Saturday, August 30, 2003

I Just May Understand Where She is Coming From . . .

From AP: MANCHESTER, Conn. (Aug. 29) - A woman dubbed "Bridezilla" after police said she went on a rampage at her wedding reception pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced charge of creating a public disturbance. Adrienne T. Samen, 18, was fined $90. Samen, of North Haven, was arrested on criminal mischief and breach of peace charges on Aug. 16 after police responded to her wedding reception at The Mill on the River restaurant in South Windsor.
Samen allegedly became enraged after restaurant workers closed the bar at the party. She began throwing things, including wedding cake and gifts, police said. Samen left the restaurant, and police found her walking down the road in her wedding gown. While being taken into custody, police said she kicked the door and window of the police cruiser and tried to bite an officer. The incident received national attention, with the New York Post and other media dubbing Samen "Bridezilla." "My behavior was very disgraceful," Samen told Judge Patricia Swords during her court appearance Thursday. Swords fined Samen $90 and ordered her to pay for any damages to the restaurant. She also suggested Samen seek substance abuse and anger management counseling. "This behavior does not bode well for the well-being of your marriage," said Swords.

The groom, David Samen, a 21-year-old Marine reservist, accompanied his wife to court. He came home a little over a month ago after serving in Iraq for six months, said Evelyn Vitalie, David's mother. David and Adrienne eloped before he left and wanted a bigger ceremony once he came home. . . .

The couple honeymooned at Dollywood, country music star Dolly Parton's amusement park in Tennessee. But Adrienne Samen said they were forced to cut short the vacation after being hounded by reporters."There really wasn't one (a honeymoon)," she said. Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.

Why are they picking on this girl? C'mon, Judge Pat. Don't you think that we would be seeing more of this behavior if more people were sent overseas- as if WWII were happening today. Back then, women were more repressed and complacent. Today, we are less likely to be duped or unaffected or overwhelmed by it all. This woman is young and in love. She wanted to be married, but found herself separated and threatened with the real potential of her husband's death. She was afraid, then upon relief, treated, during a private moment, by media whores as if she and her new husband were a freakshow. (Ok, just let go of the whole Dollywood thing for a second - let go.) She finally gets a party and a chance to revel with friends and family, and snaps when a relatively simple thing upsets her.

It is easy to think of her as a Sandra Bullock in 28 days. But I dont think she needs anger management classes. I think the country needs to wake up and think about what war does to people and about how much we tolerate a exploiting media. If someone is subjected to beserk circumstances, why have we no tolerance to a beserk reaction?

Which brings me to the Philosphy of the Old Fashioned Muffins. But that is for another post.

Catherine Berlin

Thursday, August 28, 2003

gun for hire

tonight i lost my virginity. i was blushed in the cheeks, and soft in the eyes, but i did it.

i held a Colt 45 Revolver, c. 1965. a new friend of mine named Tim is the owner of this exotic, untouched, fear of mine.

i volunteered for the experience after he promised me that there were no bullets in his house.

Tim revealed the empty chamber of the gun to me, and placed the Colt in my hands like a baby.

it was heavy! the mother of pearl handle was pristine and inviting to hold, but the very idea of holding a weapon sorta freaked me out.

Tim instructed me to hold the barrel to the floor even if the gun isn't loaded. loaded! i was holding an instrument of violence. my stomach turned. me, the peace monger, with a gun in her hand.

i asked academic questions about velocity and the kind of metal used in the gun and the heritage of owners, never feeling okay with the weight of destruction in my grasp.

finally, after Tim showed me how to raise the weapon and aim, i begged release from the experience, and he understood. i talked with him about being a citizen of the world and he talked with me about the right to bear arms.

a peace talk. an investment in the future.

after my heart returned to my body, we conversed about a great many things. education and drugs and farming and the economy. we shared a glass of wine and we began to trust one another.

and then i returned to the fortress i share with Roberto where the knives are barely sharp enough to slice into a watermelon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

flattery will get you.....

Roberto and i had such a fun day! he took a day off and we went to our local mainstreet where i could hit the vintage and thrift stores!


while i rummaged for treasures, he watched the U.S. Open at the best Italian place in town, chomping on freshly made pizza and drinking cerveza.

back home, i modeled my fall fashion finds. a pair of slim black pants and snug black turtleneck with little ballet flats. for the show, i slid a bit of red lipstick on.

"Audrey Hepburn!" Roberto exclaimed at my entrance. mmmmmmm. Audrey Hepburn. who cares if it isn't true. it's the thought that counts.

i slipped into a deep brown wide whale skirt from J. Crew. and a perfectly matched turtle. mmmmmm. "Grace Kelly!" Roberto exclaimed, pulling me down on the bed. who cares if it isn't true. it's the thought that counts.

i look at his brown skin. i look into his eyes. i ask him about the suffrage. is that spelled correctly? we relate. the Mexican- American man and the 'white' woman.

why are we invited to the game so late?

Equality, Hell - how about Reparations?

I found the following statistics on The Feminist Majority Foundation site today

On this planet, right now:

1,500 women die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day

A woman's risk of dying in childbirth: 1 in 25 to 40 in developing countries,
1 in 3,000 in developed countries.

Source: 1994 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development

75% of refugees and displaced persons are women and children.

Source: Wistat, 1994 & UNHCR

Out of 1.3 billion people living in absolute poverty, 70% are women.

More than one million babies die each year from malnutrition, neglect and abuse who would not have died if they had not been born girls

Source: Education Working Group, UNICEF

In America today:

One woman is physically abused every eight seconds
One woman is raped every six minutes .

Source: National Center on Women and Family Law, USA, 1988/New York Times, 19 October 1994

Domestic violence is the number one cause of serious injury to women ages 18-49.

At the current rate of progress, it would take 475 years for women to reach equality with men as senior managers.

Source: 1994 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, United Nations 1995

US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Women constitute almost 47 percent of this country’s labor force,
There are only six Fortune 500 women CEOs

According to statistics released by the US Census Bureau on September 25, 2001

For every 1 Dollar earned by White men:

White women working full-time earn only 73 cents
African-American women earn only 65 cents
Latina women earn only 53 cents

So on today, Women's Equality Day, I'd like to make a modest proposal. Since our society can't protect us - 1 in 3 women will be victims of sexual abuse in their lives; and won't promote us; and most of all isn't paying us for the work we do, why not cut to the chase. Instead of proclamations and pats on the head and the kind of placating that Bill Maher calls "making women nod", how about one simple concrete solution. I want reparations.

Now, the African-American community has talked about reparations for a while. The problem with paying reparations for slavery is that the people who were enslaved are no longer alive, so even if we all agree that reparations are in order, there's a very real difficulty in figuring out how much to pay and to whom. Not so with Gender Gap Reparations.

I propose a two step plan. First, take all of the Social Security records for every living woman in the United States and get her total lifetime earnings. If she's white, add 27%; Black, 35%, Hispanic, 47% and for those of us who don't fit into any of those categories - Native Americans, Asians, etc - we'll take the Latina rate of 47%.
Take the money out of the bloated, bullshit defense budget, and pay us . I mean send my check right now. I've worked with defense contracts, and believe me, there's more fat than fight in that budget. You could do twice the work for half the money with a bit of common sense and some basic good business practices. Tighten your belts, boys - we've been doing it for years.

Ok, so Step One is done and no one is the poorer for it. Step Two is going to be a little harder. Well, not really harder - just unpopular. Step Two is simply give every woman currently employed a raise in the percentage already discussed for each group. Business is not going to like this idea, so let's put it into perspective:

If the minimum wage had risen at the same level pace as executive pay since 1990, it would be $25.50 an hour, not $5.15.

So you can pay our girls the $6.67, 6.96, and 7.58 (based on $5.15 minimum wage) and yes, for Goddess' sake round up or you can pay us all the 25.50 an hour we'd be making if you corporate raiders weren't skimming off the top. We're willing to be reasonable, and frankly, it's more than you deserve.

So what do you think?


Arnold in the nude: Bonus or bane?

