Friday, February 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Elizabeth!

For those of you who worried that I would end up gaunt from my calorie restriction, never fear. Fat Tuesday to the rescue! I ate bowls (plural) of fabulous vegetarian gumbo, as well as cinnamon rolls slathered with sugar. At this rate, I won't be a fashionably-thin ascetic saint any time soon.

And you all know what day it is!!! YES, it is the birthday of Dead Air's official Goddess, Elizabeth, as we all turn towards Hollywood and bow. (((bows, blows copious kisses))) My gallery of photos from last year is still regularly Googled! I am so proud to add to the pantheon of stunning Liz images! At left, Elizabeth in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). She looks too beautiful for mere words. I have always loved that dress. Most mental patients, as you know, have to wear ugly white hospital gowns, but not our Elizabeth! Montgomery Clift himself brings her pretty dresses while she argues her way out of a lobotomy.

For those unaware, the sister of the play's author, Tennessee Williams, was actually lobotomized in 1943. Her name was Rose, and there is a "rose" reference in virtually every one of his plays (even a play with "rose" in the title, The Rose Tattoo).

Wikipedia notes:

The "mad heroine" theme that appeared in many of his plays seemed clearly influenced by the life of Williams' sister Rose.

Characters in his plays are often seen as representations of his family members. Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was understood to be modeled on Rose. Some biographers believed that the character of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire is also based on her, as well as Williams himself [...] Characters such as Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and Sebastian in Suddenly, Last Summer were understood to represent Williams himself. In addition, he used a lobotomy operation as a motif in Suddenly, Last Summer.
Sebastian, in addition, is known unofficially as the "gay saint"--later joked about in the gay-themed play, The Boys in the Band.

From St Sebastian as a gay icon:

Saint Sebastian's appeal to gay men seems obvious. He was young, unmarried, and martyred by the establishment. Many gay writers and artists have taken Saint Sebastian's life and suggested that he may have been gay himself.

Sebastian is portrayed as a patriotic and loyal roman despite his subversive faith. While serving as a Roman soldier he became one of the Emperors favorites. Some stories say that the Emperor Diocletian made romantic advanced upon Sebastian and was enraged when Sebastian rejected him on Christian grounds. Other stories suggest that Sebastian and Diocletian may have had a homosexual relationship.

Imagery of Saint Sebastian has pictured him young, with a strong shirtless physique. He is beautifully receptive to the arrows penetrating his body but he has a look on his face of exquisite pain. Sebastian has become a homoerotically charged image of desire symbolizing isolationism, and persecution of the establishment.

Embracing a subversive faith, he is both strong and brave. Those who have wrestled with psychological demons, issues of sexuality, or have suffered publically can identify with Saint Sebastian. As a healer and patron of plagues, he has been linked with the devastation of AIDS. Catholics derive comfort from his possible representation of their sexuality before God.
I first saw Suddenly, Last Summer as a child, and didn't understand any of it. However, I was utterly terrified by the graphic finale, which I think is still pretty hair-raising, even after all these years. The story appears to mirror Tennessee Williams' own guilt (and possibly Gore Vidal's, author of the screenplay and the one who inserted the freaky images of the boys chasing Sebastian through the unnamed Third-Worldish streets) about paying impoverished young men and boys for sexual favors.

The play is about Sebastian's mother, Violet (Katharine Hepburn), who is attempting to have her niece (Elizabeth) lobotomized by handsome (and also gay) Dr Montgomery Clift. Elizabeth traveled abroad with Sebastian and witnessed his death. Hepburn instructs Clift to "cut this hideous story out of her brain"--one of those lines Williams was famous for... I have thought of it ever since, whenever hearing of lobotomies. (What did they "cut out of their brain"?--I have always wondered.)

At left: Sebastian has purchased a stunning white bathing suit for Elizabeth to wear. In the water it becomes virtually translucent, and she therefore doesn't want to go in. As the boys watch from a fenced-area (to keep the poor locals divided from the rich tourists), Sebastian forces her to go in the water. As always, his face is never shown.

As a kid, I didn't get the sexual references, about how Elizabeth was used as bait to draw the poor local boys to Sebastian (as Violet had been used previously, before growing too old). In the movie flashbacks, Sebastian always wears a white suit, symbolizing his whiteness. And his face is never shown; he stands in for all white men.

In the final harrowing flashback sequence, as Elizabeth narrates, the poor, ragged boys of all ages gather with clanging pots and pans as primitive instruments, making a clattering, scary racket... finally surrounding Sebastian. As a child, I was mesmerized: Why were they so angry with him? What do they want?

He throws money at them.

The boys just stare, unmoved. It is horrifying.

Sebastian runs.

He careens through twisting and turning narrow roads in his immaculate white suit, up, up, up, until he is at the top of a hill and there is nowhere to go. The boys surround Sebastian, and you only see his hand--stretching upward, as if to heaven--as they are on him.

And from Elizabeth's hysterical account, the secret emerges: the boys ate Sebastian alive.

As a 10-year-old, I knew not to ask any older people what any of this weird stuff meant, or why the boys were so pissed off. I knew the adults wouldn't let me watch it again, which I did every time it was on TV, trying to figure out the mystery. And at the age of 15, I finally did. (It wasn't until I was a bit older that I understood the cannibalistic reference.)

But even as a 10-year-old, I knew one thing for sure: I loved Elizabeth!!!!!


And I wish her a Happy Birthday!

Ending with Paul Newman's tribute to Elizabeth at Turner Classic Movies. Features the famous slip from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but unfortunately, not the amazing party dress she wears in A Place in the Sun. (I also loved the sexy-pants outfit in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, one of her Oscar-winning performances... but I can't find any photos of her dancing with George Segal anywhere. Go to approx 2:21 here to watch the scene.) (NOTE: may trigger, etc.)

Feminists will enjoy the verbal bitch-slap of snotty sexist Laurence Harvey at 3:12. (From Butterfield 8, her first Oscar!)

Behold your QUEEN!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday ruminations on feminism, religion, etc

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

--TS Eliot, Ash Wednesday


In the middle of a very contentious thread titled What if the feminist blogosphere is a form of digital colonialism?--an atheist feminist named The Apostate let loose with the following:

The feminist blogosphere is VERY correct and proper. There is a huge orthodoxy, on race issues, on sexuality issues, on major progressive themes, on language. on religion. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but it makes it hard to embrace outliers like me who might otherwise contribute to the conversation. For instance, I personally violate the religion orthodoxy (I hate Muslims and Islam and religious people in general), I am not all that sensitive about language (once called an Islam-apologist feminist a bitch, insist on continuing to use verboten words like “lame” and I like my gendered insults, such as prick), I refuse to include Sean Bell in my list of feminist issues, I often say I hate men, I am publicly glad when misfortune is visited upon my enemies (anti-choice Andrew Sullivan is HIV positive - yay! Marc Ambinder is ugly - yay!) and other such horrifying things. No wonder nobody links to me!

