posted 10.30.05

Given the state of the world lately, the crisis followed by crisis, with the threat of crisis of untold magnitude to follow, Ume and I are feeling tremendously fortunate to have mundane concerns. Simple, everyday challenges - nothing life threatening, nothing overly taxing. A flu pandemic could change that... but here, now, in this moment, we're blessed with relatively inconsequential frictions and feeling lucky because of it.

I know people who crave distraction - if their lives calm down and there isn't a crisis to keep them running ragged until they drop, they get pregnant, buy a house, run off with the neighbor's dog - that sort of thing. Whatever keeps them juiced up, buzzed on friction - they do it - not necessarily consciously... but they do it all the same. Personally, I don't know where they get the energy. And besides, I've got enough problems without hunting more down, and where would I go with the neighbor's dog anyhow?

Ume's allergic to dogs. She's more allergic to cats, but allergic enough to dogs, so she'd put the kibosh on the whole business pretty quick. "What do you think you're doing with that dog?"

"Things are all placid and whatnot! I'm in danger of introspection, of inadvertently gaining insight into a life that's frayed about the edges. I've got to run off with this dog!"

"I don't think so, pal," she'd say. "You're going to bring that dog back before whoever owns it calls the cops, and take the garbage out on your way. If you want to distract yourself from the void that lurks between your ears, why don't you spend some time cleaning up around here? That should keep you occupied for... well, years."

"Manual labor?! I'm having an existential crisis and you're prescribing manual labor? Next, you'll be sending me out into the countryside for a little re-education, Mao-style. Well I won't go! You won't be rid of me so easily! Besides, there's bugs and greasy food out in those parts, my rarified city ways would make the natives uncomfortable and you know how I dread stressed suburbanites! You're a cruel woman, Ume Boshi, to think of putting me through such a trial. How could you after all we've been through together?"

"I can see your fancy is mid-flight... so take out the trash, return the dog, and I'll make some tea and whip your butt at Cribbage. That ought to ground you."

"Oh please!" I'd exclaim. "You couldn't beat me at Cribbage if I lost half of my wits and the other half went off looking for them."

"Your delusions never cease to amuse me."

"Oh yeah? Well just you wait until I get back, we'll see who's more delusional, and don't put too much milk in my tea, woman! Touche and whatnot. Come on Rufus, it's back to the screaming horde of children that pull at your ears."

"It's nothing personal, Rufus, really," she'd say. "It's just that, well, I've gotten used to her around the place. Sorry."

Rufus is a lively sort and probably enjoys the screaming horde, so he'd take going back to them alright. Las Vegas wouldn't suit a dog like Rufus anyway. That's where I figure we'd have ended up - Las Vegas. It's full of sparkly lights and fast women (I saw a show that said as much on television), sounds like just the place to keep yourself distracted with trouble you don't need.

Ume's swell - makes a mean cup of tea, and occasionally, occasionally, mind you, she beats me at Cribbage. I don't hold it against her, I'm big about it and whatnot, but we strive to keep my having to be magnanimous to a minimum.

So we're feeling fortunate these days, in our mundane and soggy little corner of the planet. Fall's been sort of a damp affair... leaves going from green, to edged with color, to on the ground. Hope you all are keeping safe and as mundane as suits you best.



Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, has been indicted for the Valerie Plame leak - Karl Rove has not been indicted - yet. Rove is still under investigation (probably trying to cut a deal).

Over the last couple of months we've witnessed the puff and bluster of the Bush administration shown for what it is, even to the simple of the simple. Finally! Will wonders never cease?

All it took was a criminal war, criminal mis-managing of that war, a totally bungled response to hurricane Katrina, soaring gas prices, the Miers nomination down the toilet and over 2000 American soldier's dead in Iraq (the number of Iraqi civilian deaths don't impact our public opinion much, maybe because they're not recorded by the military, and are seldomly quoted in the media).

And then, there's all of the corruption issues in the Republican congress. Hmm... Wonder if there's some parallels we can draw here?


