Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Awesome Birthday Present

Today is my 50th birthday and I got a very special letter today from a woman who hates to write letters -- my Mom!

Here it is:


On your 50th birthday, you get a special letter from me, reminiscing about your early years. I have some different memories of 1956. First, you caused me to wear support hose for the first time. Also, you were due on February 29th, but thank goodness, you came a day early. You also gave me (us?) an extra time in the hospital -- eleven days in all, due to a blood clot in my left leg. During the hospital stay, Bill and the two boys had to move everything from our old place to the brand new house in Ypsilanti. Come to think of it, we made a habit of moving when you were in the hospital.*

When you were born, you didn't have much of an appetite and only nursed for a couple of minutes, then fell asleep. The nurse came in and insisted that you should be eating more than that. So she snapped her fingers on your feet to wake you up. You did nurse a bit longer, then threw up all over me and the bed!

You took advantage of trying to keep up with your brothers. When I would be helping the boys with their school work, especially reading, you would sneak behind the sofa and watch over our shoulders. You read rather well become you started school. Your kindergarten teacher scolded me for pressing you to learn at too early an age. She wanted me to lock up the books so you wouldn't get to them. Imagine! This was at a lab school, too!

You also developed, preschool, your fine motor skills. In drawing, you would start in the middle of a page and fill it with closely spaced wiggly lines. I'm so sorry I didn't manage to save an example.

You children amaze me. You are so different in personality and interests, and you are all wonderful. Thank you for following your own path as well!

Love, Mom

Isn't that the coolest?

*Note: I was in a coma at age 6 as a result of German measles that turned into encephalitis. During the two weeks I was out of it, the family moved from one house to another. It became a standing joke that the family had to move whenever I ended up hospitalized.)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Octavia Butler, R.I.P.

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If you've never read this amazing writer, then you've got a treat ahead of you! I don't remember when I first read her novels but I've re-read them and recommended them repeatedly. I discovered this weekend that she died after a fall. Only 58 years old. Damn.

Here's the obit from the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

If you haven't read, Butler, a great book to read first is Kindred.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Freedomland by Richard Price

I have had trouble lately getting into reading. It happens. Something has to spark my interest and pull me back into making the effort to follow a book to its conclusion. This time, it was a combination of seeing a preview of a movie starring Samuel L. Jackson called "Freedomland" and seeing the hardcover book among the used books available at the bookstore.

So I took the book home and started to read. Why? Because I was more than impressed when I first encountered Jackson acting in a movie based on John Grisham's book, "A Time to Kill." The character Jackson played was fascinating. So after seeing the movie, I read the book and discovered that the character was not to be found on the page. It was a creation of the screenwriter and the actor and I wanted more. So that translated into a respect for Jackson and his choices. I saw him in "The Negotiator" -- another melodramatic film that I can watch again and again because the character Jackson plays fascinates me.

So, thank you, Mr. Jackson, for getting me back to reading. Freedomland is a "ripped from the headlines" book about a white woman who appears at a hospital, hurt and disheveled. It is revealed that she is a victim of a carjack by a black man near the projects where the woman works as a teacher for disadvantaged children. The twist: her toddler son was in the back seat and now the car and the child are missing.

The author expresses it quite well in an interview from the website linked above:

What stayed with me was the intersection of racial paranoia, media frenzy, and personal tragedy. I was really interested in what type of woman could get into a jam like this, a woman that is not a sociopath, that is not evil. It's just, life has done this and she moved left when she should have moved right. I was very interested in trying to set up a balance between the small, intimate things of a person's life, and the gargantuan chain reaction that affects the world.

It is fascinating to read this book while watching media accounts of Muslim demonstrations against racist cartoons printed by a Dutch right-wing newspaper. This small, otherwise uninteresting event -- this provocation by a newspaper editor -- has been transformed into a media frenzy with effects around the world.

The book questions whether it is possible to see the human tragedy once an act becomes the focus of mass media consumption and racial controversy.

In the end, of course, nothing changes fundamentally. Because media frenzy does not produce change for the good or for the bad. What it produces is a spectacle in and of itself. The majority of us choose sides and pick and choose the facts that confirm our own point of view. It is a perfect example of cooptation in practice.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A glimer of light in the fog

I surf through dozens of internet conversations every day without finding something that really interests me. Every once in a while, however, something rises up from amongst the din and today is one of those days.

Via the Ninth Carnival of the Feminists I came upon a discussion thread at the "Den of the Biting Beaver" entitled Women and Patriarchy

I've just finished reading the original post as well as the 146 (!) comments. It's 11:48 and I should be in bed, but instead my mind is humming. The "Biting Beaver" initiated the discussion along the lines of: how should radical feminists deal with women who seem to side with the patriarchy. THe thread was, unfortunately, sidetracked by an altercation that has since been dealth with.

