Monday, September 29, 2008

Is everybody happy?

Mr Natural by R. Crumb.


Dow and S&P 500 close with dramatic falls after House vote

By Michael M. Grynbaum
Reuters, The New York Times
September 29, 2008

Stocks took a deep plunge on Monday after the government's bailout plan — touted by its supporters as a balm for the current market stress — failed to pass the House of Representatives, setting off a fresh wave of anxious selling.

In yet another day that has shaken the embattled canyons of Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 778 points, or 7 percent, while the Standard and Poor's 500-stock index lost 106.59 points, or 8.79 percent. The Dow posted its biggest daily percentage decline since the October 1987 stock market crash, while the benchmark S&P 500 had its worst day in 21 years after the House sent the bailout plan to defeat by a vote of 228 to 205.

The fear was most pronounced in the world's credit markets, considered gauges of anxiety among investors. Yields on Treasuries plummeted after the House rejected the plan, with the one-month Treasury note yielding virtually zero.

Banks are charging enormous premiums for short-term financing; the difference between the cost of a three-month loan from a bank, and a three-month loan from the government, rose to the widest point since at least 1984. Other lending rates stayed high.

On Wall Street, the drops were sharp and swift, catching many investors and stock strategists on Wall Street by surprise. Many had expected the measure to be passed in the House, and lawmakers in Congress had suggested as much in comments earlier on Monday.

Instead, traders around the world turned to their television screens to see the votes opposed to the bill adding up, and eventually surpassing those in favor. The banal image broadcast on several television networks — a no-frills table of 'yay' and 'nay' votes — contrasted with the expressions of increasing concern on the faces of workers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

House rejects bailout plan

McCain slams "phoning it in"--then makes some calls

Jim Wallis commentary: Principles in an Unprincipled Crisis

Did [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi's ad lib doom the deal?

Thomas Frank commentary: Wrecking, Wrecking, Wrecked

Bush Sidesteps Congress? $630 Billion To Be Pumped Into Economy Despite House Bailout Rejection

September 29: Feast of the Holy Archangels

I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.

Then they were both troubled, and fell upon their faces: for they feared.

But he said unto them, Fear not, for it shall go well with you; praise God therefore.

For not of any favour of mine, but by the will of our God I came; wherefore praise him for ever.

All these days I did appear unto you; but I did neither eat nor drink, but ye did see a vision.

Now therefore give God thanks: for I go up to him that sent me; but write all things which are done in a book.

And when they arose, they saw him no more.

Then they confessed the great and wonderful works of God, and how the angel of the Lord had appeared unto them.
--Tobit 12:14-22 (version from 1619 KJV)

[Note: The book of Tobit does does not appear in the Protestant bible. See link for more.]


The Catholic Church, true to it's traditions, insists always that angels are closer to God than to man, and tends also to emphasize the otherness of the angels. In Protestant and post-Protestant American, this otherness has waned, and threatens now to vanish altogether. In the vivid epiphany of Gabriel to Daniel, the prophet first loses consciousness in shock and terror, and recovers himself only when touched benignly by the angel. I juxtapose to Daniel's spiritual trauma the treacle of our popular angel manuals, one of which actually suggest that there are cat angels, who presumably manifest themselves to our cats. The domestication of angels makes them dull and saccharine, and reminds me of the actress Jane Russell's theological outburst on television, when at a late moment in her career she took up singing spirituals, and defined God thusly: "I think God is just a livin doll!"

Whether we interpret them as God's messengers, or his warriors, or even his administrators, angels are meaningless apart from God, even when they are in rebellion against him.

Harold Bloom
Omens of the Millennium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, and Resurrection

Holy Archangels, pray for us.

Listening to: Santana - Soul Sacrifice
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dead Air Church - You can't ever come down

Time for some vintage 60s psychedelia!

The American Metaphysical Circus by Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies, was the type of record people pulled out for (ahem) special occasions. You are not likely to hear a purer specimen of the times.

What's very cool about Joe is that he publicly stated (in 2002, during the Napster lawsuit) if Sony won't PAY HIM after many years of theft, let everyone have the music for free:

Apr 23, 2002 | Joseph Byrd recorded a pair of experimental psychedelic albums for Columbia Records in the late 1960s. Since then, he says he's earned a few thousand dollars in composer's fees but hasn't received a single penny in artist's royalties.

It's not for lack of trying. Byrd says he sent his first letter of complaint to the label in 1976, and over the years he's repeatedly asked for financial statements on album sales and royalties. Letters have been sent, phone calls have been made. But even as his recordings -- "The United States of America" and "The American Metaphysical Circus" -- began to reappear on compact disc, Columbia and its parent company (Sony) continued to ignore Byrd's pleas.

On Feb. 27, the mild-mannered professor -- Byrd teaches music history at the College of the Redwoods in Northern California -- decided to take his case to Marilyn Hall Patel, the federal judge overseeing the labels' lawsuit against Napster for copyright infringement. He wrote Patel a letter detailing how Sony had been giving him the cold shoulder for decades. His situation, he added, was hardly unique.

"I am not alone," he wrote. "Literally thousands of musicians like me, who are purportedly represented by record companies and distributors in the current Napster case, are in my situation."

"The record companies' representation that they are legitimate agents for their artists is false," he continued. "The only payments they make are to those who have the means to force them to be accountable; to the rest, a vast majority, they pay nothing. Therefore, allowing them to collect fees in our behalf does not serve the public interest. I personally would prefer to allow my music to be freely shared, to the present situation, in which only the corporations stand to gain. Until this is changed, the record companies and publishers deserve nothing."
And a hearty amen to that, on this sabbath morning! A man who freely cavorts with field hippies is my kind of music history professor.

How did the sand get inside of your brain?


The first video is just the album cover, the second has the appropriate trippy visuals to go with the subject matter. (And in the second, I think those are ray-beams shooting out of J. Edgar Hoover's eyes at 1:40.)

Joe Byrd and The Field Hippies - You can't ever come down

[via FoxyTunes / Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies]

Joe Byrd and The Field Hippies - The Elephant At The Door

[via FoxyTunes / Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies]

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Senator Lindsey Graham calls Barack Obama "dangerous"

Did anyone see South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham's hateful interview on FOX NEWS right after the Presidential debate last night? He actually called Barack Obama articulate!

And you know what? It was deliberate as hell.

It would appear that Senator Graham is in charge of Republican racial dog-whistling for the McCain campaign. (Or outright race-baiting, when necessary.) As the southerner, I supposed it's considered his job. And he is happy to fetch and carry water for John McCain, as he has his entire time in the Senate.

In this clip of the interview, you don't hear Graham's "articulate" remark, but you do get the full-impact of the nastiness, complete with accusations that Obama is inciting class warfare, is "naive and dangerous."

Paul Newman 1925-2008

Movie poster for HARPER (1966), one of my mother's favorites.


