Monday, July 30, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Fooooootball?????

To date, I haven't spent a whole lot of time on this blog writing about football--largely because so far this blog has existed solely in the off-season. But for better or worse, my guess is that that's about to change--because for those of you who don't know, football season is right around the corner: training camps have already begun and before you know it the air will be filled with the glorious sounds of helmet on helmet collisions, images of botched snaps, and the promise of Saturday and Sunday afternoons spent glued to our 32 inch flat screen TV--newpaper in one hand, a cold beer in the other.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself: Hey! I thought this blog was about race, gender, politics and media? I thought it was written by a young, progressive gay woman. Well, all of that is true--and so is this: I love football. It's a very recent passion of mine, and one which, from time to time, gives me pause, too. How to reconcile who my politics might tell you am, with what my heart and gut tell me I love. But you know, sometimes life doesn't line up all nice and neat like it does in the movies. Sometimes you are a card carrying feminist, activist, demonstrator who also loves the strategy, the camaraderie, the gut grinding physicality of our nation's most profitable sport. What else can I say?

Anyway, living in New York as I do, I seem to have staked my fan-ship to a certain group of sometimes bumbling Giants... the ones Tiki Barber just left behind for television stardom... the ones now destined to be lead by one emotionless, under-performing, sad-faced little brother named Eli Manning. And this has me worried, y'all. The Giants were 8-8 last year, with the E. Man throwing 35 interceptions (that a LOT--2nd highest in NFL), and the worst part is, there's no indication they'll be any better this year.

I really want to like Eli--really, I do. But I also want him to have a lower interception rate than say... oh... I WOULD if they threw me in the game and put Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace and a few other big dudes in there to block for me (and shrunk the field by 75 yards). It's going to be a long, sad fall, my friends--I can feel it in my bones.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Too Fat to Parent?

Call it a miscarriage of justice, call it just plain fat-ism, but whatever you call it, it stinks to me: a court in Missouri ruled this week that a man who planned to adopt his infant cousin--and happens to weigh 500 lbs--is unfit to become the child's adoptive parent...because of his weight.

Now, I understand that a 500 lb person might have health issues (which is what the court appointed guardian lists as the reason the application was denied), but so might any number of other people who are adoptive parents, or want to be. And it would be another thing, too, if this was but one in a series of disqualifications in the family--but just 7 years ago, when the overweight man was pretty much just as overweight as he is now, another court approved him for the adoption of his son. So one court says this man and his family are perfectly acceptable parents, and now another says he's just too fat to qualify.

Not only does this decision make no sense based on the facts themselves, but given what the foster care system in this country looks like, the decision is doubly stomach turning. This judge has just taken a kid who's presumably been living happily and stably in a home with his relatives and shunted him into a system that regularly fails its charges, and at best subjects them to the kind of instability and chaos that almost always leaves some kind of scars.

Something's seriously awry, ladies and gents, when fat becomes the reason to deny a kid an otherwise acceptable home. My heart breaks for the whole family.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Armchair Seating on the Wane at Local Bookstores

It's a question that's long plagued my mind: when will bookstores realize that providing us avid readers comfy chairs in which to do our perusing might be working against them? Well, now it seems as if that a number of stores have come to precisely that conclusion, and are thus beginning to do away with the plush seating that has thrilled so many of us for so long.

As it turns out, it's just a small sliver of stores that are tired of us loungers-- Barnes & Nobles corporate, for example, promises that the decision of a few stores to cut back on their seating options is not indicative of a company wide mandate to reduce seating. And the findings here don't relate to any of the butt-numbing benches and stools that litter any given bibliotheque. But I still take it as a harbinger of things to come. Not that I ever seem to be able to find one of the soft chairs to sit in, anyway...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Anyone else heard about this yet? It's a new search page from Google, with one major difference: the screen is black. What's the point? The dark screen (it's black, with white type) uses less energy--which is good not only for the environment, but also for your wallet. Plus, at the moment, there are none of those pesky little Google ads to contend with. Phat.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Judging the Debate on Its Merits