(Yes, she really did add the "Haha"--which I think really makes the post.)

And she was ignored on the thread. Which was good; if her intent was to derail, it didn't work. But I was also disappointed that the comments about religious women and a gay man with HIV, were not challenged. Only Renee (at Womanist Musings) challenged the comment; no one else did.

Why? Did they agree with her? If any other group(s) of people had been insulted with open hate speech, would feminists have remained silent?

Initially, I wrote off Apostate's little tantrum, since I know that she once was Muslim herself, and I well understand that ex-fundamentalists are often traumatized by their upbringing. But hey, aren't we all? I responded to my racist father by becoming an anti-racist activist, for instance. Apostate has responded to her strict upbringing by trashing Islam, and then extending this critique to all religion.

Later in the thread, Apostate proclaimed--"What a lot of petty self righteous assholes the feminist blogosphere is full of," and after her proclamation that she hates most of the women in the world (who ARE religious, take note), I had just had enough. We ended up in an argument on her own blog, and she ended up censoring my comments and banning me permanently.

Admittedly, my first emotion was: thrilled!!! Oh boy!!! Finally, after years of arguing, I was outright BANNED from AN ATHEIST BLOG!!! Hot damn. (I will be linking Apostate for years, she must have known her hits will increase from now on.) Atheists looooove to brag (rightly and correctly) that they get tossed off of religious blogs and boards as soon as they even announce themselves. BAM, gone. I've seen it myself, countless times. And they are pretty proud of that, as well they should be.

On one now-defunct Christian message board I used to frequent, the censorship was particularly aggravating. I was usually having great FUN arguing with the atheist or agnostic, while others would become greatly agitated, and eventually ban the person. I would end up defending them, and on at least two occasions, I left internet bulletin boards over the banning of intelligent, well-mannered atheists, who did nothing more than freak Christians out with tough questions.

And at least twice, I was called on the carpet for my own heresy. Yes, you know what it is, my beloved existentialism, my Kierkegaard, my science fiction and Teilhard de Chardin. From an amalgam of these sources, I employ my standard argument against the atheists, which is one they cannot refute. As far as I am concerned, the only argument. THE argument.

The reason I believe in God/religion/Church/sacraments, etc is an endless variation of these statement ...a riff, if you will:

I like it.

It is fun, it gives pleasure.

It makes me ecstatic/happy/peaceful/optimistic.

It makes me feel better than I would feel otherwise.

It's great. Aesthetically, it's really neat.

I want to be a priest/holy woman myself, I am pretty good at it!

I feel that God listens to me/speaks to me.


These statements make no claim for objective truth, as I don't think we can. These statements are MY truth; they are about why I choose to practice as I do. It is about ME. I have taken full responsibility: this is what makes MY life better, gives MY life meaning, this is how I view the world, and how I relate to what I call the high concepts, and you call delusions. I do not care if you like it or not, because I don't do it for you, I do it for me.

If one is a rational atheist, you should be able to admit I am right. If I go to Mass or read a book or meditate or sing or clap my hands and claim to conjure up the living devil--why should you care? Do you care if people go to football games or rock concerts? Do you care what kinds of sex people choose to have? Do you care about which movies they watch and which books they read? Well, why is the choice of belief or religion not the same?


Well, duh. The Buckeyes will kick Wolverine ass, and that is TRUE TOO, ask any Buckeyes fan. Ask any diehard fans of STAR WARS or LORD OF THE RINGS which movie is the best, and they will assure you STAR WARS and THAT IS THE TRUTH! If people are having sex and claim to enjoy it, I assume they are telling the truth and I take their word for it that it is true, this is good sex for them. But you know, it might not be good sex for ME.

We all say what we claim to be TRUE, and we constantly disagree with each other about clothes, about shoes, about where to live and how to spend our time. We all testify to the truth as we know and believe it, and yet, religion is somehow a "special" case, something apart from other choices we make, about sexuality, about occupation, about marriage, home ownership, carbon footprints, childbearing. Actually, my contention is that religion is the same type of choice as these other lifestyle choices, that feminists can discuss without hyperventilating (or should be able to). We are not living in the Holy Roman Empire; we have choices. We are no longer forced to be XYZ just because our parents were. And then again, there are lots of characteristics we share with our parents, our families or villages of origin, and this might be another one.

We may have something very special to bring to the table, for this reason.


Which is better, a Chevy or a Ford?

If we don't know what to believe, we ask someone we respect, someone we think knows about cars: Should I buy a Chevy or a Ford?

Chevy, says the Respected Person authoritatively. Then, you buy the Chevy and it breaks down in rush hour. It costs a fortune to tow it, you have no spare. You are fucking livid. GODDAMN CHEVYS! I WAS TOLD THEY WERE GOOD CARS!!!!!!!

And you know, the guy who told you that, thought they were. Chevys had always been good to him. Not a one had given him trouble, he went coast-to-coast in one and had a blast. Alriiiiite! Took my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry...

New Chevy hater: Don't sing that fucking song around me!

Yes, I just compared God to cars. As Aldous Huxley famously said, Ford's in his Flivver and all is right with the world. It is an excellent analogy. Things do not work the same for everyone. They just don't, and no, I don't know why. (I am currently studying Buddhism, trying to figure out that part.) But why would we expect religion to fit everyone, if we can't even agree on which songs are good, which food is good, if a Ford or Chevy is best? Those are easy. Now, you bring in GOD? And we wonder why we disagree?

Apostate's Chevy might have broken down anyway--maybe her parents had (as I suspect) already driven the damn Chevy into the ground by the time she got it. But my Chevy works well, always has, still is.

Am I an idiot because I got a good Chevy?

You can see how this argument might make very devout Christians (and devout Muslims and any other devout fundamentalist of any type) very upset. They do not want you to suggest that religious truth is not an objective truth, THE truth. They claim they have the truth. And I answer: if it was, it would be self-evident. And it is not.

That is to say, we mostly agree on, say, the color green. We don't know why we do... but if I say, check the green box, most people will.

If I say check the most Godly box? I create chaos immediately.

Religion is therefore in the category of art, music, beauty, love, aesthetics. It is opinion, something experienced, an acquired taste, or maybe something someone has been starved for. Or something someone is very angry with, as in the angry Chevy-buyer. They were promised something, and it didn't deliver. Or it was delivered, rather like Apostate's sedan delivery, by wrecking her whole house with it. (Certainly, that's no way to make a good first-impression.)

The anti-religious people declare religion irrational. Music, art, love and sexual desire also are quite irrational, but they don't seem to want to ban those. And yeah, when I say that, the religious people can get as livid as the atheists. (Often the self-described agnostics are the only folks who stay with me during this discussion, nodding the whole way, agreeing that comparing religion to music makes sense.)

