Thursday, August 19, 2010

On the Morning Denouncements

Okay, so in the White House press room...

“... the most recent priest scandals in Boston and Chicago, and the hostage situation at that bank in Reno. This being the first Monday of the month, of course I’ll renew my denunciation of the Inquisition and of Timothy McVeigh. I’d also like to take a minute--if I may--to give a shout-out to former parishioner Daniel Munroe on his birthday. Daniel is currently serving time in Allenwood for aggravated assault, which of course we also denounce.”

A smattering of applause.

“Thank you, Father Bailey. And next we have... Rabbi Berman?”

“Thank you. Good morning, everyone. It’s always nice to see such a great crowd out on a rainy day. On behalf of the First Reform Congregation of Hoboken, I’d like to denounce the following deplorable acts by our fellow Jews for the week ending September 3. Locally, Jacob Levy stole a box of Raspberry Zingers from a convenience store and Mark Rothman assaulted a homeless man outside of a bar early Saturday morning. Nationally, we’d like to denounce Rebecca Weinberg’s role in that cheating scandal at Princeton and her recent attempt to publish a plagiarized young-adult novel, and we’d like to denounce Jon Stewart’s recent interview with that guy who wrote that book, because he was unnecessarily mean and that just didn't seem appropriate. As always, we’d like to denounce Adam Sandler. And that’s really it for denunciations this week. Quiet week.”


“Thank you, Rabbi Berman. Next up is Imam Haddad.”

“Haddad isn’t here today. Ramadan.”

“Oh, that’s right.”

“Priestess Moonstone said she’ll read his denunciations when she does her own.”

“Oh, well that’s nice of her. Then that brings us to... Brother Kosal.”

“Thank you.”

“Keep it short this time?”

“Yes. Still sorry about that. On behalf of the community of the Mahayana Buddhavihara Temple of Greater Akron, I’d like to denounce the following deplorable acts by our fellow Buddhists for the week ending September 3...”

Peaceful Wiccas pls refudiate.

On the L-word

Okay, so "Dr." Laura Schlessinger has announced her merciful intent to step down from radio when her contract is up at the end of the year. (She says she wants to "regain her First Amendment rights," which are apparently being violated by her national radio platform from which she can say pretty much anything she wants.)

Her assertion that her Constitutionally protected right to free speech has been violated rises from her most recent scandal, in which she drops the N-word a full eleven times in a five-minute period--during a call with an African-American woman who just called in to ask a question about a few, well, racist comments from her husband's friends. After that show, people were pissed off, which is censorship for some reason


What I don't get is why everyone wants to say the N-word. That's what situations like this devolve into every time--some people get to say it, and so other people want to be allowed to say it. "Rappers get to say it all the time. Why don't I get to say it?" Like it's the awesomest ride at Six Flags, but you're stuck on the ground watching everyone else have all the fun. So either there's something super-extra-special-cool about the N-word that I'm just not getting, this linguistic Batman: The Ride, or you just want desperately to use this really hurtful racial slur because you're not supposed to (which is totally mature). Or you're genuinely racist. Regardless: Stop worrying about what other people "get" to do and recognize that it's not okay when anyone does it. And get over yourself.

When we were little, my brother and his best friend used to run around the house yelling "pantyhose!" because that was the naughtiest word their little six-year-old brains could conceive of. This is basically the same thing, but blown up to truly dickish proportions.


All of this attention to the N-word completely misses the fact that the call in question wasn't about the N-word. The caller, Jade, who is African-American, called in with concerns about her white husband's friends. Her initial complaint wasn't about the language they used--it was about the questions, the "Do black people like this?" and "Do black people do that?" And of course as a white person, I can't speak to Jade's experience, I'd imagine her thoughts would be something along the line of, "Well, I don't know. Why don't you ask all of them?"

Those questions point out two things about the questioners: One, that Jade being black is seriously significant to them such that they notice it all the time and see it as something that sets her apart from them and makes her different. And two, that the black population is so monolithic and hive-minded that what "they" like and what "they" do can easily be condensed and reported on by one black woman.

Jade's response to Laura's comments, of course, are hard to discern because Laura rolled right over her as soon as she got her head. But a few words made it out--"stereotype," for one. And if she only got one out, that was a good one. Because that's what Jade was dealing with--stereotypes from her husband's friends. And racial stereotypes are, well, racist.*

But for some reason, a white woman doesn't see it that way. From her fully applicable experience and perspective as a white person, Laura is able to determine that the comments aren't racist because "sometimes people are hypersensitive" and black people voted for Obama and black comedians say the N-word and her bodyguard is too polite to call her a dumbass to her face. And also, "chip on your shoulder" and "too much sensitivity and not enough sense of humor."

And that's the real problem with Laura's barrage of N-bombs during that call. She certainly wouldn't have gotten nearly this much attention--if any--had she not said the N-word eleven times. But now that it's in the public eye, those N-words and the ensuing controversy are obscuring something even more troublesome--that Laura is (shockingly) completely tone-deaf* on the subject, completely disregarding this woman's legitimate concerns with accusations of hypersensitivity and a chip on her shoulder--because if it doesn't bother her, if it doesn't bother Laura, it must not be important. And if Jade didn't want to be treated this way, she shouldn't have married outside her race.

But yeah, it was the N-word that was the big deal.

P.S. Oh, and Laur? Telling your black bodyguard, "White men can't jump; I want you on my team"? Whether or not it was racist, referencing an overplayed 18-year-old Woody Harrelson movie is definitely not funny. Take some time during your sabbatical to dig up some new cultural references.

*Does saying a racist thing necessarily make you a racist person? Opinions differ; I happen to think no, but other factors frequently come into play. Check out Evil Fizz's take on it over at Feministe and a pertinent video by Jay Smooth.

Monday, August 16, 2010

On what it means to move on

Okay, so this actually started as a couple of comments on a friend's Facebook post, but then they were getting really long and wordy (long and wordy? Me? Noooo...) and so I decided they needed their own blog post.

The subject at hand was the misleadingly named "Ground Zero mosque." It's a misnomer because the structure in question isn't really a mosque, and it isn't really at Ground Zero. It's a Muslim community center, basically a Muslim YMCA, that will have a mosque in it, and it will be built two blocks from Ground Zero such that you can't see it from Ground Zero or Ground Zero from it. The location is currently the site of a defunct Burlington Coat Factory, now apparently considered hallowed ground due to its proximity to the WTC and the piece of one of the planes that crashed through its roof.

That hallowed ground stands in the shadow of a strip club; a stone's throw from two liquor stores; and if you make the mistake of turning left instead of right out the front door of the proposed community center, you'll find yourself passing a roadhouse and a reportedly pathetic nightclub with periodic lingerie parties on the five-minute walk to Ground Zero. (The New York Daily News counts a strip club, a lingerie parlor/peep show, 11 bars, 10 shoe stores, and "17 separate salons where a girl can get her lady parts groomed" within a three-block radius of Ground Zero. Oh, yeah, and a mosque.)

So let's get that out of the way right from the start: Objections to this project aren't because a two-block radius of the World Trade Center is hallowed ground. Feministe's Jill--a New Yorker herself--points out that while the footprint of the WTC is hallowed ground if there ever was any, your average tourist treats it like EPCOT, so it's kind of disingenuous to be wringing hands about a community center--built in the spirit of neighborly relations, civic participation, social justice, compassion, education, and engagement, those bastards--a respectful two blocks away and completely out of view.

That's my statement on the whole "hallowed ground," "show respect" argument: It's bullshit, because the only reason you think this is disrespectful is that they're Muslims and thus all responsible for 9/11 and should keep their heads down and their eyes averted any time they wander south of Canal Street. So there's that.

And now I change gears to address more generally the spirit that keeps this debate going, now that it's been manufactured from whole cloth by one particular super-right-wing nutjob blogger. It's the spirit in all of us that won't let it die a graceful death.

At this point, I say something that could make me so deeply hated that I'll have to leave civilization and build myself a yurt, but that's never stopped me before: It's been nine years, people. Nine years. Most cars don't last nine years. Most Great Danes don't last nine years. The average first marriage doesn't lasts nine years. But we can sustain a near-decade-long hate-on for 1.5 billion people because 19 of them committed a horrific act of violence? "Sorry, the entirety of the world's second-largest religion. We're all about religious freedom and whatever, but you shouldn't build your community center on the site of this old Burlington Coat Factory because it's rude and we kind of hate you"?

Those 19 men killed nearly 3,000 people, and that will never not be a big deal. And we absolutely need to honor their memories. But how are we honoring them by saying, "No, one-fifth of the world's population, it's heartless of you to build a Muslim-thing within walking distance of Ground Zero because 9/11 was your fault, each and every one of you"? "You make me uncomfortable by your very Muslimity, so get the hell out of Lower Manhattan"?

