Monday, September 29, 2003

Land-Ho! Part 5

(An excerpt from my serial story about buying land on which to build my little house and garden)

After swashbuckling one must always drink something soothing, like sassafras tea or hard liquor. Jane and I, still clad in our hiking boots and wool sweaters stuck through with twigs and leaves, made our way to The Muse. Thursday night at The Muse Pub in Port Willamette was the best night I’ve had at any bar, ever. It was that night that made me feel all-the-way right about moving to the Olympic Peninsula.

There are four open-mic nights a week in Port Willamette, all at different venues. Far be it from me to attend the open mic nights in the town I live in now. Every melodramatic straight white college boy in town has to get up there and share his underdeveloped artistry with a room full of overly appreciative stoned hippy-girls. I am so nauseated by the layers of cliché in the work and in the room that I can scarcely stand to be a part of it, let alone share my writing. When I heard there were that many open mic nights a week in a town populated by only 7,000 or so persons, I envisioned a tiny town loaded with overly self-involved mediocre artists, writers, and musicians.

I was annoyed, but I also was not expecting to really relate to what ever community I live in. At this point my alienation is one of my prized possessions and I have little urge for “Community” with a capital C. (A word too often said with a snotty sense of virtuousness possessable only by the college-educated.) My intent has been to move somewhere more desirable in which to live out the rest of my alienated years in sweet freedom. Somewhere a little closer to a major metropolitan area than my current isolated province. Somewhere where I can go watch beautiful gay men walk up and down the streets. Somewhere where I can go to literary events now and then, as well as decent music and where I can get a steady supply of Asian ingredients for my kitchen. Somewhere close yet far away. I just want what everyone wants. I maintain there’s nothing radical about my lifestyle.

The Muse is an upstairs bar, with French doors that open onto a balcony overlooking the oft-moonlit Puget Sound. Despite the fact that the walls were beautifully painted, the lighting was subtle and warm, and the clam chowder was excellent, this was not a yuppie establishment. There were no identifiable tourists in the room and the locals are not known for their upward mobility. The crowd was not only exceptionally good looking on the whole, with a healthy and open look in their faces, but they had the grit and glory about them of the working class. When people must endure the blows of capitalism unshielded by privilege they often take on a certain lovely, heart-breaking bitterness, to which I relate, and by which I am very much moved, especially when drinking whisky.

A blue grass band was playing. The lead was a tall, thin, clean shaven man with glasses and a black cowboy hat. Even though it was Thursday night at 11, the room was packed and people were tossing down drinks like they didn’t have to work in the morning. Since Port Willamette is not a college town, there was a refreshing absence of a college scene. The crowd was populated by people my age and older, not the other way around. How I love crows-feet and flecks of grey hair. How I love smile-lines and the dark shine in the eyes of mothers. The music seemed familiar yet foreign, and it came down through me while I looked at the living painting of the world before me. I then realized that the band was playing a bluegrass version of the Violent Femme’s “Add It Up.” My joy was for once complete and unreserved.

A curvaceous grey haired lady in a hippy-floral patterned dress made her way over to the blue grass man’s table after he played. Next act was a smoky-voiced jazz singer, easily in her seventies, wearing a very sexy dress. She sang a few haunting and flirtatious standards while I watched the grey-haired woman Jane and I named “Our Favorite Woman” entwine her arms around the body of the blue-grass man, despite the obvious difference in their ages. I blushed and took a cigarette outside, where I immediately blushed again to see two beautiful young gay men in a tight embrace against the balcony railing. Their slow kissing was punctuated by long, loving looks into each other’s eyes. I tried to be causal and lit my cigarette, wondering how I could maneuver myself in such a way as to watch them without making them uncomfortable. Could this really be a small, rural town? Ecstasy! The boys were on it, and I was in it.

The night was a victory for art, in our art-hating, art-commodifying world. As talent after talent took the stage, I felt I must be somewhere else in the world, maybe Central America or Europe, where I have never been but where I imagine local culture has not been so decimated by mass culture. The word community could almost be used to describe that night at the Muse without making me ill. I would rather avoid that all together, though, and simply say that here was a little untelevised, home-made beauty for the weary, tucked away in a small seam of the world, as private as a kiss.

by Pirate-tron

Thursday, September 25, 2003

The "Super Bowl of Debates"?

AP photo That is how wannabe California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger labelled last night's lively forum featuring the so-called top candidates vying for Gov. Gray Davis' job in the re-rescheduled Oct. 7 recall election. ABC News reports that the debate was quite lively:
The moderator at one point said he was dizzy from the quick, loud and aggressive banter.

Schwarzenegger was criticized for supporting a divisive ballot initiative nine years ago that would have prevented services for the children of illegal immigrants.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat, came under fire for taking millions of dollars in Indian casino money. Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock was told he had the facts backward on the economy, and independent Arianna Huffington was hit for barely paying income taxes.

Meanwhile, Green Party candidate Peter Camejo stayed above the fray, saying, "I'm trying to be respectful to everyone here."

The debate ranged from questions on balancing the budget, whether the car tax should be repealed and what to do about health care. The answers provided few surprises since the candidates have all staked out positions on the major issues.

But the diversity of views among the major candidates was amply displayed from Camejo's demands to tax the rich to McClintock's pledges never to raise taxes; from Bustamante's plea for driver's licenses for illegal immigrants to Schwarzenegger's insistence those licenses endanger California because they don't include background checks.
You can read a transcript of what what was said, courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle.

To many, the fun -- or frightening -- part of the event was Schwarzenegger's attack on Independent candidate Arianna Huffington. As ABC News reports:
At one point, Schwarzenegger took a shot at Huffington for targeting the Bush administration as the source of the state's problems.

"If you want to campaign against Bush, go to New Hampshire," Schwarzenegger said.

The tension between the two peaked when Schwarzenegger began to cut Huffington off and she said, "This is the way you treat women, we know that. But not now."

Schwarzenegger replied, "I just realized that I have a perfect part for you in Terminator 4," getting laughs from the audience but a rebuff from the moderator.

After the debate, Huffington said the "Terminator 4" comment was an offensive reference to a scene from "Terminator 3" in which Schwarzenegger's character stuffs a female robot's head into a toilet.

