Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Arizona: the Police State

For days now I've been mulling over the new AZ immigration law and why it bothered me so much. Possibly it's because I was just recently a judge at a student Holocaust film festival, so I'm more sensitized to fascism than I am on a day-to-day basis. Which, by the way, is pretty effing sensitized. I grew up breathing the air of the Inside Room and learned the Devil's Arithmetic before I managed to Number the Stars. Every season was the Summer of my German Soldier, goddammit, to the point where if I heard German spoken in real life I jumped.

When I needed to cool down from YA Holocaust lit, I picked up on other kinds of injustice through biographies of Harriet Tubman and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Even my very first smutty smut book, Night Over Water, had fascism as a subplot. (Reading the description is fascinating now because all I remember is the sex [vividly] and the politics [hazily], and that only because at 10 or 11 years old, I was surprised to learn there were fascists in England, too. By contrast, my mother, who gave me the book to read, didn't remember the sex at all.)

Back to Arizona, the state that gave us John "Never Said I Was a Maverick" McCain. Bisbee is great! Try the killer bee honey. You can't argue with the Saguaros everywhere, which are evidence of God's prickly sense of humor. But why, WHY, does anyone think it's acceptable to force people to carry identification papers with them at all times because they could be stopped and asked for those papers by the police?

Linda Greenhouse does not think it is acceptable. In fact, Linda Greenhouse is smoldering with rage.

And good on her. Having to wear a badge on your sleeve is only five paces in that direction from having to carry ID papers with you everywhere. Knowing you could be stopped and frisked by cops simply for leaving your house in your darker skin is a kind of low-level terror no one should be exposed to: not illegal immigrants, not legal immigrants, not citizens of this country.

As May Day is almost upon us, it feels appropriate to quote Billy Bragg's excellent translation of the Internationale, which is unfortunately playing in my head to the tune of La Marseilleise, but never mind:
Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don't cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all. ...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Internets FTW

The web is *on* today! Here's Dana Stevens at Slate reviewing the latest rom-com black cat to cross her path:
The Back-up Plan (CBS Films), with Jennifer Lopez as a would-be single mother surprised by love, is by any reasonable standard a bad movie: predictably scripted, sentimental, with laughs that rarely rise above a gentle sitcom chuckle. But at least it's not reprehensible, misogynistic, or cynical, and the lead couple isn't made up of a shrill female narcissist and a proudly slovenly male lug. I wouldn't go so far as to recommend this movie, but if you were tied down and forced to watch it, you wouldn't necessarily have to chew off your own leg to get away.
Damning with faint praise has become an internet art form.

And here's the Washington Post on the porn scandal rocking the SEC:
In one instance, a regional office staff account admitted viewing pornography on his office computer and on his SEC-issued laptop while on official government travel. Another staff account received nearly 1,800 access denials for pornography Web sites in a two-week period and had more than 600 images saved on her laptop’s hard drive, the report said.

A senior attorney at SEC headquarters in Washington admitted he sometimes spent as much as eight hours viewing pornography from his office computer, according to the report. The attorney’s computer ran out of space for the downloaded images, so he started storing them on CDs and DVDs that he stored in his office.
I do not envy the cleaning lady in that office. In fact: For the love of god! Will someone please think of the cleaning ladies?

Leaving aside the fact that these folks were fiddling with themselves while Rome burned, I just don't understand the appeal of porn in an office setting. Isn't the office the least titillating place on earth? I mean, we're talking about federal government buildings, not Sterling Cooper.* And did these lawyers signal to each other not to interrupt their marathon sessions of self-love? Did they put socks on doorknobs, or what?

Lastly, the Internets provide us with this self-glorifying thread at Shapely Prose, where Kate-fucking-Harding encourages everyone to brag about why they're awesome. The comments have been brightening my mood for an hour already like bloggy Windex. Thanks, folks!

*My friend Nomi suggests that offices are unsexy to me because I *don't* watch porn on my computer, which is a cause-and-effect I had not considered.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Feminist Readers Digest

  • Have you ever wanted a set of colorful, informative slides to explain the persistent wage gap -- to what extent it exists, when, and why -- between men and women in America? {those "lesbian shitasses" at Jezebel.}

  • Want to help start a Boobquake on Monday April 26? Wear your most office-unsuitable tops and draw the wrath of God down upon us.

    So, start here ...

    That's right! Just like that.

    Then, progress to Step Two.

    After that, take a drink -- you've earned it! -- and sit back and watch the tectonic plates start shifting.