I think this animation captures it well... Bush in Freefall

Endless supply of articles and discussions on this, here's a few:

Sheilds and Brooks Discuss Indictment (NewsHour, 10.28.05)

Cheney's office at center of CIA leak indictment

Bleak week for Bush bottoms out with Libby charges


It's snowing. It's October and it's snowing big fat sloppy flakes... sigh.

I like this site "Facts About Sexual Orientation" - some great info!

And check out this store of goodies, on Stonewall and Beyond: Lesbian and Gay Culture

Also of interest: glbtq - an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture

Did you know that Margaret Mead was queer? Bisexual at least... Nobody tells me nothin'.

Ooh la! Zorro is back! More importantly - Catherine Zeta-Jones is back in "Zorro"! Damn, that woman is hot. I've seen her in a couple of movies, but she's nowhere near as hot as she was in "Zorro". Sizzle.

Hey - Lucy Lawless is going to be in "Vampire Bats!" - showing on a tube near you on Sunday. Sounds suitably campy. Which, of course, reminds us that Halloween is tomorrow and so we oughtn't forget to check out the Halloween offerings over at the Royal Academy of Bards!

In the news

Rosa Parks passed away - I thought this was a an interesting piece on her activism, The Other Rosa (On The Media, 10.28.05)

So many articles, so little time...
Week in Review: Libby, Rove, Miers (Weekend Edition, 10.29.05, audio file)

Why not check out Harper's Magazine's Weekly Review to catch all of the salient point?
Harper's Weekly Review (10.25.05)
Harper's Weekly Review (10.18.05)


posted 10.09.05

We're sending out our wishes for peace and safety in the wake of the earthquake that has devastated parts of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

Quake toll tops 20,000 in stricken Pakistan, India (Reuters, 09.07.05)

It's been such a difficult couple of months. The news from Central America in the wake of Hurricane Stan has been harrowing as well.

Guatemala may declare mudslide Mayan mass grave (Reuters, 09.07.05)

Meanwhile, in the heavens

Reported 10th planet Xena has moon named Gabrielle (Reuters, 10.02.05)

In charge

"Women in business do not cry, my dear."
-- Martha Stewart

Only if you know that trick to prevent tears - look up! Really, if you're fighting off a bout of tears, roll your eyes toward the ceiling, this is supposed to help.

We've been watching the Martha "Apprentice" spectacle. It's poke-the-bruise fascinating. Why people like her so much is beyond me, she seems on the verge of swallowing herself whole - right through those tight lips. For a woman of Polish ancestry, she's more WASP than many of the WASPs I know - but I guess that's her schtick - the do-it-yourself, self made woman and all. "Now this week on Martha Stewart Living, I'll show you how to behave more pinched and repressed than any WASP at the local yacht club."

So I don't get why people like her. Ume says it's because she validates women in a way that the society at large doesn't. She celebrates the decorative endeavors women undertake to make their environments and lives more appealing, for themselves and others. For less creative folk, she offers an avenue by which they can express themselves - and for the creative, she offers a range of options that they can draw from readily. (Ume's way deep, no?) I find her interesting, because she's like the Julia Child of KMart shopping. "My fellow countrywomen! You don't have to settle for cheap synthetic crap, here let me show you..." Oh, and she's an amazingly successful business woman, who's even managed to capitalize on a guilty verdict and jail time! We admire such chutzpah.

But the whole crying remark... it's a touchy subject, crying. Like Martha, there are those of us who'd prefer to see a woman bite through her own tongue than shed tears in the workplace. But realistically, all of that blood would be messy, and most of us know women who just don't have that kind of control over their waterworks. Some don't want it - I mean honestly, who gives a flying turd what Wanda and Steve at the Tech Desk think if you get a little teary over a project that went south? And then there are the wily among us - the ones who use tears strategically - don't you just love them?