Filmmaker and blogger Brian Flemming has posted a picture of California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger in the all-together on his weblog. Brian believes that posing nude contradicts Schwarzenegger's conservative political views. Pollsters say the candidate has a gender gap problem, with less support among women voters. I am wondering what, if any impact, publication of the photo in the blogosphere and elsewhere, and discussion of Schwarzenegger's allegedly racy ways with women, will have on this candidacy or future runs for office. Though I disapproved of Bill Clinton's sexual irresponsibility, it didn't make me less of a supporter of him politically. Will the same reasoning be applied to Schwarzenegger?

Since women are the demographic he needs to attract, let me know what you, members of Blog Sisters, think.

Oh, feel free to sneak a peek.

Note: I publish Silver Rights, a blog focusing on civil rights and related topics.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Spreading Democracy - one voice at a time

A week ago Arab music lovers got to take their turn at the American Idol craze and for many of them exercise their first right to vote. As reported by the BBC, millions called in to vote for their pick for a singing superstar.

Now that these millions have gotten their first taste of the thrill of selecting one's own representatives, albeit pop cultural not political, I think we can anticipate a much stronger hunger for increasing democratic progress than was achieved by any of Bush's military bullying.

Let's see, bombs or telephones? Hmm. Tough choice.

- - Originally posted on Indigo Ocean

the lady is a grrl

suddenly i am the victim of one of those silly summer colds that makes no sense given the bright blue sky, warm breezes, and late sunsets. Roberto stocked me up with all the usual suspects. juice, water, aspirin, licorice.

but enough about me.

i am watching my favorite grrl, Barbara Walters, on "The View," and as always, i am just good-old-fashioned impressed.

as a young girl, i watched her venture out into the field, conducting interviews no other journalist could get. i watched her as she was hammered for earning a decent paycheck. and perhaps most importantly, i watched her face her critics with dignity, and dare i say in this modern world, the manners of a true lady.

'The View' today was a repeat. Bill O'Reilly was on, and there was Barbara challenging him in her quietly intelligent, carefully considered way, never becoming flustered or attacking. her calm and poise encouraged the other women on 'The View' to challenge him as well. O'Reilly came off as emotional rather than thoughtful.

the amazing thing about Barbara now, is her willingness to support and cheer other women on. well, there is one more amazing thing. damn, she looks good! is she really seventy years of age?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Baghdad Burning

Riverbend describes her experiences of how fundamentalist Muslims are taking life back to the Dark Ages for women in Iraq. An extremely interesting blog, already publicized by the infamous Salam Pax, it's worth a regular read for anyone interested in what's going on during the occupation/reconstruction by the U.S. from a female perspective. The post illustrates how bringing peace, freedom and propserity to a country is often much more complex than simply removing an evil dictator from power.
Fathers and mothers are keeping their daughters stashed safe at home. That’s why you see so few females in the streets (especially after 4 pm). Others are making their daughters, wives and sisters wear a hijab. Not to oppress them, but to protect them.

...Men in black turbans (M.I.B.T.s as opposed to M.I.B.s) and dubious, shady figures dressed in black, head to foot, stand around the gates of the bureau in clusters, scanning the girls and teachers entering the secondary school. The dark, frowning figures stand ogling, leering and sometimes jeering at the ones not wearing a hijab or whose skirts aren’t long enough. In some areas, girls risk being attacked with acid if their clothes aren’t ‘proper’.

'Missing' part of King's speech recalled

Yesterday, many Americans went to our nation's capitol to honor one of the finest orations in American history.

Thousands of people gathered in Washington Saturday to mark the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech, a defining moment in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality in the United States.

Forty years ago 250,000 people marched on Washington, calling the nation's attention to the injustice and discrimination black Americans faced because of the color of their skin.

Standing below the towering statue of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered an eloquent call for equality at a time when blacks in the United States were banned from many public schools, forced to eat in separate restaurants and had to pay taxes and pass literacy tests to vote.

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory has a novel view of Dr. Martin Luther King's famous speech, according to columnist Clarence Page.

WASHINGTON -- I am more than halfway into ABC News anchor Peter Jennings' excellent documentary on Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech when I hear comedian-activist Dick Gregory get to the real reason why millions of TV viewers watched King's speech: A lot of people feared there was going to be "trouble."

"And why did white folks look at it?" Gregory says. Not because they wanted to hear what black people had to say. "They thought it was going to be a bloodbath. They thought it was going to be violence and so they listened all the way to the end."

According to Gregory, the networks probably would not have gotten much of an audience if they simply announced that "we have a very eloquent Negro that's going to give a very eloquent speech, we want you to listen."

I was not available to record anything at the time, but Page was, and he vouches for the at least partial accuracy of Gregory's observation. The entire country was on edge and there was even talk of declaring martial law. Many African-Americans, in both the North and South, were just plain fed up.

All three networks covered the speech live. I was a high schooler in southern Ohio and did not have a huge interest in world events. But I watched every minute of King's speech. Racial segregation was still legal. My parents could not take me to certain amusement parks, hotels or restaurants. When we traveled far, we slept in our car. The only difference for us in the North was that we could ride in the front of the bus and we didn't have "white" and "colored" signs.

Page asserts that King's own mood in the speech encompassed that anger and disgust, though it has receded from memory in subsequent years. The great man wrote, unabashedly, of African-Americans as a group of people cheated by America -- sent a check not backed by funds.

The columnist observes that the second, more optimistic part of King's speech is what is usually applauded by Americans, including those who oppose most mechanisms to achieve racial equality, now.

And it is King's vision of a better society that Americans and the world remember today far more widely than they remember the sense of debt and "obligation" that he references in the early part of his speech. Everybody, it seems, would like to see a free, just and equalized society. We only argue about how to get there.

That tendency leads some people to speak of ways to achieve King's dream that run precisely counter to what King actually wanted. The fight for "color-blindedness" should not make us blind to reality.

. . .In fact, King believed Americans would have to be quite color-conscious in order to achieve his dream. Otherwise, we would have no way to measure our progress.

I find Page's interpretation of King's I Have a Dream speech convincing. To have championed equality while ignoring the work needed to achieve it would have been stupid and Dr. King was not a stupid man. I believe he envisioned a future in which people of color would finally receive payment of the debt owed them, instead of being cheated again by by a society that pretends to be color-blind, but is not.

A year after his original speech, Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law made segregation in public places illegal, required employers to provide equal work opportunities and protected every American's right to vote.

In 1968 Dr. King was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of a motel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

All these years later, the debt still remains unpaid.

Read Page's column and form an opinion of your own.

Note: A version of this entry was published at Silver Rights, a weblog focusing on civil rights and related issues.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Solitaire's the Only Game in Town

Cross-posted on On a wilderness hike last week I was struck by the reaction of women tourists I met along the way. They seemed to be alternately drawn to and fearful of the prospect of being alone in the woods for a few days. Is solitude really that scary, or is it just the bears?

5pm, Day Four of the Coastal Trail. I am limping towards the old Agawa Lodge by the mouth of the Agawa River near the highway. A few more hours before I reach my cabin. A blond family comes out of the trees. They've been down on the riverbank and are heading back to the SUV. Mum interrogates me as we share the path.
  “Are you hiking the Coastal Trail?”
Yep. I shrug awkwardly to shunt my pack around on sore shoulders.
“The whole thing?”
  “Yes, except for the bit north of Gargantua.”
  “How long has it taken you?”
  “This is day four.”
  “And you're by yourself?”
I want to say, not any more, but instead I grunt again.
  “And you're not lonely or scared?”
  “Do you see that, girls?” she says to her tweenies. She turns back to me. “We think you're very brave.”

There were just two other hikers going my way on the Coastal Trail that day. At several points, the trail crosses touristed day-use areas, mostly beaches. I dreaded them. These were the paradise days at Lake Superior--85°F, no humidity, lapping, lappable water. People stretched out like cats on a car bonnet, warming themselves at last in Northern Ontario. I was a curiosity, stepping out of the woods, picking my way across boulders to get to the beach instead of strolling in from the car park. Burdened and sweaty, wearing boots on fine sand. And alone.

I was stopped every time by people--mostly women--who wanted to confirm I was really hiking alone. Once a man on a deckchair shouted “Hey, the guys you're with are way ahead. Did you arrange a meeting spot?” I may be looking for the wistfulness behind the questions. But after a few days it seemed strange that women who had experienced so much more than me--childbirth, childrearing, passing a driving test--could hardly dare imagine spending a night alone in a tent in the wilderness. Was it physical fear, of bears, attackers or getting lost, or breaking an ankle on a mossy rock far from help? Fear of not being able to heft a pack, climb a boulder, build a fire? Fear of solitude and silence? Fear, or hope, that families or lovers could not survive without them?

