Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Monday, March 31, 2003

The Underground Grammarian Strikes Again

Besides making another post about the "liberal moderation versus extremism" argument that he began, Kevin Drum also has these handy tips for writers with homonym trouble. I've never had that myself, the ointment's always worked quite well. In any case, in explaining the usage rule for "its versus it's" he slips up a bit, touching on the very reason many people still have apostrophe problems with that three-letter word. Quoth Kevin, "It's" always means "it is" (or "it was"). Use "its" in all other cases. Would that it were that easy. Alas, "it's" can also be used to mean "it has" (for instance, It's been a hard day's night...), and that's where I think a lot of people trip up and use an apostrophe in the possessive form. Because "to have" is to possess, see? Even though "has" in this particular case is actually part of a present perfect (progressive) verb, not a possessive verb at all. I only mention this because "it's versus its" has always been one of my pet peeves as well, so I've thought a lot about why it confuses people. My rule on this is, if you can mentally substitute "his" or "hers" or "theirs" for "its" and the sentence still sounds right, that means the word is a possessive and does not take an apostrophe. Use "it's" in all other cases.
Hart to Hart

I join others in considering Gary Hart's new blog to be a very positive step in terms of direct communication between a possible presidential candidate and his would-be constituents, but I don't think they quite have the bugs worked out yet. I see lots of participation in the comment section yet no clue as to how to add my own. Moreover, when I write to kevin@garyhartnews.com my message is returned undeliverable. Now, granted, I've only been blogging and commenting for a half year or so, but this stuff isn't rocket science; can someone clue me in here?

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Ritter Interview

In case not enough bloggers have linked to this yet (I came to it via Lisa English), this Irish radio interview with Scott Ritter absolutely knocked me for a loop. If you have a half hour to spare, this is worth listening to all the way to the end.

When Johanna Lawrenson, the late Abbie Hoffman's "running mate," was introduced at his "No Regrets" memorial service at the NY Palladium in the spring of 1989, she began, "When I first met Abbie, all I knew about the left was that there were factions." (It's a shame this service was just a few years pre-World Wide Web, it would have been nice to have an easily-searchable record of it rather than me having to rely on faulty memory. Although I can still recall Wavy Gravy singing, We are climbing Harpo's ladder / With an opera hat full of rubber chickens / He was a soldier of the clowns... So I suppose you really had to be there. But I digress.) This got a huge laugh as we all affectionately acknowledged how true it was. And I'm reminded of it once again every time I see lefties and liberals squabbling and splitting hairs.

A whole mess of people on my blogroll, and a couple who aren't yet but probably will be soon, have been discussing "liberal extremism." It started with Kevin Drum of Calpundit, and has received thoughtful responses from Atrios, Ampersand, Jeanne d'Arc, Pandagon, Mac Diva and probably a number of others. Check out their entries from the last week or so if you have the time, it'll require a bit of back-and-forth'ing but I think it's worth it. Near as I can tell, you should start here and maybe here on Kevin D's blog.

Okay, so here's my take on it: First of all, on "the Oscar kiss." Viewers will recall that, upon receiving the award for Best Actor, Adrian Brody bounded up and planted the world's tastiest smooch on the apparently unwitting lips of Halle Berry. So Drew Limsky does an LA Times op-ed talking about how undignified this was and how it made Berry no more than a joke and yadda yadda. I think this is totally unfair; haven't comics been joking about Berry since her hit-and-run a couple years back? And that Oscar speech she made last year, I think people with nothing better to do (PWNBTD) are still debating on how much was heartfelt and how much was acting. Besides, we "little people" have no idea if Brody and Berry even know each other; my impression was that they were more than acquaintances before he ever took the stage, but I'm not certain since the closest I've ever come to an Oscar-type celeb was seeing John Goodman at a Firesign Theatre party once and being too nervous to say hi. And were these same PWNBTD this up in arms last year when Julia Roberts practically humped Denzel Washington? Darlings, it's the Oscars, these things will happen, whether they're calculated or spontaneous. It has fuck-all to do with racial and sexual politics, and everything to do with glitz and glam and good-looking winners getting all kissy and huggy because that's what they do. So, point: Kevin D here, IMHO.

Anyway, so Kevin goes on to cite other ways individuals or groups embarrass the liberal cause. I think he's implying that the conservative cause has never been embarrassed like that, but as the extremely perceptive conservative Grover Norquist put it at the Nation Institute "What Liberal Media?" panel last week, conservatives were in complete disarray back in the '60s because of just this type of in-fighting, and they gradually decided to avoid the fighting in pursuit of power, got their act together, and now lo and behold they hold that power. In fact, come to think of it much of the panel was really about this kind of factionalism-that-divides - i.e., "there is a liberal media but nobody can agree on what it is because every individual liberal or lefty is coming at it from their own personal viewpoint, and they'd rather argue with those who are close to them than put up a united front and argue with those who are opposed to them."

Norquist fully expected, and hoped, that his advice to liberals to do what conservatives did (to take a step back and decide exactly what we want - continued factionalizing or the power to be able to do something about our country's direction) would be completely ignored. I see Kevin D offering the same type of advice. And I see many of us rejecting it. Not because it's bad advice, but because the liberal and lefty view of politics is all about freedom of dissent, so how can you willingly stifle healthy debate on so many fundamental and dearly-held principles and still claim to be in favor of a diversity of opinion? It's a vicious circle. I look forward to - yes - more continued debate on how to get out of it.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

No Eye nor Touch of Man or Angel

This afternoon I watched most of a rerun of Not For Ourselves Alone, which I guess our local PBS station is showing in honor of Women's History Month. While I suppose it would have been nice to see a documentary on the amazing lives of Susan B. Anthony and particularly Elizabeth Cady Stanton written and directed by women, I also think it you can't get any better than Ken Burns. The photos alone are just mind-warping, all these strong groups of women posing nobly and seriously as though they knew they were being captured for the ages (didn't seem to be a lot of people smiling for the camera in the late 19th century). And I was so blown away by the excerpts read from Stanton's "Solitude of the Self" speech that I looked up the whole thing (thence the quote in the header). One of the historians interviewed noted that, since the movement to enlarge the franchise to include half the country's population was so key to the history of democracy in our nation, it was a shame that its history is so glossed over in textbooks, often relegated to no more than a picture of the Seneca Falls convention of 1848. (I'd love to do a day or weekend trip to the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls someday, but the website said it's not accessible by public transit, nor is the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House accessible to the handicapped, ironic considering Stanton's immobility in her later years. Maybe someone can petition the Friends of the Park, who provide the text of the Declaration of Sentiments on their site. But I digress.) She opined that it was a sign of the general devaluation of women's experience that lasts even through today, but I don't think that's the whole story. First of all, war always makes more headlines than nation-building (and 72 years' worth of rallying in favor of votes for women sure fits my definition of nation-building), so we obsess much more about the Civil War than about the time of Reconstruction to begin with. More importantly, documents and still pictures and some grainy post-19th Amendment film footage from 1920 can only accomplish so much, even in the skillful hands of Burns. The civil rights and modern feminist movements get much more airtime, and textbook room, because they're more recent and the filmed speeches more impactful. I highly recommend this documentary as a fascinating look into the personal and the political of two of the most important figures in our country's history.

