Friday, December 19, 2008
Tropical Christmas, take two
Tomorrow I depart for Costa Rica for eight days. This will be the second tropical Christmas/hunt for dad's new retirement community I will have endured. He assures me this year won't be like last year's "journey into the heart of Dominica's darkness" (as I refer to it).
Dominica, for those not familiar, is one of the most rural of the Caribbean islands. The rain forests comprise more land mass per acre than any of the other islands, and it is the only island with a Caribe indian reservation. In my father's words, it is "not safe for whitey," i.e., there are no major hotel resorts and it is not a popular stop for cruise ships. From a distance this seemed like the idyllic retreat for him. But what we discovered, upon arrival, was a very rugged terrain and a lot of discomfort. Every beach took at least 45 minutes to hike to, and the roads were so narrow, the cliffs so very treacherous, that we constantly struggled just to get around.
After a few days, the daily dose of mortal fear was getting me down. One time, while in the car, my father remarked while speeding through a hairpin turn and nearly colliding with an oncoming van whose windows were brimming with villagers: "Wow honey, with all them hail mary's, I'd think you were turning Catholic on me!" I'll never forget how he laughed as I contemplated the cliffs and ravines to my right, whose only barrier was a bamboo fence and bright yellow caution tape.
The following is a list of random notes from our trip. The only notes I took:
- driving down Dominican roads is as thrilling as a jungle safari; instead of the threat of wild animals, you have the fear of head-on collisions and driving into ditches or off of cliffs.
- I think I heard a woman assaulted and/or killed last night. The Belgiums denied hearing anything the next morning, but I could tell they were lying.
- the buzzing and chirping of insects, the rooster calls, and the mangy dog barks drown out the human presence. But when a man yells he can be heard a mile away.
- the fan makes a galluping sound. Where is it leading me?
- passionfruit is much more passionate here.
- the villagers are like helpful zombies that don't want to eat at you, all they want to do is stare.
- i was serenaded by the "town fool" (local boozer) tonight, that is, until I backed away from the balcony and he started yelling out "bitch" to me.
- "travel" comes from the word "travail."
- the percussion of soft rain is overwhelming yet of some comfort.
- parrots show yourselves!
- I will find a good man one day.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Further evidence that Walmart is evil and/or doesn't mind supporting neo-Nazis
Via The Guardian:
Also, let's not forget the suggestive children's underwear line they had to remove (thanks to Feministing) this time last year, or about the inhumane way they treated former employee Deborah Shank last March.
A three-year-old boy called Adolf Hitler Campbell has been refused a birthday cake with his name on it by a New Jersey supermarket.
Heath Campbell, 35, and his wife, Deborah, 25, say they are upset at the decision made by their local ShopRite not to write "Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler" across the cake, and that people needed to move forward.
Campbell said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because "no one else in the world would have that name".
"They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what [Hitler] did," he said.
Not to be defeated, the family ended up getting their cake decorated at a Walmart in Pennsylvania.
The problem is likely to be one they face again – their younger children are JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, who is nearly two, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, named after the SS head Heinrich Himmler. Honszlynn turns one in April.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Gather 'round, chilin. With all this "recession this" and "recession that," it's fun to hear stories about what it was like to be a kid during the Great Depression, as told by papa Bukowski (from Ham on Rye):
Mrs. Fretag was our English teacher. The first day in class she asked us each our names.
"I want to get to know all of you," she said. She smiled.
"Now, each of you has a father, I'm sure. I think it would be interesting if we found out what each of your fathers does for a living.
We'll start with seat number one and we will go around the class. Now, Marie, what does your father do for a living?"
"He's a gardener."
"Ah, that's nice! Seat number two . . . Andrew, what does your father
It was terrible. All the fathers in my immediate neighborhood had lost their jobs. My father had lost his job. Gene's father sat on his front porch all day. All the fathers were without jobs except Chuck's who worked in a meat plant. He drove a red car with the meat company's name on the side.
"My father is a fireman," said seat number two.
"Ah, that's interesting," said Mrs. Fretag. "Seat number three."
"My father is a lawyer."
"Seat number four."
"My father is a . . . policeman . . ."
What was I going to say? Maybe only the fathers in my neighborhood were without jobs. I'd heard of the stock market crash. It meant something bad. Maybe the stock market had only crashed in our neighborhood.
"Seat number eighteen."
"My father is a movie actor . . ."
"My father is a concert violinist . . ."
"Twenty . . ."
"My father works in the circus . . ."