"That was such a clear and ambiguous indication of what he really thinks of women," she said.
At Blogcritics, filmmaker, playwright, and former California gubernatorial candidate Brian Flemming (rightly) takes issue with Ah-nuld's scary show of misogyny:
I'm on record as not being too terribly concerned about Arnold's past orgies with men and/or women. As a former candidate for governor, I wouldn't want people to hold my past sexual excesses against me, either. Some stuff I don't even remember, but I'm pretty sure someone took pictures, so there's a glass-house thing going on here.

And in fairness, I'm sure lots of people at one point or another have wanted to shove Arianna Huffington's face into a toilet. And I'm not saying these private fantasies are, per se, wrong, in one's own head. There are no thought crimes. Whatever floats your boat, as long as it stays in your boat.

But this guy wants to be the governor of California. And he said this during a public debate.

Even if you find Arnold Schwarzenegger's casual misogyny amusing (I personally find it frightening), isn't there a fatal judgment problem here for a would-be governor?
I surely do. More frightening is the notion that this revolting movie star is one of California's top candidates for its top political job. My respect for Maria Shriver is at an all-time low.

"Super Bowl of Debates"? Nah. But let's hope the event brings some Californians to their senses. (NO on recall! NO on 54!)

from all facts and opinions

More Good News

Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman who was sentenced to death for adultery, has been acquitted by a court of appeal. As we breathe a large sigh of relief for Lawal and her child, let's also give credit to all of the human rights organizations, and individuals, who put pressure on Nigeria to redress this wrong, and be inspired to keep speaking and acting against injustice.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Binding and Beautiful, if Not Legal

Here come the brides: Melissa and Tammy Lynn provide another stable family unit for America to emulate and cheer; photo by Mikel Healey/AP Mazel tov and infinite happiness and blessings to singer Melissa Etheridge and her longtime partner, actor Tammy Lee Michaels. Earlier this year, the couple announced their engagement, and unlike Bennifer, they actually made it down the aisle. On Sept. 20, Etheridge and Michaels tied the knot, exchanging vows in a California ceremony.

The official statement from the brand-new Mrs. and Mrs.:
"We are so grateful for the blessings from our friends and family as we commence our vows, and begin the rest of our lives together."
Sounds like love and commitment to me. (Paying attention, Ben and Jen? How 'bout you, reality-show knot-tiers?)

A wee bit more on the star-studded nuptials from
The ceremony attracted Hollywood`s A-list. Guests included Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Al and Tipper Gore, Jennifer Aniston (Brad was invited but is on location with Troy in Malta and couldn`t make it), Helen Hunt, Mike Myers, Sally Field, Ellen DeGeneres, Sheryl Crow, Christina Applegate and Kathy Najimy.

Etheridge wore a "candlelight pantsuit of a linen jacket with beaded accent and crepe trousers," while Michaels was attired in a lace coat "crystal embellished scalloped trim over a white matte jersey gown."

The duo exchanged matching, custom-made platinum and diamond bands designed by jeweller to the stars Rafinity.

Because Etheridge and Michaels got married within the US, and despite the fact that California now has a domestic-partnership law in place (which still denies "marriage" to queerfolk), the union means nothing in the eyes of the federal government. True romantics and decent humans have got to be happy for this terrific, loving pair, who indeed call themselves "married." After all, when two or more are gathered in God's name, there is love -- whatever the 'phobes and supremacists have to say about it.

Still, I would love to see them make it legal. Perhaps their next stop will be Canada... But whether the Etheridge-Michaels family takes a trip to the Great White North, ultimately, one of our best defenses against opponents to marriage equality for all is to ingore 'em and, if we so choose, to get married anyway.

from All Facts and Opinions


The injustice!
My words don’t make you cry
As songs do,
I am less potent
than two glasses of wine.

I admit poetry’s defeat by music,
And announce my victory over television!

As long as I am young
I still have love
In my arsenal.


Monday, September 22, 2003


Did I ever mention how much I hate terms like 'depressive'? As in 'she's a depressive'? No? Well, consider yourselves told.

I have a disease called depression. But I am not that disease.

Let's imagine for a moment that I do accept the label of 'depressive'. There is something that acceptance which implies that I am my state of depression. The sentence 'I am a depressive' becomes as fundamental a statement about myself as 'I am a woman'. My depression becomes not a disease that I have or a state of mind, it becomes me.

I bought a book about depression yesterday with the intention of releasing it through BookCrossing. It was written by a doctor as a self-help book; something for people who are depressed to use as a guide when they are lost and in pain and unable to work out the first step to obtain help. Most of the information in it was well-written and would be helpful to the people it is trying to reach. But (and it's a big but!) there are 3 or 4 instances in the book where people describe themselves or others as 'depressives'.

Alison: My mother was a depressive. She was always, always in a bad mood. She was always snapping at us kids, always irritable... When I started developing symptoms... I finally understood what my mother had gone through, but at first I thought, 'Oh, no. I'm turning into that grouch.'

'Depressives' are grouchy, irritable and self-absorbed. They don't do anything to help themselves. They are miserable, and misery loves company. They are going to be depressed and miserable forever. They make the lives of those around them hell. 'Depressives' hang their head in shame, because they know that they have a character flaw. 'Depressives' use anti-depressants as 'crutches; if they really wanted to, they could pull their socks up, change their attitudes and get on with life. 'Depressives' are hopeless cases.

Depression is a difficult enough disease to cope with, without lumping all that shit on yourself. Why do it? Why allow yourself to be weighed down by labels?

I am not my depression. You are not your disease.

Depression is not a character flaw. Depression is bloody hard. Seeking help is not a weakness. Depression is not forever; it can be treated. Depression can be a hard slog. Living through depression takes endurance and strength.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

"Revolve": aka great, ghastly backward steps

Have you heard? Thomas Nelson Bibles has unleashed upon teen girl culture a brand-(anti-)spanking-new glossy, part New Testament and part girly magazine, mixing God- and Jesus-inspired beauty, fashion and sex-is-bad tips with the usual homophobic, misogynistic tripe espoused by the bible.

The New York Post’s story is here, and Mark Morford’s genius lampooning of the periodical is here.