I wonder if Martha feels the same way about women losing their temper in business, as she does about women crying? I've had women bosses who felt that anger was an effective means of expressing one's feelings to employees. One, in particular, a favorite of mine (that was sarcasm, in case you missed it), once told me that she preferred her employees to fear, rather than respect her. "You'll get more work out of an employee who fears you, than one who respects you," she told me. This, I suppose, was how she got employees to walk her dog, and spy on her children. I didn't, but my co-workers found no end of excuses for doing it - "Well, I'm just going to do it this weekend, then I'll tell her I'm busy and can't do it next time."

I once argued with her that it wouldn't hurt if she was a little less caustic to some of the people doing construction for her. She was absolutely cruel to a couple of them. "I don't need people to like me, I need them to work. These guys are lazy, and if you don't stand over them and call them names, they won't do spit."

It wasn't long before she found an excuse to chew me out on the job - admittedly, I did something pretty stupid - but she threatened me with such venom in her voice and eyes that I figured something else was going on and it had little, if anything, to do with my blunder in front of the president of the company (oops!). It wasn't long after that freakish episode that I got my ass out of loony-ville, and clear of her psychotically insecure, thuggish management style...

Unfortunately, I graduated to a boss who, in a fit of rage, yelled at me, "In the real work world, Brulee, they're going to chew you up and spit you out!" She too, had no management skills...

You'd think after these charmers I'd shrink from female bosses, but no! I found yet another - and she too had little to no talent for management. Why? Why couldn't any of these women manage others well? I think it's because Title 9 hadn't been around when these women went through school. Had they benefitted from the wonders of Title 9, more of them would have played on sports teams and might have gotten a fucking clue early on about leading groups of people, and not had to rely on bullying and other forms of manipulation to get results (you rely on those, you'll get results, sure, but the law of diminishing returns will haunt your pathetic ass unless you're offering some pretty decent compensation - but if you're in a business that can endure a high turn-over rate in employees, then by all means, be an asshole - it takes less skill and imagination, that's for sure).

My all time favorite boss was a woman. She was a riot and didn't give a shit about her job - because she was about to leave it. So she let the inmates run the asylum. She happened to hire decent people, trained us well, and told us what she expected of us, so we managed to run things fairly easily.

One night she found out that I didn't know how to drive, and insisted that I learn.

"But I can walk everywhere I need to go," I explained.

She was appalled, "Get out in the parking lot - you're going to learn to drive."

"But Liv, I don't have a learner's permit, I'm not allowed to drive."

"You're not going to hit anything, I'll be in the car with you."

I knew her logic was flawed, but went along for the ride. Mostly, I loved her car, a weathered old BMW, and I didn't want to wreck it. Which I came close to doing... Yes, she'd lost it, was completely burned out, and needed a break - which was why her judgement was less than sound. My first subtle clue to this was when she'd hired me, "Look, I'm done with this place, I'm going to let you run it. I'll do all of the books and financial stuff, but I'm hiring you to do the rest." I suppose there are people who'd leave their jobs in the hands of a nineteen year old, but I've yet to meet the sane ones.

Liv was a whole lot of fun to work for - before she sprung herself from the joint. Even as burned out as she was, I never saw her cry, and I never heard her threaten or demoralize anyone. She did yell though, not in a menacing way, more out of exasperation. She wasn't a saint and she wasn't perfect, but we worked our butts off for her.

Counting them up, I've had more decent female supervisors than I've had bad ones - it's just that the few bad ones... they were disasters. To commemorate all of the managerially challenged female bosses I've had, I'm listening to Lauren Weisberger's novel, "The Devil Wears Prada".

In the news: health and science wise

Crazy all of the goings on recently!

