Monday, July 31, 2006
First arrests made in Las Vegas for feeding the homeless
The Family Stone--a poorly told, mean-spirited, cautionary tale
I am writing about it, however, because it contains a really nasty message. The Stone family is painted to be ultra-liberal. One of the sons is both deaf and gay, and his partner is black. The film goes out of the way to show how very accepted they are. The entire family has learned how to sign, which is as it should be, but having them constantly signing is a way to show how progressive and sensitive they are.
Only they are not. This is one nasty family. If you saw The Aviator, then recall the depiction of Katherine Hepburn's family, and how mean they were to Howard Hughes when Hepburn--knowing they will tear him to shreds--brings him to the family home for lunch. The Family Stone is judgmental, petty, vicious, and nuts. The screenwriters give them a bit of slack by having the mother dying of breast cancer. But whereas in Pieces of April, the mother (played by Patricia Clarkson) who is dying of breast cancer is the acerbic, sometimes intolerable, one, almost the entire family in The Family Stone comes across mean.
I say "almost" because the men in the film are actually not so bad. The father is a bit passive, but he is basically decent. The gay son is nice, the boring and somewhat pretentious fiance of Sarah Jessica Parker's character is okay, and the other son, played by Luke Wilson, represents the warmth and humanity in the family. Even one of the daughers is not too bad. The family's meanness is directed by the mother and the other daughter, and the family goes along with it, making them all perpetrators, and portraying the family, as a system, as intolerant and snobbish.
The Sarah Jessica Parker character is a cartoon, but Parker makes the most of the role. She is, admittedly, not the most socially sensitive person in the world, but she has potential. Since she herself is a misfit, we sense it would not take too much for her to gain some empathy toward the oppressed. But the Family Stone's teaching methods are brutal, so we end up sympathizing with the "insenstive" one.
I believe this is the way many people see liberals and progressives, and indeed, it may be the way we have become, at least sometimes. It is hard for us to understand intolerance and social and ecological ignorance. But are our manners that bad? I doubt it. I know mine are not. And of course, the other message in The Family Stone is that the family would be nicer if the women would just stop being so vicious.
In the end, the Family Stone softens toward the Sarah Jessica Parker character, but only after they have done everything but tar and feather her. And, in a scene reminiscent of Joan Cusack's Stevie Nicks moment in School of Rock, she begins to unwind and show that she is human and not an automaton. The Diane Keaton character dies, and everyone becomes all warm and fuzzy. But I didn't feel that way at all.
Isn't it interesting...
Bush administration cuts suicide hotline; government set to take over crisis calls
But the situation is even worse than it seems: The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration, a division of Health & Human Services, is creating its own crisis center, which means that the U.S. government would have access to the confidential records of the 2,000 people a day who call the hotline. Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend points reminds us that suicide is a leading cause of death among teenagers, and of course, that includes a number of gay teenagers. Pam writes:
You might recall SAMHSA, which came under fire from the fundies back in February of last year. Agency officials were forced by the Bush admin (after the WH received hopping mad calls from Family Research Council's Tony Perkins) to remove all LGBT references from a federally funded suicide prevention conference in California and to kill gay-positive content from the SAMHSA site.
Once again, the word "faith-based" is ringing in my ears.
Read Pam's post to see how you can help.
The entrepreneurial spurut
Sunday, July 30, 2006
The institutionalized sexism of women's tennis
Common to all generations is the unstated belief that women may model themselves after male players, but never the other way around. When a young player--or a veteran player who is being featured--is asked who her early role models were, she might say Graf or Seles or Serena Williams, and she might also say Sampras or Agassi. But when a male player is asked the same thing, he will never, ever say Graf, Seles, Evert, or any other woman.
This inequality is encouraged by television announcers, both male and female. They may say of a woman, "Look, her service motion is a bit like McEnroe's. They may also say, "When she comes to the net like that, she reminds me a bit of Evonne Goolagong." But they will never, ever say, "When I see him volley, I think of Navratilova," or "His service motion is abbreviated, like Mauresmo's."
The unspoken belief is: It is good for women to aspire to play like men, but it is forbidden for men to aspire to play like women. The average viewer or listener is not picking up this message; she does not need to. It is part of the message that threads through every part of our culture. And even now, as I write this, there are plenty of people who may read it and say "But men play better." Or "Men may feel 'insecure' being compared with women." Or "You feminists have to pick apart everything." Or "I don't hear the women on the tour complaining." Or "Female athletes have more important things to deal with than that."
I know the litany of excuses used to squelch the kinds of things that I am saying. I have heard them all. I have addressed them all. The bottom line is the same: Women are considered inferior to men.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Quote of the week
Friday, July 28, 2006
Sen. Grassley introduces bill to eliminate USPS protection of live chicks
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, however, has introduced a bill that would remove the U.S. Postal Service's directional authority and force it to accommodate the wishes of the baby bird and cockfighting interests. One of the requirements would be for airlines to transport birds in any temperature between 0 and 100 degrees.
Please contact your senators and representatives and ask them to vote against this bill and the House bill that will match it. And you can go here to get the address of the U.S. Postal Service. It would be helpful to ask the U.S.P.S. to stop shipping birds altogether.