Screw that noise. I'm all about compassion, and I hope the families of those 3,000 can find peace, but objection to this center isn't even universal among those families--some have gone so far as to come out and say they have no problem with it. And I'm definitely not all about letting some politically motivated wackjob 'winger and her mindless devotees manipulate those families and their grief to their own ends because it's important that we not forget to hate Muslims. Take a deep breath, drink a glass of wine, and go volunteer at a soup kitchen, for Christ's sake.

And this isn't me saying "move on." I mean, praise God, I've never been personally touched by anything like that, so far be it from me to tell anyone how long those wounds should take to heal. I just wonder how long we, as a country, have to pull out "Well, 'cause 9/11, that's why" as an excuse for everything we do or don't do. How long the footprint of the WTC is going to sit vacant while the entire country disagrees on what should go there. How long every Muslim cleric will be called upon to make a statement every time a Muslim somewhere kicks a kitten. How long a 9/11 will be a unit of measure to quantify the tragedy level of tragic events.

I remember how right after 9/11, people all over the country and all over the world were coming together and supporting each other and being compassionate and generous and people kept saying, "Wow, I hope we never forget what this is like." Instead, we "never forget" what it's like to be fearful and suspicious. Is there ever a point where we say, "Wow, that was really, really awful. It's a good thing we're a brave and resilient people who can grow together from the experience and come back stronger than ever"?

So I say, build the hell out of this community center--not as a defiant middle finger to a world still reeling from 9/11 but as a way to truly create community and bring people together in that same spirit we felt right after the towers came down. It's obvious our current approach isn't doing the job; maybe it's time to try something new.

On Mashup Monday: Pop-Tart edition

Okay, so they're hot, they're blonde, they've got adorable kids, they're sane--wait, hold on. Sorry. Three out of four ain't bad.

Gwen Stefani/Britney Spears - Tick-Toxic

It's nice to look back on the days when Britney could rock a bedazzled body stocking. Best of luck to you, kid.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

On strong medicine

Okay, so I want a mean doctor.

Well, I don't want a mean doctor. Nobody wants a mean doctor. But given the choice between a doctor who's nice and a doctor who's good at doctoring, I'll take the latter.

What sucks is that it seems that lately, I actually kind of do have to make that choice. My recent experiences with the medical profession have been generally unsatisfying, due largely to the fact that apparently, I have to choose between bedside manner and medical knowledge. My current doctor--who shall remain nameless, because anything else notwithstanding he's a nice guy--is, to put it plainly, lousy. My experience with him, universally, is ten minutes of face time followed by what amounts to a big shrug and a promise to refer me to a specialist (which he may or may not remember to do). He's a nice guy, friendly, very sympathetic, but, oh, hey, have I mentioned that I'm sleeping twelve hours a day?

Contrast this with the nurse practitioner who was my dear and my darling from the moment I met her until the moment she left the practice. This woman was hard to like. She was brusque. She was brisk. She never bothered to warm up the stethoscope. She would harangue you for missing any aspect of self-care. I once suffered through a [VERY PERSONAL MEDICAL EXAM] that would have been a crowd-pleaser at Abu Ghraib. But you know what? She was good. As a diagnostician, as a clinician, she was the inarguable bomb, and I would gladly suffer through her drill sergeant-esque bedside manner to have her find out what was wrong with me and fix it.

I begin to think that physicians like my dad--ones who have both the medical knowledge and the compassionate presence--are becoming few and far between. I've had nothing but positive experiences with doctors of his generation, but get any younger, and they seem to have slept through crucial parts of medical school. What has changed such that I kind of have to get pushed around a bit to get the treatment I need?

I know (as a person who's spent a lot of time writing about it in a professional capacity) the focus lately in medical school has been on the medical humanities and the importance of positive interaction between physician and patient. And yes, that's important. A patient who feels comfortable opening up to you will give you more clues as to the causes of her condition. A patient who has a positive clinical experience is more likely to return for followup and future care. Spending that two extra minutes in the exam room could give you a chance to pick up something you'd otherwise miss.

But have we crammed those courses in at the expense of Maybe It's Stress-Related 1102? Let's Get You Some Muscle Relaxants Until That Referral Comes Through 2110? Intro to I Should Keep a PDR Around if I Can't Remember Drug Side-Effects off the Top of My Head? Wow My Med Student Asks Smarter Questions Than I Do (lecture and lab)? (Not to mention This Will Probably Work Better if We Don't Lose Her Labs and Referral Information Honors Seminar, which would benefit the entire office, thanksmuch.)

Should I have to choose between Dr. Benton and Dr... I don't know, was there a doctor on ER was really nice but not good at his job? It was so long ago. Dr. Carter, early on? Anyway, the point stands. I know there are a lot of people who aren't comfortable at all in health-care environments and need a softer voice, a gentler approach, and a little bit of hand-holding. Save the nice doctors for them. If I have to choose--and God knows I don't want to--you can keep Dr. Cuddlepants, and I'll be in here with Nurse Practitioner Ratched.

Monday, August 02, 2010

On my stuff, dammit

Okay, so on Thursday, the U.S. Copyright Office made a call that I've been wanting someone to make on some subject pretty much ever since Apple launched its iTunes Store in 2003. Their badass ruling was that no, Steve, jailbreaking an iPhone is not illegal. Other rulings guarantee--and the Wired article linked above says "give," but I'm going with "guarantee," and I'll go into that below--the right to copy videogames for the purpose of researching the security measures and turning your ebook into an electronic audiobook.

Here's the reason I think the ruling is a long time in coming (still has a ways to go), and the reason I used "guarantee" instead of "give": It's my stuff, and I should already have the right to do what I want with it. If I'm not using it to break the law, why do you care what I do with it for my own amusement? If I pay you money for a song on iTunes, why does it matter how many of my own computers I put it on? It's my song. If I want to have an ebook on my phone and my laptop, why the hell not? It's my ebook. It's like telling me I can read my paperback on the subway but not on a plane. It's my book, and if you didn't want me to read it where I want to, you shouldn't have sold it to me.

If your concern is that I'm going to break copyright by sharing it with someone else, sure--find a way to keep me from doing that. Do a little bit of hard work, break a little bit of a sweat, to crack down on that. But don't keep me from ripping a DVD to my own hard drive or putting an mp4 on my own cell phone because some people do that and then break the law. Punish me for a crime I haven't even committed, and you may well lose my business, iTunes, who DRMs your content while Amazon is happy to sell me mp3s that I can do with as I please.

I, of course, don't have an iPhone; I'm all-Android, so I have a lot more freedom as to which apps and other content I want to put on my phone. And that's as it should be. If I've dropped a metric assload of money on your product, don't tell me that I can't play with it as I see fit. If I choose to turn it off and never use it, that's my call, and if I choose to drive over it with my car, that's my call, and if I choose to hack it? My call. It's my thing.

Apple says that legality notwithstanding, jailbreaking an iPhone voids the warranty. And why not? They shouldn't have to pay for your screwup. Android 2.2 has a feature that bricks the phone if you try to hack it, and you know what? That's fine. I'm free to try to hack it, at the risk of it becoming useless. Same thing with my car--I try to fix it, I screw it up instead, it's my fault and my problem. But Volkswagen doesn't get to come and arrest me just for popping the hood, and neither should Steve Jobs.

So if I spend this evening burning all of my iTunes music to CD and ripping it back to mp3, whilst scanning all of my paperback to my hard drive to have in case something happens to them, whilst recording The Big Bang Theory to DVR, kiss my ass, Steve Jobs, and I hope your turtleneck gives you a rash.

P.S. Don't forget to click through to the article for a handy list of the next rulings on the Copyright Office's list, I'm sure of it. Highlights include "downloading movies for "bad movie night," provided that at least three cups of popcorn are thrown at the screen over the course of the showing."

What rulings would you like to see from the Copyright Office? I'd personally like to be able to download all those mp3s I had that got eaten when my iTunes crashed, Steve Jobs. Your suggestions in comments. Oh, and your feelings on DRM and property rights and whatever.

On Mashup Monday: The most ominous Ken doll ever

Okay, so I'm a huge Pixar fan. There's not a lot they can do that's not excellent in my book, in both animation and writing. And I'm a big Toy Story fan (although I haven't seen the third one, so no spoilers). And I'm a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan. So this was right up my street.

Toy Story/Inception - Dream House of Nightmares

I was never a really big Barbie fan, but now I might be.

(h/t Underwire)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On the Good, the Bad, and the Not-Even-Friday Random Ten

Okay, so I so I totally want an empire-waist morning dress and a leopard fur coat. That's my new look. Gotta be.

What's good (for the week ending 7/23, even though right now it's 7/25, but whatever ):

- Jane Austen's Fight Club

- 15 years of Clueless. I recall hearing somewhere that the "Haiti-ans" bit was real, that Alicia Silverstone genuinely didn't know how to pronounce "Haitians" and that no one was about to correct her because it was so funny. I can only imagine her five years down the road: "I was just so concerned about the Haiti-ans--What? It's--Hold on, it's Haitians? Ohhhh, shit..."