Reflexively, I almost called my (deceased) mother when I heard Paul Newman had passed.... he is so closely associated with her in my mind, that I cried for her all over again. She loved him SO much. I didn't have to read any of the official obituaries, since I already knew his life story; his movies, his long and stable marriage to Joanne Woodward, his car-racing, his son Scott's death, his politics...

Speaking of which, she was PROUD AS HELL of his progressive politics. During a conversation about conservative Hollywood people like Reagan, Schwarzenegger or Bo Derek, she would invariably remark on how pleased she was that "Paul didn't turn out like that!" She also periodically reminded me that he was a Buckeye--to her, the most famous and important one.

The proceeds of his organic food line, Newman's Own, go to progressive charities. Regarding this venture into business, Newman once said "The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is out-grossing my films!" (note: I particularly recommend the fire-hot pretzels and Ginger-O cookies!)


I don't know where the following excerpt is from... but it appears to be a segment of an old British TV documentary about Newman and Woodward. I chose this because I love looking at old stuff, and my mother was endlessly dazzled by the Cinderella-story of modest, Georgia-born Woodward moving to Hollywood and landing an Oscar and a leading man.

Also, check out the young, drop-dead handsome Gore Vidal at about 1:45. (WHO KNEW he used to be gorgeous?!?) My apologies for the documentary's use of the c-word to describe disabled people, herein used to describe Piper Laurie in The Hustler at about 3:13. At the time of the film, this word was acceptable and routinely used to describe Laurie's character (in reviews and trailers) and unfortunately, I believe the word is still in use at various news outlets today.

The increasing political involvement of Newman/Woodward is also chronicled here.

I will miss him, the beautiful Buckeye who made my mother flush and laugh, her eternal fantasy man.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain scared to debate

...because he will look like a fool when he does.

According to Politico:

John McCain called Wednesday for the first presidential debate, scheduled for Friday in Mississippi, to be delayed and urged Barack Obama to join him in Washington for a high-level meeting of congressional leaders to address the financial crisis. Obama responded that the debate should go on.

In a roll of the dice that jolted the presidential race, McCain said he is suspending his campaign - and his fundraising and campaign advertising - as of Thursday and will return to Washington. He also scrapped a planned appearance on David Letterman.

President Bush, in his televised address to the nation Wednesday night, said he had invited both men to come to the White House on Thursday for a summit meeting with congressional leadership.

A McCain aide told Politico Wednesday night that the campaign is proposing to the Presidential Debate Commission and the Obama camp that if there's no bailout deal by Friday, the first presidential debate should take the place of the vice presidential debate, currently scheduled for October 2 in St. Louis.
What do you all think of this? Is it on the level? I think it's as calculated as the McCain campaign restraining Sarah Palin from answering any unscheduled, off-the-cuff questions. (And what's that about?)

I agree the financial crisis is dire, and I'd like to hear what BOTH parties have to say about it.

Maybe McCain doesn't have anything to say and needs to come up with something, so he hopes a week will buy him some time?

Listening to: Gin Blossoms - Allison Road
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Proud grandma

Another Virgo had a birthday recently! This is my beautiful granddaughter, who just turned 3! (((preen)))


Posted by Picasa

Listening to: 13th Floor Elevators - You're Gonna Miss Me
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NAACP wages new effort to bring down Confederate flag

CSA Battle Flag image from The Palmetto Scoop.


My first confederate flag thread is here, in which I said all I am going to say (too much, as usual). The NAACP's new campaign against the flag starts on October 2nd.

NAACP wages new effort to bring down Confederate flag

Governor says he won’t get involved

By Tim Smith • STAFF WRITER, Greenville News
September 23, 2008

COLUMBIA -- The South Carolina and North Carolina chapters of the NAACP called the Confederate flag that flies on Statehouse grounds here a symbol of evil and terrorism and said Monday they will join in their efforts to remove it.

“As long as this flag blows, it pushes a foul wind of separatism, division and racism that is not contained by the borders of South Carolina,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. The two chapters of the organization used the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation to announce new efforts.

North Carolina’s NAACP plans to fight any cooperation between that state and South Carolina in film projects until the flag is removed, Barber said.

Dr. Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina NAACP, said press conferences supporting a boycott of South Carolina were held simultaneously in seven southeastern states.

“This is not a South Carolina issue,” he said. “This is a national issue.”

The battle flag was moved to its current location near the Confederate Soldiers Memorial on the north side of the Statehouse in 2000 as a result of a legislative compromise to take it off the Statehouse dome. The NAACP has protested its location ever since and organized a tourism and travel boycott of the state.

On Monday, Gov. Mark Sanford repeated his previously stated reluctance to get involved in the flag fight.

“That would consume the two years I have left, and I have to stay focused on the things that I originally made pledges to voters on,” he said.

This summer, Randolph revealed the civil rights organization was working with some officials in Hollywood to keep film projects from locating in the state as part of the NAACP’s campaign.

Randolph said Monday that he couldn’t yet disclose who in Hollywood is assisting the NAACP but said the organization planned to announce some “high-profile names” in time for the NAACP’s 100th anniversary early next year.

Both men said they are also working to block collaborative agreements between the two state’s film offices.

“We don’t believe our film industry in North Carolina ought to be doing collaborative work with South Carolina until such time as this flag is removed,” Barber said.

Barber said the battle flag is wrong morally “because it supported the evils of slavery.”

“We wouldn’t allow al-Qaida to fly their flag,” he said. “We wouldn’t allow the Bloods and the Crips to fly their flag. We wouldn’t allow another country to fly its flag. We should not allow that which represents terrorism and secession to be flown.”

Randolph said little progress has been made in the Statehouse on the issue but said change that benefits blacks in the state rarely occurs except as a result of war, constitutional changes, an executive order or the death of someone.

“The Klansmen don’t wear white sheets anymore,” he said. “They wear three-piece suits and carry briefcases. But they do the same damage that they used to.”

Randolph said the state’s 67th annual convention will be held in Charlotte, beginning Oct. 2, the eighth year the NAACP in South Carolina has moved out of state for its convention to observe the flag boycott.
Listening to: Louis Armstrong - Stardust
via FoxyTunes

Monday, September 22, 2008

Earl Palmer 1924-2008

Earl Palmer, by Ken Hively of the Los Angeles Times.


I have just learned that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer and extraordinary talent of the 20th century, Earl Palmer, passed away on September 19th.

Some of the songs he played on--

Fats Domino: I’m Walkin, The Fat Man, Walkin to New Orleans
Little Richard: Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally
Lloyd Price: Lawdy Miss Clawdy
Ritchie Valens: La Bamba, Donna
Amos Milburn: Chicken Shack Boogie
Sam Cooke: You Send Me
Smiley Lewis: I Hear You Knockin, Shame Shame Shame
Jan and Dean: Dead Man's Curve, Little Old Lady from Pasadena

Palmer was also employed by Phil Spector for the bombastic Wall of Sound in the 1960s. He played on several of the Spector-era hits such as You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin by the Righteous Brothers.