"My father is a bus driver . . ."
"My father sings in the opera . . ."
Twenty-three. That was me.
"My father is a dentist," I said.
Mrs. Fretag went right on through the class until she reached number
"My father doesn't have a job," said number thirty-three.
Shit, I thought, I wish I had thought of that.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Ever since seeing Milk, I am rediscovering the brilliance of Gus Van Sant. In his new film, I definitely picked up on some echoes of My Own Private Idaho and Elephant through the intimate, experimental camera shots and scenes where the silence in a room takes on a character in and of itself.
This Van Sant short film is not only really funny, but perfectly minimal. Enjoy:
Monday, December 01, 2008
Vampires are so hot right now
Me and the gentleman friend have been obsessed with vampires lately, having watched all the episodes of HBO's "True Blood;" now going through withdraws since the first series ended. I am so into vampires right now that I even forced him to see "Twilight," a teensploitation flick starring some hot young actor from the Harry Potter series as a modern-day vampire that made all the girls in the theater yell and freak out.
Although, I'd say vampires have always been hot, what with all the vampire films produced since the beginning of the invention of the "movie." But it's interesting to see how this myth has been given the modern treatment lately. Instead of rehashing Victorian-era tales from Bram Stoker, or relying on historical fiction from Anne Rice, today we've got stories of this folkloric undead population trying to incorporate itself into a modern era where civil rights and traditional values aren't always so cut and dry.
Perhaps filmmakers and television producers are taking their cues from Bram Stoker himself. Stoker re-tooled the folklore masterfully, using it to express the sexual repression of the Victorian Era with such ferocity that the love story of Vlad and Mina still resonates with audiences. Perhaps that's why Mormon Stephanie Meyer, whose books provided the basis for "Twilight," was so effective in utilizing vampire tales--she projected the sexual frustration and oppressive abstinence practices associated with the Mormon community into the seductive stories of the undead.
Whatever it is, it's an amazing concept to take an old myth and re-appropriate it's symbology in order to expose the societal fears of the modern world. It seems obvious in the case of "True Blood" whose opening montage includes a church sign that reads "God Hates Fangs," and features characters saying such phrases as "coming out of the coffin," that vampires embody minority groups and the disenfranchised. Although very subtle, hints at what creator Alan Ball (American Beauty, "Six Feet Under") means to do with this series are incredibly refreshing and exciting to watch. Ball's fictitious, alternate world of vampires has not lost its presence on the internet, either. The blog BloodCopy is a hilarious resource of video "reportage" featuring characters from the show. Below is a "commercial" for TruBlood--the fictitious beverage of synthetic blood for vampires:
But what's brilliant about the vampire myth is that it can be interpreted as an expression of many things in our current political climate. The other day, I came across this column on the Huffington Post:
"...what is with the vampire craze right now? The vogue for them has ebbed and flowed over the last century, but at the moment the ventricles seem all the way open. A friend of mine suggested that this fad may represent our culture's unconscious efforts to depict in metaphorical terms the financial greed that has sucked blood money from the body politic--especially the subprime mortgage fiasco that started it. 'Mortgage' is derived from the Latin word for 'death,' after all."
I'd like to think the "vampire craze" is currently being utilized to expose the base bigotry and oppressive "morals" of the Religious Right. The vampire (or gay, or black, or sexually promiscuous) can be seen as a fun, campy way to address an American culture still struggling to see beyond traditional "family values" that espouse hate and bigotry.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Scientologists, I've got my eye on you
Last week a 48 year old Oregon man decided to seek vengeance upon the Los Angeles Church of Scientology's Celebrity Center the only way an ex-member/ninja could: charging into the building while flailing samurai swords and thus creating his own "Battlefield Earth" of sorts. The highly angered man, also wielding "violent verbage" according to investigators, was quickly shot dead on the scene by security.
I really have been struck by the lack of reports regarding the details of the events within this "center of celebrities" of sorts. I just don't know whether or not the security officers were justified in fatally shooting this man. I do understand that seeing a man handling such swords in a "samurai-type way" (the investigator's words), would be cause for great concern and thus drastic self-defense measures. However...
I'm just going to say it you guys: I suspect foul play. If it comes down to measuring the sanity and sound judgement of the Church of Scientology vs. that of the man described below, I'm siding with the ninja dude (may he RIP). And I absolutely don't see anything wrong with that.