Shipping birds through the mail is not the only problem. Northwest Airlines caused the death of 9,000 turkey chicks, who were then destroyed in an airline trash compactor.
Everything you need to know about FEMA
Here's hoping you don't have a hurricane hit your community. Unless you are one of those persons who mocked us for needing help. For you, it would be an educational experience.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I lose my memory and miss the biggest show of the season
Here is what one looks like when it opens. I'm totally sick that I forgot. Here's hoping such a show occurs again this summer.
IHCIA not a Congressional priority
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Why are people surprised that Bill Clinton is supporting Lieberman?
As for Lieberman's rightward leanings, we must remember that Clinton is not really that liberal, and that he sold out women (a charge made repeatedly about Lieberman) and gays in his own administration.
Provincetown bigots upset at being called bigots
Taunted as "breeders," the petition-signers are complaining that they are also being called bigots. Oh dear. I can't imagine how anyone could call a bigot something as atrocious as..."a bigot." One woman complained that the KnowThyNeighbor list was left on her car windshield. Oh, the horror of it.
In fairness to the Provincetown bigots, one woman said that someone put dog feces in her car, and though she cannot prove a gay person did it, I cannot help but think her suspicions are correct.
But goodness, we are whiny. It could be worse. They could be told they cannot marry, told they should not work in the schools, be fired from their jobs, be told they are dying because God hates them, get beaten up as they walk down the street, or be pistol-whipped and tied to a fence.
Zombie terrorists arrested in Minnesota--another Homeland Security victory
A half dozen zombies learned that the hard way Saturday night. Six men made up as zombies were on their way to a zombie party in Minneapolis. As they staggered down the street, police officers noticed that they had wires protruding from their duffel and backpacks. Oops...in Minnesota, it is against the law to "simulate weapons of mass destruction." The men were arrested and thrown into jail for behavior that was "suspicious and disturbing."
Today marks four years that The Dees Diversion has been online. When I think about it--and I do think about it--it is extremely discouraging to spend countless hours making a case for such bizarre ideas as treating women as though they were people, just like men; or declaring that fascism is not a good system for our country, or suggesting that the daily torture of millions of farm animals is immoral and should be stopped. Writing about animal rights is especially lonely, since so few liberals care about non-humans enough to fight for their right to live without suffering. In fact, the fight to relieve animal suffering is not a liberal cause; those who are active in it tend to be both conservative and liberal, which is interesting, and which could serve as a link of understanding between opposite camps.
Even blogging about women's tennis can be discouraging, so rampant is sexism within the sports industry and among fans. But it is also fun, and this year, it has been especially gratifying for me now that Amelie Mauresmo, in whom I never lost faith, has won her first two Grand Slam tournaments. Of course, being a fan of Patty Schnyder has been an exercise in patience this year, but what is a fan if not loyal?
On the other hand, now that I no longer live in an urban setting, it is the blogging community that has reminded me daily that I am not alone in banging my head against the wall over everything from stolen elections to illegal invasions to pharmacists who do not dispense pharmaceuticals. I think we keep each other, if not sane, at least away from the edge.
And now, I'm off to have some coffee and blow out my virtual candles.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
A few notes on a few books
The wonderful thing about Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions is that the writing is intelligent, thoughtful, fresh, and often brilliant. The terrible thing is that every single subject tackled by Steinem is still a problem in the 21st Century. Whether she is writing about politics, body image, sexist language, the news media, or her mother, Steinem polishes each piece into a gem of feminist understanding and sociological/political meaning, and always with the trademark Steinem humor. Some of the essays are small masterpieces, putting into precise words thoughts and feelings that have sometimes been difficult for many of us to express.
I have decided to re-read The Feminine Mystique some time in the near future, too.
I just finished Sue Monk Kidd's second novel, The Mermaid Chair, and have a few things to say about it. Critics praised it a great deal, though many readers thought it was a disappointment. I stand between those two camps.
When I read Monk Kidd's first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, I was blown away. It is one of the finest novels I have read in the last who knows how many years, and features wonderful characters, superb storytelling, historical significance, and a transcendent quality that really cannot be desribed, but has to be experienced. The story of a troubled, abused girl and her African American friend and mother figure who run away together and wind up in the home of beekeeper sisters is haunting and beautiful. The language is breathtaking, and the symbolism unique.
In The Mermaid Chair, Monk Kidd deals with the restlessness of a middle-aged woman who "should" be happy, but is not. Stifled by her conventional marriage, estranged from her mentally unbalanced mother and haunted by her father's death, she travels to the dreaded South Carolina barrier island of her childhood to confront her mother's bizarre behavior, and while she is there, she falls in love with a monk at the island monastery.
The eroticism in The Mermaid Chair is as alive as the marsh surrounding Jessie and her lover, Brother Thomas. The symbol of the mermaid is used with great skill, the nature writing itself is a great read. So what's not to like? Monk Kidd chooses an unconventional POV: Most of the story is told in the first person, but there are breaks in which it is told in the third person by an omniscient narrator. I had no problem with that, once I got used to it, but I did have a problem with the first person narration.