And here’s a sample of what Morford has to say:
It's called "Revolve: The Complete New Testament" and it's apparently racing up the sales charts -- whatever that means -- as it sucks up all the accoutrements of a teen fashion rag and rams them through the cute Christian grinder of humorlessness and sexual rigidity and homophobia, and regurgitates them as kicky dumbed-down slightly numb virginal tidbits of advice and admonition and, yes, Biblical storytelling.

Because apparently girls don't already have enough hollow dogma out there telling them what to do. Apparently they don't already face a large enough mountain of misinfo and scorn and sexual mixed messages, and not a single one of them telling them how to really tune into themselves, listen to their own unique voices, find their own sex and their own power and their own divine potency. … "Revolve" takes a decidedly conservative view of the Bible, condemns homosexuality, encourages virginity until marriage, and informs girls that excessive makeup and jewelry and revealing clothes are to be avoided and chastity is to be rewarded. … It also tells them to quietly shut up and always listen to your parents and don't take the initiative by actually calling a boy on the phone, ever. Did Mary Magdalene ever call Jesus? Of course she didn't. And "Revolve" tells these befuddled girls, in all seriousness, that it's best to let the males lead the relationship.
Sorry, I know we didn’t need another reason to be depressed. But there you have it. Gotta love the "progress" this grand country is making, dontcha.


Yeh, I finally deleted that rather unsightly post about me. I was going to leave it. I left it for a while so I could give it some serious thought. On further reflection, I decided to delete it. And so I did.

Jenna turns six in a week.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

McEwan's In Between the Sheets: Short, but strong, stories

The title of Ian McEwan's collection of seven short stories can be interpreted two ways. 'In between the sheets' could refer to what goes on between lovers or people involved in some other form of sexual congress. But, a writer almost automatically thinks of another kind of sheets -- paper. The title can also evoke what writers put on and between the sheets that lurch or pour from our computers. The book supports both interpretations.

Several of these short stories feature writers involved in the fight to write. One of the oddest is told from the perspective of the pet ape and former lover of a woman writer. She has achieved the kind of notoriety that sometimes strikes once for mediocre writers of pedestrian fiction. Her novel gave voice to the timely issue of infertility among otherwise healthy, middle-class couples. It became a flash-in-the-pan success in the market for commercial fiction. Her challenge is to write another book without the help of exceptionally good luck. As she slouches toward a return to obscurity, the writer briefly attempts either a diversion or the embrasure of a different kind of muse. She has a sexual relationship with her chimpanzee. The episode lasts only a week, but is the most important event in the intelligent animal's life. His inability to give voice to his desires becomes as suffocating as hers in "Reflections of a Kept Ape."

There isn't a writer in one of best of the seven selections, "Two Fragments: Saturday and Sunday, March 199-." However, the story is revealing of what a virtuoso like McEwan can do between the sheets. An unspecified apocalype, perhaps a nuclear war, has occurred, leaving British society bereft of housing, transportation, food and even water. Henry, the narrator, has managed to retain a low-level job as a government functionary, but society is degenerating into mayhem all around him, as people struggle to survive. Among his experiences is observing a man exploit his teenaged daughter to earn a few coins. Himself the father of a toddler, he is forced to consider just how far he will go to keep bread on the table and a roof over their heads. But, McEwan is too fine a writer to focus exclusively on the bleakness of life in a post-apocalyptic setting. He dares consider what people can risk doing for each other even when there are few resources and little chance of recompense.

In "Psychopolis," we are in the head of another writer. The British narrator is visiting the United States. He decides to explore what he has heard is one of America's most fascinating cities, Los Angeles. He lives a borrowed life there, from the flat he sublets to the friends he acquires, but feels ambivalent about. He finds the metropolis an exercise in excess and boredom. However, some of the people he observes and associates with catch and hold his attention. There's Mary, his immediate lover, who insists he chain her to his bed and not let her go for a weekend. George is the manager of the shop across the street, which specializes in party goods and rehabilitative care items -- wet bars and bedpans. Relationship-obsessed Terence is so malleable he will do anything to please the women he pursues, including urinate on himself in a public place. The protagonist decides L.A. is a city that represents the contemporary psyche gone awry. He experiences an epiphany -- rather than allow his life to become mired in the illusions and delusions he is observing, he must break away from the pattern of avoiding change he has fallen into.

Ian McEwan won the Booker Prize for his novel, Amsterdam, in 1988. His longer fiction benefits from the same unblinking observation of not so much what people say as what they do, that makes In Between the Sheets a book a reader will think about long after she has finished it. McEwan offers us a smorgasbord of stories that shows his range as a writer and whets one's appetite for more. His works are sometimes described as dark or even freakish because they intertwine the stuff of nightmares, daydreams and reality. McEwan is a British heir to Sherwood Anderson. If you find grotesquerie disturbing, he is not your cup of Earl Grey.

I acquired this book in one of the best ways possible. A pal who had read and enjoyed it passed it on. However, even if it means parting with a few dollars, I believe you will find McEwan's short stories worthwhile.

My civil rights blog, where I write about some of the books I've read, is Silver Rights.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Failure Is Not An Option

Every time I board a jet, the possibility of death crosses my mind. I worry about my three girls and whether, if I never returned, they would understand how I could leave them for business. More recently, after 9/11, I think of the passengers on those four fated planes, and how their souls must have been screaming out for family, friends, and things they meant to do, as they each realized they had less than 30 seconds to live. I always think of the woman who, having given birth six weeks before, was just back on the job, on a business trip for her boss. Sometimes it is hard to get the heavy boot out of my chest.

I have only been homesick once, in Hong Kong. I stayed in a beautiful hotel in Kowloon. I ate fresh seafood at a table on a pier. I toured Victoria Harbor by boat and learned about dragons and feng shui. I was surrounded by pace, color, and magic and I should have loved it. On the third night, I could not sleep. I surfed the Chinese television stations and found, oddly it seemed, the film Apollo 13. As timing is everything, I fell in love with the movie, and Ed Harris (again).