Florence man shot in L.A. a 'crazy freak of sorts'
Tuesday, November 25, 2008FLORENCE, Ore. (AP) — A neighbor remembers Mario Majorski, the man fatally shot Sunday in Los Angeles after wielding samurai swords at a Scientology building, as a “gentle, somewhat crazy freak of sorts.”
Nevertheless, Majorski has had a number of run-ins with Oregon law enforcement and was reportedly acting oddly just weeks before he showed up in California.
Jim Cannon, who lives in a house just across the street from Majorski’s home here, met him this spring and helped him paint his fence. Despite Majorski’s shaved head and neck tattoos, Cannon said he wasn’t “a menacing sort of guy.”
If anything, Cannon said, “I found him very comical.”
Majorski, 48, moved among rock n’ roll circles in Eugene, Cannon said.
Though a Scientology spokesman said Majorski had threatened the church in a string of incidents dating to at least 2005, Cannon said he never heard Majorski, a former member of the church, say anything critical about it.
The two men talked about Scientology, Cannon said. He got the impression that Majorski was disappointed with Scientology.
His record with Oregon police, however, describes a different man.
Majorski was released from the Lane County Jail due to overcrowding two weeks ago, the same day he was arrested by Eugene police on charges of criminal trespass and harassing a police officer at the Executive House Motel, according to The Register-Guard.
Majorski also has previously been convicted of stalking a Lane County judge, the paper reported.
In another example of his troubles with the law, Majorski was arrested in late October after threatening a man offering roadside assistance, according to Florence police.
On the morning of Oct. 26, Majorski made a call to the American Automobile Association for roadside assistance saying he had run out of gas on the road where he lived.
When the AAA driver, Doug Bushwar, arrived, he reportedly found Majorski standing next to his truck with a number of “small kids toys lined up in a row on the street” behind him.
When Bushwar walked toward the truck, Majorski yelled at him to stay where he was.
Bushwar told police that he tried to get Majorski to calm down, but when the man “grabbed a hand-held ax from his vehicle and held it in a threatening manner,” Bushwar left and called the authorities.
A police officer showed up about 25 minutes later to find Majorski walking on the road. When the officer asked him to talk with him, Majorski reportedly threatened to shoot if he came any closer.
Then, Majorski walked into his house, yelling and cursing.
After a minute, Majorski “came to a window and told me to come talk to him there” the officer reported.
Majorski then told the officer he had hostages in the house. When another officer showed up to help, Majorski threatened to shoot the officers and told them he also had explosives, according to the police report.
Majorski later came back outside “yelling and screaming for us to leave.”
The two officers moved in slowly and handcuffed him.
Police found no hostages or explosives in the house.
About a week later, police arrested Majorski again after he disrupted a Mormon Church service in Florence.
Police say Majorski entered the church on Nov. 2, “cursing and moving around a lot.”
He was asked to leave but did not, said Sarah Huff, spokeswoman with the Florence police department.
Police arrested him outside the church on charges of disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Irony and The New Sincerity
A great culture war is afoot, upon yon indecipherable horizons. Joan Didion, the NYT and others are others are declaring, as many did in the aftermath of 9/11, that irony is dead. As Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter said in 2001: "There's going to be a seismic change. I think it's the end of the age of irony."
And just today, in the NYT's "Irony Is Dead. Again. Yeah, Right.":
"A Nexis search found that the incidence of the words 'irony,' 'ironic' and 'ironically' in major American newspapers during the two-week period beginning Nov. 6 slipped 19 percent from the same period last year."
Critics point to the new-found optimism, "New Sincerity" if you will (and I will) as a side effect of all this Obama hoopla (Obopla, if you will--and again, I will).
But I really can't blame them for such a fright. This blog poster was very taken aback by the sight of 200+ hipsters in the Mission on election night, standing on cars and wearing flag paraphernalia, shouting "U-S-A!" "U-S-A!" in a completely unironic manner. Can we have a president whose mug has been sported on tote bags, t-shirts and by the graffiti artists?
Yes we can. And I do believe we must. But I think that irony is not dead. Editor of The Onion, Joe Randazzo, told the NYT:
“After eight years of the Bush administration, where irony was almost a measure of desperation — maybe now that people have seen something happen they never thought possible, their sarcasm processors have kind of gone into shock." But Randazzo also notes, "We never know what will be the next dumb thing to satirize--that's the beauty of the thing."
A former Banana Slug/student media peer of mine from Santa Cruz, Jesse Thorn, wrote a manifesto in 2006 about "The New Sincerity" movement for his radio show, "The Sound of Young America." In it, he describes the progression of the acceptance of sincerity, which is described as "being more awesome" with the lifestyle choice of "maximum fun."
