Tuesday, June 26, 2007

WaPo on the Dark Lord + Platanos & Collard Greens Anyone?

In case anyone has missed it so far, the Washington Post is running a series of articles, under the general title "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency," that suggest Dick Cheney is possibly the most powerful and dangerous Vice President we have ever had, and perhaps on par with the previous candidate for this dubious honor, Aaron Burr. But the thorough, informative articles aren't simply a catalogue of scaremongering anecdotes, though there are more than enough of those. Instead, they portray a zealous, unimaginably powerful extremist ideologue who's essentially a marioneteer, except that the puppet show he controls is the US government, our federal government. The "Commander Guy" has his say, but you can guess who wins in the end, often by convincing the "Decider" to go right along with his plans. And who said mesmerism and ventriloquy were lost arts?

(On some blogs, there's been discussion of the meta aspects of these articles; some bloggers surmise that they were prepared a while ago, but held back by the Post's editors, causing a mini-tempest, etc. Given how frequently the Post does backflips for the administration, would confirmation of this revelation cause the least surprise?)

Meanwhile, the doyenne of Official Washington, who recently was demanding that Barack Obama show his papers, is now airing her cohort's concerns that, well, Cheney might just have to go. Figure that! In 2007, after nearly two complete terms worth of damage! And who would replace him? Get ready: a certain tired, ill, not very sharp former lobbyist and current TV actor who seems, mysteriously, to activate their erogenous zones....

***

Platanos and Collard GreensI was holding in mind the post last week on Latinos of African descent as I reread this report on David Lamb's play Platanos and Collard Greens [behind a Times Select wall, my apologies] by Ginia Bellafante* in the New York Times. I haven't seen it but I want to (along with Grey Gardens, The Coast of Utopia, and about 2-3 other current theatrical offerings in NYC), and not just because of the title's culinary appeal. Bellanfante's "review" makes the piece sound quite simplistic but worth noting because da folks--da folks!--keep returning to see it. (The play's website gives me a different, better impression.) But then again, she notes its origins in Lamb's life and as a novel, the demand among New York City high school students for the prose text to become a play, and how viewers keep returning to it. So I do want to see what it's like. Has anyone out there seen it yet? Thoughts?

*Every time I read her name, I see Belafonte!

***

Reply to Kai: Blogger won't let me post to my own comments section, so here's what I was trying to write to you:

Hi Kai, I'm glad you enjoyed Blood Meridian. I'm not surprised it ravished, but did you find its content and ethical stances disturbing, morally troubling, etc.? It is his best book, with Suttree and the first two books of his Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing, also demonstrate his genius. I am looking forward to getting to The Road later this summer. He's too much too read while I'm immersed in my own writing; the centripetal pull of his prose is undeniable. I agree about Bolaño's The Savage Detectives, though the narrative slows in the latter sections, to good purpose. Have you read Bolaño's spellbinding Last Night in Chile? There are pages where the lyricism takes flight--figuratively (I'll say no more, but you know the moment when you reach it)...that work alone certifies his importance to me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Emo Outreach Project Launches + Reading + Today in History

Finally, after many months (of delays), I've been able to launch the "Emotional Outreach Project, v. 3.0" under the auspices of the Field Study Research Group A. All of the people who've signed up and given the name of a designee should receive their packets (an example at right) within the next week.

I'd originally initiated a call for participants back in 2005, and then held off this new version for a year until I received my projected number of participants. I then reposted my call for participants, but after waiting for a long while, I still did not receive the projected number of participants, so I decided to start things up anyway so as not to delay them any further.

There are a few openings left, so if any J's Theater readers would like to participate, please send an email to Field Study Research Group A (or fieldstudyresearchgroup[AT SIGN]yahoo.com, and I will try to get the packet to you very soon. I'll be starting a different blog for other Field Study Research Group A projects, and will post on that when it's up and running.

===

I wrote to a friend recently that in addition to getting some writing done, I've been able to hit the books for my own purposes. A few of the books I've finished so far include Alain Mabanckou's African Psycho (in English translation, not the French original), Anne Carson's Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides (her translation, each with an introductory essay, of Herakles, Hekabe, Hippolytis, and Alkestis), Jay Wright's Music's Mask and Measure, Christopher Isherwood's Prater Violet, Twain's Huckleberry Finn (for a particular project), Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (I'm partway through The Subtle Knife, and C gave me the third volume in the trilogy for my birthday), and, after years of having only read selected essays by Benedict Anderson, I've finally finished his Imagined Communities. The university library is already requesting several books back, so I'm going to need to begin visiting the New York Public Library's Main Research and Schomburg branches again, and do so early enough to get a seat in the reading room. What are you reading these days?

===

An auspicious day, June 25. On this day in 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his forces lost the the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana to Sioux and Cheyanne Indians, paying literally with their lives; in 1951, Communist North Korean troops invaded South Korea, initiating the Korean War, which has never been officially ended; and in 1991, the nations of Croatia and Slovenia proclaimed their independence from Yugoslavia, beginning a civil war whose ripple effects continue today. On the brighter side, in 1788 Virginia, the home of four of the first five presidents, joined the new United States, and the first color TV transmissions from New York to several other major cities occurred in 1951. It's also Reggie H.'s and Carlos Delgado's (at right, photo courtesy of Reggie) birthdays! (H/T to Infoplease's Today in History.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sosa's 600th HR + Fourth Branch + Vigil for US Scholars in Iran

Karma. Who knows if Sammy Sosa (at right, (AP Photo/Tim Sharp) or the ownership of the Chicago Cubs were thinking about it yesterday, but if not, they ought to. Sosa, who was unceremoniously dumped by the Cubs back in 2004 after a decade of stardom, returned as a Texas Ranger, his original club, and hit his 600th home run, becoming only the fifth person ever to do so. He joins an elite group that includes Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays, and did so faster than all the others except Ruth. He is the first Latino ballplayer and first Dominican to reach this milestone. Congratulations, Sammy Sosa!

When Sosa left the Cubs, I think it's fair to say that many Cubs fans celebrated. The Cubs' clubhouse atmosphere was apparently so toxic that an anonymous player gleefully smashed Sosa's boombox after he'd left it in the locker room, and no one was willing to finger the culprit. Sosa headed to Baltimore, had a terrible season, then sat out all of 2006. But he's returned, at age 38, his bat offering no more than a shadow of its former danger, but still not to be trifled with. For the last few years he's battled accusations of steroid use, even though he has never tested positive and testified under oath to Congress that he was clean. Nevertheless, much of the acclaim he garnered during his remarkable six-year run, from 1998 to 2003, when he hit in successive years 66 (nearly catching the Cardinals' now utterly disgraced Mark McGwire, who hit 70), 63, 50, 64, 49, and 40 home runs, has almost completely vanished. He is dragging himself, it seems, to the Hall of Fame.