  "You're so brave." This embarrasses me. I'm not brave at all. I'm a fearful chicken who screams at loud noises. Truth is, a blazed North American trail with pit toilets and neat backcountry campsites is not all that intrepid. You'd have to be inventive to die of thirst, hunger or cold in the bounty of a Lake Superior summer.

But I wouldn't have considered a hike like this two years ago. How could I? I didn't know to string food up in a tree or pick a good campsite or build a driftwood fire. It is too physically tough to count as the kind of relaxation I used to need: who wants to hobble back to the office after a 'rest'? Like most workers in America, I had ten or twelve days off a year, from which I was to allot time with family 3000 miles away and also somehow foster a marriage otherwise based around 70-hour work weeks. How could I take five days to walk alone in the wilderness?

I didn't know it, but I needed it then more than I do now. Our culture does not want us to spend that kind of time alone. We might get to like it. I was lucky; I tripped and fell out of the corporate world, and flat on my back I found the time to try things I thought I might hate.

Great religions understand the power of solitude. The Catholic Church sends the faithful on retreats and pilgrimages. Buddhists spend days or months in silent retreat. African rites of passage send young people alone into the bush. Woodsier types have their spiritual equivalent: Wordsworth's "natural piety". But many secular, city people are going to die too fearful to have ever spent real time alone in case their demons came out to do battle.

I'm an extrovert, but I've like my own company. Seek it out. I would do this every year if I could: five days or five weeks alone, preferably in the woods. I don't think you need to haul a backpack, though it helps: you're slow as a snail, but my God, carrying your house on your back bestows a sense of independence to make you yodel. (I'm surprised snails don't yodel.) But you could as easily experience your own thoughts in a canoe, on a bike or even in a suburban house with the TV, internet and phone switched off and books and magazines out of reach. Solitude is there to be taken. You might even like it.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

I don't know what I did to deserve this...

I keep getting emails with viruses in them that I never sent bounced back to me from email addresses that are total strangers to me. Does anyone know how this happens and what I can do about it? I'm afraid that my emai address is going to wind up on those anti-Scam lists. Now who hates me enough to do something like this? Or am I just the victim of some randomly executed plot that someone thinks is a fun thing to do?

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

netwoman again

well, it helps if i post the information about the site!
Have a look at netwoman.

New Blog: netwoman

I have been blogging on for eight months, but I decided yesterday to start a new blog that focuses on my research interests - gender and the internet. I came across this blog and thought what a great network - and here I am.

What I found interesting was the lack of blogs on gender and the internet - or technology. Where are the people researching this stuff? Is gender dead? I don't think so. But there are some people who think this is not worth studying. After all, the stats show that women and men are online in equal amounts....but what does this really mean?
If you are interested in my work, have a look at my site and research.

Monday, August 18, 2003

A Marriage Proposal
I've been thinking about this for a long time, but with the new attention given to Gay Marriage and Civil Unions, it's time to put this idea out there. We need to decide as a culture whether marriage is a religious sacrament or a legal arrangement.

In our current system, it is both. The problem is that the religious side wants to control who is allowed to participate. The State has an obligation to provide equal protection under the law. Those two views simply are not compatible. So, is it a religious institution? If it is, then the government should not be involved at all and there can be no restrictions on marriage except the individual's religious beliefs. If it is a legal arrangement, then again, it has to be provided fairly, so you can't really restrict the form that it takes. Either view dictates that people be allowed to define marriage for themselves within the structure of their beliefs or choices.

Our attitudes toward marriage make very little sense. You can't enter into a binding contract until you are 18, but some states will let you marry legally at 13. Apparently, someone decided it was more difficult to get a rent-to-own dishwasher than it is to choose the person you'll spend the rest of your life with. How the State can approve a match that would under reasonable circumstances be considered child abuse, I don't know. Consider the Mormons.

The Mormon faith is perhaps the largest religion of purely American origin. In its original form, it encourages polygamy. In order not to be driven into the sea, the official church agreed that they would not practice polygamy, and those who do are excommunicated. According to our Constitution, the State did not have the right to impose that restriction. As a result, certain renegade Mormons do practice polygamy, with Utah officials mostly looking the other way.

I respect the Mormons because they take their faith seriously. They study hard, they walk their walk, and they seem to be nice people. I think that we should honor our Constitutional spirit of plurality and let them marry as they please. One problem, though, is that in the current underground of polygamy, girls in their early teens are being forced into plural marriages by their families. Of course, if they had to be 18 to get married, and if polygamous marriages were legal, this wouldn't be a problem. See where I'm going with this?

If marriage is such an important institution, let's reserve it for responsible adults. Among consenting adults, let's have fairness in the Law and therefore equal access to insurance, inheritance, healthcare, parental rights, tax cuts and the other privileges that are currently reserved for "Husband and wife". As an American citizen, I am quite capable of deciding to whom I will or will not commit. It is not the government's role to parent me. My religion of choice has no gender restrictions, or quantity either. If I want to be monogamous, polygamous, polyandrous, or just plain plural, that's my right.

America is about freedom, above all. People are fond of saying "it's not in the Constitution" - usually where privacy rights are concerned. What they forget is that the Constitution, in its wisdom and beauty, specifically reserves to the People all rights and liberty not delineated therein. In other words, if it doesn't say so, it's your right.
They didn't have to mention privacy for us to have privacy rights. They simply did not restrict those rights.

To love whom we love is the most basic of rights. It makes us human. It improves our lives and by extension, the society. No one has the right to infringe on this liberty.
It's only fair.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

My apologies to Dharma Girl

Last week, I suggested to Dharma Girl that she post here her piece on Love and Attachment -- a piece that, IMHO, was an authentic example of one young woman's struggle to voice an important part of her journey. Yes, she was critical of women she saw as dependent etc. etc. etc. But she didn't name names or target any one individual. I saw it as a very personal essay worth sharing.

I know that the blogosphere is an open forum. I also thought that Blog Sisters was a good place for Dharma Girl to get some insightful feedback, especially from some of us older folk who have gone through the same relationship challenges and have come up with different solutions. However, her post from Blog Sisters was forwarded to someone who successfully managed to shut down Dharma Girl's voice, with a heartlessness that I, for one, do not want to ignore. You can go here to read and link and try to understand the whole sad, sad story. I'm really sorry Dharma Girl. What happened is a good example of one of the worst blogging practices. I thought the blogosphere had more heart than this. Too soon old; too late smart.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Losing Her Religion

The faith journey of Laura Schlessinger -- self-proclaimed talk-show "doctor," virulent anti-gay and anti-choice conservative, and her kid's mom -- has taken a surprising turn. On Aug. 5, the nagging advice-giver announced that she is no longer practicing Judaism. Schlessinger, a longtime atheist who was born to a Jewish father and an Italian mother, had converted to the Orthodox Jewish faith in the 1990s.

Her statement came on her nationally syndicated right-wing radio show: "I still see myself as a Jew," Schlessinger said. "But the spiritual journey and that direction, as hardcore as I was at it, just didn't fulfill something in me that I needed." It probably didn't help that many (though certainly not all) Jewish people didn't like Schlessinger's views, her rigid "morality," or her harsh, unforgiving tone -- and told her so.

I pray this will be a healthy, positive move for her. Assessing one's spiritual path is a difficult, often painful process; I know, I've been there. If the non-doctor sees this as doing the right thing, more power to her. Let us hope she finds the road to self-enlightenment and spiritual fulfillment soon.

In the meantime, we're stuck with, in the words of Susan Weidman Schneider, executive editor of Jewish feminist quarterly Lilith Magazine, another "garden variety, anti-choice conservative.".

Oh, goody.

from All Facts and Opinions

Thursday, August 14, 2003

a shout out to the Blog Sisters...

This Article from the Sunday Times Online gives a shout-out to BlogSisters and a mention of yours truly.

I would link to the actual article, rather than the 10-pound (as in money) version I paid to download (can't download individual articles--only in multiples of 10 at a minimum). However, my emails to the editor who contacted me back in June about the story went unanswered once the article appeared. So I never saw it. Never knew when it came out. And now it is, of course, in big-media fashion, behind the pay-to-play firewall.

