Thursday, March 31, 2005

Today is Cesar Chavez Day

"We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure."

"It starts with your heart and radiates out."



I have been working on a theory over here. And inspired by the "all god's children deserve feeding tubes" fervor of the religious right, it may be time to share it.

One of the reasons I've always had trouble believing in a capital-G God--the creator and all that--is that the world is pretty damn fucked up. (News flash, I know.) How can this be the result of "intelligent design" has always been my line of thinking. But of course, there are those moments one wonders. The Northern Lights, Yeats' poetry, babies' fingernails, crème brûlée;... can it all be an accident of biology and mutation?

And then it came to me recently: We are the Beta test.

Wouldn't any intelligent design include a prototype, a little preliminary testing? I figure god was like "Hmm...separating heaven and earth...great innovation. Separating light and darkness...another good one. Biological diversity and nifty creatures...gosh I'm brilliant. But free will...nope. So much for that idea."

Somewhere out there in the cosmos is god's VHS. They have no pope, they let people die when it's time, the old are taken care of, no one is hungry, everyone is a leftist, and the chocolate is delicious.

Coolest gift item ever

Okay, I have a "big" birthday coming up this year and anyone who's wondering what to get me can forget about the knife rack idea and instead, get my image remade as a velvet Elvis. I'm not quite sure whether I favor the fat Elvis approach or the young hipster Elvis, but I'll give it some thought.

(many thanks to eponymous for this fine find)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Say it, Gordon!

Gordon over at the Alternate Brain tells the religious fanatics what's for. The lather is so articulate, it's worth reprinting in its entirety:
The thing that pisses me off the most in the case of Mrs. Schiavo is this:

The misleading and flat-out wrong assertion by the pseudo-christians and the media that Mr. Schiavo and the legal system are murdering Mrs. Schiavo by "denying" her food and water. This makes it sound like the docs are keeping a plate of Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings just out of her reach and cackling like fiends.

Listen up, you heartless motherfuckers.

That tube didn't have no fucking Happy Meals being shoved through it, of that you can be sure. She's been kept alive by the medical intervention of nutrition and hydration very much like, and I use these carefully chosen following words, growing a hydroponic carrot. If she could eat or swallow on her own, she would, and no one would think of denying her anything. If anybody had gotten through to her with a cup of water like they were trying to do, it would have probably drowned her, and that's murder.

Will all you retarded assholes please let the lady's soul fly out of its meat prison and quit using her for your Satanic retardiligious right-wing ends? All you're doing is showing the rest of us how fucking stupid and cruel you are, and we already knew that. May my God have mercy on your worthless empty souls.
But how do you really feel, Gord?

Schindlers List

Yella tells us that Terri Schiavo's parents are selling the list of their supporters to a direct mail campaign.

For fuck's sake. Do you think they'll auction the feeding tube on Ebay after she finally dies?

When the world blows up, we'll all have gotten what we deserve, you know?

Not that it's any of your business

North Carolina's Sheriff Carson Smith wins the "fascist chutzpah" award for the week for his ultimatum delivered to former employee Debora Hobbs. When Smith discovered Hobbs lives with her boyfriend and they are, gasp, not married, he told her to "get married, move out, or find another job." She chose the latter option and now the ACLU is representing her in a lawsuit that:
seeks to abolish the nearly 200-year-old--and rarely enforced--law that prohibits unmarried, unrelated adults of the opposite sex from living together. North Carolina is one of seven states with such a law.

Convicted offenders face a fine and up to 60 days in jail.
I mean really. It's not like we don't live in a world with actual problems to solve. I'm just thinking with Robertson and the Pope failing maybe Carson Smith won't be far behind.

(Big Brass Blog has more)

Standing in front of a bus, staring at the moon

It's apparently quiz day here at NMTE. Though again, this one struck me as more interesting than the usual "what flavor of ice cream are you"-type things I get spammed with. This morning's quiz? The 4Cs values classification. It's longer, but the results--at least in my world--are pretty interesting. According to Young and Rubicam, the quiz's authors, 4Cs stands for "Cross Cultural Consumer Characterisation"--pretty funny. The quiz results tell you how important each of the following are to you: security, control, status, individual, freedom, survival, and escape.

Here's the funny part: I scored highest in enlightenment and lowest in survival. Thus my status as someone who is likely to get hit by a bus because she's too busy staring at the moon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Apostle of destruction

Never mind quizilla,'s quiz tells you which radical thinker you are most in tune with. You've got to love a quiz that asks, "If you admired one of the following, who would it be?"
Bob Dylan.
Thomas Paine.
Fidel Castro.
Albert Einstein.
or "Which method fosters social revolution the most?"
Direct action.
Depends on the situation.
Turns out, I am Mikhail Bakunin:
Bakunin, it is evident, was rather the stimulator than the organiser. He wrote wonderful letters, arousing the torpid and nerving the timid. Fertile in suggestion, his writings were of the nature of fragments cast off red-hot from the fiery furnace of his mind.

"My life," he used to say, "is but a fragment." Most notable of the aforesaid fragments is his booklet on God and the State, in which those twin instruments of oppression are attacked with equal vehemence and vigor. It is on the pretence of divine authority that human authority is founded, and Bakunin, "apostle of destruction" as he was called by the Belgian economist Lavaleye, looked forward to the time when "human justice will be substituted for divine justice."
Which probably explains why I am constantly lamenting the absence of hell (see below). I think I want to get a tattoo that says "apostle of destruction."

(Via The Guardian's newsblog)


That's what they should call it. I have been utterly thwarted in my desire to spout off today about all manner of things. I have composed posts in my head about the niche market I inhabit, Jesse Jackson's ubiquitous presence at all media events (lurking like a ghastly spectre at Schiavo's bedside), and David Byrnne radio among other things. But noooo.... stupid Blogger.

Must go to Pasadena tonight. If I'm not too wiped out and it's not too late maybe I'll try flinging myself at the wall a few more times in the wee hours.

It's all relative

Take the phrase "best seller," for example. While for some of us, that may conjure images of oiled sunbathers reading our books at the beach or commuters clutching mass markets on the subway, that's not always the case.

For example, you may never have heard of the best seller "Harry T. Burleigh and the creative expression of bi-musicality: A study of an African-American composer and the American art song." And yet, it's 2003's number one seller--dissertations sold through ProQuest that is. I can't really tell you why this tickles my funny bone, but it does. I guess it's that thing: even when you are top of this particular heap, you're languishing in obscurity.

Press release via the incomparable ResourceShelf.