And few people turn against religion as thoroughly and furiously as ex-fundies. I can spot them in a line-up. Know why? Like Apostate, they sound the same. They have exchanged one form of intolerance for another. While they were subscribing to fundamentalism, it was the sinners and infidels and devils and so on, who were bad. After the backslide? You are stupid, ridiculous, sky-fairy believer, idiot, moron. (Apostate called me stupid also.) What gets me is IT'S THE SAME PEOPLE. The religious people who curse me for not being strict enough, fall away from the Church, the Mosque, wherever, and pivot perfectly into the ones who trash me for stupidity as a believer. I am sure when Apostate was a proper, strictly devout Muslim, she would have hated me just as much as she does now. She just uses different words now.

They are the same people. I can't tell them apart without a scorecard. The approach is identical: intolerant, judgmental, finger-pointing, merciless, hateful. If you don't see things their way, you are a fool. Period. I often forget who I am arguing with, and have to stop--wait, is this the atheist or the fundie?

I usually can only tell them apart because the fundies won't say "fuck"--and the atheists will.

There are feminist enclaves literally everywhere. Even in the strictest, most dangerous places on earth for women--there are women strategizing for freedom and access. What bothers me is how they are walled off from each other.

Often, this is because the women hate each other. Their countries are at war with each other; possibly their religions have historically been enemies. But they will not come together for their own rights, there is too much bad blood.

In every religious women's community, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Sikh, etc etc... there are feminists. EVERY SINGLE ONE. And they struggle alone, often, because non-religious feminists don't regard them as "real feminists" although these same non-religious feminists live under male governments, work for male companies, vote for males, sleep with males, give birth to males, take money from male daddies and love male brothers, sons, friends, etc... they say religion is unfeminist because men run it. (I know, makes no sense, go figure.) So religious feminists try to get it done within their own faith communities. But in the process, they are not interacting with the larger feminist community, from whom they feel estranged. As a result, they don't learn all the lingo, the habits, the culture of feminism. They are thus easily shocked when they first meet feminist libertines or political radicals. It is my contention that if they were allowed in the coalition, if their presence became commonplace and unchallenged, they would get used to it, as we all get used to everything.

I assume such women, emissaries from their various communities, would be largely like me, pretty tolerant, or older and jaded from having seen a lot already (particularly if they are ordained ministers or professionals). But I can still remember back in the 70s, when Carter Heyward was on the cover of Ms, and all hell broke lose, as atheist and agnostic feminists complained. And I am there saying, wait, doncha know, this is CARTER HEYWARD!!!!

Without stopping to ask who this groundbreaking feminist even IS, just the knowledge that she was a priest, was enough to inflame the atheist rabble. It's the IDEA, you see, that women would put FAITH IN RELIGION (instead of, you know, say, money or the government) and RELIGION OPPRESSES WOMEN. PERIOD.

Money and government, of course, have never oppressed women.

(((sighs heavily)))

And so, the impasse. The small religious feminist communities labor onward, but they are struggling by themselves. They need the authority and influence of the larger feminism, which is too uncomfortable with religion. And the religious women are often too naive and provincial for the larger feminism as well. The problems feed each other.

And I get banned from Apostate's blog, and called stupid.

Maybe I am, since I am ever hopeful we can all get together.


The Five of Wands, Strife. (from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck)

And in fairness, since I linked Mandy and Brittany's piece above, I suppose I should also link their subsequent apology for writing it, or for how they wrote it, or something. (I am curious if they deliberately chose Ash Wednesday, a day of penance, to apologize, or was that an accident? Great symbolism.)

Initially, I had no problems with the piece, until reading some of the criticisms, particularly Renee's, Sylvia's and Lauren's. I still think their hearts were in the right place, and that does count for something. I am not too fond of the term "token" which as I said on Renee's blog, used to denote something very specific, back in the day. A "token" was someone who shores up the status quo using their minority status; they lend legitimacy to a possibly-illegitimate enterprise. Nowadays, it seems "token" just means any minority-person in majority space, and that is not how I use the term, or how I grew up understanding and relating to it. I have recently been called a token myself, to my puzzlement; it basically meant I was the only _____ in a certain space. No one has ever accused me (and certainly, not Renee!) of perserving the status quo. Ha!

Thus, when first reading the word "token" I assumed this was the "new" meaning: a minority person in majority space. So, I did not criticize the word. However, I now see that the term "token" is meant differently by different people, and People of Color still adhere to the old usage that radicals have historically favored. It is white people who simply mean "a minority person in majority space"! Aha!

With this helpful delineation, I am enlightened. And I understand why minority people would bridle (as I have, in various settings) at this label. And why this piece caused so much strife throughout Feminist Blogdonia.

(NOTE: There were also additional issues over language used in the post, such as the use of an offensive term for transgendered people.)

On the other hand, I found the self-flagellation in the Official Apologia a bit much, even for Ash Wednesday. Is all of this really necessary? Well, maybe so.

In the fallout of the original incendiary discussion, Amber Rhea attempted some discussion of her (mixed-up and confused, which was the whole point) class background, and was flayed for it bigtime. I was shocked. (Do they expect everyone to emerge from their 20s talking like Leon Trotsky, or what?)

Perhaps Apostate has a point--why do we go after each other this way? What good does it do, exactly?

Heart, whom I have had major issues with (as regular readers know), thinks it's the invasion of The Man. I admit, I really go for that 70s talk, and she is all over it:

Regardless the movement, the Man can be depended upon to approach movement people who are the most marketable, the least experienced and therefore the most trusting (and grateful) and the least risky, people he knows will make honest, exploitable, mistakes, and who are already leaders with manipulatable followers. He’s not all that concerned about what the people he chooses actually believe or the quality of their activism; he just wants to make a buck where a buck is to be made. Movement people are virtually always naive about these things, and their leaders often have big heads. They frequently readily believe what their followers have said to and about them and are too quick to believe their own press. They imagine they have been discovered and chosen because of their unusual skills or gifts or something like that, because the Man is impressed by their ideals, dedication and vision, when usually, it’s more that they are marketable, naive and exploitable. They are young, they are pretty or handsome, they are white, they are middle class, they have the right kind of education, they say the right kinds of things in the right kinds of ways and so do their followers, and so, people will buy. That’s all that matters to the Man.