Claire Noland writes in the LA Times:

Born in New Orleans on Oct. 25, 1924, Earl Cyril Palmer was tap-dancing by age 5 on the black vaudeville circuit, touring with his mother, a singer, in Ida Cox's jazz and blues revue. He didn't learn to play drums until after serving in Europe with the Army in World War II. He returned to New Orleans and attended the Gruenwald School of Music on the GI Bill. He studied piano and percussion and learned to read, compose and arrange music.

But his childhood experiences served him well, Palmer said years later.

"I had the advantage of knowing music before I played it," he told jazz writer Zan Stewart in 1993. "Being a dancer gave me an understanding of rhythmic 'time,' and you can't teach that."

After the war, Palmer also began playing drums with the Dave Bartholomew Band and the house band at Cosimo Matassa's J&M studio in New Orleans. Jazz, blues, R&B and country music were fusing into a new, distinct genre of music, with Fats Domino, Little Richard, Lloyd Price and Smiley Lewis the frontmen laying down tracks in the early 1950s for what would become known as the beginnings of rock 'n' roll.

"What we were playing on those early records was funky in relation to jazz," Palmer told The Times in 2000. "What we were playing already had that natural New Orleans flavor about the music. I played the bass drum how they played bass drum in funeral parade bands."

In 1957 Palmer moved to Los Angeles to work for Aladdin Records but quickly became a first-call session drummer.

Besides providing the driving backbeat on many rock 'n' roll tunes, Palmer can also be heard on recordings by jazz and pop stars Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Doris Day, as well as on the TV theme songs for "Mission: Impossible," "Green Acres" and "The Odd Couple," among others.
Also: Tribute to Earl Palmer.

Resquiat In Pace.


Earl Palmer - Walkin

Some random thoughts on giving offense

I have always "let a lot of things go"--since you know, my Deity announced a long time ago, that we should forgive 70 x 7. [1]

An argument continues. I have decided we need to air it here, since we are basically talking about a difference in radical approach.

Lisa writes:

If I could go the entire rest of my life without hearing anyone say “I didn’t intend to say anything racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist” as if it means anything, it will still be too soon.

I don’t care.
If you don't care, nothing will ever change, and no one will learn a damned thing. Some people, you know, just aren't as smart as others and have not had the educations that others have had... bottom line.
Someone says something transphobic to me or where I can hear it, I don’t care if they didn’t mean to hurt me, they did hurt me. I have the right to say “Hey, that thing you said was transphobic.” It’s just like if someone accidentally steps on my foot - I can still say “Hey, you stepped on my foot!” and whoever stepped on my foot will probably apologize and move on, and not start an argument about how I was standing in their way or how they never hurt people on purpose.
Bad analogy; it isn't as clear as that. What if the person says something and doesn't understand WHY it was transphobic? Can't we clarify and ask WHY? Isn't that a desire not to do further harm and integrate the message so that it never happens again?

Why is all discussion ruled out?

See, speaking of ageism, or rather, not speaking of it, since you carefully left it out of your list of oppressions (so should I assume the worst from this omission and claim ageism is therefore still acceptable to you?)--some of us come from older leftist/radical traditions in which all political questions were silenced by revolutionary cadre; to ask questions was to be seen as uncommitted to the cause, not because we needed to know the answer.

You sound like you think they did the right thing shutting us up, yes?
And you can say “Well, I didn’t mean to say anything transphobic” and I’ll say “I don’t care, you said it.” and suddenly the conversation becomes a matter of what you were thinking when you said it,
Well, yeah. If you are assigning meanings and INTENTIONS a person doesn't have, it becomes necessary to CLARIFY that NO you are NOT a proponent of mass genocide, or whatever outrageous charges are currently being levied.

And isn't it crucial to learn to express sentiments differently, rather than using offensive language?

How can one learn if one doesn't discuss these things?

(I still don't understand, for instance, and no, I am not allowed to ask, either.)

If some white person says "Obama is articulate!"--we need to explain that no, WHAT YOU SAID was not the insult (they in fact intended it as a compliment), but the way that particular word has been used in the culture, and what it conveys to African-Americans, is something quite different.

If that person doesn't understand that, I think it is perfectly reasonable to discuss it, or they will never learn and they will keep right on saying it.

Yes, I fully realize there are people VERY tired of explaining that, and I get that. But simply WANTING to understand, is not wrong or bad.

It is the heart of all revolutionary change.
and not what you said, and what you were thinking is irrelevant.
If you think certain people's thoughts are irrelevant while other people's thoughts are valid, this explains plenty. I think everyone's thought are valid. Whether I want to argue with them (say, at Feminist Critics, where incidentally, I have argued at length) is another matter. But what they think DOES matter and IS NOT irrelevant; they have considerable influence, particularly if their thoughts reflect the majority.
I don’t care if you’re transphobic and hate all trans people or if you just slipped up, I want you to own what you said, and not tell me about your inner life.
(This is a reference to my post about my father and how difficult it has been to overcome certain influences.)

Lisa, we probably won't "own it" to your specifications, so you may always be angry at people who don't use the politically-correct terminology. If I was this picky, here in the hyper-conservative upstate of South Carolina, I wouldn't have a single friend left. This sounds like someone who lives in a liberal area, who has the luxury of never having to work with the opposition.

I do care about people's inner lives, and what they are thinking. Yes, even the "bad people"--I don't think lasting change happens any other way.

Again, this is undoubtedly a big difference between us.

And I realize that your approach is perfectly respectable, ideologically. Malcolm X agreed with you. But that doesn't make you the expert on politically-correct behavior, any more than I am.

I am totally unable to simply cut loose a longstanding friend, or relative, or lover, or whoever, just because they used the wrong language or said something stupid. Certainly, I would want to hear what that loved-one has to say for themselves.

When a stranger steps on my foot, it's very, very different than when a FRIEND does. I would never regard these two events as morally equivalent. If you do, that also explains the differences between us.

And yes, I also believe that the inner life of OTHER oppressed people, even if you regard it as unimportant, is important. A stupid or offensive remark from a comrade, or another oppressed person, is not the same as the same comment from one who intends to do harm or who is not on the same side.


[1] Matthew 18: 21-22. Offhand cultural note: Even mentioning that one believes in the traditions of various Deities/Churches, such as offering to do PENANCE for an offense, is not permitted in some circles... did you know that? I sure didn't!

I'm sure this vast cultural abyss has nothing to do with being old and working-class (instead of young, trendy, upper middle-class, bright-eyed, well-educated and properly enlightened), so don't even go there!

[2] Should I point out that you missed "classist" and "ageist" in your litany?

Actually, I'm pretty used to that. Some forms of oppression rate a mention, and some are merely part of the air we breathe and don't even matter. The fact is, though, I have overlooked a great deal more classism and ageism than you can imagine. And what do I get for assuming charity and giving friends the benefit of the doubt? I get told that my feelings, my inner life, doesn't matter.

Well, it's nice to learn that NOW, I guess. It is a lesson I won't soon forget.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dead Air Church: Goodbye Blue Sky

It was when I first heard this song that I realized one of the untold sins of war: it makes children afraid of the sky.

Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter when the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue sky?


Pink Floyd - Goodbye Blue Sky

[via FoxyTunes / Pink Floyd]

Richard Wright 1943-2008, R.I.P., Pink Floyd keyboardist and co-founder

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's a Family Affair

Left: Ryan and Redmond O'Neal, mug shots.


Here at Dead Air, we are interested in the hereditary nature of... well, just about everything. But specifically, addiction, alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse. And I admit to a particular, politically-incorrect fascination when people with certain ethnic surnames are involved. And I think I've earned the right to be fascinated, okay? (Joke from my youth: When you get 4 Irishmen together, you always have a Fifth. Ha ha.) I am personally convinced certain families (ethnicities? are we even allowed to go there?) are more prone to addiction, or have the propensity for self-destructive behavior/temperament that might lead to same.

Or is this all learned behavior? Discuss amongst yourselves!

Note: I am also very interested when the bustee was beloved to me as a young woman. I hate to see this to happen to Ryan O'Neal, who has battled both booze and cancer. But like the song says: Mom loves the both of them... you see it's in the blood...


Ryan O'Neal, son Redmond booked on suspicion of drug possession

By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
1:06 PM PDT, September 17, 2008

Deputies found Redmond O'Neal, 24, in possession of methamphetamine while a vial of the drug was found in Ryan O'Neal's bedroom, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The father and son later were released on $10,000 bail each, he said.

The O'Neals were detained shortly after 7:15 a.m. during a probation search related to a case involving Redmond O'Neal. The two were taken to the sheriff's Malibu/Lost Hills station.

Redmond, whose mother is actress Farrah Fawcett, was arrested last year on charges related to carrying heroin and crystal meth while driving under the influence in Malibu.

He pleaded not guilty to drug possession and one misdemeanor DUI charge as part of a deal intended to help him avoid jail. He was sentenced to three years probation and $1,688 in fines for the DUI charge.

In another case from 2005, Redmond O'Neal was placed on probation stemming from an arrest on suspicion of methamphetamine and cocaine possession.

Ryan O'Neal, 67, was arrested last year on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and negligent discharge of a firearm after firing a gunshot during an argument with another son, Griffin O'Neal.

The actor told authorities that Griffin, 43, picked up a fireplace poker and started swinging it. Griffin grazed him four or five times and "aimed at my head, I ducked, he hit his own girlfriend in the head," Ryan O'Neal said at the time.

The actor said he fired a warning shot intended to scare his son.

The elder O'Neal was nominated for an Oscar for the 1970 movie "Love Story."


Follow-up: Ryan says he is innocent! (big shocker)

Speaking of family, Tatum O'Neal now seems like the reasonable one!

PS: Has anyone ever seen Tatum's very strange, bizarre, borderline-pedophilia movie (with Richard Burton) titled Circle of Two? Very, very weird. It was made in 1980 when she was 17, but she plays a 15-year-old, throwing herself at 60-year-old Richard. After her book came out stating she was molested, I felt it was even more bizarre than I did initially...


Family Affair - Sly and the Family Stone

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sarah Palin's tan lines

I thought it was understood that tanning (as in: baking under the sun's rays, or in a tanning bed) is a dangerous, carcinogenic activity. But there is a whole industry of UV apologists I never knew about until I started Googling graphics for this post.

I've been watching the first season of MAD MEN on DVD, which dramatizes the early-60s advertising counter-attack on critics of tobacco: SMOKING IS FINE, EVERYONE DOES IT. (One amazing thing on MAD MEN is the constant puff, puff, puffing on high-tar cigarettes like LUCKY STRIKES; we baby-boomers grew up with that, and I'm surprised we aren't all dead.)

And now, they are telling us that searing the skin with ultraviolet rays is safe! Well, of course it is!

And guess who?!?

Palin’s Private Tanning Bed in the Alaska Governor’s Mansion

One of Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin’s First Actions as Alaska Governor Was to Equip the State Building with a Tanning Bed

By Al Giordano and Bill Conroy
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
September 15, 2008

“The governor did have a tanning bed put in the Governor’s Mansion,” Roger Wetherell, chief communications officer of Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, confirmed to this newspaper. “It was done shortly after she took office [in early 2007] and moved into the mansion.”

The home tanning bed in the Governor’s Mansion in Juneau adds a trivial fact among the many, big and small, coming to light about the right-wing’s latest celebrity, McCain’s gamble to try and wrestle the election away from Democrat Barack Obama, but one that – tug the thread – leads to other questions about elitism, ethics, public health and the insufferable phoniness that plagues politics and politicians.
Indeed, John McCain claims that he is always careful to use sunscreen, as well as wearing hats, caps and long sleeves. John McCain has had four melanomas, removed in 1993 and 2000.

An expensive, specialized machine, unaffordable and out of reach to most American homes, utilized to artificially enhance one’s appearance, provides an apt metaphor for political image-making in campaigns. In fact, such an energy-hungry appliance, in most cases, requires a dedicated circuit, a voltage regulator and 220 volt wiring (and for some deluxe models, a hardwire connection to the power source) — a set-up not found in 96-year-old homes.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain recently said, of Palin, “she knows more about energy than probably anybody in the United States of America.” That kind of hyperbole can be expected from the guy who picked her out of relative obscurity, but so far both McCain and Palin have claimed that Alaska supplies “20 percent” of the United States’ energy, when, according to, that figure is “not even close… Alaska’s share of domestic energy production was 3.5 percent,” and just 2.4 percent of total domestic energy consumption. Okay, so Palin may not know more about energy than other national leaders, but the revelation that her newly re-wired Governor’s Mansion includes a tanning bed may indicate that in this time of high oil prices forcing most Americans to conserve energy, Palin consumes more energy than the others.

Tanning beds of the kind used by tanning salons can cost upwards of $35,000 each.
Asked whether taxpayer funds were used to equip the Alaska Governor’s Mansion for Palin’s tanning bed, Public Facilities spokesman Wetherell confirmed that the mansion’s electrical system had been upgraded early in Palin’s term. He insisted that the electrical work was not prompted by the extra needs of a tanning bed, but, rather was part of a project undertaken to bring the historic mansion’s wiring up to current building standards.

Since governors (and vice presidents) are generally expected to be healthy role models for the nation’s youth, Governor Palin’s darkening secret raises Edwardsian questions about her habit, which medical professionals and organizations have identified as a threat to public health, a cause of skin cancer, and a problem of abuse and addiction among teenagers and others through a condition that they call “tanorexia.”
Who Paid for the Governor’s Tanning Bed?

Alaska has a very strict ethics law governing public officials. In the case of the governor, the Alaska attorney general, who oversees the state’s Department of Law, enforces the ethics laws.

Judy Bockman, an Alaskan assistant attorney general who administers the states ethics act, says the governor is mandated to disclose any gift exceeding $150 in value if that gift is in anyway connected to her official position or if it is intended to influence the performance of her public duties. And a gift is defined, she says, “as the transfer of property to a public official at less than full value.”