I went to Chicago this weekend. While there, friends took me to a restaurant called Lovell's. It did not dawn on me until I walked in and saw the painting of the Four Horses of Apollo, astronaut memorabelia, and movie photos of Tom Hanks, that we were at the restaurant owned by the Jim Lovell, the real Captain of Apollo 13; the guy that Tom Hanks was trying to be. When Jim came into the room to say hello, my knees went weak. I have only felt like this once before. I had gone to the Mayor's inaugural event at an old castle-like armory in Buffalo. I was darting through dark corridors looking for a shortcut. Suddenly, walking towards me in one narrow passageway was pre-murder charge, former Buffalo Bill, OJ Simpson. He was not as tall as I expected, but he seemed bigger than life and my knees went numb, my arms lost their blood, and my brain turned to sawdust. I eeked out a feeble, "My daddy used to take me to see you when I was little." Brilliant.

So here was Jim Lovell. I grabbed my camera. I quickly considered whether I could get his attention. I wondered who I could give the camera to to take the shot. Would I be making a scene? Should I take it of him, or get in it myself? I thought so much, that I was still thinking and thinking, frozen to my chair, as he walked out of the room. Brilliant again.

I did manage to capture him in a mental photo, however. For a split second, I studied his tall, slightly bent stature against the calm-colored walls of the dining room. I then tried to picture him in a tiny space capsule, years ago and miles above the earth, staying calm. He had been up there and almost lost for good, and yet here he was very much alive.

The next time I board a plane, I will think of Lovell's courage, and maybe relax just a little. But I still cannot forget about that new mom . . .

the way I see it.

The legal disclaimer on this blog is good. You know? It's a good one. Elaine and I got feedback in developing it. We thought it spoke well to our mission while giving us some legal protection. We felt good that it protects children and minors most of all.

What it doesn't account for are those other areas, those greyer areas, like online harrassment.

Those essentially fall on our shoulders, and I guess ultimately my shoulders.

So this post is about me.

It's my responsibility to keep this blog a place safe for voice.

Safe. Huh. Talk about grey areas!

Does that mean we don't argue? Hell no. Does that mean it doesn't heat up? No way.

But it does mean we don't slander or harrass. Period.

When you know the laws, and when you know factually that someone posting here has violated those laws and seems to be making inroads toward re-violating them, you have to make a decision. You'd like everyone to think you made the decision not based on your own experience, but in regard to the bigger picture. The truth is, most will think what they want to think.

Ultimately, that's not the point.

The point is that I do care about this blog, and I do care about protecting my own ass legally as best I can out here in the land of little-knowns-for-certain.

That's the way I see it. And that's the way I'm making decisions on posting-privilege haves and have-nots on this blog.

Hope that sits well with the sisters.

Take a deep breath; exhale slowly; let it go.

Some people take to each other like oil and water; some like oil and flame. Even here on Blog Sisters. I've had a few conflagrations and confrontations myself. I'm a scrapper at heart and tend not to run from a good fight.

But sometimes it gets to the point at which I take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and re-read my favorite translation of #8 of the Tao Te Ching:

The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.

In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep into the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.

No fight. No blame.

I don't practice Zen or anything close to it. But sometimes you just gotta let yourself exhale and let it go.

Eldest Williams sister murdered in California

The oldest of the five successful sisters from Compton, California, has been shot to death. Her two youngest siblings, Venus and Serena Williams, are known world-wide for their exceptional skills as tennis players. The older three girls, also tutored in tennis by their father, Richard, chose other professions.

COMPTON, Calif. (AP) - An older sister of tennis stars Venus and
Serena Williams was shot to death Sunday following a dispute in
suburban Los Angeles, authorities said.

Yetunde Price, 31, was with a man in a sport utility vehicle
shortly after midnight and ``somehow they had become involved in a
confrontation with the local residents,'' said Los Angeles County
Sheriff's Deputy Richard Pena.

Sheriff's deputies searching for three people believed to be
involved in the shooting surrounded a house in Compton at about 6
a.m., but it turned out to be empty.

No arrests had been made by midday.

WTA Tour spokesman Darrell Fry had no immediate comment.

Price was shot in the upper torso. Deputies on patrol heard the
gunshots and found Price, who was later pronounced dead at a
hospital. The man who had been with her in the SUV wasn't injured
and was being interviewed by authorities, Pena said.

Price was one of five Williams sisters who spent their early
years in Compton, a crime- and poverty-ridden community where gang
fighting has claimed many lives. Serena began playing tennis at age
5 1/2 on the neighborhood courts in Compton, coached by her father

The family later moved to Florida, where Venus and Serena live
in Palm Beach Gardens. Richard and their mother Oracene are
divorced, and Price used her mother's maiden name.

Just last month, the young female African-American murder victim being discussed across the country was one of poet and critic Amiri Baraka's daughters, Shani. Deaths like these invariably send a chill through me because they remind me of the low value placed on the life of a woman of color in America. That includes the lives of women of color from prominent families. So far, none of my siblings have died violently. But, I know it could happen any time.

Note: My blog is Silver Rights.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Dear Lindsay,

oh, baby sister, i read your blog today.

fired from your job for your voice!

no one told you, did they? a clear, powerful, female, voice, is a threat to the status quo. and the status quo has a rather large army.

lemme tell you a story.

this is the story of a grrl who wandered onto a list called the EGR-Irregulars-she's pretty sure she got the address from 'The Cluetrain Manifesto.' she was shy, passionate, intrigued, invited, and naive. at first, her posts were timid; she was so afraid of her own voice. then, she started to laugh and cry. then, she left her job before she was fired for the fun she was having on her company's website, inspired by Mr. Locke's EGR list, and by Mr. Locke, and by her own sense of truth.

she fell in love. she took exotic trips to distant islands. she played, she wrote, she broke free of all the restraints. her posts became like gasoline, at times, with matches in the attachments. some loved her. most hated her. she didn't care. she had a voice.

she took another job. menial, some would say, at Walmart. she still had no idea that voices carry. management at that job read her postings regarding her new position in the toy department. they didn't know what to do with her. she summed up the corporate situation rather quickly and signed a forbidden union card and hell was unleashed on her.

of course, originally, they only knew of her union affiliations because of her postings to EGR-Irregulars. after they knew, she figured it didn't matter who knew, and she went on a full blown campaign to bring Walmart to the union.

somewhere in the middle of this, i remembered something Chris posted about having made his own mistakes and...'you have to make your own..." and then much later, on the phone, (how i hate the phone!) he said, "i can't help you."

he was correct; he couldn't help me. only i could.

now, where was i going with this, Lindsay? oh, yes. so far, i haven't made any mistakes out here on the net, despite what it may look like on the outside.

but you have.

in your blog you said, "Good bye."

