Archive for September, 2010

Because It’s A Desert

it’s a desert because
because it’s a desert

—Rickie Lee Jones

In her $120-million campaign to not become governor of California, Meg Whitman continues to dine on her feet.

Last Tuesday Whitman told the editorial board of the San Jose Mercury News that the California city of Fresno “looks like Detroit—it’s awful.”

Two days later Whitman was flapping into Fresno itself, assuring everyone there, via Fresno’s hate-radio outlet KMJ, that “Fresno is a great town,” and that her previous assessment, which she admitted “didn’t go over well,” was meant to refer to the city’s unemployment rate, which she deemed “unacceptable.” She did not, she stressed, intend to condemn the city itself.

“I love the Central Valley,” she chirped.

Uh-huh.

Whitman was born on Long Island, and attended Princeton and Harvard, preparing for life as a pencil-pusher. She first moved her graphite through Proctor & Gamble and Disney, then scribbled over to Hasbro, where she oversaw Mr. Potato Head, and was responsible for inflicting the Teletubbies on America. Finally she pushed her pencil to eBay, where she assaulted a coworker, and, after paying her off, decided she would like to buy the governor’s office. Whitman lives in Atherton, one of the most exclusive enclaves in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before she set out to purchase the governorship, Whitman had probably never been to the Central Valley in her life.

In comparing Fresno to Detroit, maybe Whitman meant there are too many people there with melanin. Detroit is 85% black, and Fresno is getting there—officially 50% black or brown, but in reality more than that, as people with melanin are notoriously undercounted in official surveys. The white people who founded and for decades ran the town are Scared: they know the Valley was once Mexican, and fear it will be again. Which it will. No doubt about it. It would make sense for Whitman to play to these fears, because the elections of 2010 are, at root, and throughout the country, all about fear of a black planet.

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Adventures In The Spice Trade

The process of collecting cinnamon is still more remarkable. Where it comes from and what country produces it, they do not know; the best some of them can do is to make a fair guess that it grows somewhere in the region where Dionysus was brought up. What they say is that the dry sticks, which we have learnt from the Phoenicians to call cinnamon, are brought by large birds, which carry them to their nests, made of mud, on mountain precipices, which no man can climb, and that the method the Arabians have invented for getting hold of them is to cut up the bodies of dead oxen, or donkeys, or other animals into very large joints, which they carry to the spot in question and leave on the ground near the nests. They then retire to a safe distance and the birds fly down and carry off the joints of meat to their nests, which, not being strong enough to bear the weight, break and fall to the ground. Then the men come along and pick up the cinnamon, which is subsequently exported to other countries.

—Herodotus, The Histories

Pissed It Away So Fast

Last Sunday was International Talk Like A Pirate Day. It’s okay that I’m not getting around to it here until almost a week later. Because, in the early years, even the fellows who came up with the holiday—while playing racquetball in June of 1995, my sense behind plenty of beer—sometimes forgot to remember the thing . . . back before Florida humor-columnist Dave Barry gave it wide play in 2002, thereby making it stick.

John Baur and Mark Summers were batting the ball around on June 6, 1995, when for No Known Reason they were suddenly seized with the need to comment on the game in pirate slang. Rather than express themselves with a “damn, you bastard!” or “jeez, my hamstring,” they instead began “arrring,” and observing “that be a fine cannonade,” and other such pleasantries.

After an hour of this foolishness, they decided “that what the world really needed was a new national holiday: Talk Like A Pirate Day.” They elected to eschew the actual day of their revelation, June 6, already well-known as the date of the D-Day landing, settling instead on September 19, the birthday of Summer’s ex-wife.

Summers and Baur were additionally inspired to inform Dave Barry of their brainshower . . . but then (beer again, most probably) they promptly forgot all about the Barry notion. As the years washed by, they occasionally even forgot about the holiday itself—”frankly, we usually forgot exactly when Talk Like a Pirate Day was supposed to be, or even that there was such a thing.”

In early 2002, Baur chanced upon Barry’s email address . . . and recalled that seven years before, he and Summers had intended to inform the Great Man of their Pirate Wisdom. This time, they actually did so. And Barry liked their idea. And so, on September 8, 2002, he wrote about it, introducing Summers and Baur, and their Day, in that inimitable Barry style: “Every now and then, some visionary individuals come along with a concept that is so original and so revolutionary that your immediate reaction is: ‘Those individuals should be on medication.'”

And, eight years later, here they, and we, are. Big time.