Obviously, given context clues, my photo made it in, but I'll never know which photo since they asked for a few and since archived articles appear sans photos. Sans personality. Let's see, remove the layout and design, remove the photograph, and charge for it. Um.... okay. That's one way to do it.

If I had time, I'd launch into a rant about big media and its cluelessness as to things even beyond blogging, as in: pulling content behind the magic curtain where people--even the people who contribute to stories, people who are quoted or featured in stories--need to pay for the privilege of reading them.

But I don't have time this evening. So I won't. I'll just bask in another five seconds of fame, which in the end, cost me somewhere close to the tune of $20.

Reason 567 why we'll be here long after they go away.

Cross-posted on Allied. Thanks to Elaine to sending the editor my way. If nothing else, the notice by mega-media boosts our visibility. Write on. --j.

The Rev. Monsignor Henry Francis Zerhusen, 1925-2003 My childhood pastor and lifelong friend, the Rev. Monsignor Henry F. Zerhusen, passed away last Saturday after a long illness. He was 78 years old -- almost reached the four-score mark -- and the life he lived was full and meaningful, so there is every reason to celebrate his homegoing. But after hearing the news of his death, I was left with a deep sadness.

As you know, I left the Roman Catholic Church about a decade ago. The reason: the denomination's leadership and its obvious (to me) lack of concern for the full humanity of women, gays, and others. My departure was difficult for me -- I grew up in a wonderful, liberal, social-justice-focused Catholic parish that was part of the Catholic Worker tradition. When my mother taught catechism to people or attended parish-council meetings (the laity had a voice at Baltimore's St. Ambrose Church when that sort of thing was unheard of), my brother and I ran around the rectory and saw what it was to minister to people and love them unconditionally firsthand. And being the joiner and doer that I am, I got involved: singing in the choir, performing in plays, attending the parish school, spending time with the priests and nuns, hanging and helping out at the rectory. It was grand.

A big part of that was Father Henry. He presided over most of the sacraments I received in the church. He, along with my fifth-grade teacher and social-justice hero (to this day) Sister Charmaine Krohe, passed their commitment to love and justice along to me and to many others. Back then, I harbored a secret desire to become a priest. Once it was expressed aloud, many people berated me for wanting something so unthinkable. But not by Sister Charmaine. And not by Father Henry, who told me that this pull I felt could not be fulfilled at present. "But you never know how hearts may change in the future," he told me as he dried my tears. Indeed, one never knows what the future may bring.

St. Ambrose was that magical parish one recalls when thinking of Catholic communities. In the '60s and '70s, it welcomed more and more African-American members. (My family moved to the 'burbs in '73, but we continued to attend St. Ambrose until 1976, when the commute became untenable.) New modes of worship started being assimilated into the church's celebrations, and a ministry to the area's increasing number of poor and needy residents became the parish's hallmark. Father Henry and Sister Charmaine -- he always treated her as an equal in every way, despite the church's mandate that women be relegated to second-class duties -- led the way.

What I remember is that when parish membership became darker in hue, Father Henry didn't seem to notice. He just loved and welcomed everyone. He gave everything he had to anyone in need -- money, food, time, smiles, hugs, acceptance, love.

And his love was what filled my mind and heart when I visited St. Mark's Church, his last parish, for his wake and funeral. At the wake Tuesday night, Sister Charmaine, who to this day runs the St. Ambrose Outreach Center (an awesome place that does immeasurable good for God's children), gave a stirring eulogy chock-full of wonderful reminisces of Father Henry's funny foibles and wondrous works. And when she was done, all in attendance -- representatives from all the parishes at which Henry had served -- laughed and cried and shared their own remembrances. It was a night I will always remember.

The funeral Mass was also wonderful, but in a different way. Henry was a monsignor, so his send-off was a big-deal for the Archdiocese of Baltimore: Dozens of priests were in attendance, as well as bishops from various parts of the country, the retired archbishop of Baltimore (a wonderful liberal -- meaning out of favor with the pope), and the reigning Cardinal Archbishop (an arch-conservative, very ambitious man who presided over the coverup that led to Baltimore's part in the horrid sex-abuse scandal, William Keeler is also my former boss and present nemesis). It was awesome to see and hear the ritual and the pomp and circumstance Catholics love. Father Henry would have hated it -- and he would have been sad that because Sister Charmaine is female, she would not be allowed to speak, since the Cardinal was in attendance -- but it was enthralling to see the priests all taking part in the communion preparation and hear them speak of Jesus' last supper in unison (so cool; it was the transubstantiation of all transubstantiations!). I suppose you can take the girl out of the Catholic Church but you can't take the Catholic out of the girl...

It also reminded me of the differences that exist between the church leadership and the people who really are the church. The Cardinal made those differences clear; his comments positioned "the bishops and leadership" as being quite distinct from we, the people in the pews. Not that the rabble went unheard: As the Cardinal spoke, progressive Catholics in the audience (myself included) would add "and Mother" to every instance where the Cardinal referred to God as "father"; when he would refer to "men," we would append his phrase with "and women" (much to the Cardinal's visible, though well-contained, chagrin).

I couldn't help but compare Father Henry (none of that "Monsignor Zerhusen" nonsense for him) with the red-hatted man at the altar. Keeler's actions before and during the scandal showed that his priority was the perpetuation of the church; Henry's was about loving God's people. (Sister Charmaine mentioned yesterday that she recalled a liturgy where a grinning Henry, that adorable cherub, folded his hands, looked heavenward, and prayed, "Oh, God, please let the church allow women to be priests. We need them.") And as these thoughts ran through my head, I knew I had to give Keeler a break. Whatever he has done or will do, while holding him accountable is a good and right thing to do, I must respond to him not with anger, but with love. That is what Father Henry did; that is what he would want me to do. Sitting in a pew at St. Mark's, I decided that this was a challenge I would have to face.

An opportunity to put myself to the test presented itself in the final hour of the funeral Mass: My left-wing writings and outspoken criticisms of Keeler and the church have not made me popular in archdiocesan circles. (Many tell me that I am persona non grata there.) So I went back and forth on whether to take part in communion, given everything that has happened and my relatively new status as a non-Catholic. I ultimately decided yes, because I knew that Father Henry would want me to -- he would never turn anyone away.

With great trepidation, I stepped into the line for Eucharist and realized that I would have to partake it from Cardinal Keeler. Anger flooded my body at the thought, and I reminded myself again that the most important thing Henry taught me was to love everyone no matter what. So I went up to Keeler, looked him dead in the eye as I took the communion wafer, and gave him a genuinely warm smile. Felt it too. He smiled back. And I lived up to my challenge and the shared mandate of Jesus and Father Henry, the person from whom I learned the most about Jesus' love.

Father Henry, an instrument of God's grace to all Henry Zerhusen was all about love. He was all love. He was described as a "humble giver of gifts," someone who gave all he had to the needy and poor and never expected anything in return. He judged no one. Period. I know Father Henry was disappointed when I left the Church, but he understood and stayed steadfast in his love for me. He remained an important part of and influence on my life anyway, and will remain so until I die. And he cared for people, giving special attention to the sick, the lonely and lost, those in mourning -- even after his own age and infirmity caught up with him. When my grandpa died three years ago, he showed up to comfort us and say wonderful words at the service -- which was not held in a Catholic church -- despite his illness.

And he was courageous, unafraid to speak openly about how he wanted everyone -- regardless of color, gender, orientation -- equal in the church. That cost him when Rome took a strong stand against Baltimore's growing liberal Catholic ethos. Henry didn't get his monsignorship until he was nearly 70, after popular-with-the-pope conservative Keeler swept into the archdiocese and brought a wave of darkness with him that still hovers malevolently over progressive Catholics here. (And Henry received the promotion, I suspect, only because he was so beloved throughout Baltimore and beyond, and because it was impossible to ignore the many good works he had done and was doing.) Not that he even thought about any cost -- he once told me he didn't give a rat's behind about being a monsignor; he was just a priest. Interestingly, the only times I saw him in his monsignor's robes was when he was lying in state. But he was wrong about being "just a priest." He was the finest priest I have ever known.