Since his departure, however, the Cubs have climbed to no better than third place; last year they finished in 6th place, and are no closer to a league championship, let alone a World Series, than during most of the time Sosa was there. There was the foxfire-like 2003 season, when the infamous Bartman mishap during the playoffs occurred, sending them home early and the Florida Marlins, a franchise that began only in 1993, to its second Series win. In the interim, they had to witness the Chicago White Sox win a World Series in 2005, and their rival Cardinals win one last October. Things got so bad earlier this year that two of the Cubs players, their best pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, and catcher Michael Barrett, got into an altercation in the dugout, and then threw down again in the locker room. When Zambrano was done with him, Barrett needed stitches. Now Barrett has been shipped off to San Diego for cash

In fact, the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908; perhaps next year their luck will turn, and maybe they ought to bring back Sosa to ensure it.

>>>

Although he's claimed Executive Privilege as a member of the Executive Branch (i.e., the Vice President being an Executive Official), he's now telling an agency within the National Archives that he's not part of the Executive Branch. Because, remember, as the President of the Senate, he has legislative powers (to preside, break ties), and is basic unbound by the Constitutional separation of powers, constituting in his utter lawlessness a fourth branch of government.

Does any member of Congress seriously now not see it as her and his duty to impeach this man? Because he's got to be ushered out first, or he'll be the one replacing the increasingly, widely acknowledged Worst President Ever.

But then, the people have lost confidence in Congress's ability to do its job as well....

>>>

I admit to being very remiss in not posting something about the horrible situation of American scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbaksh, who have been jailed without cause in Iran; Esfandiari is being held in the notorious Evin Prison. Amnesty International issued an advisory, and the Guardian Online featured an article on the situation. '

(From Michigan professor Juan Cole's site, here's a letter by my former professor, Zachary Lockman, now at NYU and president of the Middle East Studies Association, protesting the imprisonment of Esfandiari to the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)

According to Amnesty International, there will be a vigil for Esfandiari and Tajbaksh, as well as Parnaz Azima, a journalist, and Ali Shakeri, an activist, who've been imprisoned and charged with crimes by the Iranian government.

Amnesty International

In May the government of Iran arrested four Iranian-Americans: prominent U.S. scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, journalist Parnaz Azima and activist Ali Shakeri. Esfandiari, Tajbakhsh and Shakeri remain in detention without being able to see family, lawyers, or the ICRC. All four face serious charges stemming from their efforts to promote an Iranian-American dialogue and scholarly work and could be sentenced to long prison terms.

JOIN AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, THE AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH AS WE CALL FOR JUSTICE AND FOR THE RELEASE OF THE DETAINED IRANIAN-AMERICANS Haleh Esfandiari

SPEAKERS TO INCLUDE SHAUL BAKHASH, HUSBAND OF HALEH ESFANDIARI, AND ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ OF THE AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS

WHERE: Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 1st Avenue and 47nd Street across from the United Nations Plaza

WHEN: Wednesday June 27, 12 noon to 1 pm

Feel free to bring signs calling for freedom for the detained Iranian-Americans. This is to be a non-political and non-partisan action advocating human rights

For more information contact Sharon McCarter 202-691-4016 or Amnesty International USA 202-675-8755

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stuff

"The process of emancipation from slavery and its effects...." What I typed out yesterday, on Juneteenth. Take, for example, voting rights, and the ongoing attempts to prevent Black and other people of color, as well as the poor, from voting. These activities, written into law, occurred before the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, but they really kicked into gear after universal emancipation and voting rights were guaranteed constitutionally. Over the last six years, in fact, we've had so many examples occurring right under our noses in Washington, and until the Democrats took over and began investigating, few were able to put all the pieces together. Want an example? Here's one (and mind you, this sulfurous character has been nominated by W to the Federal Election Commission--of course!):

WASHINGTON — A former Justice Department political appointee blocked career lawyers from filing at least three lawsuits charging local and county governments with violating the voting rights of African-Americans and other minorities, seven former senior department employees charged Monday.

Hans von Spakovsky also derailed at least two investigations into possible voter discrimination, the former employees of the Voting Rights Section said in interviews and in a letter to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. They urged the panel to reject von Spakovsky's nomination to the Federal Election Commission.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said that von Spakovsky wouldn't comment on the latest criticism. She said he's "preparing a point-by-point rebuttal that will address these issues" and "looks forward to working with members of the Senate during the confirmation process."

Von Spakovsky blocked a major suit against a St. Louis suburb and two other suits against rural governments in South Carolina and Georgia and halted at least two investigations of election laws that appeared to suppress minority voting, one of them in Wyoming, said Joseph Rich, the former voting rights section chief.

The former employees' letter also challenged von Spakovsky's candor during his confirmation hearing before a Senate committee last week, when he portrayed himself as a middle manager in the Civil Rights Division who didn't make policy or personnel decisions. Von Spakovsky, who's served as a presidential recess appointee to the FEC since early 2006 and is seeking a full six-year term, also played down his role in several controversial decisions.

In the letter to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel's chairwoman, the former employees said that von Spakovsky acted as the "de facto voting section chief" from early 2003 until late 2005, spending virtually all of his time on voting matters and promoting "partisan political interests."

"We have never seen a political appointee exercise this level of control over the day-to-day operations of the voting section," they said.

It was the second letter in the last eight days in which former employees of the Voting Rights Section, including Rich and former deputy chief Robert Kengle, urged the Senate panel to reject the nomination. Feinstein told von Spakovsky during the hearing that the criticism from former department officials would make it difficult for him to win confirmation.

Monday's letter included the first allegations that von Spakovsky torpedoed suits and investigations over alleged state, county or local laws that diminish the voting strength of African-Americans, Native Americans or other minorities or prevent them from voting altogether.

Von Spakovsky, the letter said, stripped the voting rights section chief of his authority to open investigations of discrimination without his superiors' approval.

The letter also challenged von Spakovsky's testimony about a letter that the department sent to Arizona Secretary of State Janice Brewer in April 2005. Contrary to his testimony, the former employees alleged, von Spakovsky didn't seek input from career staff members before he notified Brewer that provisional ballots didn't need to be offered to voters who failed to present identification — a reversal of the department's previous interpretation of a 2002 federal election reform law.

You know there's more, both in the article and beneath the iceberg these revelations about von Spakovsky's actions represents. Oh, and his replacement, Cameron P. Quinn, is also not fond of the dark-skinned types casting ballots either....