Jessie's narration is conversational, and that is a device I do not like at all unless the author is writing in a unique dialect, such as that used by Alice Walker in The Color Purple. The fact that the third person POV chapters were written "straight" made the experience even more jolting. And Monk Kidd repeats some of her images so many times I could almost imagine a drinking game being played around them. Though the symbols and images in the novel are very effective, the author tosses us at them in such excess that the writing, at times, seems self-conscious.
I do not agree with those critics who say that The Mermaid Chair has more depth than The Secret Life of Bees; I think it is the other way around. It is hard for everyone when the writer of a brilliant first novel writes the next book. My question is: What in hell was Monk Kidd's editor doing while this was going on? Why didn't she address these issues of POV and superflous image creation? This question is troubling me.
Is The Mermaid Chair worth reading? Yes. It is the fact that it is almost great that is so frustrating.
Worth noting...The Secret Life of Bees is being made into a film, starring Dakota Fanning. No other cast members have been named. The Mermaid Chair has been made into a film by Lifetime Television, and will air in September. The character of Jessie will by played by Kim Basinger.
There's no place like home, especially if it's Kansas
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
"The softer side of terrorists"
Here's something for Kingston to chew on: Where was he when citizens of his not-so-distant neighbor, North Carolina, sheltered, gave money to and defended terrorist Eric Rudolph? I do not recall his speaking out.
Soon we'll need an automated system to keep up with them
(This seems like an appropriate spot to include an update...James West, former mayor of Spokane, who was accused of luring and molesting boys, has died.)
Child pornography, child molestation, rape (including that of a narcoleptic woman), coercion into group sex, drug addiction, compulsive gambling...those Republican moralists are busy people. And though JFK will probably always hold the record for having the most sex and drugs in the White House (and he wasn't even there for long--just think...), the current White House does have the distinction of creating the most equality-linked sex atmosphere: Both a female porn star and a gay male prostitute were top-level guests there on several occasions.
Big Dig safety manager warned contractor that tunnel ceiling would not hold
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Rape victim forced to drive to another county to get morning-after pill
The former medical director of the hospital said that "People drive to Reading to buy jeans."
Probably not just after they've been raped.
The state of Pennsylvania supports the doctor's refusal to provide the pill, by the way.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
New Orleans area update
The community I wrote about several weeks ago has filed a suit against the city for placing a landfill right smack inside it.
Three healthcare officials may be charged with murder. The case against them is led by a man under whose watch there was constant medical neglect at Parish Prison. da po' blog has an excellent post about this issue.
Murders are down since the National Guard arrived, but I wouldn't want to be out on the streets for long.
A Covington woman died last week of West Nile virus.
The mayor and city council of NewOrleans have proposed a 10% pay raise for police officers and a raise in starting pay for firefighters.
Mercury found in New York songbirds
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Book banners lose the first round
Monday, July 24, 2006
Suddenly, Foti cares about medical neglect
Foti maintains that the medical team gave lethal injections of Morphine and Verset to four patients at Memorial Hospital. They deny that they did, but a lot of New Orleanians, including medical personnel, are defending them, even if they did inject the doses. This defense is based on both the characters and reputations of the doctor and nurses, and on the extraordinary and horrific circumstances under which they had to work.
The entire situation is unpleasant, but the irony of Foti's zeal about medical neglect is really burning me up.
100 civilians a day dying in Iraq
Our sexually assaulted and raped soldiers--collateral damage
War itself makes men very aggressive physically and sexually. I think it is this that is putting female soldiers at risk. Unfortunately, much of this was argued by experienced soldiers prior to the mixing of the sexes in units, but it was dismissed as sexism. I don't think it was sexism: it was an honest account of how the behavior of young men in a war environment, despite the best checks and balances of the military hierarchy, are still difficult to control. Think about it: horny guys with guns, horny guys, who after having a few friends killed and maimed, don't care a toss about the military hierarchy or what feminists think. It is that brutal on the frontlines....
The military tries to bring some creature comforts from back home to the war zone. So you have people getting into their bathing suits (and women into skimpy bikinis) and dipping in inflatable pools. In fact, the chicks are usually out on the grass sunbathing when they aren't working. So the guys have a very clear idea of what they look like -- and keep in mind these are women who are in top physical condition.
Like that? Here's another:
[to]...put a person in an environment where there are no safety valves and the reality is aggression at its most elemental and life-threatening, then it is an exercise in futility to even think that there will not be overt sexual acts, especially if an exposed female body is in close proximity.... To introduce females into combat or intense military situations just seems to be pushing the envelope.
Fortunately, there were several other readers who took these two to task. But the idea that men are going to force women to have sex because they are all aggressive and cannot help themselves is not only horribly misogynistic and demeaning of men, but also conveniently ignorant of the number one fact about rape: It is not a sexual act, but an act of control. Yes, male soldiers may make unwanted advances on female soldiers because of war stress (or because they made unwanted advances on women before they ever joined the military), but raping women is about hostility, not sex.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Women rate themselves as less proficient than men in Internet skills
There were 51 women and 49 men in the study. Hargittai learned a few things she expected to learn: that younger computer users and more educated computer users rated themselves as more proficient than older users or more educated ones. The surprise result for the sociologist was that--despite having equal skills--the women rated their proficiency level lower than the men rated theirs.