However, the key caveat being that TNS is not a countermovement to irony. That is to say:
"...Think of it as irony and sincerity combined like Voltron, to form a new movement of astonishing power. Or think of it as the absence of irony and sincerity, where less is (obviously) more. If those strain the brain, just think of Evel Knievel.
Let's be frank. There's no way to appreciate Evel Knievel literally. Evel is the kind of man who defies even fiction, because the reality is too over the top. Here is a man in a red-white-and-blue leather jumpsuit, driving some kind of rocket car. A man who achieved fame and fortune jumping over things. Here is a real man who feels at home as Spidey on the cover of a comic book. Simply put, Evel Knievel boggles the mind.
But by the same token, he isn't to be taken ironically, either. The fact of the matter is that Evel is, in a word, awesome. His jumpsuit looks great. His stunts were amazing. As he once said of his own life: "I've had every airplane, every ship, every yacht, every racehorse, every diamond, and probably, with the exception of two or three, every woman I wanted in my lifetime. I've lived a better life than any king or prince or president." And as patently ridiculous as those words are, they're pretty much true."
Irony and The New Sincerity. Long live both.
Warning: Before viewing the following footage of the inhumanly awesome Ms. Tandi Iman Dupree, bare in mind that there will be two questions that you will soon find yourself asking...yourself: what was my life like before I viewed this dance routine from the 2001 Miss Black American competition; and what was it like after.
I can't find much about this tranny dancer on the internets, but there does seem to be a fair amount of talk about her being deceased--I do not know how. And I do not know if she won this competition. By god I hope she won.
(Oh thank you, my god thank you John W. for introducing me to this).
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Today I saw this pseudo-mentary about my beloved City By the Bay, courtesy of the Bill O'Reilly show: "O'Reilly Factor."
It made me mad you guys. My grandmother, among others, will watch this trash and think that my city is nothing but a village of homeless crackheads, Rastafarian anarchists and transvestite hookers; a melting pot of heathens. I mean, any "reporter" can go to any major city in the world and talk to people that seem like they're messed up on drugs and--through the magic of documentarian art--transform them into representatives and spokespersons from the aforementioned metropolis.
This both angered and troubled me immensely. Then I remembered how absurdly bigoted and asinine Bill O'Reilly is, and the anger seemed extremely wasteful.
O'REILLY: Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."
And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
Yeah, can't wait for you and Dennis Miller to turn us all into salt, MORON!!!!
A classic scholar has proved the point, by unearthing a Greek version of the world-famous piece that is some 1,600 years old.
A comedy duo called Hierocles and Philagrius told the original version, only rather than a parrot they used a slave.
It concerns a man who complains to his friend that he was sold a slave who dies in his service.
His companion replies: "When he was with me, he never did any such thing!"
The joke was discovered in a collection of 265 jokes called Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, which dates from the fourth century AD.
Hierocles had gone to meet his maker, and Philagrius had certainly ceased to be, long before John Cleese and Michael Palin reinvented the yarn in 1969.
Their version featured Cleese as an exasperated customer trying to get his money back from Palin's stubborn pet salesman.
Cleese's character becomes increasingly frustrated as he fails to convince the shopkeeper that the 'Norwegian Blue' is dead.
The manuscripts from the Greek joke book have now been published in an online book, featuring former Bullseye presenter and comic Jim Bowen presenting them to a modern audience.
Mr Bowen said: "One or two of them are jokes I've seen in people's acts nowadays, slightly updated.
"They put in a motor car instead of a chariot - some of them are Tommy Cooper-esque."
Jokes about wives, it seems, have always been fair game.
One joke goes: "A man tells a well-known wit: 'I had your wife, without paying a penny'. The husband replies: "It's my duty as a husband to couple with such a monstrosity. What made you do it?"
The book was translated by William Berg, an American classics professor.
(Thanks Shawne F)
Monday, November 17, 2008
Amity and Bobby plan a birthday trip
A: I think I want to go to New Orleans, where the people will be more depressed than me. Plus, there's Mardis Gras around that time.
B: How about a train trip through Canada? We could go to the most eastern region we can afford, and then take a train trip back to Vancouver.
A: Why don't we just do that in America? There's more diversity, and cowboys! I mean, the only cities that I would want to go to are Montreal and Vancouver. I've already done Vancouver and it was boring.
B: Yeah, when I think about it, I went to a lot of Canadian cities with the airlines and I wasn't excited about any of them.
