Thursday, May 31, 2007

Now That's What I Call Thinking Outside the Box

Did you know that one in every 4,000 to 5,000 girls is born without a vagina? Well, via Slate we learn that this is true, and also that there is new hope for women born without all the necessary equipment.

An Italian doctor has just developed a new method of growing vaginas in the lab, from stem cells, and then transplanting them onto humans. This will allow girls born without vaginas to avoid the often painful skin-grafting process that has been used to create missing genitalia
in the past .

I keep trying to think of a wisecrack, but I'm stumped. The only thing I keep pondering is how funny it would be to run across those petri dishes without warning...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Want to Curb AIDS? Empower Women.

Via Salon's Broadsheet, news today of a report on AIDS in Africa that finds that "greater social and economic inequality between the sexes directly correlate[s] to the HIV risk faced by African women."

What does that mean? Essentially, that when women are poor, their incidence of AIDS infection rises. And the inverse also seems to be true: greater equality means less risk for women of becoming infected with HIV.

It's not rocket science, folks: give women a chance to take care of themselves and they don't have to turn to practices like sex work to keep their families from starving. And here's the little mantra I've come up with to make the point: End Inequality, End AIDS. Genius, no?

Buyer, Know Thy Preservatives

I feel pretty certain that I read a hauntingly similar piece about this topic a few months back (way to be on top of it LA Times), but for those of you who missed it the first time around, here's another chance to better understand the provenance of one of the best snack foods ever created: the unholy and utterly delish Twinkie.

Long story short, there ain't much good in there, or natural either. But do you really care? She who dives, mouth agape, into the magic of Twinkie-land surely doesn't have health on her mind when she does so. Still, interesting to know for sure now that additives are... umm... bad for us. Like I always say: you learn something new every day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Barack Beats the Health Care Drum

At last! A plan from our buddy Barack. As part of a campaign stop at the University of Iowa, Obama finally unveiled his plan to fix our doddering health care system--you know, the one that leaves nearly 47 million Americans without an ounce of coverage.

His goal is to provide universal coverage, and yes, it's going to cost something: probably something int he neighborhood of $50 to $65 billion. And yes, the Federal government will be responsible for picking up that check. How does Obama propose to make up the difference? By repealing those tax breaks President Bush put in place for the privileged few: those who make over $200,000 a year.

Sounds like a plan to me...

Composing in a Minor Key

If you ever needed any insight into how much of a dork I actually am, note that this article on the favorite fonts of authors and the accompanying slide-show on the rise of Helvetica rank for me as two of the dopest pieces of journalism I've seen in a while. I can't deny it--I am a total font geek.

And for anyone who's wondering, I tend to write in Times New Roman--though I do really understand the insatiable pull towards Courier and its typewriterly quintessence.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Poll on Immigration Tells Us What We Already Knew

"Americans want to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status and to create a guest worker program, a Times/CBS News poll found."

You don't say...

Immigration Bill Provisions Gain Wide Support in Poll
(photo via Seattle Times)

"Curative" Rapes--and Other Horrors of Being Gay in Africa

Last summer, when Jess and I spent about 10 days in Ethiopia with the organization AMREF, we came up with a little joke to make ourselves feel better about our status in a country (nevermind a continent) where our relationship is illegal. We took to calling each other "Criminal Smallz" ("smallz" being our most common nickname for each other), and it's a moniker we still volley about in jest from time to time. For us, by now, it's become a somewhat quaint reminder of our time in Africa; it's an inside joke--but one that's funny, of course, precisely because it's not our daily reality. We got to come home, to New York, where things are (relatively) safe for ladies like us.

Today's article from ColorLines reminded me of just how bad life might be if we had no such home to cling to. I won't enumerate all the terrible things that happen to gay folks in many parts of Africa, but suffice it to say, life is no bowl of cherries. The one ray of hope that activists point to, however, is the rise rise of the Internet, and the sense of community that can provide for isolated gays... Thank God for small favors.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pro Condies On the March

Today's cover story over at Salon is, unsurprisingly, about the 2008 election. The Republican slate of candidates, to be more precise. The shocker? The candidate they're focusing on is actually not a candidate at all--or at least not at the moment. But if the people at have their way, that won't be the case for long.

That's right: there's now a movement to draft Condoleezza Rice to run for President in the same way that Eisenhower was drafted so many years yore (did you even know that happened?). No matter that the Condster has made it pretty clear she ain't running; these folks have fired up a bus and plan to drag her kicking and screaming into the race.