  • Wanna get self-conscious about what you wear? Check out this list of the 25 most "fattening" clothing items, featuring virtually every kind of pants (mom jeans, grandma pants, cargo pants, capri pants, white pants, hot pants, sweat pants, any pair of pants with an elastic waistband, acid washed jeans, and shorts of any kind), skirts on both extremes (frilly mini skirts and peasant skirts), and comfortable shoes (ballet flats, gladiator sandals, white sneakers).

    Also bad: patterned tights, baby doll dresses, and bikinis (!).

    By contrast, what is the #1 most universally flattering item of clothing? I'm so glad you asked.


    Luckily the commenters have the right attitude:
    GIRDLES are on the non-fattening list? Well, yeah, but that doesn't really count as CLOTHES. Also, god, look how much more FUN the fattening list is: binkinis, colors, cute details, trends. The non-fattening list is basically just monotone-black underwear. I'd rather look fat and cute and non-girdled, thanks.
    I concur. Reject what my friend Lana calls "the tyranny of the flattering!" Trying on a daily basis to look your most tall, your most thin, your most non-threatening, professional but fun, sexy but not slutty, *and* age-appropriate is exhausting. And what's the point? Somewhere, at some point, the earth will shake, and you'll still get blamed for the rubble.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On marriage, flagging, and snooping

In responding to a "non-stereotypical-looking lesbian" who wants to know how to signal her availability, Dan Savage stumbles upon an idea I had about a decade ago.
... maybe all lesbians everywhere should start wearing a button. No words, just a solid color, something small and tasteful that could be pinned to the strap of a purse (popular with "not-stereotypical-looking" lesbians), the lapel of a jacket, or the belt loop on a pair of jeans. Thinking outside the lavender/pink/purple box, I think the button should be green—green for "go," green as in "Go ahead and hit on me, ladies. I’m a lesbian."
My version of this idea was not sexuality-specific, or gender-specific, for that matter. I just figured, at the time, that everyone should wear a button -- red, yellow, or green -- signaling their availability. Then I learned about flagging, which has the benefit of being uber-specific and the drawback of dying out, possibly for the same reason.

On the other hand, what's easier to interpret than red / yellow / green? Folks could even take the initiative to further decorate their buttons with the most vital specifics of their profiles.

Sadly, a flash-forward to a guy in a witness box protesting, "But she was wearing green!" and a lawyer retorting, "A button does not imply consent!" made me realize my idea had any number of flaws.

Still, Dan, if you're interested in sifting through my other youthful fancies, I once thought it would be brilliant to have marriage be a 7-year-long contract that could be extended. Sure, if a couple decided not to renew, they would have to figure out what to do with mutual children and property, but it could be a simpler and less vicious process than divorce.*

To the turn the tables for a second, though, Dan, I got kind of stuck on this, from your column a couple weeks ago:
A confession: I’ve looked through my boyfriend’s e-mail; I assume he’s looked through mine. I’ve scrolled through his text messages; I assume he’s scrolled through mine. Expecting your partner not to snoop is like expecting your partner not to fart or fantasize about other people. It’s a nice thought, JB, but knowing what we know about human nature—and knowing that we ourselves snoop, fart, and fantasize about other people—it’s a little unrealistic.
That's pretty strong language there. I would be upset if I found out Mr. Ben had gone through my email or my text messages. Dude, I don't even open letters that I know are intended for both of us if they're addressed only to him. To me, this is standard practice, because everyone is entitled both to privacy and to vent, whether in journals or by email or whatever. Also, the couple times in my life I have seen someone else's gchat conversation windows or text messages, I've had to deal with unwanted information, the kind I wished afterwards I could un-know.

Snooping is counter-productive: you think your curiosity will be slaked by just a little bit more information, but that's not usually the way curiosity works. If you feel like you're being lied to and can't trust the person you're with, the trust is probably gone and the relationship is probably over, no matter what exists in the other person's inbox. Right?

Or is there something here I'm not seeing? Has anyone ever had a positive snooping outcome?

*Turns out a German politician not only read my mind, she went public with the notion of a time-limited, renewable civil marriage. The only folks who took her seriously were the Catholics, who demanded that she be ejected from the Christian Social Union (CSU) party. Ah well.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

True story

So, the other day, I was like, "Hi, Cynthia Nixon! This adorable person next to you, over whom I am leaning, must be your wife."

And Cynthia Nixon was like, "We're engaged but we haven't gotten married yet. Hi, though!"

(Note: this is all true, except the parts that aren't.)

Me: I remember us working together at the Very Important Talent Agency.

CN: That place must have been terrible for a sensitive, intelligent young woman like yourself.

