"Ume, have you seen my head thingy?"
"It was sitting on your neck, the last time I looked."
She can be such a smarty pants, she knew I was looking for the headphones for my cd player.
If you've not heard about the ChoicePoint data heist - you'd best get informed. This shit is scary. About 145,000 people's personal information has been stolen from Choicepoint, making them vulnerable to identity theft.
Think we'll learn and start creating better privacy laws in this country the way they have in Europe? Or will we continue to allow the government to maintain its legal loophole, allowing data aggregation companies like ChoicePoint to gather information on our every transaction? Because it's unconstitutional for the government to maintain a database on every American consumer/citizen as Choicepoint does, but not for a private company to do it.
There's not much you can really do to prevent it, but this covers the situations in which you can:
How to Avoid Identity Theft (Talk of the Nation, 02.21.05)
ID Theft Scam (Here and Now, 02.22.05)
Saw Melissa Ethridge on the Grammys - she did a great job belting out that Janis Joplin number. And more power to her for the bald look! Not many people can pull that look off, fewer women. The angular features are key, I think. There's that fabulous photo of Princess Caroline, taken when she was bald... I'm not sure why she was bald, it's really none of my business, but I'm glad she had that photo taken and published. It's great. I understand that Ms. Ethridge is being treated for cancer, and so we wish her health and luck and all that good stuff in her recovery.
If I ever have to lose my hair, I'll wear a big old hat. I'll go down south and have one of those Baptist ladies do one up for me - those Baptist ladies who are renown for the monumental confections that they wear a-top their heads to church of a Sunday. It's a religion of its own down there - churchly hat wearing.
I couldn't pull off the bald look, my skull's too bumpy. It's always been that way. As a child,I had a neighbor who claimed it was because I was always bumping into stuff. He called me "Bumpy" as a result. It's not a nickname I really want to revive, so I'd get a hat that was its own statement... Or maybe, one of those powdered wigs like the women at the French courts used to wear - all three feet high, with birds and whatnot attached.
So here's to Melissa Ethridge (who I must say bore a striking resemblance to Louise Nevelson during her performance - all that eyeliner!), may she be well and sing more stuff like she did on the Grammys, very gutsy.
Right after her number, the camera turns away from the stage to pan the audience and lo - Ellen Degeneres is in the front row. I'm not sayin' she shouldn't be, I'm saying it was a bit ham fisted to pan to her right after Melissa Ethridge... "Ooh, look! Two lesbians!" But that's okay - no, it's more than okay, it's great, because we can use all of the positive visibility we can get - and they're two accomplished professionals, who happen to be lesbians, who're terrifically successful to boot!
A well-intentioned acquaintence of Ume's lent us the season one DVD set of the show, "24". She said, "It's really well done! It's original! It'll keep you on the edge of your seat!" Okay, she didn't lend it to us, so much as she pushed it on us.
We watched some of it. Not far in, I turned to Ume and said, "The psychopathic, heartless killer is a lesbian. This is strikingly original? I'm pretty sure I've seen this before."
Double irony - the psycho-dyke is played by the actress who plays psycho-Jenny on "The L-Word". Now there's an actress who's been narrowly typecast...
Ume explained that her acquaintence was younger and probably not well-informed about the negative stereotyping of homosexuals in mainstream media. Sigh.
It's been a bad couple of months for media credibility! More lessons from the right wing play-book in how to coopt a democracy:
1. saturate the media with your biased opinion - always present it as fact
2. get straw men to repeat your message until it's considered legitimate (most people don't know the difference between opinion and objective reporting anyway)
3. freeze out media outlets that you've not been able to co-opt
4. steps 1 to 3 aren't enough to ensure brainwashing, so buy well-placed media personalities to present your opinions as unbiased fact (be sure they don't disclose their funding source)
5. 1, 2, 3 and 4 may also fall short, so find an ex-prostitute (whose prior experience will have taught him how this media thing should really work) for the White House press corps - so he can ask Bush the kind of leading, supportive questions that give Bush yet another platform not to inform, but to disinform.
Brilliant! Wish I'd thought of it.
A hireling, a fraud and a prostitute by Sidney Blumenthal (Guardian, 02.17.05)
Bush administration blurs media boundary By Gail Russell Chaddock (CSMonitor, 02.17.05)
Journalism and Hidden Agendas by David Folkenflik (NPR, text and audio file)
So this thing over Harvard's president is getting really interesting!
