Wednesday, July 30, 2003

A week of great Top 10's at US-cinemas.


1 Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

2 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

3 Bad Boys II

4 Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

5 Seabiscuit

6 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

7 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

8 Finding Nemo

9 Johnny English

10 Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde


Which movies have you already watched and how did you like them? Which ones do you want to watch soon? I've watched the blue ones already and can recommend them anytime. Only Legally Blonde was quite boring to me. The orange ones are those I'm planning on watching very soon.


Comment! ;)

Monday, July 28, 2003

Tech Update

A minor bug in the template was making a mess of the Blogsisters site when viewed in Mozilla. As the popularity of more standards-compliant browsers increases, and IE gets comparatively less functional (market share or no market share), I finally got around to making the fix. All you Mozilla browsers out there should now be seeing a nice happy sidebar to the left of the screen. Viva la standards.

Sincerely,
Tech support

Sisterhood and Wisecracks

Sisterhood and wisecracks: That's how Joanne Weintraub of Milwaukee's Journal Sentinal describes my favorite sitcom of all times, Designing Women. (Well, maybe after Northern Exposure, which made me laugh out loud too, but for different reasons.)

I couldn't resist tuning into parts of the Designing Women reunion show that aired tonight, and I hooted and hollered at the old clips all over again and cheered on Dixie Carter as her character launched into her clever and clipped diatribes about the nonsense that women not-so-patiently put up with, particularly from men.

Its characters talked about things real women talk about, from politics to pantyhose. There's a clip from an episode where Mary Jo (Potts) deliberates getting implants that may be both the funniest and most honest discussion a TV character has ever had about breasts. (from Weintraub's article)

Small-chested Mary Jo carries on about how powerful she feels with (temporary) bigger breasts. If she were a "D," she muses, she'd probably feel like punching someone out. And her descriptions of how differently men treat her and her bigger breasts are as hilarious as they are unfortunately realistically accurate.

I think I've seen every episode more than twice since they started airing in 1986 and moved into re-runs in the early 90s. The characters are feisty and fallible, smart and sexy. They are not girls. They are women. They like themselves, they like each other, they like men, and they like to laugh at their own human foibles.

Hot, sexy, strong, femine, feminist W-O-M-E-N.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Blogathon 2003 Under Way!

Support Soulforce in the 2003 Blogathon! Support Soulforce! All Facts & Opinions is blogging to raise money and awareness for and of SOULFORCE; we've been at it since 9 am and we will continue on, goddess and Kinko's 40-cents-per-minute fees willing, until 9 am Eastern Time Sunday. This marvelous organization, of which I am a member, is dedicated to using nonviolent means to win justice for gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgendered people in religious denominations.

From the group's Web site, here is its mission statement:
"Soulforce is an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people."
What is spiritual violence? here is how Soulforce defines it: "Spiritual violence is the misuse of religion to sanction the condemnation and rejection of any of God’s children. Misusing religion and/or God to support society’s bias against sexual and gender minorities also inappropriately justifies psychological, legal and physical violence against them. Some zealots blatantly articulate spiritual violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangender people when they scream 'God Hates Fags.' Mainline churches may be less blatant and more sophisticated, but they are no less guilty of spiritual violence. It is just as violent spiritually when pastors and parents—quoting scripture—condemn and reject members of their congregation and their family. When this happens, God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children also feel condemned and rejected by their Creator as well."

By following the teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi and the nonviolent civil-rights strategies used by his most noted devotee, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Soulforce hopes to spread a message of Gandhi's 'satyagraha,' which translates roughly into "soul force." The idea is to use the power of love to win over our opponents to the ways of justice, equality, and peace. Not a bad plan, eh?

Over the course of Blogathon 2003, I am posting roughly every 30 minutes -- depending on the vagueries of life and circumstance; I am working catch as catch can from wherever I can, given that I have no phone and can't go online at home -- offering information on Soulforce; its co-founder, the Rev. Mel White and some of the organization's key participants; Gandhi and King; Soulforce reminiscences of my own and from others; stories sad and sweet from churches of many denominations; material on civil disobedience and nonviolence; progressive commentary; pertinent music; some funny stuff; and more. In all, it should total about 49 postings by 9 am Eastern Time tomorrow.