But I am left hanging with the discussion that did not occur and that I hope can occur in one way or another. Biting Beaver raised the topic because she wanted to discuss how feminists should deal with women who apparently are happy as clams to participate in male patriarchal fantasies.

The commenters discussed several issues, with many self-identified "radical feminists" expressing their frustration with "sex-positive feminists" and porn stars like some woman I've never heard of named "Jemma Jamison" who has become rich by starring in porn films.

I have two major misunderstanding regarding the posts I read there:

One thing is the overall assumption that women who participate in pornography or sex work are victims of sexual abuse who do not fully understood their victimization. This strikes me as a kind of "pop psychology" simplification -- and a condescending attitude toward the women who participate in the porn industry. It may be true that some women have entered into the industry via brutalization. But I also believe that some women are attracted to the industry because it provides a certain kind of power and privilege that can seem preferable (and profitable) as compared to other choices available to women in our sexist society.

I would love to hear what these women, who have clearly given a lot of time and effort to study the way men and women interact in our society, think about the "power" that can come to women who choose to enjoy the privilege that can be attained by playing into male fantasies. These privileges can come from minimal activities such as dressing the right way, wearing makeup and flirting effectively on up to full-blown (I can't avoid the pun!) pornographic fantasy-fulfillment.

I'm not sure I am ready to castigate women who chose to utilize this method of gaining power as opposed to any other method of gaining power in our crazy mixed up society. I'm not sure these women have any idea that another world is possible. Have they ever learned that a woman can feel powerful without using these methods? Have they ever experienced the power that comes when women work together to create a greater good for all?

For what it's worth, I'm going to post a link to this post and ask those fascinating people who participate in "Biting Beaver's" blog to direct me toward a place to continue the discussion and help each other understand how to make this world a better place for women and men.


Found this via The Presurfer:

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You can get your own bling at Glass Giant

The Big 5-0

Well, it's coming up on that time. On February 28 at 7:30 p.m. I will have reached the ripe old age of 50!

In the past few years, the local activist community has created a wonderful new tradition. We celebrate anniversary birthdays by asking friends and family to donate to a worthwhile local cause. I've chosen the local non-profit, all-volunteer, non-sectarian bookstore Mayday Books as the source and beneficiary for my B-day celebration. I'm looking forward to a roaring good time this Saturday night.

50. Boy or boy, that is a ripe old age, isn't it?

Monday, February 13, 2006

What if?

I've been watching the news about Muslims all over the world protesting the racist cartoons printed in a right wing Dutch newspaper. The right wing is eating it up, of course, calling those who protest "animals" and the like who hate free speech. The left wing is forced to explain how these simplistic views are wrong.

But I've been thinking about it in a different way these last few days. I've been thinking "What if?" thoughts.

What if, when Goebbels initiated his campaign of racist propaganda against Jews in 1933, thousands of Jews and their supporters had demonstrated around the world?

What if, when Stepnfetchit and Sambo were popular, thousands of Africans and their supporters had demonstrated around the world?

Do we really want to go on record as being AGAINST those who protest racism?

Friday, February 10, 2006


David Rees Get Your War On has been made into a play in Austin.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Piling on

I'm adding to the cartoon editing over at Pandagon with a nod to "Get Your War On" by David Rees.

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First draft on Author Talk at Mayday Books

Yup. Keeping busy with the leaflets. I'm just posting and running!

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First draft in Spanish

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More Silly

width="240" height="180"
alt="Ravishing Amorous Vixen Exchanging Naughty Massage and Necking"


Your results:
You are Supergirl

The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
Lean, muscular and feminine.
Honest and a defender of the innocent.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Now you know!

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Ravenmn!

  1. It takes 17 muscles to smile, and 43 to frown at Ravenmn.
  2. If the Sun were the size of a beach ball then Jupiter would be the size of a golf ball and Ravenmn would be as small as a pea!
  3. Ravenmn was declared extinct in 1902!
  4. Ostriches stick their heads in Ravenmn not to hide but to look for water.
  5. If you lick Ravenmn ten times, you will consume one calorie.
  6. Four-fifths of the surface of Ravenmn is covered in water.
  7. In Japan, Ravenmn can only be prepared by chefs specially trained and certified by the government!
  8. A chimpanzee can learn to recognize itself in a mirror, but Ravenmn can not!
  9. Ravenmn is the traditional gift for a couple on their third wedding anniversary.
  10. Baskin Robbins once made Ravenmn flavoured ice cream!
I am interested in - do tell me about

Saturday, February 04, 2006

More Koufax

I hit the jackpot, I do believe. Continuing my search through the Best Post awards over at Wampum, I found this terrific article post about Rosa Parks, Misremembered at a blog I've never heard of called Little Wild Bouguet.