"Not a single woman among all our female study subjects called herself an 'expert' user, while not a single male ranked himself as a complete novice or 'not at all skilled'," Hargittai said. She also says she "sees a replay of the he-versus-she math-and-science contest, in which women concede defeat even before an objective score has been tallied."
Finding new ways to bash women's tennis
"Belgiam, Italy--You're in the final of the Fed Cup, whatever that is."
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Wolf Blitzer is a total ass--evidence item number 532
Insecurity, narcissism and hostility--everything we want in a leader
A couple of days ago, I wrote that Bush is a prime example of a developmentally arrested male who is under-socialized and so insecure that he acts like a fool much of the time and makes fun of things he does not understand (which would be most things). Add a sense of entitlement to that and you have a person with whom it is difficult to have an appropriate relationship.
I would now like to add a third element to the motivation behind Bush's boorish behavior: It is hostile. Like the person who says "it was just a joke" when challenged for his not-so-funny remarks, Bush laughs off his grabbing and slapping with a "look at me, I'm just a practical joker kind of guy" attitude. We must not forget that, as a child, Bush placed firecrackers inside frogs, then tossed them like grenades and blew them up. He executed a record number of people when he was governor of Texas. Once, when he was drinking (I know, I know...), he asked for his wife's opinion about something, and when she gave it, he became so enraged that he drove their car right through the closed garage door. He has repeatedly been testy with reporters who have asked him legitimate questions, and he has been unbelievably callous toward the loss of lives of our soldiers in Iraq.
So we are dealing with a developmentally arrested, narcissistic, insecure, hostile man. That, of course, is on top of the lying and cheating that is part and parcel of his personality. Who is proud of America now?
People wishing to save embryos may need to rethink rhythm method
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Friday, July 21, 2006
Homeland security a problem in the U.K as well as the U.S.
"The gate was open, there were no security guards...I walked up to the train and planted my bomb," the reporter said. The train, which goes from Kent to Cumbria, carries radioactive flasks of spent uranium fuel rods. The Mirror reporter said that the train was left unattended for about ten mintues, and that he was able to approach the wagons in daylight while the driver was on a break. He also said he had observed the train for a couple of months, and that there was continual opportunity to sabotage it.(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Please don't feed the homeless
City officials said they instituted the law in part because of recommendations from some who work with the homeless who say offering food separately from other services, such as counseling and drug treatment, is counterproductive.
I am reminded of the time a client came to me after she had spent the day volunteering at the polls. "Did you know," she asked me, "that there were homeless people trying to vote?" I asked her what it was about not having a home that stripped a person of her American citizenship, and she just looked at me as though I had crawled out from under a rock. Did I say that she was volunteering through her church?
Props to J.Jill
The stupidest political ad I've seen in a while
It is quite clear to anyone with a brain that there are indeed people who are born gay. And no one has yet to come forward to explain why someone would wake up one morning and suddenly decide he wanted to be looked down on by the majority of the population, be discriminated against in almost every area of life, get beaten up by idiots, and be called disparaging names. And just think--those people in Iran who suddenly decide they are gay can also look forward to being executed.
Quote of the day
You have a very big split in the Jewish-American community. You got a lot of Jewish liberals, a lot of Jewish far-left people, who basically feel that, you know, you don't have a right to go after terrorists because it's our fault, the United States' fault. And some say it's Israel's fault because we've been mean to them, therefore they have a right to do whatever they want--behead people on camera, all this terrible stuff. OK? That's a far-left position.Bill O'Reilly
The advantages of attending an Ivy League school
Thursday, July 20, 2006
It isn't just gays who are being insulted here
And I don't mean gay fag, I just mean the way when you're a sophomore, juvenile, in grammar school and somebody would say you're like a sissy boy fag. I don’t mean gay fag. I mean like sissy boy. He’s a little sissy boy. Wife wears the pants.
My issue is not that DePetro called Armorello a fag (well, yes, that is one of my issues, but not my reason for posting). It is that, in trying to back out of his statement, his "explanation" was to insult all women, and that no one is going to protest his vile attitude about women. The above statement by DePetro sends that old message that the worst thing a man can be is a "woman," and that it is totally ridiculous to imagine a woman having power within a marriage. You have to insult women in extremely overt and over-the-top ways these days to hear even a peep of protest, and sometimes you don't hear it then, either.
George W. Bush--embarrassment or embodiment?
You see them everywhere: They joke about matters that are not funny, make fun of the many things they do not understand, initiate unnecessary conversations with busy wait staff and desk clerks, make "jokes" with perfect strangers, call people they do not know by their first names, and engage in seventh grade-level flirting with women and girls. Some of them drink too much, which makes matters even worse.
Women put up with these men because women tend to put up with almost anything. Women make excuses for them, or rush to list their good qualities. They may be embarrassed by their yahoo husbands and fathers and brothers, but they generally keep that to themselves.
George W. Bush is such a man. He has never in his life demonstrated that he can successfully initiate or complete a project, he is not very literate, he lacks intellectual curiosity, he has always counted on his parents in order to get by, he has no concept of appropriate social behavior, he invades the boundaries of others, and has bad table manners.