A: But you want to take a weeks-long train trip through all of them.
B: Yeah. It's just that...who does that? You can tell people you did it, and they won't know why you did it.
A: You raise a good point.
B: Put that in your hat and sit on it..
A: You want me to sit on my hat?
B: Yeah, sit on your hat and think about taking a trip through Canada.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
--Former counterterrorism official Larry C. Johnson, The Huffington Post, Feb. 16, 2008.
Ayers Can Speak For Himself
On Friday Bill Ayers, along with his wife and fellow Weather Underground member, Bernadine Dohrn, sat down to talk with Democracy Now! to actually explain their relations (or lack thereof) with Barack Obama, the Weather Underground, and the progressive movement in general.
Obviously, Bill Ayers did not turn out to be Obama's Willie Horton. And Karl Rove is no Lee Atwater--the puppeteer behind the Willie Horton ad believed to have cost Michael Dukakis the presidential win in '88. Further, Ayers and Dohrn are not present-day terrorists. They may have committed questionable acts that did not kill or harm anyone--performed while Barack Obama was in grade school--but to say that their current day association with Barack Obama in any way indicates that Obama is radical isn't just irrational, it's racist.
To hear Ayers and Dohrn speak today is both inspiring and enlightening. Dohrn gave critical contextual information about the political climate that her organization was responding to--namely the slaying of members of the Black Panther Party at the hands of a corrupt police force; a corrupt justice system. And Ayers is truly inspiring when speaking about his hope for the future of education and this country.
I hope Palin and all the other right-wing naysayers keep bringing Ayers up. I hope his name conjures images of a '60s radical turned progressive pioneer one day, rather than the myth that this professor, activist, and father is somehow a danger to society.
AMY GOODMAN: As we continue with our Democracy Now! exclusive, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, in this first joint interview with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn since the Obama campaign has ended. They joined us from a studio in Chicago. Bill Ayers spoke about being at Grant Park the night Barack Obama was elected president.
BILL AYERS: It was an extraordinary feeling. I’ve been in a lot of large crowds in my life, but I’ve never been in one that didn’t either have an edge of anger or a lot of drunkenness or kind of performance. This was all unity, all love. And what people were celebrating was this milestone, which was sweet and exciting and important. But they were also celebrating—there was—you could kind of cut the relief in people’s feelings with a knife. I mean, it was the sense that we were going to leave behind the era of 9/11 and the era of fear and war without end and repression and constitutional shredding and scapegoating of gay and lesbian people, on and on. And there we were, millions, in the park, representing everybody, hugging, dancing, carrying on right in the spot, forty years ago, where many of us were beaten and dragged to jail. It was an extraordinary feeling.I don’t think at this moment we should be getting into at all the business of trying to read the mind of the President-elect and see where we, you know, might do this or that. The question is, as Bernadine is saying, how do we build the movement on the ground that demands peace, that demands justice? This is always the question. It’s happening—the question is being raised in a new context. So how do—you know, I often think, thinking historically, Lyndon Johnson wasn’t the civil rights movement, but he was an effective politician who passed civil rights legislation. FDR wasn’t a labor leader. Lincoln didn’t belong to an abolitionist party. They all responded to something going on on the ground. And in a lot of ways, we have to get beyond—progressive people have to get beyond the idea that we’re waiting for a savior. We’re not waiting for a savior. We need to transform ourselves, transform our movements, reach out to one another and build an irresistible social force for change...
...JUAN GONZALEZ: —and talk a little bit about how you evolved from the period of Weathermen. Obviously, you were fugitives for awhile, then you came above-ground and settled your problems with the law. You became a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a leader of the reform movement in education in that city. This whole issue of public education and what you see as what needs to be done in public education to revamp our public school system, and what you would hope an Obama presidency would address?
BILL AYERS: You know, I think we’ve suffered so much in the last decades, really, under the wrong way of thinking about education, education reform, foreign policy, the economy, so much of the kind of meta-narrative, or the dominant discourse, is so mistaken and so misplaced. And a lot of what I’m—what I have fought for and what I am struggling for is simply to say, let’s change the frame on education.
I can give you a couple of simple examples. When somebody says, as people said in this campaign, “We really need to get the rotten teachers out of the classroom,” I mean, immediately we all kind of nod dully. But if somebody said, instead of that frame, somebody said, “What we really need is for every child to be in a classroom with a thoughtful, well-educated, caring, intellectual, well-compensated and well-rested teacher,” we’d all nod to that, too.