- prawn pr0n

- the return of the Russian spy. Okay, yes, espionage is bad, yes. Yes, it's dangerous, and whatever. But admit it: James Bond films were way cooler when we had the Soviets to worry about. Admit that.

What's bad:

- the way we treat animals. Isn't there some saying about being able to measure a society on how it treats its least powerful members, or something? Man, the things we have to learn from eight-year-olds.

- Girls Gone Publicly Assaulted. So a woman is forcibly exposed in a bar and taped for Girls Gone Wild--and is saying no on the tape itself--doesn't deserve damages when her boobs made it to video without her consent. Why? Because if she was willing to go to a bar and dance in front of the photographer, she was probably cool with Joe Francis selling her boobs. Y'know, she's one of those girls.

The Ten:

1. Oasis, "Some Might Say"
2. Vertical Horizon, "Great Divide"
3. Les Nubians, "Les Portes Du Souvenir"
4. The Capital Steps, "Old Man Rumsfeld"
5. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, "Valse (I)" from Swan Lake
6. Zero 7, "Destiny"
7. Jimmy Buffett, "Margaritaville"
8. Dave Matthews Band, "Pay for What You Get"
9. Black Eyed Peas, "Let's Get It Started (Spike Mix)"
10. Evanescence, "Exodus"

And while we're on the subject of music: I was out for karaoke with a bunch of friends on Thursday night, and I appeared to be the only one who showed up without a set list. Is this something one is expected to have? Are there rules for what makes a good karaoke song? Your suggestions and your Ten go in comments.

Monday, July 19, 2010

On Mashup Monday: Weezer will rock you

Okay, so it works, and it has cameos by Hef and Joan Jett.* Nothing not to like.

Weezer/Queen - We Will Rock and Roll Beverly Hills

*as would the best 30th birthday party ever.

On the Good, the Bad, and the Slightly-After-Friday Random Ten

Okay, so as we sat in the parking lot of Burger King, sipping our drinks and waiting for someone to bring our meals out, The Boy peeled the Twilight game piece off the side of his cup and looked at the little scratch-off piece.

"'Choose your team'?" he read. "Duh. I always pick Team Jacob."

He got really pissed off when I immediately pulled my phone out and tweeted it.

What's good (for the week ending 7/16):

- Verizon Wireless, and Leonard at the store on 280. We went in on Thursday to see about a) switching service from T-mobile, which has been touching goats in the bathing-suit area for a year now, and b) getting a Droid X each. Well, of course they managed to sell every X they had within the first hour, but we got an LG Ally for me and a regular Droid for The Boy with an option to trade them in for an X as soon as more come in. They're good, they're nice, and their 3G coverage map is jaw-dropping. Much love to Verizon.
- my new Ally. Sorry, I'm magpie-like in my attraction to shiny things.
- positive feedback on something you worked really hard on and felt really good about
- the Minion Berry pancakes at IHOP--tastes like lemon pound cake with triple-berry compote and whipped cream, except if the pound cake was actually pancake and the compote was... still compote. And since it's a kids' meal, you don't leave with that oh-Jesus-God-I-just-ate-at-IHOP feeling. Although you definitely leave with that oh-Jesus-God-I-just-had-dessert-for-breakfast-and-also-turkey-sausage feeling.
- this stuff right here:

What's bad:

- not napping. Long story (although not anything shameful or private--just long), but the punchline is that until my doctor can hook me up with a sleep specialist, he says I'm to "keep a regular sleep schedule." Apparently, my tendency to take a regular nap at lunchtime and another regular nap after dinner and then regularly sleep through the night isn't "regular" enough for him, so instead it's a week's worth of caffeine packed into every day to keep me up until bedtime, and then half the time I overshoot and end up wide awake at, for instance, midnight, completely unable to go to sleep despite wanting to. Thanks a heap, doc.
- this stuff. Obviously, I've already posted on this, but when I see responses like this, it just makes me wonder if people really pay attention. (Not to me, obviously, but to the world around them.) Yes, by all means, we should "listen to [Mel's] side of the story." It's actually quite easy to listen to, as it's right there on the tape. Let's please, please try to teach our friends and nieces and daughters: Yes, people make mistakes all the time, but no, beating the shit out of someone isn't a mistake. It's a felony. But it's easy to get the two confused, I'm sure.

The Ten:
1. Michael Bublé, "The Way You Look Tonight"
2. Josie and the Pussycats, "Pretend to Be Nice"
3. Bic Runga, "Sway"
4. Sonic Youth, "Superstar"
5. Etta James, "I'll Be Seeing You"
6. Marilyn Horne, "Pineapple Rag"
7. Goodie Mob, "Soul Food"
8. Buena Vista Social Club presents Omara Portuondo, "No Me Vayas A Engañar"
9. Johnny Cash (with June Carter Cash), "It Ain't Me, Babe"
10. INXS, "Not Enough Time"

Your Ten, and your home remedies for insomnia and/or narcolepsy and/or apnea, go in comments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On his side, her side, and the ugly truth

TRIGGER WARNING for domestic violence throughout, but definitely for the tapes on Radar Online.

Okay, so Mel Gibson has been in decline for some time now. Always a devout Catholic, he descended to a rather freaky level of fundamentalism as part of Opus Dei, he started making kind of scary-weird movies like The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, and then there was his sexist, anti-Semitic tirade after being pulled over for drunk driving, followed by his trip to rehab, which of course makes everything all better. Punchline: Once a hero, Mel Gibson is undeniably in bad, bad shape, and whether or not he’s a bad person, it’s undeniable that he’s a person who does bad things.

His most recent bad thing has come out in the form of several tapes revealed by Radar Online. One was simply terribly cruel, berating ex-girlfriend (and mother of his chlid) Oksana Grigorieva and using racial epithets. But the most recent tape has been more horrifying: Unhinged and out of control, he admits to beating her (saying she deserved it) and not-so-obliquely threatens several times to kill her.

What’s nearly as scary (and just as scary, in its own way) is the way some fans are coming to his defense, demanding photos of her broken teeth, wanting to know what she said to him before she started taping, wondering why she was taping him at all. There are two sides to every story, they say, and she’s certainly no angel, and there must be something just as sinister in her past to balance out this unbelievably horrific story. It has to be about her. It has to be her fault.

This recalls the not-so-publicized case of Juanita Bynum, who was mercilessly beaten by her minister husband in a parking garage; and the more-publicized case of singer Rihanna, who was mercilessly beaten by her boyfriend, convicted domestic abuser Chris Brown, in a car. In both cases, there was evidence--Bynam’s beating was witnessed by a garage attendant, and Rihanna’s gruesome ER photos were leaked to the tabloid press. But even in the face of that kind of undeniable evidence, some people simply couldn’t accept it--there had to be some kind of mitigating factor, something to keep this from being just another flat-out case of vicious domestic abuse. Something, more importantly, to keep Thomas Weeks and convicted domestic abuser Chris Brown from being just another flat-out vicious domestic abuser.

I don’t remember the outcry when Russell Crowe assaulted that concierge in New York, wondering what the man did to provoke a phone slammed in his face. And I don’t recall anyone asking for Naomi Campbell’s side of the story whenever she assaulted her assistants. But there’s something about this particular crime that makes people suddenly stop and search for a fair hearing, an unbiased examination of the evidence.

Why? Is it because Mel Gibson (like convicted domestic abuser Chris Brown and others) is a hero, a manly movie man who protects movie women, our Braveheart and our devoted father, who would never do such a thing? Is it because beating a woman is considered to be so far beyond the pale that such an accusation requires more evidence? Is it because we’re so quick to believe that a woman would lie and manipulate? Is it because, like with so much victim-blaming in rape cases, we prefer to pretend that there’s something she did wrong, a mistake we can avoid in order to avoid her fate?

Regardless of the numerous sides to Mel GIbson’s ongoing story, there is one side that can’t be ignored: Mel Gibson beat Oksana Grigorieva viciously, breaking two of her teeth. Deniers who still demand ER photos from that event can accept the fact that he admits it on tape--she deserved it. Deniers who wonder why she was taping him, who she wanted to leak the tapes to, can accept the fact that on the tape, he admits to beating her, and he threatens to kill her. That is the side that isn’t subject to he said-she said. That is the side that would be (will be, hopefully) admissable in court. And no matter what happens, no matter what else comes out, that is the side that is completely inexcusable.

