relegated to humorous anecdotes of shame, dragged out on parties or fourth dates, after a couple drinks, complete with photos (see above).

    Of course, the SBC has a plan:

    The Southern Baptist leader says churches must find ways to connect with this young adult demographic -- Generation X, the bridger generation, or "whatever you want to call it" -- and must do a better job of discipling members of this group. A big part of the problem, he contends, "is that our churches simply are not relating to or seeming relevant to these students."

    Being "relevant" and "find[ing] ways to connect with this young adult demographic" is what killed them to begin with because their notion was that youth wanted a lifelong Sprite campaign. Hip faith is not lasting faith. Ask the followers of the Maharishi, circa 1968.

    American Blackout and the Power of Documentary Film

    Brenda Goodman writes about Ian Inaba's film, American Blackout and its possible impact on the Georgia District 4 congressional race, where Representative Cynthia A. McKinney fights to keep her seat.

    Whether political documentaries affect the outcome of elections is an open question. Michael Moore released his anti-George W. Bush film “Fahrenheit 9/11” in the heat of the 2004 presidential campaign, but Mr. Bush was re-elected. Earlier this year Robert Greenwald announced distribution plans for the movie “The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress,” which he produced, during a primary. Mr. DeLay, a longtime Republican representative from Texas, eventually resigned his seat and left Congress, but the documentary was only a tiny factor in the media storm following his indictment on money laundering charges last year.

    “I think they do reinforce and intensify people’s feelings,” Michael Cornfield, who teaches political strategy and message at George Washington University, said of political documentaries. Do movies influence how or if people vote? “That’s more aspirational than empirical,” he said.

    Still, they try. In late July the producers of “American Blackout,” which was made by the Guerilla News Network, a nonprofit group with operations in New York and California, announced plans to release the film on DVD, including as a special feature interviews with four men, their faces and voices disguised, identified only as black officers with the Capitol Police. The officers, who call the Capitol Hill “the last plantation,” say their white colleagues often made a sport of stopping black members of Congress at security checkpoints, thus bolstering contentions that Ms. McKinney’s troubles with the police were the result of provocation.

    “I’m so happy that filmmakers are taking on the role of investigative journalists,” Ms. McKinney said. “And I’m so happy that we have an alternative media that has arisen as a result of the public’s craving for fact rather than faction.”


    Now, I'm confused on the Rep. McKinney issue - I tend to think she overreacted and took out a lifetime of racism on someone of lower status, which is a forgivable, but certainly unbecoming, response. I imagine it would be beyond infuriating to go unrecognized day after day after day after day. I mean, I've been angry about it at my job, and I'm white and the security guards are black, but, if a racial narrative was being more explicitly played out, I'd probably be far moreso. That said, I'd like to think I'd stop short of assaulting anyone (after all, I'm medicated). But again, this has been blown WAY out of proportion in keeping with a racial mythology: black women are angry and crazy. As a representative she seems to me lackluster, but no more lacking than the great majority of people on the floor of the House of Representatives. Would I vote for her, if I were her constituent? I don't, frankly, know enough about the race.

    So, the particularities of the case aside, I am interested in the deeper question with which this piece is flirting: does/can film influence political outcomes?

    I think that the focus of this piece on specific electoral races, rather than on larger, more expansive goals, does justice to the potential of film, specifically documentary. In other words, I don't think that film can stop the war or fight poverty or, sadly, end global warming, per se. Yes, it can influence how people generally think about things, but I am skeptical that any kind of critical mass can be generated by films, especially since documentaries tend to be limited in their release and

    But, to take the specificity further, I think that, the more local an election, the more likely it is that a documentary could influence the outcome, particularly in terms of voter turnout. The fact of a film even being about something taking place in some of these districts will get people involved. After all, many American districts get very little attention from The Media, and some out-of-towner documenting their political process is exciting and controversial. Also, there is simply much less information out there about congressional races (to say nothing of, say, the local Public Advocate race) so a film's voice is heard more loudly. The filmmaker who puts together a film, critical or laudatory or somewhere in between, on President Bush, is one small voice in a sea of other voices, and, unless the filmmaker is her/himself something of a media star, the film won't make a dent. But even a first-time filmmaker can exert some pressure on a local race.