So, the question is, who gets to set the agenda? To me, the agenda for education in the last couple of decades has been so wrongheaded, because it’s been based on the idea that we do our best with a lot of competition, which is very narrowly conducted and highly supervised and surveilled. That, to me, is the wrong model for democratic education. In fact, the way I think we have to ask the question is, since all of us, no matter—educational leaders, no matter where they are—the old Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, medieval Saudi Arabia—we all agree that the kids should do their homework, not do drugs, be in school, learn the subject matters.So what makes education in a democracy distinct? And I would argue that what makes education in a democracy distinct is that we don’t educate for obedience and conformity; we educate for initiative and courage. We educate for imagination and hope and possibility. And we recognize that the full development of each person requires the full development of all people. Or another way of saying it is, the full development of all is the condition whereby we can educate each. And that shifting of the frame is so important. And frankly, I’m hopeful that in this period of rising expectations, of rethinking so much, that this is where we can go.
The second half of the interview will air tomorrow on Pacifica Radio.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Daily Show's John Oliver, on the Obama victory, via The Bugle:
I’ll tell you the real unsung hero here: President Bush. He has managed to screw up the country so badly that America is now ready for a black president. There is no way that would be happening if he wasn’t so absolute in his incompetence.
In many ways, he’s a pioneering civil rights leader. He’s like Rosa Parks, if Rosa Parks had instead of refusing to go to the back of the bus, had become a poorly-qualified bus driver, had crashed almost every bus in Montgomery into a ditch, to the point where no one wanted to ride the bus anymore, and black people were therefore free to sit where they wanted.
They each had their methods; but they each did great things.
Monday, November 10, 2008
The Storm After the Quiet
The good news about Obama has at times seemed completely unreal. A part of me has had such a difficult time believing all the good news: Palin's shaming, Lieberman's shaming, the potential closing of Guantanamo, the 200 some odd Bush policies to be overtured immediately including stem cell research and the gag rule on international family planning ...I still have a difficult time believing it. Every time I see Obama on tv, I imagine McCain up there, continuing the Bush tradition of posing and doing absolutely nothing to advance the nation. It's mindblowing to think that we could have a president that will try to help our country, and the world, rather than harm it.
But my concern about all of this good news (not to be a complete killjoy) is that a lot of issues--both domestic and international--may fall by the wayside or become outright ignored by the US media. One such is the refugee problem. Today I decided to blog about Iraq refugees as part of the Bloggers Unite effort to raise awareness for refugees.
Remember "Operation Iraqi Freedom" --yeah, perhaps not the most apt title, as some two million Iraqis have had to flee their country since it began in 2003, and 2.5 million have become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
Tens of Thousands of Iraqis may come to U.S. in '09
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has surpassed its goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees this year and expects more, perhaps tens of thousands, next year, the State Department said on Friday.
The United States expects to admit a minimum of 17,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal 2009, which begins October 1, the department's senior coordinator for refugees said. Thousands more Iraqis and their family members could arrive through a special visa program for people who worked for the United States or its contractors.
"I think you'll see the U.S. government admitting over the course of fiscal 2009 tens of thousands of Iraqis into the United States," coordinator James Foley told reporters.
Up to 3,000 could come from Baghdad, where the United States began interviews this year, he said.
So far this year, 12,118 Iraqi refugees have arrived and 1,000 more are booked to travel to the United States by the end of this month, when the U.S. fiscal year ends, he said.
That marks a huge leap from just 1,600 Iraqis admitted in the previous year. That number drew widespread criticism from refugee groups that said Washington should do more to help millions of Iraqis who have fled instability and violence since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
The number is still lower than what some other countries have taken. Sweden, a country of 9 million people, has admitted over 40,000 Iraqis since 2003...
Please watch the following excerpt from "The Party After the War," a documentary about Iraqi refugees:
Monday, November 03, 2008
My friend Jon W. wrote me from Portland, Maine the other day. He says he is there to work on computers for the Obama Campaign, "all for one tiny electoral vote." For a nerdy computer dude (which I mean here as a high compliment), I'd say that working for Obama is like the equivalent to "kicking ass for the lord":
(From Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive")
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Pakistani Sunni Muslim devotees returned home on a packed train after attending an annual three-day religious congregation in Multan, Pakistan.
I'm so glad I'm not religious. I don't have public transportation issues like this.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Okay you guys, feeling check: today I am feeling pretty amped. I am gearing up for my Halloween, and in order to do so reacquainting myself with the wisdom of the Log Lady, a character from Twin Peaks that I will dress as. Over the course of doing so, I have come across what sounds like exact quotes from David Lynch's recent book, "Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity."