There is no “other side of the story” that justifies violence. There is nothing a woman can do to provoke that kind of a beating. There is nothing a woman can say to a man to warrant him punching her. Whatever happened in Mel Gibson’s house or Chris Brown’s car, the side of the story that matters is the one where he responds with violence. And so as much as we’d like to believe our heroes incapable of such things, when we’re faced with this kind of incontrovertible evidence, we have to stop searching for excuses and mitigating circumstances and accept that, no, boys will not be boys, we don’t all make that kind of mistake, and there is nothing she could have done to deserve it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Mashup Monday: A little bit of culture

Okay, so I ain't sayin' she's no golddigger... but she ain't messin' with no broke, deaf turn-of-the-nineteenth-century classical composer.

Kanye West/Ludwig van Beethoven - Beethoven's Golddigger

I can't wait to see what Jay-Z does with his Moonlight Sonata.

Friday, July 09, 2010

On the Good, the Bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so I love me some fireworks. I grew up close to Fort Benning, and so the Fourth of July would frequently involve a trip to post to watch badass fireworks and hear the Army band play the 1812 Overture with actual cannons. (I'm now spoiled for cannons.) And so it's been cool for the past four years to live right at the base of Red Mountain, an ideal viewing spot for the fireworks that are shot off of Vulcan's pedestal each year.

Not as cool? Musical accompaniment courtesy of 106.9 The Eagle. Just a hint, guys: You might want to try listening to the lyrics of the songs you play before you play them. "Fortunate Son" isn't really about being fortunate, and the song "America" from West Side Story isn't about how awesome it is for immigrants in the U.S. Points, though, for leaving out anything by Lee Greenwood or Toby Keith. More points for working in some James Brown.

Meh. We shouldn't have been listening to the radio anyway. Fireworks are best accompanied by nothing other than the sound of fireworks. Next year, we'll do it right.

What's good (for the week ending 7/9):

- Alo fruit-tea-whatever drink. Awesome simply because it has little chunks of actual aloe pulp, which makes it the tea that drinks like a meal. Sound gross? Of course it does; fruit-tea-whatever drinks aren't supposed to be chunky. But for some reason, I'm hooked. (Try: Enrich, with pomegranate and cranberry. Avoid: Elated, with olive leaf. Ew.)
- sectional sofas, which I used to hate but now kind of like
- Law Abiding Citizen. Great performances by Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, and a fairly deep, nuanced storyline that keeps you thinking. And there are also some of those moments where you find yourself feeling guilty about how much you enjoy the creativity with which Butler kills people.
- One man's inspired mission to help you find the best time to pee during a movie--and help you catch up on what you missed while you were in the can
- Dr. Seuss Chuck Taylors. (My birthday's just five months away...)

The Bad:

- the roads in Birmingham. I'll be the first to admit they desperately need resurfacing, and I almost feel like I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth here. But the chosen approach seems to be stripping every single street that is to be repaired and then starting the repairs. Right now, Southside is one pitted, cratered, washboard wasteland striped here and there with smooth, fresh pavement. Strip a road, fix a road, strip the next road, people. We don't all drive Hummers.
- Arizona come east. I'm sure it was just a coincidence that the Irondale City Council passed their resolution on immigration enforcement the same day the Justice Department sued Arizona over a nearly identical--extremely controversial, potentially discriminatory--law. And, yeah, the councilman who proposed the resolution said he based it on that Arizona law. Interesting star to hitch your wagon to, Irondale.

The Ten:

1. Tears For Fears, "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)"
2. Erykah Badu, "Next Lifetime"
3. Elvis, "Heartbreak Hotel"
4. Donny Hathaway, "Je Vous Aime"
5. New Order, "Krafty"
6. Lady Gaga, "Paparazzi"
7. Richard Cheese, "Guerilla Radio"
8. Garbage, "The World Is Not Enough"
9. Richard Cheese, "Welcome to the Jungle"
10. Kula Shaker, "Govinda"

What's good for you this week? That, your Ten, and three types of state-issued ID (one with photo) go in comments.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

On Glee

Okay, so I'm going to take us a little lighter on this one, because it's been a day, and sometimes we need to be taken a little lighter, and besides I can't resists an opportunity to sing the praises of Glee.

Glee is, of course, for people who love bubblegum dramedy with plenty of random-ass bursting into song. I've really enjoyed watching the character progressions--becoming increasingly annoyed with (and unsympathetic to) Rachel, getting kind of tired of the way every song Finn sings starts to sound the same, enjoying the real growth and depth of storyline for Puck and Quinn--and although I know [SPOILER!] Puck declared his love for Quinn during the season finale,[/SPOILER] I'm still kind of hoping he and Mercedes get back together.

But when I heard recently that Glee was considering an all-Britney Spears episode, I sighed and rolled my eyes. Did I love their all-Madonna episode? Did I ever. Life is meaningless until you've seen Jane Lynch do Sue Sylvester do Madonna. Did I raise an eyebrow a bit at their all-Lady Gaga episode? Yeah, kind of, since they'd done the Madonna episode so recently and it was in danger of getting gimmicky. But I did like their rendition of "Bad Romance" (although "Poker Face" sucked enthusiastically. Sit down, Rachel Berry).

And now another single-artist episode? I've made no secret of my recent unexplainable advocacy for Britney Spears, and her music can be really peppy and energizing for cleaning house. But an entire episode of Britney Spears, show-choir style, is going to get old. And cheap--when your episode is about emotional honesty or openmindedness, you're hunting through the entire catalog of popular music to assemble the perfect show. When your episode is about Britney Spears, you're hunting through... six, and only three and a half of them are any good. It's the challenge of putting together a mix CD that's just the Rolling Stones.

So here we go, Glee: I'm looking past the fact that Rachel is getting really annoying and I don't care about her relationship with her [SPOILER!]birth mother[/SPOILER]. I'm looking past the fact that Finn makes a really dumb face when he sings that he probably thinks is just earnest. I'm looking past the fact that over time, you've started squishing the Very Special Message of the episode into the last anvilicious five minutes, easing down the slippery slope into a Saturday-morning-cartoon "knowing is half the battle" recap. And I'm looking past the fact that of late, you're saying you're doing mashups when what you're really doing is medleys.

But despite all of that, I love you, and it's because of that love that I say this:

Leave Britney alone.

On not just lemonade, but SPARKLING STRAWBERRY lemonade

Okay, so optimism is important in tough times. It's good to find the cloud's silver lining. Boyfriend dumped you? Woof. But if you look at it, he was a loser anyway. No one came to your party? Aw! But now you have all those beers and burgers to yourself. Just got your wisdom teeth pulled? Ouch! But at least you have a good excuse to pop narcotics and eat ice cream. Get raped and impregnated by your father? Whoops! But look on the bright side, says Republican senate candidate Sharron Angle--now you get a baby!
Stock:What do you say then to a young girl, I am going to place it as he said it, when a young girl is raped by her father, let's say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?

Angle: I think that two wrongs don't make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. Well one girl in particular moved in with the adoptive parents of her child, and they both were adopted. Both of them grew up, one graduated from high school, the other had parents that loved her and she also graduated from high school. And I'll tell you the little girl who was born from that very poor situation came to me when she was 13 and said 'I know what you did thank you for saving my life.' So it is meaningful to me to err on the side of life.
[emphasis mine]

This is one of those times when The Boy would tell me I'm out looking for things to get pissed off about, and I can't say for sure he's wrong. And even blogging about it here doesn't have a huge impact, because all of my reader--and, God willing, 98 percent of the rest of the world--recognize that looking for the lemonade in incestuous child rape is sheltered, thoughtless, ignorant, willful stupidity.

The reason this is significant is that she's not an inconsiderable presence in the upcoming Senate race. She's a darling of the Tea Party movement (as well as Phyllis Schlafly and Joe the Plumber), and she's up for Harry Reid's seat, which a lot of conservative voters would love to see filled with a Republican butt at any cost. In the current anti-liberal blowback culture, it doesn't take a lot for conservatives to look past an overwhelming volume of crazy if it means shifting the Senate balance even a little.

The above linked post includes an update reporting a response from Angle's campaign:
If abortion advocates really believed in choice as they claim, they would be just as eager to present women in these tragic situations with choices they can actually live with for years to come. That was the point I was making.

But this isn't about providing women (or, as discussed, girls) with choices they can live with. To Angle, it's about taking away their choices. It's about eliminating all but the choice she can live with.

It's not just her argument--wacko fundamentalist antis love to point out that "two wrongs don't make a right." And they don't. Raping a young girl, and then forcing her to carry and give birth to a baby whether she wants to or not, don't make anything even a little bit right. In that situation, the girl has been violated enough without having to cede further control of her body to some unsympathetic, Bible-waving stranger over in Nevada. But if God has a plan, God has a plan, right?

Let's hope to God his plan involves an overwhelming Harry Reid victory and a general opening of a whole lot of eyes. And maybe a little empathy, compassion, clarity, psychotropic drugs. Just a little? No? Just one? Still no? Okay, we'll get to that later.