Would that be a good thing? A bad one? I don't know. As an African-American woman I'll tell you that I'd love to love Condi--but my fear of all things Satanic keeps me from making the leap. That said, I do think it would be fabu to have her in the race, not least of all because perhaps it would deflate some of the "can a woman lead effectively" talk that you get when you have only one female candidate in the ring.

So upon reflection, yes, Condi fans, keep up the hard work. [ A quick note to the ThinkCondi team: you're going nowhere without some dope campaign buttons. Take a cue from your allies and print you some up, right quick.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rockefeller's Rothko Sets the Bar... Real High

Ever wanted to own a Rothko? I have. Don't ask me why, but something about these abstracts--we have a print of one hanging in our living room--always gets me thinking, and smiling, and best of all, wondering just what Rothko had in mind in putting these pieces together--which, apparently, is precisely the reaction the artist was always after.

Well, as it turns out, I am now ever farther away from ever actually owning an original. Recently, the Rothko piece pictured here, "White Center", was auctioned off for $72.8 million--making it the priciest piece of contemporary art ever sold.

Christopher Benfey's article in Slate today (see link above) gives not only a good run down of the auction itself, but also what might be behind the newly astronomical number attached to this particular Rothko piece. Regardless, it looks like my prints are going to have to suffice for a long time to come.

Gotham Book Mart Closes

It's probably a blessing in disguise that I'm here in Miami, rather than home in NY, simply because if I had been home yesterday, I would've been tempted to squeeze my way into this auction of Gotham's remarkable wares before their doors shut for good.

Another one bites the dust... Fingers crossed, they'll find a new place to take up residence-- otherwise, we might as well just stamp a big Barnes and Noble logo across every book published.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Archbishop Ostracizes Gay Bishop

Though I see that the Very Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and thus head of the worldwide Anglican Communion (which includes those of us who are American Episcopalians--for now), was trying to stem controversy by not inviting V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay bishop, to the big, once a decade party he's throwing next year, I find myself crushed by the thought process that brought this decision about.

True, Robinson's ordination touched off a firestorm of recriminations throughout the church (both nationally and internationally), and yes, the church is, many believe, on the verge of a true theological and ideological crisis. But how making the unkind and ungenerous move of pointedly excluding Bishop Robinson from participation at the Lambeth Conference in '08 is meant to fix those issues is truly beyond any logic I can fathom. (And no, the Archbishop's similar exclusion of the possibly illegitimate Bishop in VA--appointed by internal church foes of LGBT inclusion--does not make it any better.)

I do not mean to judge the Archbishop, but all I can say is that until now, I've felt proud and optimistic about my affiliation with the Episcopal Church; I've been moved by the words, the sentiment and the strength of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori (head of the Episcopal Church here in the US), and her defense of the right of people of all kinds to serve in this church. And I've even found some hope in the fact that, until now, the Archbishop has refrained from letting bigotry mark his decisions about the future of this church. But this... this just makes me so sad. For me, and for the other members of this flock who believe in the equality of all human beings. And most of all for Rev. Robinson, who has suffered so much unkindness since his ordination, simply for being who he is and wanting to serve God.

And then again: change is never easy. I suppose that's the thing we must always remember-- even as our hearts are broken a thousand times over.

The Abortion Frame, Revisited

Because I couldn't sleep with the last post resting at the top of my page (why do we feel such shame about our pop culture fetishes???) I wanted to provide some real news about how the right is reclaiming, and reframing, the abortion debate.

Today's NY Times featured a front page article (print edition) by Robin Toner on how Kennedy's recent decision is increasingly being used as a stepping stone for the right to reframe the debate in terms of not just "what's good for the fetus" (the classic argument against choice), but now, insanely enough, what's good for women.

Why are the right to lifers making the leap? Because Kennedy gave them exactly the ammunition they needed to do so, referring numerous times in the majority decision to the "regrets" and "emotional damage" reported by "some" women who have had abortions. Therefore, Kennedy found--in his great wisdom--that the state had a right to "protect" women from making a choice that could, maybe, in the future, someday, maybe, cause one or two of them, maybe, a touch of regret.

Now if I were a right to lifer, I'd be jumping for joy about now--because how much more handily could you ask to be proffered a platform for the future? Women cannot protect themselves--and we have the anecdotes here to prove it--so it's "our" job to protect them. Never mind all this pesky nonsense of when life begins, and privacy, and so on. This is about protecting the already born--and we're just the group of conservative white men to do it.

In any case, I natter on... but the point is, read the article. And then let's begin thinking long and hard about how we wrest back control of this twisted messaging--before they've claimed yet another victory and we're wondering (again) how it happened.

