Monday, April 30, 2007

rediscovering home

it's a long, crazy-making story but i'm flying home this weekend to see my dad and pow wow with my sister about his weird decision making skills and the apparently done deal to sell our childhood home and move into a depressing and decidedly 'unhip' retirement community where the words MOBILE HOME PARK are prominently displayed.

i'll be flying into LAX in the afternoon and have decided to embrace being carless in los angeles. it's a scary thought, but it can be done, right? i mean, if you can be carless in Paris, then you sure as hell should be able to be carless in LA.

(incidentally, LA has the second largest public transportation system with subways, buses and a light rail in the nation.)

since i'm all about the research and not getting lost while traveling, i've been on this site: it's wonderful. from here, i can plan my bus trip from the airport to my sister's house or to my old high school where she teaches or i can look for some 'adventures' to have while in LA and feel jet set and cosmopolitan.

(the Wilshire Blvd and the Downtown LA adventures look neat.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

from behind the iron curtain: dowd on michelle obama

i don't know why, but MoDo consistently pisses me off.

like, what's the point of this column? the rezko deal? michelle obama ain't as great as everybody thinks she is?

have you noticed she does this with every single candidate's wife? she takes women who, in real life, would actually be pretty cool to know and then suddenly, because they're the candidate's wife, paints them as fake, emasculating Lady MacBeths who can't really be trusted to stick to the 'spin.' or they've somehow fallen down on the job of being 'wife.' or, now, they're just wrong, for some reason.

what's her deal? what would it take to actually make maureen dowd say about a candidate's wife who isn't the quiet smiling type, 'hm. she's ok.' her snittiness, makes me want to write dowd a letter and say, 'for the love of god, get a boyfriend already!' i know. you don't have to tell me how wrong and sexist that is. but what the frak is her problem??

anyway, the article is below:

She’s Not Buttering Him Up
Published: April 25, 2007


Usually, I love the dynamics of a cheeky woman puncturing the ego of a cocky guy.

I liked it in ’40s movies, and I liked it with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, and Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in “Moonlighting.”

So why don’t I like it with Michelle and Barack?

I wince a bit when Michelle Obama chides her husband as a mere mortal — a comic routine that rests on the presumption that we see him as a god.

The tweaking takes place at fundraisers, where Michelle wants to lift the veil on their home life a bit and give the folks their money’s worth.

At the big Hollywood fund-raiser for Senator Obama in February, Michelle came on strong.

“I am always a little amazed at the response that people get when they hear from Barack,” she told the crowd at the Beverly Hilton, as her husband stood by looking like a puppy being scolded, reported Hud Morgan of Men’s Vogue. “A great man, a wonderful man. But still a man. ...

“I have some difficulty reconciling the two images I have of Barack Obama. There’s Barack Obama the phenomenon. He’s an amazing orator, Harvard Law Review, or whatever it was, law professor, best-selling author, Grammy winner. Pretty amazing, right?

“And then there’s the Barack Obama that lives with me in my house, and that guy’s a little less impressive. For some reason this guy still can’t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale, and his 5-year-old is still better at making the bed than he is.”

She said that the TV version of Barack Obama sounded really interesting and that she’d like to meet him sometime.

Many people I talked to afterward found Michelle wondrous. But others worried that her chiding was emasculating, casting her husband — under fire for lacking experience — as an undisciplined child.

At a March fund-raiser in New York, she tweaked her husband for not “putting his socks actually in the dirty clothes.”

And at a lunch last week with Chicago women, she gave the candidate a fed-up look about that melting butter and said, “I’m like: ‘You’re just asking for it. You know I’m giving a speech about you today.’ ”

She throws in nice stuff, too, about how he’s “the real deal” and a trustworthy “brother.” But this princess of South Chicago, a formidable Princeton and Harvard Law School grad, wants us to know that she’s not polishing the pedestal.

The Chicago Tribune profile of “Barack’s Rock” on Sunday noted that her career had caused her husband discomfort: “Critics have pointed out that her income has risen along with her husband’s political ascent. She sits on the board of a food company that supplies Wal-Mart, which Sen. Obama has denounced for its labor practices.”