Stem Cells Restore Mobility to Paraplegic Woman (DamnInteresting, 10.06.05)

A potentially amazing discovery:
Vaccine prevents early cervical cancer (Reuters, 10.06.05)

While we're on the subject:
HPV and Cervical Cancer (Lesbian Worlds article)

From the Ooh-That's-Scary-But-Fascinating file:
Scientists re-create 1918 flu pandemic virus (Boston Globe, 10.06.05)

In the news

"An aura of corruption does not help the party in power." ---Dan Schorr

Karl Rove goes back to testify - again!
Top Bush aide to testify again in CIA leak probe (Reuters, 10.06.05)

Harriet Miers was nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. You'd think that after the cronyism charges following Katrina, Bush might look farther afield than his personal lawyer for a nominee... But then, that might require imagination, so forget it.
Harriet Miers Nominated for Supreme Court (NPR coverage)

Manila says espionage case is US business (Reuters, 10.06.05)

What is wrong with these people?
Bennett defended racial comments with falsehood (MediaMatters)

Goings on

posted 10.02.05

Standing in a shop the other day, I noted what at first glance looked like a tattoo on a young clerk's arm... on closer inspection, it was a raw crisscross of slashes - all about two inches long - in varying degrees of healing - one quite fresh.

A prickle of revulsion crawled across my shoulders. I once saw a kid slash his forearm with a razor blade during class in high school. He was smiling a sickly demented smile and staring at the blood - before he covered it with his sleeve. What drugs he was on, I could only guess. The teacher, a usually cheerful, zany sort of lady reacted quickly and got him help. There was such a mix of pain and shock in her response, and something of a glimmer of understanding for a student who was more often than not an unpleasant pain in the ass.

In a nutshell...

Well, it's official - business owns the country and religion owns your body - they've confirmed John Roberts as Head Justice of the Supreme Court.

Hope you all like this reality America - you voted for it.

Oh, and your conservative "bringing accountability and respectability back to government" saviors are having a banner week:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted on criminal charges of criminal conspiracy

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is under formal investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission

The U.S. Government Accountability Office said Friday that the Bush Administration violated laws prohibiting the use of covert propaganda when it secretly paid broadcaster/columnist Armstrong Williams to promote its education policies

Judith Miller left jail to talk about which White House employee leaked the name of a CIA operative to the press

Meanwhile Islamic fundamentalist zealots have killed more people in Bali: Bombings Kill 25 as Terror Returns to Bali

And in Iraq: Car bombs kill more than 60 north of Baghdad

Distractions are called for

A spot of good news! A feature length Wallace and Grommit film is coming to a theater near you: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

On the gay marriage front

Connecticut Hands Out Civil Union Licenses (All Things Considered, 10.01.05)

Schwarzenegger axes gay marriage (BBC, 09.30.05)

In other news

Judge orders release of Abu Ghraib abuse pictures (Reuters, 09.29.05)

Bush uttered the "C" word...
Do As I Say, Not As I Do (APAF, 09.27.05)

Harper's Weekly Review (09.20.05)

Excerpt: The Vatican was investigating all 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States for evidence of homosexuality, and Pope Benedict XVI spoke to an exorcists' convention, encouraging the audience to "carry on their important work."

American Progress Action Fund (09.23.05)

Excerpt: It's a Small World (of Corruption) After All

The widening probe into corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff ensnared its first major victim this week -- former head of procurement at the White House Office of Management and Budget, David Safavian. Safavian was arrested for lying about his role in -- and obstructing a federal investigation of -- Abramoff. "Abramoff, 46, a top fund-raiser for Bush's re-election campaign, is under investigation by a government task force consisting of the Justice Department's public integrity section, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Interior Department's inspector general." The information that has recently come to light reveals a story of corruption involving government officials at the highest levels of the White House and Congress, high-powered right-wing lobbyists, and even individuals with strong terrorist connections.

ABRAMOFF BRAGGED OF CONNECTIONS TO KARL ROVE: Today, the Washington Post reports that Abramoff "bragged two years ago that he was in contact with White House political aide Karl Rove on behalf of a large, Bermuda-based corporation that wanted to avoid incurring some taxes and continue receiving federal contracts." The accusation about Rove's involvement in helping Tyco International Ltd. (a company currently dealing with its own ethical and legal troubles) secure its offshore tax breaks was made by Tim Flanigan, President Bush's nominee to be deputy attorney general. Rove, who is facing his own federal investigation over his involvement in the leak of an undercover CIA agent's identity, claimed through a White House spokeswoman that he had "no recollection" of being contacted by Abramoff about Tyco.