Friday, March 28, 2003

No Hose, You Hosers

So many wonderful bloggers are keeping up with the important news that I might as well go for the trivial. The repercussions of idiotic actions are likely to be felt for awhile - in exchange for the US hissy fit over Canada feeling like it has better things to do than send its young people into the desert to die for no good reason at all, the head hoser honcho, aka Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (sorry, tried to do the accent over the first "e" in his name but Blogger wouldn't allow it), has decided not to go to Washington to receive an award next month from the US National Parks Conservation Association. Honestly, how dare he consider creating 15 new national parks in Canada to be more important than killing suffering Iraqi civilians to pave the way for US oil interests? Why, I'll bet he wouldn't even allow drilling in any of those new national parks! That back-bacon-loving, toque-wearing, Labatt's-chugging, hockey-playing bastard! Heh, I'm sorry, that's all the Canadian content I remember from the old Bob & Doug McKenzie days. Come on, being pissed at Canada? Does the Bush administration really want to prove Michael Moore prescient yet again? Seriously, people, you don't want that rating to go from half a star up to 3, do you?

Speaking of hosers, according to "political and social reformer" Jennifer Schulz Medlock (whose blog so far consists of only this one post), Friday, April 25 is this year's Executive Admin's Day, or Secretary's Day, or Administrative Professionals Day, or Unofficial Company Doormat day, or whatever it is they're now calling us. And you know, they can call us whatever they want and we're still pretty much secretaries. Last year I pocketed 20 bucks from this sucker courtesy of one of our brokers, so "Hallmark holiday" (okay, Y&R Holiday, now in its 51st year of commemmoration) or no I'm tempted to make the most of it again. Of course, this is completely untrue; the day is actually celebrated on the April 23, the third (full-week) Wednesday in April. You know, the day before Take Our Daughters To Work Day, recently morphing into "Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day" even on the official Ms. site, which completely negates the original point of the day - "to introduce girls [my emphasis] ages 9 to 15 to the workplace, and to help them feel that their future participation in the labor force is both expected and welcome" because studies have shown that girls' self-esteem plummets at that age, whereas boys' self-esteem is just fine because, after all, they know they're inheriting the upper echelons of the business world... anyway, I digress. Back to It's All About Me the Secretary Week, which even Jennifer admits is "in the middle of Administrative Assistants Week, which starts on Earth Day (22nd)." To me it's not a good sign when an administrative assistant gets her days mixed up and doesn't equate "Wednesday" with "middle of the week." Anyway, Jennifer is urging all women to "please help social change by wearing no hose, heels, or skirts to work on April 25th to 'get back to nature.' This is a voluntary protest effort against society's old-fashioned expectations of women to wear nylons, high heels, and skirts, especially in business, and especially within big corporations. Leave your suffocating nylons at home, as well as those painful high heels, and replace your skirt with pants! Be comfortable, be natural, and take control! On Executive Admin's Day at least, we will not let powerful men dictate what we wear. Let's show these men we can 'wear the pants' and create a better world. We Can Do It!" I plan to wear pants on Wednesday 4/23 and Friday 4/25 and pretty much every other day, as I've done almost every day since I entered the work force 25 years ago. Is this really still an issue? I work in the New York City friggin' Fashion District, okay? Every secretary I've seen around here wears pants to work. Maybe it's different for "front office" folks, I dunno, I've never been conventionally attractive (read: thin) enough to be one. I'm sure Jennifer's heart is in the right place, but if she's not even organized enough to keep track of when the day is I have my doubts as to the rest of her assumptions.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

From the (Ritten)house to the Senate?

I've added a tiny version to my sidebar of one of the Cappozolla for Senate banners on Jim's site (link at sidebar). If Blogger lets me post images (and I don't think they do) the full-sized one appears below. Forgive my lack of coding expertise.

I'm very happy Jim's decided to run, and wish him all the best.

Update: Well, apparently I am able to post images in my Blogger entries. Thanks to Jim for giving me the proper coding for future reference.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Overload City

A teaser for a local news broadcast this evening asked something like, "Could you turn your TV off for one day with the war going on?" I'm thinking, easily. In fact, the war going on makes it much easier to stay away from the corporate-controlled media; it even gets me out of the house earlier in the mornings because I'm not sticking around to watch Matt and Katie slavishly parrot the official line. (And the sheer jumping-the-shark idiot plots of the Whedon shows I used to love tend to keep me away from TV fiction as well.) It's just all too much; I haven't managed to get through my blogroll since the invasion began. And I implore you again, read all the wonderful stuff these fine people listed on the sidebar have been writing. Mary Beth Williams fights the good fight against Bill Frist and his slimy pro-Lilly legislation; Mark Evanier explains why the boos that viewers heard greet Michael Moore during his Oscar speech might not have reflected actual reaction; Dave Johnson lays into the Democrats' tax cut vote; Tish Parmeley prepares to go before the City of San Francisco's Rules Committee as they hear a resolution to create a task force on child obesity; Ampersand examines "The White Guy's Fallacy" - or as my husband likes to call it, "taking offense on behalf of other people"; Lisa Rein has been keeping track of new protest songs and links to all sorts of MP3s, as well as presenting some great demonstration pictures; Devra sings Sean-Paul's praises and deservedly so; Jeanne's just brilliant Jeanne as she always is, and the list goes on and on...

And Daniel Patrick Moynihan has passed away. Although he'd often been the center of controversy, particularly regarding what's come to be known as the Moynihan Report, in his later years he seemed quite the respected elder statesman, and campaigned hard against President Clinton's welfare "reform" even while endorsing Hillary for the NY Senate seat he was vacating. I had a lot of respect for the guy, even if I didn't always agree with him, because it always seemed to me that he treated others with respect. He was a very genteel gentleman.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The National Mood Swing

It's been awhile since I've noticed how people act when the country's on a war footing, particularly when the war has such relatively little support from the citizenry as this one and we're mired in a depression at the same time. The pre-war cut-with-a-knife tension doesn't seem to have dissipated outside of Wall Street (which always seems to have multiple wargasms as people in far-flung lands bleed to death because of our actions). Moreover, this is usually the time of year when people around here start shaking off their winter doldrums, believing that warmer weather is here at last and all the ferocious storms are behind us. Not happening this time, at least as far as I can see. People are self-absorbed to the point of unintentional rudeness, retreating into their cocoons with worried looks on their faces. Now, I'm kind of doing this cybernetically so I can dig it, but far too many are doing it spacially. And you can't do that in New York City, naw'mean? Place is just too crowded. We need to get more of a "we're in this together, we'll pull through, if we survived 9-11 we can deal with this" vibe going. Particularly on the "1" and "9" trains, okay? Serious now, fold your New York Times and get it out of my face, give the fat girl some room, 'preciate it.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Mothers and Daughters

Back in January I talked a bit about what I've inherited from my dad, like my tendency toward sentimentality. It's harder for me to talk about what I got from Mom, because sometimes - particularly when I look in the mirror - I think I got just about everything else. I probably look more like my aunt (Mom's sister) and probably have a sense of humor closer to my uncle (Mom's brother) but I don't think there's any mistaking us for mother and daughter when we're together. The oft-obsessive need to fill silences. The practicality, the list-making. The physical tendency towards the round and, um, hirsute (although I'm about a half foot taller than her - thanks Dad! - so I'm a busty rectangle instead of a compact pear-shape) and premature grey. The vocal cadence, particularly when I'm speaking with relatives. And not just how I sound but often what I say. The love of words and reading and teaching and making up special "secret" languages and just plain communicating (and occasionally arguing). The absolute knowledge-by-example that it was proper for women to work at whatever job they wished and to speak their minds and to be strong and independent; my mom was another "pre-feminism feminist."