The little things mean a lot

Can I just share how much it pleases me that, if you search for "junky mentality" in Google, I am number one on the hit parade.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Getting caught up

Having spent some time distracted from blogging by the bothersome work I do for a living as well as the other creative pursuits I do for nothing, I am just now getting caught up reading some of my friends' blogs. Via e p o n y m o u s comes the image from Banksy below

The site is really worth a stop. Here is part of the manifesto page, which quotes the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO, one of the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen:
I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywhere, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen. It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. . . . It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. . . . I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

Easter madness

So Saturday I spent most of the day holed up working on this article I am writing for a collection on collecting. Sometime shortly before midnight, I ran out of cigarettes and made an addict's run to the RiteAid. Holy mother of God! I walk in there and there are a fucking gazillion people. It was so surreal. It was like 11:45 at night and there are hoards of shoppers milling around clutching stuffed bunnies and bags of pink cellophane grass and boxes of peeps. Right, Easter. I had horrifying visions for just a moment of being trapped in some sort of George Romero Easter movie--Resurrection of the Living Dead or something.

Anyway, it was just one of those total Man Who Fell to Earth moments. Those of you who write/make movies/etc may know what I mean--that feeling of other worldliness when you emerge from the den having just communed with the keyboard for way too long. It's like coming up from deep sea diving without enough decompression time. And that's under the best of circumstances. Then to be confronted with teeming masses of "he is risen; let's eat chocolate" consumers. It was intense, I tell you.

Tom DeLay

So I've been thinking for days about how to express my feelings about Mr. Culture of Life (that is, Tom "do as I say, not as I do" DeLay), and thanks to Netdisaster, I don't even need to come up with the words. This pretty well captures it for me. (Site via Poynter Online's E-Media Tidbits

Worth repeating

One of my former students (in one of my last lives as a perennial grad student, I taught college) sends a regular email update about what's going on in his life. This is from his email this weekend about life in Armenia, where he just arrived:
I'm going to close here with a little story that has made A laugh about thee times a day since it happened. I am not a short man, which is one of my few redeeming features, and in Armenia I am a flat-out giant. In addition to being white, and blue-eyed, and not having jet black hair, my 6'3" really makes me stand out here. People here stare at me, even before I do something totally outrageous. I don't mind at all of course, being quite used to it in America.

Well, on our second day here, we were walking through the main square where a giant statue of Lenin once stood, and I was looking around at the buildings and architecture and such as I strode (how about that word) across the plaza. I was kind of close to a couple of little kids who were looking the other way and when I got near, the older one (about 6 years) turned, gasped, grabbed his little brother and pointed up at me and chattered in Armenian, "Godzilla!!" And then they both ran off. I am not a real good-looking guy, but "Godzilla?" Ouch.

There's plenty more already, but that's going to wait for the next Update. I was on TV and made a lot of friends on the bus and apparently feeding me is some kind of sport here. Wait and see.
As for me, I am still alive out here--feeling marginally challenged balancing all of my life stuff right now, which is why the theater was dark this weekend. But I'm brainstorming other phrases for "hypocritical dickhead" so that I can post my feelings about DeLay later.

Friday, March 25, 2005

¿cómo pronto ahora está?

The blazingly white Morrissey appears to have garnered a large Latino/a fan base here in Los Angeles, a phenomenon now the subject of a documentary Is It Really So Strange?, says The Guardian. One of the things I love so much about LA is the ways in which it defies expectations--something that it's easy to miss about this place if you're not paying attention. And I love this bit from the Guardian article:
One lasting impression Jones's film leaves is that, for many fans, a meeting with Morrissey can mean a dry mouth, clammy palms and, ultimately, disappointment. All relate tales of his politeness and willingness to sign various body parts, but you can't help but feel that, in their eyes, Morrissey the Man does not live up to Morrissey the Icon. Only those fans who merely snatched a touch of an arm or managed a sweaty wordless embrace on stage are still beaming about the moment.
God, isn't that a metaphor for way too much of life.

Make your own

Who doesn't hate these things really? I consider them right up there with mullets for a mark of the aesthetically challenged.

Pro-life killers

Today's Salon has the latest from America's Christian Taliban. Indiana's Congressman Souder is leading the pack in an attempt to institute a gag order similar to the one that governs discussion (or lack thereof) about abortion to pregnant women through US-funded aid organizations. The proposed new prohibition would mean those organizations could not tell IV drug users about where to get clean needles or even why one would want to do so.

It's overstating the obvious, I know, to meditate too long on the grotesque hypocrisy of folks who will fight to the mat to keep a feeding tube in Terri Schiavo but would just as soon throw addicts under a bus. I know it's my continuing refrain here, but I really do wish there were such a thing as an afterlife so that we could look forward to justice in hell. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

While we're on the subject...

...of the right-to-lifers' hypocrisy, Marjorie Cohn mulls the issue at Truthout:
What is the "right to life"? Does it simply include unborn fetuses, stem cells, and people in persistent vegetative states? Or does it also refer to health care for the 40 million Americans who don't have it; aid to children whose single moms can't make ends meet; and billions of dollars in Medicaid - a virtual lifeline for millions - that Bush tried to cut? What about the 1524 American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who have died in a war that never should have happened? Didn't they have the right to life? a word, Marjorie, that would be "no." In fact, those American soldiers should be proud to die martyrs, let's not leave the worship of that status to the Muslims. God knows, we love our martyrs as well. (Thanks to Colin for the forward.)


The Family Research Council continues to milk the Terri Schiavo case for all it's worth. In their latest opportunistic essay, they compare Schiavo to Bin Laden, who has also become something of a free-floating metaphor, albeit for all that is unholy:
Imagine terrorist Osama Bin Laden being put on trial in the United States and sentenced to die a slow, painful death. Now imagine during the appeals process a presiding judge saying, "continue with the death sentence. If Mr. Bin Laden dies or suffers while I am thinking, then so be it." Death penalty opponents would be rightfully outraged. Any human being, no matter how despicable, has certain rights - especially in the U.S. court system. . . .

There is compelling evidence that key facts of Terri's case have been ignored by the judicial system. . . . Until these troubling questions, and numerous others, are answered, to err on the side of life is a good motto to keep in mind.
I really wouldn't take such issue with the wackadoo pro-life people if they were consistent in their doctrine. But it does seem to boil down to "those we deem 'innocent' are deserving of life and rights.

Here is an excerpt from a FRC piece on terrorism from last September:
The growing brutality of the cowardly Islamic jihadists, who behead unarmed civilians in the process of making videos of their rantings, is designed to weaken America's resolve and put questions in the minds of Americans about the leadership of George W. Bush. The terrorists are endeavoring to create an environment of fear and uncertainty. However, America must stand firm in its resolve to confront this evil. On this issue we should take our cue from our Israeli friends and stand firm against the jihadists, who not only want to rid the Middle East of westerners, but also to bring every Christian and Jew under the subjugation of radical Islamic rule.
I know this is the sort of hypocrisy that used to make me crazy when I was a teenager and I should be more inured to it by now, but I can't help but still get infuriated by the notion that one poor woman with a feeding tube who just wants the right to die becomes the ground of a holy war here at home while thousands are dying as we prosecute a crusade abroad. I'm way too logical for this point in my country's history.

