Hundreds of Thousands of Peaceful Demonstrators - And David Brooks

For once, the New York Times gets it right: HUNDREDS of thousands, not tens of thousands (as the AP story and anyone who picked it up would have you believe), marched against the Republicans today in Manhattan. It was a horribly hot day, and for hours the march barely seemed to move, but the vitality and creativity of the anti-RNC demonstration was amazing. I'll get some pictures up soon. The march was also extraordinarily peaceful -- apart from the burning green dragon that held things up for an hour. I have to give some credit to the NYPD; in Chicago, for a march not one-twentieth this size, you'd see the streets lined with cops in full riot gear. Here they were mostly in their regular uniforms and relatively unobtrusive. The single unpleasant moment we had with the police was when I tried to film Michael Moore speaking and a police officer told us rather nastily that we had to keep moving. Strangely, he was speaking to a small crowd in a cordoned-off area of Seventh Avenue, and everyone else was supposed to keep moving past on the sidewalk.

At the end, the march organizers were saying there were 400,000 people.

At the corner of 22nd and 7th, we ran into David Brooks. Yes, THE David Brooks. We hailed him with loud "David!" and he turned and we asked "Are you voting for Bush?" He said "You expect me to answer that in this crowd?" and scurried away. I guess that's our answer.

P.S. To the eagle-eyed fellow protester who noticed when my watch flew off my wrist and landed on the ground: you will never read this, but you have my undying gratitude.




Check out this website: an American icon is in need of our activism!



'Nuff said?

According to Reuters, neither Bush nor Kerry understands women.

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. This means you don't have to create a blogger account anymore in order to comment. You can enter your name, someone else's name, or a made-up name; same goes for the email address and URL.

Oh. The bad side of this is that, apparently, all previous comments have been deleted! Hmm....I encourage you (sheepishly) to repost your fabulous contributions. All two of you....


Why Dissertations Should Be Monographs

Before I left for Maine I spent some time going through my late dissertation advisor's books (let's call him M). His partner told me to take whatever I wanted, and I suggested I could pick out one or two things for some of his other students, too. So I've been trying to do that; trying, that is, to find books that relate to people's interests without being books they must already have. I'm sure they'll be happy to have something of M's whether or not they already have it, but, of course, I also want everything to be perfect.

It's been two and a half years since M died, and I can see why his partner hasn't summoned the courage to finish off this task himself; it's really wrenching, with M's annotations and post-it notes, not to mention the organizational system that suggests the workings of his mind, the topics to which he returned again and again, the new directions he might have gone in.

I've come across some books M had once recommended to me, and others I discovered on my own but wish I'd had a chance to talk with him about. I'm reminded of myself, early in graduate school, convinced I didn't have anything to learn from anyone, and how with that attitude I did myself both a service (enabling me to be rather ambitious) and a disservice (not realizing how much I could learn from someone who wouldn't, in fact, be around much longer).

I can trace elements of my own intellectual genealogy in these books -- the things I was learning that I didn't realize I was learning. And I can trace the ghostly elements of that genealogy that didn't come into being. I came across an article in an issue of Yale French Studies, that I really, really should have seen before I turned in my book manuscript a few weeks ago. The first thing that came to mind, rather absurdly, is that there's a reason why dissertations all used to be (and, in art history, mostly still are) monographic. It's possible, or maybe it was once, to read everything ever written about a clearly-defined topic (say, one artist's production in one decade of his -- usually his -- life), and thus save yourself the embarrassment of not having read something you really should have. You can't possibly know everything written about every aspect of a sprawling topic.

I wouldn't change my topic (or if I would, it wouldn't be to make it less sprawling). But I wish I could have asked M to read my manuscript and have him tell me "there's this article in YFS you should look at..." Not because it would have saved me the embarrassment of publishing the book without reading the article. It's that co-conspiratorial pleasure in a rarefied scholarly article that any scholar can only have with a few people in her life. If I'm more cynical about the value of such pleasures now, it might be because one of these links is broken forever.



gateway cat

Driving along today I saw a very cute kitty about to cross the road (s/he thought better of it as my car approached) and I had the strongest urge to adopt it. I don't even know if it was a stray or not. I caught myself saying to myself, "It hasn't been so bad getting Birdie and Slim used to each other. If we can do it with one, why not another one?"

The third cat, apparently, is the marijuana of cat ownership. She's the gateway cat to crazy catpersondom. As Goatdog put it, not everyone with three cats goes all the way to sixteen. But everyone who has sixteen cats had three cats once.



On the one hand...on the other hand...

(Apologies to those who have already been subjected to my rant about this...)

We've all, I think, been getting pop-up ads and spam asking us to vote for Bush or Kerry, or trying to sell us paraphernalia for Bush OR Kerry. Then there was JibJab, which did its best to make just as much fun and no more of Bush than it did of Kerry, and vice versa. Today somebody, who clearly only wants to know the email addresses of pet owners in order to sell us stuff, wants my CATS to vote for Bush or Kerry.