And he was just a great guy -- a little clumsy, a bit goofy, very funny, super sharp, always kind. He adored his family and they adored him. He never took himself seriously and was famous for his good-spirited self-deprecating comments. He had been a straight-A student at Catholic University and Villanova, but never lorded his intelligence over anyone. And he just loved people. I recall him coming over for dinner, dressed in street clothes, and just hanging out with us like the regular guy he was. He bowled on the church leagues (he was really good), take us on outings (he would always get lost; riding in a car with Father Henry was almost always a comedy of errors), and hide sweet treats away (he had diabetes -- not a good choice). A typical exchange:
"Father? What's this behind your bookcase? It's cookies! Henry..."

"I don't know how that got there, but they're delicious. Would you like one?"
Father Henry treated everyone in such a way that he would bring the Christ in them outward. He didn't deign to be Christ for people; he saw Christ in all of us, in everyone. He worked to convince every person he met that he or she was the likeness of God, because that is what he believed. And he was mentor to everyone, certainly to me. Whatever dilemma you'd face, be it a problem at home or school, or a moral dilemma like treating gays or women equally (but the bible says...) or dealing with 9/11 perpetrators, his message was the same trite, but true one: "What do you think Jesus would do? Do that. In other words, err on the side of being loving." I am not saying he was in favor of legalizing gay marriage; that question never arose between us, so I do not know that. I am saying that Father Henry loved people, not rules and not hierarchies. His unconditional love and acceptance was a most precious gift I will always treasure.

He even gave me a gift on the day I said goodbye to him: Cardinal Keeler did horrible things, and yes, I believe he needs to be held accountable. But I can still love him and treat him with kindness. And I did. So I know Father Henry was proud of me.

I know few people who are truly saintlike, people I am certain have a direct shot to a seat next to the Almighty. My late great-grandmother Genevieve was one. Father Henry is another. He was my pastor, my mentor, my inspiration, and, for my entire life, my friend. Even as the darkness grows, I do know that surely I have been blessed.

How appropriate, in a way, that Henry died on the anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death, Aug. 9. The former Grateful Dead guitarist sang some words that feel appropriate now:
Fare thee well,
Fare thee well,
I love you more than words can tell.

Safe journey, Father Henry, and thank you. And thank you, God.

from all facts and opinions

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Blonde Inspiration for Tough Choices

As my regular readers will know, as my final year at Oxford draws to a close, I have been on The Great Job Hunt, battling to get a job and a work permit that would allow me to stay in England--the country I now call home.

I would be a tax-paying, law-abiding resident. And heaven knows that my education and experiences can be put to good use in British society. I want to. I'm willing to.

But there is something called "bureaucratic red tape" and the "tightening of nation-state borders post-9/11"

Without the means for hiring a lawyer or any particularly unique skills to sell or any work experience--plus the fact that circumstances led to my decision, quite late in the hiring season, that academia is not for me--it has been a tough, uphill battle all the way. Made tougher by the fact that it's a race against time. Indeed, my visa expires on September 30th 2003.

So I had been doing my best to motivate myself, to get on with the intensive job search, to give it my best shot. But fear, depression and anger have been my main hurdles. These feelings have been slowing things down for me as I stew, brood and sleep way too much... as if I really have nothing to look forward to at all.

I am my own worst enemy.

This realisation and the cocktail of negative emotions mentioned above are compounded by an acute realisation that my fellow Rhodes scholars are all going on to brilliant academic Ivy League careers, hotshot legal and political careers, positions at McKinsey etc etc.

The jealousy, the despair and the self-loathing has been eating away at me for the last few weeks. It has been paralysing me.

I am, I reiterate, mine own worst enemy.

Then I went to see Legally Blonde 2 .

It was all that I expected--the same jokes and plot devices, the same candy-floss comedy fluff.

Unexpectedly though, this fluffy, girly, panned-by-critics-and-several-persons-who-shall-remained-unnamed's-mothers, acted as a shot in the arm for me. A confidence booster. A very pink-themed pep talk packaged into a summer movie format, if you will.

After watching Elle Woods battle her way to getting Bruiser's Bill Against Animal Testing signed and passed and listening to her sprout some very American ideals and overcome some frankly, incredible odds--yes, dear Readers, think about it: in real life, the entire situation in the movie and the way it resolved would have been seen as a triumph of the will despite the fluffy, airheaded froth that covers it--I came out feeling strangely rejuvenated and more determined than ever to win this fight against the UK immigration red tape.

I'm starting to believe that I do deserve to remain here in the UK.

I'm starting to think that I will be able to do so on my own terms.

I'm starting to take on the determined, one-track mentality of doing-whatever-it-takes-to-get-where-I-wanna go.

Today, I went to an hour-and-a-half long meeting with the Head of Careers Services at my university who discussed my situation re the work permit etc with me. We worked out what my options are and where each option might lead to and now, it's up to me to get the final pieces of information to finish up the puzzle and to make my final decision.

My head has been all in a tangle with visa information, options for the future etc. I know that now since the Head of Careers Services actually visualised and drew the whole diagram out on his whiteboard.

That is, he said, one BIG tangle. No wonder you are feeling so overwhelmed and emotionally fraught.

Any way you look at it--and indeed, any option I choose--it's going to take a lot for me to get where I'm going--my time, effort and energy, my rainy-day savings, a lot of calculated risk.

The question is: Am I up to it?

I'm gearing up for it.

Inner Charlie's Angel: You are so up to it, my girl. Just find it in yourself to believe that you can do it and you will do it. Indomitable will--you've got it, girl. Didn't you lose almost 100lbs? Didn't you beat the odds to get the Rhodes scholarship?

And luck, sister--I need luck. Not just the luck of the Irish, but to have Lady Luck firmly on my side.

Inner Charlie's Angel: Just keep going at your job hunting. Luck will take care of itself. You've been deserted long enough by her Ladyship so it follows that she'll be back when you need her. Just you wait--didn't you always get what you needed when the occasion arose?

Yes, I suppose so. I've always gotten a scholarship or something to see me through whenever I came to a crossroads in my life.

Inner Charlie's Angel: You just need to believe in yourself again. Learn from the School of Hard Knocks, don't buckle under the curriculum. And remember: DON'T LET THOSE BASTARDS (AND BITCHES) GET YOU DOWN!

I just hope that I have the strength and the courage to follow through with all the difficult choices that I have to make and implement in order to get to where I want.

Right now, after job application rejection number 3029473849, it's back to the drawing board with job hunting tasks and listening to the Charlie's Angels I soundtrack. It's wonderful how inspiring Destiny Child's Independent Woman is to a single woman struggling against the odds.

Hmm... maybe I should make a compilation tape of strong female inspirational songs--it might help stave off my frustrations at "bureaucratic red tape"....

After watching the movie last night, I might say a silent thanks to Elle Woods, her gay Chihuahua (Bruiser) and her screen sorority sisters (Valley Girls I'd probably run a mile from in real life)--I'm starting to really get back into my own skin--my own self--again. I'm beginning to get back into being the spunky, can-do-anything pre-Oxford woman that I once was.

Whoever said blondes were dumb?

Love vs. Attachment

Crossposted from Dharma Girl.


I have been thinking a lot about relationships lately, especially those of the romantic kind, and the obsession that people have with them. One needs only to take a look at the cinema listings, and the prevalence of sappy stories of love and "happily ever after," to realise what most people want to see. More often than not, these films are unrealistic stories of "rags to riches," such as in Pretty Woman, Jersey Girls, or Maid in Manhattan. A destitute woman of low class somehow finds her way into the bed of a millionaire. Said millionaire unexpectedly falls in love with the wretch, sometimes due to a convenient misunderstanding, and they ride off into the sunset to live the common human fantasy of love everlasting.

During my lunch break at work yesterday, I was flipping through the Metro that my boss often buys and leaves for us lowly employees. Whilst randomly turning the pages looking for something of interest, my eyes caught sight of the Personals section, which had an enormous amount of ads, and each one was almost identical to the next. "SWF, 40, attractive. Looking for man aged 40-55 for friendship, maybe more." I was left wondering, as I often do when I come across these personal ads, what people think they are going to get out of a relationship that they formed through a newspaper. And then the larger issue occurred to me: "What do people think they are going to get out of any relationship at all?"