For instance, (from Episode 2):
Sometime ideas, like men, jump up and say "hello." They introduce themselves, these ideas, with words. Are they words? These ideas speak so strangely.
All that we see in this world is based on someone's ideas. Some ideas are destructive, some are constructive. Some ideas can arrive in the form of a dream. I can say it again: some ideas arrive in the form of a dream.
For those not familiar with the LL, here's an intro, I believe from the TP pilot:
For those at home who also wish to have a costume that is not Sarah Palin and would actually like to dress like a lady with glasses and a brain, here are some pictures to help:
I actually found these when I was Googling "Log Lady"! And of all the LL's in the world (which included pics of hot chicks in bikinis sitting on logs), my friends Kasey, Yellie, Gabe and Mike popped up in a search. I know these people! The world is so very small. And sad. To quote the LL:
There is a sadness in this world, for we are ignorant of many things. Yes, we are ignorant of many beautiful things - things like the truth. So sadness, in our ignorance, is very real.Happy Halloween!
The tears are real. What is this thing called a tear? There are even tiny ducts - tear ducts - to produce these tears should the sadness occur. Then the day when the sadness comes..then we ask: Will this sadness which makes me cry; will this sadness that makes my heart cry out...will it ever end?'
The answer, of course, is yes. One day the sadness will end."
Friday, October 24, 2008
So the daily newspaper, a city rag once serving my fair city with shining brilliance from such luminaries as Hunter S. Thompson, Mark Twain and Jack London, has actually come out with it's endorsement of presidential candidate John McCain.
Why on earth would a paper that reflects and reports upon one of the most progressive major cities in the known universe do such a thing? Two words: Phillip Anschutz. The Examiner's owner, who ranks as Forbes' 31st richest person in the U.S., is also a known crusader of Christian causes. Instead of reflecting the city's best interest, the paper has chosen to reflect the values of its non-resident owner. This act definitively represents everything that is wrong and unethical about media ownership deregulation in this country. Here's a link to the endorsement, which I'm afraid is too disgustingly asinine to copy into my blog.
But I will, however, copy some of my favorite comments:
Ana: "That's a pretty ballsy stance in the age of decreasing readership. Was this suicide? Indeed. I'm also deeply embarassed for your newspaper. What a shame."
cmhockeygirl: "so much for the examiner being the "local" paper - no pulse on the city..while they are free to endorse anyone they wish the "in our face" endorsement is a bit much..they obviously could care less about their readers but about this city as well"
City Native: "Guess who owns the newspaper? A conservative Christian named Philip Anschutz, who lives out of state. My question is why would the newspaper want to alienate itself? People, if this offends you then do not pick up another copy. They will get the picture when their news stands go untouched. Examiner, why don’t you go be a painfully simple tabloid somewhere else….like Alaska. The Anchorage Examiner…."
m@: "April Fools!! Wait, what? This is for real? You're supposed to represent San Francisco! WOW... did you see McCain on the View? How about Palin with Katie Couric? How can neither of those two things worry you?!"
Chloe N.: "this is the WORST endorsement I've ever read. Is the Examiner trying to be controversial so that their circulation will go up to, like, five for once? McCain and Palin hate The Examiner, and all things San Francisco related. What a disgusting pathetic gossip-rag this once reliable publication has turned into. I feel sick."
rxday: "This endorsement represent view of it's 'conservative christian' owner. His other papers are now also endorsing the republican ticket. So why doesn't he just write an opinion and have it published under his name. That way everyone will know who's opinion they are reading."
Today I read this passage from a book by William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac called And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Co-authored by the pair in 1945, the two young aspiring novelists switched off, writing every other chapter. Apparently it wasn't a staggering work of genius for the budding beats, who hadn't yet written respective novels at the time. It was never published, but will be, next month. The following selection was written by Burroughs:
I walked over to Seventh Avenue, then up to Christopher Street to buy the morning papers. On my way back I saw there was an argument in front of George's, so I crossed over to see what was going on.
The proprietor was standing in the doorway arguing with three people he had just thrown out of the joint. One of the men kept saying, "I write stories for The Saturday Evening Post."
The proprietor said, "I don't care what you do, Jack, I don't want you in my place. Now beat it," and he advanced on the group. They shrank away, but when the proprietor turned to go back in, the man who wrote for The Saturday Evening Post came forward again and the whole process was repeated.