These are things we have known for some time. What is significant is not that Bush is a boorish dunce, but that he is the alleged leader of the free world, placed in that position by crooked elections, yes, but nevertheless tolerated by constituents and their elected representatives. The news media goes out of its way to excuse his behavior. Conservative religious people care only that he assists them in hating gays and women. Wealthy conservatives like the money he puts in their pockets.
Bush is not the first modern (alleged) president to have personality flaws. John F. Kennedy was a drug addict and had an impressive sexual compulsion. Bill Clinton couldn't keep his mind off of women who were not his wife. Both of them knew how to behave in public, however (though that certainly does not forgive the hurt they caused others or the bad judgment they exercised). If Bush's flaws were confined to his personality, he would still be a supreme embarrassment, but perhaps we could just grit our teeth and bear it. But it is not just that he is an 11-year-old boy in a man's body: He is an incompetent, dishonest, war-mongering tool of rich men who mean to destroy the country as we once knew it--a country far from what it should have been, but better than what it has become.
As the U.S. moves farther and farther away from respecting education, the arts and the concept of social propriety, we can expect cruder and cruder elected officials. People did not care that Reagan was not very bright. He had a pleasing personality, and he engaged enthusiastically in carrying out official campaigns against gays, women, liberals, and people of color, and that is what Americans wanted from him. They want the same thing from Bush, and they get it.
Bush is not an abberation; he is the face of American apathy, racism, sexism, homophobic zeal, greed, and anti-intellectualism. He is the face in the mirror.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Quote of the month
Could someone please hand Bill Kristol a newspaper?
This is what he said right before the U.S. invaded Iraq:
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Flying the flag upside down
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
League of Women Voters may exclude Green Party candidate from debate
Monday, July 17, 2006
Reed now blames Indians for the mess he's in
Congress tries reducing animal testing again
The Committee recognizes the [EPA's] commitment to developing a Computational Toxicology program that reduces the use of animal testing. The Committee encourages EPA to implement specific plans for validating computational toxicology methods to assure compliance with the ICCVAM Authorization Act of 2000, and requests details on these validation activities be included in the Agency's annual Computational Toxicology report.
This is good news. Unfortunately, Congress has never created a five-year priority plan for reducing animal testing. Under the Clinton administration, animal testing was greatly reduced, but as soon as Christine Todd Whitman took over as the director of the alleged EPA, testing increased again dramatically. Please contact your Congresspeople.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
"Clijsters and Belgium overwhelmed an undermanned U.S. team"
Quote to ponder
Stanford neurobiologist says gender discrimination makes a big difference in the sciences
The "bomb threat" in Jackson
Friday, July 14, 2006
Texas agriculture workers leave animals to die because of a "paperwork problem"
Not only are the pigs' destinations horrific, but their transport, like the transport of much livestock, is often deadly, also.
NATO to get a new commander--guess who?
Congratulations yet again to Amelie Mauresmo!
Friday cat blogging--foster edition
Here is the gray tabby, the most precocious of the group, with her little black and silver tabby pal. The sooner these leave and are adopted, the better; it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep from getting attached to them. Both of them are playing with toys and like to come out and be held and get petted. The gray tabby has a very loud purr.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
ACLU files suit on behalf of New York corrections officers
Chick-Fil-A steps up its disgusting promotional campaign
Isn't that cute? It's vile enough that Chick-Fil-A makes a joke of the millions of cows that are tortured and then slaughtered for hamburgers, steaks and leather, or imprisoned and stuffed with hormones and antibiotics and turned into milk machines. But the underlying message of the campaign is to get people to support the obscene treatment of factory farm chickens.
Update on Cecelia Fire Thunder
Fire Thunder was suspended and then impeached for engaging in "political" acts without the council's permission. So much for uppity women.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Colorado legislator declares state is helping create terrorists
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Okay...now I believe it
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Slapping the *#@! out of copyright violators
Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Homophobia at an all-time high for a reason
Because churches and other keepers of public "morals" have beaten us over the head with the idea that anything that is not purely heterosexual is sinful and perverted--and in the case of men, "feminine" (God forbid)--there is understandably a gigantic heap of fear about acknowledging anything above 0 on the Kinsey scale. It isn't surprising, given the religious right's takeover of the government, that this fear has grown even bigger in the last few years. Hence, we have outrageous bigotry toward the GLBT community, as provided in these gems from Pandagon:
The chairman of the Guilford County, North Carolina Republic Party equates homosexuality with pedophilia (as have many before him).
Lifebeat, an organization that says it is dedicated to raising awareness and providing support to the AIDS community, is sponsoring an event that features two performers who sing about killing gay men and lesbians. Be sure you read the entire thing.
A judge in New York explains to us that if gay couples are allowed to marry, heterosexual marriage would become less valuable. One of his most choice arguments was that heterosexual marriage is in so much trouble that couples need the "inducements" of child benefits to try to make marriages work, and if those same inducements are given to the children of gay couples, well...they won't be such prizes anymore, will they? What an idiot.