Thursday, September 11, 2003

While Waiting

Except for books and maybe music, I don't like shopping for anything. One reason for my dislike is the fact that I have to carry everything back home. Even if I take the bus (only run on the weekdays, darn it!) I have to walk several blocks. It wouldn't be so bad if the buses ran on the weekends and after 6 PM and if I didn't have the penchant for shopping in bulk--but there it is. Out in the middle of nowhere with the threat of winter hanging over your head (I saw an ominous sign proclaiming "Prepare for winter!" outside one of the newer grocery stores even though everything is still quite green) it's quite foolhardy not to be stocked up with the necessities.

"Not having a car sucks," commiserated a fellow bus passenger. He's absolutely right--with the way cities and towns are planned, everything spreading out thinly like an oil slick on water, it's impossible to get anywhere without some sort of vehicle. I could mooch off somebody else and hitch a ride with a friend but that strikes me as too dependent and freeloading. So I use what's available to me.

But cutting out the bus waiting would also cut out something else that is perhaps more important than convenience. Waiting is a forced time-out from the rest of the hectic world and for a couple of moments, I can take stock of myself and watch the world go by. Necessary stuff for the soul.

While I was waiting I observed some interesting people. There was an older woman dressed in trendy teeny-bopper clothes which exposed her midriff--tanned, wrinkly, fatty. A rather large young woman in a red blouse, black skirt, and blue shoes came by asking if the bus had passed by yet. She sat down on a bench and took out a wad of bills and began counting it with her brightly colored (and sharpened) nails. When she was finished, she showed pictures of her seven-year-old brother to the chain-smoking employees of the nearby store who were on break.

I saw two military men. Soldiers or marines or another division, I wasn't sure. They wore white caps and navy pants with a red stripe running down the sides. Their jackets were of a darker hue with gold buttons on the front. A white belt cinched the waist and yellow chevrons (denoting their rank?) decorated the arms. They looked so out of place in the busy parking lot with harried mothers, bouncing children, smirking teenagers, and old men carting out the latest power tools. Then I remembered there was a veteran's hospital nearby--ten, twenty minutes--and some news on public radio. An unscrupulous man had conned the hospital using someone else's identity, the identity of a man who had served during the Vietnam War, a man who was already dead.

Riding the bus isn't "cool", but then I would have missed overheard conversations. Another man lamented about his crumbling love life to some of his friends. His former girlfriend had taken up with a rival. "I think she's falling in love with him." Cynicism, dejection, resignation laced his voice. "But at least I get to see my two month old daughter whenever I want."

Cross-posted at Syaffolee.

DiVERSiONZ: Dionysus Jagger--It Has A Certain Ring To It

DiVERSiONZ: Dionysus Jagger--It Has A Certain Ring To It

There's a great story at Diversionz about Mick Jagger comparing himself to Dionysus. The Goddess is not surprised...she knew it all along!

In memory.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

sex and the signifier

The slender Girl Power so agreeably shrink-wrapped by the Sex and The City phenom isn’t exactly the latest news. Since Candace Bushnell’s virtuoso dish debuted in 1994, gals in strappy sandals have wrecked a million bachelors and at least as many critics have popped their corks to toast this fashionable froth. Sex scribe Carrie Bradshaw, her genuine mink eyelashes and ravenous friends have fluttered into plain view and show every sign of remaining at least as culturally relevant as the Atkins Diet.
Scheduled to visit my country this month to promote her latest work “Trading Up”, Connecticut-bred Bushnell hit an eager feminine nerve when she began journeying through heartbreak, celebrity and uncomfortable footwear. Her clubby New York Observer column spawned both a book and an award winning television series. Candace and Carrie had the first, and arguably the most definitive, word in a feminism that waggled its hips to a mambo rather than a manifesto.
The Girls’ Own Manhattan described by Bushnell is burlesque, cheesy and broadly condemned by serious critics who own less than ten pairs of kitten heels. It is of course, not difficult to find fault with Sex and its satellites. Carrie, Ally McBeal or Renee Zellwegger’s recent turn as a Helen Gurley Brown type in Down With Love are well-dressed heroines who might do well to wise up just a little. How these uber waifs manage to hold down a job when each of them spends so much time hunting for shoes and unsuitable men is anyone’s guess.
If one uses popular culture as a guide, it seems that the aughties girl like to collect men, money and Manolo Blahniks. The post-modern Miss is shallow, neurotic and buoyed only by her attachments to other shallow and neurotic women. The new sisterhood is one entirely staffed by petty princesses with platinum credit and is really not the kind of female bonding you might imagine the suffragettes originally had in mind.
Surely all that marching, bellowing and brick throwing generated more than a woman’s right to whine.
Despite accusations that Sex and sisters is feminism turned bad, the sassy new man-eater has developed from fiction to fact.
An armada of “self help” books for women has followed in the wake of Ally, Carrie, Bridget et al. Sex and The City’s Executive Producer Cindy Chupack has her “Between Boyfriends” book of comic essays just released in the US. Publishers clamour to sign works with a similarly sassy failed-relationship edge.
Reality TV Programs like The Bachelor, Joe Millionaire and Australia’s own fabulous dorm room disaster Single Girls are all driven by the anguish of gorgeous girls who fail to find and please their Mr. Big. It’s the disasters in love, not the heartening successes, which entice a large, primarily female audience to tune in and, presumably, gloat.
The spectacle of couples breaking up is now used to market everything from noodles to furniture to the yellow pages. The message is clear: getting dumped or staying single sells. Particularly to women.
The Fashion-forward, elegantly unhappy sexpot crawled out of early nineties newsprint and now, it seems, she is everywhere. She can be easily viewed as a stubborn challenge to feminism and as one who inanely measures her self-worth by proposals of marriage and Balenciaga gowns.
Bushnell’s creation has often been called post-feminist. It is also possible to view Sex and co as a retort to other forces entirely. Rather than post-feminist, the momentum and success of the series could be equally viewed as Post-Meaning, or even Post-Prozac.
Carrie Bradshaw is wildly materialistic and boy crazy. That’s not her problem. Her real flaw, and her real appeal, is her melancholy.
Carrie displays problems with intimacy, hostility without reason and the inability to concentrate for a period lasting longer than fashion week. If Vogue Living selected a poster-child for mild clinical depression, it would be Carrie. Bushnell seized upon all the symptoms for which anti-depressants were devised and has transformed them into a heroine for our chronically cranky age.
In the bleak Bradshaw Manhattan as in a great deal of current pop culture, sign-posts are regularly upended. There is no reliable road-map to happiness and a boyfriend has as little chance of surviving a season with his status intact as any other trophy.
Everything is disposable, everything is interchangeable and everything is destined to leave the new Heroine relatively unmoved.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie may very well spend most of her screen time chasing men, alienating men and flouncing about in brief tulle outfits that men might find appealing. The true Carrie aficionado knows, however, that no man can boast an appeal or longevity that beats a pair of new season Jimmy Choos.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Study shows environment trumps genetics for poor kids