Interesting and evocative post on HuffPo today, written by a champion debate coach, on who really won last night's election. Looking at the technical aspects of the thing, the author finds that Richardson was the winner overall, and if I had been paying any attention to what he was saying, rather than gabbing to Jess about one or the other of Hillary, Barack, or John Edwards' preceding statements, I might actually agree. Shoot--that really wasn't fair of me, was it? Does it make it any better that I spent a lot of time talking about how damn cute Dennis Kucinich is, too?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why I Won't Vote for John Edwards

Tonight's You Tube/CNN debate, which wrapped up just moments ago, crystallized one thing for me once and for all: John Edwards won't be getting my vote. Why? Because despite the fact that I think his wife is dope:

1. I don't have any interest in hearing again about how "difficult" the gay thing is for you personally. Struggle with it all you want; let your little Southern baptist heart twist and bleed over who Jesus really meant when he preached for the care and inclusion of the least among us--I just don't want to hear it. And anyone who can't come to a place of equality for all, especially in the secret recesses of his heart, would never get my vote anyway.

2. Picking on Hillary Clinton's wardrobe is a petty, stupid thing to do. Does it matter that she's the only woman on that stage? Yes, it does. And to go after a woman like that, even in a joking manner, makes you, John, look small and mean. Not to mention that smirk. That you don't like her is made clear enough in other ways; spare yourself the embarrassment of looking like--and acting like--a chauvinist by dismissing her choice of outfit. A moronic move, any way you cut it.

I'll say it one more time: I sure wish it was Elizabeth Edwards, not John, who was up there running for office. Now, that would be an interesting race.

How Far Up George Bush's Butt IS Bill Kristol??

It's a legitimate question. And from the tone of this piece of crap published a week ago in the WaPo, I'd say, pretty darn far: Why Bush Will Be A Winner

For a great counter, read Eric Alterman's piece on the HuffPo.

Time for Another Debate? You betcha.

I bet it feels to you like it was just last night you were watching a debate between the candidates for the presidency of the United States. It certainly feels that way to me. But lo and behold, it is now time for those motley crews to gather together again and try not to offend each other too much while tearing apart the policies of their colleagues on the other side of the ideological divide. And this time, they've gone all techie on us: tonight at 7pm ET tune your channel to CNN and check out the first debate hosted by our friends at YouTube, which will take place in good old Charleston, SC.

And because YouTube is the bigwig behind this particular debate, you, netizen, have your very own shot at having your searingly sharp question be deflected by one of the major candidates: just visit YouTube to submit a question (note: you've gotta have a video or web camera to do this) and from there a crack team of CNN producers will whittle the pool down to the 75-100 questions they imagine Anderson Cooper will feel most comfortable sharing with the candidates (so nothing too too gay, please).

Since it's the closest most of us will ever get to being in the ring with the big boys, I highly advocate giving it a shot. (Though interestingly enough, I actually got somewhat of an invite to travel to Charleston to blog the event... and sadly enough, the fact that I have a j-o-b kept me from being able to go. Which brings me back to my earlier point: the YouTube debate is a godsend for most of us.)

Democracy (sorta) opened up to the demos? Pretty rad.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Harlem Book Fair is THIS Weekend!

It's a little late notice, I know, but if you happen to be anywhere near New York this weekend I highly recommend checking out the Harlem Book Fair. It's legendary in these parts, and unlike other book related events it features food so good, and so Southern fried soulful, you'll think you're in back in Dixie. And the book stuff is pretty dope too: this year Walter Mosley, Amiri Baraka and Eloise Greenfield are being honored; there will be tribute to Octavia Butler and Ossie Davis; and newly crowned CNN talking-head/ former Congressman J.C. Watts will be on hand to talk to you about how literacy and crime are linked (is it ok that I still don't like Watts? I really think it is.). Despite Watts' appearance, I'm still gonna say this event is bound to be a good time. Check it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