Once the Man gets in, all hell is guaranteed to break loose. Movement people will now fight, not in the productive ways of the past but in the destructive ways that always follow in the Man’s wake. They’ll fight over who was chosen, who wasn’t chosen, why the chosen were chosen and the not-chosen weren’t. They’ll fight over the fact that some who were hardworking weren’t recognized and some who weren’t so hardworking were. They’ll fight over the way the chosen behave, what they do once they have all of that attention, and what they don’t do. They’ll fight over who did and didn’t get the credit for this or that, who stole this and who stole that. The chosen will find themselves — always, guaranteed — in a downward spiral of compromise, because you have to compromise to deal with the Man. The compromises the chosen make will become fodder for ever-worsening, ever-deepening and -intensifying intra-movement conflicts, more blaming, more resentments, increased finger-pointing, increased vigilance. New people who join the movement unaware of the history will defend the wrong people, accuse the wrong people and will get gobbled up by the Man themselves. They won’t understand the hostility they then face from other movement people; after all, they’re not doing anything differently from what others have (apparently) done. And their confusion will be eminently understandable. In the end, everybody will be drinking from the same poisoned well, and everybody will be sick from drinking there.
On this Ash Wednesday, let me say dramatically: SHE IS RIGHT.

Yes, you read it correctly, I just admitted HEART IS RIGHT.

I am reminded of a bunch of girls in high school, clamoring for a place on the cheerleading squad.

Can we please STOP?! Heart thinks it's too late, the thief has entered (nods to Heart, with my Bible reference there)...and I wonder, is she also right about what this means: The End of Feminist Blogging (the title of her post)? Is it already too late? Can we turn this shit around, or will we have eaten each other alive first?

I have criticized the denizens of Feminist Blogdonia as much as the next feminist blogger, and probably will continue whenever I think there have been damaging excesses. But the wholesale evisceration that is more suitable for a radio edition of FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, needs to stop. Going onto a blog where someone is, for example, attempting to clarify their own class consciousness and telling them what they OUGHT TO BE DOING, is not going to help us reach any feminist goals, but will instead cause more women to withdraw from feminism in fear that they cannot possibly measure up.

Time for the Act of Contrition--I have confessed, now it's everyone else's turn.


My official Dead Air Ash Wednesday hymn, Saving Grace by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, was removed from last year's post, you may have noticed. Warner Music Group (or similar capitalist greedhead swine) strikes again! I found the song performed live, but can't embed it here. Blah. My second choice, Redemption Song by Bob Marley, also has embedding disabled. WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND HERE?!?!? Harumph.

Looking for alternate hymns, I figure yall might like at least ONE of these.

Letter to Hermione - David Bowie

No offense to my beloved Bob, but as we all know, it's often umm, better to find his fabulous songs sung by someone else!

I found this really nice version of "I Shall be Released" by Chrissie Hynde at something called the "30th Anniversary Bob Dylan Concert"--no other details of where the performance was.

I Shall Be Released - Chrissie Hynde

And more Bob! I've been looking for this one forever--it probably won't last out Lent! Better listen now!

"For every hung-up person in the whole wide universe..."

Chimes of Freedom - The Byrds


I defy you to listen to all 10 minutes. It's actually edited down from the original 11 minutes, believe it or not.

I have a tattoo inspired by the line "I'm not gonna wear my heart on my sleeve" at 4:39. (As a result, I do wear my heart on my sleeve.)

Some people got no choice
When they can never find a voice
to talk with that they can even call their own
So the first thing that they see
That allows them the right to be
They follow it
Know what that's called?
Bad luck.

Street Hassle - Lou Reed

Happy Ash Wednesday to you all!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Breast-feeding protest at West Asheville Denny's

At left: Breastfeeding mother Crystal Everitt of Asheville, asked by West Asheville Denny's restaurant manager to cover herself or feed her 1-year-old son in the bathroom. Everitt declined and quoted the North Carolina law, which protects the rights of mothers to breastfeed in any public or private location. Denny's responded by calling police. Photo from Mountain Xpress.

Nurse-in ends in standoff
Mountain Xpress
February 22, 2009
by Jason Sandford

A group of about 25 protesters, including several breastfeeding mothers and chanting supporters, held a nurse-in outside the Denny’s restaurant off Patton Avenue in West Asheville on Sunday afternoon.

Outside the restaurant, a Denny’s official apologized to organizer Crystal Everitt regarding an incident two weeks ago that sparked the protest, but Everitt said his statement wasn’t enough.

Everitt says she was in the restaurant two weeks ago breast-feeding her 1-year-old son when she was asked by the restaurant’s manager to cover herself or move to the bathroom. Everitt says she declined, citing state law, which protects the rights of mothers to breastfeed in any public or private location.

Rick Pate, regional director of operations for the Asheville Denny’s franchise, said Denny’s “responsibility as a family restaurant is to provide a nonoffensive environment for all of our valued guests. Obviously, if any behavior or any practice that happened two weeks ago while she was in the restaurant — specifically us asking her to cover up — offended her in any way, we’re sincerely sorry for that. We apologize for that,” Pate said.

“My goal today was today was to come out and speak to everyone that was here to protest, with a desire to have them come in my restaurant and have lunch with us today,” Pate said, adding that breast-feeding mothers are always welcome.

Everitt said Pate’s statement wasn’t good enough. She said that the statement, which matches a statement she received from Denny’s corporate office, leaves it up to the discretion of the restaurant to determine what is nonoffensive.

“They’re putting in a discretion clause, and they might as well not have a policy at all,” Everitt said, while standing outside the restaurant and nursing her child. “Who is it that determines if I’m being discreet or not? ‘Discreet’ should not even be in there.”

“Their policy is not in line with the law, so it’s absolutely not OK,” she said. “They need to guarantee that moms will not be harassed.”

Standing alongside Regent Drive off Patton Avenue in a bracing wind, the group of protesters held signs that read “Breast feeding is not shameful” and chanted, “Breastfeeding’s not a crime. Why won’t you let babies dine?
In South Carolina, they probably would have actually taken her to jail!

Video of protest-organizer Everitt:

Comments? Are you shocked by public breast-feeding, or do you consider such laws sexist, as I do? What are the breast-feeding laws in your state or area?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile

The graphic at left, in whatever form, is called a STEALIE. It was designed by none other than Stanley Owsley himself. [EDIT, in comments, Doc Anchovy has helpfully pointed out that I reversed the famous acid-chemist's name, which is Owsley Stanley. His acid was named simply "Owsley"--so I tend to forget that was not his surname. --Daisy]

The word "stealie" comes from the line "steal your face right off your head"--a trick only Deadheads know how to do. :)

The line is at 1:10 and 5:30 in the following song, if you don't want to listen to the whole thing.

Recorded in 1972 in Denmark. Once again, Bobby looks about 14. Phil, about 16. (Jerry was born looking 40... sigh.)

He's Gone - Grateful Dead

I hope the last thing I ever hear on this planet is the reedy, tweedly-tweedly introductory-riff of this song. I have probably heard it 50,000 times, and yet, the riff embeds itself DEEP into my cerebral cortex and makes me SMILE SMILE SMILE just like a Stealie. :D

I have always loved the fact that the song makes no rational sense. Life isn't always sensible, you know!

The second line is the name of my archives (sidebar at right) also. I thought naming it simply "archives" was boring.

For you old Ms. message-board denizens, my name on Ms. was...