He mused, publically, that innate ability may help explain low numbers of female scientists and engineers. Let me be clear - I think he has a total right to muse it - even in a public setting where he was appearing in his professional capacity as the president of Harvard. That might not be my idea of leadership, but apparently, it's his.
But let's not kid ourselves that Larry Summers opened his mouth and mused this into an equal atmosphere for women in the workplace. And that's a big problem with his ill-thought out statement - as he seems to now understand, or so one might assume from his apology. And perhaps also from his saying, in the aftermath, that he was naive and WRONG in his remarks.
But his problem has not gone away. Seems that folks at Harvard have some serious problems with Mr. Summers' leadership style (I can't imagine why, he seems so sensitive and thoughtful). This isn't the first time Mr. Summers has tripped upon sensitive cultural tripwires. And so there's this huge power struggle going on and media spin and all sorts of fascinating machinations. And people are trying to paint Mr. Summers in all manner of lights. The one I find most interesting is martyr. As in, he's a dynamic, tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy who said something the liberal elite doesn't like and so he's being politically corrected. Boo-hoo.
Still, it's fascinating - because, yes, an atmosphere in which you're not allowed to voice controversial ideas is appalling - most especially in academia. Drives me nuts. The political correctness, "You WILL think and act in this prescribed fashion" thing is dangerous and freaking obnoxious besides. Sure, I don't want people calling me names and threatening me 'cuz I'm gay, it's not my favorite way to pass the time. But the ones who will anyway? They're not much swayed by an atmosphere of, "You're bigotted scum - we're going to purge you." They might possibly learn to keep their traps shut - but they'll take the first opportunity to bite you in the ass just the same. Extreme behavior generates extreme responses. Political correctness backfired on the left in the biggest way. At it's heart, there may be good intentions meant, but in practice - it's a mind fuck.
I probably can't contribute anything new to the debate on political correctness. I'm just watching with fascination as this Harvard thing plays out - seeing how each side chooses to frame their points - and their opponents. I think Summers' supporters are doing the better job, I think he's going to do just fine. I wonder how he'll feel about women after this? Hmm... And I wonder if the hiring of women in the sciences will continue to decline at Harvard - as it has since Larry Summers took office?
Great short radio blurb on the issue:
The Gender Gap in Math and Science Careers (Day to Day, 01.19.05, audio file)
What are the women scientists thinking? Fabulous discussion!
Women in Science (Talk of the Nation, 01.28.05, audio file)
Under Fire at Harvard (The Connection, 02.22.05, audio file)
Great link to catch up on the story:
Harvard Faculty Discuss Embattled President
by Frank Langfitt (NPR.org, 02.22.05, text and audio file)
Huzzah, huzzah! It's 50 degrees and I've been out dancing on the soot-encrusted remnants of the blizzard - that are rapidly fizzling to nothing!
It's the small things in life, no?
Ooh! Ume gave me a cd with Peggy Lee (a favorite) singing "Fever" - growl. There's a bit of Blossom Dearie on it, Lucinda Williams signing "Passionate Kisses", Ethel Merman singing "You're the Top" - ooh la-la, Anita Baker doing "You Bring Me Joy". I dunno, I'm beginning to think Ume may just, maybe, kinda like me or somethin'.
Hey, the Royal Academy of the Bards posted their annual Valentines special, check it out! Valentine's Invitational 2005
I've read the most sad, lonely thing. And in historical context, it's facinating in its way.
In the late 40's, Richard Feynman's wife, Arlene, died of tuberculosis in a hospital near Los Alamos, NM. It was just before the second world war ended and the bombs that her husband was integral in creating, were exploded - killing over one hundred thousand people.
Two years later he wrote her a letter. He wrote about how much he'd loved her and how much a part of him she'd become and how much he missed and was lost without her. His anguish is so very raw, so very poignant.
Loss of a loved one - that deeply felt experience of impermanence. Impermanence. Sigh.
And here comes Valentines Day - a day set aside to celebrate romantic love... As I grow older, it strikes me as a less and less repulsive idea. Once you make the obligatory sneer at the commercialization of Valentine's Day (and just about any aspect of human behavior), you might spare a moment to appreciate the absurdity of setting aside a day to celebrate the frivolous notion of romantic love...
My mother warned me about romantic love early on. "Don't marry for love, only money. I married for love and look where it got me."
She worried that I was guided too much by things heart-wise, and counseled me not to be so emotionally driven. "Feelings only get you into trouble, don't be so emotional."