6 Black Students on Trial in Jena, LA--Jim Crow Justice at Work?

Don't know any more about this than what is outlined in this letter (which was posted on my Yale Black Alumni list-serve), but it's a story I haven't seen elsewhere and clearly needs some attention.
Last fall in Jena, Louisiana, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."1

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place"--but it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the odds are stacked against them. Together, we can make sure their story is told, that this becomes an issue for the Governor of Louisiana, and that justice is provided for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please add your voice:

The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were arrested for the theft of the gun.2

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.3

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. Bail was set so high -- between $70,000 and $138,000 -- that the boys were left in prison for months as families went deep into debt to release them.4

The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years.5 Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. They will lose precious years to Jena's outrageous attempt to maintain a racist status quo. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

Please add your voice to the voices of these families in Jena, and help bring Mychal, Theo, Robert, Carwin, and Bryant home. By clicking below, you can demand that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.

Thank You and Peace,

-- The team

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rinku Sen on the Politics of "People of Color"

In case you'd like to educate yourself a little more deeply on the intersection between race and immigration policy, take a peek at Rinku Sen's new piece, "Are Immigrants and Refugees People of Color?" on the Applied Research Center's site.

Sen correctly points out that despite our national tendency to sublimate the racial elements of the debate over who is welcome within our borders and who is not, "immigration policy itself is about race and color as well as nationality and class, whether immigrants themselves feel like people of color or not." It's a complex issue, and in offering her own, very personal take on it Sen provides a new way to think about how we understand our racialized--and nationalized--identities.

Definitely worth the read...

We've Got Him Just Where We Want Him

Need I say more?

To buy this and other yummy Barack paraphernalia, visit:

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Worker Abuse in Post-Katrina Cleanup

Remarkable article from the Media Consortium's Brian Beutler (via AlterNet) on worker abuses in the Gulf Region in the wake of Katrina. Anyone who thinks the effects of the Hurricane are ancient history has another thing coming, and what this article makes clear is how yet another version of the Bush Administration's policy of neglect has helped workers (read: poor people) get screwed again--even as they try to help rebuild.

Mexico's HIV Increase Linked to US Migrants

If it's not enough that the US lures migrant workers here for little pay and no insurance, and then kicks them out unceremoniously whenever "immigration" becomes a hot button issue, here's news of an even worse gift we're giving the folks who silently make our economy go 'round: increasing numbers of migrant workers are being infected with HIV and then taking it home--back to rural communities in Mexico where lack of resources, transportation and education make it a mind-numbingly difficult plague to fight.

It's pretty easy to hear how conservatives could spin this in favor of greater immigration reform ("Look! They're spreading AIDS in their own country--and presumably in ours too!"), but for the more sane among us, this offers yet another reason that a different kind of reform is necessary: one that provides not only education but opportunity to the poorest among us. For example, the opportunity to not have to leave ones family behind for months at a time to search out work; or the opportunity to not have to prostitute oneself to pay the bills. Or the opportunity to access health care when you need it, and condoms whether you think you need them or not.

Of course all this would necessitate that America start thinking of itself as a true member of the world community--not just some big brother figure that need not care what happens to our brothers and sisters to the south. My fear is that the only way we'll get that logic is when the great ills of the world come knocking on every single American's door. Seems a little moronic for a country that considers itself the greatest nation in the world, doesn't it?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Star Shines Bright on This One

Via HuffPo, Broadcasting & Cable reports on Star Jones' recent commentary on the need for a permanent person of color on The View.

Not that I find myself agreeing with Ms. Jones on much, but on this one she's absolutely right... When BaWa started the show (what is it, 10? 11 years ago now?), she did something quite novel and appropriate by trying to mirror back to us what our national demographic looks like, at least when it came to race. With the addition of Lisa Ling, the show became even more diverse (and exponentially smarter). But since both Ling and Jones are now departed, and even Rosie--who gave a little queer perspective, and thus made up (a tiny bit) for the lack of racial perspective--has jumped ship, The View has started to look mighty white--and has become more than a bit boring (for this reason among a thousand others).