The Obamas are both skeptical of hype. Michelle dryly told a reporter at her husband’s Senate swearing-in that perhaps someday, he would do something to earn all the attention he was getting.

But it may not be smart politics to mock him in a way that turns him from the glam J.F.K. into the mundane Gerald Ford, toasting his own English muffins. If all Senator Obama is peddling is the Camelot mystique, why debunk the mystique?

Besides, the coolly detached candidate, striving to seem substantive, is good at turning down the heat himself. He manages to tamp down crowds dying to be electrified. He resists surfing his own wave of excitement.

Michelle conveys the appealing idea that she will tell her husband when he’s puffed up or out of line. She aims high — she ordered her husband to stop puffing on cigarettes as he started campaigning. But then, why didn’t she see the red flags on the Rezko deal?

In order to get a bigger yard for their new house on Chicago’s South Side in 2005, the Obamas got into what the senator now confesses was a “boneheaded” real estate arrangement with a sleazy political dealmaker named Tony Rezko, who has been indicted on influence-peddling charges.

On Monday, The Chicago Sun-Times reported more shady Rezko news: “Obama, who has worked as a lawyer and a legislator to improve living conditions for the poor, took campaign donations from Rezko even as Rezko’s low-income housing empire was collapsing, leaving many African-American families in buildings riddled with problems,” from a lack of heat to no lack of drug dealers and squatters.

Mr. Obama riposted that “it wasn’t brought to my attention.” But isn’t that where a dazzling, tough, smart and connected wife could help a guy out?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

bunching and more bunching

Even if not on time, it'll be online | Chicago Tribune

this morning i got so mad i almost ran into the street and cursed out the three bunched buses that passed me. unlike other mornings, i actually made it to the bus stop on time. i was there, reading, around 8.43 am. plenty of time to grab the #65 and go to work by 9 or 9.10.

in the distance, i can see a bus rumbling through a red light. it stops to load up the folks at the stop before mine. i can tell it's packed; you can see folks standing right next to the driver, pressed against the rails and facing the big front window. so i decide to wait for the emptier bus behind it - no biggie.

this is what's supposed to happen: the packed bus passes us and goes to the next stop, while the empty bus picks us up and they alternate. does that happen? no frakking way.

the packed bus stops at my stop and then stands there while the TWO empty buses roar past. what the hell? then, the packed bus squeezes in one more passenger and then IT roars off. i stand there, skipped by the two empty buses and blocked by the packed bus.

now, who the frak cares about GPS when the frakking buses come all in a bunch and empty buses pass passengers and packed buses block the empty ones??

can you tell me that, CTA, can you?!?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

a freaking messy week

if you're hiding in your apartment because of taxes, the v-tech shootings and watching alberto gonzales gave you gas, then add one more thing to the mix: the SCOTUS decided this week to uphold a ban on 'partial birth abortions'. big deal, right? we wouldn't choose that procedure anyway.

sometimes, what we would 'choose' ain't the point. sometimes, like this week, the decision is made for us. read some excellent analysis at the handy dandy roundup from Alas: Round-up of posts about Gonzales v Carhart (Updated)

Friday, April 20, 2007

it's official: tarantino is an asshat

it is unlikely that i will see Grindhouse. while i liked Kill Bill and love robert rodriguez, the whole 'dirty movie theater experience' nostalgia has left me a little 'meh.' whatever. i mean, i can go to the Village if i wanna know what it's like to sit in gunk and watch trash.

but now that quentin tarantino has created a Rapist action figure, i can feel my 'meh' turning into an 'ick.'

[h/t to Bitch]

plug plug plug: She Speaks Volumes

it's Sexual Assault Awareness Month and She Speaks Volumes is one of the events happening in the city. the event last year was awesome and this one looks to be just as good:

She Speaks Volumes Poetry Poetry Slam & Panel Discussion

Presented in collaboration with Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media, Columbia College, Chicago

The She Speaks Volumes poetry slam and panel discussion fuse art and activism to impact social change. In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the event gives voice to the silence surrounding this issue. The event uses music and the arts to encourage young people to speak out against sexual violence and become activists for change in their local communities.