I was too young to appreciate the fact that she was talking to herself out loud. And she was too much herself to realize that she had an impressionable audience.
I found a letter my mother wrote to my father when she was very ill, and death had become something more than an abstract concept. The letter was neatly typed on her stationary. It was a letter meant to console him - a poem about loving deeply, and letting go. He kept it in his desk where he sat each day, in a pigeon hole within arms reach, until his own death.
What was my mother trying so hard to spare me from - besides the toil of a work-a-day life? Watching my parents say goodbye, it became especially clear.
My father, after forty years of marriage to my mother, and surviving her brief and brutal illness (which he saw her through every step of the way), couldn't talk about her for years after her death. Mixed in with all that grief was a lot of anger, and not the kind I was told one ought to expect. You see, they'd had a deal - he was supposed to die first (from the stress of having put up with her for as long as he had), and she was supposed to spread his ashes triumphantly over the open ocean. They'd discussed it, apparently... (parents - go figure). It didn't happen that way, obviously.
Thankfully, he got on with living, remarried, and eventually forgave my mother for leaving him contrary to the agreed plan - or so I gathered, because seven years after her death he stared to mention her fondly again.
It's a complex sort of notion, love - of any kind. Romantic love is said to be a social construct and a luxury, a cultural byproduct. Be that as it may - it can also be a good deal of fun while it lasts - a natural high - and as we're essentially party people here at the Celestial Buffet - we like it! And celebrate it and whatnot! Because, if I've learned nothing else, life is for the living. And the courageous do not shy from the pain that loss may bring, because there are no guarantees, and life is each moment, and each moment is precious and full of possibility. And before it starts to sound like a sappy greeting card and I vomit all over my keyboard, I think I'll leave it at that.
P.S. As much as I loved and respected my mother, I never took her advice. I went with the love. Must be in the genes.
Well, well, well - ain't that White House budget something? Weren't they just recently accusing someone of fuzzy math? Remarkable.
"Here's the budget! It just doesn't include a couple of minor figures in it. But don't worry, they're just minor, itty-bitty figures, nothing significant, nothing to worry your pretty heads over. What are they? I said small, insignificant - isn't that good enough for you? Nosy damn people - fine - it's the cost of the war, medicaid, tax cuts and the whopping cost of privatizing your lousy security in your later years when you'll be nothing but a burden - which isn't to say you're not one now!
"Oh, but don't worry about those tax cuts, because even though we can't afford 'em, we're going to keep 'em in there. We'll just gut a few of these educational programs that aren't doing anyone in my tax bracket any good - then, instead of reinvesting that money in education, we'll just say we've had to make a tough decision that's not popular and put that money into the Pentagon's rapidly ballooning budget. So what if that looks like a reallocatiion of funds away from social spending and toward the military industrail complex - under the pretext of balancing the budget (HA!). We don't have to care what you think."
On a lighter note, the news from the Middle East is looking promising... I'm almost afraid to look - I'll just squint at it and hope that it can grow beyond the means of extremists to derail it.
Great conversation on the day after the budget was released - covers how the budget issue is shaping up and how the process works: Who Gets What? (The Connection, 02.08.05)
In the news:
The government wouldn't stoop to paying nationally syndicated columnists to skew the marriage debate... would they? Why, some might call that - propaganda! Unethical, even. They wouldn't do that! Oh YES they would!:
McManus and Gallagher have more in common than Bush administration contracts (MediaMatters.org)
Third columnist caught with hand in the Bush till by Eric Boehlert (Salon.com, 01.27.05)
Pundit: Contract Tied to Coverage Promoting Administration (All Things Considered, 01.07.05, audio file)
So where's the gay marriage debate at nationally in these perilous times? Good round up:
Right Looks to State of the Union (Here and Now, 02.01.05, audio file)
Virginia focus of battle over gay marriage by Nina J. Easton (Boston Globe, 01.16.05)
While we're considering narrow-minded, faith-based policy... There's this article:
Texas Teens Increased Sex After Abstinence Program (Reuters, 01.31.05)
Ontario must say 'no' to Islamic law by Mona Eltahawy (CSMonitir, 02.02.05)
And we might want to think twice about our own religion issues:
God and the Innaugural (Here and Now, 01.26.05, audio file)
Happily, Harvard's president is still getting it for his stupid remarks about women in science. One of the people who's taken public issue with his remarks is the new president of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) - a woman:
3 university chiefs chide Summers on remarks by Marcella Bombardieri (Boston Globe, 02.12.05)