Monday, July 05, 2010

On Mashup Monday: The meeting you've always wanted to see

Okay, so it's not a musical mashup, but this is such a near-seamless mixing with such care and attention to detail that I had to share it. Besides, with Twilight: Eclipse opening to the hysterical shrieking of middle-aged women with too many cats and too much disposable income across the country, I couldn't resist.

Buffy/Edward - Twilight Remixed

(Incidentally: There has been some discussion within my social group, and the consensus is that, forced to choose a "team," we'd all definitely go "Team the Guy Who Has a Tan and Body Heat and, Oh Yeah, Shape-shifts into a Freaking Wolf." That said, otherwise, we're all firmly on Team Buffy.)

Friday, July 02, 2010

On the Good, the Bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so you had to know this was coming back, right? I love me some recurring features, if only because a) they require me to post more than once a month and b) they're pretty easy to write. So here's a super-sized TGTBATFRT to make up for four months of radio silence.

What's good (for the four months ending 7/2):

- scooters. I finally got my new (used) Eaglecraft Spider insured, licensed, and ready to roll, because I certainly haven't been riding around without those things since February, and I can't get enough of it. It's fun, it looks cool, it gets 65 miles to the gallon, and I can park it on sidewalks. Seriously, what's not to like?
- the HJC CL-MAX helmet and Fieldsheer Breeze II motorcycle jacket. Scooter wreck on gravel, and I didn't feel a thing (until the next day, at least, which is to be expected). I will shill for y'all any day of the week and twice on Sundays, HJC and Fieldsheer. Motorists: Summer's a bitch, but remember that helmet, jacket, gloves, long pants, and real shoes are a hell of a lot more comfortable than skin grafts and body casts.
- people who are able to make significant, concrete efforts. I know I'm just after saying that I wasn't going to post about the Gulf spill, but the fact that Dragonfly Boatworks has had both the inclination and the impetus to do something that will have a real, positive impact is so striking to me, it makes me want to have good tears. (Okay, so I'm a crier. Deal with it.) Apparently, they're going to be selling DEA (Dragonfly Environmental Army) t-shirts to help fund the efforts, so as soon as I can find out how to get them, I'm on it.
- plastic + paper. Painting the entire damn new house has made us near-experts in the art of screwing up painting projects, and we've made lots of discoveries through trial and error. One of the biggest is that if you lay down a huge swath of painter's plastic, it protects the floor, and if you lay down a runner of painter's paper on top of that around the edges, it cuts down on time spent cursing the plastic for sticking to your socks.
- Oh, right--the new house
- that side project I mentioned
- Tim James and Dale Peterson. Oh, sweet mother of God, did I need the comedy inherent in those campaigns. The earnestness of Tim plus the indignant quasi-rage of Dale equal gold--and if we're honest, who wouldn't like to get that kind of pissed off on TV? A lot of the yuks come more easily, of course, knowing that neither candidate cleared their primary. But Dale has been good enough to give us an awesome endorsement ad for John McMillan, and I'm hoping Fox News will bring him on as a commentator. (If you agree, e-mail Fox and Friends to let them know.)

"It makes sense. Does it to you?" No, Tim, it does not make a lick of damn sense. But promise me you'll run again in 2014.
- J-Lo's ass. And not just because it brought a new appreciation for naturally badonkadonktastic women like myself--the Huffington Post's Erica Kennedy talks about the way not just her ass but her attitude and self-confidence changed the world--for women who felt that they finally had permission to appreciate themselves for who they really were, and for the society around them that was suddenly obliged to appreciate that appreciation. For that, and for Out of Sight, I salute you, JLo's Ass.
- Smucker's Uncrustables (in grape)
- The Baskits on Green Springs Highway

What's bad:

- road construction in Birmingham. Listen, guys, I'll be the first to thank you for finally getting around to fixing the horrific streets in Southside. (My new vehicle doesn't take well to potholes and patches.) But your approach of stripping every single bit of nasty pavement before starting to restore anything leaves much to be desired. My bike is getting torn up, my body is getting torn up, and that aforementioned patch of gravel (and accompanying pavement dropoff)? Guess where it came from. Strip a road, fix a road, move on to the next road. Lather, rinse, repeat. It takes a little bit longer, but it also leaves the rest of the streets traversable for vehicles not equipped with monster-truck tires.
- toxic mold. One reason of many to leave the old house.
- most fast-food joints after dark. My last few trips to Wendy's, Burger King, and Rally's have found me unable to get unsweet tea, milkshakes, pie, baked potatoes, apple pecan chicken salad, any kind of a chicken sandwich, any kind of fish sandwich, and, for that matter, anything close to decent customer service. The exception? Arby's, which came through with all requested items and a smile. Y'all, if your sign says "open late," you might want to add, "but don't come expecting to get any food."
- Love at First Bite: The Unofficial Twilight Cookbook--although this could be placed in the category of "so bad it's good" (see Jonah Hex). The absolute best part, though? The five-star review from the author herself. Just a tip, Gina: If you're going to try and pimp your own work in customer reviews, at least have the sense to use a fake name. On second thought, this doesn't belong in The Bad at all, because it's overflowing with awesome.

The Ten:

1. Luigi Boccherini, "Adagio" from Concerto in G Major
2. Dirty Vegas, "I Should Know"
3. Alphaville, "Big in Japan"
4. Fiona Apple, "Criminal"
5. Kimya Dawson, "Tree Hugger" (with Antsy Pants)
6. Fine Young Cannibals, "She Drives Me Crazy"
7. Rose Royce, "Car Wash"
8. Peter Gabriel, "While the Earth Sleeps"
9. J.S. Bach, "Var. 13" from Goldberg Variations
10. Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"

For all of my reader here in the Good Ol', happy Fourth of July, and remember that if you're going to shoot off fireworks yourself, try not to blow off your thumbs. They're really important. For my reader elsewhere, happy... Sunday. Otherwise: I know it's been quite a while and you're probably out of practice, but if you're up to it, feel free to leave your Goods, Bads, and Tens in comments.

On a lighter note (Awesome Film Edition)

Or, Maybe They Shouldn't Have Put "Hex" in the Title?

Okay, so after the total downer of the last post, I thought I might throw in a little bit of a laugh. This is one of those bits that I squirreled away during The Interregnum. I mention this because when it was first pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago, the Rotten Tomatometer was at an exuberant 14 percent.

A few highlights:

You won't be blown away, but if it's your thing, you will be entertained.

says Gary Wolcott of the Tri-City Herald.

Jonah Hex is not a good movie. Not by a long shot... But that didn't stop me from having a hell of a lot of fun watching it.

says Kevin Carr of 7M Pictures.

I liked it so much, I really want to see the rest of it. It can't really be a 75 minute movie, right?

says Fred Topel of Can Magazine.

Not that anyone should confuse this with a good movie, but it features plenty of violence, plus Megan Fox in a corset. For action fans, that's entertainment.

says Daniel M. Kimmel of New England Movies Weekly.

Why is this significant? Because those are the good reviews. That is awesome. Awesome. Awe. Some.

Awesome. I'm seeing it. I'm serious--I'm totally seeing it, and if you're in the area, I encourage you to see it with me. There will be popcorn and soda and Junior Mints and plenty of comfy seating choices in the theatre.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

On something I probably won't be blogging about

Okay, so during my brief blogging break (hereinafter known as "The Interregnum"), I continued to stockpile posts and articles and items of interest, and I managed to amass a particularly hefty folder on the Gulf oil spill. And it seems like the kind of thing that could inspire an endless stream of blog posts, with new commentary and analysis coming out every day. But the more I sort through the growing volume of stuff I've collected, the less inclined I am to bother saying anything about it.

Because frankly, what is there to say? We're in the middle--not even in the middle, tragically, still at the very beginning--of the biggest environmental shitstorm to hit my general vicinity in my lifetime. And it's getting worse, not better. And we can sit here and debate until the cows come home whose fault it is, whose responsibility it is, who should be responsible for cleanup, who should be in charge of cleanup, and you know what? It's not going to change a damn thing. Of course some discussion needs to take place to see where the system broke down so we can try to prevent this kind of disaster in the future, but outside of that, there's more or less no point to it. Even if we squeezed every available cent out of BP and Transocean and Halliburton, it's not going to be enough to unfuck the Gulf, because the Gulf is unfuckable.

And we're not talking about "if we don't do something quickly, the Gulf will soon be unfuckable." It's unfuckable now. There are animals covered in oil now. There are protected beaches and delicate marshlands dotted with oil now. There's marine life that's swallowing oil now, and even if we got out this very day and loaded the Gulf with as much chemical dispersant as Nalco has ever produced, that marine life would be swallowing little droplets of oil mixed with highly toxic chemicals. The ones that don't die will be too toxic to fish and will, God willing, be too toxic to reproduce, because if they do manage to reproduce, God only knows what the resulting offspring will look like. And bankrupting BP in the interest of cleanup efforts isn't going to undo that.