‡‡‡

More mental decolonization issues to mull, according to Buzz Feed:

Skin whitening is the rage (again) in China, Japan and India.*

This ad is only one example.

And as the article I linked to the other day on DR notes, it's also an issue in parts of the Caribbean, and Africa, and of course, the USA. (Yep, you know AMBI hasn't budged from its choice perch on supermarket shelves all over the country.) Though now you can get all kinds of skin peels that do the work of vitiligo in just a few (or many) minutes!

(Of course I blogged about this almost two years ago.)

And, the US doesn't need to go so far with overt commercials like the one from India, since a persistent and relentless aesthetic aryanism is thoroughly encoded into nearly all of our televisual and mass media. Yet even with this, there are still regular eruptions, as it's never enough for some people.

(On the flip, naturally, there's tanorexia--only don't get too dark [too thin is always in]!)

Remind me again what century we're in?

*Some may note that historically, in some places, an affinity for lighter skin has predated European colonialism, which only managed to make it worse.

‡‡‡

So much hype about Mike Bloomberg's kicking the Republican Party to the curb to become "unaffiliated," and his possible run for the presidency! Oy, the pundits are in a frenzy, a lather, sheer ecstasy! They were as breathless on the local news and radio as on the evening network broadcasts. Judy Woodruff nearly smoked her seat trying not to jump into Bloomberg's lap on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, almost forgetting that the slick Antonio Villaraigosa was swanning right next to him. (For the record, C noted that they would be a particularly formidable combo.) But the media talking heads don't see Villaraigosa as far as any of them can throw him. Instead, they're slobbering over a ticket with right-winger Chuck Hagel, who still manages to vote with the Commander Guy and Cheney every chance he gets. Or will it be Joe Lieberman, neoconservativus perfectus? Really, is Bloomberg going to be the incarnation of Ross Perot, John Anderson, or Ralph Nader?

He was kind enough to throw a wet sheet on the blazing fires of excitement by restating his commitment to be the Richest Mayor-Nanny of New York until 2009. Meanwhile, back in reality, let's not forget that Bloomberg was the bagman for the 2004 Republican National Committee's convention in the City. He chaired the most important event to raise money and convince Americans to reinstall the Worst President and Vice President Ever. He also gave over $300,000 to the hapless New York State Republican Party, which until last November had as its figurehead a real tool, George Pataki. And, in a move that made his authoritarian predecessor Rudy Giuliani proud, he even presided over the rampantspying and thuggery by his police department during that event. He has yet to account or apologize for either. Meanwhile, Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront are turning into Dubai, New York's public educational system remains a mess, and those billions can make anybody snap to attention. At least he doesn't hate brown people.

Furthermore, back in the reality outside Mediastan, he would not win a single state outside the Northeast, except perhaps Hawaii and California. Illinois would be pushing it. Seriously. And he's more likely, with his social and economic liberalism (yes, he doesn't hesitate to raise taxes or erect nanny-state policies), to draw votes from the Democrats than the Republicans. Which is just what we DO NOT NEED, 4 more years of the disaster we've had to endure for the last 7. On top of which, he keeps talking about partisanship as if both parties in Congress have been engaging in it these past 7 years. He's a very smart man, so I don't think he missed the fact that the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress and the Presidency and the Courts during this period, and that the Democrats repeatedly caved into them (except on social security). The partisanship ran one way. It still does. Surely he's not that clueless.

I think the mainstream media's Bloombergomania is yet more confirmation that these overpaid hacks are completely out of touch with the vast majority of Americans, though they still have the power to shape--and warp--our national public discourse.

Please, Bloomberg, fuggedaboutit!

‡‡‡

I am sufficiently grounded in anti-positivist thought never to put too much stock in reductively biologistic explanations of anything. That said, I found the following article, New York Magazine: The Science of Gaydar, which bristles with nodes of problematic reasoning ("gay disease"???) fascinating. And yes, I am going to start looking more closely at hair whorls as I sit on the local trains. I may even photograph some (or hundreds), calculator in hand....

And then there's this one, from this week's Village Voice, about gay kids. (And the mini transgender sensation, hormone patches to "degay" fetuses, and all sorts of stuff that give new meaning to the word "spectacle.") The late author and activist Eric Rofes's quote from a book researcher Dee Michel is editing on the emotional support he drew the Wizard of Oz particularly resonates: "As a child who was bullied for being gender-nonconforming (girlish, nonathletic, studious, emotional) and who often felt trapped and without recourse, these stories offered me a happier ending to my own story."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Juneteenth!

Happy Juneteenth!

As of last Saturday, Massachusetts, now joins 23 other states (including New Jersey) that officially recognize this holiday. (And most appropriately for the Bay State, since as in so many other things, it led in legalizing slavery, back in 1641.)

If you're not too up on Juneteenth, here's a bit of info from Juneteenth.com:

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.

Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long over due. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.


And there's more here. And here.

New York State is mulling an official apology for slavery (sans reparations, of course); only in the last decade has slavery's central role in New York City's and the state's development come to the fore.

The New-York Historical Society still is featuring two exhibits on the topic, its permanent New York Slavery exhibit, and New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War, which runs until September 3, 2007.

The process of emancipation, however, from slavery and its effects, continues.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Miami Herald on Afro-Latinos + More

The blog is rapidly approaching 100,000 page views. The first 50 or so page views resulted mostly from my posting, checking and revising my posts, but StatCounter confirms that visitors are now dropping in from across the US, as well as Europe, the Caribbean, South America, Australia and New Zealand, and less frequently, Asia and Africa. The top five source countries so far today are the US, the UK, Norway, France, and the Netherlands. To all who're visiting and reading, thanks!

===

Yesterday I posted about Afro-Brazilians speaking out about the persistence of racism in their country. The article turns out to be one of the ones Anthony's Monaga Blog pointed to last Thursday, when he highlighted a current Miami Herald series, "A Rising Voice: Afro-Latin Americans," which focuses on the largest populace of African descent in our hemisphere. As of today, the Herald has posted three reports, focusing on Blacks living on the north coast of Nicaragua, the ever fraught question of race in the Dominican Republic (above, at right, Capellan Domínquez, center, and Anthony Rosario, right, join others as they warm up for Carnival in February in the Cristo Rey area of Santo Domingo, Candace Barbot/Miami Herald), and Afro-Brazilians' attempts at redress for the racism there. I've read all three articles, and while the latter two cover familiar ground, but are definitely worth exploring.