    But why would anyone do that? Most people don't believe local politics matter. I just heard someone criticizing Ned Lamont for having deigned to serve his local community, as opposed to zooming straight to a senatorial campaign. As my sister-out-law would say, "gag me with a spoon." I'm so sick of the idea that local politics consists entirely of potholes.

    As for whether documentary films are "investigative journalism," they may be "journalistic" but they are not "journalism" and I certainly wouldn't want people to go around thinking they are. The importance of The Truth and Objectivity are fundamental to the enterprise of journalism, right or wrong, real or imaginary; filmmakers' relationships to these concepts vary. Regular readers may know that my partner, A, is in filmland, and I hear stories all the time about documentary filmmakers whose philosophy is basically, "this is not journalism, so make it as interesting and dramatic as possible!" I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. But people should be wary of being manipulated when it comes to politics.

    I am pretty aware that documentaries are often structured around careful manipulation of carefully selected footage yielding a carefully-plotted dramatic arc. And yet, I find myself easily snowed by them: they're just so ... convincing. It is hard not to believe something that you are hearing with your own ears and seeing with your own eyes. Of course, you're never seeing or hearing on your own, you bring 75%, the film's director, cameraperson, editor, and others bring 25%. I remember watching this incredible documentary called The Staircase, which I posted about. I finished the film convinced, convinced that Michael Peterson was not guilty. A quick Google left me thinking I'd been wrong and the man was a murderer. I don't know which is right, but the power of the film on my psyche was more than any article could have. Film has serious advantages as a medium to affect political change, but the advantages are, in many ways, predicated on misunderstanding, by viewers, of how the medium is used by its practitioners to optimum effect.

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Welcome Endangered Cutie!!!


    Give us your tired, your poor, your endangered cuties ...

    Manatee seen in the Hudson River!

    Most manatees live in Florida and sightings even in Virginia are considered rare.

    Watchers tracked this one last month as it swam north — first near Delaware, then Maryland, then New Jersey. Saturday, it was seen at 23rd Street in Manhattan, then later at 125th Street in Harlem.

    "On both occasions it was observed logging at the surface adjacent to the bulkhead and appeared to be heading farther north up the river," said Kim Durham, rescue program director for the Riverhead Foundation, a nonprofit group devoted to marine mammals.

    Manatees are an endangered marine mammal. Florida wildlife experts counted 3,116 individuals in their annual survey in February.

    Gray, pudgy and whiskered, the 60 million-year-old species is a cousin of the elephant. A herbivore, it probably evolved from an animal that waded in water to eat plants.

    A manatee was seen near Montauk, on the eastern tip of Long Island, in 1998, but this may be a first for the Hudson.

    Rey Tagged Me

    And I can't let him down, so ...

    1. One book that changed your life? Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School

    2. One book you have read more than once? Octavia Butler's Kindred

    3. One book you would want on a desert island? Rey said this one, and it's too smart not to copy - The U.S. Army Survival Handbook.

    4. One book that made you laugh? Tolstoy's Anna Karenina killed me.

    5. One book that made you cry? Most recently, Amy Bloom's Love Invents Us.

    6. One book you wish had been written? I wish Bill Clinton had written a memoir that really got to it and didn't spend so much time praising and thanking people who helped him.

    7. One book you wish had never had been written? Oh so many. The one that comes to mind is Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place, but there are so so so many.

    8. One book you are currently reading? Saul Bellow's Herzog. Snore.

    9. One book you have been meaning to read? Ralph Ellison's Juneteenth

    10. Now tag five people: Birthday girl Amy King, Amber Rhea, Cracker Lilo, The Poobah, and Mamita Mala - YOU'RE IT!!!!!

    Weekend Homework

    Richies (if you've got disposable income you'd care to spend; this includes the middle-class, really):

    1. Tanglewood is on. I was once among the spoiled and enjoyed an afternoon of incredible chamber music. Everyone who can possibly do so should attend at least once. I plan to have a second go at it when I am elderly and have presumably paid off my loans.

    2. Happen to have 100 fucking dollars just lying around? Then, you are enabled to do a good deed, while enjoying yourself.