My screensaver at work for the past year has been vacation photos from Port St. Joe, Florida. Dave, The Boy, and I spent a truly fantastic week there through the generosity of a friend with a beach house. It was gorgeous--pristine, unsullied, quiet, largely undeveloped, with woods in the backyard and a state park down the road. I would have taken ten times as many photos then if I'd known that we'd probably never get a chance to go back. And for the moment, St. Joseph Bay remains clean. But there's no guarantee, and an oil slick that's expected to make it out into the mid-Atlantic certainly has the potential to swing up into that tight corner of the Gulf. I read an article recently wherein biologists judged that the bay is untouched because the dolphins are still healthy. They called the dolphins "environmental sentinels of the bay." What they meant is that the dolphins are the canaries of the bay--they'll know the Deepwater Horizon slick has hit the bay when the dolphins start dying. Dolphin X03 isn't going to leap out of the water in a blue-green shimmer to announce to biologists that the bay is contaminated. She's going to roll up on the beach with ten of her closest dolphin buddies. And at that point, the damage done will be un-doable, if it ever could have been prevented in the first place.

I'm doing my best to come to terms with the fact that there are entire species currently living in the ecosystem that won't be there by the time The Boy's three-year-old niece is old enough to appreciate them. I'm coming to terms with the fact that the sites of so many of my happy childhood memories may never again be enjoyed by young vacationers. I'm coming to terms with the fact that someday, I'm going to be regaling younger generations with once-upon-a-times about not just the Gulf but oceans largely unvisited by anyone but fishing boats. I'm coming to terms with the idea of an environment that will be significantly and irreparably different by the time this entire mess is through. I'm not entirely to terms yet, though, and just writing about it all is making me tear up, so I'm going to stop.

So I'm not going to be posting much about the Gulf spill unless something earth-shattering comes up. What's the point? I won't be posting new information on the status of the spill and cleanup efforts, because the answer will always be "rapidly declining." I won't be posting pictures of oil-slicked birds, because there are going to be more, and it just makes me cry anyway. I won't be posting castigations and condemnations of BP, because the English language doesn't include harsh enough words to express my feelings about them. And I won't be posting pleas for awareness and attention, because everyone is already aware, most people are attentive, and it's not going to change anything anyway.

The Boy has a tragic, bitter, but unfortunately accurate view of the whole thing: Liquidating BP won't be enough to fund even a fraction of the cleanup efforts necessary to restore the Gulf, and the only punitive measure significant enough to account for the damage done would be to line up the board of directors and shoot them. Since we don't do that in this country, there's verging on no point. I'll boycott BP, I might even buy a snarky t-shirt--probably not--but I'm not going to try to wrap my mind around the ongoing disaster in the interest of producing a coherent blog post. People have been taking jabs at President Obama for his suggestion, shortly after the collapse of Deepwater Horizon, that the nation turn to prayer. I'm with him. It would be nice to say we should concentrate on more tangible action, but right now, appeals to the Almighty are pretty much all we have. So I suggest we get to it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

On triumphant returns (and Mashup Mondays)

Okay, so it's been a while. A long while. It's been--Jesus, God, February? That's, like, months ago. Months and months. Whoops. Sorry about that.

I'm sorry I abandoned you without notice. That wasn't cool of me. I got pretty busy pretty suddenly. There was work, of course. There's a certain side project that I have going on. (Not really a "comedy" person? Not familiar with Birmingham politics and entertainment? Maybe don't bother clicking that link. But hey, maybe bother. I'm not going to tell you how to live your life.) And I bought a frigging house, which was a surprisingly lengthy and involved project, and now I'm moving into the house, which is an unsurprisingly lengthy and involved project. Is that a thorough explanation? Certainly. Is it an excuse? No, it is not.

But I'm going to try to make up for it as best I can. Between local politics and national politics and that big messy thing that's happened in the Gulf of Mexico and whatnot, there's plenty to be attending to. Also, there's about four months of other articles, events, scandals, hilarities, and atrocities that I keep tucking into a little folder to blog on and then not blogging on. (See? At least I was thinking about you all this time.) So on top of my ongoing other responsibilities, it's back to the blogstone. You'll be able to enjoy commentary on new, current, interesting events, as well as flashback commentary on stuff that's already been discussed to hell and back but I didn't get a chance to put my two cents in. Because I know how important my cents are to you.

So that's my pledge. Note that it's a fairly nonspecific and nebulous pledge, since I'm not sure how much of this I'll be able to crank out at once. But you've got a kind of a pledge, at least, which is worth the ones and zeros it's posted with.

To kick off my return to the blogosphere, I present a new feature I'm calling Mashup Monday, wherein I share some of the awesomest songs ever to come together courtesy of Garage Band. For the inaugural Mashup Monday, 2 Many DJs bring together Kurt Cobain and Beyonce in a way that God never intended.

Nirvana/Destiny's Child - Smells Like Booty

Enjoy, and I'll see you tomorrow. Or Wednesday. Ish. What am I, a machine?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On corporeal punishment

Okay, so I'll let Think Progress set this up for you:
On Thursday, Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) spoke at a press conference against state funding for Planned Parenthood. He blasted the organization for supporting a woman's right to choose, saying that God punishes women who have had abortions by giving them disabled children:
The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican.
“In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

I'm not going to even bother refuting his actual statement, because it's so completely asinine in every respect. And I'm not going to discuss at any length the complete insensitivity to parents of disabled children who are dealing with the stress of raising a child with special needs and who love those children desperately, because that's obvious to anyone who has half of a functioning heart and a sliver of a conscience.

What really jumped out at me was the fact that once again, someone from the "party of life" characterized a baby as a punishment for a woman's sins. Traditionally, it's been a somewhat abstract approach, where a woman commits the sin of gettin' down, and her "punishment" (usually just characterized as "the normal consequence") is the shame of pregnancy and the burden of responsibility for a human--or what most people call "parenthood." If you didn't want a kid, you shouldn't have fucked! That's the price of sex, slattern! That baby is going to be your millstone and the constant reminder of your sins against... whatever. God, or society, or something.

This time, we have a wackaloon taking it further, saying in so many words that these children are actual, literal punishments for women's sins. They aren't people. They aren't much-loved family members. They aren't precious lives worthy of care and protection. Fuck that noise. This is what you get, whore. Don't you wish you'd kept your damn legs closed (or at least accepted your just punishment then)? Now God hates you, and he's sending down his divine vengeance in the form of a human being with thoughts and feelings, whom you're expected to view as penance for your transgressions. If you'd done right by the Lord, you'd have had a good "normal" child, but instead you get this worthless broken one.

I'm not by any means trying to make Bob Marshall the spokesperson for his party; he's obviously a member (if a member in a position of some prominence) of the loony fringe. But his statement is another example of the conservative/Evangelical view that a child isn't a person to love and care for but an object of shame and a seven-pound, eight-ounce weapon to keep your sins ever in your mind. An object, a weapon, isn't alive, and a "culture of life" that sees a baby as those things isn't a culture of life at all.

Every baby should be loved and wanted, even those conceived unintentionally, even those with disabilities. No woman should be forced to bear a child that would be seen--that should be seen, according to conservatives--as a punishment. And no woman should be told that the child she chose to have is actually nothing more than God's divine wrath.

(h/t Pandagon)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

On a brief memorial

Okay, so this is going to be brief not because I don't care or have the time but because it seems untoward to wail and beat my breast over a man about whom I haven't given more than a passing thought in more than a decade, and because, unlike my granddad, this man likely has hundreds of people who are looking back and thinking the exact same things that I am without needing prompting.

Jim Fletcher died of a heart attack last night. He was one of my teachers in high school, teaching English and humanities, and he was one of two teachers out of those four years who made high school even remotely bearable. He was, in retrospect, a complete sonofabitch--years later, his students can still say "underwater basketweaving" and "fries with that burger" and "sweetness and light" (which line was always delivered with the deepest sarcasm) and everyone understands and laughs while at the same time cringing at the memory of being on the receiving end of those barbs. He was the type of teacher who would drop a textbook on his desk--loudly--to wake up a sleepy class, and he was known to actually shoot students between the eyes with a Nerf gun for giving stupid answers.

And yet he was the favorite teacher of more students than I can count. When I was named Star Student for the high school my senior year (yeah, geek, I know), I named Mr. Fletcher as my corresponding Star Teacher--and was informed that he'd already received that honor at least three times in the past. Students always studied for his classes if for no others not because the material was hard (although it was) but because that's just how you take a class with Mr. Fletcher. In humanities, he taught an entire unit on comparative religion, and he offered extra credit to students who stole Gideon bibles as reference materials when we studied creation myths. At one time, he had about eight bibles with my name and the names of everyone else on the Academic Decathlon team (yeah, geek, we've established that) after a trip to regionals, where we emptied Mary Katherine's suitcase to hold all of the bibles we stole from every hotel room we could find. I'm probably going to hell for that.