Bockman says she was not aware of Palin’s tanning bed. That fact would seem to indicate that the governor did not list it as a gift, since such disclosures are to be filed with “a designated supervisor,” which in the case of the governor is the state’s attorney general.

Wetherell of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities confirms that fact as well, indicating that he was informed by the Governor’s Office that Palin purchased the tanning bed “with her own money, so there was no need for an ethics disclosure.”

Wetherell says that Palin bought the tanning bed from a health club, adding that it was not a brand new machine. The fact that the tanning bed was acquired from a business also seems to indicate that it was a commercial model — which can command a hefty price tag as Wiese and Mensik point out.

Wetherell was not able to provide the name of the health club, the model of the tanning bed, nor the price Palin paid for the machine, which means there is no way of verifying, at this point, if Palin did, in fact, purchase it with her own money, and if so, whether she received a discount off market value exceeding $150 in deference to her position as governor.

If, in fact, the tanning bed was donated to Palin or her family, or provided at discount exceeding $150 as a favor due to her position, based on Bockman’s explanation of the state’s ethics law, it would have legally had to appear on her state ethics disclosure filings.

Bockman also explained that it is incumbent on a public official to disclose a gift in any case where that official suspects he or she received special treatment.

“There is an absolute bar against taking any gift that is inappropriate,” she says.

In any event, the examination of a potential ethics violation is handled on a case-by-case basis based on the particular circumstances of the event, Bockman adds.

“We don’t judge the appearance of impropriety,” Bockman says. “We look at the facts.”

The name of the health club that allegedly sold the tanning bed to Palin, its model and cost, form of payment, and that of the state contractor who did the electrical upgrade work at the Governor’s Mansion, are subject of continuing reporting by this newspaper. (Have a lead or a tip? Send it along to
I guess we need a tanned Vice President, though, don't we? Seems a small price to pay!

(((rolls eyes)))

Listening to: Patti Smith Group - Till Victory
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesdays: Virgos are a peaceful people!

I got this idea from Annie, who used one of these for her birthday last month.

Yes, I am older today.


Monday, September 15, 2008


As promised way back in June (!)--I finally saw Anton Corbijn's film CONTROL.

For those who do not already know about the life of Ian Curtis: SPOILERS AHEAD!

The movie was simply beautiful to watch, in stark, British working-class black and white. There is a great segue early in the film, as we see Ian laying on a bed, smoking cigarettes and listening to one of my all-time favorite songs of the era: Drive-In Saturday, which was thrilling to hear in historic context, as well as an omen for Ian:

She's uncertain if she likes him
But she knows she really loves him
It's a crash-course for the ravers
It's a Drive-In Saturday.

(I listened to it as many times as Ian did, which gave me an immediate emotional connection to the movie.)

After this, you hear more Bowie, Roxy Music and Sex Pistols on the soundtrack, like a progression... then, suddenly, it is Joy Division. It is Ian. They have taken their place in the pantheon. We realize: this is a movie about how that occurred.

Mr Daisy didn't think the inner-life of Ian, the person obsessed with suffering, the Third Reich and Rudolf Hess, was completely shown to us, but I'm not so sure. The fact of Ian's epilepsy is introduced early, as he zones out while looking at an equation on the blackboard in school. The motif of something "closing in" is one of his repeated themes, and he undoubtedly had an instinctive "darkness" and introspection (nowadays they'd call him a goth) that made him perfect for punk.

Sam Riley portrays Ian wonderfully and captures his erratic dancing perfectly. The famous incident in which he writhes at the microphone, finally collapsing into an actual seizure (in the film, during the song DEAD SOULS, see below) is turned into an amazing scene, finally made realistic and understandable. (The audience thought it was part of the show.) The way Ian felt soul-numbingly sick and drained, heavily-drugged to prevent seizures, is made apparent throughout the last half of the movie. Samantha Morton is great as Deborah Curtis, who also wrote the book titled Touching from a Distance, on which this account is based. She also co-produced the movie.

Transmission - Joy Division

It's also understood that the song "She's Lost Control" is describing a woman having a seizure at his workplace, which Ian watches, frightened, later learning that the woman has died. This song reflected Ian's fears around the fact he could no longer manage his epilepsy. The issue I have with the portrayal of epilepsy-as-evil-interloper is the way his disability is seen as the major negative in his life, while issues of class and heterosexual marriage/reproduction are presented as a given.*

On the World Socialist Web Site (, Kevin Martinez reviews CONTROL:

The name of the band was taken from the brothels operated by the Nazis in various concentration camps. While Curtis was not flirting with neo-Nazism, some of his bandmates indicate that they had a fascination with fascism at the time, and the whole thing suggests unseriousness and irresponsibility, as well as a growing social nihilism.**

The band’s demo EP, “An Ideal For Living,” featured a Hitler Youth member pounding a drum on the cover. The inside artwork is the infamous picture of Jews with their hands up in surrender during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

“I like it,” Ian explains “It’s thought-provoking.” This critical stance, however, does not prevent their shows from being overrun by skinheads and accusations of the band supporting fascism.

Much has been said of the atmospheric and sad sound of Joy Division’s music. It is usually described as depressing; others like to think of it as cathartic. Like the elephant in the room, the knowledge of Curtis’s eventual suicide hangs over the band’s music, and the film, like a long shadow. The story is not unlike that of Kurt Cobain and his band Nirvana, who underwent a similar process of achieving fame and ultimate disillusionment.
At one point, Ian is heavily drugged with anti-convulsants and unable to continue; the audience riots, and Ian feels responsible.

Below--the DEAD SOULS sequence from the movie:

Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities

That keep calling me
They keep calling me
Keep on calling me
They keep calling me

Ian Curtis committed suicide at the age of 23. I don't know how historically-accurate these last scenes were, but it certainly didn't look pleasant. The screaming of Deborah after entering the house to find Ian, just cut me right to the quick.

Rest in peace, Dead Soul. We love you and yes, pray for your soul.


*Annik, the beautiful Belgian rock reporter whom Ian falls in love with, remarks on Ian and Deborah's marriage: "I've never heard of anyone married so young!" At the time of their wedding, Ian was 19, Deborah was 18. (I was startled by that, since my first marriage, around the same time, was when I was 19, on his 19th birthday. These things sound shocking when you hear them out of the mouth of someone else!)

**Wikipedia informs us: Curtis's memorial stone, which is inscribed with "Ian Curtis 18-5-80" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart", was stolen in July 2008 from the Cheshire cemetery where he is buried.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Left: South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler. Photo from the Palmetto Scoop.


This week, Politico reported that Carol Fowler, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman (and Obama superdelegate), harshly criticized Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, using some decidedly sharp language. Big flap all over the state. Fowler has apparently been forced to issue an apology:

South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler sharply attacked Sarah Palin today, saying John McCain had chosen a running mate "whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”

Palin is an opponent of abortion rights and gave birth to her fifth child, Trig, earlier this year after finding out during her pregnancy that the baby had Down syndrome.