People are still beating up gays and calling them names in the old-fashioned tradition. But the reach of the abuse has now been extended actively to include courts, politicians and governments. Anyone who saw the last moments of the World Cup knows that homoeroticism is alive and well, and the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name still finds a way to express itself on the sports field, in gay chat rooms, in remote and cheap hotel rooms paid for by right-wing moralists named John Smith, in anonymous 900 phone calls, and--considering the liberal hall pass given to Jeff Gannon--perhaps in fancier places.
They are gay. They are bisexual. They are curious. They have fantasies. And they are scared.
Taking the metro out of Wimbledon
A lot of people did not like the blazer, and that's fine; it is a matter of taste. Except for those many men, including a number of sportswriters, who went berserk over Federer's "prissiness." And here I thought the metrosexual (has there ever been a more offensive term?) man was "in" in the West. There is nothing prissy about Roger Federer, but perhaps good manners and a lot of poise, both on and off the court, count against him in certain circles.
This criticism of Federer's blazer advances a conviction I have had for some time--that because tennis is largely a mental sport and is not violent, some men who play it feel a bit insecure about the masculine aspect of their athleticism. That notion is absurd, of course. A professional (or a good amateur) tennis player, male or female, must conform to a rigorous training program, and must be a top-rate athlete to excel. (It is ironic, of course, that for decades, female tennis players have had to "prove" their "femininity; somehow, when they enter the court, they run the risk of being too "masculine.")
Consider the nastiness and abuse perpetrated by John McEnroe, and--to a somewhat lesser extent--Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase. Their antics included hrowing chairs, cursing at umpires and saying the most vile things imaginable to their opponents during the changeovers. It is my opinion that McEnroe should have been banned from a number of tournaments, but I was "corrected" a couple of weeks ago by an eighteen-year-old male, who told me I should be ashamed of myself for criticizing McEnroe.
Then there is Marat Safin, who has broken more racquets than most people will ever see, but who tells us that female players are "emotional." And former ATP player Brad Gilbert, now a coach and commentator, who is actually pretty entertaining, but whose language and manner are hyper-masculine. And let's not forget Lleyton Hewitt, whose manly sniping is as well-known as his game. And the latest addition to this group--former tennis great Mats Wilander, who told the press that Federer played with "no balls" when he competed against Rafael Nadal in the 2006 French Open final.
Who knew that a simple blazer would cause so much hyperventilating among so many men? Poor Roger--number one in the world, eight-time Grand Slam winner, attractive, articulate, multi-lingual, sportsmanlike, and well-mannered. But, you know, so prissy.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Commanders' requests for interrogation guidance ignored by Pentagon
"Peace" is just a four-letter word
Lipton Diet Green Tea
Sunday, July 09, 2006
I have no idea how I missed this
Knocking this post out of the park
What's even worse is that sports metaphors pepper discussions about sports, or at least, about tennis. This past two weeks of Wimbledon tennis is a perfect example. It isn't enough to talk about tennis--the metaphors must refer to other "more important" sports. "She was quick out of the blocks to break her opponent." "He's at the plate, waiting to serve." "He had him on the ropes by the third set."
Sports announcers in the U.S. drive me to distraction anyway, with their inane, sometimes offensive, often ignorant, remarks. But when they feel they have to refer to football, baseball, horse racing, and boxing in order to discuss tennis, I go over the edge.
Some call her champion
Some of you may recall a series of Reebok spots called "I am what I am." One of the profiled celebrities was tennis great Amelie Mauresmo. After her Wimbledon win yesterday, her Reebok team gave her a T-shirt that said 2006 Wimbledon Champion/I Am What I Am, which she wore to the press conference.
Anyone who follows tennis knows that the T-shirt was a riff on the famous Reebok spot. Perhaps the folks at Tennis X never saw the spots, or maybe they were just feeling particularly spiteful when they wrote:
Mauresmo climbed into the stands after the win to hug her support team, and the non-compromising lesbian later donned a t-shirt stating: "2006 Wimbledon Champion. I am what I am."
Or perhaps, more realistically, they are like the millions of others who make statements like this and have no idea that they are exposing their bigotry. What on earth does Mauresmo's sexuality have to do with the fact that she just dusted an opponent everyone thought would beat her to win what many consider the most prestigious prize in tennis?
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Amelie Mauresmo, 2006 Wimbledon champion!
I never stopped believing that Mauresmo could win Wimbledon; grass is her best surface. To her credit, she stuck to serve-and-volley as her chief tactic throughout the tournament, and also relied on her beautiful backhand, her slices, and her resolve--yes, the head case of the WTA now has resolve up there with the best of them. In her acceptance speech, she said: "I don't want anyone to talk about my nerves anymore." Don't worry, Amelie--I don't think they will.
Mauresmo defeated Maria Sharapova in a three-set semifinal that saw her lose control of her serve in the second set (after a near-perfect first set, with only one unforced error--a double fault), then charge back in the third to win handily. Henin-Hardenne, however, is a much tougher opponent for Mauresmo. Like Mauresmo, she can kill an opponent at the net, and her instincts and reflexes are often awe-inspiring. In the Wimbledon final, however, the famous Belgian backhand broke down, and, in the end--after winning a less than attractive second set--Mauresmo held on to her serve to dominate. In the final set, her service game was remarkable. She is the first Frenchwoman to win Wimbledon since Suzanne Lenglen won the last of her six chamionships in 1925.