George Kelly of All About George, a supporter of Silver Rights from its very first week, alerted me to some good news this week. New research reveals poor black children are impacted more by their environments than by genetic endowments, something I've believed all along.

Back-to-school pop quiz: Why do poor children, and especially black poor children, score lower on average than their middle-class and white counterparts on IQ tests and other measures of cognitive performance?

It is an old and politically sensitive question, and one that has long fueled claims of racism. As highlighted in the controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve, studies have repeatedly found that people's genes -- and not their environment -- explain most of the differences in IQ among individuals. That has led a few scholars to advance the hotly disputed notion that minorities' lower scores are evidence of genetic inferiority.

Now a groundbreaking study of the interaction among genes, environment and IQ finds that the influence of genes on intelligence is dependent on class. Genes do explain the vast majority of IQ differences among children in wealthier families, the new work shows. But environmental factors -- not genetic deficits -- explain IQ differences among poor minorities.

Eric Turkheimer, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, decided to look beyond the conventional wisdom and lack thereof. He wondered if the bleakness of many poor children's environments might need to be addressed before jumping to conclusions about their innate ability -- a rather obvious inquiry if one is not blinded by bias. He concludes "the influence of genes on IQ was significantly lower in conditions of poverty, where environmental deficits overwhelm genetic potential." The study will be published in the November edition of the scholarly journal Psychological Science.

A colleague of Turkheimer's explains why this research matters.

"This paper shows how relevant social class is" to children's ability to reach their genetic potential, said Sandra Scarr, a professor emerita of psychology now living in Hawaii, who did seminal work in behavioral genetics at the University of Virginia.

Specifically, the heritability of IQ at the low end of the wealth spectrum was just 0.10 on a scale of zero to one, while it was 0.72 for families of high socioeconomic status. Conversely, the importance of environmental influences on IQ was four times stronger in the poorest families than in the higher status families.

"This says that above a certain level, where you have a wide array of opportunities, it doesn't get much better" by adding environmental enhancements, Scarr said. "But below a certain level, additional opportunities can have big impacts."

Those of us who grew up among the disadvantaged already know that neither poor children nor low-income adults are stupid in general. Instead, their skills tend to fit their surroundings and what society suggests they are capable of. A boy who could just as easily have become an engineer with adequate educational opportunities and encouragement sets his eye on the unlikely goal of basketball stardom instead. A girl of modest vocal ability develops an unrealistic notion of becoming the next pop diva, though her real strength is empathy for others and she would make an excellent nurse or social worker. Many of the people in the demographic simply become inured to academic failure early and stop trying, as Dr. Benjamin Carson, one of the most respected neurosurgeons in the world, says he did for a time.

Fortunately, most people in Bloggersville are not so insecure that they run screaming from the thought of black people being just as intelligent as any other group.

Tapped gets it:

Stated simply, the study found that environmental factors loom much larger in the development of children when they have a low socioeconomic status, and much smaller when they have a high one. What this suggests is that for people on the lower end of the totem pole, a bad environment -- that is, high rates of crime, concentrated poverty, crumbling schools -- can overwhelm those otherwise predisposed to high achievement, while people born into a more positive environment, with a wide array of opportunities, are more likely to get a chance to express their natural gifts and abilities. This makes sense intuitively, but it also has some precedent in the natural world.

Rick Heller of Smart Genes, also a strong supporter of this blog, suggests additional reading on the topic of heritability, H. Allen Orr's review of Matt Ridley's Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human.

Part of the significance of Turkheimer's study is that it will lead to others which will hopefully bolster the realization that tangible intervention in the lives of poor children can improve their lives for the longrun. Contrary to the delusional thinking of white supremacists, a child who reads well at seven will not have forgotten how at 27 because of the melanin content of his skin. When I was a poor child in Lumbee land, my third grade teacher, Ms. Ross, took it upon herself to supply me with books for the rest of my elementary school career. Though I learned to read at four and had jaw-droppingly high IQ scores, our home held little that was stimulating for bright children, as all five of us were. I believe that kind of intervention, on a large scale, and not out of a schoolteacher's wallet, can make a difference. If real reform comes, the entire society will reap its rewards.

Note: A longer version of his entry originally appeared at Silver Rights, a weblog focusing on civil rights and related issues.

I Kissed a Girl

A wee bit belated, to be sure, but family matters have kept me occupied of late.

Virgin no more... All around the blog world, folks expended much energy commenting about the display of three pop divas -- one mature, the others comparative young'uns -- at the recent MTV Video Awards. Apparently, a lot of people were grossed out, amused, and/or turned on by the sight of Madonna snogging Britney Spears and "Dirrrty" Christina Aguilera. Frankly, I found the Madge-Brit kiss pretty hot; the other liplock less so. Whatever, it was harmless -- harmless, people! A kiss is just a kiss, you know.

But a couple of thoughts:
  1. Can you say "publicity stunt"? Shame on MTV for exploiting the God-given beauty and dignity of women-loving-women for filthy lucre, ratings points, and media mentions.

  2. Real women don't kiss other women for the purpose of arousing men.

  3. That said, I loved the stony expression on Spears' ex Justin "No comment!" Timberlake's face. Didn't he cry himself a river? Isn't he over Britney and rocking his body with movie star Cameron Diaz now? Man, was that funny.