Err on the side of life, indeed. Stupid fuckers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

When it's my time, just let me go quickly

Via Ezra Klein comes this gem from Tom DeLay:
One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. A recording of the event was provided by the advocacy organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. DeLay complained that "the other side" had figured out how "to defeat the conservative movement," by waging personal attacks, linking with liberal organizations and persuading the national news media to report the story. He charged that "the whole syndicate" was "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in."
Wow. It's tough to even know what to say here. How do you respond to a paranoia so profound it's pathological combined with a "culture of life" that so totally erases the one they are purportedly trying to save? Yikes. Terry Schiavo is like DeLay who is like, well, Jesus apparently--because who else gets sent here to save us all from Satan Liberals. In-fucking-credible.

(Thanks to Yelladog for the head's up)

Chicken soup for the soul through a feeding tube

Great new stuff at Get Your War On--complete with cartoon feeding tubes

Books we don't need to read

For those of us whose pile of "must reads" is increasing at an alarm rate, it may be a relief to hear that there's an entire publishing imprint whose spines need never be cracked. Simon and Schuster has announced a new conservative imprint (as yet unnamed) edited by Mary Matalin:
"It's the absolute nexus of what I love to do," Matalin told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I think we're on the threshold of a whole new way of looking at politics and policy and there's something vital about getting those ideas down in book form."
Once again, let me say that a "conservative" imprint dedicated to "a whole new way of looking at politics" is, well, something of a misnomer.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Weekend highlight

This weekend in Sante Fe, we spent some time talking to Andrea's young (23) friends about our punk rock past. Yes, Henry Rollins scooped ice cream for me at the Georgetown Haagen Dazs when he was still Henry Garfield. Yes, I bought the first Dischord 45 quite literally hot off the press. And so on. 23-year-old punk boy (complete with his stick-straight red mohawk and knuckle tattoos--HOLD FAST) was a bit chagrined. I didn't mean to make him sheepish, which he is what he was--since he was, like a toddler when most of the music he loves was first being recorded.

And I need to say, when you are touching the hem of forty's garment, you live for the chance to utter the line: "It's not your fault you were born too late."

Friday, March 18, 2005

Before we hit the road

we want to say, what up with celebrities and politics these days? Yes, it started in our formative years--think Bono, Bob Geldoff, and Sting--but now you've got every fucking two bit star who wants to be resurrected going to a peace conference and setting their hair on fire or something in protest of the cause du jour. Gives new meaning to "cause celebre":
As Germaine Greer knows, it doesn't always work. She stalked out of the gilded cage, otherwise known as Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother, saying she had only gone in the house in the first place to raise money for the Australian rainforest. It had, she said, "earned me a lump of cash that will be the rainforest cushion". But it turned out to be her own land she was trying to restore.
(It's annoying, that's all I'm saying.)

For your entertainment

We are in New Mexico this weekend visiting Andrea in her barrio, which distinguishes itself in my world as the neighborhood where the police sirens vie with the roosters crowing on a regular basis. A and I are on our way to Sante Fe very soon, and I have not brought my laptop (yay for being off the grid!).

Until we return on Sunday, here's a little something to amuse yourselves with: Furniture Porn (totally safe for work). (Not a new site, but one that has amused us greatly just now.)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Amen, brother

I feel for the poor guy who found my blog by searching for "we need Jesus, now more than ever."

Happy day after St. Patrick's day to everyone. I would have blogged this earlier, but I was on a plane. Am celebrating the holiday with green chilies here in Albuquerque. In any case, a day late but worth the stop is The Onion's History of Ireland--the URL sent to me from a genuine Irishman, in fact.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Our good hearts and good nature

Highlights from W's press conference yesterday:

On Lebanon:
I like the idea of people running for office. There's a positive effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say, vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America. I don't know, I don't know if that will be their platform or not. But it's -- I don't think so. I think people who generally run for office say, vote for me, I'm looking forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got bread on the table. . .

On Wolfowitz:
He's a skilled diplomat. . . . He's a compassionate, decent man

On Legacies:
Look, history -- shall I give you my talk on history and presidencies? Okay, thank you. . . . People are constantly evaluating somebody's standing in history, a President's standing in history, based upon events that took place during the presidency, based upon things that happened after the presidency, based upon -- like in my case, hopefully, the march of freedom continues way after my presidency. And so I just don't worry about vindication or standing.

The other thing, it turns out, in this job you've got a lot on your plate on a regular basis, you don't have much time to sit around and wander, lonely, in the Oval Office, kind of asking different portraits, how do you think my standing will be? (Laughter.) I've got a lot to do. And I like to make decisions, and I make a lot of them.

And, you know, I think when people also see, Carl, that we do what we say we're going to do -- for example, that we helped feed the hungry and that we believe all folks should be free and that women should have an equal say in society. I think when people see we actually mean that, and then when it comes to fruition, it will help people around the world better understand our good hearts and good nature.

I used to like Inouye

Hell, I went to high school with his son, who was one of my few fellow punks in suburban MD at that time. But there's not a personal connection strong enough to excuse this. Inouye joined two other Dems in a vote to approve the "let's destroy our national treasures" amendment to the budget. The vote was 51 to 49 to leave the desecration of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge amendment in the budget, so pretty much as long as they can pass a budget it will include provisions to destroy an ecosystem so that we can keep driving Lincoln Navigators.

You know I'm not even someone who considers "The Environment" one of my top issues. What I mean is--economic and social justice, civil liberties, anti-imperialism, these all rank higher for me in terms of things I'd go march for or things that, in fact, keep me up at night sometimes. But this delight to extract oil from one of the world's remaining wild places upsets me as much as anything in the news. It is symbolic to me of just how base and venal our culture and administration is.

It's such a junky mentality. We'll throw anything overboard for the sake of a lousy tank of gas. I mean, fuck our children's inheritance, fuck those Iraqis that are under dirt now, fuck those young Americans who joined the military so they could go to college and now consider themselves fortunate to be alive with no legs. In fact, pretty much everybody who's not a rich, greedy robber baron with their snout up to the oil trough can just go fuck themselves. We want our SUVs.

I hate them passionately today.

Once in a lifetime

I know I've complained a lot about the rain this year and it may have seemed like I'm just a whiner, but to put things in perspective, I'd like to note that this is what Death Valley looks like right now:

Got tear gas?

This weekend is the second anniversary of our most recent Iraq War. It's yet another opportunity to dust off your "Give peace a chance" signs and go protest. United for Peace and Justice has information about protests around the country and in Canada.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

You know you're in a silly mood...

when the archive of misheard lyrics strikes you as the funniest thing you've ever encountered. The whole thing started in a search for the lyrics to "I love a man in a uniform" that went awry and landed me on the "I love a man who's a Buddhist monk" page. And then I got a little lost:
Ketchup in a bottle
Massage in a brothel
Message in a bathroom
Lizards in my bottom
Knickers in a parcel
It's like that.

And this prompts me to, once again, put in a pitch for Motherless Brooklyn. If you haven't read it and you're a novel reader, you really should add it to your short list. It's linguistically fabulous. (If you're a PhD in LA you have to say things like "linguistically fabulous" on a semi-regular basis. It's a zeitgeist imperative.)