Fowler told my colleague Alex Burns in an interview that the selection of an opponent of abortion rights would not boost McCain among many women.

“Among Democratic women and even among independent women, I don’t think it helped him,” she said.

Told of McCain's boost in the new ABC/Washington Post among white women following the Palin pick, Fowler said: "Just anecdotally, I believe that those white women are Republican women anyway."
In broadcast media, I first heard Brit Hume of FOX NEWS report this incident, and shortly thereafter, the proverbial shit hit the fan.

As stated, Carol has issued this apology:
I personally admire and respect the difficult choices that women make everyday, and I apologize to anyone who finds my comment offensive. I clumsily was making a point about people in South Carolina who may vote based on a single issue. Whether it’s the environment, the economy, the war or a woman’s right to choose, there are people who will cast their vote based on a single issue. That was the only point I was attempting to make.
We knew what you meant, Carol! CAROL FOWLER FOR PRESIDENT!!!!

In other news, we learn that Sarah Palin HAS NOT EVEN BEEN TO IRAQ!!! More lies, just like her false claims she didn't support the Bridge to Nowhere (she did) and just as she claims she fought those terrible EARMARKS (she ate earmarks for lunch with her mooseburgers, every day). And now we learn that she did NOT go to Iraq!

Well, what did we EXPECT?
WASHINGTON - Sarah Palin's visit to Iraq in 2007 consisted of a brief stop at a border crossing between Iraq and Kuwait, the vice presidential candidate's campaign said yesterday, in the second official revision of her only trip outside North America.

Following her selection last month as John McCain's running mate, aides said Palin had traveled to Ireland, Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq to meet with members of the Alaska National Guard. During that trip she was said to have visited a "military outpost" inside Iraq. The campaign has since repeated that Palin's foreign travel included an excursion into the Iraq battle zone.

But in response to queries about the details of her trip, campaign aides and National Guard officials in Alaska said by telephone yesterday that she did not venture beyond the Kuwait-Iraq border when she visited Khabari Alawazem Crossing, also known as "K-Crossing," on July 25, 2007.

Asked to clarify where she traveled in Iraq, Palin's spokeswoman, Maria Comella, confirmed that "She visited a military outpost on the other side of the Kuwait-Iraq border."

Left: Alaska governor and GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Photo from (of course!) FOX NEWS.

On the second day of the trip, he said, Palin was flown to the border crossing, about 100 miles north of Camp Buehring, where she spent the morning meeting with troops and presiding over a ceremony in which an Alaska National Guard soldier extended his enlistment.

But she did not venture into Iraq, Osborn said. "You have to have permission to go into a lot of areas, and [the crossing] is where her permissions were," he said.

Palin did not stay the night in Iraq, and spent the rest of the second day at Camp Virginia and Ali Al Salem Air Base, Osborn said.

Palin also told ABC that she had traveled to Mexico and Canada. Her campaign had previously mentioned a Canada visit, but not a trip to Mexico. Comella said yesterday that Palin had visited Mexico on vacation, and Canada once last year.

"We did not have 100 percent confirmation about the Mexico trip in the initial days we were being asked. It was a personal trip," Comella said.
And hey, how do you like this headline:

Obama camp in panic as ‘Xena’ Sarah Palin scythes through support

Palinmania has washed away the Democrat’s lead in key states

Times Online (UK)
Sarah Baxter, Washington
THE high-heeled, moose-hunting governor of Alaska has sent Barack Obama’s campaign into a state of panic as support for the Democratic presidential candidate haemorrhages in the battleground states he must win to reach the White House.

Sarah Palin, 44, continued to scythe through Obama’s support among women by taunting the first potential black president for declining to choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate and by declaring that questions about juggling work and family were “kind of irrelevant” in the modern age.

The mother of five, who has been called Xena, the warrior princess, said in a television interview: “I think he’s regretting not picking [Clinton] now, I do. What determination and grit and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way - she handled those well,” Palin said.

She presented herself as a champion of no-fuss, no-non-sense working mothers. “Of course you can be the vice-president and you can raise a family,” she said brightly. “I’m the governor and I’m raising a family.”
I think I'm gonna shoot myself.


Edit: Also see Palin powers abortion groups' coffers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Brute heart of a brute like you

I don't talk about him often. It hurts.

Correction: It is embarrassing, frightening, beyond the realm of decency. I don't know HOW to tell it.

I recently said/did some things that hurt and angered many people who are my online friends. More confusing, I am not sure exactly what I said that was offensive, and the more I tried to explain, the worse it got. (Has that ever happened to you?)

I hit the wall, I said to myself. Yes, this is it. It's been relatively easy up to now... from this point onward, it is difficult.


I have always liked Abraham Lincoln's phrase, the better angels of our nature. As a child, I imagined my better angels flitting around my head, protecting me from harm. I saw them not as my imposing, scary, big Guardian Angel, but as friendly tiny angels, almost pixies. As I grew older, I imagined the Main Better Angel looking like Tinkerbell on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, which we were too poor to watch in color, so we watched it in black and white. (When I first saw Tinkerbell in color, I was dazzled beyond description.)

I prayed about the situation described above, since I was confused and didn't have a clue. What did I do? Why is this happening? I don't understand, I said.

Tinkerbell flitted above my head, into my consciousness, trilling and twittering at me: Why are you so hard on yourself?

I don't know what I did wrong, and don't know how to find out.

You've come a long, long way, you know...Tinkerbell flitted a minute. Maybe you should talk about your father?

(((cringe)))(((panic))))(((shame))) I can't.

Why not?

People won't think I am cool, they will think I am backward. They won't like me! They will see everything filtered through these facts, once they are known.

Do you see how you sound? Like somebody coming out. Exactly like that.

Yes! I thought, it does sound that way.

People are already mad at you, and probably already thinking you are backward, Tinkerbell fluttered over my head, so why do you think that will make a difference now? Tell the story, because it's true. Truth is always good.

Yes, I know. But...

The truth shall set you free!

Or at least, I thought, closer to freedom than I currently am.

My better angel/Tinkerbell vanished, and I went digging through the family photos. Okay, it's time.


If you do a search for the word FATHER on my blog, chances are, I have never used the word. There is a reason for that.

My parents were divorced in 1959. I was two years old. My mother tells me that she did not know the extent of my father's racism when they married, and I believe her. The 50s were designed for American white people, even dirt-poor hillbilly and/or shanty Irish white people. In fact, such people have historically clung to whiteness like the proverbial life raft. It was often the only privilege they had.

My parents rarely saw black or other nonwhite people. Segregation technically did not exist in the north, yet was everywhere. Whites often did not see or interact with nonwhite people; they were kept apart in virtually every way. The very subject of race was exotic and strange to them. By the time my mother learned that my father was an extreme racist, she added it to the increasingly long list of things she despised about him. They screamed at each other over everything. My grandmother liked to tell me stories, her favorite involving my mother (who was born disabled) taking a piece of a vacuum cleaner to my father's head.