More Trash for Women Who Love Trash

Did that sound like a dis? It actually wasn't... It's just my way of telling you that there's a new place for us all to indulge in our not-so-secret obsession with pop culture--but with a new female spin.

As of yesterday, Gawker Media is the proud parent of yet another (brilliant) trash talkin' website: Jezebel. This one aims to tackle "Celebrity, Sex and Fashion--Without the Airbrushing"--a.k.a., injecting the "women's perspective" to its media massacre. I can't quite say I can tell what about the site makes it that different from the once-venerable-now-stale Gawker, but I can say that 2 days of reportage (such as it is) has made me smile more than once. And it's the first site I checked when I tuned on my computer tonight--and I wasn't disappointed I did (love the Angie coverage, y'all).

Worth a peek if you're interested in a touch of celeb news... which I'm sure you're not. Ahem.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bienvenidos a Miami!

Call it the luck of the (black) Irish: I've been sent to Miami for three days to observe a convening of the Foundation's Reproductive Rights grantees--and so far so good. Today was mostly travel, check-in, and settling in to our surroundings. Tomorrow, though, the hard work begins. Which is why I spent my evening "enjoying my own company," as I said to Jess (who is currently on a company boondoggle in Cancun... ah, the for-profit world).

Anyway, this enjoyment of my own self took the form tonight of taking up residence in a bar along Lincoln Road called Finnegan's 2, where I nursed an Amstel Light for about an hour and half while reading "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (loving every minute of it; definitely pick it up). Then I wandered down to the far end of Lincoln, popping into stores; then turned and headed back up towards Collins, where my hotel is, stopping first to have the sushi I had been craving all day. The concierge recommended a place called Sushi Siam, and though I'm usually wary of sushi places that try to mix with another cuisine (here, Thai), I figured I'd give it a shot. It was... fine--though the seaweed tasted a bit too "seaweedy" for my taste. The lesson? Never second-guess your own instincts.

Still, it's been a great few hours. I'm taking a breather back in the room for a bit to watch what I believe is the season finale of "Heroes" (can't wait!) and then either going to venture down toward Ocean Avenue and see what's happening there in the way of dessert. Or I'll just hop next door and check out the quality of their gelato. Not bad, friends. Not bad at all.

Friday, May 18, 2007

TO READ: The Impeachment of George W. Bush

You know how sometimes you'll be given a piece of information, and interesting as it might be, it kinda flies out of your head--only to be resurrected days or even weeks later through some odd consequence of fate? Well, this is one of those times.

10 days ago, when I was at the Georgia Rule premiere, a friend of mine mentioned, very late in the evening (and after numerous glasses of wine), that she'd just run into Liz Holtzman in the bathroom. Liz Holtzman, for those of you who don't know, was a congresswoman from NY for many years, and a Brooklyn D.A.--which means that back in the day she was really the shiz-ite.

Anyway, point is, this friend related to me that Holtzman had been talking to her about her newest book, and how she was having trouble getting any press for it. The name of the book really caught me--because who wouldn't love its suggestion to come true? The title: The Impeachment of George W. Bush.

Now you'd think something like that would stay with me, but sadly, I completely forgot about it until today, as I was riding down the elevator at work, thinking about a recent meeting I'd had with another sometime NY politician named Liz, when boom! The Holtzman thing came flying back. So anyway, I did an Amazon search, found the book, and thought I'd recommend a peek at it to all of you.

And in case you're wondering what qualifies Holtzman to categorize and call for the impeachment of the Commander in Chief, just keep in mind she's got professional experience: Holtzman sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon impeachment. Hard to beat, huh?

Michelle Obama in the Spotlight

From today's New York Times, a profile and video offering on the wife of Presidential hopeful Barack Obama. As much as I like Obama, I must say I like Michelle even more, and sometimes have that same feeling when watching her stump for her husband that I did watching Kerry Kennedy Cuomo stump for hers--i.e., that SHE ought to have been the one running, rather than playing the role of back-up singer (though In the Cuomo/ Kennedy Cuomo case the imbalance was much greater, for sure).

In any case, I'm hoping that Michelle will continue to get ample face-time as this race continues. My only gripe: can we stop talking already about how she's "meaner" and "tougher" than he is? There are more options for black women, certainly, than being either the coddling mammy or the stone cold butch... How about we let Michelle be the three-dimensional person she is? A radical notion, I'm aware, but one with striving for.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gay Youth Face Increased Homelessness

Not that many of us need any more on a daily basis to make us furious, but just in case you're looking for another hit of "this world is so fucked up I cannot stand it another minute," check out this article in today's NYT about homeless gay youth.