China Cat Sunflower - Grateful Dead

It is considered musical blasphemy that the previous clip does not automatically segue into I Know You Rider--they were always performed together and therefore known as "China/Rider" by fans. (YouTube is too TIME-LIMITED to contain the magical force that was the Grateful Dead!)

Someone helpfully continued the second half (the full China/Rider, containing finale, here):

I Know you Rider - Grateful Dead

Listen to the signature loop-de-loop riff that signals the song's end, no matter how long they jam. It's at about 4 minutes. Rumbly, doodle-doodle bass by Phil, with the transcendent riff sliding right over it. It's traced on my cerebellum forever!

And yeah, you're right, we do miss you, Grandpa Jerry. At least we can still listen.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blackwell update

It's still pretty hot around here, and black communities and neighborhoods in northeastern Georgia (specifically Hart County), as well as in upstate South Carolina, are under some heavy police surveillance right now.

Although Jimmy Lee Blackwell's eye was removed here in Greenville (largest city closest to Hartwell, GA), the Greenville News did not cover the story and still hasn't. I am really shocked by this. Other local SC newspapers in Anderson and Spartanburg (technically further away from Hartwell, and smaller than Greenville) have covered the story carefully.

This tells me everything I have ever written here about the Greenville News is dead-on accurate, and no exaggeration. The next time I meet one of their writers at some rally or event, I will have a VERY GOOD EXAMPLE to present to them, about why I think the Greenville News is biased. (Being journalists, they always demand examples, okay, here it is!)

And because the Greenville News, newspaper for the largest metro area in the region, is asleep at the switch, guess where lots of people have had to go for their news? (WELCOME EVERYBODY!) I've had hundreds of hits on the Blackwell story from local people around Georgia and South Carolina. Blogdonia gets it done! I'm very proud I was able to help while the "professionals" are busy toting water for (and pacifying) the powers-that-be. This is still another example of the mainstream media with their thumbs up their proverbial asses. Renee, of Womanist Musings, took the story national, and I am so grateful to her for covering it. The days of police brutality happening in a vacuum are LONG GONE, and praise God for that.

If you've read comments on the previous thread, you know the potential for community violence is there--emotions and temperaments are running especially high. (I even had some weird Baptist troll show up.) There are people emailing me who think it is "irresponsible" that I even wrote the story, if you can believe it. (They probably LIKE the Greenville News.)

Local television has been covering the story, even if the Greenville News won't:

Hundreds Rally Over Hartwell Man's Beating
Man Loses Eye Due To Alleged Police Abuse

UPDATED: 3:10 pm EST February 21, 2009

HARTWELL, Ga. -- Hundreds of people gathered Friday night in Hartwell, Ga., community to express outrage over an incident that left a man severely injured after an altercation with a police officer.

The rally was held Friday evening at the Flat Rock CME Church on Cokesbury Highway in Hartwell.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has launched an inquiry into the altercation between a Hartwell police officer and a Hartwell resident.

According to police, Jimmy Lee Blackwell, 51, of Savannah Street in Hartwell, refused to comply when Officer Robert Mitchell, 26, asked him for identification around 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 16.

Blackwell was transported to Hart County Hospital with severe head injuries and later was transferred to Greenville Memorial Hospital. His left eye was removed.

Neighbors said the officer in the case went too far.

"We're not here for violence. We're here for answers,” Deliverance Outreach Ministries Rev. Roderick Hughey said. "We're here to let you know this will not be tolerated. It's not a white thing, it's not a black thing."

Other cases of alleged police misconduct cases were on the agenda as well as strategies for preventing future incidences.

Hartwell Police Chief Cecil Reno has said that he cannot comment on the case because of the ongoing investigation, but requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation inquiry.

Because of the investigation, no one with the city -- including the police chief -- have been able to talk about the case but, a city councilman did speak to the crowd.

"On this particular case, and anything to do with this particular case, as a city official it would be irresponsible for me to answer those questions at this time," Councilman Tracy Hicks said.

Many people at the meeting said that they weren’t shocked by the abuse allegations. People told WYFF News 4 that there has been misconduct in the past.

People also donated money to pay for Blackwell’s medical expenses.

The officer involved in the case has been placed on administrative leave without pay.

Blackwell, a father of five, is staying with relatives and is doing better, family said.
Again, I want this story to get out, not fade away into oblivion without any justice for Blackwell and his family, without any national awareness. If you have a blog or website or Facebook account, anything, consider at least mentioning this event.

Shine the bright light on the shadows.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Georgia cop beats black man until blind

His name is Jimmy Blackwell and he is variously reported as 50 or 51 years old.

I don't know all the details. In particular, I don't know the race of the cop who administered the beating, but his name is Bobby C. Mitchell, age 26. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has not released any more info, "pending investigation"--but Blackwell is officially charged with felony obstruction and terrorist threats.

This is just so disturbing and horrific. The Greenville News still doesn't have anything on their website about it, possibly because it is considered Georgia news. Fox Carolina reported that Blackwell is in the ICU here in Greenville, has already lost one eye and may lose the other (which is badly damaged also). Apparently, Blackwell has lost all of his sight.

If Blackwell had not needed surgery here, would local TV news have even covered this event?

From WYFF:

Patrol officer Bobby C. Mitchell said that he approached 51-year-old Jimmy Blackwell on Savannah Street in Hartwell, Ga. On Monday morning after they observed suspicious behavior. Mitchell said after he asked Blackwell for identification, Blackwell fought with him.

Blackwell and the 26-year-old officer were injured during the fight. Mitchell was treated and released.

Blackwell was seriously injured during the altercation. His nephew, James Oglesby, told WYFF News 4 that his uncle will have surgery on Wednesday to remove his eye.

Mitchell is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Blackwell’s family says that they think the officer used excessive force.

"You look at the pictures. You can tell they beat him with something. Hands don't do damage like that," said Blackwell's daughter, Jamiya Blackwell.

His other daughter, Keesha Blackwell, said, “He has gashes all over his head. His eyeball looked like it was out of the socket. He was covered with blood. I thought he was going to die. It was like he was struggling breathing.”
Full slide show here, you decide for yourself. (Warning, extremely graphic and disturbing.) And this is from the Hartwell Sun:

Hartwell man beaten by police
By Megan E. Davis
Staff writer, HARTWELL SUN
February 18, 2009

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched an inquiry into an altercation between a Hartwell police officer and a resident of the Rome community.

The struggle ensued after Jimmy Lee Blackwell, 50, of 204 Savannah St., refused to comply when Officer Robert Mitchell asked him for identification around 1:30 a.m. Feb. 16, according to Police Chief Cecil Reno.

Mitchell approached Blackwell because he was staggering as he walked down Savannah Street.

Reno said Mitchell progressed through the levels of engagement police officers are taught to use while dealing with a suspect.

Blackwell fought back as Mitchell attempted to control him with his hands and sprayed him with pepper spray before using his baton.