I don't know the chronology, and have tried hard to put it out of my mind. But I do know that my parents continued to sleep together, long after they married other people (plural). Their love/hate relationship, I understand now, was primarily about the sexual electricity between them...hotter than a pepper sprout. (This extended, as far as I know, even into the 70s.)

When my mother remarried, as she did constantly (not for long), my father would become angry and not visit me, or allow me to visit him. This wounded me beyond telling, I can say now. I was continually furious at both of them for not being like the other parents.

I would go for years without seeing him, and then he would re-appear like clockwork whenever my mother got divorced. He always seemed to have a new Chrysler. He lived in a small town in Indiana, where he continued his protected, segregated life, long after the rest of the world had seemingly caught up. He was more and more shocked by what he saw, when he visited the cities. Going to hell in a handbasket, he announced.

I don't remember when I became conscious, which is scary in retrospect. I do know that I eventually was startled, alarmed, and finally... the pieces came together. But I have to say, I was probably 10-11 years old before that happened. The racism was imbibed, the prejudice, the xenophobia, given to me much earlier. Of course it was. Deborah Mathis once wrote that racism was like an American family heirloom, passed from parents to children, a birthright. Her words shook me, because it was a birthright I did not want, although...I did want my father.

I looked like him, talked like him, had the same gestures, the same laugh, the same coloring. Whenever we hadn't seen each other in a good long while, we would mostly just stare at each other. Our physical and behavioral similarities were hypnotic and striking. He was a large Jackie Gleason-sort of man, taking up far more space than anyone else in the room, a clown and a lover. I desperately wanted his love and his attention, and I never got either one.

The trips from Ohio to Indiana always started out the same way. The radio. Inevitably, a black performer on the radio. I would hear it, maybe sing along, and then... oh. No. "Don't sing that shit," he would snap at me, and then... the stream of consciousness would start...yes, you know why the world is going to hell, don't you? You know why. N-ggers, sp-cs, g-oks, k-kes, and on and on the list would go. I would try to tune it out, try to imagine myself in a little bubble, protected from his evil talk. When I got home, my mother, all hopped up on speed, would extensively interrogate me about WHAT HE HAD SAID TO ME. (Did she think she could undo it?) Of course, I could never agree with things he said, since my mother had taught me opposite values, and yet... I wanted his approval, his love, so desperately, so much.

Left: from Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. (the way I felt while trapped in my father's automobile, for hours.)

The car trip was usually interminable, at some point becoming actually painful and excruciating. I would feign sleep, I would try to change the subject. I would compulsively stop at rest stops, I would burp, fart, eat, do anything... but he would always bring it back to that subject: race, bigotry, the Mexicans (who were migrant workers in Indiana during the summer), the blacks, the 'slopes' (Vietnamese). He could see very clearly that I wanted to change the subject and he wasn't changing it. I needed indoctrination; obviously, my mother had fallen down on the job. Worse, she was teaching me what he called "that racial equality shit." I felt like Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE; forcibly indoctrinated, my ears unwillingly blasted, my eyes propped open wide. I don't want to hear this, I just want you to pay attention to me. And like Alex, I was indoctrinated, brainwashed, changed utterly, in ways both apparent and unapparent. [1] The subliminal along with the blatant. I heard it all. There is no racial or ethnic stereotype I was untutored in.

I would say to my mother, nothing. He didn't say anything.


My father was proud of a sign he claimed was once at the edge of his county of birth in Indiana: N-gger, don't let the sun set on your ass.

"What do you think of THAT?" He eyed me carefully.

I grunted and rolled my eyes in a superior, hopefully-urban fashion. But that wasn't enough. On and on he would go, in a stream-of-consciousness screed. Finally, he would start the jokes, many that I remember to this day. The family heirloom that Mathis describes, is a fact. I recall Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, cousins, stuffed stockings, games, racial jokes. I remember Ed Sullivan, I remember Yoko sitting by John in the video of LET IT BE:

"Why'd he marry a goddamn g-ok, anyway?" he shook his head, amazed.

As they do with everyone--memories bubble up without consent ...I can not erase the details of my life, which are laced with racism and with judgment. I hear certain songs, see certain movies... I hear my father's endless racial rants, as surely as I remember his haircut, his Chryslers, his facial expressions, his choice of alcohol. This is part of the narrative of my life.

Even so, nobody said this about him in rural Indiana. It was simply part of the conversation, the air one breathed. You didn't call anyone a "racist" as if that mattered, or as if it constituted a serious criticism... Nobody offered the common-sense, gee-whiz observation that "BT is a pretty racist guy!" as they would now.

Because in that time and place, everyone was. Thus, nobody took notice.

Left: the cover of the Jackson 5ive's album MAYBE TOMORROW.

In my piece on having a black name [2], I mentioned racist incidents in the classrooms of my childhood, only to be told that such things could not have happened. I realized most people apply the morality of NOW to the morality of the past, and that it is important to tell the truth, tell how it really was. But then, nobody believes you, thinks you are exaggerating, or that your family was the worst. I assure you, my father was not the worst, he blended right in. There are indeed pockets of this country that even in the 70s, forbade children to listen to Motown or read books by black authors. In my father's house, these things were NOT DONE, and to take them on, was to take on my father.

I finally went to the wall for The Jackson 5ive. He would not allow me to bring the record into the house. I screamed, you need to get out of the stone age.

He decked me. I didn't argue again.


The white male braggadocio of the men in my father's family was pretty typical of the times, particularly when a gaggle of these guys all got together. One favorite topic was always the same: that (real? mythical?) time they kicked some black man's ass. [3] The black man in question was always really big, like Jim Brown, they would say. (I could tell they unwillingly admired Jim Brown, since he was one of the few black men they would mention by name.) It was years before I understood that this was to make themselves look like bad-asses, and it was impossible to know how much of their stories were true; they contradicted themselves constantly, piling more and more on in an effort to look like the baddest white man of them all, John Wayne in The Searchers. Who knew what was real? I told myself, that didn't really happen. But I was scared, and at least once after overhearing their stories, I vomited.

After my marriage to a Jewish man, my father cut me off. After our divorce, he briefly talked to me again. (I will save the story of our bizarre reunion for another time, since it threatens to turn into a monster-sized digression, complete with cocaine abuse and rampant alcoholism: Fear and Loathing in Fort Myers, Florida. ) The short version: Down and out in California, I had burned all my bridges and had nowhere else to go. With trepidation, after years of a stand-off, I called my father. Desperate. I figured, this is the LAST POKER CHIP, and I cashed it.

He asked me where I was. He would send me a plane ticket.

"You know what they said in the Air Force? Everybody in California is either a hot rod or a queer."

Ah, a new obsession had taken hold.


