Category Archives: Etc.

If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face

Ichiro Suzuki may be the most genius man since Chuck Norris. Seriously, the man’s a damn Delphic Oracle. How many times has your gut begun to fill with a rage you didn’t have the words for? I mean, just yesterday, when some ass in a truck with “Power Wagon” stamped on the side cut me off, I was filled with a fury that knew no words, just the pounding of my fists on the steering wheel. Fortunately, friends, Ichiro has the words for all of us: “I hope he arouses the fire that’s dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger.”

That’s actually much more useful than a Magic 8 ball. Ichiro, do I really have to go to the gym today? Response: “It’s the same if you were to meet a beautiful girl and go bowling. If she’s an ugly bowler, you are going to be disappointed.”

* * * *

Speaking of genius dudes, I’m really liking the guy who’s teaching my poetry workshop this summer (the actual workshop I enrolled in and paid for, not the one that I went to for an hour and a half before realizing it was the wrong day). Example: yesterday he was talking about attention and how writers are influenced by other writers’ attention and traced a line from Milton to Blake to Whitman to Ginsberg, and just as I was thinking, true, true, but does it really have to be all about the menfolk?, he said, “Sorry all those examples were dudes.” (And he does really, and obviously consciously, include women poets just as often in his examples as men.) Also he made us all vegetarian chili one class.

* * * *

Things I did yesterday include: make coconut ice cream, make vanilla Butterfinger ice cream, make the base for strawberry ice cream, roast tomatoes for Israeli couscous, buy $7 pants, rent Mario Party 8, and eat cookies at my workshop. Things I’ve done today include: bake two loaves of bread, one with roasted garlic cloves inspired by a trip with petit to the Kona Brewing Company, cook black beans for black bean and corn salad, make peppermint ice cream with mint oreos, and burn my finger on a Pyrex casserole dish.

Can you tell I’m not working now? Summer school ended on Tuesday, and I couldn’t be happier. That is, until next Wednesday, when I have to drag myself back to work like a jerk.

But now we’re getting ready for a party (salads! ice cream! watermelon daiquiris! and a spider monkey, promised by my friend Amanda) and contemplating a trip to the gym. What are you up to?

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I’m not really the President. I just play one on TV.

Or so seems to be the message coming out of presidential hopeful Fred Thompson’s incipient ’08 campaign.

Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp, remarked, as quoted in Slate, “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but when you play a president in a movie and you fit the part, people believe you can carry it out in real life. That’s one thing that Fred believes that no one in either party can bring.”

And this is the guy who’s on Thompson’s side! He’s offering not actual credibility, knowledge, or experience, but merely the ability to project those qualities.

I know as well as anyone – a certain amount of bravado and bluffing will get you a long way. It’s a lesson I learned on the first day of my first year of teaching, when, asked the direction to a room I’d never heard of (at rm 150 I was at the end of the hallway as I knew it and I was asked where 153 was!) I pointed bravely in the opposite direction and made a turning motion with my hand.

The right kind of swagger counts for a lot – out in the hallway, when you’re making the first impression. But when the classroom door closes and the kids realize you’ve got nothing to back up that swagger, the gig’s up. I imagine the same thing’s true of being president.

Imagine, if you will, an all-Law and Order presidency: Sam Waterston as Attorney General! Mariska Hargitay as Secretary of State! Ice-T as Secretary of Defense (and his evil TV-brother Ludacris as . . . umm, Director of the FBI?) Oh no, I could go on and on! Maybe this is the fun of fantasy football.

Just think – rather than the predictable lies and deceit, followed by sloppy cover-up, followed by indignant refusal to respond to questions /subpoenas about said cover-up, we could have the predictable dead or injured body 3 minutes in, the initial suspect whose name is cleared, followed by the suspect who was there all along if only you’d had eyes to see it, final plot twist 47 minutes in, and all of it comfortingly resolved in the end. Dick Wolf, you syndication genius, be mine.

Of course, if Jerry Orbach were running, I’d vote for him in a hearbeat.

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Things I love.

So on the list of things I love, This American Life is pretty high near the top.  Starting Thursday, the radio show is becoming a TV show, and I’ve been a bit fascinated about how the show will be adapted for TV.  Not enough, unfortunately, to be willing to cough up the extra for Showtime, but enough to follow it and eagerly anticipate its release on DVD.  In any event, a preview of the show is here.  And there’s several trailers on the TAL site (above).
What do you think?  I have mixed emotions.

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Late to the party.

I missed last Thursday’s Blog Against Sexism by, uh, a week now. But I was intrigued by the entries on petitpoussin’s link round-up, especially the ones like this on the cleverly titled (and clever!) Persephone’s Box. Sage organizes her entry by means of a feminism Q&A with questions like “Why do all feminists disagree?” and “Why do so many feminists hate men?” Petitpoussin uses the same strategy in her “everything you wanted to know about . . . ” page (except she has a snappy one-size-fits-all answer to the questions she poses).

Are these really questions people are asking you? Now I realize that not everyone is having the same conversations I’m having (many of you don’t spend most of your day talking to 14 year olds, for example) but I’ve found remarkably few people who don’t already identify with feminism interested in talking about it. In my experience, and much to my frustration, most people are either already engaged with feminist issues, or they don’t think feminism is relevant. They’re either talking and thinking about it already, or they don’t think about it at all.

I hope that I’m wrong and there are people out there asking sincere questions and finding feminists willing to spend time talking to them. But it often sounds like, even in the vast blogosphere, we’re just preaching to the choir.