I don't think I've ever met a teacher who had a deeper love for his subject than Fletch, and he instilled that love in his students, if only for a few semesters at a time.

I can't speak for anybody else, but I worked harder than I'd worked before or since not because I feared his ridicule (although I did) but because I craved his approval. He was a hard man to impress--he wasn't the type to withhold approval just to put you in your place; he just had really high standards and wasn't going to gush over anything that didn't meet them. The best note I've ever--ever--gotten on a paper was from him. "You're too young to be this cynical." I got an A-. I might as well have gotten a gold star, or maybe an Academy Award, for the pride it instilled in me.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I intended, and I did intend to keep in brief for the reason given above--I haven't really thought about him in years, much less gotten in contact with him. The news this morning really kicked me in the stomach, largely out of a sense of guilt that a man who'd been so very, very important to me during those hellish four years dropped completely out of my consciousness until he was dead.

But as I was mooning around the kitchen in my post-Catholic guilt, The Boy pointed out something valuable: You're supposed to forget. High school is a time when you learn the things that will make you a successful and productive human being, and then you leave high school and try to do that. You're meant to look forward, not back--teachers prepare you for the future, and that's where you're supposed to go. So while I still feel guilty about not thinking more about such a significant--lifesaving, even--influence on my life, it can be argued that it's a tribute to his work as an educator. He prepared me like no other to go out into the world and conquer it. (Whether this has happened is debatable.) And on this occasion to look back, it's good to know that I'm in the company of so many other students who share that experience.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

On settling

Or, Marry Him Now, Woman, While You Still Have Your Looks, Because Who Will Want You When You're a Spinster Hag With Shriveled Ovaries and an Aura of Hopelessness?

Okay, so it was back in March of 2008 that Lori Gottlieb published an essay in The Atlantic magazine titled, "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough." One might imagine that, with such a title, the essay would advocate looking for more of a business partner than a romantic partner to share marriage and family. In fact, one would be correct, because that's precisely what she advocates in so many words and more.

I only mention it now because Gottlieb has recently released a book by the same name, expanding on her former advice to let go of all of your standards for fear of never finding a man who will love--scratch that, tolerate you enough to live with you, make a baby with you, and then disappear into the office for 80 hours a week to leave you to play with your baby. She now has new, fresh advice to let go of all of your standards for fear of never finding a man who will love--scratch that, tolerate you enough to live with you, make a baby with you, and then disappear into the office for 80 hours a week to leave you to play with your baby.

Gottlieb is a single mother. She conceived (in a "fit of self-empowerment") a baby from a sperm donor and now, in her mid-forties, regrets her decisions because all of the families in the park seem so happy and, hell, even her friends who are married to men they hate are better off than she is, because at least they're married. To men they hate. And she very much regrets not marrying the men she found intolerable when she was younger, because then, she'd have a husband. Not necessarily one she was in love with, not necessarily one she wanted to interact with, but certainly one to... be married to. I guess.

She's so secure in her fear of alone-ness and desperation to marry at any cost that she can't believe any woman of a certain age could feel any differently. In her essay, Gottlieb asserts, "[E]very women I know--no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure--feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried." Of course, it must be argued that she doesn't know me--and that I'm still ten months shy of the magic number--but I honestly don't fear eternal spinsterhood, despite my advanced age. Maybe I should enjoy my remaining 313 days before the panic sets in.

Or maybe I'm just "in denial or lying." Good call, Lori.

I will agree with her argument that the little annoyances--bad movie-theatre manners, lousy sense of style--aren't great standards on which to judge and ultimately chuck a guy. So many of my married friends are never able to say, "His video game habit/naugahyde beanbag chair/filthy car/inability to hit the hamper from a foot away bugs the crap out of me" without finishing, quite sincerely, "But I love him to death." Which is a pretty good sign that they've made good choices and done a good job of looking past the minor details to appreciate the whole man. Gottlieb seems to be taking a different approach; while she also would opt to overlook the ugly ties and inability to cook, her proposed alternative doesn't really address anything related to, say, love, or passion, or happiness.

"[I]f you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go."

'Kay. So when you say "settle," you mean settle... for any guy who's willing to marry and impregnate me.


But yeah, that's pretty much her thing. She tells us, "Don't worry about passion or intense connection." "Settling will probably make you happier in the long run." "[O]nce you take the plunge and do it, you'll probably be relatively content." (Emphasis mine.) She says, "Marriage isn't a passion-fest; it's more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business" and refers to "uninspiring relationships that might have made us happy in the context of a family" (emphasis also mine). Because, by her reckoning, all of this beats the hell out of being by oneself.

"[I]f you rarely see your husband--but he's a decent guy who takes out the trash and sets up the baby gear, and he provides a second income that allows you to spend time with your child instead of working 60 hours a week to support a family on your own--how much does it matter whether the guy you marry is The One?" Yes, America, why should we give gays the right to marry when it could threaten the sanctity of unions such as these?

Gottlieb even goes so far as to bring up Mary Tyler Moore and Rachel Green (of Friends fame) and Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City). O how they could be married now if only they had settled! What if Rachel had just gone ahead and married the boring orthodontist? Why oh why didn't Carrie jump on Aidan while she had the chance (since Big will certainly never be seen with a kid slung in a Baby Bjorn)? After the newsroom goes dark, won't Mary find herself single, friendless, miserable, and alone? Why did these stupid women not settle?

I actually do know precisely why Ross and Rachel (and Carrie and Big) weren't settled and content. I also know why Mulder and Scully didn't hook up, why Burn Notice's Michael and Fiona keep coming together and drawing apart, and why Buffy and Angel struggled so much with their love: Because that's what it says in the script. If they put their inner children in time-out and settled down to make the relationships work, it would be boring, not in the sense that happy marriages are boring but in the sense that content people don't make good TV. Maybe, if they'd both gotten over themselves, Ross and Rachel could have found a relationship abounding in both passion and contentment. Yawn. Click. But that's what some refer to as television. If you're divining deep sociological truths and the secrets to eternal love in the 22 minutes of a sitcom, you're already twelve kinds of wrong.

I have a suggestion for Gottlieb and the many single friends to whom she constantly refers as anecdata to bolster her own otherwise-unbolsterable claims of single fortysomething misery: Maybe you're single because you're obnoxious. Maybe your superficiality glows off of you like a Byzantine halo. Maybe when you're on a date with a guy, he can tell that you're mentally listing his every fault and weighing them all against his potential to pay for your kid's soccer uniform. Maybe he sees you tearing up over the photos of happy families that come in picture frames and notices the way your fingers dig convulsively into his arm at the sight of a father carrying his son on his shoulders at the park. Maybe he saw your copy of No Time to Be Picky: Land That Pathetic Schlub Before You're Barren on your bookshelf. Maybe he saw the words "Last Resort" flash up next to his number on your cell phone. It's called desperation, Lori, and it smells like White Shoulders and prenatal vitamins.

I also have some words of advice for Gottlieb and co. And while it might be too late for them, they might be too far gone, others may be able to learn from it and avoid their fate.

(A disclaimer: My knowledge of relationships stems from a mere thirteen-ish years in the dating world, only two of which have involved blissful happiness, so it's entirely possible that, in thirty years (or ten years, or five) I will find myself proven horribly wrong. When I talk about satisfaction in marriage and happiness in the future, I do so as someone who has never been married and who (God willing) has a whole lot of future ahead of her. But I like to think that my past trial and error have given me at least a little bit of valuable perspective. I do invite the contribution of anyone with more experience to correct my assertions and assumptions where appropriate.)

When I started dating, I was looking for someone who was tall, handsome, smart, funny, looking to have a family, ambitious, and respectful of my desire to have a life and career of my own. This is because I was sixteen. I also was looking for someone who was George Clooney. Over time I dated a number of guys: Guys who were handsome but obnoxious, guys who were family-oriented but not terribly feminist, guys who were funny but not terribly bright, guys who were ambitious but not George Clooney. I put myself out there, tried a few things, and edited my list as I went--that's not settling, it's experiencing the world and learning more about myself and what I wanted, what I was going to hold out for.

After that experience and more than a few mistakes, my list had changed a lot:

- Someone who challenges me intellectually - because that will keep me sharp, and I'll never get bored
- Someone who loves exactly who I am without feeling the need to "fix" things about me, even little, tiny things - because that will make me feel comfortable and secure without fearing that he's eventually going to find me so hopelessly flawed that he has to bail. Besides, if I love and accept him and he loves and accepts me, I'll be far more inclined to try and adjust those little, tiny things myself
- Someone who doesn't just tolerate but actively appreciates my little quirks and foibles - because those are the things that make me me, and my idea of love doesn't involve anyone who merely tolerates me
- Someone who makes me shiver when he kisses me (and this one's my aunt's fault. Blame her)

And even if those standards were unrealistically high, there was no way I was going to back down from them, because I couldn't see myself possibly living my life any other way.