The article on the Dominican Republic in particular caught my eye; it contains a quote by Purdue professor Dawn Stinchcomb about her negative personal experiences in the DR, and it immediately reminded me of this article by Kinii Ibura Salaam, which I initially saw on the DR1 message boards and which Anthony resent. Thinking about Stinchcomb's and Salaam's comments, I considered once again how different my experiences in DR were to theirs, and how different my travels in France were compared to what a close Black female friend of mine and her Latina girlfriend at the time encountered. They caught hell. It made me consider once again power dynamics vary depending upon differing factors like gender, race and national background, but also how differently Black people writing about travel experiences treat issues of racism and sexism, which Stinchcomb alludes to, Salaam details, and the article on the DR circles around.

Anthony also highlights the website of Ruth Ocumarez (who, in the photo he posted, strongly favors Gabrielle Union), the first woman of predominantly African ancestry to win the Miss Dominican Republic title. I've previously posted my impressions after a previous the DR, including issues of race and ethnicity. (Short version: popular notions and performances of race and heritage differ from the official version, and are considerably more complex than what I'd previously read and seen.) Reading Anthony's note on Ocumarez made me think of that previous entry, as well as about how every Sunday when I'm back in New Jersey, C and I try not to miss one of my favorite TV shows, Santo Domingo Invita, which each week features tours of the high-end Dominican coastal resorts (think Casa de Campo, Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, etc.), interviews with noteworthy Dominicans and Dominican-Americans, highlights of a given region (recently they've visited La Romana, San Cristobál, Samaná, and San José de Ocoa, all of which, as evident from the show, have significant African-influenced cultural traditions), and a live Dominican musical group. The local highlight segments often offer a gentle counternarrative to the "official" version of Dominican history and culture, sometimes even directly spelling out directly the African historical trajectory in each region. In addition, the musical groups range from standard merengueros to people performing reggaetón and hiphop, much like what you see when you go to DR and turn on the TV.

Melton and Cisneros-CortesJust the other day, Reggie H. recently sent a link to an informative website on Afro-Mexicans, a number of whom are now living in the US. I'd been very curious to learn the whereabouts of Afro-Mexicans in the US, especially since they were, according the 2000 US Census, the second-largest group, and several people, including NCCU professor Marco Polo Hernández Cuevas, Herbert Rogers, and Reggie himself have answered my questions. Among other gerat sites, they pointed me to the following series, in the Winston-Salem Journal, "Mexican Ways, African Roots." (The photo at right shows Shatia Melton and Gerardo Cisneros-Cortes, both in kindergarten at Kimberly Park Elementary, as they wait their turn to perform in the school's multicultural festival, Journal Photo by Ted Richardson.) The page includes photos of the Afro-Mexican community in North Carolina and Mexico, as well as a link to scholar Bobby Vaughan's Afro-Mexican page, which I've written about before.

Reggie had previously sent the History of Mexican-Black Solidarity link, which details a long history of cross-cultural connections that have for the most part been consigned, at least in the popular discourse, to oblivion.

On my bookshelf (or rather, in the boxes I shipped back from Chicago) right now are several books on race, ethnicity and contemporary societies in the Black Diaspora, with strong foci on Latin America, so as I make my way through them, I'll try post some thoughts.

===

Can someone clarify what Edward Rothstein is muddling on about in this New York Times Connections piece on Richard Rorty and Claude Lévi-Strauss? I mean, I thought I'd grasped it, but then I realized that I hadn't. Clarification, please?

(Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler has a similar take, but expands the discussion to the general disconnect between some of the most illuminating scholarship and theorizing taking place in academe, and the generally dismal, often anti-intellectual public discourse. I know, from my readings of Richard Hofstadter, that this is much of the non-changing same, but I do think it's important to ask the question periodically. The return of open mockery of Al Gore for being a smarty-pants among the mainstream press corps is part of this enduring trend.

I also want to note that Mark Twain pretty much captured the general tenor of the extreme anti-intellectual style in Huck Finn's redneck father's incoherent rant against the "guvment," the courts, the intellect and the life of the mind, education, the middle class, and free Black people. Sadly enough, his mentality is that of the people running the country right now.)

===

A final note: as of today, I'm one year older. To quote my mother, "I can't believe time has gone by so quickly." That's about right: I'm convinced that after 30, the years continuously accelerate. Happy Birthday also to fellow Geminis Shari and Jim F. (and Kim, whom I haven't seen in years), and to everyone born in June (someone else I know's birthday is right around the corner...).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day & Jetsam

From someone who was born on Father's Day many suns ago, let me wish a Happy Father's Day to all the fathers (of all kinds), grandfathers, mentors and father-figures (the benevolent, non-patriarchal sorts, that is) out there. I used to be skeptical of what I considered to be manufactured holidays that were basically fronts to encourage consumerism (which is now all of them), but now that I'm older, I'm a lot more willing to concede that it is important to have days when we can devote some time and space to honor those who've loved us and helped shape us for the better.

***

I've been in a bit of a hollow of late as I've been trying to reset my compass, so the intermittent posts. I haven't "gone fishing," as Bernie describes his own hiatus, but I also heven't been anywhere near as quick off the mark as I'd hoped. My summer motto remains: there's always tomorrow....

***

Whereas I once read the the New York Times from cover to cover, I usually skim it nowadays, including the sections that I once gravitated towards, like the Arts section, and the Magazine. I did read much of last week's money-focused issue, but this week, I was back to skimming. One short piece that caught my eye was Erica Goode's Idea Lab piece, "Home Alone," which explores Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam's controversial findings that, at least initially, a person may experience greater feelings of social isolation and anomie living in a more racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood than in one that is more homogeneous. Goode cites some scholarship that challenges Putnam's view, suggesting that he just might not be accounting for some unknown factor, but I found the findings provocative, and hope to return to the article and add more thoughts about it down the road. Readers, what do you think?

***

Jack Chang reports in McClatchy News that Black Brazilians, who may number up to 90 million people, have gotten fed up with the country's racism and longstanding Black subordination, and are increasingly speaking out. The article's title suggests that Black Brazilians' response is new, but really it dates back to the 17th century. Chang explores some of the most recent public attempts to address the issue and effects of racism, including a national push for affirmative action in higher education (though some of Brazil's elite state institutions, including the flagship federal universities in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, and Bahia, for example, do now have affirmative action plans in place), and greater enforcement of laws that penalize overt racism. He also discusses the differences between the general view of Brazilian race relations as harmonious ("a racial democracy," to quote the infamous phrase) and the reality, with comparisons to the United States. He notes that the current president, Lula da Silva, deserves some recognition for bringing the issue of race to the front of public discourse, but he also points out that some observers wonder whether the temporary changes will have any effect. It's clear, however, that there's widespread acknowledgement of the problem; it's always the solutions that pose the greatest difficulty.