GBI Special Agent Jim Fullington said a Hartwell employee, who has not been publicly identified, viewed the incident from a patrol car.

He was the only witness to the altercation.

Blackwell was transported to Hart County Hospital with head injuries and later was transferred to Greenville Memorial Hospital.

According to family members, Blackwell's left eye was removed and the fate of his right eye was uncertain as of press time.

Mitchell received a concussion in the altercation and was treated at Hart County Hospital.

He has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the incident is investigated.

Blackwell faces felony charges from the Hartwell Police Department of obstruction of an officer and making terroristic threats.

Fullington said the GBI began looking into the incident after receiving a request from Reno around 2 a.m.

"It's our policy to contact the GBI when any allegations are raised against an officer," he said.

Hartwell Mayor Matt Beasley said he was out of town at the time of the incident and did not learn about it until a resident contacted him Monday night.

"I am just now gathering information this morning," Beasley said Wednesday. "I want to ensure this community that a full investigation will be conducted, not only by the GBI, but also as Mayor, I will look into it."

Family members said police used excessive force against Blackwell in the altercation.

"They tried to kill him," Blackwell's daughter, Jamiya Blackwell, said.

Vickie Barnes, a friend of the family, said police and the ambulance crew stopped at Savannah Street Market for 15 minutes before transporting Blackwell to the hospital.

According to Hart County EMS Director Terrell Partain, the ambulance crew arrived at the hospital with Blackwell 21 minutes after a call for the ambulance was received by the EMS office.

Partain said provisions of Georgia law in place to protect patient privacy prevented him from commenting further.

Gloria Morrison, Blackwell's sister, said family members were not allowed to see him or ask about his condition until Feb. 17.

"They told my other sister we were asking too many questions," Jamiya said.

Jamiya said officers also told her family they would be arrested if they did not leave the hospital.

Blackwell has a record of arrest with the department for charges of habitual violator, obstruction of an officer and simple battery.

He has also been arrested by the Hart County Sheriff's Office on two occasions for charges of theft by taking.

Staff writer Antonia Robinson contributed to this article.
People need to be asking LOTS of questions. LOTS OF THEM.

Hartwell, Georgia only has 4188 citizens, total. City Hall and the Police Department are apparently all in the same building:

Hartwell Police Department
700 East Howell St.
Hartwell, Georgia

Phone: (706) 376-4756
Fax: (706) 376-6263

You could let them know the story has now officially LEFT the south and they can't keep it quiet now. (And God bless the internet.)

My prayers and novenas are with Mr. Blackwell and his family.

EDIT/UPDATE: A community meeting is scheduled for 6 pm Friday at Flat Rock CME Church at 5595 Cokesbury Highway in Hartwell. A co-worker tells me that Mitchell is white, but no photos of him have yet been released. Since Blackwell's family is taking this case to the NAACP, they are obviously viewing this as a racial incident. Lots of secrecy surrounding this event; I am the major source getting all the Google hits on this story right now, and I still don't know all of the facts.

Comments on various of the news websites from people who claim to know the involved parties, also say that Mitchell is white.

In addition, Jimmy Lee Blackwell has a police record and has previously been in prison. News agencies and law enforcement are steadily leaking this kind of prejudicial information about Blackwell, while still protecting Mitchell's anonymity and refusing to divulge the precise reason(s) Blackwell was stopped in the first place. (What does "suspicious behavior" mean, exactly?)

UPDATE 2: The above accounts are in conflict with the facts given by Blackwell's family, that there were several police officers, not just one.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Politics of Flair

Jennifer Aniston's boss in OFFICE SPACE asks her if she wants to express herself or not?

Saturday evening, our restaurant server took a crayon and wrote his name on the paper tablecloth, upside down. He wrote it that way so we could read it. Some trick, I thought. And then I wondered, okay, whose cute idea was this?

Some waiter or waitress somewhere in this middling-expensive restaurant chain decided to do this once, and now everybody has to.

Maybe she just wanted to have some fun or be different and unique. So, she took the crayon that you check off your order with (another cute idea?) and wrote her name, upside down. This was part of her shtick, so she could get more tips and try to enjoy her job a little more. And then, some boss said, hey, Suzie here has TEAM SPIRIT, and you ALL must do this dumb thing that she finds enjoyment in, or that she has made uniquely hers.

In short, management STOLE the idea from some waitress and then forced everyone else, even those not normally given to cutesy ideas (which worked perfectly well for Suzie, I realize) to write their names upside down. I imagine Suzie was not a popular character at her workplace, particularly with those people who didn't want to do this dumb thing that Suzie enjoyed doing.

Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about this copycat phenomenon in her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, in which she posed as a real live working class person (I can hear the NPR listeners gasping!) and worked at Walmart and a variety of other places, including restaurants. At one point, to curb her boredom during slow times, she starts freshening up the salads on the buffet. She is complimented for this by management, and feels a silly sense of pride. Another waitress then intervenes and tells her to STOP DOING THAT. Why? Because if management likes it, they will force them all to do it, even when they aren't slow. The reader can feel Ehrenreich's momentary surprise, even though I knew as soon as she did it, that she should ask someone first. (You know you are working class to the core, when you know the rules for jobs even better than the one writing the damn book.)

A good measure of identity in the workplace is whether you are forced to wear flair or do something equally dorky, such as greet the customer as soon as they enter! (book/video store rules) And if you are truly allowed to wear what you want? Anytime? You must be somebody important. Do you wear a dopey name-tag with a little pin affixed, letting everyone know how many years you have been employed at said establishment? Do you have buttons on your officially team-colored smock, vest or apron, advertising various wares for sale?

How about a button that instructs people to "ASK ME ABOUT"--blah blah blah?

In the movie OFFICE SPACE, Joanna the waitress (Jennifer Aniston) is admonished by her boss that she isn't wearing enough flair. She is confused, since she is wearing the regulation X number of buttons (the definition of "flair")--so she wrinkles her brow--what is the problem? Her boss replies, sighing heavily at her obvious lack of team spirit, see Brian over there? He is wearing 37 pieces of flair! Now if you think the MINIMUM is good enough, well--(the boss shakes his head, disappointed) and Aniston is still puzzled: "More then? You want me to wear more?"

The boss sighs. Poor thing doesn't get it.

"You want to EXPRESS yourself, don't you Joanna?"

And yes, there it is. Expressing yourself, for a working class person, is doing what management tells you to do, even the dopiest, dumbest thing.

The first person who ever wore the 37 buttons, or wrote their name upside down, or wore the cutesy name-tag with cutesy shit attached thereon, WAS expressing themselves, most assuredly. However, where do they get the idea the rest of us want to express ourselves identically to this other person? Would we all decorate our houses the same way, wear the same shoes? Of course not. So, why would we all want to deck ourselves out for work the same, or do showboat things like write our names upside down on a paper tablecloth?