It's not so rare for me to talk to someone, who is about my age and has never had a relationship, and hear them saying "I feel so lonely. I wish someone wanted to be with me." I even read in one person's online journal that he wanted someone "to fill this hole inside of me." The confusion of it all is so crazy, the thought that we need someone to fill the gaps in our lives, that we cannot live fully until we find our "soulmate" who is going to make us feel complete, and we can finally be happy and carefree and la la la.

I think most of this is due to laziness and insecurity. People don't want to do the work on themselves so that they can feel complete independently. They want someone else to do it. They're looking for a magical cure that they've invented in their minds: "There is someone out there who shares my soul, who is going to complete me. Once I find them, everything will be okay!" Many relationships start out this way, with two people feeling like they've each found the person who forms the missing jigsaw piece in the puzzle that is their soul. Unfortunately, this often ends up leading to divorce, or broken relationships and feelings of confusion. If you cannot heal yourself on your own, and you are depending on someone else to come along and fix things for you, you are essentially giving up and handing over the responsibilities to somebody else. Nobody can fill that sort of role, so people often end up thinking "I guess I haven't found the one after all, because I still feel empty inside."

The problem is not that you haven't found "the one." The problem is that people are often too lazy to spend much time working on themselves alone, when they have the chance to do so, before they end up in a relationship and a situation where they will almost inevitably end up codependent. One ad that stuck in my memory went something like this: "Attractive woman, 40, looking for man aged 40-55, to show that life begins now." That's obviously an allusion to the common saying that "life begins at 40." My question is, why does this woman need a man to show her that it does? Why hasn't the thought occurred to her that perhaps it's time to focus on herself, do some meditation, take up a hobby of some kind, write that book she's always been meaning to write, instead of looking for a new relationship to show her that life can be good at her age?

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

'You' and the need to be universal

I recently became aware of a young, African-American artist who seems bewildered by the local literary scene. Rochell Hart has enjoyed some success on the hip hop and spoken word circuit, but believes she is unappreciated in her hometown. She was among several writers interviewed by Willamette Week, an independent newspaper, to check the artistic pulse of Puddletown.

I hate to throw the race card, but as a black performance artist in Portland, it is hard not to. A native of this city, I have been a published author, motivational speaker and performance spoken-word artist (a.k.a. poet) for quite some time. Throughout the years, I have performed on countless stages across America, including such artistic hot spots as New York and Chicago. After carefully sifting through my opinions about life in Portland, I am convinced that as a minority artist, this is one of the hardest cities to survive in.

Be assured that my opinion is not merely a woe-is-me cry. The fact is, only 1.6 percent of the entire state is African-American, with most other ethnic backgrounds weighing in at even less. In a state where it was once illegal for minorities to reside (racist laws remained on Oregon's books until the late 1920s), it's no wonder so few minorities choose to call this place home. Those of us who do must struggle daily to have our voices heard and to make a serious impact.

. . .In Portland, however, my message of righteousness often falls on the ears of a crowd whose majority simply cannot relate. It is seriously challenging (though I am up to the challenge) to recite my signature poem, "Never Question Who I Am," to an audience whose only other minority representatives are my family and friends. The rest of the audience, even with the best intentions, simply seems indifferent to the realities I raise my voice to:

"I am a vibrantly vivid collection

Of ghetto reflections

I am a compilation

Of mass communication

I am black powered, cynical, reigning queen


Surpassing surreal expectations of anything you ever thought I would be."

I haven't conversed with Hart, but if I did, one of the issues I would discuss with her is the need for an artist to be universal. After reading about her and listening to and reading some of her work, I believe part of her failure to connect can be explained by a failure to relate to Everyman or Woman. When writers speak of universality, we don't mean everyone has to write about everything. We mean that the characters and settings we choose to write about need to be made comprehendible by people not from the same background. Much of Hart's material focuses on a narrow conception of the experience of being black, low-income and ghettoized. Though characters in a ghetto or barrio can be just as universal as any others, one must depict them broadly, as human beings first, to make them so.

Near the same time, I read about Hart in WW, I was reading a collection of short stories by Rohinton Mistry. He is an Indian writer of Parsi descent who has resettled in Toronto. The book I was reading, Swimming Lessons: Other Stories from Firozsha Baag, is about the residents of a mainly Parsi apartment complex in Bombay. Though middle-class by Indian standards, they would be mostly working-class by ours. They take for granted the realities of those who don't have and aren't likely to get: leaking toilets, pealing wallpaper, roaches and rats, having to struggle to pay the rent. When I began reading Mistry, starting with his acclaimed novel, A Fine Balance, all I knew about Parsis was that they are one of the smaller sects in India and usually escape the clashes between religions and castes. I still am not sure what a sudra looks like. But, I do understand struggle, and that it is a constant of the human condition. It is that understanding, that element of commonality, that seems to be missing from Hart's work.

That may be partly because she has fallen under the spell of Afrocentricism. The movement too often seeks to empower persons of African descent via chauvinism, glorifying African-American culture and separating it from others. Such thinking is in direct conflict with the need for universality in art if it is to transcend differences between artist and audience.

Mistry, on the other hand, has taken characters set in a minority culture thousands of miles away and made them comprehendible by millions of readers worldwide. He does so by presenting the Parsis as people, hopelessly flawed but deserving of compassion. Hart, at 26, has plenty of time to develop as a writer. She may discover the need to paint portraits of her characters with warts and all eventually. (Serious artists usually do, to the chagrin of shallow people.) Then, she will understand the relationship between 'you' and the need to be universal.

Note: This entry originally appeared at Silver Rights, a blog focusing on civil rights and related issues.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Women are people, too: Laci's Choice

As much of the country has, I've been watching the Laci Peterson case unfold on the news channels. It's a heartbreaking story - a beautiful young woman, perfectly in bloom with her first child, living what seemed to be a perfect life. Until someone ended it, that is. I'm not going to speculate here about who killed her - I think we'll all be convinced as the trial proceeds. What concerned me was the reaction of Feminist organizations when the prosecutor considered charging the main suspect with a double murder.

Laci's child, Connor , had not yet been born when she was killed. Pro-choice forces scream at any attempt to assign 'person' status to a child in utero at any stage of development, for fear that anti-abortion groups will use it to get a foothold toward reversing Roe V. Wade. I am a vocal proponent of abortion rights. I believe it should be available on demand, and without cost so that it is equally available under decent conditions for all women regardless of income. (Low income women often cannot afford the procedure, or have to endure it with only a local anesthetic - a barbarous practice under the best of conditions.) So how do we reconcile the inestimable loss of this child with our political needs? By emphasizing the Will of the Mother.

Women are sentient beings. How and when we choose to bear a child is the most intimate choices we ever encounter, and it is an undertaking fraught with danger. In my opinion, that danger, the impact pregnancy has on a woman's body, and the importance of Motherhood in this or any other culture, give women an inherent right to control their own bodies. Pregnancy should never be seen as a punishment - a favorite argument of the religious right- nor should it be enforced in any way. We each have an innate right to control our own person. In addition, I believe that each child has a right to be wanted. The rights of the Mother who is already a member of society naturally take precedence over the rights of an unborn entity.

Under any circumstance, I would have defended Laci's right to terminate her pregnancy, She chose to have her child, and was happily awaiting his arrival. That choice - Laci's choice - is what should determine the charges to be brought in the case against her killer. It was Laci's Will that Connor be born, to be a part of her family. His death, like her own, was not in keeping with her wishes and that is what makes this a double homicide. Left to her own devices, she'd be living happily with a six month old baby now. The loss of both lives is of import. The infringement on Laci's right to life and motherhood are violations of the most fundamental rights of humanity.

The bottom line is - when is government going to admit that women have free will; that we are naturally endowed with the right to sovereignty over our own bodies; and that our personal and medical decisions are ours alone? These issues have never been called to question where a man is concerned. They are at least as obvious for women. When we reach this basic understanding of ourselves, the arguments become moot, and our energy may be better spent caring for the children we already have. "

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Please sign this letter to Jimmy Carter. All of your campaign efforts will be for nought if the election is rigged in 2004.


Thursday, August 07, 2003

Blogging Ecosystem

Have you heard of The Truth Laid Bare's Ecosystem? It is yet another listing service for online journals and weblogs, but it is one that can help you build a lot of traffic to your diary if you want to.