***

I keep wondering if I'm being had by the following article, so perhaps some J's Theater readers can clarify either way. But here goes: are you familiar with "Gingerism"? If not, read this. Then please read the comments if your doubt meter is triggered. Mine was. (Singling out any group of people for oppression is abhorrent and wrong.) Then there's this case. While I'm aware of taunts, my personal experience has been that people like, or love, redheads, at least in those parts of the country where I've lived. According to these articles, the situation is quite different in the UK.

***

Yes, I hear and read all the time how monolithically "socially conservative" Black people, especially Southern Black people, are (and yes, I know that there's some truth there), but it's interesting that in the recent Dallas mayoral race, the openly gay candidate, City Councilperson Ed Oakley, appeared to have won many (most?) of the city precincts with predominant or large Black populations. He nevertheless lost to businessperson Tom Leppert, who will more than enough to deal with.

***

In two weeks, Michael Moore's critically acclaimed documentary Sicko will be out. It's the one summer film I can't wait to see. (I completely missed the entire New Fest....)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

A few upcoming events and opportunities:

From the Asian American Writers' Workshop:

Txt Me: A Writing and Multimedia Youth Project

Wednesday, July 11 - Friday, July 20, 2007

Do you have a blog? A MySpace page? What do you write on it? What don't you write on it? The Asian American Writers' Workshop is offering a new creative writing project that focuses on what's most important to you. Over the course of two weeks, you will explore issues of community and identity through new forms of communication such as YouTube, text messages, podcasts, and blogs. You will work together to each produce and present a final digital multimedia project.

Txt Me is a FREE workshop open to youth, ages 13-19, from all racial backgrounds. All participants are expected to commit to the duration of the workshop and complete all assignments. Space will fill up quickly, so applicants are advised to return their complete applications as soon as possible; early applicants will be given first consideration.

For detailed information and to download an application, please check: Workshops

Applications are due Thursday June 28th, 2007. Applications must be received by this date. We will notify all applicants by early July.

The Asian American Writers' Workshop
16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A
New York NY 10001-3814
212-494-0061 tel
212-494-0062 fax

From Kevin McGruder and Other Countries, a reading tomorrow:

Other Countries: Black Gay Expressions

Presents

Summer Solstice:*
An Open Reading of LGBT Work
~ 5 minutes per reader

LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street, Manhattan
Saturday, June 16th 8:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

contributors to Voices Rising: Celebrating 20 Years of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Writing, Other Countries III (2007) will also read

for info contact: ocpress@yahoo.com
*The summer solstice is an astronomical term regarding the position of the sun in relation to the celestial equator. The summer solstice is the date with the longest daylight period and hence with the shortest night. This date usually falls on June 21/June 22 (in the Northern hemisphere).


From the Next Generation Awareness Foundation, a truly small-budget film, Diary of a Tired Black Man, starring Jimmy Jean-Louis, from Monique's Phat Girls:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Corey "CJ" Jennings
(202) 409-7240
Urban Film Series
P.O. Box 6885, Alexandria, VA 22306
Press@UrbanFilmSeries.com,
DIARY OF A TIRED BLACK MAN
starring Jimmy Jean-Louis (Mo'Nique's Phat Girlz and Heroes) to Make Heated Premier in DC

Now It's Time For The Black Man To Exhale / Filmmaker Tim Alexander Makes Highly-Publicized Follow-Up to America's Most Viewed Trailer That Started All The Hype / Men Advised to Be Quiet at Screening

(Washington, DC -- June 13, 2007) Urban Film Series announced today that Diary of A Tired Black Man starring Jimmy Jean-Louis (Mo'Nique's Phat Girlz, Heroes), Paula Lema, Natasha M. Dixon, Shavsha Israel & Little Cierra Lockett, will make its mid-Atlantic premiere at the 2007 Urban Film and Discussion Series hosted by Landmark Theatre (555 11th Street, NW, Washington, DC). Members of the public, press and VIP persons are invited to attend the special "Premiere Preview" screening on June 21, 2007 at 7:30pm and 5:30pm. Tickets range from $12 (general) to $16 (VIP) and can be purchased in advance at UrbanFilmSeries.com or at the Landmark Theatre box office.

Following the screening, there will be a discussion and Q&A with the film's writer-producer, Tim Alexander. The discussion will be moderated by Corey "CJ" Jennings, the Urban Film Series founder. Due to demand, members of the press are advised to contact Urban Film Series at Press (at) UrbanFilmseries.com or (202) 409-7240 to schedule interviews before and after the screening.

About DIARY OF A TIRED BLACK MAN

Diary of A Tired Black Man, is a simple story about the complex relationships between black men and black women. It follows the life and relationships of a successful black man as he tries to find a happy place to rest his heart. He is constantly challenged by the anger he finds in the women he dates, including his wife, from whom he divorces, and the other women he tries to date after her. Drama! Drama! Drama!

Nearly a year ago the top-rated trailer to the film hit the internet and was viewed by millions of viewers, all of whom have waited with high anticipation to see the film that would follow. Diary of A Tired Black Man will be released in select theaters for the remainder of the year. In just three days, word of the screening in Washington, DC has already forced a sell-out of the originally scheduled screening of the film. Demand to see the film increased dramatically and led to a second screening time when Urban Film Series released an advisory set of instructions for men that will attend the screening.

More information on the film, including reviews and interviews can be found at www.urbanfilmseries.com or www.tiredblackman.com.

About The Urban Film Series

The Urban Film Series is a programmatic arm of the Next Generation Awareness Foundation (NGAF), a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is connect urban communities with history and progressive cinema, and provide exposure of the arts and the motion picture industry to many communities across the United States.

The Urban Film Series also produces the annual Black Docs Film Series, Urban Film Series Tour, and Black History Month Film & Discussion Series, and has received well over 600 films from across the world for its various film-related programs.

-----------------------
Who: Urban Film Series
What: Diary of A Tired Black Man; Q&A to Follow
Where: Landmark Theatre's E Street Cinema, 555 11th Street NW, WDC
When: June 21st, from 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Tickets: MUST purchase in advance at UrbanFilmSeries.com, for General ($12), VIP ($16), and Press admission. General admission tickets will also be made available at Landmark Theatre, as available.

Featuring Q&A with the filmmaker Tim Alexander team and members of the cast.
From poet Reggie H., an open call from Four Way Books for poetry and fiction manuscripts:

JUNE READING PERIOD GUIDELINES

Poetry and Fiction Submissions

In June, we read full-length poetry collections and novellas or short story collections.