So far, only two people (including myself) have sponsored my efforts. Yes, this disappoints me, but that's life. You can still do a mitzvah to the world by making an online contribution to Soulforce and its work for justice. I pray -- please, please, please do so -- that you will. It is only through all of us participating that we will make a difference for peace, for justice, and for love. At the very least, drop by and say hi.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

A little Zen for your day

When you understand, you belong to the family;
When you do not understand, you are a stranger.
Those who do not understand belong to the family,
And when they understand they are strangers.

If you want more Zen koans you can download a free ebook The Gateless Gate at Healing Words Press (Where I got this one.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Welcome Home, Jessica!

Like most people, I do rejoice at the homecoming of former prisoner of invasion Jessica Lynch. After months of medical treatment, she returned to her family and friends in West Virginia today, and that is wonderful news that merits a rousing "hot damn!"

One thing concerns me, though. What makes this young woman a hero? Jessica Lynch was a 19-year-old just out of high school who signed up for the killing squad. She ended up in Iraq, riding in a Humvee that was part of an army convoy. Fog and fatigue, according to the military, led to a navigation error that led them into "enemy territory." The convoy was ambushed; Lynch was badly injured and captured. A little more than a week later, thanks to a tip from an Iraqi man, she was rescued. How does this make her a hero?

I've been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time on many occasions. You too, I would wager. Does this make you or me some kind of hero? Uh, no. Does merely enlisting in the death brigade make one a hero? Does getting shot or stabbed or beaten up make one qualified for hero status? Help me here; I don't get this. It is one thing to celebrate the safe return of a person saved from a horrible fate. It is another to place someone on a pedestal for no apparent reason.

I can't help but wonder: Is America so starved for heroes? Here is a suggestion: Look to those being persecuted because they speak and act out for peace and justice. You'll find tons of heroes there.

Meanwhile, welcome back, Jessica. There's no need to give you false praise -- you should be welcomed home and celebrated just for being you and just for getting home safely. That, all by itself, is fine reason for elation.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Big Chested

Hurrah for Tanya Streeter, who broke the world record in free diving. She managed to hold her breath 3 minutes and 58 seconds in order to descend 400 ft under water and return triumphantly to the surface.

The best I could do was a minute and thirty seconds when I was bored on the bus home from school.

More at the SF Gate.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

2004 American Presidential Candidate Selector

Take the test. Who's your US candidate for the presidential election in the year 2004? Compare your political views to the possible future presidents' programs.

For a Night of Love: Emile Zola


For a Night of Love is a recent release of previously untranslated short stories by naturalist master Emile Zola. The three stories in the slim volume are all about love -- from Zola's sometimes perverse perspective.


What if the kind of man you pine for but could only attract the attention of if you burst into flames in his presence offered you a night of love? (Tom Cruise is single again, so let's use our imaginations.) That is the offer the shy, easily intimidated clerk an amateur flutist Julien Michon must respond to in the title story. He has courted the girl across the plaza by playing his flute for her for nearly a year. A haughty, convent educated marchise, she has ignored him. Then, an unforeseen occurrence in her life causes her to need Julien's body. He responds as expected, but does he achieve satisfaction?


Nantas, the protagonist of the second short story, is in a position readers of Zola and Balzac will find familiar. The young man has come to Paris from the provinces to make his fortune with only 200 francs in his purse. Two months later, he must choose between starving and hurling himself from the garret where he resides. To add insult to injury, Nantas believes himself to be a genius awaiting discovery. All he needs is an opportunity to prove his worth. Unfortunately, the busy world of Parisian commerce does not see it that way. It does not see him, one of thousands of ambitious youths in the same situation, at all.


A form of deliverance arrives at the last possible moment.

The young man decided this lady had come to offer him a job. He answered that he would accept anything. But, now that the ice was broken, she asked him bluntly: "Would you have any objection to getting married?"