Featured artists, Diva Diction, are three powerful female poets both on page and on stage. Bassey descends from Nigeria, Amalia Ortiz from Mexico and Ishle Park from Korea. Their unique native roots may have originated from different countries but their cultured personalities blend powerfully together. All three women have competed in the National Poetry Slam and have been featured on Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry on HBO.

Special tribute will be paid to three outstanding women who demonstrate a commitment to anti-violence and social justice: Mary Jo Barrett, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Center for Contextual Change; C.C. Carter, Artist and Founder, Pow-Wow Inc.; and Kathy Kempke, Coordinator of Prevention Education, YWCA West Suburban Center.

When: April 26, 2007

Where: HotHouse
31 E. Balbo
Chicago, IL 60605
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Volunteer: For volunteer opportunities, contact us at

Tickets: Tickets for the event are $15. Click here to purchase tickets online. For VIP pricing, contact Tanisha Pleasant at 312.762.2743.

Contact: Tanisha Pleasant at 312.762.2743 or

Join the artists for an afternoon discussion, "Where do we draw the line? Creative Expression vs. the Perpetuation of a Rape Culture."

April 26, 2007
Columbia College
Conaway Center
1104 S. Wabash, 1st Floor
Chicago, IL 60605
12 p.m.
Free admission

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

mr. tax man

so i'm in the process of making sure i render unto caesar exactly what i ought and find myself on the phone with a federal tax guy because of a scary letter i got in the mail last week.

'so...apparently, i under-reported my income for 2003? i swear, i filed electronically and i thought it took all three of my W2s!'
'ms. Ding...'

'really! i don't know what happened. maybe it timed out, maybe i just misunderstood - but i have all the W2s! i can refile! i'll do whatever - i just can't afford this back tax'll kill me.'
'ms. Ding...'

'and i don't know what happened with my other tax refunds, you know? for tax year 2003, 2004, 2005. i mean, did you guys take them, all of them? are you about to garnish my wages? am i in trouble? i SWEAR i'll send you all the supporting documents - and they took taxes out! i'm not trying to get away with anything!'

have i mentioned i'm having this conversation while i'm at work? everyone can hear my panic.

meanwhile, tax guy is either laughing at me or choking. 'ms. Ding, you're fine. yes, we took your refunds and applied them to your tax debt. but now you're square. you don't owe us anything. we owe you nothing. we're square.'

'are you serious? really? like, nothing?'
tax guy doesn't say anything for a while. 'like, nothing.'

'jeebus, thank goodness. you have no idea how happy you've just made me.'
'i don't believe you but i'll take your word for it.'
'so...the return i just filed now. i'll get that refund, right?'
tax guy sighs. 'yes.'
'thank you, ID number 0657398. i appreciate all your help. really.'
'my pleasure, ms. Ding.'

my motto: when under severe threat by the IRS, playing dumb and panicky is a perfectly acceptable survival method.

Monday, April 16, 2007

bringing it home: twisty on patriarchy

"Do you guys get, I mean actually get, that our society is a patriarchy? Patriarchy isn’t just a gimmick for a blog. It really exists. There are actual implications. Do you get that a patriarchy is predicated on exploitation and victimization? It’s not a joke! It’s not an abstract concept dreamed up by some wannabe ideologue making up catch-phrases while idling away the afternoons with pitchers of margs. Exploitation and victimization is the actual set-up! A person is either an exploiter or a victim, or sometimes both, but never neither.

This means me! This means you!

This means that, until patriarchy is smashed, we ain’t got a chance.

Meanwhile, do you guys see that there is no other possible outcome, in a society based on exploitation and victimization, than for the Don Imuses and the Daily Koses of the world to shit, frequently, on members of the lower castes? Shitting on the lower castes is a privilege built into the system. When exercised with macho aplomb, it attracts advertisers. It creates prestige. It makes money. It entertains the masses."

so. at the risk of contradicting my own self, what's it going to be? is civility really a solution or just a more palatable hidey hole for the exploiters?