During our June reading period, manuscripts are not read anonymously. Manuscripts are selected by the editors of Four Way Books.

Each manuscript may be mailed or emailed between June 1 and June 30 2007, accompanied by a $15.00 processing fee made out to Four Way Books.

Poetry manuscripts are generally between 45 – 80 pages of text. Fiction manuscripts are generally between 150 – 200 pages of text.

In recent years we have selected:

Sarah Manguso's Siste Viator (2006), and C.S. Carrier's After Dayton (2008).

If you submitted to our contest, you may also submit during June. We have different readers in June.

We accept submissions electronically and by mail.

For Submitting by Mail

Please make sure that your cover page includes the title, your name, and contact information.

Manuscripts will not be returned. If you want to receive written word of our response through the mail, please include an SASE. Otherwise, we will respond by email, if you provide us with your email contact info.

Please include a reading fee of $15.00, either as a check payable to Four Way Books, or attach a print out of your payment confirmation emailed from our web site. (Go to our Reading Fee Form to pay via credit card. Available in June).

Word-process your manuscript on white, 8-1/2 x 11 paper. Legible typeface.
Send to: Four Way Books POB 535 Village Station New York NY 10014.

For Submitting Electronically

Please make sure that your cover page includes the title, your name and contact information.

Submit your entry fee via the June Reading Fee Form, and follow the directions for online credit card payment on our secure site.

Email the manuscript as a single attached document (either a Microsoft Word document or a Rich Text document) to june@fourwaybooks.com.

Be sure to include your Reading Fee Confirmation Number in the body of the email.
Name the document with your confirmation number (i.e. JN1032.doc or JN1032.rtf)

Please title your email: JUNE READING PERIOD SUBMISSION

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blogging & Academe

I think it's fair to say that (we)blogging remains one of the new media technologies that's still on the margins of academe, though many academics and certainly a large number of students maintain blogs or have been blogging for some time.

My introduction to blogging at the university came about three years back (was it really that long ago?) when several students in one of my classes told me in private meetings that another student was blogging, and had posts that commented deprecatingly about some of the people in our class. I immediately read the blog, but since the student was writing on personal time and doing all the required work for the class, I simply took note of it and was able to understand much more clearly some of the underlying dynamics in the class. Over the years I have had a few students tell me they were blogging, and many (most) poets I know under a certain age (50) have personal websites, many with blogs, as well as pages on popular sites like Yahoo!, MySpace and Facebook. I remember being surprised to learn when I first went to the university in 2001 that several of the students knew who I was because of my old NYU web page; they had not only read and assimilated what I'd written on it, but had questions about some of the material, like the animated poems. It was one of the moments when I realized I was less Luddite-ish than I often think I am.

But back to blogging. Fast forward to today, and Blackboard now includes a blogging program as part of its standard package for each class. So addition to online course material planning, posting and grade crunching, as well as chatting, threaded discussions, and streaming video, you can now set up blogs. I hope to have my advanced fiction students blogging this fall, either on Blackboard or off it. During the winter quarter, I offered students the option of keeping public, blog journals instead of handwritten or typed private ones, and I believe only two students took me up on the offer. But I know more will in the future, as in, this fall.

On May 23, 2007, the University of California-Davis Department of History, its Institute of Governmental Affairs and its Center for History, Society and Culture sponsored a History Colloquium event on " Historical Scholarship and the New Media." Panelists included Brad DeLong, Scott Eric Kaufman, Tedra Osell, and Ari Kelman.

The .mp4 podcast, which runs about 50 minutes, is here. Suffice it to say that outside of people in new media, you probably won't get any points for blogging, and in the cases of younger scholars, it might still be viewed by the powers that be as detrimental, depending upon the field and the degree to which your peers and profession view such work as peripheral to standard expectations and conventions. (This too will change.) As for poets and other creative people, the situation, I think, is different, and as the new media landscape continues to transform and the arts and related aspects of culture and society (including the publishing industry, about which I'll say more tomorrow) transform with it, blogging and other new forms will play an increasing role.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Congrats to Grads + Greenfield on Teens + Sopranos Sayonara + Sembene and Rorty

It's official: I sent in my grades today, and the quarter is officially over! The university's commencement ceremonies are this upcoming weekend, so let me say in advance to all this year's graduates, including the sharp, funny, delightful, and talented ones I had the opportunity to work with this year:

CONGRATULATIONS,
and as you've heard me say more than once,
KEEP READING and KEEP WRITING!

***

One of the best aspects of this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine issue on money and financial inequality was filmmaker Lauren Greenfield's series of mini-films, "The Way We Spend Now," interviewing L.A. teenagers on the role of money in their lives. I was surprised to find the interviews so compelling, because Greenfield's recent HBO Film, Thin, on upper-middle-class young women suffering from anorexia and bulimia, was so annoying that it nearly made me pull my hair out. But those her sample is small, it's diverse, and these young people were a lot more aware of how capitalism and hyperconsumerism affect their lives than I probably would have credited them.

The slant of most of the other articles was pure New York Times, however, that funhouse mirror perspective in which filmmaker Zoe R. Cassavetes's one-bedroom apartment experience in Manhattan might be viewed as representative....

***

I do not read Time. To tell the truth, I never have. I think I might have been in 7th grade or something when I came across a description of Newsweek as the "liberal" weekly magazine, while Time was conservative, and that was all it took for me not to make any effort to read it, except at rare moments when it was sitting around in the doctor's office, or on someone's coffee table, or if there was a particular article about someone in it that I felt I needed to view. (I am, however, aware of its historical importance and role in American popular discourse; we have its past editors to thank for such timeless terms as "socialite," for example.) Time has continued to beat the conservative drum, in a bland, conventional, "mainstream" way, though the media in general have shifted to far to the right that it is hardly out of step with a wide array of general interest publications, including Newsweek.

It follows, then, that I do not read Time's Swampland blog, except on rare occasions; when I saw who the bloggers were--Joe Klein, Ana Marie Cox (the original "Wonkette"), Karen Tumulty, and Jay Carney--I knew there was no reason to go near it. Klein, Mr. CBW--Conventional Beltway Wisdom, with heavy doses of Republican National Committee buzzwords and frames--alone is enough to keep me away from it (this outrageous pro-Libby defense post is par for the course) and then there's Cox, who made her name and fortune on cotton-candy gossamer gossip and sophomoric humor, including periodic mentions of anal sex. Yes, you read that right--and the mentions are, well, hardly worth mentioning. Now, to thicken the soup, Swampland has added Dave "Mudcat" Sanders, a thought-challenged, suposedly Democratic ruralist who allegedly works for the John Edwards campaign. All I can say is, Lord help Edwards if he's really employing this man in any way. Sanders's first two posts are not only really stupid and offensive in their vehemence against the leftist netroots, but manage to recite Republican talking points at least once every sentence. I do love his coinage "Metropolitan Opera Wing"of the Democrats, though. That one is actually so ridiculous it verges on brilliance. An operatic swamp indeed!