Before evilll Walmart invaded my neighborhood, I occasionally shopped there. There was one older woman whose blue Walmart smock was completely covered in buttons and pins; some represented products sold by Walmart, but some were about Jesus, and some were about Star Wars. And some were about stuff like the American Cancer Society, pink ribbon-symbols for breast cancer and all that kind of fund-raising, do-gooder stuff. I used to get in her line, just to read all the buttons. I told her how much I liked them, and she beamed--this was obviously a collection of long-standing. (I have also collected buttons and pins for many decades, and I have one hat chock-full of them too.)

Some time ago, I saw the same woman still employed at the Walmart. However, she had been reeled in considerably... her flair, her OWN FLAIR, the flair she collected for herself, was mostly gone. She had a few buttons left, the ones given the green-light by management: buy this, buy that, yada yada. I was saddened by that, although I had long expected it. Individuality in the workplace, actually "expressing yourself"? Ha. This is permissible only if you make a certain amount of money. Not for us.

But they had really gotten too strict, I thought. Yes, I fully expected Jesus to be gone, but was surprised Star Wars was gone, too. I mean, aren't Star Wars toys sold in the toy department; aren't the countless videos and video games sold at Walmart, too? Why get rid of those? I felt sad for my sister button-collector.

I got in her line, that day, as always. And I said to her, "I remember, you used to have all the buttons and pins on your smock."

She rolled her eyes at me, "Don't even get me started," she said, explaining they made her stop wearing them.

"Was it Jesus?" I asked, conspiratorially.

Her eyes flashed, "I have only got compliments from people, it wasn't any customer complaining. My customers love me," she said with a pride I recognize. Yes, I thought, my customers love me too, they wouldn't try to get me in trouble. And I knew instinctively that they loved this warm, friendly, southern grandma-type person.

Some manager came in from the home-office, and had a fit, she said. "They thought it was some terrible thing, that I had worn them all these years," and rolled her eyes again.

I'm sorry, I told her, I loved the pins. I collect them, too.

"Lots of women do," she replied, "and they all liked them, told me they enjoyed the fact that there was some originality around here!" She shrugged, shook her head, and then asked me to key in my PIN for my debit card.

And I left, walking past the identical smocks, with all the identical flair. For some reason, I just wanted to cry.

"You want to express yourself, don't you?"

Indeed, wouldn't that be nice?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dead Air Church: The Joy of Compassion

At left: Dhyani Buddha Amoghasiddhi, traditional Tibetan Thangka painting.

Another version of the story below is in the book THE JOY OF COMPASSION by Lama Zopa Rinpoche--which is free from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archives.

This version is excerpted from Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat. (Soquel, California, 1999)


...As I mentioned once before, when the great yogi Ngagpa Chöpawa was going to Odi to practice tantra—probably the final part of the practice —at the river crossing there was a woman totally covered by leprosy sores, with pus and blood oozing out. She asked the yogi, “Please take me across to the other side of the river.” The yogi didn’t help her and left. Later, his disciple Getsul Tsimbulwa, a monk living in the thirty-six vows, came along and she asked him the same thing, “Please take me across to the other side of the river.” As soon as he saw this woman sitting there, completely covered with leprosy sores with pus oozing out, totally dark, just by seeing her, he felt unbearable compassion and immediately, without any hesitation, without thinking that he is a monk and she is a woman or that she’s covered in disease, something untouchable, with none of this, he just picked her up, put her on his back and started across the river. Getsul Tsimbulwa, with his unbearable compassion, completely sacrificed himself to carry this woman.

However, when they reached the middle of the river, this woman suddenly became the deity Dorje Pagmo, the female buddha, Dorje Pagmo, and took this monk to the pure land Tarpa Kachö. If you are born in this pure land, you are one hundred per cent certain to become enlightened in that life. So, in the middle of the river, this woman, who was covered with leprosy, looking very ordinary, in much suffering, became the buddha, the deity Dorje Pagmo, and took this monk to her pure land, and in that way, he became enlightened.

In this story, the teacher, the yogi, didn’t help that woman but just passed by. However, his disciple, the monk, sacrificed his life to take care of her, to carry her across the river. Then, in this life, without first having to die, he was taken to her pure land in his ordinary body—in this life, not the next. He went to the pure land, not after death but in the body of this life, and became enlightened there. From the story, it seems that perhaps the disciple got enlightened before his teacher, the yogi.

Therefore, when we think of the benefits of cherishing one sentient being, sacrificing our life for one sentient being, they are like the infinite sky. The benefits are unbelievable; something to enjoy in life. The benefits of cherishing even one sentient being with bodhicitta are like the sky.

Cherishing others, seeing that even one sentient being is much more precious than yourself, is the most precious thing in your life, is most kind, is an unbelievable way to enjoy your life.

I’m not telling you why we should help others, why we should benefit others, because this is something new that you haven’t heard before. Those who have received lam-rim teachings have heard this many times. I’m doing it to inspire or remind all those who already know these things and to inform those who don’t but need to know. Why? Because this is the most important education of all. This is more important to know than anything else in life. This is the most important thing you will ever learn.
--Venerable Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the Spiritual Director of the Foundation of the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.


At left: traditional St Christopher medal, patron saint of travelers.

The Buddhist story above is very, very similar to the Christian story of St Christopher, which literally translates as "Christ-bearer":
[The hermit] suggested that because of his size and strength Christopher could serve Christ by assisting people to cross a dangerous river, where many were perishing in the attempt. The hermit promised that this service would be pleasing to Christ.

After Christopher had performed this service for some time, a little child asked him to take him across the river. During the crossing, the river became swollen and the child seemed as heavy as lead, so much that Christopher could scarcely carry him and found himself in great difficulty. When he finally reached the other side, he said to the child: "You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were." The child replied: "You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work." The child then vanished.
And Christopher was sainted, that is to say, granted eternal life.

These stories instruct us that we save ourselves through saving others. The persons saved turn out to be actual deities; this is a way of saying everyone could be a deity, no matter their outward appearance.

Therefore, love others as you love God.


And now for our hymn. This may not last long, so listen while you have the chance! My other David Crosby song, LAUGHING, was removed recently... and another version of WOODEN SHIPS has already been yanked, like, since last night.

So, here is the only one that remains on YouTube. Listen and remember ... and don't forget the edifying stories we have just heard!

Note Stephen Stills' dreamy-beautiful guitar lines, which are perfectly suggestive of waves on the water; every now and then some crashing and turbulence.

Wooden Ships - Crosby, Stills and Nash

Have a beautiful Sabbath, everyone!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Video capture from George Stevens' A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951).

Spending the day with my eternal love! ELIZABETH!!!!!!!!

And of course, me and Mr Daisy are having dinner later, etc.

What do you have planned for today?