What a treat to see two top-notch players play a real grass court game on centre court. Younger players, take note: Serve-and-volley is not dead; it is beautiful.
This match was especially tense because of the controversy which occurred at the 2006 Australian Open, which Mauresmo won when Henin-Hardenne retired near the beginning of the second set, denying Mauresmo the joy of her first Grand Slam championship point. Both players said they had put the incident behind them, but I cannot help but think that Mauresmo used some anger to her advantage in overcoming Henin-Hardenne today.
I wanted a final between Mauresmo and Henin-Hardenne, and I wanted a Mauresmo victory. It's nice to get everything you want.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Exploding head, part 2
Read it, and see if you can keep from having a vision of the "f" word bouncing in front of you repeatedly.
Post-Katrina workers plagued by employer deception, racism, homeslessness, and a toxic environment
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Wiccan says she was fired because of her religion
Sommers said she asked for a day off for a Wiccan holiday and was told to keep her religion "to yourself." A Crawford supervisor called her a devil worshipper in front of other employers. And then she was fired.
Crawford & Company Inc. maintains Sommers was fired because of her poor job performance, but Sommers disagrees, and has filed a lawsuit against her former employer
And speaking of neo-Nazis...
More on low-hanging fruit
The U.S. Department of Defense has a zero-tolerance policy regarding racist hate groups (apparently there is no such policy for sexist hate groups, since there have been multiple rapes and other sexual assaults on American female soldiers by American male soldiers), but that policy seems to have gone out the window, along with the Geneva Conventions and the concept that soldiers need appropriate equipment.
A Department of Defense investigator reports there is Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad. "Neo-Nazi groups and other extremists are joining the military in large numbers so they can get the best training in the world on weapons, combat tactics and explosives," said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project. "We should consider this a major security threat, because these people are motivated by an ideology that calls for race war and revolution. Any one of them could turn out to be the next Timothy McVeigh."
Not only that, but what guarantee is there that these soldiers are interested in killing only the insurgents? All of the Iraqis have bloodlines and skin colors the neo-Nazis do not like.
Friday cat blogging--Wimbledon edition
Update on murder of Iraqi tennis players
In his blog today, Peter Bodo reports that he was told by an advisor with the NATO training mission in Iraq that the tennis players were not killed because of their clothing; they were killed because one of the players refused an invitation from insurgents to drive a car bomb and detonate it in what was believed to be an American-populated neighborhood. The refusal was made--at least in part, according to Bodo's source--because the player knew that this particular neighborhood was actually populated almost entirely by Iraqis.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Blogosphere--the wild blue yonder
“Automated Ontologically-Based Link Analysis of International Web Logs for the Timely Discovery of Relevant and Credible Information.”
Like the name? "How About Those Blogs?!" would flow better from the tongue, but for $450,000, you have to have a killer name for your study. “Automated Ontologically-Based Link Analysis of International Web Logs for the Timely Discovery of Relevant and Credible Information" (hereafter to be referred to as AOBLAIWLTDRCI) is a three-year project of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Dr. Brian E. Ulicny says “It can be challenging for information analysts to tell what’s important in blogs unless you analyze patterns."
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Jewish family forced out of community
Louisiana sheriff doesn't even try to hide his racism
Now I don’t get into calling people names and all that, but if you’re gonna walk the streets of St. Tammany Parish with dreadlocks and "Chee Wee" hairstyles, then you can expect to be getting a visit from a sheriff’s deputy.
Yo, Jack--that would be violating people's civil rights.
I live in St. Tammany, and my neighbors have been known to shoot guns, let their dogs run wild in my yard, drive down the street at twice the speed limit, and toss litter all over the neighborhood. I haven't seen any big campaign to rid my community of this "trash." Perhaps because their skin is white and their hair is straight. Just a guess.
Good thing Anne Lamott didn't cross the bridge when she was in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. She'd have wound up in the slammer.
Thanks for nothing, ESPN
I couldn't believe it. Then, when that match was over, Brad Gilbert and Chris Fowler sat and chatted about the men's match. After that, they showed highlights of the first women's semifinal, followed by shots of Evert and Navratilova, from the 80s. Then they showed part of the Federer/Ancic quarterfinal again.
Meanwhile, there was high drama going on between Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova, and thank goodness I have Wimbledon Live so I could watch the match on my computer screen. ESPN did go off the air before the women's match was completed, so it would have been frustrating, anyway, but to not show any of it was, well...it was ESPN.
The good news is that Mauresmo won and is into the finals.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Happy Birthday, Amelie Mauresmo!
My favorite scenario is for Mauresmo to meet Henin-Hardenne in the finals and defeat her handily. That would shut a lot of people up for good (maybe) after the Australian Open controversy. A match against Clijsters would be hard for me, since I like both of them so much.
World number one Mauresmo is the only top WTA player who is using an "old-style" serve-and-volley game at Wimbledon, and it is a joy to see. Despite her considerable tennis gifts (which some still insist she does not possess) and extraordinary athleticism, Mauresmo has won only one Grand Slam. It is true that she has been mentally vulnerable throughout her career; she should have won several Slams by now. I want her to win several more. But like Hana Mandlikova and Gabriela Sabatini, Mauresmo offers a grace and excitement that few players offer, and that is part of what makes her my favorite. The other part is her sense of humor and outstanding sportswomanship.