I've already made it clear that I think this particular show really ought to think about packing it in already--but if it does stay on the air, it's pretty much a no brainer that Jones is right in this case, and that a woman of color belongs on that dais along with the rest of those jokesters. I mean, we deserve the right to be mediocre and petty right alongside everyone else, no?

Friday, July 13, 2007

There's a Schism in the Women's Movement? You Don't Say...

Not that I'm unhappy that the Detroit News gave a little page space to the descent of thousands of feminist activists onto their home turf, but I'm a little tired of hearing the same old news about how old feminists and new feminists (such as they apparently are) don't see eye to eye. Yes, we know: things are different now. We don't get them and they don't get us. But can we get over promulgating the mythology and get to work already?

Many of us "young" women--those of us of the third wave--aren't all that young anymore, and I predict that within 10 years (if not less) none of this will be an issue. Why? Because, quite frankly, they've got to retire sometime. Given that fact, it would be better, it seems to me, to spend the intervening years figuring out what comes next and how we want to shape that future based on our own needs and realities--rather than squabbling over who owns the movement. And yes, this is largely about the press and their depiction of what's going on... but we who are feminists are clearly implicated. Because if we refuse to take part in the argument, the press won't have anything to write about, will they?

Just some food for thought as I prepare to ride off into the Berkshires for the weekend...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Satisfying Your Green Tooth

So dizzied am I by the combination of my job demands and the pesticides my super has decided to spray in our building that I can't anymore recall how I got to this site I'm about to tell you about... (Oh wait! The use of the "history" tab finally comes in handy: It was a link found in my weekly GirlieGirl Guide. Much better.) But anyway: the point is, I love this new-found site, the Green Girl Guide--which offers another good look at environmental issues and news, tailored in particular for the female among us.

You can sign up for their newsletter apparently, or just visit the site when you feel inclined. Lots of tips here for little ways to reduce your impact on the earth, as well as your exposure to all those harmful chemicals people like to assume are just the necessities of modern life.

A similar site called IdealBite is also worth taking a peek at if this is a topic that interests you. They have a daily tip they email directly to you to keep you on the up and up when it comes to staying green. Just picked by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best websites of the year... and despite that fact, I'm still gonna recommend it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

UK Pushes to Prosecute FGM Practitioners

Most of us think of FGM (female genital mutilation) as a procedure that happens only in darkest Africa. And though its popularity on that continent dwarfs its impact in the west, it remains true that many, many young women who are citizens and residents of non-African nations continue to find themselves at the mercy of this culturally popular but medically unsafe (and unnecessary) procedure.

Given that as many as 66,000 British women are estimated to undergo the procedure this year, it makes all kinds of good sense that the British government would attempt to take action to end the insanity... and that is exactly what they have finally done. A campaign to highlight the problem in Britain will supposedly launch this week; and rewards of 20,000 pounds ($40,000 US) for the capture of suspected FGM practitioners are also on the table.

All of this is good news for the women of Britain--and, with any luck, Africa too... eventually. One thing I learned during my time in Ethiopia last summer is that this is an issue that comes down, quite simply, to education. When women practitioners learn the dangers and the lack of necessity in what they are doing, almost all of them are willing to curtail the practice. But until they are educated, they know no better or different. What would be great is if some of these efforts in Britain (which will mostly target immigrant women and communities) also included some bone fide educational outreach--not only to communities in the UK, but also to encourage sustained dialog on the issue with the home communities back in Africa. The is is a case where thinking globally, and outside of the "standard (punitive) solutions" box, could really save millions of lives.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More Proof That We're Getting Old (As If We Needed It)

Jane is closing its doors.

Not that I've bought a copy of the magazine in years, or even more than glanced at it while getting my nails done, but still... you don't like to see magazines like this one--irreverent and thought-provoking at its best--die. And you definitely don't want to hear from folks like magazine editor Sally Koslow that this kind of thing was inevitable because, well, nobody likes that much attitude.