  4. Did I mention that the Madonna-Britney buss was hot?

  5. Next time, I suggest JT and Nelly pucker up. Now, that would be must-see teevee.
But good old-fashioned ignorance and squeamishness motivated many of those who freaked out at the "shocking" sight of the internationally broadcast girl-on-girl smooches. Case in point: The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The Associated Press reports that the AJC is now apologizing for running a tiny photo of the Britney-Madonna buss on its front page. Sounds like a combination of right-wing sucking up and homophobe coddling to me.
The picture, not much bigger than a postage stamp, was near the top of Friday's front page. It showed Spears and Madonna in an open-mouth kiss they shared at the MTV Video Music Awards the night before.

A larger version of the picture appeared in the Living section.

The sloppy kiss picture elicited a deluge of complaints to the newspaper. In Monday's editions, managing editor Hank Klibanoff apologized and said the picture should have run, but not on the front page.

Klibanoff compared the picture to graphic images from the war in Iraq and said sometimes the significance of an important event can justify publishing a photo that may offend some readers.

But Klibanoff said the kiss photo did not meet that standard.
I agree, the MTV awards are not significant. But thumbnail photos are often used on front pages to tease feature and entertainment stories contained within the newspaper. Fact is: The MTV broadcast was news. The prime interest in the story (even for homo-haters) was the kiss (lord knows MTV shows precious few videos anymore), so teasing a much-talked about story using the story's main "grabber" makes sense. As for editor Klibanoff's comparing two women kissing and Dubya Bush's murderous invasion of Iraq in terms of gross-out quotient, well, this embarrassment to journalism and humanity must be losing his flippin' mind. I'd rather my kids see love rather than "war" any day of the week.

I wonder: Would he have made the same move had the kiss photo featured Britney and Justin or Madonna and spouse Guy Ritchie? I doubt it. So again we see a media outlet singling out same-sex-issues for separate-but-unequal treatment. Now, that's sick. Agree? Send a letter to AJC's editor.

appeared in slightly different form on all facts and opinions

Freedom and Safety

In a neighborhood near you, Attorney General Ashcroft preaching the virtues of fascism. Well, not exactly, but might we say the march towards fascism?

Follow this link to read more then draw your own conclusions.

Buy Drugs, Get Deported


after a week of playing like children, and eating like children, and crying like children, giggling like children, and kissing behind doors like children, they were alone.

he extended a glass of champagne to her, offering, "salut. you survived the playground."

she reached for the flute as the little strap on her shoulder slid down close to her elbow before she caught it, knowing that in a moment, her clothes would be quickly undone by those masculine hands.

she stopped him, "you know, you have never removed my clothes, proper."

"'no, i haven't," he laughed, "and i am not about to start now."

Friday, September 05, 2003

Laptops: The best of the batch

I purchased my first laptop, an Apple PowerBook 165c in 1995. I moved to laptops full-time in 1999. Except for a brief romance with an iMac, I haven't been tempted to return to the ball and chain known as a desktop computer. During that eight-year period, I've usually had two laptops at a time, often a Mac and something Wintel.

As a somewhat petite woman, I found early laptops heavy and sometimes developed an ache in my shoulder. However, current models, which can weigh as little as four pounds, have solved that problem, along with backpack and shoulderbag carrying cases that are more ergonomic.

Currently, forty percent of purchasers of new computers buy notebooks. Laptops constitute the only growing segment of the market. If you are interested in scoring a first -- or second or third -- laptop, now is as good a time as any to buy.

This month's edition of Laptop Magazine rates the top WiFi embellished notebooks, i.e., those that come ready for use away from a phoneline out of the box. The winners are:

  • Apple 12-inch PowerBook G4

  • Averatec 3150P

  • Compaq Business Notebook nc4000

  • Dell Latitude D400

  • Fijitsu LifeBook P5000

  • Gateway 200XL

  • IBM Thinkpad T40

  • Sharp Actius PC-MV14

  • Sony VAIO PCG-TR1A

  • Toshiba Portege M100

  • The Dell Latitude D400 and the Gateway 200XL were selected as best buys. There is considerable variation among the computers, though most boast large hard drives and reasonably fast CPUs. Some are the current standard 802.11b compatible. Others, such as the Dell Latitude D400, come with 802.11g. Since most access points have yet to be updated, bleeding edge WiFi users will often find their speeds throttled back to 802.11b's. I was pleased to see the Apple PowerBook G4 included on the list, since Apple products are often overlooked in the general technology press, though it is lauded mainly for style, not utility.

    Note: A version of this entry appeared at Mac-a-ro-nies.

    Thursday, September 04, 2003

    funeral for a friend

    in approximately seven days it will be September 11, 2003. two years ago, on that day, a wife lost a husband, two boys lost a Father, and i lost a life long friend.

    his name is Christopher Newton.

    today, i finally did it. i searched google for Chris. i searched once before, but couldn't bring myself to read what i found. today, i read. today, i mourned. just like i mourned on this day in 2001, knowing what was coming down. oh god. why didn't my government stop it? why didn't their government stop it? if i knew it was coming, why didn't they? ask anyone around on the net. i predicted it with horrifying detail. ask Bird. ask Lars. ask ChrisJ.

    i am still so devastated because i knew and no one would listen and it could have been prevented and Chris would still be alive. i have nightmares about him on that plane. i knew him. he was only helping other people. he was holding their hands and praying and 'loving them home.'

    god this hurts. goddam motherfucking moronic governments! i no longer believe in you. democracy is a school child's fable.

    p.s. to President Bush and his allies in this treason against humanity, i forgive you. i hate you, but i forgive you. FWIW-i call myself a Christian. what global law will eventually do with you is out of my sphere...

    Tuesday, September 02, 2003

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    this is an excerpt from the first novel by Mark Haddon. he is fifteen years old. he is an autistic. he is 11th on the NY Times Bestsellers. he really gets inside my head. if you're interested in the life and times of an autistic, i have a new i also highly recommend the current issue of Newsweek regarding autism.

