Sunday, November 14, 2010

I have a question for fans of the “Hipster Indian” look.

(This is a more thought-out and in-depth version of a post I first put up on Tumblr this morning.)

If the reason that you feel the need to dress this way is just that you “appreciate the culture” and “think its beautiful” why don’t I ever see fashion spreads of Native Americans dressed in the attire as it was meant to be worn? Why is it always shirtless white ladies in the desert with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other?

(picture of a young white woman with straight brown hair wearing a war bonnet, is seemingly shirtless, with "warpaint" that looks like lipstick and smoking a cigarette, standing around in a forest)

Seriously, you don't need an advanced degree in semiotics to figure out what's wrong with this image.

My theory? These people don't give a shit about any particular Native American culture. They feel fine and dandy "appreciating" these images because the culture being appreciated is not any particular Native American culture. It is the culture of middle class America from 30 years ago, back when if you dressed your kid up as an “Indian Princess” for Halloween no one would think twice about it (I’m looking at you, mom). Back when you sent your kids to summer camp and they made wallets with fringe and plastic beads on them to "appreciate" Native culture. Or when you could take your family on road trips to reservations and buy a bunch of plastic tomahawks and fake arrowheads made in China (my husband is looking at you, mother-in-law).

(picture of three young white women wearing costumey feather headdresses, blackened eyebrows, and those cheesy 70s-ish clothes so popular with kids these days.)

You can tell because all these pictures also often exhibit artifacts of the 70s, like feathered hair and tube socks pulled up to your knees, or have orangey red faded color palettes or excessive lens flare like a flashback in a Wes Anderson movie or something.

The “more innocent time” these images are hearkening back to is not to some imagined time of pre-Colombian noble savagery but the time from my childhood when middle America felt free to stomp all over Native American culture without guilt.

That time has come again, apparently.

And let's go a little bit deeper. BFP on tumblr notes:

when you literally don’t care or it never crossed your mind what is happening to native peoples today—what their struggles are, what is happening to their children while you are admiring how pretty their headdress looks (if you dye it orange and green first) with blue eye shadow and blue jeans—when you write passionate defenses of your right to wear native dress instead of passionate pleas to people to donate money so that elders and children don’t get their fucking HEAT shut off in the middle of winter (because, yeah, that whole thing about having to pay somebody exorbitant rates for the use of minerals found on your own land sorta sucks ass)—then you can judge yourself as not having the right to wear native clothes of any sort.
I’m from New Mexico, the phenomenon of the rich white (or Hispanic) lady from Santa Fe who is fond of Navajo jewelry and Navajo art but not so much, you know, actual Navajo people is well-known to me.

Which is not to say that you can’t have a beautiful turquoise bracelet or something. Just don’t wear sacred items and always buy it from local Native artists so that the economic power stays with the people whose culture is being commodified.

That, I think, is at the heart of what makes this sort of thing so offensive (to me, at least). White people make money selling this crap to other white people while the people whose culture this comes from deal with some of the worst poverty in the US.

If I may nerd out for a moment, it's something I spent some time studying in school. There was a similar pattern with African art in the 1920s and 1930s, and Australian Aboriginal art in the 1980s. Cultural Anthropologists (which, while it is my chosen field of study, has a lot to answer for) would "gather artifacts" from communities and then sell them to art galleries for a jillion dollars.

Recommended reading: Hipster Appropriations and My Culture Is Not A Trend on tumblr. I got the pictures in this post from these blogs.

And, for those with an anthro bent, read anything by Sally Price, especially this book and this one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I stayed up all night reading Octavia Butler's "Kindred"

And I’m not even tired. Holy shit, that’s a good book.

It was very good at making me think about - well, not so much the reality of slavery, because I’m sure no mere book would be enough to convey the experience of what chattel slavery is like - but the reality that my ancestors were slaves.

I got a similar feeling when I went to DC for the Obama inauguration - that the buildings all around me had been built by black slaves, and now a black man was being elected president. I was seriously on the verge of tears almost the whole time. (Not so much out of happiness at the election, although back then I was much more on team hopey-changey stuff than I am now, but out of horror of the past).

I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a neighborhood where the oldest buildings dated to maybe the 1950s. Black chattel slavery is distant here.

To have my stepmom (who is from there, and who is biracial just like me) point out buildings and say “That’s an old slave auction house,” or “That tunnel is where they brought slaves in from the docks,” and whatnot was completely upsetting to me.

"You're very sensitive," she said to me, not unkindly.

My family is from Cuba, so the likelihood that any ancestor of mine walked through those tunnels or stood on those particular auction blocks is probably low. But they walked through tunnels, they stood on auction blocks. And there were similar ones, right in front of me. Meanwhile, a black man was getting ready to be President.