Virgin, mother, whore/crone

Sigh. I really like to imagine we are at a point where we've developed a few more archetypes from which women can chose. A girl can dream, can't she...

The boys over at the Alternate Brain have called my attention to Maureen Dowd's latest column dedicated to the dearth of women columnists.
Guys don't appreciate being lectured by a woman. It taps into myths of carping Harpies and hounding Furies, and distaste for nagging by wives and mothers. The word "harridan" derives from the French word "haridelle" - a worn-out horse or nag.

Men take professional criticism more personally when it comes from a woman. When I wrote columns about the Clinton impeachment opéra bouffe, Chris Matthews said that for poor Bill, it must feel as though he had another wife hectoring him.

While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it's seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I'm often asked how I can be so "mean" - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.

Even the metaphors used to describe my column play into the castration theme: my scalpel, my cutting barbs, razor-sharp hatchet, Clinton-skewering and Bush-whacking. "Does she," The L.A. Times's Patt Morrison wondered, "write on a computer or a Ronco Slicer and Dicer?"
I'm loving that last line that manages to consolidate castration and domesticity in one deft metaphor.

I know I've said this before (in re. L. Summers, for example)--we may be approaching "ad nauseum," in fact--but I just find it so tiresome that we still need to even have this discussion. One of the things that I like about the Internet is that it confers absolute anonymity if you want that. Political theory about the rise of the public sphere and its role in fostering democratic republics has it that the anonymity of print is crucial in maintaining a democracy. Thus you have "Publius" rather than "Madison," for example, or the "Gleaner" rather than "Judith Sargent Murray." (And note, here that Murray, one of America's first female columnists, chose a gender-less moniker with which to scribe herself. She was, however, widely understood to be a man.)

The Internet has even greater potential as a medium without gender, race, etc., it being a disembodied form. And yet, you might note, I sign myself Travis♀. Initially, I did not and everyone assumed I was a boy. Not a stupid assumption to make; I acknowledge the name is usually a boy's name. And it bugged me. When I posted, for example, about the Hannukah panties that spelled out "a great miracle happened here" in Hebrew on the crotch, it seemed important to me that people know I am a woman. What does all of that mean? I'm not sure. Maybe that Habermas was a white boy and so it's easier for him to see an unmarked position as liberatory. Maybe that Utopian ideals don't work so well in our non-Utopian world (it's that theory/practice schism that seems to trip me up over and over again). Maybe that, like Maureen Dowd, I want people to recognize the Emma Peel in me.

What it doesn't mean is that I'd like the chance to pick from the oh-so-limited buffet of virgin-mother-whore/crone options (though let's be clear, were I forced to, I think there's no other option for me than whore/crone).

If I had more time this would be a more definitive and less speculative post, but oh well. (And when you're done reading this, you should go over and encourage Prof. B. to become a columnist.)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Things that make me happy

I am the number one hit if you search Google for "pronounce Hegemony."

Other search phrases that have led people here:
"cowards filipino rats"
"walmart's effect on Canadian sovereignty"
"when dogs lick frogs or toads"
"suicide powerpoint presentation"
"secret treasure panties at wal mart"
I love the postmodern age.

Moment of gratitude

I read something like this:
The first inkling my husband had that I was thinking about suicide was when he checked my blog,
and I just think about how glorious it is to be single. Oh, I could tell you stories, blog readers of mine... But I will refrain. Let me simply pass on two pieces of advice for our age: 1.if you're going to have a secret extramarital affair, don't do it with an online journaller, and 2.if you're going to attempt suicide after being caught with your hand in that postmodern cookie jar, have the decency not to leave a copy of alt.suicide's FAQ in the printer tray when you stick your head in the oven.


Some day I'll write a memoir. I'll let you all know. It will be like David Foster Wallace only true.

The first Jewish president

Okay it's an email joke, so forgive me. I can't resist:

The year is 2012 and the United States of America has recently elected the first woman as well as the first Jewish president, Susan Goldfarb.

She calls up her mother a few weeks after election day and says, "So, Mom, I assume you will be coming to my inauguration?"

"I don't think so. It's a ten hour drive, your father isn't as young as he used to be, and my gout is acting up again."

"Don't worry about it Mom, I'll send Air Force One to pick you up and take you home. And a limousine will pick you up at your door."

"I don't know. Everybody will be so fancy-schmantzy, what on earth would I wear?"

"Oh Mom" replies Susan, "I'll make sure you have a wonderful gown custom-made by the best designer in New York."

"Honey," Mom complains, "you know I can't eat those rich foods you and your friends like to eat."

The President-to-be responds, "Don't worry Mom. The entire affair is going to be handled by the best caterer in New York, kosher all the way.

Mom, I really want you to come."

So Mom reluctantly agrees and on January 21, 2013, Susan Goldfarb is being sworn in as President of the United States of America.

In the front row sits the new president's mother, who leans over to a senator sitting next to her.

"You see that woman over there with her hand on the Bible, becoming President of the United States?"

The Senator whispers back, "Yes I do."

Says Mom proudly, "Her brother's a doctor."

Are there tour tee-shirts, that's what I want to know

We've all read about the new social security "war room" W has created to promote his latest plan to mortgage our future, but has everyone seen the tour map? Oy vey. I really think there should be tee shirts. In fact, I'm having a hard time typing while I'm waving my lighter in the air this way.

Just doing what everyone else is doing

The NY Times had a great piece on government propaganda this weekend. Most blog readers know the issue--video pieces released by the government designed to sell the administration's views and programs but look like news. It's not a new problem. Clinton's watch saw many of the same techniques, but efforts have been stepped up under W's administration.

The article is good even if you know the parameters of the problem. The bit about the State Department's Office of Broadcasting Services' efforts to "counter charges of American imperialism by generating accounts that emphasized American efforts to liberate and rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq" is just a little too Ministry of Truth for my tastes, but then I'm hopelessly old fashioned.

Here's a choice excerpt:

Karen Ryan cringes at the phrase "covert propaganda." These are words for dictators and spies, and yet they have attached themselves to her like a pair of handcuffs.

Not long ago, Ms. Ryan was a much sought-after "reporter" for news segments produced by the federal government. A journalist at ABC and PBS who became a public relations consultant, Ms. Ryan worked on about a dozen reports for seven federal agencies in 2003 and early 2004. Her segments for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy were a subject of the accountability office's recent inquiries.

The G.A.O. concluded that the two agencies "designed and executed" their segments "to be indistinguishable from news stories produced by private sector television news organizations." A significant part of that execution, the office found, was Ms. Ryan's expert narration, including her typical sign-off - "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting" - delivered in a tone and cadence familiar to television reporters everywhere.