    Richard Giles and Holley White, owners and farmers of Lucky Dog Organic Farm, lost their entire crop due to the recent flooding the Upper Delaware River Valley. Lucky Dog is one of the few local farms that is family-owned and operated and 100% organic. Applewood restaurant will be hosting a cocktail party benefit for Lucky Dog Farm. They will be featuring as much product from the farm as possible, but will be getting help from other local farms to help make the event a success. ... 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m., $100 per person (cash or check only, please) includes: beer, wine and passed hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction, featuring donations by local artists, authors and businesses (All beverages and food items are being donated by local farms and purveyors). Call 718.768.2044 for reservations. 501 11th Street, Brooklyn. If you cannot attend, please send donations to: Lucky Dog Farm, c/o applewood, 501 11th Street, Brooklyn NY 11215. From Gothamist of course.

    Middle-Incomers:

    1. Half Nelson comes out this weekend and it seems to me a must-see.

    2. As the New Yorker describes it:

    WE B*GIRLZ
    Twenty-five years ago, a break-dancing battle staged at Lincoln Center Out of Doors was a landmark event in the mainstream recognition of hip-hop culture. Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper, the organizers of that legendary contest, have put together an anniversary re-creation spotlighting a signal development in the past quarter century: the rise of women. The 2006 competition is for ladies only, gathering together an international roster of contending m.c.s, d.j.s, graffiti artists, and B-girl crews. (Josie Robertson Plaza, Lincoln Center. 212-546-2656. Aug. 10 at 5:30.)


    Broke-ass:

    1. Pier 46 is showing a kids movie for free, Nanny Mcfee. You can diss it if you want to, but it stars Emma Thompson so ...

    2. Read Alternet's There's No Such Thing As An Old Girls Network.

    Stay cool, darlings!

    New Yorkers and Cheap Eats

    I come from a lazy household, so we eat takeout or go to a restaurant at least once per week. I've noticed how the norm it is in NYC, maybe because of the kitchen situation (we have a refrigerator, stove, and sink in our living room and no counter space really) or maybe because New Yorkers tend to be babies, to eat out for many or most of your meals, if from deli, street cart, fast food, etc. So, the whole Cheap Eats thing (it appears both in New York and the Village Voice each year) gets a lot of attention. And every year, I go: Seriously?

    It's that time where New York publishes its list and I have found one, exactly one, thing I'd agree with out of all 101. It's not that I haven't tried a bunch of these places, but, please!!!! It almost seems like they try to find places that, while semi-cheap, have no atmosphere, tiny portions, and bad service. It exhausts me, really. I've lived here for a long time now and every year I get excited and every year I find myself rolling my eyes. A good many of these places I would never, I repeat NEVER, return to. I don't spend my hard-earned (or hard-borrowed, in many cases) money on a half-empty stomach I got abused in the making of. Give me a break.

    There's this sort of particularly New York, particularly middle-class on up, pretension that says the more wack a place is, the better you can feel about dropping cash there.

    I think I might make my own Cheap Eats list. God knows I haven't eaten anything that wouldn't fit the cheapness parameters in a longass time.

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    On That Weird Moment On The View The Other Day And The Limits of Younger Women's Solidarity

    Click here to see the video of The View wherein Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Lisa Loeb (apparently now on the show- who knew?), and Elizabeth Hasslebeck. The Big Feminist Blogs gave it their treatment, as did Gawker, saying:

    [Discussion of Plan B] sent young Hasselbeck into a tizzy of earnest "life begins at penetration" arguments, getting herself so worked up that her voice slipped into the trying-not-to-cry quiver. Den mother Barbara Walters eventually had to step in and calm the girl down; after the segment, we're certain that Hasselbeck stomped off to her room and slammed the door. "You'll never understand me, Barbara! I hate this family! I can't wait till I go to college and get away from you people!"

    You know what? As much as I disagree with her opinion, I was fucking infuriated by the way Barbara Walters talked to her like she was a naughty child, when she got a bit heated. People keep saying she "wigged out," "flipped out," or "lost her shit": have these people ever seen CNN? She spoke louder. She's allowed.

    To make matters worse, after she was condescended to after expressing herself pretty articulately on the show, the "feminist blogosphere" jumped right in with the ageism. She's not a baby. She doesn't appear, from that clip, stupid or childish. I disagree 150% with her point of view, but this proliferation of the youtube clip on every blog disgusts me. Barbara Walters looked like a patronizing older woman who couldn't deal with the passion of a young woman taking over HER show.