[and i really dig that top 'graph.]

bringin' bougie back?: or, do manners trump bigotry?

thanks to an old grad school friend's visit from out of town i spent the whole weekend doing pleasurable things: cooking, spending time with friends, laughing, drinking, eating, and cutting flowers to within an inch of their short lives. i had no time to spare on all things imus.

but today is different. all my doctor appointments aborted for reasons or another so now i have a rare loose afternoon to my self and i'm spending it thinking about manners. yes, manners. etiquette. the preferred way to treat one another. the 'please and thank you' moments of our lives.

manners are occupying my thoughts because it's just too hard to think and speak about race or gender. outside of academic or heavily politicized circles, regular people have no idea what i'm talking about when i say things like 'white privilege', 'race privilege,' 'internalized racism', 'misogyny,' 'minstrelsy' or 'hegemonic discourse.' they get upset when i say that patriarchy is a system, rather than a guy who sits across the bus from you. they don't want to look at power, context, our sexual or racial history or think about what it means to be implicated in cultural practice.

they just want to say bad words and get away with it because it makes them feel good. (sort of like how a child discovers the thrill of saying his first 'fuck.')

and the only way that people will get the message, especially (but not exclusively) white and black men, that saying these things (i.e., bitch, whore, nigger/nigga, nappy dug out and all the especially tart things men like to throw around their funky locker rooms or board rooms) builds up like plaque and makes all of us sick (especially those of us who are called bitch, whore, ho, nigger/nigga or nappy dug out) is to call them out on how very rude it is.

more than anything, white people understand manners, and for a long time, manners was also how the black community policed itself: whatever our actual economic status, we acted bougie. but bougie fell out of vogue once the huxtables disappeared from TV and now it seems we have to bring the bougie back. this is not without its problems; being bougie or suddenly becoming a culture of 'manners' is uneasily akin to 19th century behavior books. it concentrates on the manner of things rather than the matter, so to speak. for a feminist like me to say 'if only people weren't so rude!' - it sounds weak, school marmish and old fashioned.

but what else can our culture handle?
it has proven it can't handle big, complex thoughts like sexism and racism; it has had at least a century to grapple with and discover its finer self. but it hasn't. so, like a spoiled, feces-throwing child in an episode of Super Nanny, it must be put on the naughty mat and made to face the corner and not move until it really means 'i'm sorry' and knows what it said and why it can't ever be said again.

calling for a national rebirth of civility and manners in our public discourse is infantilizing, i know. but, after all, isn't this what our parents told us whenever we got into trouble and whined about it: "if you're going to act like a child, expect to be treated like a child."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

222, baby.

shifting my gaze slightly, as i 'work from home' today, i want to talk about our jiggly parts. yes, those parts we'd prefer we could hide all the time. the parts our spanx are supposed to smooth, slim and contain.

perhaps sexist asshats like don imus (who only want to see cool smooth slim girl bodies and have a disgust of, or contempt for, women with strong, big, active, dark, large or bulging bodies) will think twice about opening their big mouths if we all take a page from joy nash's book.

nash says the fashion industry treats big soft girls like we don't even deserve to wear clothes. with the closing of forth & towne and the downright refusal of major clothing lines to not make clothes up to a freaking size 22, at least, i have to agree with her.
last night, on Top Designer, carisa lost to matt. i heartily disliked the self-regarding carisa but i liked that she was plump, stylish, feisty and smart. (i'd never live in a room she designed but whatever.) i preferred her wacked out narcissism to kellie werstler's chihuahua-like 'mad princess' moue.

and it ocurred to me that we hardly ever see the carisa types end up in any kind of finals on tv.

unless, of course, you're rooting for laila ali on Dancing with the Stars. she's big, strong, muscular and i love watching her wrestle her dance partner every week. hot.
simon doonan was on ultra HD the other night. while they watched christian lacroix's spring/summer show, he and the fashionable male host bemoaned the incipient demise of haute couture - no one knew how to wear it anymore, no one appreciated the craft blah blah, sob sob. then, pointing to a breadstick thin girl clomping down the runway, doonan says something like, 'how fabulous it would be to see that dress in a size 22 or 20. you see? because it's hand made and made just for that individual woman, haute couture can make anyone look fabulous.'

the male host tried to mask his surprise but his face screamed, 'really?! a fat woman?!'
so. anyway. there's my number up there.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

one's money and one's mouth: upcoming events

supporters of imus have been saying that his language didn't come from himself but from the black community - basically, this is the norm within the black community.

i beg to differ. (i mean, no one black i know has used that kind of language.) but whatever. conversations about misogyny are happening in our community - and i think they're a lot more honest than the ones mainstream society keeps managing to avoid.

so instead of blindly appropriating the language of black sexism like irresponsible children, here's everyone's chance to actually share in our conversation:

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes—Documentary Screening & Discussion with the Director, Byron Hurt
Friday, April 27, 2007
7:00 p.m.
Ida Noyes Hall, Max Palevsky Theater
1212 East 59th Street
Chicago, Illinois
$5.00 admission

Does Hip Hop Hate Women—Panel and Discussion
Saturday, April 28, 2007 | 1:00 pm
Saturday, April 28, 2007
1:00 p.m.
International House Assembly Hall
1414 East 59th Street
Chicago, Illinois
Free & Open to the Public

hope to see you there.

yeah, i'm still on my soapbox

a little friend was kind enough to smuggle something out from behind the NYTimes Iron Curtain.

in all the kerfuffle about the Imus Incident, one thing consistently gets lost: the blatant sexism of his comments. race is the most obvious thing to get riled up about, but what about the sexism? are women still so invisible as subjects that it never crosses our minds? selena roberts below takes a look at how women are easy targets; we become the symbol of what men don't want to be: powerless, weak, less than, debilitated, unskilled.

Sports of The Times
A First-Class Response to a Second-Class Put-Down

Published: April 11, 2007

Of grace and dignity, without a single boob joke for ratings or a raunchy sidekick for on-air laughs, the women wearing Rutgers scarlet managed to capsize society’s power differential yesterday.

The meek held the microphone — or the lifeline of the potent Don Imus — as the Rutgers players used their poised voices to hold a radio cowboy accountable for losing his 10-gallon mind during an unconscionable riff last week.

That was when Imus departed from his usual ridicule of influential equals, whether politicians or pro athletes or celebrities, to mock the vulnerable by degrading a mostly African-American basketball team of 18-, 19- and 20-year-old women.

The Rutgers team had done nothing but excel as history students and music majors, as big sisters and determined players on an improbable joyride to the national championship game.

“Nappy-headed hos,” Imus called them.

Racism, shouted prominent black male politicians and journalists. And on the crawls across the screens of cable networks, when news of the Imus rant fomented, the word “racial” bumped into “racially charged.” Right account, if only partly.

By its lonesome, “ho” has barely registered a ripple for anyone outside Gloria Steinem’s buddy list or the Rutgers team.

“It’s more than about the Rutgers women’s basketball team,” the team’s captain, Essence Carson, said during a news conference in Piscataway, N.J., adding, “As a society, we’re trying to grow and get to the point where we don’t classify women as hos and we don’t classify African-American women as nappy-headed hos.”

Ho is the new bitch. And bitch is the old sissy. But whatever the label, women are always first to be part of the gag when sexism and misogyny are publicly sanctioned and celebrated — particularly in sports.

Shaquille O’Neal, in his Lakers days, referred to the Sacramento Kings as “Queens.”

And in this sanitized version, a top Division I football coach was once overheard telling his team after a particularly big win: tonight, you guys deserve to take whatever woman you want.

In Johnny Damon’s long-haired Boston days, a punch line used to circulate: He looks like Jesus, throws like Mary.

Last fall, a television ad for DiGiorno frozen pizza was broadcast throughout the college football season with South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier and Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham in starring roles. They were shown participating in a news conference at which pizza was served. “If this isn’t delivery, we’ll play the entire game in dresses,” Spurrier tells Willingham.

Cut to the beefy players in sundresses and heels.

No one wants a nanny planet, but funny has to be a fair fight — even in pillow fights.

It’s not just Imus in the cross hairs for mocking the defenseless. The Toronto Blue Jays have been under scrutiny for producing a commercial promoting this baseball season.

At 6 feet 5 inches and 275 pounds, Frank Thomas is filmed whacking a small boy so hard with a pillow that the child flies off the bed and hits the floor with a thud. Thomas then breaks into a home run trot.

The Television Bureau of Canada refused to approve the spot. The Blue Jays can’t understand why. But possessing the power differential means bullying someone your own size.

With the ear of a national audience, Imus denigrated women who have revealed the courage to play a sport in its pure, fundamental form even though it is often branded inferior to the dunk style of men. The gals absorb enough put-downs as it is.

The racial twist of Imus’s derision prompted the public outrage and scared network executives out of their focus groups. Talk of race ultimately gave the Rutgers women a platform, but a dialogue on vanquishing sexism and misogyny ribboned their message as they spoke from a dais yesterday.

“It is all women athletes,” Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “It is all women. Have we lost the sense of our own moral fiber? Has society decayed to the point that we forgive and forget because, you know what, it was just a slip of the tongue?”

With everyone’s attention, would Rutgers scream for justice? Instead the players eloquently described their tales of personal pain and their disillusionment with the networks. As the sophomore forward Heather Zurich said, “Our moment was taken away, our moment to celebrate our success, our moment to realize how far we’d come on and off the court as young women; we were stripped of this moment by a degrading comment made by Mr. Imus.”

With the stage, would they demand Imus be fired? They would not play shock jock, but calmly asked for time to meet with him, time to reflect.

“Right now, I can’t really say if we have come to a conclusion on whether we will accept the apology,” the junior guard Matee Ajavon said.

Ajavon and her teammates could have cracked Imus over his cowboy hat with the microphone in their hands. They had the outlet to mock him if they had chosen to attack him just as personally as he had them.

Rutgers wasn’t out for revenge, though. Carson said the team did not want to be looked at “as if we’re attacking a major broadcasting figure.

“We’re attacking an issue we know isn’t right,” she said.

Somewhere, Imus was listening. He, like everyone, had to hear the women out. This wasn’t his studio or his sidekicks. The Rutgers women ran the show without abusing the privilege. Very ladylike of them.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

imus action

if one happens to want to send a strongly worded note to the radio station, CBS and MSNBC, you can go here. the National YWCA has weighed in and you can find their action alert on the link.

Monday, April 09, 2007

cry me a river, don.

i woke up this morning and turned on Good Morning America and the first story i heard, while i tried to ignore my clock, was the whole 'nappy headed ho's' thing. i sleepily watched while robin exuded hurt disapproval and her co-anchor, chris, practically set himself on fire in empathetic outrage over imus' remarks and his lame apology.

as a brown girl who is seriously tired of every single story like this, i give a great big Whatever to his apology and everyone's outrage. i mean, how outraged are we, really? we're shocked and apalled that don imus spewed asshat bigotry on the air? gasp!
and as for his apology, whatever. chalk up another Tour of Sorry as he tries to cleanse himself of his PR mistake.

i don't really give a crap about imus or his remarks (as bad as they are) because, honestly, i don't expect anything more from 'mainstream society.' (read that however you wish.) my expectations have been managed downward at such an alarming rate, things like basic bigotry no longer make my blood pressure jump; i expect the larger society to behave stupidly, crassly and ignorantly. i no longer expect people to behave like civilized, rational adults. unless i have evidence to the contrary, whenever i see people like don imus open their mouths, i wait expectantly for a foot to be inserted.

how cynical is that?

and i am outraged at how paltry our language for condemnation has become. i don't want to hear imus apologize for saying 'bad,' 'insensitive,' 'racially charged' things about those girls on the college basketball team; i want to hear him apologize for being an asshole. i want to hear him apologize for shitting on civility and farting in the face of our cultural discourse. i want him to go on his radio show and say, 'I'm sorry. I'm a pig.' for the love of western civilization, say something that actually matters and is true.

on those rare occasions i meet someone who's a bigoted, misogynist or homophobic asshat, or am confronted with an unexpected bigoted, misogynist or homophobic asshat comment during a social occasion, i drop that person. immediately. they no longer exist for me. they disappear from my universe.

when are we going to start setting the same rules for all the rest? why aren't we outraged over that?!

[everything bloggy you need to know about the imus kerfuffle can be found here.]

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pilot season - British actors - Television - New York Times

brain is dead.
work is hard.
sex is...where?

but pullo and vorenus from 'rome' are coming to network tv.