Mom grew up in the Depression, her dad holding a number of different jobs to support the family. She chose to pursue a career in nursing, which proved fortuitous when her mom had a stroke and needed to be cared for, taught how to talk and walk and do a lot of stuff from scratch. She went to Hunter, back in the days of affordable higher education in NYC (I think it might even have been free), and went on to work in Mount Sinai Hospital, where I and my brothers were born. In fact, at the time of my birth I believe Mom was the head of the obstetrics ward, so I imagine she must have been quite popular. When we moved to New Jersey she worked in, I believe, St. Elizabeth's Hospital for a time, then took courses to become a school nurse; it was way neat having my mom be the nurse at my elementary school (although of course I couldn't fake any illness)! Her schedule meant she was around after we got out of school, to care for us and do housework and such. And as mentioned previously, she also spearheaded successful efforts to open up the school's holiday singalong program to more than the Christian POV; she and my Dad never hid their Jewishness in a very Catholic neighborhood. In the summers she was the nurse at our local day camp, where I became a camp counselor at age 14 (my first paying job!). I've never known my mom not to be busy at something; even now she and my dad are active in both the complexes where they live (NJ in the summers, Vegas in the winters), their synagogues, etc. And does she love her e-mail! She just sent me this, which I'm passing along to y'all now in her honor.

My mom was my first role model, and she's never stopped being one. My one regret is that I'll never be able to give her grandchildren. Because I can't pass on to the next generartion what she passed on to me, and the older I've gotten the more I've come to realize how much like her I am, and that being like her isn't such a bad thing at all. Thanks, Mom, and happy birthday.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

The Flatbush Waltz and the Oscars

Yesterday my friend Jan and her friend Jim gave their annual Spring Gastronomic & Musical Potluck Soiree. Robin and I made probably the best bean salad I've ever done, huge at an even dozen different kinds of beans (I could have hit lucky 13 but I despise lima beans), which leaked a bit on the 1½-hour subway ride down to Brooklyn but arrived mostly intact and went very quickly considering how much I made. The gastronomy was mostly terrific (I had the best chopped liver ever, sorry Mom I know it's your birthday tomorrow but it's true, the chopped liver was even better than yours... please content yourself with the success of the bean salad, as it's essentially your recipe after all) but the musical portion seemed rather more potluck. I felt a bit overwhelmed, all these folks were very Kulchah'ed and here was I with my little blog and my "European" artist husband feeling very outclassed and talentless. Of course, it's always all about me, isn't it? Anyway, the performances we heard were uneven (one of my favorite songs, Tom Lehrer's "Masochism Tango," was performed by a woman with a lovely voice far more suited to opera than satire), but the violinist really stood out. Among the pieces he played was "Flatbush Waltz," which I think is this one by Andy Statman (it's been awhile since I've read music but the notes look about right), and before playing it he noted Leonard Bernstein's quote, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

So it's in that spirit I'm going to delude myself by watching Oscar coverage today, albeit with seatbelt fastened, as the Guardian opines that it's already turning out to be a bumpy ride. Obligatory Personal Predictions, bearing in mind I've seen almost none of these movies (heh):
  • Best Picture: LotR and Peter Jackson should get it next year when the trilogy's done. The Pianist just won the History Channel's Harry Award (don't ask), but Roman Polanski still hasn't done his jail time so Oscar won't reward him. The Hours will be saddled with the "chick flick" kiss of death. Gangs of NY is epic but from many accounts boring. Conclusion: Chicago. Goddess bless musicals!
  • Best Actor: Day-Lewis and Cage chew lots of scenery. Brody's too new. Caine probably deserves it, but didn't he just win one? Conclusion: Jack Nicholson, with or without shades.
  • Best Actress: Hard not to vote for Hayek after her hilarious campaign on SNL, but I think she's a long-shot. Zellweger sings! but possibly seen as having more of a supporting than lead role. I've heard that Moore and Lane both gave great performances, but Oscar loves Nicole, I mean they really really love her. Conclusion: Nicole Kidman.
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kind of a "who cares" category for me this year, I confess. Newman's perceived as a leading guy, so giving him a supporting trophy (for a "comic book movie," yet!) might seem disrespectful. Reilly could pull it off on the theory of ubiquitousness, but nobody really knows who he is yet. Walken's probably perceived as two 2-dimensional (in terms of his persona, not his acting). Harris is a guy in a chick flick; see above. Conclusion: Chris Cooper.
  • Best Supporting Actress: I'm personally rooting for Kathy "snowball's chance in hell" Bates or Queen "same for her" Latifah, but I dinnae think so. Zeta-Jones could ride the crest of a Chicago, but I think she only wins if Zellweger does. Streep's big hoo-hah was the record-breaking nom, I don't see her winning. Conclusion: Julianne Moore, possibly as consolation for her not getting Best Actress.
  • Best Foreign-Language Film: Well, Spirited Away isn't in this category, so I'll do an eeny-meeny and say China's entry Hero.
  • Best Animated Feature: This is where Spirited Away will knock 'em dead, although I wouldn't be that disappointed if Lilo & Stitch took it, I saw that a couple weeks ago and liked it far more than I thought I would.
  • Best Documentary Feature: Michael Moore will keep making history with Bowling for Columbine.
  • Writing/Adapted: Hollywood, like many of us, loves self-proctology. The question is, how will Charlie Kaufman's imaginary twin brother be on hand to accept? Will they be able to pull off a split-screen thing like they did with Barbara Eden during the TV Land awards?
  • Writing/Original: Probably Pedro Almodóvar 'cause he's also an Oscar darling, but I'm still rooting for Nia Vardalos. I despise the attitude of looking down one's nose at My Big Fat Greek Wedding just because it's a comedy. It was an enjoyable romantic movie that reminded a lot of us way too much of our own families and I'd like to see Vardalos take it.
  • Cinematography: Chicago because LotR isn't in the running.
  • Costume Design: See above. Also because people prefer glitzy razzle-dazzle to mudsoaked 19th-century tophats.
  • Art Direction and Sound and Visual Effects: LotR, because it's in the running, although Spider-Man's visual effects were mighty fine.
    Two other predictions:
  • There will be at least one ad that will make me smile, and probably at least one government-sponsored PSA that will make me want to hurl.
  • Barbara Walters will be as unwatchable as usual, but Joan Rivers will be mandatory watching in a train-wreck kind of way, and will be dressed far worse than everyone she disses.
    Off to watch On the Town and gear up for this evening.
    Update: Just one more in a series of examples of Hollywood's relentless self-absorption (when, darn it, it's all about me, not them!): An exceptionally twitty E! "online correspondent" talking about the dove peace pin symbols some stars are going to wear tonight, regarding their publicists' response to queries (no doubt his own) about the manufacture of the pins, opining that it was a shame that (due to it being the 75th anniversary of the awards, I guess) they wouldn't be made out of diamonds.
  • I'm Just Mad About Safwan, Safwan's Mad About Me

    The shell(ing) game continues. Whom to believe? John Donvan? James Meek? The unexpurgated Dexter Filkins, or his imaginary twin brother Donald who's also called Dexter Filkins but filtered through Aussie eyes? Not being in Iraq myself I have no idea, but just the fact that NY times reporter Filkins used the expression "grim ecstasy" with no apparent ironic intent creeps me out enough to lean away from his presentation of events. (He's an "embedded" one, isn't he?) And after reading this article by Richard Dawkins (via Cyndy, link at sidebar) I must confess I'm inclined to incline towards fellow Guardian reporter Meek.