"I just don't feel I did anything wrong," she said. "I just did what everyone else in the industry was doing."
Oh deep and heavy sigh. Was I the only person raised by parents who drilled the mantra into my head "if everyone was jumping in the lake would you?" For god's sake. (Thanks to McD for the forward.)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Almost too Roman to bear

Winning my award for the most distressing news story of the weekend is the LA Times' piece on insurance fraud. Nine clinics are being sued, not for false billing, that would be practically ethical comparatively, they are being sued for wittingly performing unnecessary surgeries on patients lured by promises of a vacation at the beach, a cash reward, or free plastic surgery. The gambit, which they call a "rent-a-patient" scheme, involves nationwide recruiters who convince folks to come to Southern California and subject themselves to endoscopies, colonoscopies, circumcision (really), you name it... in exchange for loot of some kind:
Officials investigating the operations said middlemen recruited mostly blue-collar workers with insurance policies. Many who took part were immigrants, officials said, some solicited by handwritten fliers.

"Those of you who have Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, or any PPO medical insurance plan and would like to make $4,000-$5,000 in cash! NO WORK INVOLVED!" read one flier investigators found in a factory break room.

According to federal authorities, some patients were lured with the prospect of complimentary plane trips and hotel stays by the beach. But others were drawn because the clinics said that in addition to the unnecessary procedures, they would receive face-lifts, tummy tucks, nose jobs and other types of cosmetic surgery.
Stories like this really make me wonder when we get the reality TV show where Christians get thrown to lions.

So much in my world has gone undone

While I have been writing poems this weekend. In between the versifying, I did manage some selective outrage over the kakistocracy, which I will document shortly, as soon as I get my laundry in and make some food. In the meantime, I just needed to share that I wrote a sestina. I mean, not that anyone should care--or even know what a sestina is--it's just sort of a cool thing in my little world.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

While we're on the subject of Ann Coulter

Her recent visit to Tufts inspired Steven Ward's primer in The Tufts Daily, "How to write like conservatives":
The Ann Coulter Two-Step. Step 1. Choose a topic. Step 2. Write whatever crazy thing pops into your head as long as it is demonstrably false.

The Generic Conservative Student Opinion Article.. . . Get your history book. Throw it out the window. Now, as an exercise in Academic Freedom, write your own history book. Do not include references to separation of church and state, deism, slavery, the Great Depression, McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, Watergate or the Clinton surplus. Include only one chapter on the 1990s and instead of writing it yourself, simply copy and paste the entire text of the Ken Starr Report.

. . .

Take quotes out of context to support ridiculous claims. Lie incessantly. When people object to your methods and disagree with your point of view, attack their patriotism.
And so on.

I'm thinking there's a "Punditry for Dummies" book just waiting to happen here. (Thanks to Silt for the link.)

Friday, March 11, 2005

The fates are looking out for me

Only last night I was watching TV for the first time in weeks (it was a very brief experience--only long enough to remind me of why I haven't watched it in weeks) and I found myself thinking, "Gosh I wish progressives had somebody like Ann Coulter." Let me explain: I was channel surfing and came to this talking-stupid-heads show on CNBC. I don't remember what it was--something about sports I think--and they were discussing Lawrence Summers. Two of the stupid-heads were saying things like "Well, shouldn't it be okay to put an idea like that on the table in an arena of academic inquiry?" Something like that. Something about how "political correctness" has stifled academic freedom. You know the tired, tired argument. And it just pissed me off, and I thought Jesus, if Ann Coulter were a liberal, she would just say, "No it shouldn't be okay. It's not okay to put the idea on the table that I am somehow unfit or inadequate because I lack a Y chromosome. That's not okay to say, and if you weren't such an idiot you'd realize that."

Then I read Coulter's latest (thanks to Me4President):
Howard Dean -- chairman of the party that supports murder, adultery, lying about adultery, coveting other people's money, stealing other people's money, mass-producing human embryos for spare parts like an automotive chop shop and banning God -- has called the Republican Party "evil."

. . .

I have some proposals for liberals. I think Democrats might want to drop the contract all Democrats apparently have to sign pledging to pretend to believe insane things. Also, if you could just get the base of your party to not participate anymore and maybe be a little less crazy, people might listen to you. Barring that, you're just going to have to scream a little louder.
I'm over it now. She's a crazy bitch. They can have her.

But can you pronounce "hegemony"?

From today's LA Times:
"There's still a large racial component in the politics of any large city, and Los Angeles is no different," said Jaime Regalado of Cal State L.A. "It's still harder for minorities to win."

. . .

Having a pronounceable name might help, and Villaraigosa used to have one.

He was born Antonio Villar. But when he and Corina Raigosa tied the knot in 1987, they also married their names.

"I remember saying to him, 'You just violated one of the major tenets of politics,'" Guerra says.

He took a perfectly good name, slapped on three syllables and made it impossible to remember, let alone pronounce. You can barely get it on a political button.

"Villar was not only simple, but while it sounds Latino, it could also be Italian," Guerra says. "Is it Latino? It might be, but maybe not. Then you go to Villaraigosa, which is clearly Latino."
This would be depressing to me regardless of the city, but here in LA it's even more depressing. Why? Well, let's look at the statement above: "It's still harder for minorities to win." Here are the 2000 Census population results for the city of Los Angeles:
Total: 3,503,532
White: 1,734,036
Black or African American: 415,195
American Indian and Alaska Native: 29,412
Asian: 369,254
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 5,915
Some other race: 949,720
Two or more races: 191,288
Hispanic or Latino(of any race): 1,719,073
You'll note that there is no "majority" population listed here. In the five years since that census, one has been established--Hispanic. Sigh. So really, if you want to get technical, whites are, in fact, the minority.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

Via Corrente comes this occasion to delight in another's misfortune:
A suspected Ku Klux Klansman who faces trial on murder charges next month for the notorious 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers is in serious condition in a Mississippi hospital after a falling tree crushed both his legs, officials said on Friday.
I hope it got his tallywhacker too.

Career opportunities

The Bitch has inspired me. I'm seriously considering quitting my job and selling snack food on eBay for a living. I'm thinking if the Mary and Jesus pretzel can fetch more than 10 grand, I can make a fine living just by more closely inspecting my cheetos and In 'n' Out burgers.

The eBay description:
MOTHER AND CHILD...This totally unique and spiritual item was found by a 12 year old girl. She was eating "Rold Gold" Honey Mustard flavored tiny twist pretzels, when she noticed the Virgin Mother holding Baby Jesus. We all had a feeling of warmth and spirituality when holding the pretzel. The bible references the parables of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32) , honey is sweet to the soul & healing of the bones (Proverbs 16:24) and the pretzel (John 3:14-21) has a deep spiritual meaning for LENT. We believe the Lord works his magic and this is evident in this item! Pretzel 1 inch wide by 2 inches tall.


Bless this special Lenten bread, O God. May its folded arms remind us of your love which folds around us. Let this little bread help us to especially remember your son, Jesus, during Lent. Guide us, O God, into his loving ways each day. Amen

Something is on the march...

...but it sure isn't looking like freedom.