(Incidentally: Nailed it.)

So some hard-won advice to all who can hear (er, read) my voice (er, blog, or whatever):

- Don't lower your standards; just think about what's really important. Think about the things you value now and the things that are going to make you happy in the future. And you know what? If, in the end, you realize that you will never be truly happy without a man who will look good on your arm and make beautiful babies and enable a lifestyle that provides luxuries and puts you in contact with all of the right people, go ahead and hold out for that. I'm not going for that myself, and I sure as hell don't understand it, but I'm not going to tell you how to live your life.

- Decide for yourself what happiness in life really means. A husband and a picket fence and 2.5 children might truly be a priority for you, or it might just be societal pressure to live the cookie-cutter life that is everyone else's definition of success. If, on careful consideration, you find that's your definition too, hold out for it. But if you think about it honestly and decide that your definition of success doesn't involve kids, or it involves both kids and a career, or it involves a partner who loves you deeply but doesn't hinge on a ring, go for that. If you settle for the wrong guy out of desperation to satisfy some societal standard that doesn't actually appeal to you, you'll eventually find yourself unsatisfied with the life you're living and the person you're living it with. Are a blood diamond and a picket fence really worth that? Your call.

- Learn to love yourself. At the very least, learn to like yourself. Learn to enjoy your own company, and learn to recognize your traits that make you a good friend so you can find friends who enjoy doing things other than moaning about how single they are. If the only thing driving you is the fear of being alone, you're going to be searching for someone who will fill a hole in your life rather than someone who will complement it. Learn how to be a complete person on your own, and the addition of another person to your life will make it better, not good enough.

- Don't be afraid to make mistakes--because like just about everything else in life, love is a skill to be learned over time. Learning to ride a bike involves a few skinned knees; learning to play the piano involves some truly dismal performances (trust me); hell, learning to pick out your own clothes involves going out in some outfits that will make you cringe in retrospect. And those things pale in importance next to the concept of lifetime happiness. You're going to have crappy dates, you're going to have relationships that later make you wonder what you were thinking, you're going to fall for a guy/girl who ends up not loving you back. Chalk it all up to a learning experience and maybe figure out how to laugh at it later, because if you hold yourself back for fear of failing, you're never going to learn how to succeed.

- Don't fall for the old trope, generally delivered by older generations, that you can't really know what you want now and that in ten years, you'll regret your disdainful nonpursuit of the picket fence. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll chuck it all and follow their lead and be blissfully happy, and maybe you'll regret it and feel trapped. Hell, maybe they'll look back ten years from now and realize that they aren't really happy with the choices they've made. Scientists have yet to invent a way to see into the future, and making choices that seem wrong now in case they'll feel right in the future is a risky gamble.

Don't despair. Despair isn't attractive. Besides, I can't speak personally to the challenges of dating after forty, but I do know of a certain forty-plus who managed to find true love with a woman of stunning intelligence, sparkling personality, and timeless beauty, and I daresay he wouldn't describe the process using gory-drunk-driving-accident-resulting-in-full-paralysis metaphors.

And the greatest of these is love--of yourself. Don't be such a whiny, pathetic, desperate, needy little clinger that you can't even stand your own company. See yourself as someone worthy of actual love and friendship, not just a childcare-and-garbage-removal contractual arrangement. Or don't, and learn divide your time equally between bitching with your friends that at this point you'd be willing to marry the next solvent, fertile asshole who came along and wondering why you're still single.

Monday, February 01, 2010

On malice vs. stupidity

Okay, so stupid people ruin everything. I was all ready to run with a post in the wake of the ten Baptists in Haiti arrested on charges of child trafficking. On Saturday, news networks were reporting that the ten Idahoans had been stopped crossing the border into the Dominican Republic with 33 Haitian orphans between the ages of 2 months and 12 years, some of whose parents died in the earthquake and some of whom were abandoned by their parents before the quake. Laura Silsby, the group's leader, says the kids came through a Haitian pastor and that while they didn't have adoption papers for any of them, they felt they were doing the right thing and had planned to go back and arrange paperwork later.

Oh, it was a good post. It was all about "othering" and the way we look at people in developing and underprivileged countries. I was going to pull up the "animal shelters" bit from a while back. I was going to point out that if this were earthquake-flattened Salinas, there's no way these people would have been tooling around the city in their bus, scooping up wandering children and carrying them to safe, happy new homes across the border in Nevada, because Californian orphans are actual people, whereas Haitian orphans are cute little brown puppies who speak a cute, funny language and would look adorable in the stroller of any white American family that would have them and plucking them out of the rubble would really be doing everyone a favor. I would point out the dumbassitude of trying to carry children across a national border without thinking that any paperwork would be involved.

And then I watched the news today and cursed the gods that I was going to have to scrap that bad boy and start over.
As a group of American Baptist charity workers waits to hear if they will be tried on child trafficking charges for attempting to take 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the Associated Press has learned that not all of the children they were transporting were orphans.

"One (8-year-old) girl was crying, and saying, 'I am not an orphan. I still have my parents.' And she thought she was going on a summer camp or a boarding school or something like that," George Willeit, a spokesman for SOS Children's Villages, said. SOS, an Austrian-based charity working in Haiti, now has custody of the children.

Willeit said the children arrived "very hungry, very thirsty." A 2- to 3-month-old baby was dehydrated and had to be hospitalized, he said. Workers were searching for their families or close relatives.
And thus the Americans' story begins to unravel and the "aw, shucks, were we not s'pose to do that?" defense becomes shakier.
"Our understanding is that they had lost parents in the quake or possibly some had parents abandon them before the quake," said Laura Silsby, a member of the group.
[Central Valley Baptist Church pastor Drew Ham] insisted the children had been verified as orphans and had come from established orphanage in Port-au-Prince, although he couldn't provide the name.
And yet CBS didn't have trouble at all finding the village full of (not-dead) parents who had signed their children over to the Americans, who had promised the kids schools and swimming pools and tennis courts.

Or they can just ask the kids:
Thirteen-year-old Chesner said his parents were approached by a pastor, believed to be a Haitian American, and some "white missionaries" who he later recognised on the bus which took the children to the border. Chesner said: "They told my parents that the environment and hygiene was not safe with dead bodies after the earthquake. They wanted to take me to a camp in Dominican Republic. I did not know how long I was going for, and I am happy to be back in Haiti because I want to see my mother."
And then there's Laura Silsby's confusion about paperwork:
"They really didn't have any paperwork ... I did not understand that that would really be required," the leader of the arrested group, Laura Silsby, told CNN.
Although human-rights activist Anne-christine d'Adesky might disagree:
Mrs. Silsby said her authorization to collect Haitian orphans and bring them to the Dominican Republic was from an unnamed Dominican official, according to Ms. d'Adesky's email [to U.N. authorities]. "I informed her that this would be regarded as illegal even with some 'Dominican' minister authorizing, since the kids are Haitian," Ms. d'Adesky wrote, adding that she directed Ms. Silsby to U.N. agencies helping the Haitian government handle orphans and adoptions. In a telephone interview, Ms. d'Adesky said she recalled Ms. Silsby's response: "We have been sent by the Lord to rescue these children, and if it's in the Lord's plan we will be successful."
So we're going to have to assume that no, it actually wasn't in the Lord's plan. The Lord's plan probably included trained, accredited, documented aid workers who weren't galloping idiots.

Arresting officials also note that Silsby told them that the group was taking the kids to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic--while in reality, the building is still in the planning stages and the plan was to put the kids up in hotel rooms until the facility was built. Complete with swimming pools and tennis courts, one can assume.

(Y'all, this stuff is all verifiable. If you're going to lie, at least lie about stuff they can't check.)

Now, I'm not going to try to figure out their motives here. I have no reason to think that Silsby and co. had any intention of selling the kids into slavery or as exotic pets to high-bidding Americans. But I feel perfectly comfortable raising an eyebrow at their actions after they started lying about them. In making the Heinlein's Law determination regarding stupidity and malice, lying about your actions offers more than enough reasonable doubt to start the needle swinging.

Yesterday's post was going to close with a comment about how it's important to follow your heart, but you have to let your head be in charge of it or else you find yourself in a Haitian jail on charges of child trafficking. Today, though, I can leave them with only this: You tried to smuggle undocumented children across a national border, you lied to officials about how and where you got them, and you lied to the parents about why you were taking them, where they were going, and what was going to happen when they got there. If it turns out that your motives were the tiniest bit ulterior, I hope they throw the damn book at you. And even if it turns out that this whole massive cockup really was some honest(ly stupid) mistake, I hope you all get at least a few months in jail for being idiots. At the very least, it'll make the streets safer for our children.