As I walked away the proprietor was saying, "Why don't you go somewhere else? There are plenty of other places in New York."
I had the feeling that all over America such stupid arguments were taking place on street corners and in bars and restaurants. All over America, people were pulling credentials out of their pockets and sticking them under someone else's nose to prove they had been somewhere or done something. And I thought someday everyone in America will suddenly jump up and say, "I don't take any shit!" and start pushing and cursing and clawing at the man next to him.
I think this passage speaks volumes to the spirit of anti-establishment that has died or been rendered counterproductive by younger generations over the decades. The legacy of the class-defying, bohemian free thinker has never seemed more ineffectual. Today, "bohemians" and "hipsters" are labels that people can buy into by listening to the right music, reading the right books, watching the right films and then wearing the proper apparel to prove one's allegiance.
After reflecting upon this a bit more, I'm starting to come to the conclusion that this spirit never died, it's just morphed into something perverse and frightening. People will always crave social upheaval. Classes of individuals, when threatened, will react. In some cases, in the good old-fashioned American way--violently.
I was talking to Dr. Morgenstern this morning, and I said, "I can't wait for this election. He's gonna win, and it's going to be so satisfying." Morgenstern then said, "It's not about the election anymore. It's about the aftermath. There's going to be some major change, and there is such an undercurrent of violence in this country...it's frightening...who knows what could happen."
I'm getting a little scared about some of the recent anti-Obama sentiment. For example, the report today about the McCain campaign mental patient that carved a "B" on her face and told the police that someone had seen her McCain bumper sticker and carved her up like an evil Zorro:
(Ashley) Todd, who is white, initially told police she was attacked by a 6-foot-4 black man Wednesday night.
She told investigators she was attempting to use a bank branch ATM when the man approached her from behind, put a knife with a 4- to 5-inch blade to her throat and demanded money. She said she handed the assailant $60 and walked away.
Todd claimed that she suspected the man then noticed a McCain sticker on her car, became angry and punched her in the back of the head, knocking her to the ground and telling her "you are going to be a Barack supporter," police said.
She said he continued to punch and kick her while threatening "to teach her a lesson for being a McCain supporter," police said. She said he then sat on her chest, pinned her hands down with his knees and scratched a backward letter "B" into her face with a dull knife.
Todd also told police she didn't seek medical attention, but instead went to a friend's apartment nearby and called police about 45 minutes later.
On Friday, when she admitted the story was fabricated, Todd told police she believes she cut the backward "B" onto her own cheek, but she didn't explain how or why, Bryant said.
I don't know if people will rise above their racism and xenophobia and realize that it is possible to have a president acting on their behalf to create social justice. I think this country has been lied to for so long that it's too hard to comprehend. Or perhaps if they do eventually believe he is a trustworthy politician, I'm not sure they would be able to drop their egos and race-based fear. I can see an underground movement to challenge the New Guard already in the works and it makes me afraid--and greatly ashamed--of this nation.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
With just two weeks to go until a new president is (s)elected, it's oh-so-comforting to hear sane, rational pronouncements of why Barack Obama could be such a gift to this country. I've been getting strange chain emails lately from people who are giving me positive thinking and visualization exercises; urging me to repeat to myself stuff like, "I am so grateful for President Obama," like, 15 times. Some even asking me to then stand on one leg and flap my arms and do a chicken dance while imagining a voodoo doll of McCain burning in flames (actually, nobody said to do that, still waiting on that one).
But in an effort to tap into the power of positive thinking, I will call attention to some of the amazing endorsements Obama's been getting lately. Like the one that came out today by Colin Powell. His story about the Muslim soldier's grave in Arlington was so fitting; I really hope it really resonates with all the xenophobic Islamophobes in the country:
And The New Yorker's official endorsement was so beautiful, got me a bit choked up. Key exerpts:
It is perfectly legitimate to call attention, as McCain has done, to Obama’s lack of conventional national and international policymaking experience. We, too, wish he had more of it. But office-holding is not the only kind of experience relevant to the task of leading a wildly variegated nation. Obama’s immersion in diverse human environments (Hawaii’s racial rainbow, Chicago’s racial cauldron, countercultural New York, middle-class Kansas, predominantly Muslim Indonesia), his years of organizing among the poor, his taste of corporate law and his grounding in public-interest and constitutional law—these, too, are experiences. And his books show that he has wrung from them every drop of insight and breadth of perspective they contained.*spoiler alert* Here's the very last paragraph. I do declare, this brought out the waterworks out for me:
We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.