"Getting married?" exclaimed Nantas. "Who would want me, Madame. . . .Some poor girl I wouldn't even be able to feed."

"No, a beautiful, rich your girl of magnificent lineage, who at a stroke will place in your hands the means or arriving in the highest position."

Nantas stopped laughing.

"So, what's the deal?" he asked, instinctively lowering his voice.

"This girl is pregnant and the child needs to be acknowledged," said Mademoiselle Chuin straightforwardly, forgetting her ingratiating turns of phrase so as to get to the heart of the matter more quickly.


Nantas accepts the offer. The capital he acquires by marrying Flavie will be the foundation on which his wealth and reputation are constructed. Consideration for her will be avoiding the scandal of bearing a child out of wedlock. One of the spouses is satisfied with the outcome a decade later. The other is not and considers suicide.


The third and shortest story in the collection is a character sketch focusing on two people -- a smug, vapid baroness and her equally depthless minister. It is a meditation on appetites and how easily one kind of desire can be mistaken for another. The baroness hungers for carnal satisfaction, the curate for gustatory delight.


Naturalism was an artistic movement that began around 1870. It was very influential into the 1900s.


In literature, [it is] an approach that proceeds from an analysis of reality in terms of natural forces, e.g., heredity, environment, physical drives. The chief literary theorist on naturalism was ?mile Zola, who said in his essay Le Roman Exp?rimental (1880) that the novelist should be like the scientist, examining dispassionately various phenomena in life and drawing indisputable conclusions. The naturalists tended to concern themselves with the harsh, often sordid, aspects of life. Notable naturalists include the Goncourt brothers, J. K. Huysmans, Maupassant, the English authors George Moore and George Gissing, and the American writers Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, James T. Farrell, and James Jones.


Persons who are sentimental might find reading naturalists and other practitioners of realism hard going.

Naturalists have been the most uncompromising realists. They believe that knowledge is acquired through the senses, and that the function of the writer is to report accurately what he or she observes. The naturalist tries to be as objective as a laboratory scientist. In their theory of life, naturalists are more pessimistic than realists. The realist believes people can make moral choices, but the naturalist doubts that they can. Naturalists believe everything people do is determined by their heredity, or environment, or both. Naturalists believe people are trapped by forces such as money, sex, or power.

In picturing people as trapped, the naturalist usually deals with the more sordid aspects of life. Characters in naturalistic literature are driven by their most basic urges. They are often brutal and usually failures. They use coarse language, and their view of life is often bleak and without hope. Yet in the best naturalistic works, there is a tone of compassion and even admiration for those characters who struggle against overwhelming odds.


I would describe my own fiction writing as domestic realism. However, I have found the uncompromising insights of the naturalists very useful in my development as a writer.


The stories in For a Night of Love are as vital today as they must have been when they were written. Love is one of those ongoing dilemmas of humans that never becomes dated. Zola is confronting the same concerns master of realism Raymond Carver does when he considers what we talk about when we talk about love.


Note: Some of the material in this entry is from the World Book Encyclopedia for OS X.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Neophyte

This is something I really haven't done before...and before I get so cranky because of my hard days work and long day dates, I shall introduce myself. You can just call me Annie, and I am just a simple girl with a simple and sometimes not-so-simple life! Thank You!

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

No New Nukes!

John Hall - visit the Orleans site; Hall is still making fine music. Remember the '70s-era band Orleans ("Dance with Me," "Still the One")? I can't get its Baltimore-born band leader and anti-nuke activist John Hall's old song "Power" out of my mind:
Just give me the warm power of the sun
Give me the steady flow of a waterfall
Give me the spirit of living things as they return to clay
Just give me the restless power of the wind
Give me the comforting glow of a wood fire
But won't you take all your atomic poison power away ...
With that in mind, here is an alert from the Union of Concerned Scientists. This message is aimed toward US citizens:
This week, your representative and senators are scheduled to vote on funding for the development of new nuclear weapons. This is part of the Bush administration's strategy to pursue new nuclear weapons by promoting them as "more usable."