It was the same feeling I got when a white friend of mine explained to me that her grandmother, who I had spent the previous afternoon chatting pleasantly with, was actually a horrible racist and said mean things about my daughter. Betrayal, shame, embarrassment, anger, fury. Pride that I wasn't what her grandmother thought I was.

That feeling - that's what it's like to be black in America.

Thinking back about my week in DC two years ago, I remember a conversation I had about the whole thing with a man who was a friend of my stepmom’s family. “I don’t think white people understand,” he said.

I agreed.

Also, I’m pissed at myself that I haven’t been reading Octavia Butler this entire time. Next up - Fledgling.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yes, I am a Muslim-American

(eds note: My father, who has been increasingly horrified by the growing tide of bigotry apparent on the nightly news lately, emailed me this last night and asked if I would post it on my blog. Of course I would, I said.)

Am I an American? Why am I asking myself this question again? Yes, I am an American, a Muslim African American.

Why am I asking that question again? It is because the monster is trying to once again rear its ugly head. A monster who once tried to trick me into believing that I was not an American because of the color of my skin and because of the origin of my parents and the first language that I spoke (Spanish) as a child.

The ugly beast who snapped at the heels of my parents, with its white only bathrooms and diners, and the black only seats at the rear of the bus or train, and the inequality and lack of justice that permeated its presence, breathing the fire of hate for those who dared to be different than it.

The horrible looks and words of hate that frightened a child and young adolescent, emanating from the mouths of pale skinned creatures that looked as human as I; and breathed the same air that filled my lungs, and walked the same earth that I walked upon. I a child not really understanding the disease that filled the hearts and minds of these men and women, some who called themselves the follower of Jesus (peace be upon him) as I was, the prophet of peace and love.

Why I said as a child why, why do you hate me so, the answer always being you are the other, not like me, apart from me. Yet in my heart I always knew this to be a lie, knew that the other was as human and fragile as I was. He or she was just sick in the head from some blow of a hammer that must have once fallen upon their heads.

Then as I grew into adolescence, came the words and actions of Martin, words of freedom, equality, respect, the transformational words of Malcolm demanding respect as a man and as a human being and servant of God. The demand for the implementation of the eternal principles that I knew permeated the hearts of all men and women who know the truth and that submit to the one and only Lord and Creator of the universe.

These waves of change passed through our country transforming hearts and minds, as they always have when the creature appears. Men like Mandela, Gandhi, Muhammed, Jesus, and Moses and so many others. Who chase the monster away; if not for a little time, making him hide in slumber for another day.

Here is that day, today when I ask myself again, am I an American? The monster stares in my face, I now a grown man a Muslim-African-American.

The beast once again looms in our presence, again staring at me with eyes aglow. It basks in its own self-indulgence of ignorance, hate and accusations of being the other. The same old story just another time and another place.

Know this oh beast, I will stand firmly on this sacred ground that I call my country, my home, my place of birth. A place called America; I stand here with no fear of you in my heart. Knowing with surety who I am and why I am.

I am a Muslim American, a servant of Allah, born in the home of the brave the land of the free.

I am a red-blooded American.

You can screech your words of being the other, of there is no room for Muslims or mosques, or adhans in this land. I tell you we are here to stay, over nine million of us strong and growing, most born American Muslims and true believers in our hearts.

I stand here wrapped in the cloth of freedom made by the blood of my ancestors and yours. The promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not a dream but a reality made true by the following words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This is my birth-right, a covenant made to every citizen of this country born or naturalized.

Your disease of the heart has made you blind and ignorant to the beauty and guarantees encased within those words. So beware oh beast, the sword of justice looms over your head, and no matter how loudly you screech, justice and freedom always prevail as God our Lord and Creator has promised. Watch your neck because the sword of Damocles hangs over your ugly head. You will consume yourself in your own self-hatred and ignorance.

We stand as brothers and sisters together Muslim, Christian, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and all the other paths of life that exist in this world.

For we stand with the Creator who has given us love and compassion the most powerful forces in all of creation. Beware and be aware, because we have the Niyat (intention) to us this force of love and compassion to its maximum effect.

We wish to change your heart, to cure you of the ancient disease of hate and ignorance. Your brothers and sister call to you to join us in peace (salaams), to join us and to become part of the human family once again.
We await your decision.

Salaams always,

Imam Abdur’Rauf Campos-Marquetti
TaHa Mosque-Islamic Center of Santa Fe

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How little things have changed.

It's really depressing, but not entirely shocking, to see how little things have changed since this speech was given.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's not us and them. It's just us.

The hysteria surrounding the not-a-mosque, not-at-Ground Zero interfaith community center that an Islamic group wants to build in Manhattan has gone on longer that even I thought it ever would.

The objections to it are so ridiculous, so reactionary, so based in hatred and fear that I don't even know where to begin taking them apart anymore.