    AND ONE DAY Julie sat down at a desk next to me and put a tube of Smarties on the desk, and she said, “Christopher, what do you think is in here?”
    And I said, “Smarties.”
    Then she took the top off the Smarties tube and turned it upside down and a little red pencil came out and she laughed and I said, “It’s not Smarties, it’s a pencil.”
    Then she put the little red pencil back inside the Smarties tube and put the top back on.
    Then she said, “If your mummy came in now and we asked her what was inside the Smarties tube, what do you think she would say?” because I used to call Mother Mummy then, not Mother.
    And I said, “A pencil.”
    That was because when I was little I didn’t understand about other people having minds. And Julie said to Mother and Father that I would always find this very difficult. But I don’t find this difficult now. Because I decided that it was a kind of puzzle, and if something is a puzzle there is always a way of solving it.
    It’s like computers. People think computers are different from people because they don’t have minds, even though, in the Turing test, computers can have conversations with people about the weather and wine and what Italy is like, and they can even tell jokes.

    But the mind is just a complicated machine.

    And when we look at things we think we’re just looking out of our eyes like we’re looking out of little windows and there’s a person inside our head, but we’re not. We’re looking at a screen inside our heads, like a computer screen.

    And you can tell this because of an experiment which I saw on TV in a series called “How the Mind Works.” And in this experiment you put your head in a clamp and you look at a page of writing on a screen. And it looks like a normal page of writing and nothing is changing. But after a while, as your eye moves round the page, you realize that something is very strange because when you try to read a bit of the page you’ve read before it’s different.

    And this is because when your eye flicks from one point to another you don’t see anything at all and you’re blind. And the flicks are called saccades. Because if you saw everything when your eye flicked from one point to another you’d feel giddy. And in the experiment there is a sensor which tells when your eye is flicking from one place to another, and when it’s doing this it changes some of the words on the page in a place where you’re not looking.

    But you don’t notice that you’re blind during saccades because your brain fills in the screen in your head to make it seem like you’re looking out of two little windows in your head. And you don’t notice that words have changed on another part of the page because your mind fills in a picture of things you’re not looking at at that moment.

    And people are different from animals because they can have pictures on the screens in their heads of things which they are not looking at. They can have pictures of someone in another room. Or they can have a picture of what is going to happen tomorrow. Or they can have pictures of themselves as an astronaut. Or they can have pictures of really big numbers. Or they can have pictures of Chains of Reasoning when they’re trying to work something out.

    And that is why a dog can go to the vet and have a really big operation and have metal pins sticking out of its leg but if it sees a cat it forgets that it has pins sticking out of its leg and chases after the cat. But when a person has an operation it has a picture in its head of the hurt carrying on for months and months. And it has a picture of all the stitches in its leg and the broken bone and the pins and even if it sees a bus it has to catch it doesn’t run because it has a picture in its head of the bones crunching together and the stitches breaking and even more pain.

    And that is why people think that computers don’t have minds, and why people think that their brains are special, and different from computers. Because people can see the screen inside their head and they think there is someone in their head sitting there looking at the screen, like Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” sitting in his captain’s seat looking at a big screen. And they think that this person is their special human mind, which is called a homunculus, which means a little man. And they think that computers don’t have this homunculus.

    But this homunculus is just another picture on the screen in their heads. And when the homunculus is on the screen in their heads (because the person is thinking about the homunculus) there is another bit of the brain watching the screen. And when the person thinks about this part of the brain (the bit that is watching the homunculus on the screen) they put this bit of the brain on the screen and there is another bit of the brain watching the screen. But the brain doesn’t see this happen because it is like the eye flicking from one place to another and people are blind inside their heads when they do the changing from thinking about one thing to thinking about another.

    And this is why people’s brains are like computers. And it’s not because they are special but because they have to keep turning off for fractions of a second while the screen changes. And because there is something they can’t see people think it has to be special, because people always think there is something special about what they can’t see, like the dark side of the moon, or the other side of a black hole, or in the dark when they wake up at night and they’re scared.

    Also people think they’re not computers because they have feelings and computers don’t have feelings. But feelings are just having a picture on the screen in your head of what is going to happen tomorrow or next year, or what might have happened instead of what did happen, and if it is a happy picture they smile and if it is a sad picture they cry.

    From “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon, Copyright © 2003 by Mark Haddon. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc.

    © 2003 Newsweek, Inc.

    Monday, September 01, 2003

    Learning from our elders

    I had something of an epiphany today when following a link from that led me to a post on Italian living.

    You must read the article to be able to put this post into context, but it makes me realize that 1) America does not have a monopoly on escapism; and 2) it actually could get worse here without life on Earth coming to an end.

    It could just get worse, and worse, and worse, for thousands of years. We could just stay in an ever more drunken stupor, with more alcohol and heroine and crystal meth, plus think of all the new drugs we will create to soothe an ever more despairing public. We will get TV that is even more flashy, more exciting and violent, with quick cuts that only require we be able to follow a thought for 1 second instead of 3. We could ...

    Oh, gee. Please people, let's not. Let's figure out a new way to combine the tribal wisdom of community and present-centerdness with an expanded modern appreciation for planning ahead. Let's wed peace of mind with running water. Let's balance individual freedom with collective responsibility and its cousin self-restraint. Having done this, let's create a revolution without guilliotines in which the regal sovreigns of the invisible global wealth "nation" are finally removed from power and the will of we common people guides our destiny.

    that man pleasing siren!

    today i tuned in again to The View with Barbara Walters et al. I've been thinking alot about Elaine's comments regarding male beauty ideals and her opinion that Ms. Walters serves to fulfill them.

    i just don't see it. Ms. Walters is dressed conservatively, albeit prettily. certainly she has the right to choose colors that flatter and please her, just as a man chooses his ties for the same reason. for a person on television, she doesn't wear very much make-up; there are younger women on news shows wearing far more paint and far less clothing.

    nor do i see that she rivals Joan Rivers for...facelifts or whatever. i see a woman who takes good care of herself, seems to be in great physical health, and is an example of the energy and vitality a woman is capable of at any age.

    if i look that good, stand up as straight, and carry myself with such dignity when i am seventy years of age, i will no doubt be taken to task for my man pleasing ways, and happily so! if i do fulfill a male ideal of beauty, it is only because i please myself first.

    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...