With their enormous destructive power and radioactive fallout, all nuclear weapons are unacceptably dangerous. In addition, the administration's strategy could encourage other countries to seek nuclear weapons and build their own arsenals--a grave risk to US and global security. Now is the time to tell our elected officials that you oppose this new generation of nuclear weapons.

Please visit our Web Action Center to send a letter to your legislators. By adding a few of your own lines, the letter will be much more effective. Together, we can stop these dangerous new nuclear weapons!
Good gravy, I have another tune running through my head, this time from Dan Fogelberg (I know, I know, but can I help it if the man makes relevant music? At least it's not another Hugh Jackman reference.):
Face the fire, you can't turn away
The risk grows greater with each passing day
The waiting's over; the moment has come
To kill the fire and turn to the sun...
I've been marching and working and screaming "NO NUKES!" for more than 20 years now. The same holds true for the Council for a Livable World, which printed this classic article on September 11, 1980. The piece warns of the dangers of then-new weapons of mass destruction, such as the MX missile, which was supported by both President Jimmy Carter (who won a Nobel PEACE Prize recently, go figure) and the man who defeated him in that year's presidential election, Ronald Reagan. As the old adage go, the more things change... Oh lord, another brain-enveloping tune, this time from longtime No Nuker Jackson Browne:
Here come those tears again...
There is no time to weep. Please take the action proposed by UCS and stop the creation of new US-held WMDs. Let's take up the cry for yet another generation of world citizens, including my kids and your kids and Hugh Jackman's son: NO NEW NUKES!

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Shoes

Do all kids go through a "dress-up" phase where they try on adult clothes or at least think about trying them on? I remember one instance when I succumbed to this particular curiosity. I was maybe ten or eleven. But it wasn't really clothes, per se. No dresses or hats or ties for me. It was the shoes.

They were my mother's: pumps the color of straw and of a basket-weaving design. These shoes were new, too, and they were nestled into the corner of the closet. My mother never wore shoes with heels though and she wasn't meek about her opinion on such scandalous shoes. Women who wore pumps had "horse-feet" and she told me that constant use completely ruined their feet. How was I to argue? It seemed reasonable enough to me considering the abnormal positions the shoe put the foot in.

My mother never bought those pumps. I think some trendy relative gave them to her. But nonetheless, those shoes held some sort of fascination. Was it because it made me taller? Gave me a glimpse who I would be when I grew up? Was it somehow that these shoes made me more trendy and pretty than I normally was. Or was it only false confidence?

I never had many shoes. When I had been in grade school, my shoe collection consisted solely of a pair of worn sneakers and an unsightly pair of low-heeled white dress shoes. It wasn't because my parents didn't want to spend money on shoes; they just thought the money would be spent better elsewhere. Even now, I don't have that many shoes: just some worn boots for winter, hiking boots for summer, the sneakers, the low-heeled dress shoes.

But I have a thing for shoes with heels. Once, on an emergency shopping trip looking for black shoes to go to an orchestra concert (I had forgotten them at home, 2,000 miles away), I came across a pair that would give anyone nosebleeds. They were shiny and black and had thick heels that would increase the height of the wearer by four or five inches. If my mother had been there, she would had shaken her head and adamantly had me try on a different heel-less pair. But she wasn't there.

So I bought them.

Perhaps my fascination with heeled shoes, or any shoe for that matter, that gives the wearer extra inches in height stems from my dissatisfaction with how short I really am. People don't really take you as seriously when you're the shortest person in the room. But with those black shoes, I felt more like an equal. And at moments, I could even sample a bit of the domination and intimidation powers that naturally tall people had all the time.

I rarely wear those shoes, though. They're too dangerous to handle on a daily basis.

Cross-posted on Syaffolee.