The myth of Parks as a pre-political seamstress who was too physically worn out to move has such staying power not because there's any factual basis but because it appeals to an all-too popular narrative about how social change happens in America: When things get bad enough, an individual steps up alone, unsupported and unmediated, and spontaneously resists. And then an equally spontaneous movement follows. Such a myth makes good TV, but it's poor history.

Movement-building takes hard work, no matter how righteous the cause or how desperate the circumstances.

No shit, Sherlock! This is why I find it hard to join in on bashing political movements that are not perfect, whether it's the dust up over ANSWER vs. UFPJ or the left and right wings of the Environmental movement or the various housing rights advocates locally. There will always be political differences between activists working for any cause, but the one thing you can be sure of is that the majority of activist work is just that: work. It takes time, tenacity and just plain hard work, for the most part unpaid and unappreciated.

Those folks who said they would never march in an ANSWER-organized protest again because some ANSWER volunteers have some political believes that differ from their own are forgetting the hard work and dedication that goes into building a mass movement. It is extremely selfish and just plain stupid. To claim your political experience is ruined by having to listen to somebody talk about something you aren't personally invested in (North Korea, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Palestine) is to ignore all the hard work of all the people who have come together for a cause.

But in America, there is a tendency to want to believe in individualism, even when in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people. If you're going to a demonstration to fulfill your own personal needs, you are missing the point.

Friday, February 03, 2006

What words could mean!

I received this via e-mail and couldn't find the original link.

Once again, THE WASHINGTON POST has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Koufax Awards

Wampum is in the process of posting nominations for the Koufax Awards: awards given to blogs from the left side of the political spectrum.

I decided to read the posts so that I could see what kind of posts readers, especially readers on the left, appreciate most. I printed out the first third of the posts mentioned and have been reading them this evening. It's a lot of copy and lot of reading. Alas, I have found very few posts that interest me.

Granted, I am neither a liberal nor a Democrat, so I'm not the target audience for a lot of these bloggers. The posters have followed the stereotype of liberals as seeing only what's wrong. Reading example after example of how fucked up the world is can drive a reader to exhaustion and despair -- not the best starting point for effective political action.

There is a reason for this repeated listing of Things Gone Bad. It can be traced directly to the Bush Administration's penchant for seeing everything they do as The Absolute Good. Faced with that wall of blissful ignorance, those opposed to the right wing feel they have to talk to their fellow citizens like they would talk to ignorant children. Liberals often explain, with reference to irritating facts and pesky evidence, that the fantasy vision of America Uber Alles is wishful thinking at best. And they keep explaining. Over and over. Ad naseum.

Right wingers, however, have been educated to ignore and despise that brand of realism. They immediately default to the "Why do you hate America?" response. This method of "educating" clearly is not working with the right wing.

So what is appealing about these kind of posts for liberals and/or leftists? Are liberals so intimidated by the power of the right that they need to constantly remind themselves of how fucked up the world is?

Are liberals thinking they can advance their cause with their own brand of fear-mongering? Have they seen the success of fear-based politics on the right and believe they can use the same tactics with a left-wing perspective?

I may continue to read these nominees for Koufax Awards. Or not.

Meanwhile, check out some good news that I was introduced to in a speech by Alice Lynch, chairperson of Black Indian Hispanic and Asian (BIHA) Women in Action:

1000 Peace Women is an initiative and a book that recognizes women who are making a difference in the world today. Here's the blurb from their website:

Millions of women work day in day out to promote peace. They care for survivors, help with reconstruction and initiate a new culture of peace. To represent these millions, it is our aim that in the year 2005 a thousand women shall collectively receive the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in pursuit of peace. This political prize will show that the work they do is valuable and exemplary.

As their work is taken for granted and is usually unspectacular, it is neither acknowledged nor remunerated. With the exception of 12 women, the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, since it was first awarded in 1901, have been men. In negotiating termsof peace, many more warlords than peacequeens make decisions about security, reconstruction and new political structures. This despite the fact that women constantly prove that with their experience and competence, they can develop and put into practice sustainable peace programs.

Our focus is on women worldwide from all walks of life - e.g., the woman farmer, teacher, artist or politician – who devote themselves to a future free of violence. They have their own individual origins and backgrounds, which have offered them, as the case may be, maybe wonderful opportunities, maybe only restricted options. In order that the world become aware of their histories and their work, light must be thrown on their thousand profiles. Their thousand strategies for constructive conflict management should provide important impulses for conflict research and peace policies. The project will therefore be backed up academically. Last but not least, new peace networks will be established and existing ones strengthened.

There is a lot of good in the world. Despite all the incentives to be a selfish bastard, many people choose to do wonderful things. That is awesome.