And just in case you're thinking, "How big a problem could that be?" here's a statistic to make you think again: "While gay men and lesbians make up 3 percent to 5 percent of the general population, more than 20 percent of homeless youths under age 21 in many urban areas are gay."

It's grim, people...very grim. (And don't forget to check out the interactive feature for an even more powerful kick in the gut.)

Rupe Hugs Trees, Too

From Grist, a revealing interview with News Corp's head honcho, the one and only--and apparently earth-loving--Rupert Murdoch. In case you were as busy (and as crippled) as I was last week, and thus missed the news, Rupe-dog has pledged to take News Corp and all of its holdings (Fox News Channel, the NY Post, 20th Century Fox, to name but a few) carbon neutral in the coming years--and he wants you to make the same promise to the earth.

I hate to say it, but the man has done a good thing. It may have taken some "arm-twisting" by his son James, but a good deed is a good deed--especially when it comes to safeguarding the earth's future.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Your Mom Went to College!

In case you thought the really bad news was that none of our kids will get into the Ivy League, the NY Times is here to tell you that there's worse news than that: a whole set of so-called "second-tier" schools are now ready and willing to reject your kids, too--thanks to all the overflow of Ivy League rejects. The future looks bright, friends...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Apologies Galore (and The Round-up)

To all those who are regular readers of this blog and therefore noticed that though I usually post every single workday, last week I posted only twice, I offer my profoundest apologies... This back thing really knocked me for a loop. Had to have x-rays last Thursday to rule out any herniated discs and the like (which were indeed ruled out) and then got put on a bit of bed rest and Flexeril--which, you will know if you've ever been on it, makes you more than a little groggy. I like to say that Thursday night was spent more or less in a drug induced coma, but by Friday, I'd figured out how to time my doses so that I could actually get some work done--albeit from my couch--during the day.

Today I'm finally back somewhat on track, and though my back is still aching and I'm kicked back in my chair like some17th century Pasha, its possible to get a few more things accomplished... like blogging. So here I am, again, and for the duration, I hope.

In any case, my job is not to natter on about ME, but to direct you to the news that's fit to kick around. So, to that end...

Bill Officially Stumping for Hill: Any time I get a message in my inbox from Bill Clinton that says, "Watch This" I promise you one thing: I'm opening it (since you never know what he could have in mind). Though not as titillating as some of the best outtakes from his years in office, this video of him stumping for Hillary really is effective--though whether that's because I learned things about Hillary I never knew before, or because I just got sucked in by that amazing Bill Clinton charm, I cannot say. Regardless, worth a watch.

J.K. Rowling to the Rescue: Seems that the Harry Potter author cum billionairess has offered to add a few pennies to the fund being amassed as a reward for the return of Madeleine McCann--the 4 year old who was left alone by her parents while they went out to dinner and then disappeared. Sources are calling Rowling's pledge "staggering"--so if you didn't think returning an abducted child to her parents was a valuable act in and of itself, now you have further inducement to be a decent human being.

Lefties Battle over Georgia Rule: I'm going to stay mostly out of this one since both are parties known to me, but just for your knowledge, there's an interesting debate going on between Jennifer Pozner, Don Hazen, and the readers of both their sites over a posting last week on Alternet about the film "Georgia Rule." Take it all in and judge for yourself.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Georgia Rules!

Last night was the world premiere of the Jane Fonda/LindsayLohan/Felicity Huffman flick Georgia Rule here in NYC, and the event was staged, happily enough, as a benefit for the Women's Media Center. As such, I not only got to attend, but earned myself an All Access pass by offering to work for a bit before the show actually started. It turned out to be one of those great red carpet events that you see on Access Hollywood every night, made much better by the fact that with my pass I could go pretty much anywhere I wanted, even onto the red carpet itself.

The movie was, by all accounts, much better than expected (quite good actually. I can't believe I'm saying this, but people really need to start giving Lohan a bit more credit--despite all the shenanigans, she's a pretty talented little actress). But the best part of the night came at the afterparty, at The China Club. Someone had the brilliant idea to play the song "Do the Jane Fonda" by Mickey Avalon in the VIP lounge, and within seconds, Jane and La Lindsay were in the middle of the dance floor, breaking it down white-girl style. Freakin' amazing.

My friend Don Hazen writes more about the event on the Alternet blog-- but seriously, it was one of the best things I've seen in ages. Two new hips, a white satin pantsuit and 69 years of experience was all Jane needed to get that party started. Superb!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Philanthropy, Finally

So yesterday marks the first day of blogging I've missed since I started this little site 3 months ago. Apologies all around, but I've got an aching back that kept me out of the ring.