Listening to: Television - See No Evil
via FoxyTunes

Friday, February 13, 2009

More on feminism and class

(((heavy sigh)))

Aunt B. just wrote a great piece in response to Lauren's post, linked here on Tuesday at DEAD AIR. And then, talk about timing, I read about the upcoming WAM (Women, Action and Media) conference.


If you need several months in advance to schedule time off, you won't be able to make it, will you? (It's next month: March 27-29th) That leaves out most women who work in factories or in retail. Possibly waitresses and bartenders also, but they tend to be a bit more flexible in scheduling.

How about cooks and chefs? Hotel workers? During Spring-break month? Are you kidding?

Who, then, is attending? Well, none of the people I have listed above, unless they have the seniority to request time off in such short notice.

Add in the considerable costs of lodging, meals, transportation to and from the event... and I think you get the idea. This conference isn't for WOMEN, it's for some women. And it always has been.

The conference is in Cambridge, MA. (Gonna let that location sink in a minute; gee, what else is in Cambridge?) Is that maybe a really highly-educated locale that some folks might find a trifle intimidating? For instance, I'm sure they check credentials before even letting you drive through... I've been told that if you have no college degree, they turn you back at the first few traffic lights. You've heard of racial profiling? This is educational profiling... they stop cars that look suspect (my ancient, oft-repaired Saturn with the flaky bumper stickers, for example, not to mention the South Carolina license plates) and ask questions:

Who is Judith Butler? Why is she so important?

What is "intersectionality" (in 25 words or less)?

Where was Joss Whedon born and how old is he?

Why is abortion the most important feminist issue?

Why is religion always unfeminist and evil?

When will you be receiving your advanced degree?
Possibly, there will be physical demonstrations required. You will have to be able to log into FACEBOOK (on demand), send TWITTERs and suchlike. At the very least, you will have to know how to text the person sitting right next to you.

And if you fail these very simple tests, they will absolutely send you back. Do not pass GO!

If you do manage to answer these questions to the satisfaction of the questioner, but speak in the wrong regional accent [1]--they will add a second round of questions:
How did you feel when your parents sold their summer house? Were you sad?

What is the highest price you ever paid for a piece of clothing? (extra credit: Did you worry that this might oppress destitute seamstresses in Mauritius, or do you feel this is a suitable method to keep the whole world gainfully employed?)

Have you ever met a person who was actually in prison? Were you scared?

Have you ever been inside a public school? For how long?

Is your BMI under 30?
(if you don't know what BMI is, instant fail)
And if you pass these, yes, it just gets hairier; the final lightning-round. The disqualifying questions. These are the trick questions, because if you can answer them, you will also be turned away from Cool Cambridge:
Can you give directions to the Wal-Mart that is closest to your house?

What are "Baptists"? Have you ever met one personally?

I read about __
(fill in the scandal)_____ in the National Enquirer.

Demonstrate at least one of the following:

1) loading-dock doors

2) retail pricing gun

3) soldering iron

4) cloth diaper changing, using authentic diaper pins

5) computerized cash register (selection of models provided)

6) Jacquard loom, or similar modern version

7) changing oil in vehicle

8) load and shoot the firearm of your choice

9) pole dancing

10) milk a cow, buffalo or goat

11) carpentry skills, including hammering several straight nails in succession

12) how to deep-fry french fries in one of those dangerously-sizzling deep-fryers (used in restaurants and fast-food joints)
If you can do any one of these, well, you ain't the media type. No ACTION for you!

After this rigorous weeding process, there is the possibility that you could STILL get in. If you do, I hope you wear the right clothes and have the right hair. (It should be easier, since all the unfashionable old ladies will have already flunked out due to the diaper/ oil-changing demos.) After all of that, you don't wanna get banished from Cambridge and sent to Southie for the wrong get-up, now do you?

The conference theme this year: INSIDE/OUTSIDE

For the first time this year, we’ll be exploring a theme throughout the Conference: Inside/Outside.

We all belong inside some communities or networks and are new to or feel excluded or alienated from others. The tension that exists between insiders and outsiders to any given movement, identity, industry or ideology can be destructive, but it can also be harnessed toward mutually beneficial change. At WAM!2009, we’ll explore both sides of this inescapable dynamic in our relationships, organizations, societies and movements.
Some people are more outside than others.

Although I am, ha ha, joking, I wonder how funny it really is.


[1] It goes without saying, NO identifiable regional American accent is good; optimally, you should sound like the people on TV. Non-American accents are a special case, though, and are mostly very cool, particularly British, Australian, French or German. The exception, of course, is if you are a non-white person with a Spanish, Island or African accent, in which case, an extra round with more consumer-goods questions and green-card inspections may be added. Since MIT is where the conference is happening, Asian accents will be overlooked just this once, but if this gets to be an ongoing issue and there are too many of you, Cambridge-border security reserves the right to change the rules any time they see fit.

[2] Regarding the above: Teh extra immigrant round will involve deciphering American slang, as well as demonstrating teh uses of "teh" in internet writing... when it's appropriate and when it is not. I'd advise you all to start studying NOW.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My cable company--Charter Communications--is bankrupt!

How does that work, exactly, when they keep raising and raising and raising the bill?

Some economic genius, please explain to me how a humongous company can go broke while maintaining a total area monopoly... simultaneously shaking people down for more and more bucks... not to mention the endless nickle and diming with ridiculous service fees. And they went broke? Say what?

I don't get it. And it is not explained in the following piece, either, it just says Charter was "struggling." Okay, why are they struggling?

(Let's hope we get some choices now, but I won't hold my breath.)

Charter Communications to file Chapter 11
The Associated Press • February 12, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — Struggling Charter Communications Inc., the nation's fourth largest cable operator, said Thursday that it plans to file a prearranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy by April 1.

Charter, which is controlled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, said it has reached an agreement in principle with certain debt holders to reduce its debt by $8 billion in exchange for combinations of new debt, cash, common shares, warrants to buy stock and preferred shares.

Allen will remain as an investor and retain the largest voting interest in Charter. But Charter's common stock will be canceled, meaning shareholder stakes will be wiped out. Allen has invested over $7 billion in the company.

In a prearranged bankruptcy, a company enters into reorganization with a plan to emerge that has the approval of major stakeholders.

Charter also said two of its subsidiaries will make a $74 million interest payment before the 30-day grace period for debt that was due on Jan. 15 expires. About $1.9 billion of debt comes due next year. Overall, more than half of Charter's $21 billion in total borrowings will mature by 2013.

Charter reported that fourth-quarter revenue is expected to increase by 6.6 percent to $1.66 billion, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization up nearly 10 percent to $620 million.

Charter has been skirting insolvency for years, but this time it faces a brutal combination of tight credit and billions of debt coming due. The company hasn't recorded a profit since it went public in 1999.

Shares of Charter tumbled 4 cents, or 54.6 percent, to about 3 cents afternoon trading. The stock earlier hit a low of 2.5 cents.
Does this mean we still have to pay the bill? :P