It seems Britain is officially out of the running as a potential emigration destination once the brownshirts fully take over my country. The Prevention of Terrorism Bill is poised to pass, Howard and Blair having forged an unholy compromise on the sunset clause issue--MPs and peers will have chance to review the draconian legislation a year from now.

In a nutshell, the Prevention of Terrorism Bill enables the government to place broad sweeping restrictions on people's freedom when they are "terror suspects" but not able to be prosecuted for some reason or another. These potential restrictions include:

Banning possession or use of specified articles or substances
Prohibiting the use of certain services, such as internet or phones
Restricting work or business
Restricting association or communication with certain individuals, or other people generally
Restricting the person's place of residence or who is allowed into the premises
Requiring the person to be at specified places or in a particular area at certain times or days
Restricting movements within the UK or international travel
A specific 24-hour ban on movements
Requiring the surrendering of a passport
A requirement to give access to specified people to his home
A requirement to allow officials to search his home
A requirement to let officials remove items from premises for tests
A requirement to be monitored by electronic tagging or other means
A requirement to provide information to an official on demand
A requirement to report at a specified time and place
Depending on whether you're reading the conservative or liberal press, this is explained as a necessary measure to protect the country from attack--those sticky due process provisions forming such an impediment to safety--or a frightening step in the march toward fascism. You can probably guess where my opinion fits in the spectrum.

You can find the text of the bill here with Wednesday's addition here.

The only thing I'm still not clear on is the casting here. Is England the Italy to our Germany or am I getting it wrong?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

What's wrong with the new bankruptcy laws

This is what's wrong--from last July's Houston Chronicle:
Halliburton won court approval of its $4.2 billion asbestos settlement plan Friday when a bankruptcy judge in Pittsburgh signed the Chapter 11 restructuring plans for several key business units, including KBR and DII Industries.

KBR and DII filed for bankruptcy protection in December as a way to deal with claims by some 400,000 people who said they were injured by exposure to asbestos.

The bulk of the claims have been traced to Halliburton's acquisition of Dresser Industries several years ago when Vice President Dick Cheney was chief executive officer.

. . .

Halliburton shares rose 45 cents to close Friday at $31.50. For the year to date, the stock is up by 21 percent. The asbestos deal's progress aided the stock because it capped a potentially crippling cost — an endless run of litigation by those exposed to asbestos.

A Halliburton spokeswoman said little beyond that the company was pleased the confirmation order had been issued and was studying it.
Can you say "evil motherfuckers"? I knew you could.

Line of the day

In the lunchroom at work. Someone is wearing one of those Lance Armstrong Foundation bracelets. Someone else, not having ever seen one, asks, "Is that to keep away fleas or something?"

We're failing

The American Society of Civil Engineers has released its biennial Report Card for America's Infrastructure. Our GPA? A "D"

We scored lowest on drinking water (D-) and highest on solid waste disposal (C+), which is a fairly potent metaphor for much of what is wrong with America today, methinks.

What happens when my friends get video phones

I really love this one from Robert. It speaks to me.

And while you're there, you should check out his photos, which are quite marvelous.

At some point, I should really post a round up of my creative friends' projects. I have some pretty amazingly creative people in my life. It's a great thing to be in your late thirties and realize: Hey, I didn't turn into the person I was afraid of becoming when I was a teenager. It's possible to grow up in the mind-numbing, soul-sucking suburbs and never buy a minivan, take up golf, or think that annuities are dinner conversation subject matter.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Tell it to the slaves

From Salon (no link, sorry--got it via email):

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham appeared over the weekend at an annual Lincoln Day dinner in Knoxville, Tenn. Why wasn't he back home in South Carolina? Because, Graham said, his home state isn't quite ready to honor the 16th president of the United States. "We don't do Lincoln Day dinners in South Carolina," Graham said. "It's nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things."

Jane you ignorant slut

As I noted at The Seventh Cross, the State Department just released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004, and China promptly responded with a report on the US's human rights abuses from the Information Office of the State Council of the PRC. Is it just me or does it seem to anyone else like Chevy Chase is scripting our international relations these days?

While we're on the subject of b-speak

This is what I'm doing tonight. Flavorpill says:
With the same impish flair he's brought to his music and books, David Byrne has turned PowerPoint — our most formulaic composition tool — into a medium of madness. The erstwhile Talking Heads frontman gleefully unleashes his herky-jerky obsessiveness onto the language of corporate clarity — overlaying buzzwords until they become a shouting match of anxieties, and repeating clip-art shapes and dull vectors until their hidden personalities emerge. Like much of Byrne's output, it teeters on the verge of preciousness, only to be redeemed by his earnest enthusiasm. His accompanying book, DVD, and soundtrack, Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, will be on hand as well.
Yes we've been on something of a PowerPoint jag here at NMTE lately. Perhaps this will get it out of our system.

Brand Travis ™

So this morning I got an email forward from another single woman friend of mine with a sort of "get a load of this" sentiment. Certainly, anyone who knows me reasonably well can understand why a person would forward me an advice column with the header "Why do I attract the wrong men?" This--the lament--is the "dog bites man" part of the page. But the advice...The Advice!!!

You need to first define your "personal brand." A personal brand is a set of qualities about yourself that you consistently promote to everyone around you that best summarizes who you are and who you want to attract. If your brand is "happy, positive, encouraging," you are signaling to those "down-and-out men" that they can find some comfort with you. While you can possess those qualities inside, you don't have to advertise them so strongly. I'm not suggesting that you act depressed or sad, of course (which would be a turn-off)! But, perhaps if you showcased other qualities about yourself that focused on intellectual, athletic, or cultural interests, for example, you would attract more men who have well-rounded lives and aren't looking for a shoulder to cry on above all else. If your personal brand was "Architect, Cyclist, Wine-Lover," it seems more likely that a man would be initially drawn to you for other reasons besides looking for sympathy and a good listener.

How do you change and promote your personal brand? First, identify three unique attributes about yourself other than "happy, positive and encouraging" (clearly that has not been working for you). Then examine the ways you have been meeting men: If you have an online profile on a dating site, be sure that your screen name, headline, and background detail are consistent with your new personal brand. When you talk to friends and family who might set you up on a blind date, remember to ask them to describe you to potential dates according to your new personal brand (i.e., "Have you met my friend Joan? She’s an architect and avid cyclist who just returned from a wine-tasting trip in Napa Valley." Rather than, "Have you met my friend Joan? She’s such a positive, happy, encouraging person.")

Oh my fucking god. Of course, I had to go to Rachel Greenwald's site, which is dedicated to marketing her book, Find a Husband After 35: Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School.