Be polite, be professional, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet
War is among the most terrible things in the world. Many young servicemen and -women have said that their tour of duty "isn't what I thought it would be." As a pacifist, I am disturbed that anyone--individual or government--is eager to fight a war. But my pacifism aside, the idea of sending Americans, mostly young, to endure this kind of nightmare--if they manage to endure it at all--over a completely fake "enemy," is sickening. Those who support this obscenity should be so lucky as to live in Ramadi with the Marines.
Fighting for "civilization" through breaking down all vestiges of civilization is puzzling to those of us who still appreciate irony.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Federal judge blocks Navy's use of mid-frequency sonar
The Navy had planned to use mid-frequency sonar during exercises scheduled to begin this Thursday off the coast of Hawaii.
Courts help Tulane shut down Newcomb College
The closing of Newcomb represents one of the most short-sighted actions taken after the hurricane. It is no surprise, given the school's recent history of diluting the identity of the college. Newcomb was the first women's college established within a university, and the home of Newcomb Pottery. Shutting it down is a slap in the face not only to women, but to the entire New Orleans community.
Some complaints against George
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
(That was the first George, by the way.)
Monday, July 03, 2006
Children's magazine looks like an Army recruiting tool to some
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)
Quote of the day
Deep thinking and sterling rhetoric from the right wing
"There are probably not 72 virgins in the hell he's at, and if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas."
"I think the Dixie Chicks are expanding to new country markets. You know, Osama bin Laden lives up in the mountains in the country. I hear he's a big fan of the Dixie Chicks, so they've got the Al Qaeda market cornered."
[Stevens is] "unfamiliar with the realities of warfare."
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Why we need consciousness-raising again
The end of an era, or just a brief interruption?
The loss marks the first time since 1999 that a Williams sister will not be in the finals at Wimbledon. In the last six years, one of the sisters has won every Wimbledon except the 2004 contest, in which Maria Sharapova defeated Serena. Serena is not playing in the 2006 Wimbledon tournament because of multiple injuries. She expects to be back later in the summer.
Janikovic, for her part, continued to come out of a tremendous slump with her upset of Williams. A top-20 player last year with a "phenom" stamp on her for some time, Jankovic had problems with her shoulders, which caused her to miss a lot of the tour. Then she had a two-month virus, and on top of that, she attended university and became involved with studying and taking exams. Her ranking went from 17 to 40. Until recently, she was losing in the first round at every tournament she entered, and it looked as though she might be on her way out.
It is easy, but not wise, to count the Williams sisters out. Venus was counted out by most people last year, and she won Wimbledon in a stunning final against Lindsay Davenport. (It was the back injury that developed in that match that has kept Davenport out of this season's competition so far.) While it's true that other players have come along and figured out how to beat the Williams sisters, that is a phenomenon to be expected, and doesn't take away from Venus's and Serena's talent, only their dominance.
Venus's forehand has always been prone to collapse on her, and on a bad day, an opponent can take advantage of that. It has to be an opponent with a lot of grit, like Jankovic, who is willing to do what Jankovic did--bounce back from the breaks, make shots from a position on her knees on the court, and continue blocking Venus's powerful serves. Or a player with enough game savvy, like a Davenport or a Henin-Hardenne, to systematically break down Venus's game. But beating Venus Williams, even on a bad day, is never a walk in the park, especially on grass.
Both sisters are often accused of being involved in too many off-court activities. Serena is into acting and the club scene and is a fashion designer (and, sadly, major wearer of fur), and her fur-bearing sister Venus owns an interior design firm. Their father and coach, Richard Williams, has said frequently that he believes it is in bad taste for an athlete to play after age 25 (Lindsay Davenport, Mary Pierce, Jennifer Capriati, Lisa Raymond, and especially Martina Navratilova--consider yourselves insulted), so there is a clear message from the father for the sisters to hang up their racquets.
But will they? Venus is 26; Serena is 24. Between them, they have 59 career titles, 12 Grand Slam singles titles, and 21 Grand Slam doubles titles. They are legends, no matter what they do from now on. Serena is currently in intensive training at one of the world's best academies. The sisters will not hang around for the prize money; they will play to win, or they won't compete.
The end of an era? It's hard to say, but if I had to guess, I'd say "not quite."
Meet Ellen Bosanquet
Our garden, as I have mentioned before, is very ill. In the last couple of years, we have lost our spider lily, our red salvia, our Formosa lilies, most of our jonquils, and an entire stand of miniature peach daylilies. Our giant plume gingers have not set bracts this year, for the first time. Perhaps saddest of all, none of the amaryllis (except the potted ones on the deck) bloomed this year. We had the state analyze our soil, and we have amended it. Perhaps some things will return to health, but I know we have lost some for good.
On the other hand, our remaining pink crape myrtle (one had to come down because of Katrina) bloomed much more heavily than it ever has before, and a white crape myrtle that has never bloomed is blooming prettily. As for the downed crape myrtle--because of its absence, our 'Mermaid' rose (which used to climb up the tree's trunk) increased its bloom tenfold.