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Thar She Blows

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

—Job 38:1-2

This season my daughter was transformed into a hurricane. Rude and abusive things were said about her: “despite becoming a monster [a monster?], she will not pose any danger to land.”

Of course not. She’s always been a good girl.

As a hurricane, my daughter blew with winds of about 125 mph. Seems a fair breeze. I presume that all water creatures—birds, fish, boat-people—had sense enough to steer clear, as she churned through the Atlantic.

Because I live in the age of Science Men, I know that wind is a meteorological phenomenon. The flow of gases on a large scale. Movement of air in bulk. Generated by pressure dif-ferentials. Deflected by the Coriolis effect. Etc.

I know that wind no longer has anything to do with bumptious folk like Boreas, or Njord, or Fujin, the venerable Japanese deity who let the winds out of his magic bag in order to clear the primordial world of mist. I know that Stribog may be the Slavic grandfather “of the winds of the eight directions,” but the guy was placed in a Home, long ago, and no one really pays attention to him anymore. These days it’s all about specific heat, equations of motion, anemometers, and the Magnus effect.

But you know: why not both? Why can’t a hurricane be both an area of low atmospheric pressure, driven by the release of large amounts of latent heat of condensation, and also a pissed-off dude with a hundred hands and fifty heads, whipped into the world from the stormy pit of Tartaros? Or my daughter, turning over in her sleep, in dreams venting spleen at the hoary-handed robber barons of Kaiser?

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“Big, Black, And Could Be Trouble”

Former professional basketball player John Amaechi was denied entrance to a Manchester, England gay bar when the doorman determined he was “big, black, and could be trouble.”

Amaechi is himself gay.

Two members of Amaechi’s party were allowed into club Crunch before Amaechi himself was barred; after Amaechi was turned away, the doorman granted passage to “an inebriated Batman (complete with cowl) and a group of five men and women dressed as escaped convicts and absolutely blasted out of their minds[.]“

According to Amaechi:

I was told I was being barred because Crunch is a “private members bar” at first, not because I had been previously aggressive.

Only when I made it clear I knew Crunch was NOT a private bar, did the doorman tap his radio to say they had been told “I was a problem.”

I stated that I knew I was being rejected for how I looked and what they assumed about me—I said because “I am big and black,” they said ” . . . big and black and trouble.”

When my friends told the doorman that I was a Patron of Pride, and gay—he laughed and turned his back.

In a pathetic attempt at damage control, Crunch spokespeaks claimed that the bar had received a radio message that a group matching the description of Amaechi & Co. had been “argumentative and aggressive” with another venue’s door staff. This lie was demolished when personnel at the two Manchester clubs Amaechi visited before he was barred from Crunch confirmed that they were not even linked via radio with Crunch. A representative of one of the clubs, VIA, told Pink News that in his establishment, on that night, Amaechi was, “as always, very pleasant.” This man also left the following message on Facebook:

Just wanted to add a point from VIA—John and his group were in our venue and were as always polite respectful. I do not know John personally but i have a great respect for the amount he does for OUR community. I was on the nitenet system all night as well as my head doorman and i do not remember any messages that were connected to Johns party . Tony -Via

Seems clear that the Crunch bunch, like George Bush and the racists at Daily Kos, just don’t like black people.

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Saturday Night

Hallowed Be Thy Thong

The wingers and the bigots and the charlatans and the fools are no match for Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the public face of a proposed $100 million Manhattan edifice that would include a swimming pool, gym, basketball court, 500-seat restaurant, culinary school, library, reading room, art studio, child care center, September 11 memorial, and also a mosque.

On Monday, Rauf caused all of their heads to explode, when, in response to their ceaseless ululating that the site was somehow “hallowed ground,” situated as it is two long blocks from the crater of the World Trade Center, he observed mildly that “it’s absolutely disingenuous, as many have said, that that block is hallowed ground,” seeing as how it contains two strip clubs and a betting parlor.

Well, yes, that it does. Women rhythmically remove their cloth-ing at The Pussycat Lounge and New York Dolls, while over at the parlor bettors lay their money down on horses. A customer of the latter scoffed to the Wall Street Journal at the would-be hallowing of the ground, noting that “the bums used to sit right in front of” the former Burlington Coat Factory that the community center will replace.

Chris, employed to strip at The Pussycat Lounge, says she volunteered for the Red Cross after the 9/11 attacks, to which she lost eight friends. But she has no problem with the community center, and no illusions that she dances on hallowed ground.

“It’s all good,” she said of the community center. “You have your synagogues and your churches. And you have a mosque.”

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When I Worked

September 2010
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