For the record, I think there are plenty of us who like that much attitude and more--it's just, apparently, that none of us were buying Jane anymore. Perhaps because we're building adult lives and reading The New Yorker, or buying our first houses and paging through Domino to fill them. Or maybe it's because it never really felt the same once founder/EIC Jane Pratt hit the road. And no, it was never as good as Sassy (which turned out not to be sustainable either). But it was a magazine it felt reassuring to have out there, even if you didn't buy it: some funky counter to Seventeen and Elle and all the other mags that seem born just to remind you you're not quite good enough.

And now it's gone. I'm sure I can find my irreverence in the pages of Bitch and Bust, but I gotta tell ya: there really was something nice about the idea that big, corporate Conde Nast was pouring bucks into something just the teensiest bit subversive. Say goodbye to all that, folks, and pour a little out for our sisters at Jane.

Monday, July 9, 2007

An Army of None

Kinda makes me feel like folks are finally starting to get the picture: Army Misses Recruiting Goal For Second Straight Month (via HuffPo)

Long time no blog!

Apologies for the absence, but chalk it up to the 4th of July holiday in combination with the fact that Jessica and I just moved our home: from mid-town east to the upper east side. And it's been no easy transition: had to move our stuff out of our old place on June 29, but couldn't move our bodies into the new place until July 7, which meant a week of living in the homes of our wonderful and various friends (thanks Katie and Liz and Ingrid!). All this followed by a weekend of mad, mad cleaning, scouring, washing, drying, and generally trying to get ourselves acclimated to the new space. Whew.

All this setting up house makes me wonder: when'd I get so old? Time was, I would have been happy to live out of boxes, and without sparklingly clean floors, and never given it a second thought. But there I was, scrubbing my new kitchen cabinet until it gleamed. Gleamed, I tell you!

Not sure exactly where the shift happened, but somehow, oddly enough, I became an adult. Which freaks me out a little to realize. And so to quell my quaking fear, I look for remembrances of things past... things that take me back to the days of Lollapalooza and beer thirty; back to "We Got the Bunk" at Spring Fling and late nights at the Tropicana. Things like the Beastie Boys. Today, Mike D. waxes environmentally friendly over at Grist, and even though he's a grown-up now too, the whole thing brought me back.

Thanks for the lift, Boys. Now me and the crew are gonna drink some brass monkey.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mahatma & Me

Yesterday, while lounging on my friend Katie Sherwin's couch, I decided to indulge myself a bit by picking up the remote and seeing what there was to see. As it turned out, "Ghandi" was on, and so, for the next 3 hours and 15 minutes, I indulged myself by learning again about the life of one rather tiny man, and his mission to cure the world of our violent tendencies.

I don't think I'd seen the film since it came out in '82 (yes, I was 7 but we were a progressive family and I went to a Quaker school, and Ben Kingsley even came to speak to all of us kids about the film and the man and why his message was so important), but let me tell you: it holds up even 25 years later. Maybe it's more important now, even, than it was then. Anyway, point is, I was so inspired, and as we headed out the door after my marathon movie session to meet another friend for drinks, I said to Jess, "I want to be more like Ghandi"--and I'm sure I'm hardly the first person to feel that way.

Usually when I have sentiments like these, they've flitted from my head in a few minutes time... but this was has stuck around, and I went to sleep last night and woke up this morning thinking about how I can direct my life towards goodness. And not only that, but decreased consumption. I don't know that I'll quite be able to start spinning my own cotton, a la the Mahatma, but I think there is certainly more I (and each one of us) can do to cut down on how much we are consuming and how much trash we are spitting out onto the earth. Whether we're choosing to fight that battle on the personal level (see fluorescent bulbs) or by pushing for legislative change, my guess is it'll be worth the effort--not only in terms of saving the earth, but in terms of saving our souls, too.

That's enough of my preaching for now... But meanwhile, for a thought provoking piece on the new boom in environmentalism and how not everything labeled "eco-friendly" is actually going to change the world, read Alex Williams's piece from yesterday's NYT.