If you want to get listed in their ecosystem just visit this link: TLB Ecosystem

Also, if your journal/blog is new you can enter the competition for a week's promo in the New blog Showcase.

I entered this entry from my journal A Study in Escape and would really appreciate your helping me win this week by voting for me. The way you vote is to link to the post in your own weblog, but your vote will only count if you are registered in the ecosystem already and if you create the link by this Sunday (8/10).

If you do decide to enter the showcase let me know and I will vote for you the week you are in too. Remember, the only way votes count is if you link to the exact post, not to the journal/blog in general.
Nigerian Stoning Update

This appeared in my inbox today. For the love of anything humane, please take action NOW:
Amina Lawal set to be stoned 27 August 2003

The Nigerian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for Amina Lawal, condemned for the crime of adultery on August 19, 2002, to be buried up to her neck and stoned to death. Her death was postponed so that she could continue to nurse her baby.

Hearing on her Execution is now set for 27 AUGUST 2003.

If you haven't been following this case, you might like to know that Amina's baby is regarded as the 'evidence' of her adultery.

Amina's case is being handled by the Spanish branch of Amnesty International, which is attempting to put together enough signatures to make the Nigerian government rescind the death sentence. A similar campaign saved another Nigerian woman, Safiya, condemned in similar circumstances. By March 4, the petition had amassed over 2,600,000 signatures. It will only take you a few seconds to sign Amnesty's online petition. Please sign the petition now, and then send the URL -- -- to everyone in your address book.
Amnesty offers background information on this sad story. For the sake of justice, for the sake of an innocent baby, sign the petition and help save Amina Lawal from this ludicrous and inhumane death sentence.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

The Jewish grandmother who could

Portland Mayor Vera Katz, 69, has announced she will not pursue a fourth term. She will be a septuagenarian when she leaves office. It will be the denouement of a remarkable life story that began in Germany in 1933. Her family fled the Nazis to France and then resettled in New York City. She studied dance and became a wife and mother. Then, after she relocated to Oregon in the mid-1960s, Katz' political activism, which began with protesting against purchasing grapes because of the way agricultural workers were exploited, bore fruit.

. . .Katz broke ground as the Oregon House's first woman speaker in the 1980s before bringing her hands-on style to the mayor's job. There, she has been equally likely to plunge into a raucous City Hall demonstration as shut out a City Council colleague who crosses her.

Katz, 69 and a breast cancer survivor, said Tuesday that she felt confident she was up to another strenuous campaign and could raise the $1 million she figures is needed for a run. But the key question, she said, was what she wants to do for another 51/2 years -- the remainder of her current term plus another four-year term if she won.

'Vera,' as most residents of Puddletown refer to her, has been mayor for much longer than I have lived here. It will seem strange not to hear her familiar New York accent in press conferences or have her dash to the front of the line at the grocery store.

Not everyone believes Katz' record is largely positive. Some conservatives consider her a socialist despite the pro-business positions she has often taken.

In "Winners and Losers" (July 25), you gave Portland Mayor Vera Katz a "thumbs up" and described her record as "mixed." The editors are most gracious.

Development fees are prohibitively high under her leadership ($30,000 to move a pizza parlor across the street). She continues to show her contempt for law enforcement officers, both local and federal, along with their efforts to make our community and nation a safe place to live. She has demonstrated, by speech and action, favoritism for minority groups, both racial and sexual. The mayor has solved traffic problems by having heavily traveled lanes of traffic removed and replaced by bike lanes.

. . .The only thing Vera Katz has done to earn a "thumbs up" is promise to leave, and then only if she doesn't come back.

There is even a fledgling movement to recall her.

I disagree with some of Katz' stances. Her sweetheart deal with investors in the rehabilitation of the former Civic Stadium has wasted tax dollars while further enriching folks who are already wealthy. She has not done enough to rein in the Portland police so that unnecessary shootings such as Kendra James' don't recur. Her plan to cap highway 405 is naive and imitative of a certain larger city in the region. However, in describing Katz' politics, I would use the term "moderate," not socialist or leftist.

Katz says she will devote the rest of her tenure to completing projects she is working on, including development of the River District. She is rightly concerned about Oregon's, and Portland's, record unemployment rates.

She said she would like to leave her mark on other major civic efforts: building a new stadium to lure major league baseball's Montreal Expos; improving education in low-achieving public schools; finding a new use for Memorial Coliseum; securing city acquisition of Portland General Electric from bankrupt Enron.

It is the River District plan that has really sparked her enthusiasm.

On July 10, in front of a packed City Hall, Mayor Vera Katz anointed real-estate developer Homer Williams as Portland's savior.

. . ."Homer is unique," Katz says. "He sees possibilities other people don't see."

Katz, who last week announced she will not seek a fourth term, is counting on Williams to provide a capstone to her 12 years as mayor. "This is the biggest, most complicated deal the city has ever done," she says.

. . .Williams' biggest champion at City Hall is the mayor. "Homer's got a holistic view of the universe," Katz says. "Our conversations are usually about bigger issues, demographics and how the city is changing."

Contrary to expectations, candidates are not rushing forward to replace Katz.

I don't blame political hopefuls for thinking twice. The Jewish grandma will be an hard act to follow.


To learn more about Portland visit this site. Curious about Katz? See her homepage.

This entry was originally published in Mac-a-ro-nies, a current events and public affairs web log.

Snaps to Miss Helen

Miss Helen's posts about the Hilton's reminded me of this essay I wrote a while back, so I thought I'd share...


"Golden Gwyneth" says the magazine cover. Darkened eyes peer at me from under straight bleached hair. I am fascinated. I am repulsed. I wouldn't say I'm obsessed with this chick, but she definitely bugs me. The first time I saw her, my reaction was typical. Another skinny blonde actress - how original. she seemed such an instant success that I quickly came to loathe her. I had a rule - I would only see her movies if someone was trying to kill her. Interestingly enough, there were several of those. Did Hollywood know? Anyway, a friend dragged me to just such a movie, and I found myself rooting for her at the end. Holy shit! Did I actually like the girl? Ok, radical change in thinking here. It's happened before . I'm not afraid to admit when I'm wrong. So I saw a couple more of her movies and I found that I liked them. Then I found out she was Blythe Danners daughter. Looks just like her. Blythe Danner had been in a great TV show in the 70's called "Adams Rib", where she played a married feminist attorney and had thus had a hand in the formation of my developing feminist sensibilities. (I was about 10 or so.)

Then it began. The Academy Awards where G. wore the dress of my dreams and the hairstyle of my nightmares. She was a hit. She was everywhere. She was goddamed inescapable. The new "It" girl, the magazines proclaimed and galvanized my ambivalence about her very existence. To be perfectly fair, she seems like a nice person and she can definitely be entertaining. If I met her, I'd probably think her a perfectly lovely human being. Personality aside, I think I'm upset more about what she represents than about her actual being. Every minute of my life I think " I should have been born Gwyneth Paltrow."

I exaggerate. I told you, I'm not obsessed. Let's face it though - G. is the ultimate clean white girl. You know the type. A tall W.A.S.P.-y vision fit for boarding schools and board rooms and you just know she took riding lessons. A younger, hipper "lady who lunches". She dated Ben Affleck and makes movies with Matt Damon. Maybe I do hate her. What I really hate -- or rather, resent--is the access that she has and I never did or will have. I used to be young but I was never "fabulous" except in an over-done, drag queen sort of way. Even if I had come from money, I wasn't tall, wasn't thin and I never felt "clean". I didn't have that smooth white skin that glows rather than perspires. I didn't learn the unwritten rules of the gentile country club set. It's the unknown that tortures me. I know that she sees things and goes places and knows things that I really don't understand because I'm not a part of that culture. The hell of it is that I'm just outside of it. The evidence is everywhere. Gwyneth at the runway shows on the evening news. Gwyneth at a premier in a Magazine. Gwyneth frequents this spa and that designer and was in Madonna's wedding. And that is the real source of my discomfiture. How can you get on with your life if you know that there is a party going on and you aren't invited?