Monday, July 14, 2003

iraq's national day

Say what you will about the US, her gluttonous foreign policy, central role in global economic marauding, unnatural affection of citizens for synthetic fibres etc etc. This country may well be an internationally unrivalled producer of both paternalism and static cling. Her citizens do, however, know how to prepare barbeque with full-fat aplomb.
The Cook Out, as you may be apprised, is generally a central feature of the Independence Day festivities just past. It was my great fortune to once attend such a July 4 feast. Despite a distaste for giddy nationalism and an irrational fear of tinsel, I have to allow that I had a very nice time. It was, perhaps, after a fourth ladle of cream gravy, before a third serve of chicken-fried steak and simultaneous to a swan dive into a vat of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing that I had a fleeting if overwhelming suspicion that This Is The Greatest Country In The World.
I awoke after a sixteen hour post-prandial nap swathed in streamers, a lard hangover and an overwhelming sense of shame. I had been seduced to US nationalism, if temporarily, by cholesterol and fixins.
Now, as ASIO might tell you, I am a difficult test case for the potency of the July 4 barbeque. In my ethical past, I have marched in solidarity with Palestinians and consumed more Sandinista produced coffee than an entire Managua postal district. I have acquired a knee-jerk mistrust for all things US in my adult life and so, one would think, would be relatively impervious to the lure of fat and convivial July 4 spirits.
Not so. For a good ten minutes after my first USA style Cook Out, I was suggestible, content and perfectly happy to consider the editorial on Fox News an enlightened and well-balanced diversion. Further, I would defy even the most vegan anti-globalisation protestor to resist the charm of US suburban cheer when amplified by a tasty batter redolent of celery salt, cayenne and First World glory.
This is the heinous truth: America is propelled in her quest to conquer and forget by baby back ribs, velveeta and soporific desserts. Before you dismiss my hypothesis regard (1) US supermarket aisles stocked entirely with antacids, laxatives and other dangerous medication that allow citizens to maintain a near impossible but powerfully hypnotic diet and (2) the trace of chicken grease that is nearly always dribbling down G W Bush’s ill-defined chin.
On July 14, a mere ten days after the North American Festival of the Gut, Iraq will enjoy her first ‘liberated’ anniversary of revolution since Saddam first publicly waxed his mo’ in 1979. It is indeed fortuitous that Iraq’s National Day, commemorating the 1958 revolution, is celebrated so close to Independence Day.
As anyone who has survived an American Cook Out will attest, the Lard Over is intense and one might not evacuate the barbiturate effects of pork dripping for a good month or so after dosage. Any post-bellum guilt caused by little things like, say, Iraq’s unfortunate lack of utilities, hope or even, perhaps, provision of a real reason for the invasion in the first place, will be MUCH easier to deal with after a huge national meal.
That the US remembered their day with fireworks and that Iraq will spend theirs locating unexploded cluster bombs is a fact so much more palatable with a fry up under one’s belt.
On Iraq’s July 14, , the customary display of military vigour might be diminished somewhat. A sense of national pride or attainment could be slightly allayed by, for example, the lack of decent plumbing.
Fortunately, for Americans at least, that extra slice of Key Lime Pie might just tip the serotonin balance in favour of forgetting.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

In a funk after reading Sonia Johnson book

Sigh. Yesterday I finally finished From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson. I took a long break in the middle of it, but yesterday I read the last 150 pages. This book was published in 1981 and written in 1980. Now that I'm finished, I'm bummed...not because it was a good book and I hate to see it end, even though that's true too. I'm sad because Johnson ends the book on such a positive note--saying that women need to get angry, to be "all on fire" for women. I agree. She ended the book on such a hopeful note that the Equal Rights Amendment would pass. It didn't, even though she and many others fasted for 37 days in Illinois--fought SO HARD--were willing to die for women's rights. For this sentence: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." That was twenty-one years ago. I'm just learning about all the things that happened in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and I can't let any of it go. I won't. I feel like some kind of quaint relic; it would seem strange to bring this up in casual conversation. But maybe I should anyway!

Eh, so much for pleasure reading. Now I'm on to reading for my fall classes.

Cross-posted at CultureCat.

Friday, July 11, 2003

A Whale of a Tale.

A while ago, Blog Sister Andrea James posted here about the movie Whale Rider.