    Saturday, March 22, 2003

    Pro-Peace Is Pro-America

    Please read this entry by Atrios discussing the Clear Channel-sponsored (and government-sponsored) "patriotic" pro-war rallies held across the country. If any of these got a minyan it was probably due to the music and freebies, but I haven't been watching statecorporate-run TV so I couldn't possibly say. In any case, it sounds awfully close to Nuremberg, a point also made by Ted Rall a few days ago (as mentioned in yesterday's entry). The difference between the folks who attend peace rallies and the folks who attend war rallies (as opposed to the corporations who organize them? We aren't calling for them to be jailed or move to Argentina or implying they don't love America, because we know they do just as much as we do. We know that sometimes people do reprehensible things in the name of love. We're just suggesting that love should perhaps express itself as something other than hatred or xenophobia or jingoism.

    A very revered prophet a couple thousand years ago made a direct link between love and peace. It would seem obvious to many of us that to be pro-war is to be anti-love, anti-Christian, anti-life, and certainly anti-American. But we must remember these people are all capable of great love, the same as we are. And we must appeal to that capacity for love if our message of peace has any sort of prayer of getting through to them. Working Assets' billboards are, I believe, a nice example - although, again, I'd like to see their website proclaim them as "pro-peace" rather than "anti-war." (In any case, as they're my long-distance carrier and my last statement showed a credit of $12 or so I've just e-mailed them telling them to put that credit towards this fund.) I'm trying to bear in mind, especially now, my old switchboard training wherein I was taught to only use positive words. If someone's away from the office when they receive a call, you don't say "He's not in," you say "He's out." Conveying the exact same information but eliminating the negative words (not, anti, never, against, etc.) not only puts the listener or reader in a more receptive frame of mind, but challenges you as the speaker or writer to find more inspiring ways of communicating. I think this is vital for the pro-peace and pro-democracy movements. The more the war efforts assault the language, the more peace efforts need to prop it up and make it stand for something noble and righteous again.

    Friday, March 21, 2003

    Bringing the War Back Home

    I'm told CNN has pulled their reporters out of Baghdad, and Kevin Sites mentions that he's been asked to stop blogging. Christopher Albritton (link at sidebar) isn't there yet but hopes to be by next weekend. Salam Pax hasn't posted to Where Is Raed? since 7 AM Iraqi time this morning. But the rest of the blogosphere (at least the corner I peruse) has been a godsend and far more eloquent about everything that's going on, both here and there, than I could be. Click through 'em all, it's well worth it. Meanwhile, Newsarama has a great interview with Micah Ian Wright about Propaganda Remix (see my entries here and here for more) and it's led to a lively thread discussion in case any comics fans want to join in (you'll need to register on the site to participate). And Bureaucrat by Day (link at sidebar) has started a discussion on whether folks think Ted Rall's one-panel "United We Stand" cartoon is in bad taste. (Personally I think it hits the mark pretty solidly in its skewering of the "dittohead" mentality.) Lastly, coming to you from the land of Too Much Information, my ob/gyn was very appreciative of my query about standing my ovarian eggs on their sides during the vernal equinox, and planned to use it with all his patients. Sometimes it's the little things that matter.

    Thursday, March 20, 2003

    Over the Rainbow

    One of the points raised during Tuesday evening's panel by the very eloquent conservative Grover Norquist was that, if the left wants to capture the hearts and minds of "just folks" the way the right has, we need to work harder on getting out our message of a brighter future. I think we all want to hear that "it's going to be okay," perhaps now more than ever. Yes, essays like this one by William Rivers Pitt (via Cyndy and Lisa English) are absolutely vital for the public record, the history books, the memory hole, etc. but, however truthful such "doom and gloom" pronouncements are, it's a bitch to get ordinary-just-trying-to-survive citizens to rally around them. I'm not suggesting blinders, and I'm not suggesting self-censorship. But I think more progressives need to pay attention not just to what they say but how they say it, and how the "other side" couches things. There's no reason conservatives should have a monopoly on words like "peace" and "freedom" and "liberation" and phrases like "bright tomorrow" and "family values" - particularly as they often practice the exact opposite of what they preach. Even (especially?) in the midst of this trial of the soul through which our leaders are currently putting good, kind, honest citizens, I believe that we wouldn't be progressive if we didn't truly believe an essentially positive and better future is achievable. Let's not just work towards it, but talk it up, and make it so.

    Maintenance note: Stand Down! and Where Is Raed? (blog of Iraqi-based Salam Pax) have been moved up in the blogroll on the sidebar, as I believe we probably all want to vigilantly check in with both on a daily basis now. Also of note, reporting from Iraq are pro journalists Christopher Albritton and Kevin Sites (scroll down blogroll, they're listed along with other pros Eric, Joshua and Neal).

    Wednesday, March 19, 2003

    Good Guys and Bad Guys

    The debate last night was interesting in places if disappointing overall. I thought the moderator could have been more focused, I thought the right-wing guy made some extremely cogent points (many of which Eric conceded) about how to get a message across so as not to alienate potential allies, and I thought the audience members during the Q&A were so self-absorbed most of them couldn't even form proper questions much less ask anything related to the evening's subject matter.

    But that's behind us now. This evening I watched the last segment of Children of Dune and wept again, as I'm sure I did long ago when I read the original books, at the epic tragedies that befell the Houses on Arrakis, many of the participants' own making. Then I watched an episode of Angel where it seemed like half the characters were fighting the other half, switching alliances and personalities faster than anyone not utterly immersed in the Whedon-verse could track. And then the last few minutes of the show were interrupted by the announcement that the United States has invaded Iraq, and has commenced killing thousands upon thousands of people for no good reason at all.

    And... I just don't know any more. I want to believe in good guys. I want to go back or forward to a place where the country in which I live is governed by the good guys. I want to crawl in a shell and be rocked to sleep by the good guys telling me it'll all be okay, this too shall pass, the murderers on all sides will receive karmic justice by and by, the cries of the innocent dead will catch up with them and haunt them until the end of their days and peace will, peace must someday prevail. I need to believe that, in this dark, dark time.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2003

    Eric's On!

    Hope y'all caught Eric Alterman (link at sidebar) on The Daily Show last night; terrific interview/conversation among like-minded folks, so refreshing amid all the pro-war propaganda. I sheepishly admit I sorta squealed like a fangirl when Jon Stewart introduced him; this is the first time since I've been blogging that someone on my blogroll has been on TV (Al Roker excepted). I love that Stewart started with something like "So you've done this well-researched book refuting these claims and myths, my question is: what makes you think people will care about the truth?" It was sardonic and witty and just brilliant through and through. Eric will be on a Nation Institute-sponsored panel this evening, along with Janeane Garofalo, Stanley Crouch, Grover Norquist and Ira Stoll, debating the subject of his book, "What Liberal Media? Truth and Bias in the American Media's Coverage of War and Peace." More info here. Admission's free, it starts at 7 PM but the doors open at 6, I get out of work at 5:30 and it's like a 2-block walk to the CUNY Graduate Center, so chances are very good I'll be there. (Besides, SciFi will doubtless rerun the last part of Children of Dune umpteen times, or Robin can set the VCR.) Who's with me? E-mail me if you're attending and we'll sit together. I've got my black Firesign Theatre tour jacket today, and am wearing a bright pink short-sleeved silk shirt (um, in honor of CodePink, yeah, that's the ticket!), maroon slacks, and Hydrience "Bamboo" (which translates into strawberry blonde hair this time around). I may or may not be accompanied by a comic book artist.