***

I really am going to try to blog a bit more now that the summer is here. One goal is to post some reviews of films I've been watching or catching, and books I've been reading (I almost cannot believe that actually have a brief window to read for pleasure and edification again). I also am again trying to watch less TV. Trying. Again. But last night with C I did watch the final episode of HBO's acclaimed drama The Sopranos. Initially, I disdained it because I'd actually gone to junior high and high school school with at least one Mafiosetto (is that the right term for the child of a Mafioso?) and found little allure in watching yet another TV show or film about this particular element of our society, especially given how extensively it's been explored from The Godfather on, but C praised it and I started catching episodes, and then I was hooked, sort of. I think what pushed me over the edge into outright complete enthrallment was the episode when Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) are on the verge of a split up over one of Tony's serial infidelities, and Falco gives the performance of the entire series, radiating Carmela's rage, frustration and disgust in a series of facial expressions that to this day are unforgettable. Performance of life, I think the phrase goes. But the series in general featured outstanding writing and performances, and my main quarrel with it was the sometimes casual racism, which I realize was in keeping with the sta But the end was sure to come, and last night it did. I read today that many (most?) fans were disappointed, but I actually liked what creator David Chase did; there were multiple ways to read the anti-Aristotelian ending, which lacked not only a climax (beyond Phil Leotardo [Frank Vincent] getting his just comeuppance, in the most brutal way), but also a dénouement. In fact, it was so open that it was really a mirror of whatever your projections might be, and it also left open the possibility of a movie down the road. If the writing of a film version comes anywhere near the best operatic moments of the series, I'll be among the first on line to catch it.

***

I sometimes worry that my mini-commemorations will this site morbid, but then I realize how important it is to invoke and, even if briefly, remember those who've passed away. To that end, let me note the recent passing of two remarkable figures, the Senegalese author and filmmaking pioneer Ousmane Sembène, and the American philosopher and critic Richard Rorty.

Ousmane SembeneSembène (at left, www.brightlightsfilm.com), who passed away at the age of 81, was one of the pioneers of African cinema. A native of the Casamance region of southern Senegal, he began publishing his novels in the 1950s after serving in the French military and working in a variety of low-wage jobs. He then went to study film in Moscow, which led to his film career. Many cinéastes consider his earliest film, La Noire de..., (The Black Woman..., 1965), the story of a young African who accompanies her French employers back to Europe and ends up a suicide, the first (Black) African film. His subsequent films, including Mandabi (1968), Emitai (1971), Xala (1975), Ceddo (1977), Camp de Thiaroye (1987), Guelwaar (1992), Faat Kiné (2000), and Moolaadé (2004), often explored the tension between modernity and tradition, particularly concerning sexual politics and the dialectic of Western influence in Africa, while inventing an aesthetic template for subsequent African cinema. From the sublime Xala to one of my personal favorites, the postcolonially informed Camp at Thiaroye, which I saw at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, only to miss Sembène, who spoke after I'd left, the films won a host of awards and honors, including the Certain Regard Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Jury Award of the Los Angeles Pan-African Film Festival, and the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. In 1996, he received a lifetime award from the Human Rights International Film Festival, a fitting honor for an artist whose work represented and portrayed, through its focus on one of the least depicted parts of the world, the richness of human experience, universal experience.

Richard RortyFor two years in the 1990s, I was a member of the same department at the University of Virginia as Rorty (at right, © Stanford University), though I think I saw him only a few times, and exchanged correspondence with him as part of my job at the time. But even that minimal contact thrilled me, because it came at a time when I was involved in an extensive autodidactic project to catch up on contemporary American philosophy, and Rorty was one of the figures I was reading assiduously. I wanted to understand the origins of American pragmatism and its connection to particular political and aesthetic questions, and Rorty was central to the intellectual trajectory. As the many tributes to and obituaries of him note, he was a controversial figure; among the Anglo-American philosophy community his rejection and critiques of the picture theory of meaning and the analytic tradition and its conventions, which crystalized in his landmark work Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature(1979) generated quite a hubbub, as did his post-modernist view of scientific knowledge and truth claims, while his pragmatic, incremental liberalism, which in some ways was quite in step with the Clinton era, went too far for those on the right and not far enough for many progressives. Rorty's embrace of contingency, irony and solidarity, his graceful and provocative writing, and his overt political engagement, to the extent of leaving Virginia in part because of what he saw as misplaced financial priorities there and his active, public critiques of the Bush administration, were all aspects of his life and work that I continue to admire, and without a doubt, the United States--and not just the academic community--has lost one of its intellectual titans.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ramblings + Ella Turenne's Woodshed + Toussaint + Elections Have Consequences

Blogging, slogging. Summer's bearish days haven't arrived yet, and every sentence already requires a battery charge. Well, every sentence I type on this blog. The quarter ends this week, and then I and the rest of the faculty will be bidding a number of undergraduates and graduate students farewell and best wishes on their futures. I'll save my congratulations for next week, but as with every year, I will be sad to see so many of the students depart, though I am always excited about the various paths they take or find themselves on once they leave the academic groves.

+++

From former students to former colleagues: one of my friends and former colleagues, the multitalented Ella Turenne, will be premiering her first film, Woodshed, at the Hollywood Black Film Festival. She was discussing making films back when we worked side by side about seven years ago, and has been working on this film with several of her close friends for five years. (I still walk around in the Soulfinite T-shirts she created back then.) Now it's done and will finally hit the big screen. Ella is one of those people who makes things happen; when I met her she was painting, writing and performing her poetry with the Blackout Collective, thinking about acting, and contemplating graduate school. She has since completed one grad degree, appeared in a play in NYC, and published a commemorative anthology in 2004 to mark the 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence (she's Haitian-American). Somehow, amidst all of these activities, she managed to complete her film, and when she's not teaching, she runs a program at a New York-area university. As one of my good friends always says, "amazing!" Congratulations, Ella, and I hope to catch the film as it makes its way around the country. If you are in Los Angeles this weekend, however, you'll be able to catch its debut.