Tuesday, August 05, 2003

checking in to the Hilton

There are a great many clever people who make it their sick business to diagnose our unwell culture. Personally, I am too lazy pay these critical thinkers much heed. Just above the din of text message alerts and Hot 30 countdowns, however, I can sometimes make out their whining. Which usually proceeds along the lines of: everything’s crap and there’s just no substance anymore.
Normally, I really don’t fret about the absence of sense in contemporary culture and I just go about my meaningless business. I hold celebutantes in a vague esteem: I think of them only occasionally and with the same mild affection as I would my second cousins.
Immersed as I am in pop culture’s soap opera, I do not fret too much, as, really, it just seems so distant.
My relationship with electronic media and its protagonists is normally quite hazy and manageable. And so I pay about as much attention to the paranoid bleating of media critics as I do to bi-annual Dental Exam reminders.
That is, of course, until the advent of The Hilton Sisters.
Yes, Nicky and Paris, for those of you unversed, are a pair of those Hiltons. They are wickedly blonde, unreasonably young and, if one believes the gossip rags, visited by wealthy businessmen quite so often as the Hotel chain that bears their famous name.
To date, despite their burgeoning fame, they haven’t done anything of ‘substance’ . That is, unless you count taking tremendous risks with Instant Tan, getting drunk and putting their names on an unremarkable hand-bag product line.
Oh, they each have accrued a brace of ‘Girl on Beach’ credits in the sorts of movies that go straight-to-video. They date Male Models. And Paris will shortly lay claim to a quasi-legitimate fame when she co-stars with – wait for it – Lionel Ritchie’s daughter in a FOX produced reality TV extravaganza. Word is, The Simple Life threatens to topple broadcast standards even in this, our post Joe Millionaire era.
So why do I, and countless others, feed the Hilton monster with our endless fascination? .
What could modern scholars tell me about the Hiltons and their vacant rise to fame? Why are the normally dispassionate, such as I, drawn to their every dilettante gesture?
I considered telephoning an academic to demand, why do I love Nicky and Paris? They have neither talent nor grace nor exceptional looks. Their curriculum vitae is a motley affair peppered only with wealth and occasional, unsubstantiated reports of sex in fashionable public bathrooms. What IS it about these gals?
Remembering, from my brief tertiary experience, that most academics in the Cultural Studies department were very rude and, in general, too busy writing Buffy The Vampire Slayer theses, I refrained
it was up to me to unravel the threads of my obsession.
Looking long at a picture of Paris who, it must be said, does look rather a lot like Sarah Michelle Gellar might if she’d stayed up all night and retouched her make-up after a vat of Long Island Iced Tea, I made some decisions.
It is the Hilton’s LACK that makes them so intriguing. It is precisely their absence of achievement, wit, Bouvier charm or, frankly, anything else that makes them so compelling.
Those who can empty themselves of history, accomplishment or substance are inheriting the earth. Just ask Gee Dubya.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

New Hope for the Battered but not Broken Left Wing

After the 2000 debacle that pased for an election, I gave up on politics. I was bitterly disappointed with my first experience as a delegate to my state Democatic convention, and if I hadn't feared such a close vote, I'd have voted for Ralph Nader.

I unexpectedly and delightedly find myself geting excited about politics again, thanks to the Howard dean campaign. In case you haven't heard, he's leading the polls of likely voters in Iowa; He's the first candidate in history to appear on the covers of 3 major magazines before a primary has taken place; He's raised more money than any other Democrat, largely through efficient use of the internet; 70,000 people will participate in in Meet-ups this week on his behalf; And he's taking the fight directly to W. with petitions regarding his lies about Iraq, demanding resignations of those responsible for those lies, and opposing his assault on standards for overtime pay with campaign ad's in his home state.

Starting tomorrow, Dean begins running spots in Texas inviting them to join him in taking the country back. Since it's preview by Tim Russert last night, over 20,000 new people have signed up to support Howard Dean on his website. 7,000 have called an 866 number that won't even be fully staffed until tomorrow and/or signed up for meet-ups taking place on August 6 . All of this before the spots have even aired.

Howard Dean will appear on Larry King Live Monday night, and I want to urge everyone to tune in. As a true progressive, I feel as if someone is speaking for me...finally. I'm excited about our chances in 2004. I feel as if I'm waking up from a 2 1/2 year nightmare.

I'd love to hear your thoughts... Peace!

A Study In Escape

Compare these news headlines "American Wedding" tops the North American box office, AIDS Cases on the Rise in United States, and Robert De Niro, Howard Stern Among Those Licensed to Carry Guns. And let's not even start talking about the international scene with the US, Iraq, Liberia, North Korea, Israel/Palestine, and Iran all begging for preiminence as the greatest pain in the neck for peace lovers everywhere. Let's not talk about the national economy or the insane intent of Californians to reverse a legal election because they don't like how their governor has managed their economy (here's a tip: don't vote for him next time).

So here is my point, do you see a connection between what Americans are choosing for entertainment and what is going on around them in reality? Obviously the word for the day is "Escape." And while I can't join 'em, I don't blame 'em either. I can understand the need to disconnect from this insanity and spend 2 hours in a fantasy world where either their are not villains, just innocent sexual frolicking, or at least any that do exist are well-defined and inevitably defeated before the lights come back up.

Here is my question: After we have succeeded in giving ourselves a much needed break from the horrors of the day, after the lights do come back up, what then? Do we use this respite to refuel our resolve to do the work of truly forging a nation that lives by the peace it holds to be its ideal? Do we tackle the complexity involved in responsibly deciding just what is in the best interests of humans worldwide and how we are to balance that with what is best for us personally? What comes next?

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Alert! Feminine Straight Boys Unite Against Defamation And Niche Marketing!

(Greetings blog sisters, this is my first post. It is in response to an article I read on MSN about how "feminine" heterosexual males are seen as a niche market. Since all my male friends seem to be men of this type, I wrote this article for them. Regular readers of my blog know of my attraction to gay men and my constant lament that there aren't more of them in my life. Thought I'd explain the context this was written in, so you would understand what I'm talking about. My blog is

Since I seem to be some kind of fag-hag for men who seem like they might be gay, but are unfortunately all too straight, I thought I should help disseminate some information that concerns you gentlemen intimately. It has to do with that thing in your pants. Yep, look out, they're after your wallet. Hands off I say!

I learned all about it in this article. I call you femme-straight boy, but they call you "metrosexual," a niche market-cum-identity. The future of masculinity has already been mapped out and it leads down the road of financial excess, as one would expect, with low self-esteem and high credit-card debt as the destination. Don't go there.

"Curiosity about metrosexuals climbed considerably in June when Euro RSCG Worldwide, a marketing communications agency based in New York City and more than 200 other cities, explored the changing face of American males in a report titled The Future of Men: USA." According to the article in MSN linked here.

"The Future of Men report noted, "One of the telltale signs of metrosexuals is their willingness to indulge themselves, whether by springing for a Prada suit or spending a couple of hours at a spa to get a massage and facial." They might devote an afternoon to choosing their ultrafashionable attire for the night. They may don an apron and prepare a mean and meatless pasta dish for friends."

Admittedly, my group of femme straight boy friends is not so Gucci. (A word my spell-check surprisingly knows how to spell...) I can't see any of you springing for a Prada suit. The point is, you've been discovered and now you're being marketed to. Beware the fate of Punk, which is available now on discount at Ross in a number of ensembles perfect for day-to-evening casual office wear. If you go to the Juniors aisle in girls fashion, you will see clothes that belong to every subculture I've ever been part of mass-produced in china and being sold to your local seventh grader. (Trust me I've been there.) No need to comb through Salvation Army racks for leopard print and pink fake fur. Its all been done for you.

Me: "Is nothing sacred?"

Ross: "Compare at:"

"Metrosexual men "are very secure in their sexuality," says Brown. "They're comfortable getting a facial or a pedicure. It doesn't make them feel any less masculine or any less heterosexual." (This quoted from the same MSN article.)

No, to my great disappointment, the only dick they suck is that of the capitalist ruling class. Metrosexuals, you're getting fucked in the ass.

Friends, don't let this sorry fate befall you. If facials are what you like come over to my house and we can do something natural and inexpensive with yogurt and green clay. You know you would rather hang around and gossip with me while sewing our own clothes than blow your wad on some ridiculous Prada suit. And forget the spa, I'll give you a much more therapeutic massage.

You look great, don't change.

What to do with teenagers when roller skating gets old? SkyZone!

As the mother of a teenage daughter, figuring out activities that give ME a break, are nearby, don't involve computers and cell phones...