    The First Robin of Spring

    Via Avedon Carol (link at sidebar), and making sensible and necessary harmony with our own Byrd, here's Robin Cook's resignation speech to Parliament. Mark Evanier (link at sidebar) has the link for the audio up on his site. Maybe I'm just partial to the man's first name :) but I think it's a terrific speech.

    But Emma, How Do You Really Feel?

    Damn, this woman can write. Link at sidebar, but check out this one in particular, as well as her postings about water privatization and the World Water Forum. Emma and Anne Zook and Jeanne (Body & Soul) and Jeneane Sessum and all those others on my sidebar just blow me away, time and again.

    Monday, March 17, 2003

    The Chimp Smirks at Midnight

    Okay, at 8 PM Eastern. As a public service, we'd like to remind strong-stomached viewers to look out for this and this. I guess this is his way of belatedly celebrating Freedom of Information Day. (Via Cyndy at Mousemusings, link at sidebar, the only one on my blogroll even talking about the current situation in Serbia.)
    The Word For Fish is Fish, Spake the Fish

    When my uncle was taking us back from the services in Nyack (see my postings from 3/14 and 3/15), he mentioned that my mother had been inquiring as to the Yiddish word for "fish." Then this happened. Coincidence? I think not. (New Square is, like Nyack, in Rockland County.) Honestly, Mom, when you ask about fish you should've known you were going to open up a can of worms. (Insert any and all fishy puns in your comments. My favorite will always be Firesign's "Probably a Pisces, working for scale," but it loses something taken out of context.) Update: I love Neil Gaiman's reaction to this item: A story I find disturbing only because they killed the carp. I mean, for heaven's sake.... Does no one read any fables any more? You're meant to marvel and then place the fish into a safe place, and take it to the king, not bonk it over the head and turn it into gefilte fish. And then it's brought before the king, and either it talks again or it doesn't. And if it talks it offers a little sage advice, and then it's put in a pool and looked after well until the end of its days, and it never talks again. I find myself muttering "What do they teach them in these schools these days?" like the Professor in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

    Sunday, March 16, 2003

    Desert Planet

    Been sick in bed, watching the Dune miniseries on the SciFi Channel all afternoon, as the sequel starts this evening. Hard not to draw parallels, as the deadline for shocking and aweing (but mostly killing) approaches. We know the "spice" is oil, but whom do our leaders fancy themselves? House Atreides? House Harkonen? The Empire? All I know is that I have more respect and sympathy for the Fremen in the story than for anyone else, and their analogs in our reality seem pretty clear.

    Did a bit of sidebar maintenance yesterday; hope you like the worthy and eminently readable blogroll additions.

    Saturday, March 15, 2003


    Jonny did a swell job this morning, but I was really taken aback - as I usually am when I set foot in a synagogue - by how many varying emotions tend to blaze through me at a gathering like this, a product of my upbringing and the decisions I've made and the people I love and the heritage I can neither shake nor wish to deny. It probably started when I walked into the shul's sanctuary and saw my grandparents' names on the yahrzeit (memorial) wall; I was named for my mom's dad, and Nyack is the closest I will ever come to an "ancestral spawning ground." But it also had a lot to do with my affinity for ritual, as I was writing about yesterday. As my aunt later noted, "You never forget it, it always comes back to you." Some of the melodies are slightly different than I remember, and it drives me crazy that these folks pronounce that "s" like it's a "t", but for most of the prayers I barely needed to glance at the siddur and Eitz Chaim Hi, probably my favorite piece of Jewish liturgical music, still sends chills up my spine (especially when the congregation harmonizes on it).

    My comfort level at being among my extended family was increased by the service itself; the cantor is female and, although it's a Conservative shul rather than Reformed, the Amidah includes the Matriarchs. I couldn't help but feel that if I'd had this sense of inclusion when I was a kid, my path might have turned out quite differently. I notice these things more keenly during this time of year, what with celebrating International Women's Month and with Purim coming up - always my favorite holiday as a kid, not just because of its Halloween-like appeal to children but because it celebrates the courage of a female protagonist. (Although as I've gotten older I've also come to appreciate Vashti more, and view the tale as actually having two strong female protagonists.) The rabbi reminded the congregation that this year the Fast of Esther takes place this coming Monday, the deadline many people are talking about as when we go on Spring Break get drunk on green beer will probably invade Iraq. I might be tempted to observe this fast were it not for its meaning having been retroactively co-opted to become "the Fast observed by Israel on the day of their mobilization for war against the enemies." These days it's just too easy to ascribe Hamanistic tendencies to any country that We don't happen to like (and God forbid We ever admit those tendencies in ourselves!) as an excuse to claim God is on our side when we prepare to slaughter them like Israel did to the Amalekites. I prefer to think of Esther's fast as she must have considered it, a time of spiritual purification in preparation to save her people, not destroy another.

    Friday, March 14, 2003

    The Sides of Religion

    Tomorrow I'm going to a shul for the first time in a few years, to see my 8-year-old godson Jonathan participate in a Chumash reading (apparently this is something his synagogue has instituted to keep youngsters interested in services and such). Now, I'm not big on Shabbos services, I slept through more than my fair share of them growing up, but I love Jon and feel as though, as his godmother, it's my spiritual obligation to be a low-key presence for as many of these moments as possible.

    This is more or less how I practice religion - not as an anal obsession in order to score points against others, but as a favor to people I love, or as comfortable rituals to make me feel connected to something larger than myself. There's little qualitative difference to my mind between lighting Chanukah candles or fasting on Yom Kippur and, say, Thanksgiving dinner or bubble & squeak on Boxing Day. I just don't go overboard, y'know, because my version of God cares more about the spirit behind the rituals than impulsively or unthinkingly following them to the letter. To me, religion or spirituality is something that's best practiced between the practitioner and their God, in the privacy of one's home or designated community holy spot (church, mosque, etc.), and making an unwanted public display out of it can be at best tacky and at worse dangerous.

    There's a woman in my office who sees herself as a very devout Christian, which would be fine if she weren't so in-your-face about it all the time. She's constantly blessing people instead of simply thanking them, making a show out of her charitable efforts at distributing incoming faxes or pages sitting on the network printer, and befriending homeless people whom she invites into our office to make liberal use of the kitchen or bathroom. Now I know she means well and she's mostly harmless. But her God isn't my God, so I'd rather not have that blessing every single time I pass along a phone number to her (seeing as how the more times you repeat something like that by rote, the less meaning it has anyway). And she distributes the papers to the wrong people half the time anyway, so back they go to the fax or printer to be retrieved by the people who are actually expecting them. And this building's security tends to be lax enough without having to worry about invited strangers casing the joint.

    I couldn't help but think about my coworker when hearing about the Elizabeth Smart case. Her mom felt such Christian charity toward this total stranger that she employed him in her house, not knowing anything about him or bothering to do any sort of background check. 'Cause, you know, God loves everyone, I guess. The total stranger, for his part, considered himself even closer to God, which delusion allowed him to carry through anything his unhinged psyche came up with - a sort of made-to-order spiritual immunity from the consideration of Man's law (like, oh, you don't friggin' kidnap 14-year-old kids and "marry" them you asshole). So in short, if it weren't for certain wacky religious impulses, this girl would probably have remained safe at home. (Although if the family is Mormon, which seems likely, I suppose one could argue that if it weren't for certain wacky religious impulses like hyper-procreation she might not have been born in the first place...)

    And if not for those impulses, one can easily extrapolate, we wouldn't have this new fundie-evangelical crusade to immanentize the eschaton, as RA Wilson put it. And we wouldn't have other fundie idiots steering planes into towers either. I know there's more than one side to this, there are a lot of good spiritual folks who seek to uphold their personal beliefs via charitable actions rather than by pushing them onto others - but at times like this it's not easy to remember that. All I know is I want these folks, well meaning or no, to just get their God out of my face and back into their hearts, where God belongs.

    [A propos of nothing, I notice far too many posts on Anne Zook's Peevish, link at sidebar, with no comments attached. She's done such a yeoperson's yeoman's job with her blog this week, she really deserves some. Do go visit, please. And it's worth noting that Cyndy at Mousemusings, link at sidebar, seems to be the only one on my blogroll even talking about the Serbian PM's assassination and aftermath.]

    Thursday, March 13, 2003

    What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?

    Here's a sentence I never thought I'd hear myself say: Elvis Costello should get his own talk show. He positively shone last night guest-hosting for Letterman (who's still out with the shingles), and he was witty and wry and capable and confident and it was a total delight. We stayed up through Eddie Izzard's stint on the couch, and there wasn't one dull moment, even throughout the interview with Kim Cattrall.

    Thanks to everyone participating in the informal poll I posted yesterday; please continue to comment! I think y'all are starting to change my mind; as cute as I think this particular wordplay is I'm more and more inclined not to use it again. Which, as you can imagine, is just killing an unrepentent punster like me. :) And I forgot to add yesterday how, as long as "we're" being all jingoistically anti-French, I've yet to see any of these idiots suggest giving back the Statue of Liberty. It's no more or less stupid, after all. Update: Okay, Bill Connolly found an editorial cartoon that thought of this too, so sue me. :)

    In other personal news, despite this and this (respective thanks to Ampersand and Lisa English), I finally opened a PayPal account, although I can't figure out how to obtain the code to put on my sidebar in case I want to install a "tip jar" or whatever they're calling it nowadays. Can someone out there help via e-mail? Update: Thanks, Atrios!

    Wednesday, March 12, 2003


    Like plenty of other bloggers, I'm half-amused and half-disgusted that the cafeteria menus in the three House of Representatives office buildings have renamed "french fries" and "french toast", substituting the word "freedom" for "french" in each instance because someone's angry at France for daring to speak out against our war juggernaut. Those darn snail-eating chain-smoking peaceniks, harrumph! The thing that gets to me the most (aside, of course, from my continued incredulity at how easily many citizens can slide further and further into brain-dead jingoism so quickly just at the point when we ought to be evolving as a civilization) is that Thinking People understand that the word "French" in those foods has nothing to do with France. It's just an expression. They don't even call them "french fries" in France, they call them pommes frites or something. Changing words based on erroneous and ignorant assumptions in the first place just to score political points is to me the height of "PC" idiocy.

    So Robin and I are talking about this last night, and he said that the same thing applies to feminists calling attention to the relative invisibility of women throughout history via doing a switcheroo with the word "history" itself by terming women's history "herstory." Now see, I've known for years that the "his" in "history" didn't refer to the male pronoun; the actual etymology of the word is that it's derived from the "Latin historia, from Greek, inquiry, history, from histOr, istOr knowing, learned; akin to Greek eidenai to know" (which of course immediately makes me think about Gus, the Michael Constantine know-it-all character from My Big Fat Greek Wedding/Life, who's always talking about Greek origins of words, but I digress). But I always considered "herstory" to be a play on the word the same way the lyrics to "Lullabye League/Lollipop Guild" from The Wizard of Oz are sung "From now on you'll be history, You'll be hissed, You'll be hissed, You'll be history." (Another brief digression - none of the Oz lyric websites I visited actually wrote them down this way! and not only that, a couple of the sites also downloaded unwanted programs on my computer for my trouble... Anyway, it's clear as day that the lyrics are "You'll be hissed" because the wordplay is repeated "You'll be a bust, be a bust, be a bust-- in the Hall of Fame!" and that's the point of the puns, that Dorothy being "hissed" and "a bust" are actually Good Things.) I mean, even Michael Jackson did a similar riff by naming one of his albums "HIStory." But Robin points out that many people don't perceive it as a pun or a spoof, they look at it exactly the same way as this "Freedom Toast" nonsense. Which perplexes me because the "Freedom" nonsense isn't a play on words at all.

    Therefore, I figured I'd hold an informal opinion poll on this. Do you think "herstory" belongs in the same category as "Freedom Toast" or do you think it's just a cute (or annoying, depending on your views) pun? And why doesn't Wolf Blitzer ever have polls like this on his website?

    Tuesday, March 11, 2003

    Where It's Always Kalilily Time

    The lovely and inspiring Elaine of Kalilily (link at sidebar) is 63 today.

    Signs of spring are struggling to surface (oh no, Stan Lee Disease strikes again!), and I almost have enough energy for a proper flat-cleaning. Maybe this weekend. At this point I'll be happy if I can manage to get the recyclables down to the basement of our building.

    Monday, March 10, 2003


    Not much to say for myself today, but there's a very nice interview with my husband here.

    And we both laughed a long while at this joke (via Tim Dunlop, link at sidebar).

    Sunday, March 09, 2003

    Forward Into The Past

    Back from PA only to discover that Blogger had apparently posted an additional banner ad, but it seems to have been a cache problem; thank goodness, I'm not that good at recoding this template. :) The weekend weather was perfect and PA was relaxing and fun, particularly discovering that the comic shop in the Plymouth Meeting Mall carried old LPs for a buck; made me feel like I was back in college, bless their hearts! Picked up a couple Peter Paul & Mary albums, Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits, and a replacement for my Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (the album cover, autographed by the man himself at an old Beatles convention umpteen years ago, is still in great shape but the record inside didn't match!). Warmed my heart to see a copy of Bozos right in front of a stack, and me not even putting it there myself! I'm thinking that might be a nice place for Jim to start spreading the word of his campaign (see yesterday's blog entry).

    Speaking of Forward Into yadda yadda, just finished watching Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, starring Adam West and Burt Ward as sort-of themselves, Frank Gorshin and Julie Newmar as sort-of themselves, Lee Meriwether as a waitress, and a lot of cute in-jokes. I actually liked the biopic portion of it about as much as the Martin & Lewis one starring Jeremy Northam and Sean Hayes, although I think they could have gotten better "ringers" for some of the guest actors, considering they didn't need to be on camera all that long anyway. I mean, when I was a kid everyone and his mom would imitate Vincent Price; couldn't Gorshin at least have coached the guy? In any case, it was one of those in-jokes that probably wouldn't mean a thing to anyone who didn't watch the original Batman TV show, and by that measure it doesn't work that well (see here for more), but I think the people who made it are counting on that era's pop culture by now being entrenched enough in the public consciousness that they could get away with it. The running gag about the off-camera narrator was my favorite, and the punch line to that was terrific (and I was so livid I didn't recognize the voice sooner!), there was some cute if exaggerated pokes at Hollywood foibles, and the shoehorned anachronisms (bottle return deposits before the '70s? well, maybe in southern CA... Wertham reported on in a newspaper a decade after the Senate hearings? fairly unlikely) weren't emphasized enough to take away my enjoyment of the winking narrative, such as it was. I'm still trying to figure out the medicine they gave Ward to produce the shrinkage.

    [Typed whilst listening to Billy Bragg's The Price of Oil - but Billy, how do you really feel?]

    Saturday, March 08, 2003

    The Cap Campaign

    Happy International Women's Day! I'm off for some Philadelphia freedom and female solidarity this weekend, visiting my friend Leah in the Pennsylvania suburbs. What better chance to stump for Jim? I see he's mulling over slogans, but I think we also need a good theme song to kick this baby off right. Happy Days Are Here Again just doesn't seem to cut it, so I'd like to suggest something a little softer, mellower, dare I say hipper. To the tune of Nat "King" Cole's Mona Lisa:

    Capozzola, Capozzola, we all love him
    We make Rittenhouse Review our daily read
    We're so thrilled he's going to run in Pennsylvania
    Representing people in their hour of need...

    Take it, MadKane!

    Friday, March 07, 2003

    Are You A Good Glitch, Or A Bad Glitch?

    Well, Blogger may have been frustrating these past couple days, but for once our cable system is being nice to us. Not deliberately, I assure you, but some weird circumstance has affected one of our boxes and we're receiving a few channels we previously couldn't, making our $85 monthly bill almost worth it. Almost. So we're taking advantage of this doubtless brief bonus to watch stuff on Showtime, and last night we took in a couple episodes of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, which were pretty good. The show, as you might expect, concentrates on debunking charlatans and myths, often with the complicity of hidden whistleblowers (some of whom are former charlatans themselves and have, I guess, discovered along with P&T that there's sometimes just as much money to be made exposing bullshit than perpetuating it). Last night had two back-to-back episodes. The first dealt with Talking to the Dead, and contained little I hadn't heard before about cold reading and other methods used by these hoodwinkers, as well as the obligatory nod to the SCICOPs, although I admit I hadn't known that much about the massive release forms with their non-disclosure clauses that audience members had to sign. I was moved to tears by Penn Jillette's (yes, Teller stays silent, unless he's masked or something) righteous indignation at the idea of taking advantage of people's grief to make a quick buck, particularly when he went into how he felt since his own parents died a couple years back. The second episode covered Baby Bullshit, folks who make money off of professing to be experts in how to make babies smarter (and oh by the way here buy this stuff they're selling); and Second-Hand Smoke, which certainly told me stuff I didn't know (that the original study finding 3,000 deaths per year from "passive smoking" and referred to by all the usual organizations to pass anti-smoking legislation was in fact deeply flawed). I had a few problems with this segment:
  • I found it hard to sympathize given my personal aversion to breathing in cigarette fumes, even though Jillette assured the audience that he shares that aversion. I have a lot of friends who smoke (and gah, I realize how much that sounds like "some of my best friends are..." and I apologize) but they have manners, they care about people around them who choke on the smoke and make concerted efforts not to exhale it towards them. I remember living in Bensonhurst, land of people with no manners at all, going into restaurants that claimed they had non-smoking sections and still let people smoke and I was so nauseated I couldn't eat even though I was in the NS section that the restaurant itself had set up! So you know, I have a fundamental disagreement with the libertarians (Jillette's "heroes" of choice for this segment) on this matter. If people are going to act like assholes, and their actions affects me, and asking them nicely (I always try civility first) doesn't work, and complaining to management doesn't work, then maybe, just maybe it's a good idea to pass a law that disallows their assholery that's affected me. It's a sad fact of life that more people can't be nicer to each other, I've had to deal with that vis a vis noise pollution too, but there's a reason there are house rules saying you can't make noise that bothers your neighbors, and there's a reason there are laws saying you can't exhale smoke that affects the appetites at the next table, and those reasons don't need to have anything to do with health (on that I actually agree with Jillette, I wish they had touted civility instead of health as their reasons). They ought to just be common sense, the Golden Rule, that kind of thing.
  • I have problems sometimes with libertarians anyway, many of whom are right-wing Randian creeps who believe individual freedom means "my freedom to be as rude or as rich as I want to, which trumps your freedom to not be bothered by me or to suffer because of me, and damn the social good or civility." They simply reek of this veneer of smug privilege, and I'm a little sensitive about that sort of thing nowadays.
  • Mostly, I didn't think this was a good "debunking" topic compared with the others. Anti-smoking groups, as far as I know, aren't making a buck by preying on people's gullibility. That would be, oh I dunno, cigarette companies. Aren't most anti-smoking orgs non-profits?

    All in all, for me it was two hits and one miss, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this show to any people able to receive Showtime.

    And while I'm on the subject of lies, damned lies and statistics, I'll leave you with a couple meaningless numbers for now. We're Number 452, We're Number 452! The way I've been feeling after the last couple days of work, being called an "insigificant microbe" is rather par for the course. But there's something seriously wrong when I'm higher on the microbial scale than Anne Zook and Cyndy and Mikhaela and Tim Dunlop, all blogrolled on the sidebar. Come on, folks - Peevish? Road to Surfdom? These are amazing blogs, significant microbes. You know what to do (TM Atrios). Also, for people who care about these sorts of things (and with my current self-esteem level I admit to being one of them), I'm currently #5 on the online Hall of Fame "all time" list for PopCap's Bookworm. (Okay, "all time" in this case is like a week, but still...)

    Miscellaneous notes: Bryant Gries (newly blogrolled at sidebar) informs me by e-mail, "I attended the Tallahassee performance [of Lysistrata], right in front of our excessively phallic state capital, and took pictures and sounds. Posted them at my website. The play was sparsely
    attended but dozens of people walked by and watched for a moment or two and got a flier." If you want to continue joining with women organizing for peace, check out the CodePink activities this weekend (via Lisa English, link at sidebar).

    And darn it, Google took down their logo featuring Michelangelo's David. Even if he was suspiciously emasculated, it was still cool to see him there.
  • Thursday, March 06, 2003

    Wonk/Not Wonk

    Blogger bug apparently fixed; template changes finally posted. In honor of International Women's Month, the must-read chicks get moved up above the must-read guys, right below my Top Five, where they'll probably stay. Also added Fred, who was kind enough to reassure me that It's Not Me (see yesterday's comments). Another day of emotional abuse at work (where I still am), so it's good to be reminded at times like this that It's Not Me. Too tired to do much beyond read all your wonderful blogs, goddess bless you my lovely blogroll friends. Update: Finally home and deliberately missing the Smirking Chimp's press conference. If you're watching, or plan to see excerpts, you might want to read this first.

    Wednesday, March 05, 2003


    Yes, I'm wonky (after a tough day at work) and so is my Blogger editing program, at least from my home computer. Hoping this makes it through and my blogroll reorganization takes. Hope everyone who had the courage to take the day off to do the National Moratorium considers their efforts successful. Update: Well, the program refuses to accept my template changes but at least my entries are posting.

    Tuesday, March 04, 2003

    IWM Notes

    A Google search on "International Women's Month" (which this is) yielded this page from NIIT Technologies, an Asian IT training company. Sounds like a cool program - I can figure out "SWIFT" (Short Work Programs in Information Technology, which caters to the literacy needs of people keen to learn computers), but I'm a little cloudy on "Jyoti." The company's goal is "to take over 50,000 women across the digital divide during International Women's Month, 2003" via this program; I wish them luck! The World Bank is also getting in on the act with their Initiative on Gender and ICT for Development.

    Closer to home, Women in Technology's Chicago regional chapter event, a week from tomorrow, will be an "International Women's Month Celebration:Women in the Forefront - Success Stories." The same day in Eugene, Oregon (Ampersand territory?), NPR station KLCC (89.7 FM) is holding a luncheon to "celebrate and recognize accomplishment of women worldwide. Wariko Waita, of Kenya, will be sharing her up-to-the-minute perspectives of the changes taking place in Kenya and the new democratic election's impact on women."

    The World Beat Center in the San Diego area will be celebrating Audre Lorde on March 23; I hope part of the celebration will include correcting the spelling of her name, but I fear the master's spell-check will never dismantle the master's website. Here's a cool page about women in jazz. Every Generation is taking "nominations for our alternative 100 Great Britons [which] will be launched in March as part of International Women's Month." As long as you're in the UK, you might want to head to London to check this out on International Women's Day (Saturday, March 8). And maybe you'll catch the Triple-P Posse's European tour while you're at it.

    Here in New York City, the relatively milder weather will probably encourage a good turnout for the National Moratorium coordinated by all sorts of progressive groups (at times like this I really miss being employed by a company that didn't dock me sick time) leading up to their March 15 do, and this coming Saturday (IWD) International ANSWER (yeah, I know, but still) is having a NO WAR March in Solidarity with the Women of Iraq on International Women's Day (careful, it's a PDF) which they say is also to demand a new contract for daycare workers - [sarcasm] as ever, great to have a non-confusing, single-focused message [/sarcasm] - and they're encouraging women and men to bring noisemakers, including pots and pans. Also, Ken Gale informs me that his SO and Nuff Said cohost Mercy Van Vlack will be part of WBAI's IWD programming, "contributing a segment: an interview with Trina Robbins on women in history comics such as Dignifying Science. They also covered women in art history and women in comics." I hope the station mentions that Bluestockings isn't closing after all, they're under new ownership and will be renovating and reopening soon, and I'd love to hear my favorite sparring buddy (Trina, as opposed to Mercy) on the radio again, but I'll be in Philadelphia, visiting my friend Leah and hoping she has a reliable net connection so I don't break my 2003 daily-blogging streak. [More interesting IWM and IWD links as I find 'em.]

    Monday, March 03, 2003

    Aristophanes Lives

    Today is 03-03-03 and not only does that mean the coolest date we'll have until April 4 of next year but the kick-off of the Lysistrata Project, the first worldwide theatrical event for peace, wherein Aristophanes' anti-war comedy will be performed in loads of cities all over the planet. The project organizers describe the play, the story of a group of women from opposing states who unite to end the Peloponnesian War, thusly: After matronly stormtroopers take over the building where public funds are kept, the women rise to end the war by withholding sex from their mates -- Until, desperate for intimacy, the men finally agree to lay down their swords and see their way to achieving diplomatic peace. They hasten to add: Though we are not necessarily suggesting these tactics be used to end this war (but, wouldn't it be fun if the First Lady ...), Lysistrata provides a humorous entree into a healthy community dialogue: What CAN we do on a local level to stop "diplomacy by violence" in our world? Well, considering how war is often used as a sex substitute anyway, and of course that not every warrior is heterosexual (heh, not even in the Peloponnesian War), I'd probably suggest a showing of M*A*S*H instead, which kind of takes the opposite tack (that the absurdity of war is often best mitigated by more absurdity thrown back at it, including more intimate fraternization rather than less). Or the "Cool, Considerate Men" number from 1776, which was my personal viewing project yesterday (blame Peter David, link at sidebar, for the inspiration). But hey, it's all a matter of taste, I suppose. I've never seen the play, and admit to little real interest in it, but I think it's cool that something written over two millennia ago has that kind of staying power, and I'll probably read it tonight in solidarity. You can too; just click here. And Robin wants to add that you can get the lyrics to the Todd Rundgren song of the same name here (complete with guitar chords), and a MIDI file of the song itself here.

    Sunday, March 02, 2003

    Women's Online Media - And Oh Yeah, Blogs

    Came across an article on AlterNet entitled Internet Breathes New Life into Women's Media, but even though the third paragraph begins Even with the blossoming online 'zines, journals and blogs (Web logs), the environment for feminist media is harsh most of it talks about what I'm increasingly thinking of as Yesterday's Media. Now, I'm very fond of paper publications, they give me something to read on the subway and goodness knows I've written to and for a number of them (not for pay, mind you, but as the article does note so much of feminism is volunteerism anyway). And I'm saddened that Sojourner bit the big one too, and that Bluestockings is closing here in NYC. But I look at all those women in the middle of that sidebar, the two groups from Blogsisters on down, and I'm really not as concerned about the continuance of feminist media - I mean, there it is! - as I am about the seeming inability of some feminists to embrace it more, acknowledge it as where we're going in terms of organizing and community and access and instant knowledge and, darn it, empowerment. I think this is so on the cultural front as well; I see so much more energy and enthusiasm among feminists who use e-mail lists, websites, blogs, online publications, message boards, etc. for consciousness-raising and increasing visibility and gathering resources and making strong connections and increasing self-education than among those who shy away from such methods due to skepticism or technophobia or maybe even stubbornness. Like all things worth fighting for, equality is an uphill struggle, and I'm saddened by those who want to make it harder on themselves by not taking advantage of every tool available for that struggle.

    Saturday, March 01, 2003

    Iraq and a Hard Place, Part Umpteen

    Hard on the heels of all the well-deserved mockery (we kid, but we kid with love!) of the Fatherland Security website (see here for more), Atrios (link at sidebar) tells us that CNN's cynical little scare-mongering Iraq Tracker has been dead-on parodied by the good folks at Take Back the Media. Turn down the sound on your computer speakers, click on the original first and then on the spoof; good stuff.

    Meanwhile, General Hussein Kamel is still dead. Oh yes, he's an ex-general. He's passed on, kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible. And yet, sometimes dead men do tell tales. From what I can figure, his goes something like this: Apparently Kamel didn't like his father-in-law, Saddam Hussein, so he defected in '95, ran to the IAEA and UNSCOM, and basically said that "after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them." In other words, I hate my wife's father and I'm gonna stick it to him by revealing him for the blustering bully idiot he's always been; he might talk a good game and still be able to inflict suffering on Iraqis but as a threat to other nations he's laughable. So of course Kamel goes back to Iraq the next year and gets killed. No word on what was up with his wife (Saddam's daughter) during all this, but even in a relatively secular place like Iraq it's not like women are heard from that often. Anyway, his UNSCOM/IAEA debriefing was excerpted as proof that Saddam still had WMD even though what he actually said was that they'd all been destroyed. You know, creative editing and all that. So then Glen Rangwala, who revealed last month that the infamous "intelligence dossier" referred to by Tony Blair and in turn praised by Colin Powell was plagiarized from a student thesis, apparently got his hands on a complete copy of the debriefing transcript. If Rangwala thought he merited official scrutiny before, I gotta figure he's in a heap of trouble now. Maybe Salmon Rushdie's looking for a roommate. Full story here.

    In other news, the best euphemism I've come across lately has to be "Personal Respiratory Defense System" (check out the top of your browser after you click). For us oldsters, I believe that means "gas mask."

    Oh, and white rabbits, everyone. Let's hope this March brings more marches against war rather than marches towards it.