The fact that you have representatives of the Muslim community on the news having to make statements like "American Muslims were not behind the terrorist plot," is totally fucking Twilight Zone-scary.

David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana, says that the not-at-Ground-Zero, not-a-mosque is "a slap in the face to the American people." If that's the case, then I backhand slap the American people right in that stupid, afraid, bigoted, unthinking face. Twice.

9/11 was not an attack by Muslims against America. 9/11 was an attack by those who embraced a theocratic view against the forces of democracy and capitalism (there's a reason they targeted the World Trade Center, it was a financial center). Those Muslims who committed almost 3,000 murders that day were also attacking other Muslims. Many of the office workers, restaurant employees, firemen, police officers, and paramedics who were killed for the "sin" of living in New York (or D.C., let's not forget the Pentagon was also attacked) were...Muslims.

It doesn't work to say that "Muslims attacked us" when "Muslims" and "us" are two groups that overlap. This, despite the best efforts of many, is a cosmopolitan nation. Muslims are not others, they are us. As are Catholics, Jews, Baptists, gays, blacks, asians, hispanics, Dallas Cowboy fans, Sarah Palin fans, and even (gasp!) atheists.

I say again, this, despite the best efforts of the worst amongst us, is a cosmopolitan nation. You can't change that no matter how hard you try. It's the whole fucking point of our country. To think otherwise puts you on the losing side of history.

I mean, Jesus, even W. said we were not at war with Islam.

President Obama finally weighed in on the subject on Friday, saying “Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam,” the president said, adding, “In fact, Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion, and that list includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.”

To which I add, No shit, Sherlock. Really? Does this even still have to be said? I get the feeling my poor dad (who is an imam now) is going to have to go on another "Muslims don't all have claws and fangs" tour of local churches.

Usually, I find Keith Olbermann just this side of shrill and histrionic, but this time I think he hit just the right note.

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Right now, (during Ramadan no less) millions of Pakistanis, the vast majority of them who are probably Muslim, are dying because of horrific flooding in that country. Wouldn't our energies (and our 24-hour news cycle) be better spent helping -or at least paying attention to- these people? (*cough* Donate to Doctors Without Borders *cough*)

To conclude, I like the point made in this blog post.
In the real world, New York is rebuilding. The site of the ruined World Trade Center is the site of the new World Trade Center, 20 stories high and rising. Get rid of the Islamic center and the alternative will not be a memorial park, but a fitness center, an American Apparel, a Pinkberry.
Maybe I'm naive in my patriotism, but the reason I think that so-called "Ground Zero" is sacred ground is because all of America is sacred ground, because the principles laid out in the Constitution (although, historically, actually following those principles has always been a bit touch-and-go) protect the inalienable rights of the people who live here.

Well, for now anyway.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chuchu the sock monkey.

Why yes, I did just spend the last 10 hours or so making two socks into a monkey, why do you ask?

Discoveries along my journey across the sock monkey learning curve: use thicker socks, use longer socks, use smaller stitches, use more interesting socks, and most of all, don't explain to your child what a sock monkey is because you're certain to spend the next ten to twelve hours making one, much to your chagrin.

But then she named it Chuchu and gave it a big hug and loved it despite all the obvious flaws I saw. Which is why she is wonderful and I am a jaded former punk rocker.

Full evolution of Chuchu here.

Monday, August 02, 2010

A challenge.

I don't know what I was thinking. I ventured into the comment sections of this and this (much better) article on the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" (which is neither at Ground Zero nor a masjid) and I think I've been driven to the edge by the complete rejection of both reason and reality on display by many of the commenters.

So, I issue a challenge.

I challenge anyone to explain to me why this community center shouldn't be built at this location, using 500 words or less. You must (unlike anyone I've read or heard who so far who objects to this) take these five actual, factual points into account:

1) The proposed building is not just a mosque, but a community center that will include a restaurant and a gym.

2) The proposed site is not at "Ground Zero" but in fact several blocks away, and you can't even see it from the WTC site.

3) Dozens of the New Yorkers (and, if I recall correctly, at least one of the people on the planes) murdered on 9/11 were Muslim, and their families deserve the same respect as the other victims.

4) It's private property owned by this group, and as long as all proper building codes are followed they're allowed to build whatever the fuck they want.

5) Republican politicians (and celebrities like Sarah Palin) are using this as a wedge issue to motivate their base to vote for them in November, as a distraction from the successes of the Obama administration and the previous eight years of Republican failures.

Seriously. 500 words or less. I'll send you a free Viking Fish t-shirt.

I don't expect any takers, because a) no one reads my blog anymore, but more importantly b) once these five points are addressed you don't have much of an argument beyond, "I hate Muslims because television and the Internet said I should."