I spent many years in radical feminism, as many of you know. I listened to radical feminists talk about transgendered people as traitors to the cause ("upholders of the gender binary!") for decades, literally. I read books and attended festivals in which this prejudice, transphobia, was acceptable, and just like my father's hatreds, it was part of a segregated and protected world-view. I imbibed it for a long time, as I imbibed the words of my father. It was remarkably the same--my father lived in a white rural enclave, where the actual subjects of his hatred had become almost mythic. Similarly, the trans women considered the Bogeyman, were not crashing the gates that I could see. Where were they? Why are they so dangerous? I held to the party line that trans women were in fact men invading women's spaces, yet also knew that exclusivity is usually the result of being exclusive. For example, my father, finally surrounded on all sides with modernity, put his extreme racism under wraps as he grew older and properly understood that such talk was no longer tolerated in polite company. But the queer-hating took its place, with a vengeance.

THIS, I realized, is the same as it was before: he doesn't actually know any of them, does he?

I didn't see the similarity. Not at all. I had never met a trans person, and you know what? To my knowledge, I still haven't. NEVER. I discovered that I worked with one trans woman, long ago, after the fact.

At the time, I was not aware, not being deemed one of the safe people to tell.


And now, we come full circle to your humble narrator, spittin image of her daddy, terrifyingly enough.

Because, yes, that does scare me. But there is more.

There is a quiet, haunting scene in the movie The Brooke Ellison Story: After Brooke is injured (and becomes paralyzed), she has a dream of dancing. This is not presented as a bleeding-heart, disability-sympathy story, but as a simple matter of fact. She is spinning, spinning, spinning...the dream slowly disappears and Brooke wakes. And Brooke Ellison knows: she is not going to do that. That will not happen.

And I have always wanted to spin. I have wanted to spread justice and righteousness, I have stormed statehouses, demonstrated against presidents and political parties; I have been teargassed. I have carried signs, signs, signs, more signs than anyone should have to carry. I blog about human rights. That is my version of dancing; I would like to SPIN. That is what I wanted. To LIVE the Social Gospel; to spread the Word. I wanted to do it well.

And at some point, like Brooke, we have to say: that is not going to happen. I do not have the ability. I can do something else, but I can't do that.

I have hit the wall, as I said.

For some of us, brainwashing, conditioning and indoctrination runs very deep. I honestly find myself wondering how I have come as far as I have (Better angel/Tinkerbell always reminds me!) with such a background. The fact that I can hear Christmas carols and think of racist jokes from my father, usually amazes the priests I have told. They blink in amazement. They reinforce my feeling that yes, that is rough. That was harsh. (One priest told me he considered it child abuse.) I have only overcome much of this conditioning by making it a priority and living in a racially-mixed area/building (whites are the minority in my building and apartment complex). But in terms of transgendered people? I have not made them the priority I should, and still, as of this writing, have never IN PERSON interacted with any trans people that I was aware were trans. [4]

When I put the ideology of feminist-transphobia aside, I felt a certain freedom: I do not have to hate these people anymore! It is very freeing and for a Christian, a sense of almost-delirious happiness floods in. Hate is unequivocally evil, and when permitted to love, at long last? It feels like a balm to the spirit. And it is. But this balm, this happiness, was about me and how I felt. Not about them.

And now, I have hit the wall. The delirious happiness of falling in love and honeymooning is over, time to pay the bills. And the hard work has proven very difficult for me to do, or even admit that it needs doing.

I realize it is because as stated above, racism became so culturally unacceptable, even my father had to give it a rest, at least in public and among certain folks. But transphobia IS acceptable. The segregation and the unofficial laws remain steadfastly in place. There is no all-out assault to equal the assault on racism. It is different.[5] We are now scratching the surface, and I see how deep it goes. In myself, too--maybe in myself, most of all. And I didn't even know it, as I would have told you at age 15 that I had successfully repelled my father's pernicious influence. Right!

51 years of social conditioning is a long, long time. Perhaps when my father is gone, when I am gone, and there will be freedom, after the old guard and the old ways have finally died. But in the meantime, I wonder how far some of us who have been so thoroughly tainted can realistically ascend, no matter how hard we try. (I still have no transgendered friends in real life, for example.)

It may not be possible. I am not going to spin. That is not going to happen.


And so, I apologize to my transgendered friends for my offenses, for insulting them, for repeating my clueless brainwashed blather wholesale when exhausted and not paying close attention. But where, I wondered, did it come from? How could this be? And I know: there are some things that we will never be able to transcend. Some damage is, unfortunately, permanent. We may compensate for it, we may learn new ways to deal, we may try "recovery" and yes, we may improve. But it is also likely that these things will be perpetually difficult, a constant trial, always confusing. I am willing to take on this trial, but please know, my friends, it is not easy, since I didn't even know it would be necessary in the first place. I thought I had it in the bag! Ha.

St Ignatius Loyola once wrote about the difference between sin's effects on the righteous and unrighteous. He told us to imagine a house. The unrighteous house is loud, there is much going on, much riches and opulence, and the door is wide open. When the thief arrives [6], nobody notices. He enters and takes what he wants. He does extensive damage and leaves, not discovered until long after.

The righteous house is locked. It is tended and taken care of. When the thief arrives, there is a great clatter and noise, as he pounds on all the windows and doors. He wants in, and to get in, rocks the house to the foundations, rattles the rafters, howls. It is far more noticeable than the thief's arrival at the unrighteous house. It is terrifying and scary, but the occupants of the righteous house don't let him in.

The righteous occupants are afraid to stick their heads out. The fear, the unnerving memory, the echoes of the noise, all remain. And yes, they will remain for awhile.

And so, I apologize too, for my great noise.


[1] A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was written by Anthony Burgess, a devout Catholic. During Alex's indoctrination (the object of which is to make him non-violent), he is forced to watch violent movies after taking a drug that makes him physically ill. By accident, music by his favorite composer, Beethoven, is playing during the movies. Afterwards, Beethoven makes him physically ill also, as a side effect.

I think this is a reference to "sins of omission" and "sins of commission"--one result of evil is that memory of evil then spreads to pleasant memories, like music, art, scenery, etc.

[2] Being from an all-white area, my father didn't at first realize that I had what is called a "black" name, but later actually met a black woman with my name. He accused my mother of naming me that just to piss him off.

[3] The last place this was on public display, that I can remember, was the infamous tape of former LA police officer Mark Fuhrman during the OJ Simpson trial. In tapes played during the trial, Fuhrman bragged about being a cop kicking the asses of 'dangerous black gang members'--and made himself look like a bad mofo while using the n-word hundreds of times. (I recognized the tone of this bragging immediately and had major deja vu.) The actual purpose of these stories (some true, some exaggerated) was to impress the author making the tape, Laura Hart McKinny. Unfortunately for Fuhrman, the whole world ended up hearing the tapes, and it likely cost the prosecution the trial.

[4] I am aware that I have interacted with transgendered people without realizing it, as we all have.

[5] Perhaps because we all have a gender, we think we know what gender is, and therefore what it should be for other people. After all, we have found what "works" for us, with a little tinkering and style adjustments, so why can't they?

[6] This is from Luke 12:39; the Bible often refers to incarnations of evil as "the thief," as did Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

[7] The title of this post is from Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy."