Saturday, May 30, 2009

Me, Mel and the Sedes

Mel Gibson directs James Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ. (2004)

I once belonged to a trad-Catholic email listserv, which took as their patron saint one Hutton Gibson. (Beware thunder-and-lightning sound effects when clicking on the link--as they used to say at the beginning of OUTER LIMITS: "There is nothing wrong with your television set.")... I later realized this was Mel's wacky dad. But at the time, I was just plain astounded and could not stop reading. I felt like I had stumbled into an amazing subculture. Which is true.

I had never met Sedevacantists before, which might be called the Black Helicopter Faction of the Catholic Church; the Area 51 of Trad theology. These people believe there hasn't been a validly elected Pope since... well, predictably, they argue about the details. (One of the "real" popes supposedly resides in Kansas, which might be the funniest damn thing I ever heard.) They are deliberately fuzzy, first attempting to convince you they are correct about papal-invalidity, and then attempting to lobby on behalf of "their" chosen Pope. The most well-known of these sub-groups is the Society of St Pius X (aka SSPX in trad lingo). [NOTE: Many Sedevacantists are splinter groups of SSPX or former fellow-travelers. Other would-be Popes include Lucian Pulvermacher and Manuel Alonso Corral.]

The reasons these folks believe the Chair of Peter is Vacant (Latin derivation of the word SEDEVACANTIST) are in alignment with the Religious Right; the well-worn view that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, with the Catholic Church regarded as just another obvious manifestation of this truth. Modernism, in the sneaky form of Vatican Council II, overtook the Mass and unexpectedly monkeyed with ancient rubrics. In the traditionalists' view, Latin was dissed, priests turned their backs on the tabernacle, people put their dirty fingers all over the Host, dopey hymns invaded where angels feared to tread... and many other hotly-contested changes came with the introduction of the Novus Ordo.

A very good point from the Trads: these transformations of the Mass seemed to demystify a very mystical practice, and detracted from its sanctity... rather as noise in the library detracts from reading; teens giggling in the back rows of dramatic movies ruin your absorption in the narrative. Sudden outbursts of English singing seem very, well... American. Many of the people (such as Evelyn Waugh) who hated the Novus Ordo, hated it because of its zealously-assimilationist tendencies. It seemed very Protestant, complete with a dorky Dr Feelgood homily that often sounded like it came from the pages of Reader's Digest. (Can't we hear what St John of the Cross or some heavy-hitter like that had to say, please?) The Roman Catholic Church has a very rich tradition of mysticism, saints' visions, ideas, theology, folk-piety, litanies and old sermons that one can easily draw upon... and instead, it was not unusual to hear some priest's sentimental story about his dog, or some deacon reading some canned-homily written by Catholic Answers. Those of us hungry for historical liturgy and the old writings (as well as those of us who do not want to assimilate to mass-American culture) ended up net-surfing right into the old AOL Catholic chat rooms, duly named after the Holy Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

For awhile, these three internet chat rooms stayed separate, depending upon whether one was trad, liberal or centrist/undecided... and then, of course, you know what happened. The denizens of all three got all mixed up and finally, the rooms became a free-for-all, with charges of heresy, blasphemy and schism flying right and left. It was at this colorful juncture that the Sedevacantists, well-organized and determined, invaded the rooms as a coordinated group. And it was from this mass invasion that I eventually learned of the listserv, and the Hutton/Mel/Sede connection.

Having their very own movie-star connection was intoxicating for these folks. Mel Gibson took on the characteristics of sainthood, complete with hagiography. He has seven children, they would say, admiringly. He was obviously a right-on kind of guy. The Sedevacantist-adulation of Mel was as intense as the adulation of his schismatic father and their various would-be popes. But at that time, Mel did not publicly "declare himself" as anything but a regular Catholic, to the great irritation of the list-serv members.

When I discovered through the Alcoholics Anonymous grapevine that Mel was "people like us"--I thought, uh oh. If there is one thing alcoholics chronically embrace, it's extremes. Lots of them. I am, for instance, one of the few people who can tell you all about the lefty factions of the 70s and then turn around and tell you all about Hutton Gibson and SSPX. There is a reason for that. I am grateful that I now have the wisdom to know that I am given to this character defect, but it doesn't necessarily prevent me from exercising it. However, it DOES usually prevent me from preening overmuch about my wonderfulness, since I am acutely aware that my wonderfulness could well collapse on a dime, and often has.

I had high hopes for Mel when I learned he was a sponsor of Robert Downey, Jr. I hoped he would back away from the religious extremism of his father and stick to the New Agey-Catholicism one tends to encounter in progressive recovery circles, particularly in a place like Hollywood.

And then I heard that Mel Gibson had built his own church. What? A Catholic?!? Catholics do not build their own churches (although of course, your local Diocese may take all of your money and build one and name a wing after you)... NOOO, Catholics do not build our own churches unless we are...ohhhh no, I thought. No. Not Mel.

A Sede. (slang for Sedevacantist, which also has a very appropriate pod-people sound to it; pronounced SEED.) Mel is a SEDE!

The news traveled through the always-rambunctious Michael, Gabriel and Raphael chat rooms like wildfire. The Sedes themselves were drunk on Mel-Gibson PR and cocky as the devil, you should pardon expression. Not every crackpot breakaway-faction has their own movie-star, after all.

But I wondered. I worried about Mel's wife, Robyn, stuck with the legendary 7 kids while Mel jetsetted all over the world making movies. How genuine is this Sede thing? Is he just trying to impress dad? Or other Catholics? Is this a form of penance for his alcoholism (something I deeply understand and identified with). I wondered how long it would last. As everyone gasped over the graphic violence of The Passion of the Christ, I vividly remember thinking: such extremes... such alcoholic behavior.

And then, Mel famously tied one on, delivering himself of an antisemitic rant in the process... and suddenly, all bets were off.

(I wondered: Is the Church still there? Does he still go?)


And now, the man who was repeatedly held up to me as First Class Catholic Family Man extraordinaire--is getting a divorce. (I assume you all know that divorce is not sanctioned by Catholic doctrine, even the liberal Vatican II Catholic doctrine that Mel and his father proudly placed themselves above.) His seven children, those objects of affection, envy and admiration in Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, are now the children of divorce... just like so many of the rest of us. They are also, like so many other Catholics (including me), the children of an alcoholic. They have learned the psychology of extremes at their daddy's knee, as Mel learned from his daddy, Sedevacantist Holocaust-denier Hutton Gibson.

What can we learn from this? The Buddhist lesson of the Middle Path; few of us can reside full-time at the feverish extremes throughout our entire lives. Simply put: we will fail. And instead of trying to mend something, we flush it down the toilet and run away. That is the way of extremes, the way of the addict: We will not settle for your banal choices, we will build our own church, we will find our own Pope.

And fall in love with a younger woman, and forget everything we say we believed in. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

What does the lesson of Mel Gibson teach us about religious extremism? I am still trying to figure it out. I am not really surprised.

But then again, of course I am.

Gonna rock it up, roll it up, do it all, have a ball...

Stealie flag is from Disc-O-Pizza.

Assorted quick notes on this busy and beautiful Saturday morning

Our sordid South Carolina stimulus situation never goes away. State Attorney General Henry McMaster filed a motion Friday to return a stimulus case brought by two students to the South Carolina Supreme Court, arguing the issue cannot be tried in federal court.

And so, the endless, interminable legal wrangling over Governor Sanford's determined blockage of the economic stimulus funds maddeningly continues. Funny how he calls himself an economic conservative and yet is spending bushels more in his attempts to BLOCK it, than if he simply took the money, the swine.

At Fetch Me My Axe, two Proposition 8 videos that you simply MUST WATCH.

Phil Spector is sentenced to 19 years-to-life. And it's still too good for him, IMHO:

Phil Spector stared straight ahead. It was the appointed hour for the legendary music producer's six-year murder case to come to a close and the courtroom was packed with reporters, fans and detractors eager to hear his sentence. But he did not look at the judge, take notes or whisper to his lawyer.

For Spector, it seemed, it wasn't worth it. A life sentence is mandatory for second-degree murder and the only decision before the judge Friday was whether Spector, 69, should have his first parole hearing in 2027, 2028 or 2034.

After listening to arguments, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler chose 2028. As the judge told Spector that he would have to serve at least 19 years in prison -- at which time he would be 88 -- he remained stoic.

Spector declined an opportunity to address the court and moments later, surrounded by court officers, he shuffled out a side door.

It was a quiet end to a legal proceeding that has intrigued the public since Feb. 3, 2003, when actress Lana Clarkson was shot to death in the foyer of Spector's Alhambra mansion.

A jury convicted him of Clarkson's murder last month, a year and a half after another panel had deadlocked.
The New York Times reports that texting may be "taking a toll on teenagers":

The rise in texting is too recent to have produced any conclusive data on health effects. But Sherry Turkle, a psychologist who is director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and who has studied texting among teenagers in the Boston area for three years, said it might be causing a shift in the way adolescents develop.

“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”

Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”

As for peace and quiet, she said, “if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.

“If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the pressure to answer immediately is quite high,” she added. “So if you’re in the middle of a thought, forget it.”

Michael Hausauer, a psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif., said teenagers had a “terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.” For that reason, he said, the rapid rise in texting has potential for great benefit and great harm.

“Texting can be an enormous tool,” he said. “It offers companionship and the promise of connectedness. At the same time, texting can make a youngster feel frightened and overly exposed.”
I am more concerned about the fact that the world is going by, and these kids are too busy texting to notice and interact with it.

(OTOH, I often feel this way about adults who can't put the phone down, not just the kids.)

And finally, for your dose of DEAD FROM CUTENESS, Yellowdog Granny provides us with 25 seconds of the most adorable baby-jabber anywhere on Planet Internetz. Be careful! You WILL die from the cute!


Before you trash the following teenybopper anthem, just remember, it influenced the Ramones. So HAH!

(Decades later, vindicated at last!)

Check out the fascinating disembodied eyeball on the set, above/behind the band. (The 70s were decidedly weird, people.)

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT - Bay City Rollers

Have a great Saturday, yall!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

They call it Stormy Monday...

...but Tuesday's just as bad.

Wednesday's worse, and Thursday's oh so sad.

It's storming, and these are my favorite stormy songs.

First, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan in Hamilton, Ontario, recorded on December 6, 1983. (The song was originally written by T-Bone Walker.) Some of the video isn't quite synchronized to the action, but honestly, does anyone care?



Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughan - Stormy Monday

I first heard this version of STORMY when I was down and out on the West Coast...and it got me through a whole month, in which I played it virtually non-stop, even as I got evicted from my commune.

Yes, someday I will tell the whole story, but I don't fare so well in the telling. ;)

This will probably get pulled by the evilllll powers-that-be (yes, I'm lookin at you, Warner Music Group!) --so have a listen now. The vocals were swapped out constantly on old Santana records, so I am sorry to say I have no idea which singer this is, but he's fabulous.

But it's Carlos who really cooks, and takes us into some special, safe place where the storms can't touch us.

Santana - Stormy

Library Thing is cool

I love my new LIBRARY THING widget! (see lower right of blog) I'm afraid I got very obsessive, and easily composed my 200-book list with nary a second thought. They allow listings of 200 books per free account; you can pay a premium to list your entire library. (PS: That's another thing that happens when you get old--I figure I've read thousands and thousands of books by now.)

You can match the widget to your blog colors and craft it to show however-many-books-you-want per page load. (Any more than 9 at a time seems to make the covers virtually microscopic, and that's no fun.) What's neat about LIBRARY THING is, if you are poor, you can change the book-display to a nicer cover, and no one will know you read it second-hand for 10 cents. Then again, some of the new covers are shit, and you can also keep the old ones if you like them better. (I also chose at least one cover of a foreign translation, since I thought it was prettier and showed up better on the widget.)

I didn't know if I should list books that changed my life, or just books I love since I eat up certain scandals like ice cream, or what. So, I went in several directions at once, and tried to make my list fairly representative. However, some aspects of my identity got decidedly short shrift; I think there is only ONE vegetarian book listed ((guilt)) and that is probably because it's the official cookbook of Michael Stipe's restaurant. Since this is ostensibly a feminist blog, I listed several now-forgotten Second-wave feminist books that I think are terrific, as well as important. I tried hard to keep the celebrity bios to a minimum, but sometimes, you simply must include certain people.

Library Thing also lists other members with your books in their catalogues. I have already noticed there is significant overlap in various cult-followings, particularly those of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson and J.G. Ballard (RIP, dearest one!) and I find this fascinating; I am trying to figure out why and how these writers' sensibilities are similar...or are the READERS the people who are similar, and our attraction to these writers ideas is about US, not them?

Some books have a mere 6 followers*, and some, of course, have followers numbering in the thousands. I have not yet reviewed books or participated in any of the conversations, but I hope to do so at some point. Right now, mere escapism. (I haven't had as much time to myself since one of my co-workers decided to walk off the job and I have taken up the slack.)

It's lots of fun to browse old books in musty second-hand bookstores and public libraries, and it's fun online, too.


*Nan Goldin's I'll be your mirror is also reviewed here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We love Sonia!--and other ruminations on a young presidency

After all the fervid Obama-blogging I did during election season, I deliberately laid off after Inauguration Day. I wanted to give him a 100-day break, like (haha!) everybody else was. Or was supposed to. Or something.

Like I said, haha. Nobody else did. I felt like he got maybe a 48-hour honeymoon period with the press, if that long.

Primarily for this reason, I extended my hands-off policy even longer, pausing only to criticize the president's rather uncharitable attitude towards freeing the weed. I was floored that Obama wasn't getting the "honeymoon" that other presidents have enjoyed (which they have historically used to "coast" for their first year or so). And then I realized, this is different; times are currently quite disastrous and all bets are off.

And then there is the fact that Barack Hussein Obama is habitually examined microscopically in a manner I can recall no other modern president perpetually and constantly inspected...with the exception of the post-Watergate Richard Nixon (who approved a criminal break-in and thus deserved to be closely-inspected). But Obama? Why is everyone so panicked and seemingly afraid he is going to screw the pooch?

Certainly, it seems obvious that the pooch was already royally screwed by Dubya, who seemed utterly free of any similar close inspection. But much of the microscopic-inspection that should have been directed at Dubya, is now directed at the successor who is attempting to clean up his considerable mess.

And so, I have now decided to jump in and reassert my support for the prez, which is not to say he can't do some serious pooch-screwing of his own, and I suppose he will at some point. All politicians do, after all. (Old bumper sticker: To err is human, to really screw things up takes a politician.) But so far, I am not teeth-gnashingly livid over anything he has done. Bill Clinton used to make me livid with his very predictable Bubba-routine, which I found just too close for comfort. (I had a Bubba-boss for part of that time, which made it significantly worse... familiarity breeds contempt!) As a feminist, I also greatly resented the fact that Slick Willie could not keep his hands to himself. (After hearing the story of Kathleen Willey, whom I found very credible, I would not defend Bill Clinton AT ALL.) By contrast, Obama shows no signs of Clintonian excesses, and in fact, comes off as downright ascetic in comparison--with his frequent sports and healthy diet--tobacco appears to be his only vice, which is a relief. (There is some argument about whether he is still smoking; I say, let the man have a vice, people!)

I am pissed off about Obama's whole Afghanistan adventure, however. The left, as a rule, has been far too easy on him about this, as Tom Hayden writes in AlterNet today. Peter Rothberg in THE NATION states that only 0.6% of military-oriented media coverage is about Afghanistan in particular (!) and most of the American public is pro-intervention in the region. (But if there was more detailed media coverage, would that change?) There was a "national day of action on Afghanistan" last Thursday, but MoveOn did not participate, and most people I know were not even aware of it.

Regarding Afghanistan, we need to keep the heat on.


One thing our new prez has done is... NOMINATE A WOMAN TO THE SUPREME COURT!!!! (((happy dance)))) Yes, this carries serious weight with me, folks. You bet it does!

And Sonia Sotomayor is making the GOP-baddies go crazy... tee hee! Politico reports:

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court was the latest and most powerful blow in the president’s relentless courtship of Hispanic Americans, whose flight to the Democratic Party was central to his election.

Hispanic leaders across the country, many of whom attended the White House announcement, praised the appointment swiftly and in the strongest terms, and Republican leaders signaled an awareness of the political sensitivities by avoiding any suggestion of disrespect for the first Latina nominee to the nation’s highest court.

“The picture of an African-American president standing next to a Hispanic woman as his first choice for the Supreme Court — that picture is the worst nightmare for the Republican Party,” said Fernand Amandi, a Florida pollster whose firm, Bendixen Associates, surveyed Hispanic voters for Obama’s presidential campaign.

“The numbers, the symbolism and now the acts of the Democratic Party and this Democratic president underline and underscore the very bleak outlook for Republicans, where the…fastest growing demographics in the county are leaving them,” he said, noting that surveys earlier this decade suggested broad hunger among Hispanic voters for a court pick.
Jeanne Cummings reports that the right-wing is mobilizing, but confused and disoriented:

Conservative groups know they want to oppose Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor — but exactly how that campaign will be conducted is a major unanswered question that is splitting the Republican right.

The early fissure among opponents to Sotomayor, the New York federal appeals judge nominated by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, is over whether to push for a filibuster.

“The Republicans have got to take a stand on this one,” said Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and a proponent of a filibuster. “If they don’t, they can kiss their chances of ever getting back into power away,” he added.

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, an anti-abortion rights activist, is urging members to block a Senate vote on Sotomayor.

“Do GOP leaders have the courage and integrity to filibuster an activist, pro-Roe[v. Wade] judge?” asked Terry, who argued that Democrats — including then-Sen. Obama — opened the door to such action after threatening to filibuster Justice Samuel Alito’s nomination in 2005.
And Holly gets right to the point over at Feministe:

Sotomayor grew up in the housing projects of the South Bronx, was raised by a single mother after the death of her father, is a diabetic, a Catholic, and is divorced with no children. Obama described her life as an “extraordinary journey,” talking about how she graduated at the top of her class from Princeton and then Yale Law School.

You might be wondering why I rattled off a laundry list of her life experiences, or what you might call identity categories. Two reasons: first, her career has been batted around for years by feuding Democrats and Republicans because she’s a woman of color. Once she made the short list for an Obama nomination, the rumors and sniping started up again. What, she doesn’t have any kids? Not only that, but some people think she’s fat. Or are even spuriously linking her weight to her diabetes.

Get ready for a whole season of this kind of thing as her nomination is challenged.
Also check out Jill's post at Feministe, as well as nojojojo's and Ampersand's posts at Alas, a Blog.

I am just so proud of Obama right now. And wonderful Sonia too, of course!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Random Dead Air photo gallery

My reasons for posting these photos are entirely mercenary--but you can still comment on em if you want! (NOTE: Is this my cue to complain about how difficult it is to space photos on Blogger? Wordpress is much easier!)

My cheapskate free-Flickr account only allows 200 free uploaded photos, and these particular photos are about to "drop out" of my account. I'll never find them if I don't bookmark them now, and uploading to Blogger guarantees they will be here when I want them. (I have frequently forgotten to do this and consequently, misplaced a lot of great, already-uploaded photos.)

And so, a post motivated purely by the desire for photographic preservation!


First, Lake Hartwell (border of South Carolina and Georgia) last Labor Day:

The downtown Greenville Mariott while under construction, which is almost finished now... but here is its exoskeleton:

(I kinda wish they'd left it like this!)

One of the peaceful trails/gardens at Falls Park, downtown Greenville:

NASCAR's Jeff Burton wants you to use correct change! (NASCAR coke machine):

My Dragon*Con photos are rapidly disappearing, so have a look at the set if you are a sci-fi/fantasy geek!

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Women go crazy bout a sharp dressed man

Women don't fare so well in Terminator Salvation.


First, we have lying, dying mad-scientist-doc Helena Bonham Carter, who talks poor Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), death row inmate, into leaving his body to science. (The scene in which he dies by lethal injection is barbarous, and I wish someone had warned me that this sequence begins the movie; I found it much more jarring than regular cartoon sci-fi violence.) He wakes up in 2018, obviously "resurrected" from the dead. (Yeah, something weird is happening.) He is now in the middle of the Man-vs-Machine war, the plot-center of all of the Terminator movies.

Sexy Woman-of-Color warrior Blair (Moon Bloodgood) is later saved from gang-rape by Marcus, and thereby cuddles up with him announcing he has a "strong heart." She then proceeds to smuggle him into Resistance HQ, wherein we find John Connor (Christian Bale) and the rest of the righteous. Marcus is discovered to be a cyborg, a new type of infiltrator-terminator, made of real skin, nerves and blood ("blood" is the insignia of the resistance fighters). What happened to the ever-barking watchdogs from Terminator I and II that could always sniff out the Terminators? (Hmm, I guess that would have interfered with the whole Terminator-infiltrator plot.) Helena Bonham Carter made him into some new weird thing. Great scene where he looks down and sees his half-robot self, opened up and all a-blinking with lights: AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! And once Blair sees this, well, it's all over, people. She is greatly overcome with emotion, calls him "he" instead of "it" (cyborgs are "its" of course) so you know she is already far-gone over (admittedly fabulous-looking) Marcus. Despite the fact that she is a kick-ass resistance fighter and pilot, she risks all to defy her Leader-Prophet John Connor, to aid Marcus in his escape.


Yes, we know even a badass warrior-woman's silly little head can be turned by the first pretty face she sees with a "strong heart"... so she abandons everything she believes in to aid someone who could be an enemy, who is shown to be a member of the other side. I realize this whole segment of derring-do exists primarily to move the plot along and provide more thrills-and-spills, but it made me indignant and interfered with my enjoyment of the movie. Couldn't some guy have done this instead?

Why ruin the only positive, strong female character in the movie by making her a lovesick turncoat? Infatuated with a cyborg, forgodsake.

Ohhhh yes, we find out later that Marcus (surprise!) does actually have a "strong heart" but not before they tie beautiful and disobedient Blair to a chair so there can be a few scant seconds of titillation (this is a PG-13 movie, after all) before getting back to the explosions.

John Connor's lovely redheaded wife (Bryce Dallas Howard) has nothing to do but be pregnant and poignant throughout. Jane Alexander is on hand to be a victim.

The wonderful ass-kicking Sarah Connor of past Terminator movies seems to have been an anomaly; don't look for any women you can be proud of in this movie.

Dumb ending. (Translation: More sequels to come!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

I want Pon Farr back!

Yes, quite spectacular and lots of fun on a big screen. But as a diehard fan of the late Theodore Sturgeon, I confess I was upset that Spock and Uhura seem to be all lovey-dovey without the proper ritual of Pon Farr.

Honestly. Is nothing sacred?

For further commentary, particularly on the characterization of Uhura in the new Star Trek movie:

Star Trek, Uhura and Structures of Authority (Female Impersonator)

Uhura in the new Star Trek movie (Feministing Community)

Kirking Out (Racialicious)

Star Trekking In Search of a Strong Female Character (Rebellious Jezebel Blogging)

Open thread: the new Star Trek movie (The Hathor Legacy)


And this is funny!

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fire on the Mountain

In every blogger's life, stuff happens that you just can't write about... and I am there right now. Lots of interpersonal strangeness on my job, people unexpectedly coming and going, and I'm sorry to say I can't tell you about any of it.

In any event, what would I do without my UNCLE DAVE? Relaxing last night and drifting off to sleep listening to his excellent jams. Decided to share one of those songs with you here. Not the best visual quality, but it sounds pretty good.

It just seemed appropriate right now:

Almost aflame still you don't feel the heat
Takes all you got just to stay on the beat
You say it's a living, we all gotta eat
but you're here alone there's no one to compete
If mercy's in business I wish it for you
More than just ashes when your dreams come true


Fire on the Mountain - Grateful Dead

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SC House overrides Governor Sanford! Sanity at last?

Head Goofball in charge!

Rich, evil greedhead Republicans who send their children to private schools (and therefore do not care about the public ones) have blessedly NOT prevailed after all. I am very, very pleased to report the following:

SC House overrides major Sanford budget vetoes

COLUMBIA — State lawmakers took first steps today to override the governor’s vetoes of the $5.7 billion state budget and his refusal of federal stimulus funds sought to avert deep public school cuts and big college tuition hikes.

The House voted 98-19 Wednesday to send the budget issue to the Senate and followed that up with a 93-23 vote to override Gov. Mark Sanford’s refusal to accept $700 million in federal stimulus cash. The votes came without debate.

“Woo hoo,” cheered state Education Department spokesman Jim Foster after the vote. He hoped the Senate would follow later Wednesday by also overriding those two key elements.

“We’re disappointed,” Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said. In the Senate, “we know it will be a lot closer. We hope we will cross the finish line with sustaining it there.”

Sanford, a Republican whose stance has won him national prominence, has said he won’t request that money unless it can be used to offset state debt. But the White House twice rejected that approach, emphasizing the money first had to be used to support education.

But leaders in the GOP-dominated Legislature expect the budget fight to end up in court. Sawyer said the governor is not ready to say whether he’ll raise a legal challenge.

A Chapin High School student has said she plans to refile a lawsuit aimed at forcing Sanford to accept the funds. Casey Edwards did not immediately respond to a message left with her father Thursday.

Meanwhile, Foster said the U.S. Education Department has now set a July 1 deadline to apply for the money.

Sawyer said he was not prepared to comment on that.
Yeah, I'll bet he wasn't! (giggle)

I am so glad the greedheads were outvoted. WOOT! (((happy dance)))

And what is that about "national prominence"? Let's change that to national laughingstock instead. HOW MUCH MONEY has the Governor's little economic-grandstanding stunt cost us, exactly? For instance, when he barnstormed the state for political support for his anti-stimulus fiasco--who paid for that? The South Carolina state taxpayers or the GOP?

Hmm, let me guess.

PS: Time to pray for the SC Senate. Take out those rosaries now!

Carolina Basset Hound Rescue

As a child, I had a basset/beagle mix named Cleo, and ohhhh, how I loved that dog! Hounds are wonderful animals. I watched her give birth to her puppies, a momentous childhood event I have never forgotten. (I guess I should have exited the room and allowed her some privacy, but I was too riveted to move.)

As a confirmed cat-lady, I usually do cats here at Dead Air, but I figured, equal time for canines! And I do love hounds. Below are Tanner and Burt of Carolina Basset Hound Rescue, whom I met this weekend. They are very happy, rescued doggies! (((kisses doggies)))


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Disabled children routinely abused in schools

Photo of Cedric Napoleon from USA TODAY.

Some pretty harrowing accounts in USA TODAY, which read like something out of Dickens. A report from the Government Accountability Office released today, stated that disabled children are routinely restrained, secluded from other classmates (in what would ordinarily be called "solitary")--and describes the death of 14-year-old Cedric Napoleon after his special education teacher used a "therapeutic floor hold."

Greg Toppo of USA TODAY reports:

In one case, a New York school confined a 9-year-old with learning disabilities to a "small, dirty room" 75 times in six months for whistling, slouching and hand-waving. In another, a Florida teacher's aide gagged and duct-taped five misbehaving children to their desks; and police say a 14-year-old boy died when a special-education teacher in Texas lay on top of the student when he would not stay seated. Police ruled it a homicide, but a grand jury rejected criminal charges.

The findings from the GAO, Congress' investigative arm, stop short of attaching a hard number to how many children are subjected to the practices, but investigators say they found "hundreds of allegations" of abuse involving restraint or seclusion at schools from 1990 to 2009; in Texas and California, they say, public schools recorded a combined 33,095 instances in the past school year alone. [...] The report details 10 children's cases, four of which ended in death. Unlike in hospitals or residential treatment centers, there's no federal system to regulate such practices in schools — and teachers are often inadequately trained, GAO says.

Only seven states even require that educators get training before they're allowed to restrict children, and only five states have banned "prone restraint," which ended in the death of the Texas student. reports:

Cedric Napoleon suffered so much abuse in his young life that, at age 14, he was already experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, an affliction often associated with soldiers at war.

By 2002, he was under the care of a foster family and attending middle school in Killeen, Texas, in a class with a special education teacher. That's when his troubled childhood took an even darker turn, lawmakers learned Tuesday in a hearing about school discipline.

Acting out in class one day, Cedric, 129 pounds, was pinned to the floor by his 230-pound teacher, who lay on him to quiet him down, federal investigators say. When she got off or soon after, he was dead.
Unbelievably, the teacher was not charged with any crime, and is still on the job:

In Cedric Napoleon's case, government investigators said the death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury did not indict the teacher.

A judge found that the teacher used excessive force on the child and was reckless in her actions, the report said.

"The teacher also ignored pleas and warnings that the child could not breathe and continued to hold him after he became still and quiet, the judge noted," the report said.
The rest of the story is here, but be forewarned, it is some difficult reading.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dead Air Guide to yard sale and thrift store clothes shopping

At left, Miracle Hill Ministries thrift store in west Greenville, SC. On the dressing room walls, they have Bible verses from Romans, so you can be spiritually edified while you shop.

I found two lovely summer dresses here on Saturday, as well as a hand-painted candle-holder and like-new flannel Carhartt shirt. Total spent: $6.

There were several young women (from the shelter, I assume) folding clothes and cleaning glassware in the front of the store, while singing old Baptist hymns in high, soft, sweet soprano harmonies. An unexpected bonus and pleasure.


This guide focuses on clothing, since it's something everyone needs, and it's my particular area of expertise. This is a recession, and this advice might help a few folks out there who don't know where to start.

This guide was decades in the making! ;)


:: Flea markets

Flea markets are often an ongoing enterprise, and participants are just like store-owners: they need profits to pay for the space. For this reason, I avoid flea markets for clothes shopping, since the quality tends to be poor and the prices too high for what is offered. However, flea markets as a social event are a lot of fun, and one can always find some delightful, odd or strange thing for very cheap, that you can't find anywhere else. But if you are out for a bargain in a hurry (i.e. child needs school clothes; you just got a new job), this isn't something you can count on.

:: Thrift stores

The very best bet if you need something RIGHT NOW. The best, most high-profile, second-hand stores (Goodwill and Salvation Army) have already sorted everything for you by gender, size and type of garment (jeans, skirts, etc.) Other thrift stores do not employ any labor to do this, and you might actually get clothing by the pound or for something like a quarter-a-piece. Mission stores such as Society of St Vincent de Paul or Miracle Hill routinely offer stuff at 50 cents a pop. The problem with some of these stores is that you will have to dig, and nothing is pre-sorted. It can be very time-consuming, but if you know what you want, you can dive in and find it.

:: Church/Organizational/Fund-raising rummage sales

Church and/or other organizational yard/garage/rummage sales (i.e. Cancer Society, Humane Society, etc) are by far, some of the very BEST places to find used clothing, as well as a variety of other goods. The problem is that they are sporadic and seasonal, and you have to hunt them down anew every year. (A group may only have ONE yard sale, and then never have another one--or perhaps only every five years or something.) Local newspapers are the primary places to find these great sales, which tend to be concentrated in the spring and summer (due to the "spring cleaning" ritual). So, keep in mind that you are buying for the whole year, a situation which can bring its own set of problems (size changes, unforeseen need for certain types of clothing, lack of storage space, etc). But I heartily advise "stocking up" if at all possible.

This clothing has usually been accumulated over many years, by lots of people, and there will likely be an abundance of sizes and styles to choose from. However, if you're picky, look at the organization or church conducting the rummage sale. If you want pricey designer clothes, go to the rich Episcopalians or the annual Rolling-in-Dough Country Club rummage sale... but if you want funkier clothes, you might want to check Local College Animal Rights organization, or equivalent. The type of group it is, the neighborhood it is in, the class of people in the group, all of these factors are a way to gauge what the donated items will probably be, as well as their cost. This also involves some knowledge of where you live, and the general demographics of the area. Consider carefully your ideal taste in clothing, and who else might have it, then look for the sale that those people are having.

This stuff is usually priced to move quickly, often by volunteers who have no clue of the value of, for instance, designer labels or handmade items. (Sometimes, you can also find beautiful quilts and afghans that have been stored in attics for generations.) If clothing is cheap, get creative and branch out. It won't hurt to grab something for 50 cents. I can't tell you how many times I have purchased some strange or quirky old dress, blouse or skirt, and didn't wear it until (seriously) 10 years later, when it was suddenly funky, antique and back in fashion. If you like it and it costs virtually nothing, grab it, and screw fashion, which changes on a dime anyway.

The issue here is storage space, which for some of us is at a premium.

:: Yard sales

Community yard sales ("multi-family") are very good, and can be almost as good as churches or large organizations. But one-family yard sales are often a bust, since there will usually only be a few sizes in the family. All the men's clothes will be one or two sizes, and all the women's clothes will be one or two sizes. Ditto, the general type, colors and styles of the clothing. (Since mom tends to buy for the whole family, you will notice a profusion of mom's favorite colors in everyone's clothes. And her favorites may not be yours.) However, children's clothing may span many sizes, since children grow quickly. If there is more than one child, and/or an accumulation over many years, you could be in luck.

I once attended a yard sale put on by a children's dance studio, and struck paydirt. My kid wore that stuff for eons; I bought garbage-bags full.

:: Estate sales

These are sales conducted in homes in which someone has recently died. I love them because I am preternaturally nosy and I love snooping through an old, unoccupied house, just because.

Most of the stuff in the house will be tagged, and the prices tend to run higher-than-usual because the people managing the sale get a cut of net-profits. The clothing will likely be very old, and if you are lucky, you can score some old Doris Day coat from the 50s or 60s (I have two!) or something similar you have always wanted. Keep in mind that certain fabrics fall apart like dried newspaper after a certain period of time (depending on how they have been stored), so don't forget to check those seams! For funkiness, estate sales can be especially wonderful.

If you aren't into vintage clothing, estate sales can be a bust for the reasons stated above. The deceased individual was probably only ONE size and favored only a few general styles of clothing. If you aren't that size and don't like those styles... well, that's that. However, if they were very wealthy and/or stored a lifetime of clothing, you may find several sizes and several eras represented, and unexpected treasures await! Old bridal/evening gowns, collections of coats and jackets, bizarre and wonderful costume jewelery, and other fascinating cast-offs that are notably absent at other second-hand sales, will be at an estate sale.

Check the neighborhood, take a good look at the house before entering. If they are obviously rich, everything will either be very high-priced, or very cheap. There tends to be no in-between. Most common: the furniture and collectibles have high price tags, but the clothes will be in an untouched heap, 3-5 bucks a piece or something like that. Sometimes, they will charge you by the grocery bag, say, $3 a bag. (If so, it is worth it to have a look at the blankets, quilts, pillows and other fabric items hanging around, especially in a wealthy home.) The gowns and such will usually be set aside and tagged separately, but not always. Be sure to look at everything.

Old estate sales also specialize in novelty items like old scarves, handkerchiefs, gloves, hats, belts, and the various forgotten accessories of a lifetime. Things never worn and put aside (particularly if affluent) are everywhere, and you could unknowingly walk into a gold mine. Always be prepared!

:: General guidelines

::Know what you want and know what you need. (Two different things, as the Rolling Stones reminded us.) If you need jeans, learn to train your eye on the clothes heap and see only denim... likewise, wool sweaters, silk blouses or whatever it is. Examine the sizes of your sleeves and such, in your own closet, before you leave your house. I am able to pull out an appropriate size from a clothes heap, even with only a partial view of a sleeve, collar, or pants leg. (Yes, it's a gift!) Likewise, I can easily differentiate silk from glossy rayon impersonations. If there is something you particularly LIKE (silk, wool, floral patterns, tartan, tie-dye, frilly dresses, leather, old scarves), train your eye to pick it out of a huge pile. Make a game of it, like a treasure hunt, since that's really what it is.

::There is a good reason people do not want used underwear, bras and shoes, aside from the general "yuck" factor. They tend to be IMPRINTED with the butt, boobs or sole of the original wearer, in a way other, looser garments are not. Don't bother with any of these items, unless they are obviously new, and sometimes they are. Slips can be worn, but not usually bras. And sometimes, tight shirts or jeans will obviously have been owned by someone with a very different chest/butt size than you have, and have already been "molded" to the previous owner. Hold the garment up and look for any telltale stretching or wear-patterns.

::Sizes on used clothing tags often mean NOTHING, unfortunately, because the clothing has already been washed and possibly shrunk...maybe severely. In fact, that is one of the main reasons people get rid of stuff, so it is a given. Learn to eyeball stuff--again, start with clothes you already own. Most folks get it all wrong at first; we inevitably over/underestimate the shape and sizes of our butts, thighs, shoulders. All pride must be put on the back burner (and if you are shopping in thrift stores, you are already ahead of the game on THAT score!)... All of us can get prissy about sizes: "I won't wear a 16!" --even if it has clearly shrunk to a 9. If it looks good, the hell with the size. I once found a fantastic designer dress, which the label informed me was... MATERNITY. A MATERNITY DRESS. But it had shrunk so much, no one would ever know this. But I didn't want to be teased about it (or start pregnancy rumors!) if someone should see it, so what did I do? I cut out the label that said MATERNITY. Yes, this will work on a 16, too. Your little secret!

:: Trying on

Ideally, you should be wearing a loose-fitting t-shirt or even a tank top, so that you can slide clothing on over it and do an informal trying-on session...yes, right there in the front lawn of the yard sale if you have to. It's your money, don't be ashamed--you'd do it in a fancy store, right? Do it there, too. (Remember: They tried it on before THEY bought it.)

Some thrift stores offer fitting rooms, but of course, yard/garage/church sales never do. Be prepared for where you are going and dress accordingly.

:: Inspect

It is not uncommon to locate (at long last!) the coat or pants you always wanted, only to find: missing buttons; dilapidated zippers; torn hems; seams ready to fall apart; nasty stains. Can you repair it? WILL you repair it? Buttons are easy, but zippers are something else again. Cost/benefit analysis: is it worth taking it to someone who knows how to fix it, if you can't? If it is stained: will the stain come out? Try to figure out what the stain IS, and you might be able to salvage it. Ask yourself if it's worth it to take the chance... a $10 jacket, no. A 50 cent blouse, yes.

Also, some stains, located in certain anatomical areas, are simply unacceptable (to me, maybe not to you). Ask yourself, if the stain doesn't come out, can it be hidden? Remember, coffee, grass and blood (most common stains) often will NOT come out.

I once found the most beautiful handmade aqua sweater with a small yellow stain. I gambled that it was mustard, and then I wondered: why would someone get rid of such a lovely garment, when mustard stains can usually come out? Do not second-guess the rich in this way; they are spoiled. They regularly throw things out rather than fuss with them. (The stain came out in the first washing; it became one of my favorite things to wear for years.)

Another reason people get rid of clothes is because the tag proclaims "dry clean only"--which is usually nonsense. (However, you do take the risk that it will shrink if you defy the order!) Lots of fabric-softener before hanging it up to dry (avoid dryers) will usually do the trick... I do not believe in ironing, a time-tested method of enslaving women.


In the south, yard sales are usually early Saturday mornings, when volunteers and kids can help out, avoiding the heat of the day. The early bird gets the worm, and all like that; if I can get up early on a Saturday, so can you! The great stuff might be gone by the time you get there, so make it a priority to be one of the first customers. In the north and west, sales tend to start at a more decent hour, and can last all day long. But the early-bird advice still holds.

People like me are staking out the sales, and if you want to beat us to the bargains, get there first!

Go to the ATM and get cash. These operations do not usually take credit or checks. Yard sales run by churches and individuals will invariably be cash only. Get a map (or Google maps) and carefully plan your route. A good idea is to concentrate on a different neighborhood every week during spring, or just target the neighborhood you have chosen. Buy a newspaper or find the classifieds for your local newspaper online. Free weekly "thrift" newspapers will often carry a lot MORE ads, since the advertising rates are much cheaper. (Estate sales will sometimes be in a separate advertising section, so be sure to check there, too.)

Train your eye to see the signs shouting YARD SALE! GARAGE SALE! I have a radar for these signs, and I always notice them... but I have observed that some people just don't see them. It's an ingrained habit, and you need to train yourself, as you would for red and green traffic lights.


As you can probably tell by now, this is a hobby of mine. I do it for the overall fun and satisfaction of the treasure-hunt, as well as for economic reasons. I often wear things I could never afford to buy new.

And on a political level, I also believe that one of the most horrific manifestations of modern capitalism is RAMPANT WASTE, and recycling clothing is as crucial as recycling everything else.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dead Air Church: Class privilege meme

It has taken me all this time to do the well-worn class privilege meme. It first circulated all over Blogdonia about a year and a half ago, but I just wasn't ready. I found it embarrassing and awful, and avoided it like the plague.

I finally decided to go ahead and take it anyway. I knew it would be unpleasant!

I initially read of this quiz (and accompanying online discussions) at Bint Alshamsa's blog.


How many privilege-steps would you have to make?

Step into Social Class (this is an updated version)
A Social Class Awareness Experience
Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka
Indiana State University
© 2007

(NOTE: it is taken for granted that you are in college or did attend, since this test was first given to college students.)


An activity designed to help the participants gain awareness of the vast range of social class that exists within themselves and others. This has been updated based on the wide range of feedback we received as this was becoming a popular experience.


A big room with space to move for all participants
Chairs to sit for discussion


Pay attention to how you feel. Angry, sad, happy, winner, loser . . .
No talking – we will talk about this a lot when it is over
Line up here and take a step forward of about 1 (one) foot or one foot length for every fact that applies to you.

For blogs, bold the following facts that apply to you:

Part I, when you were in college:

Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (no blood relatives, but do have in-laws)
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home

Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (as I've said here before, they forced the violin on me to shut me up about the drums)
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor
If you have been to Europe
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child (by relatives, not by recognized "artists"--but it WAS original!)
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house (off and on, not consistently)
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family


Now everyone recognize that you are at the same place academically.
Everyone turn around.
Everyone has permission to talk.
No one has permission to accuse any one or any group of anything.
Everyone must use “I” statements.
Note that the people on one end of the room had to work harder to be here today than the people at the other end of the room. Some of you had lives of more privilege than others. There is no one to blame, it is just the way it is. Some have privilege and some don’t.
(this can be said now or later, I don’t know where it will be appropriate)

What were the feelings that you had during this experience? Who was angry?
(Anger will be a primary emotion at this point.)
What, specifically, makes you angry?
Who are you angry at?

Who was happy?

Summary Statement
This experience was about creating awareness of privilege. What it is, what it does, and what it means. Having privilege does not mean that you worked less hard. All it means is that you had a head start, so maybe it does mean you didn’t have to work as hard . . . .

During the next week notice how your high school years helped or didn’t help your experience in school/at work . . . .

Explanations and Notes:
All of the step taking was about things not requiring effort on the students’ part, but were things done by others.


FIVE WHOLE POINTS. How did I feel, taking this test? Bad. Which is why everyone else did it a well over year ago, and I've been too ashamed to do it until now.

Chaser of The Paper Chase (who also got only five points!) added another level and I got some more points! :P

Part II, in childhood:

If your body does not bear long-term signs of malnutrition. (14 root canals)
If you had orthodontia.
If you saw a doctor for anything other than emergencies or school-mandated shots.
If you heated your home with clean-burning fuels or had properly vented heating.
If you grew up in a house without vermin.
If you had running water.
If you had a basement or foundation under your house. (sometimes yes, sometimes no)
If you had an indoor toilet.
If your parents and immediate family were outside the criminal justice system.
If you yourself remained outside the criminal justice system.
If your parents had a new car.
If you never went barefoot so that you could ’save your shoes for school.’
If your parents never argued in front of you about having enough money for food to last out the month.
If you ate hunted and fished meat because it was a recreational activity rather than as the major way to stock a freezer.
If your laundry was done at home in a washer rather than in a lavandaria. (Laundromat) (sometimes yes, sometimes no)
If your hair was cut by a professional barber or hair stylist instead of your parent.


Four more points!

Seriously, I find this terribly depressing. janevangalen at Education and Class commented:

Speaking of that “privilege meme” that’s still buzzing around out there after oh so many days (even a blogger from Atlantic Monthly chimed in today, critiquing the exercise from her perspective as the graduate of a private school attended by “ultra-privileged” classmates for not reflecting her particular experiences)…

The protocol of the meme has been to “bold” the items that apply to you and to then say a bit about your background.

When something like this is done in person –as it was designed to be –a moderator can facilitate discussion among those whose lives have followed different paths and ensure that all voice are heard. A central point of an exercise like this is typically to generate conversation among the people in the room that would not take place otherwise.

But the people in this virtual room who keep batting this thing around seem to be people from very similar backgrounds.

While I’ve seen all sorts of assumptions made about how others live and what they value (and about how easy it would be for parents anywhere to find free museums to take their kids too “if they cared enough”. Have these people ever been outside a city?), I’ve not yet seen, in all of these hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of posts and comments, anyone who has thought to say:
So, most of the things I’m reading on this are written by people who “score” relatively highly on this meme.

But I wonder: what does this all look like to people whose backgrounds included very few of these things?
Might it not be bold to even wonder whether one might have it wrong?

Indeed, I believe there is plenty wrong, but I don't know how to define it. For instance, why so few questions about the nature of families? No mention of traditions or religion; skills inherited or learned within mention of family inter-relationships. I consider these crucial. Why doesn't the test? (Does this fact mark me as low-class also?)

Undine at Not of General Interest wrote about the subsequent internet discussion over this meme (which I found painful and tried to avoid):

A lot of people responded by saying, "Well, I had X but I worked for it myself" or "I didn't have a television set but I had books" or "This test is measuring the wrong things." There are lots of good points on all sides, so read the comments, too, at both places, which like the posts are excellent.

I think that what the exercise is trying to do--reveal the existence of class privilege to students in a real way--is important, but one thing was troubling: if you were a student, and especially if you had been bullied in the past for being different in some way, how would you feel about being forced to do this exercise in class? The teachers who chimed in on the comments all said versions of "oh, we don't make it mandatory; they can sit it out if they want to." Some said that they just had students write the answers on a piece of paper and turn it in.

Right. Would you sit it out, if you were 17 years old and your grade was on the line? Would you sit it out if you could see that your instructor thought this was a crucial part of the class and was clearly enthusiastic about the exercise? Would you write nothing or refuse to turn in the paper, again, if you believed that you'd be losing the good will of your instructor--and a grade--for doing so?

Since the admitted object of the exercise is to make students aware of and uncomfortable (in a good way, the authors imply) about their class privilege, most students would probably learn from it and shrug it off. Some are probably going to have their every statement greeted with eye-rolling about class privilege from then on, as I've witnessed when students in my classes volunteer information about trips to Europe or other markers of privilege.

But for a few, those who have been singled out and bullied for having the wrong haircut or being too smart or wearing the wrong clothes or being the nondominant race, it's going to make them feel like dodgeball targets all over again. Remember dodgeball, where some were out there flinging balls at the opposite team and aiming for those cowering in the corner, the ones you knew couldn't catch the ball on a bet, the dodgeball targets?
As I've said, it took me a long time to do this. If I'd had to do it publicly in a class, I can easily imagine a few fibs here and there, so that I would fit in with the majority. I can also imagine attempting to "sit it out"--which is, in fact, exactly what I did when I first encountered it online.

Chaser responds:

Whenever I use these types of exercises in class, it's painful. For example, for years I have used "unpacking the knapsack of white privilege" and unpacking the knapsack of male privilege" and there are *always* students who are offended.

To address privilege in some way is to threaten people's notions of what they "earned themselves." They have to face the fact the have not earned much of what they take for granted. It hurts and it is threatening.

Ultimately,so what if you earned the money for your car yourself--that's great. But it's not necessarily a sign you don't have class privilege. I worked in the fields with my parents for *nothing*. No allowance; no chance to get wage-earning work for car. People who tell me they "earned" their sports scholarships--sure, you worked very hard: but the leisure time you had in which to engage in those sports was bought for you by your class privilege. Oh, it's hard to hear that when these are things people are (understandably) proud of!

My favorite reaction to this discussion on the blogosphere was a grad student who is ALWAYS theorizing about race/gender/blah. When I added some point to the exercise--points that noted just how much more impoverished people can be than middle class people assume fellow Americans can be--somebody suggested this grad student should go look at my list. She said dismissively "I've read that list"--and then went right back to abstracting. It was the typical academic reaction to class privilege: it's too hard to face in practice, so we will chatter about it. It drives me crazy sometimes; I feel helpless enough as it is without having people I usually respect respond to these like this. I don't know how my colleagues of color stand it sometimes.
John Scalzi, who surprised me by defending his private school education as no big thang (!) provided the link to the follow-up Social Class Knowledge Quiz, with a derisive snort. (WARNING: Link is to a Word file!) As a confirmed coffee junkie, I knew the coffee question, but that was it for the "Blue Questions." By contrast, I knew all of the answers to the "Red Questions."


An example of the tenor of Scalzi's commenters can be summed up by one outburst from someone named udarnik:

This is not just a conversation starter, as the loaded term “privilege” indicates. Some of the questions are meant to make people feel guilty for having parents who cared about education and the welfare of their children, and instead of abusing those kids as privileged, the profs need to commend the other kids whose hard work landed them in school despite lacking some advantages.

I would have resented the hell out of this as an undergrad. Why should I be accused of privilege in a faux-Marxist confessional because my mom was a schoolteacher and my dad was an adjunct prof?
"Accused" of privilege? No, you are RECOGNIZED AS HAVING privilege.

But hey, his parents' educational background didn't land him in school, his "hard work" did!

((((runs away screaming)))) See, this is why I hate this thing. It just makes me upset.


Did you do the quiz the first time it appeared on the net, or is this the first time you've ever seen it?

Any thoughts?