To finally clear up the mystery surrounding the NYWF event last week: Abby Disney (that's the Minnie heiress), philanthropist extraordinaire, got up on the dais at last Thursday's event and as part of her acceptance speech issues this challenge: she asked everyone at the event to pick up an envelope and donate a little more money to the NYWF. Pretty standard, right? Except that she offered as our inducement to do so, the carrot that she would match every dollar we donated that morning, to the dollar, up to $1 million.

A cheer spread across the room. But that wasn't all--Abby had more for us. We were next instructed to pick up a card on our table that had the rest of the rules of this game printed on it. Part 2 of the challenge grant goes like this: We were all instructed to make a second contribution to any organization of our choice within the next 90 days. This donation should a) be a stretch (i.e., it should be more than you were used to giving) and be made instead of something else you wanted (say bye bye to that new pair of shoes), and b) should be given to an organization that reflects your deepest passion about social justice and social change.

Now once we've done these things, we are supposed to email the folks at the NYWF and let them know how much we've donated, where, and how it fulfills the criteria listed above. All on our honor. And if all of these elements are executed correctly, Abby Disney told us, she will again match those gifts to these other orgs, up to $1 million.

This time there was a hush. What? So not only the NYWF gets all this money, but so do all these other orgs we care about?? No way. But it's true--and utterly amazing.

So for the rest of this whole week, Abby Disney gets my vote for philanthropist of the decade. Every single person at my table picked up her checkbook and wrote another check. What a wonderfully innovative way to inspire people to give... and to really build a movement across organizations. This is truly what we need more of in America.

Friday, May 4, 2007

I know I promised... give you more information today about the Minnie heiress and her challenge to us all, but that takes a little time to explain and I'm running out the door to a staged reading of a play called Walmartopia, here in NYC. So in the meantime, take a look at my friend Eva's blog post on child soldiers in Sierra Leone. She's a producer for World News Tonight and had the opportunity to interview Ishmael Beah, author of that book you've seen for sale in every Starbucks across America. Amazing what life can be like for folks. (More on the philanthropy stuff on Monday, I swear it.)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Philanthropy Rocks

So I got to begin my day this morning with a huge, fun, bang: the 20th annual New York Women's Foundation breakfast. I was invited by my friends Liz and Ingrid, and joined by my friend Susan (all of whom I've mentioned before). The food was what it was, of course, and don't get me started about paying $150 for a plate of fruit ( I know, I know: my money was going to a good cause), but let me tell you: if you ever have a chance to attend one of these NYWF breakfasts, go. Not only because the honorees tend to be great, as do the 2400 other women in the room there to support them, but also because this event, like none of the others I attend on a semi-regular basis, always seems to leave me with a little extra oomph to get me going, get me giving, get me passionate about why supporting women's organizations is so important.

Tomorrow I'll tell you a little more about why this year's event was so special (hint: it has to do with the dedication and generosity of a "Minnie" heiress), but for now, I'll leave it at this: there are more than a few really good--no, great--people in this world... and we all have a chance to join their ranks. Go visit the NYWF and find out how.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Why I Subscribe to New York Magazine

Truthfully, for a long time now it's been a question. Sure, some weeks I feel like I've been stimulated by what I've read (see Katie Roiphe's somewhat unsettling look at divorce); but just as often, I wonder why in the world I've wasted my time keeping up on the trappings of an elite that never quite strikes me as actually worthy of being kept up with.

For this reason, when our renewal notice came in the mail a few weeks back, I threw it straightaway into the trash. Not that I'd made up my mind, of course, but just because it was it clear to me that I wasn't ready to make up my mind. But this week's issue has convinced me I'm ready to write that check for $24.95. No, not because of that article about the infamous High Line and all it will offer NYC. What changed my mind was a tiny little notation in the magazine, which pointed me to this site, created by the alluring Miranda July. It's meant to promote her new book, No One Belongs Here More Than You--and it does that beautifully. But the site itself is also a sublime journey in the mind of one of the more creative folks we've got popping these days... I've read through it more than once now, and the thing has still got me laughing. And I've got my friend Ingrid hooked, too.

So thank you NY Magazine. My check will be in the mail. Tomorrow. I promise.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

You're Perfect? Who Cares--Harvard Still Doesn't Want You

If you're an adult (and by that I mean over the age of 22), here's a little ditty to make you feel just the tiniest bit self-satisfied. Read Michael Winerip's article about his work as an alumni interviewer for Harvard, and I dare you to feel anything but relief at the fact that the whole college application process is behind you. On the other hand, if you are a parent, please feel free to commence weeping.