    The response of feminist bloggers to this, not their disagreement with Hasslebeck which is legitimate, but their characterization of her as a little girl or a dumb blonde, reminded me of a few weeks back when young feminist bloggers couldn't wait to get behind Katha Pollitt against Ana Maria Cox. It was bizarre because Cox's arguments seemed far more aligned to what they express on their blogs everyday. Many of these bloggers laughing at Hasslebeck are the same ones and many of them don't hesitate to make their names specifically as young women whose voices need to be heard/read at least in part because they're young women.

    Which also reminds me of a discussion on Bitch|Lab about how someone like Camille Paglia might be using the "feminist" label in some way to get ahead. And I can't help but wonder if that doesn't actually pertain to some feminist bloggers' playing the "youth card". Young women should be listened to, respected, and treated as equals when young women = those particular feminist bloggers.

    I think it's entirely possible both to critique what Hasslebeck was saying, while simultaneously critiquing the way Barbara Walters handled the situation. She had no qualms about blatantly humiliating this young woman, just as in Katha Pollitt didn't seem to see anything wrong with tarring a whole generation of young women "featherheads".

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    iPods Are a Girl's Best Friend

    Apparently, American women are not the tech-dunces we're told we are. Despite all the biological hard-wiring that makes us crave Manolos and our heads spin when faced with a gadget, An Oxygen Network survey released Tuesday found that more than three out of four women said they'd choose the TV over a diamond solitaire necklace. Women preferred a top-of-the-line cellphone to designer shoes by a similar margin. And a little white iPod narrowly trumped a little black dress.

    And this study was conducted before the tech babes made a calendar!

    The findings suggest advertisers need to address a broad audience and not talk down to women. Advertisers are best served communicating lifestyle benefits of tech products by showing what's useful about them, rather than focusing on specifications, Oxygen says.

    "There have been some missed opportunities to market consumer electronics to women," says Steve Koenig, senior manager of industry analysis for the Consumer Electronics Association, whose research reveals only subtle differences between the sexes in their attitudes toward technology.

    In the Oxygen survey, 59% of women agreed with the statement "Women are much more tech savvy than they give themselves credit for." Among the men, just 38% agreed.

    "Men and women are equally competent in the technology arena," says Oxygen CEO Geraldine Laybourne.


    It was only a matter of time before we ruined gadgetry for men, just like we did college, work, sex, and everything else. Now, men will be running like mad back to typewriters and rotary phones because it's just no damned fun anymore.

    She, The Petitioner

    This is awesome!

    The New York state Senate and Assembly have approved bills that would require all petitions for public office to include feminine pronouns, its sponsors in the two houses said.

    Currently the language in all petitions is masculine and only provides options such as "he" and "himself." The new legislation will allow for the variations "she" and "herself" and will be applicable to all petitions, including those submitted when running for village and town boards, state Senate and Assembly, and for the office of governor.

    "This legislation, in a small but symbolic way, reflects the decades-long effort by society to promote equality. If signed by the governor, the legislation would amend the text of the election law by adding the feminine pronoun wherever the masculine pronoun appears," said state Sen. Thomas P. Morahan, R-New City, who introduced the bill.


    In addition to Morahan, we can thank Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, for introducing the bill to the NYS Assembly.

    Every once in awhile, I'm still proud to be a New Yorker.

    Carnival of Feminists #20

    Right here and hosted by Kactus, of Super Babymama fame.

    She and her brilliant contributers tackle the topics of :

    Poverty, Class, & Bureaucratic Idiocy
    Women in the War Zone
    The Sex Wars
    and more.

    Go check it out!

    5 Things To Read Today

    1. Tracie McMillan brings us Jicama in the Hood, about the fight to bring decent food to the urban poor, an issue I've blogged about with gusto in the past, but managed to miss recent developments thanks to Congresswoman Velasquez.

    2 and 3.Point and Counterpoint on the whole "Roe v. Wade for Men" thing.

    4. Kay Hymowitz on the phenomenon she calls Desperate Grandmas:

    It’s not just that older women continue to enjoy sex; it’s that it has to be—in defiance of all common sense—Better Than Ever. It’s not that they like working to rescue animals; they’re Pursuing Their Passions. “They are the most amazing women our country has ever seen!” Levine quotes a gerontologist as gushing in Inventing the Rest of Our Lives.

    5. The first chapter of economist Deirdre McCloskey's The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce. You'll want to read it: she's a bizarrely engaging writer.