Just as much as these charlatans try their damndest to exploit the genuine depth of political feeling (with no regard for content of same) to their own capitalistic ends, so too does the mainstream media degrade itself with its ritualistic displays of obsequious evenhandedness. The claims of the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" might be shown to have no merit in the body of a newspaper article, but its headline still blandly suggests that, well, opinions differ, etc., both sides of the story need to be presented, no conclusion can yet be drawn, etc. Obviously, journalistic objectivity is mythical; even in displays of evenhandedness, the media have an enormous role in deciding what actually constitutes the two sides of the story. (In this case, it could, for instance, be "on the one hand, Bush says he had nothing to do with the ads; on the other hand, some are investigating whether Bush had anything to do with the ads, that would be illegal"; but it's not.)

So is the mainstream media structurally the same as JibJab and the pet vote scam spam? I.e., here's one side, here's another side, you get to pick which one to believe, but buy our paper?

Seems the media must love the notion that our country is split right down the middle on this election. That would sell more advertising, right?



Sloganeering -- Suggestions Wanted!

The Hyde Park Committee Against War and Racism could use some new slogans for its Friday rush hour demonstration signs. Please make suggestions in comments. Right now, we have great signs that say things like "Defend Our Schools. STOP BUSH" and "Practice Real Justice. STOP BUSH." But as the election approaches we want to think of some way both to encourage people to vote and to encourage people to think beyond the election. What if John Kerry is elected? Will that solve all our problems? (Well, no. So what are we gonna do about it?) Any ideas for simple slogans that encourage "engaged citizenship," as our Low Overhead Poetry colleague is wont to call it? Please make suggestions in Comments!

Remember, you can comment anonymously.
And, if you don't want to register but don't mind revealing your identity, you can also comment as "Anonymous," but sign your comment...



Red, white and blue

Can we just stop using this simplistic red state-blue state thing, or admit that all it can responsibly refer to is "states that went for Bush in 2000 (and Florida)/states that went for Gore in 2000"?

There are too many irritating things about this paradigm to name, but the one that bugs me the most is its racism: it assumes that everyone, or everyone who matters politically, is white. You're either white and middle-class and rural and Republican, or white and upper-middle class and urban and Democratic.

(The fact that this does not explain David Brooks -- the biggest purveyor of this nonsense -- himself seems to have escaped him.)

Perhaps all this interest in the political behavior of whites is because it's whites who seem to vote against their own interests -- elites for Democrats and less well-off folks for Republicans. But if you figure race into the equation you might say that whites vote for the party that does or doesn't pay attention to the votes, and the interests, of African and Latino Americans, depending on whether the whites see those interests as connected or not connected to theirs.



Islam's Unexpected Benefits to American Hospitalgoers

The Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, has redesigned its hospital gowns to account for Muslim women's desire for more modesty. Apparently many Somali and other Muslim women in Maine had been skipping appointments so as not to be forced to wear the usual humiliating hospital gowns.

Like many experiences one has with institutions, the hospital gown seems designed, Foucauldianly, to discipline us into docility.

It's interesting that it takes the complaints and absences of women who cover up for religious reasons to bring something many of us have experienced to the notice of hospital staff. But hey, I'll take it, and I'm glad to see my home state of Maine displaying cultural sensitivity.



Those Ads

You may have noticed that ads you see above are generated from the site content (lots of wildlife preservation ads showed up with the discussion of the cats), but sometimes in strange ways:

"erosion" of women's gains => Iranian earthquake relief
"irritable" (as in fractious cat) => Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
"Mrs." => Multiple Sclerosis
"Intelligence, or the Lack Thereof" => Brain tumors
"Harvard" => K-8 Education

At least, these are the current theories.
Anyone care to explain the preponderance of illness in these ads?


Mrs. Mrs.

A new study by a Harvard economist tells us that married women are keeping their own names in smaller and smaller numbers. Supposedly this reflects the "maturation of women's gains." Maturation in the sense in which it means "erosion," I guess.


Just Another Low Overhead Plug

And don't forget to check out LOPAPAC's recently updated site....


She's The Man

Citi (aka Citibank) has a new ad up in bus shelters in Chicago:

"When you're working for The Man, remember you're The Man."

Is this America, or what?


Intelligence and the lack thereof

Porter Goss, George Bush's selection to head the CIA, told Michael Moore on tape that he is not qualified to work for the CIA.

Now, we understand that, in context, he was speaking candidly about the fact that the qualifications that made him (let's just say) an ideal CIA employee decades ago would not get him very far in today's CIA. And let's allow that most CEO's are probably not qualified to do half the things their employees do.

And yet...can you imagine how loudly the right wing media would be crowing about this if it were a Democrat who were being nominated and who had said the same thing?

Like how much we heard about blowhard Dick Cheney (and wife Lynne) on John Kerry's "sensitive war" comment? When meanwhile, back at the ranch...



Very Fine Cats Indeed

We are merging cat households here (as well as other things) and this means a little bit of tension among the felines. Slim wasn't eating and we couldn't tell whether it was a physical problem or just stress. She's pretty stressed; when she went to the vet last week, the vet wrote "fractious" on her chart. Slim was firmly opposed to anyone interfering with her person. Synonyms of fractious, I see on the internet, are "cranky, difficult, disobedient, hard, ill-natured, irritable, nettlesome, peckish, peevish, pettish, petulant, refractory, techy, testy, tetchy." Slim isn't fractious very often. But I feel sort of fractious toward the people who reproach me for spending money on Slim's well-being.