Last night I went to see it with some women friends, after we had dinner at a great little new place called the “Barefoot Gypsy.” I wish we had seen the movie first so that we could have had all of our dinner time to talk about it. There’s so awfully much to talk about.

Andrea was absolutely right about the movie being extraordinary on all kinds of levels, including visual.

And, I, who am so enamored of mythologies that empower women, was, of course, swept away by the tale’s affirmation of intuition and connections to “feminine” elements (water, sea creatures), ritual as art – and all that “right brain” stuff.

I’m still mulling over how I feel about the role of women in that society – which is very much like the traditional role of, say, Italian and Polish women. And that is that they let the men think that they are the bosses and then the women find ways around their foolishnesses. The men make up strict rules for everyone’s behavior (including their own) based on their interpretation of what their god or gods have supposedly proclaimed. And the women go about their lives on a whole other intuitive, connected, and somewhat devious plane. They “mother” their men, treat them like large children who can be dangerous because of their size, and so they have to be placated and manipulated into doing the right thing.

But despite my discomfort with that “woman’s place” thing, I felt in my very bones the power of the movie’s honest message. Whoever rides the whale is the one who was meant to ride the whale. Ride, Sisters, ride.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

"Men are wilting away..."

In her article on the "Incredible Shrinking Y" Maureen Dowd writes:

In a new book called "Y: The Descent of Men," Steve Jones, a professor of genetics at University College in London, says males, always a genetic "parasite," have devolved to become the "second sex."

The news that Dolly the sheep had been cloned without masculine aid sent a frisson through the Y populace, he writes, because men began to fear that science would cause nature to return to its original, feminine state and men would fade from view.

The Y chromosome, "a mere remnant of its once mighty structure," is worried about size. "Men are wilting away," Dr. Jones writes. "From sperm count to social status and from fertilization to death, as civilization advances, those who bear Y chromosomes are in relative decline."


Read her article here and my post about it here.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Homeland Security: Strange, but True

Imagine this: For whatever reason, you need to reach the US Gestapo -- aka the Department of Homeland Security (John Ashcroft's so-called Justice Department is its partner in crime). You look through DHS press releases for the name or phone number or fax number of a contact person for the department. But your search turns out to be in vain -- there is no contact person. Dig this, from the Hartford Advocate.

Does this set warning bells in your head? It does for me. So I conducted a search of DHS press releases and the departmental Web site -- nothing. There is no phone number listed, no fax number listed, only a snail-mail address (and we all know how useless sending mail to any gummint agency can be) and a Web-based feedback form.

State DHS offices have phone numbers, so citizens do have a place to go, and there is the DHS Fear and Loathing, um, Ready.gov site, which offers a toll-free number for US residents with questions. But the omission of phone numbers in departmental press releases presents a number of concerns, which are well articulated by Oregon-based journalist, grassroots activist, and organizer David M. Baker:
This story has VAST implications! I don't know about you folks, but this is the first i've heard that the venerable DHS is sending out press releases with no cotnact information. what's crazy here is that nobody, until this story popped up, NOBODY in the news media has said a thing about it!

Think about what this means, folks! It means that anything you've
  1. read in the paper,
  2. heard on the radio,
  3. seen on the television
citing information from the DHS could well be information that has not been verified, clarified, or otherwise vetted by the so-called journalists receiving it.

I'm trying not to freak out...really...but i think that this story should be used as a springboard for an action. I'm thinking that this could be a WONDERFUL opportunity to challenge local media outlets on how they handle information they receive from government sources. At the very least, it provides a point of interrogatory.


Again, imagine a tired reporter on deadline. Imagine she gets a press release from the Department of Homeland Security. Imagine her printing the information from the release without verifying the facts contained within, under the assumption that the news is accurate and reliably sourced. What if the info in the release is, in fact, untrue or nothing more than governmental propaganda?

Great. Another reason to question the integrity of the media and the government.

Want to discuss the matter, along with possible actions progressives could take along the lines of Dave's suggestions? Write us.