The figure of the man-hating feminist, as raised by both H. and Sage, is one we have yet to shake and perhaps we never will. But I think the spectre of the woman-hating feminist is worth raising as well.

To that end, I introduce you to my grandmother.

My grandmother is a tiny but formidable woman, the kind of old-school lady who never wore pants until she was forced to during rehab from knee surgery in her 80s. She still gets her hair done at the salon twice a week and she wouldn’t think of going anywhere without fixing her lipstick. I’m sure she’s never missed a mass in her life.

But for all her traditional manners and mores, my grandmother is (and she’d be horrified if she heard me say it, so let’s whisper) a feminist.

She went to college (in the 1940s, mind you) and majored in economics because she wanted to become president of the bank her father owned. After graduating she became a bit more realistic and decided the best she could do, being a woman, was to become an executive secretary. And so she went, college diploma in hand, to Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School in New York. Something happened, and she wouldn’t elaborate, so I don’t know if it was just a change of mind or perhaps something juicier, and she decided that route wasn’t for her, so she went home and got married.

By the time she was my age, she’d already given birth to two babies, one who lived only a few days, and one who became my eldest aunt. She had two more babies, a lawyer husband, a country club membership. But her father always told her she was wasting her life, all her intelligence, and when he died something shifted in her again and she went to work. She started as a junior assistant case worker at a social welfare agency in the rural county in Pennsylvania and by the time she retired she was director of that agency.

She told me this story only recently and in an offhand kind of way, as if it wasn’t at once both remarkable and emblematic of so many women’s struggles in her and my lifetime. Which is fine. Not many women, especially my relatively unassuming grandmother, are willing to see their own lives as symbols of anything. I like this story for all the contradictory twists and turns, not least the unexpectedness of it, coming from a woman I’ve known my whole life but know fairly little about.

But this is the same woman who, when finding out that my cousin and her husband had lived together before marriage, remarked, at that same cousin’s wedding, “Looks like the bloom is off the rose.”

This is the same woman whose unflagging manners failed her for more than a moment when introduced to the female minister who was to marry my cousin. My aunt had to introduce the offending minister twice before my grandmother could recoil her claws enough to shake hands.

And so on.

Haven’t we all known – and likely occasionally have been – the much-discussed “token woman”? I feel like one of the most dangerous tendencies in well-meaning feminism is the inability to reconcile being just as intellectual/savvy/tough/fill in your own adjectives as any man with not wanting to also believe that you’re more _________ (fill in your own adjective) than any other woman. So many of us think really critically about our own choices, from education to relationships to dress, and we carry that critical stance into our dealings with other women.

I think there’s a real tendency for women – especially, perhaps, for feminists, who are aware of the multiplied obstacles still facing women – to believe that their accomplishments are the result of being specially able, specially hardworking, etc – and to then want to criticize/demonize/look down on the women around them. I can’t tell you how often I hear my female students say things in the vein of, “I hate girls – they’re so catty/mean/gossippy.” Hell, I know adult women who will proudly declare that they don’t have friends who are women, for the same reasons. And I’ve heard myself say or think some pretty awful things about other women and have been much appalled when I’ve rethought the impetus of that criticism. I think there’s still a strong sense that there’s only room for a very few women to be special and successful – and many of us have a pretty vicious tendency to want to push other women out of the competition.

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Since you didn’t ask . . .

Yesterday at salon.com Cary Tennis, whom I usually love dearly, weighed in on a reader’s question about what to do with a pregnancy she wants – just not right now. Basically, she took Plan B but found herself in the 10% or so for whom it’s not effective. She’s happily married and wants to have kids, but yet.

Normally I’m inclined to think, whether it’s fair or not, that men don’t have much of a right to weigh in on abortion, unless to say that what a woman wants to do with her own body is her own business – but the reader did ask for his advice. After suggesting that she have the baby, he goes on to ask about the appropriateness of abortion to this situation:

Let us ask why this option of abortion even exists. Does it exist mainly for the purpose you are considering — to time the pregnancy? And if that were its main purpose, would it even be legal? Is it not legal because it provides much more fundamental freedoms?

To be fair, he then tempers these comments by saying, “That is not to say that it would not be philosophically correct that it be legal under any circumstances — as has been argued, a woman ought to control her own body.” But still. The damage is done, the issue of “abortion of convenience” has been raised – and that’s a variety of guilt that I imagine Tennis, being a man, doesn’t feel in the same visceral way a woman might. I hesitate to speculate about the feelings of the woman who wrote to Tennis, but it seems unfair that in asking for advice about the choice to undergo a safe and legal medical procedure, she’s instead subjected to moralizing advice about the proper use of this procedure. Moreover, he stops just short of suggesting that she is in fact betraying all those who work to make and keep abortion legal by considering its use in this “off-label” way – “So as you weigh these things, you may come to feel that the most appropriate use of abortion is the one whose gravity and urgency match the conditions under which the right is seen as most just.” Or you might decide to kill your baby because you’d rather fritter away a few more years before becoming a mother. You know, whatever.

Am I being unfair? My sense is that Tennis does his reader a grave disservice by responding to a question of his own asking – if abortion is equally legal in a certain set of situations, is it also equally morally acceptable? – rather than responding to her question. His question is an interesting one in another context, but not this one. Given the charged nature of the abortion debate and the guilt that women are so often made to feel, the implicit response – abortion is the selfish choice, not always, but here, for you in particular – seems damaging and cruel. And a large part of me still thinks that until someone can grow that man a womb, he needs to shut his mouth.

Thoughts?

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