As a vegetarian I am often confronted by self-righteous carnivores who aggressively ask, in great detail, why I don't eat meat. They seem to want to dismantle my reasoning, and berate me for my vegetarianism. Maybe they feel guilty and want to take it out on someone. I don't know. One thing I do know: Slim is one carnivore who never once has complained that I don't eat meat.

Recently I've come across a different behavior pattern that I think must be related to self-righteous carnivorism. It's self-righteous "it's-so-obscene-that-people-spend-money-on-their-petsism." Some people get very aggressive about this. It's usually phrased as "I [or we] would NEVER spend that much money on a pet." Implication: you must be a silly, silly person indeed, and very wasteful, to give your kitty asthma medicine or antibiotics.

I won't say these people aren't frugal in general, though I do think they usually drive more expensive cars than I do. They're also people who've probably never lived alone with a cat or dog as their only companion (or protector), who are not helped by a guide dog, who haven't seen an animal in distress who could be helped by simple surgery or medicine. In any event they think of the money we spend on pets as an expression of our decadent, self-indulgent lifestyles. I agree that we have decadent, self-indulgent lifestyles, but I wonder why these people feel qualified to criticize my pet spending and not my spending on clothing or shoes.

I don't pretend it would be an easy decision if I needed to spend money I just didn't have on my pet. But if I do have the money, I can think of worse things to spend it on. For better or worse we have evolved in tandem with these beasts. We are capable of thinking of them as our beloved companions, and it's not just obscene late capitalism that caused this. Back in the early days of capitalism, Samuel Johnson fed oysters to his cat, Hodge. Hodge was "a very fine cat indeed." In my opinion, Slim, Mini and Birdie are too.



Safety Mules

I've always hated the idea of mules. Not the infertile offspring of horses and donkeys; no. The shoes. Like many other women's shoes, they seem designed to make us walk funny, or worse, to hobble us so we can't get away from attackers.

Unlike all the OTHER Manolo Blahniks in my closet, though, the mules are pretty easy to fling off when you need to get rid of them. Which is what brings me to the real subject of this post, which is shoes that are designed to be easily flung off. Anyone who has spent any time in Asia knows that this is an important concept. Your really great, comfortable hiking sandals that strap you in for good support are not much good when you are having to take them off and put them on constantly as you go in and out of houses and temples.

Now, where is it that Americans are always having to take off and put on shoes nowadays? That's right -- airports. It doesn't seem to matter what kind of shoes they are. No wonder Asian fashions are in right now. It's really all about the shoes.

In some countries, people take off their shoes to show respect to the Buddha; here it's the Transportation Safety Authority that's our God.

And another thing. The flight I was on today. The captain went on and on about how safe flying is. How safe flying STILL is, that is. Safer than driving a car (he was all too happy to remind us that the guy in the next car might not even have a driver's license -- or a legally obtained one, I suppose, if you live in Illinois).

I don't really want to be reminded of how safe flying is. All that does is remind me of how f*ing scared flying makes me. Not because of terrorism. I figure a terrorist attack is more likely to come anywhere but on an airplane these days. But unforseeable mechanical failures or human errors leading to plane crashes pretty much only happen with planes. And no amount of telling me the guy in the next car doesn't have a legal driver's license will convince me otherwise.

So this is just to say. I don't recommend mules for driving, with or without a license, but the people behind you in line at the airport will thank you if you wear easily removable shoes.



Civil rights in the US

This just in: on August 3, an Iraqi delegation of civic leaders visited Memphis, Tennessee, on a US State Department-sponsored tour. These folks were, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee writes, "brought to the US by the State Department to learn more about civil rights in the US." And on August 3, the delegation was forbidden to enter Memphis City Hall because the City Council claimed it would have been forced to "evacuate the building and bring in the bomb squads" had it allowed the delegation to enter.

Perhaps the Memphis city council needs to go to Iraq to be educated about civil rights?



It's Genius

When did genius become an adjective?

We in the lexico-grammatical purist community always heard the phrase "it's genius," and we assumed that "genius" here was a predicate nominative. "It is [the quality called] genius." You know -- along the lines of "It is I," which as we all know is the proper way to respond to the question "May I speak to [insert name here]?" when answering the phone. Or, in more popular parlance, "That's entertainment."

Now we've been hearing phrases like "that's really genius" or "that is a genius CD." When we first heard this from a non-native English speaker, we thought it was an attractively creative, but non-colloquial, usage. But now, it's everywhere.

We don't dispute the correctness of this usage, because we are not flat-earthers here in the lexico-grammatical purist community; we know how to change with the times. Our question is this: is this actually a new usage, or were we wrong all the time about how to parse "it's genius"?

Those in the medievalist community can just be quiet about the character "Genius" in the Roman de la rose. We know about him, and he is not relevant to this discussion.

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