Me: Thank you for feeling my pain, Cynthia. That means a lot. So what are you doing here at this random activist-y Jewish theater event at the Manhattan JCC, of all places?

CN: I like to do things outside my character profile.

Me: Me too! For example, I now run three miles three times a week. Isn't that crazy? I refuse to invest in running gear, because I don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of poser, but it still feels kind of amazing.

CN: While I starred in one of the most influential TV shows in the world as a straight, fashion-and-shoe-obsessed Manhattan lady, I left my boyfriend of fifteen years and the father of my children to move to Park Slope and become a lesbian.

Me: Okay, okay, you win. As a token of my appreciation, may I offer you this totebag? My best friend Charrow made it and she would be thrilled if I could tell her I gave it to you.

CN: Why, of course! Thank you. Oh my god, it's adorable.

Me: So are you. You were my favorite part of Sex and the City, and the screenwriters for the film were totally punishing you for being the most normal and most happy.

CN: At least they didn't make me shit myself.

Me: True, true. Well, let's watch this play! Which will, incidentally, send the message that caring too much about handbags is deranged. I hope you won't be offended.

CN: I will laugh as hard as anyone. I promise. For years, I've been laughing all the way to the bank.

Me: Oh my god, Cynthia. I heart you so much. And I'm so glad we (sort of) had this talk.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The purity of childhood

This NYT article showcases -- and, naturally, frets about -- the young, female star of a violent movie. Not because she is violent, but because she uses naughty words.
the filmmakers are bracing for the reception that the movie and Ms. Moretz may receive. In Britain, where the movie was released at the end of March, David Cox of The Guardian assailed its creative team and Ms. Moretz’s mother for allowing that swear word spoken by ChloĆ« to become “acceptable parlance for children in mainstream movies,” adding, “We’ll be the poorer for it.”
Now, I don't know which bit of verbal raunch is being referenced here. Perhaps it's garden variety ("shit," "bitch"). Perhaps it's what Kurt Vonnegut in Mother Night called "the most offensive compound word in the English language."

(Speaking of Vonnegut, let's hear what he has to say on the impact of salty talk:
There is the word "motherfucker" one time in my Slaughterhouse-Five, as in, "Get out of the road, you dumb motherfucker." Ever since that word was published, way back in 1969, children have been attempting to have intercourse with their mothers. When it will stop no one knows.)
God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut. I hope that, when you got to Heaven, they gave you a perch with a good view of all the nonsense that goes on down here.

Regardless, is this really something to get all yelpy about? Me, I love "bad language." The more creatively vulgar, the better. Cursing features prominently in some of my favorite movies. And what makes me particularly disappointed in stuffy old Mr. David Cox of the Guardian is that British profanity is even more gleeful and entertaining than the American kind.

When I was thirteen, the same age as this tender young actress, I could turn the air around me so blue you would think Cookie Monster had exploded. I turned out okay and so did my friends, who were occasionally shocked but usually on board. "A word after a word after a word is power," says Margaret Atwood, who is one savvy lady, and who understands that for young girls especially saying what folks don't expect them to is an excellent way to be not just looked at but seen.

The article goes on:
Mr. Vaughn said this kind of condemnation was hypocritical because it attacked the movie’s language while essentially forgiving its violence. "I was like, ‘Does it not bother you that she killed about 53 people in this film?’" he said. "I’m like, ‘Would you rather your daughter swore, or became a masked vigilante killer?’ They’re going, ‘Yeah, I don’t know.’"

Thursday, April 01, 2010

stumping dear abby

As a know-it-all (in my case, a genetic condition) I love being asked questions. At the second seder, a little boy asked me, "Why does the clock keep going?" I shot back, "Because time keeps going."

BOO YEAH. If you want to catch me without a reply, you're going to have to try harder than that, you three-toothed squirt.

Sometimes, though, even I can't come up with an answer, as in the situation below. See if you can do better.

[ex-coworker]: are you / have you been a dog owner?
also hi, how are you

me: i had a dog when i was a kid

[ex-coworker]: i may as well tell you why i asked: a friend's dog ate some condoms. her mom's visiting. she doesnt want the dog to poop out the condoms while mom's visiting. partly, apprently cause her mom will blame her for leaving condoms out for the dog to eat

me: ... wow.
well, that's definitely not a problem i had as a kid
were they wrapped?

[ex-coworker]: uh no

me: yikes.


It is perhaps worth mentioning that I did once use a condom as a bookmark of a book my mother then asked to borrow. I handed it over without any sense of impending doom, having completely forgotten. That's as close as I have ever come to playing Russian Roulette.