I have written before about my distaste for the xx-step program mentality pervading all of life, but this takes the cake. Greenwald offers a 15-point program that, among other things, helps you

Devise a "Personal Brand" and be unique
"Package" yourself to improve your appearance
Use "Niche Marketing" and "Telemarketing" in your husband search
Use "Mass Marketing" to increase the volume of men you meet
Maximize "Online Marketing" to attract the best men from online dating sites
Use "Advertising" to get more fix-ups from friends
"Audit" your efforts and conduct "Exit Interviews"
Use "Best Practice" dating rules for retaining the men you want
Admittedly, I find myself really drawn to the notion of exit interviews, though I'm thinking it might not work well for me: "Um, when you get your head out of the oven, I'd like to set up a time where we can talk about what exactly went wrong." What's more, I can say that Brand Travis™ has ranged from "death wish--ice cold--club girl" to "passionate--scrabble playing--stand-up comedian" and yet...I seem to somehow always end up marketing to the same nitch (sadly, it happens to be a nitch I share with Eli Lilly, but hey).

And I'll confess, for all of my distaste (revulsion?) for the marketing and branding mentality, I admit that I have contemplated my own ad--"In search of attractive, well read, Marxist chef." There are precious few of those in the world and even fewer in LA which specializes in "beemer driving--blackberry sporting--borderline pedophiles" and "silicon filled--gleaming toothed--workout queens." I figure I'm in good shape though. It's about that business concept Greenwald failed to mention--monopoly. There simply aren't that many A-cup sardonic post-punk materialist (in the Marxist sense, not the Capitalist one) PhD girls in this town.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A nation of debtors

I find it interesting, and a bit ironic, that the states that will feel the impact of the impending bankruptcy laws most severely are all Republican states, according to Knight Ridder: Utah, Tennessee, Georgia, Nevada, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio, Mississippi and Idaho, in that order. There's really no sense of satisfaction in being able to say to some poor sap in Alabama who can't pay his medical bills and will no longer be able to declare bankruptcy, "You brought this on yourself." Don't get me wrong: I'm not a fan of bankruptcy, and I have a difficult time witnessing folks who've wiped their slate clean and still manage to retain assets I could only dream of. Nonetheless, the bill clearly benefits credit card companies and banks, and--here comes my vulgar Marxism--the real problem is Capitalism isn't it? A culture that exists to create desire and inculcate in folks the notion that they need to supplement themselves in order to be whole. Shit, sometimes I just think I want to join some nineteenth-century utopic community and pull up the drawbridge.

If you're interested in finding out which politicos are most deeply in the back pocket of the industries that stand to benefit, the Center for Responsive Politics has just posted "career profiles" that show 16-year fundraising totals for everyone in Congress. The press release gives a summary of who's in bed with credit card companies and banks. And they say prostitution is illegal outside of Nevada.

More reasons to love LA

It's just nice to live in a place where the mayoral candidates feel the need to tell you their position on nuclear disarmament, Abu Graib, Social Security, and so on. Watching Wendy Lyon's campaign clip, I couldn't help but hum Solidarity Forever. Viva la revolucion.

Happy day, women

Today is International Women's Day. I refer those who may be unconvinced about the need for such a designated day to feministing's post about KDGE's Pimp My Ride contest (via After School Snack).

The prize? Plastic surgery, of course.

As an aside, the US dropped its insistence that an anti-abortion amendment be added to the Beijing Declaration. The lie our representative is telling is that we "accomplished what we set out to do," that being garnered support for our prohibition. The reality is that the EU, South America's Mercosur and the Group of 77 developing nations were all opposed. It's nice to know we can count on South America for progressive attitudes toward women, anyway.

The village idiot strikes again

From last month's abolish-social-security tour--not new news, but just coming across my screen now--comes Bush's illuminating answer to an audience member's question "I don't really understand. How is it the new [Social Security] plan is going to fix that problem?"

Because the--all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those—changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be--or closer delivered to what has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the--like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate--the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those--if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.
Is that clear to everyone? It's embarrassing, really. Dismaying and embarrassing. If this guy were a clerk waiting on me at Best Buy I'd ask if I could talk to a manager, you know? If he worked at HR Block, I'd determine to do my own taxes. If he were trying to tie his shoes, I'd suggest he spit out his gum first. It almost makes me feel sorry for his handlers. What a hell of a job.

Maximum pain

The military is developing a new weapon designed to inflict the maximum pain possible from up to two kilometers away. Truthout tells us the weapon is supposedly to be used against rioters. Given the measured restraint of our military and their abiding respect for human rights, I fear to think. They have contracted with the University of Florida to do studies to "identify how much pain can be inflicted on someone before causing injury or death."

The contract, obtained by the Sunshine Project, is posted at the Memory Hole.

Which is to say, enough of sharing my euphoria about life--we now return you to your regularly scheduled program of outrage and dismay.

Monday, March 07, 2005

A mess of pottage

In their continuing attempts to ruin as much of the world as humanly possible while their guy still has office, Republicans have figured out how to avoid a filibuster on legislation allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by tacking provisions onto a budget bill. In much the same manner as small town America heralds the opening of Walmart Supercenters, the Alaskan legislature has passed a resolution urging the feds to decimate their treasures as soon as possible. Though the enthusiasm of locals seems grossly misrepresented.

The legislation itself seems to be an exceptional piece of voodoo economics. In the last four years, the average bid for an acre of the North Slope has been $39; in order to see the income predicted by the administration, the average bid would need to be 100 times that: $4000. (And then, of course, there's the sad fact that increased fuel efficiency legislation would save as much oil as we stand to gain by ANWR drilling.

The Sierra Club's petition is here. I can't even muster a witty scree. I'm just sickened by this administration's desire to trash everything worth caring about.

musk oxen and the midnight sun

Inupiat cemetary

Aurora borealis

(Photos from the California Academy of Scientists)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

California politics: vote early and often

One of the ten thousand tasks I have assigned myself today and tomorrow is to get caught up on the mayoral election (seeing that I need to vote Tuesday). I have lived in LA for 38 months now, and this will be either the fourth or fifth time I go to the polls (I've lost count). I find this a bit amazing really. I have lived in three counties in two other states and the District of Colombia, and this is the first place I've been where I've voted, not just every year, but more than once a year.

In today's LA Times there are a couple of editorials that analyze Los Angelenos' apathy toward local politics, and I just wonder how much of it has to do with the thinking "Well, if I miss this election, there will be another one in ten months or so." I mean, really.

It's all relative

One of my father's retinue of not-terribly-funny-but-often-told jokes involved a guy hitting himself over the head with a hammer. Why? "Because it feels so good when I stop." And that's the thing about working too much or too hard. Just being able to read the paper and copy CDs in your pajamas feels like winning the temporal lottery. Shit, I may even go hog wild and take tomorrow off too.

It's 9:45 here in LA. I am getting caught up on the continuing decline of the American empire, drinking fine coffee brought to me all the way from New Zealand, listening to the Damned (by the way, I did conclude this week that "New Rose" is one of the finest songs ever recorded in the history of rock and roll), and thinking about eventually taking a shower and getting dressed. Going to Santa Monica tonight with two of the people I admire most, and really, all's right in my world.

Of course, I have already compiled a mental list of ten thousand things I want to or should do with my time in the next two days. This is my mental illness: I regard all passage of time as a sort of reverse Hannukah miracle, whereby I can somehow squeeze eight days worth of work into one day. Perhaps at some point in my life I will come to better acceptance of the limitations of being human. Not there yet... Regardless, even if I only vacuum and work on my latest story, it will be enough. Life is good. Dayanu.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The only time that's real is now

I am two days into a three-day workgroup meeting. Which is to say: perhaps tomorrow night or the next day regular blogging will recommence. The meeting has been difficult and at times frustrating, but very fruitful and actually quite wonderful--if that combination makes sense to anyone but me. Tonight after work and a Seventh Step meeting, I ate moussaka, dolmas, and lamb chops with two dear friends--women I both love and admire. And now I am full in every sense.

Which brings me to my explanation of the title of this blog.

"Now more than ever," I know is assumed by many to be a sort of rallying cry. Which I suppose it is in one sense. But the title actually comes from the sixth stanza of Keats' Ode to a Nightingale:
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain -
To thy high requiem become a sod.
I am not a huge fan of the Romantics (though Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much With Us" deserves its own post some day), but Keats is a breed apart. The line "Now more than ever seems it rich to die," isn't morose; it's about being so full--the moment being so perfect--that you could just end on that note. (I'm not doing it justice with my labored prose, I know.)

I've been given the rare gift of feeling, presently, like I am doing exactly the sort of work I should be doing and living exactly the life I should be living. If I could change anything, I wouldn't change anything. Not even the rain.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose

The BBC has a pretty creepy story about the relationship between Patrick Henry College and our current administration. If I were posting this over at The Seventh Cross, it would be listed in the "Religion and Government are Intertwined" category (see the fourteen defining characteristics of fascism):
Mr Farris, a constitutional lawyer and political activist, established the college with a very clear aim: "To prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless Biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding."

"If we are going to have our values reflected in our culture, we've got to train our kids in those values and train them for leadership," Mr Farris said. "And so this is a very concerted effort to train top leaders."

. . .

The values Mr Farris wants to instill in his students are those of the conservative Right.

Freedom is the key concept, and for Mr Farris freedom means the right to hold private property, and self-government.

He sees a limited role for the federal government, with decision-making being taken only by elected officials.

He is not a fan of the UN or the Supreme Court because they are unelected.

He is also vehemently opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. [And, I'm sure, all manner of other things as well.]
Twenty-two congresspeople have had interns from Patrick Henry in the past few years--a school that makes incoming students sign a paper saying they believe in the literal word of the Bible. (Do they abstain from pork, you think?)

It does continue to boggle my mind that a guy like Farris can say within a few short breaths, first, that "freedom" is the watchword of his political faith and, then, that who his fellow citizens love and what they do with their own bodies should be legislated. What the hell is wrong with people? Have aliens really sucked everyone's brains out their ears with straws? I have been resisting this theory because I don't look good in a tinfoil hat, but I am finding it tougher and tougher to draw any other conclusion.

What animals know that we don't

What's going on with the animals, I want to know. First there was the news that the tsunami seemed to claim virtually no non-human animal victims, leading scientists to speculate anew about animals' intuition or sixth sense. Now we have word of tigers in the Simi Valley (Moorpark) Target parking lot; chimps in Caliente, California; and most fittingly, coyotes in D.C. Are we changing our dystopic proof text from 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale to Planet of the Apes or something? What's up with all this?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Time out for fantasy

Brought to you by Ben Cohen's True Majority: build your own oreo cookie US budget. Remember the oreo clip about our repulsive budget? The one where each cookie represents ten billion dollars and the Pentagon has somewhere near a gazillion cookies and health care gets like five crumbs? Well, now you can stack the cookies yourself and send your proposed budget to Congress. If only it were that easy.

It may sound a little like a southern rock song

But it's not. I am delinquent in announcing that The Seventh Cross, the fascism blog I posted about last month, is up and running. I just posted my first entry there, and my compatriots have been busy. This post by the Fixer explains the blog name. So go visit and check it out.

For that matter, check out the blogs of the other six of seven (it may be eight now): the Fixer's Alternate Brain, Matt's Democrappy, crasspastor's dunneIV, Eponymous' eponymously named blog (hee hee), Grannyinsanity's site, and Shakespeare's Sister's blog.

In the future, some of the relevant material here may be crossposted there as it goes up. Just fyi.

I'm sure it's not a good sign

That I'm starting to believe there are special messages just for me in the spam poetry I have been getting. Today's:

Excuse me... :)

There is occasions and causes why and wherefore in all things.
Every improvement in communication makes the bore more terrible.
Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.

Life cannot subsist in society but by reciprocal concessions. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost when health is lost, something is lost when character is lost, all is lost.

I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.
One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius.

Love alone could waken love. Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.
The folly of all follies is to be love sick for a shadow.
Some things are easier to legalize than to legitimate. This is the curse of an evil deed, that it incites and must bring forth more evil.

Beauty endures only for as long as it can be seen goodness, beautiful today, will remain so tomorrow.
Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.
Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.
He can run but he can't hide.You're the only one who can make the difference. Whatever your dream is, go for it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Before I moved to LA...

...I didn't even know what "red-tagged" meant. From today's LA Times:
"The sun is shining, but the rain is busily percolating downward," said Randy Jibson, a geological consultant for the U.S. Geological Survey.

"You can't see it, but it's busy. I expect that in the next few months, we will see a spectrum of landslides--deeper, slow-moving landslides--throughout the region. They don't kill people, but they cause enormous property damage. You can sit there and listen to a house creaking and groaning, and you're helpless," he said.
Precipitation or oven cleaner? You make the call.

You know, one of the reasons I love LA so much is that humans really shouldn't have settled here. It's a city of immense denial.

On a completely personal note

I said below that I went on my first flight in a little plane last weekend. J got back pictures and they're just so fun I have to share them. It's a pretty amazing thing to be there with someone while she stares down her fears. And flying is like magic to me no matter what. Flying in a four-seater plane was even more magic.

More on the knife rack

If you scroll down, you'll see the knife rack we covet. We were saddened by its lack of US availability. In fact, we were contemplating a gelato and knife rack pop over to Italy, but our super-sleuth Andrea has done her homework and saved us from using all of our frequent flier miles:

Andrea's email to the makers:

I saw your name at the Viceversa website - I am in absolutely love with the stabbed guy knife rack and must have one (I'm tempted to order in bulk - what a Christmas gift!) and hope you can get it to me here in the States.

Do you do that? Can you manage it? or must I brush up my Italian?
And their reply:
Dear customer,

Thank you for your interest in Vice Versa products.
The item you are looking for (Voodoo Display with 5 Knives) is new on the market and is going to be in North America within next 90 days. We will keep your inquiry with your contact information on file and we will let you know when this item is available.

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us at
So all of you who've been wondering what gift to shower me with, this is it. It should be available in plenty of time for my birthday.