+++

Ella and I discussed the recent news that Danny Glover had received $18 million from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to make a film about Toussaint L'Ouverture. The news of Chávez's support impressed me, because a L'Ouverture film--and feature films in general about the Haitian Revolution--is long overdue, and independent Haiti provided Simon Bolívar, Chávez's avatar, with some of the resources he needed to liberate Gran Colombia. I told Ella that I'd checked out the film's IMDb.com page, and was surprised to see there did not appear to be many Haitians or Haitian-Americans involved with the film. Neither of the film's writers appear to be Haitian or Haitian-American, and none of the high-profile (and highly talented) Hollywood actors, like Don Cheadle, Angela Bassett, Mos Def, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who are "rumored" to be in the film, are either. I also heard that it will not be filmed in Haiti or the neighboring Dominican Republic, but in Venezuela. I understand the problems of filming in Haiti (or DR, for that matter, where many, many Haitians live), but just think of the jobs (even temporary) that such a production would provide. But then again, who knows how things might turn out. There are many notable scholars of the Haitian Revolution (including several colleagues of mine), as well as Haitian and Haitian-American actors, writers, musicians, and so forth, so I hope some (many) of them will be part of this film as it develops.

+++

Movie actors: I must be impervious to the charms of bad actors who become politicians, because I was no fan of Ronald Reagan, wish Arnold Schwarzenegger had stuck to trade shows, and cannot grasp a bubble of the mainstream media's current lather over Fred Thompson. (While I admire George Clooney's and Leonardo DiCaprio's progressivist bents, I'd rather they stick to films, filmmaking and other non-legislative pursuits.) I don't watch any of the shows he's appeared on with any regularity, but I can say that when I have encountered him on screen, he's made zero impact. With the right-leaning punditocracy and its many of its "liberal" adherents, he seems to be pushing the same sort of buttons of authority and confidence (but not in the ironic sense) that "Commander Guy" did in 1999 and 2000, and we know where that has left us. Several commentators, including MSNBC's Chris Matthews, are jonesing over this man. All I see is a lumpish, pseudo-folksy, not very inspiring, intelligent or attractive character actor who probably should be kept as far away from the White House, except for temporary visits, as possible, and the media fawning makes clear to me that these folks are just not serious--about our country, our future, anything, except whatever short-term fun and games they can have playing with the power they unfortunately possess. (Well, they probably do care about the longer term benefits to their bosses and those in their class.)

But then when I look at all the Republican candidates, current and presumptive, I feel the same way about all of them. The last thing we need is another four years of someone who lies through his teeth without batting an eye, denies evolution and fetishizes blastocysts, demonizes people who are dark-skinned, speaking a foreign language or worship faiths other than Christianity or none at all, coddles racists or supremacists of any sort, express an eager or blithe dislike of gays, lesbians and other groups, and simply cannot grasp or take responsibility for the utter disaster that is the Iraq War. (Thompson has stated publicly that he thinks the war is zooming along well and he's also made the equally preposterous claim that "Mars is warming." Lord help us!) As I wrote the other day, I don't think the majority of the Demopublicans are much better, especially on the war, but I think I'll venture the counterfactual and argue that had we had a Gore-Lieberman (the thought of Lieberman as the Vice President sickens me to my core) administration, we wouldn't be in one-third the problems we are today, whatever the failings of either man or the people they might have selected for their cabinet. I'd be willing to bet on it. Instead...well, you know how this line goes.

Which leads me to a particularly and predictably dreadful but telling outcome of the last two presidential elections: where on earth does he or his underlings, the "Bushies," find a total nut like this one?

I must quote The Nation's the Notion blog about this potential candidate to be the next Surgeon General of the US:

And today, the Human Rights Campaign released a document [Dr. James] Holsinger authored in 1991 as a member of the United Methodist Church's Committee to Study Homosexuality. Titled Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality, Holsinger's religious tract-cum-scientific paper is a fascinating window into the perverse imagination of homophobia. In essence, Holsinger argues that male-female "reproductive systems are fully complementary" because "anatomically the vagina is designed to receive the penis." The remainder of his paper is a graphic account of the "delicate" rectum which is "incapable" of "protection" if "objects that are large, sharp, or pointed are inserted" into it. From there Holsinger continues to discuss what he imagines are the pains (and pleasures?) of anal sex, from "fist fornication" and "sphincter injuries" to "lacerations," "perforations" and "deaths seen in connection with anal eroticism."

Sharp objects! Deaths seen in connection with anal eroticism! Gadzooks! Now, I've been around the block one or ten times, and I don't know any gay men who have put scissors up their ass, much less died from it. Of course, the barely mentioned but palpably anxious context in which Holsinger connects "death" with "anal eroticism" is the AIDS epidemic. And it should come as no surprise that his paper was part of a larger, pseudo-medical, moral discourse in which gay men's mode of sex (and by extension gay men) were blamed for AIDS - the death we deserved, the sexual suicide we courted.

The flip side of Dr. Holsinger's lurid speculation is the dangerous presumption that because heterosexual sex is "natural," it is safe -- safe from HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases and the trauma and injury that Holsinger seems so feverishly eager to attribute to gay anal sex. We now know, tragically and beyond any possible doubt, that heterosexual sex is not safe unless one practices it as such. And no amount of wishing and praying by our next Surgeon General on the "complementarity of the human sexes" will make it so.

Could any of the great satirists have made someone like this up? Aristophanes to Reed, I wonder. And yet he's quite in keeping with so many others who've tunneled like a Chagas worm into the upper levels of our government. In addition to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Feith, Wolfowitz, Brownie, Claude Allen, and so many others, W also foisted this crackpot and this one on us. Let's hope the Senate takes care of this most recent looming disaster swiftly. As California Senator Barbara Boxer, one of the better examples of our left representatives, said just last week to her raving colleague, Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, "elections have consequences...."

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Au Revoir, Steve Gilliard

Very sad news: blogger Steve Gilliard, co-founder of the News Blog, has passed away, at the age of 41. Those J's Theater readers who read his blog even periodically will recall how often he succeeded in integrating questions of race, ethnicity and class into left-blogging discussions, how quickly he covered the salient topics of the day, and how persuasive despite their idiosyncracies his commentaries were. I enjoyed his humor and bluntness, particularly in his critiques of Black conservatives, whom he had little taste or tolerance for. On the failure of Republicans to address so many basic issues that most Black Americans deem relevant or important, or the failure of Black Republican adherents to push the GOP and RNC towards real action on these basic issues, he has yet, as far as I know, to be proved wrong. One other element of his blog that I enjoyed was the periodic recipes: I never tried any of the ones that he and Jen posted, but I thought the recipe-posting was an interesting idea. Farewell, and safe journeys to wherever the best bloggers go!