Hm, I kind of like this idea. Maybe I'll try it next for those who oppose gay marriage.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The power of images

I've been kind of haunted by Time magazine's most recent cover image ever since I saw this Salon piece on it yesterday. In it, a striking beautiful young Afghan woman stares defiantly at the camera. The woman, an 18-year old named Aisha, has been brutally mutilated by her own husband, her nose and ears cut off. But the way the photographer Jodie Bieber captures the fire in her eyes shows that even this brutal act did not defeat her.

Or, at least, that's what the photo says to me. I have to idea how Aisha actually feels about her situation and the horrific crime that her husband and the people of her village, who enabled him to do this, enacted against her. But I appreciate the decision Bieber made to not photograph her as a broken victim.

What I don't appreciate, what in fact drives me up the wall, is the headline Times chose to place with her picture. The cover reads, "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan." Nice try, Times, but I'm not buying it. This isn't what happens when we leave Afghanistan, it's what's happening now. Aisha was attacked last year.

In what, as Daisy on Facebook mentioned, appears to be a bald attempt to engage in a propaganda war with Wikileaks (and what I think is more of a cynical attempt to sell magazines), Times has hoped that the arresting nature of this image will make your brain skip over this fact.

Not to mention that, with the addition of that text, the image becomes yet another Muslim woman is the "ultimate victim" needing rescue from the West. Boy, does that trope not ever get old.

You can't solve problems like violence against women with a war. If anything, our presence, and the money we're funneling to all the wrong people, is merely fueling top-down corruption that is probably making situations like this worse. Watch this segment from Rachel Maddow's recent trip to Afghanistan to see what I mean.

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I don't have a solution for how to make it that another woman never gets mutilated for attempting to escape abusive situations. I don't even know whether or not I actually feel like we should withdraw from Afghanistan, really. I mean, I recognize all the good reasons to do so, but there is a part of me that feels like its kind of amoral to destabilize a country and then just leave.

What I do know is that you can't use what happened to this woman as a reason to stay. Because our presence there couldn't keep it from happening in the first place.

And also because the suggestion that we're in Afghanistan to protect the lives of the women there is laughable. If this were the case, how come it took us so long? I was reading about RAWA and the oppression of Afghan women years before the war (in, if I remember correctly, Jane magazine). What about women in the Congo? Women in Juarez? Women in Darfur?

And if you're looking for arresting images, how about the image of this child, burned after a NATO bomb attack?

War is a complicated issue, there are no easy answers. Let's not be swayed by an (admittedly powerful) image, but try to actually think.

**Edited some for clarity. It's hard to blog when a four-year-old is also seeking your full attention**

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


If I really am going to pick up blogging again, which I seem to be doing, then I need to update my blogroll. There are blogs I don't read, dead blogs, dead people on it, and blogs that I do read (lurk at, mostly) that aren't on it. I'll be doing this over the next few days.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Fridge!!!

Motherfucking iced tea in the house, yo!

We were snookered! Wait, what?

Last night, Jon Stewart returned from a two-week vacation and unleashed his sharp knives of satire on those on the left who were "snookered" by a re-edited tape released by Andrew Breitbart that supposedly demonstrates racism and corruption on the left.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Lost in Race
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

(Also, Comedy Central, your embed code is crappy. I had to go in and close like three tags to get it to work. In case I screwed it up, the link to the video is here.)

Which is something I would have thought way more awesome, if this hadn't been Jon Stewart's response to Breitbart's completely fraudulent ACORN tapes last year.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Audacity of Hos
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

(Link here.)

Hm. Did you get snookered, too, Jon? Were you so eager to demonstrate that you treat the left and the right equally that you were willing to throw poor, black, (and in that clip, mostly females) under the bus?

I had sincerely hoped that someone in the media would be willing to revisit the ACORN tapes, just to throw light on the extreme injustice done to this now-defunct organization at the behest of the crybabies on the extreme right. I kind of thought it might be the Daily Show. Oh well.

The beard is dead sexy though.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Shirley Sherrod

It's hot and humid (well, humid for Albuquerque) and my fridge is still broken. I'm grumpy and I promise you, this post will have problems with tone.

This whole Shirley Sherrod scandal has really gotten me all perturbed. In case you've been living under a rock these past few days, here's what's happened.

The NAACP finally had the gumption to say out loud what has been obvious to everyone else with half a brain: the Tea Partiers willingly and knowingly harbor racists in their midst and should, if they're wanting the other 98 percent of America to take them seriously, cut that shit out.

Proving that calling a white person a racist is a bigger insult these days than calling a black person nigger, professional crybaby and total douchebag liar Andrew Breitbart (who was also behind the totally fake prostitution ring tapes that got ACORN disbanded) released a tape of a black woman named Shirley Sherrod who works for the USDA, giving a speech to the NAACP about being annoyed at a white farmer who came to her for help, "proving" that the NAACP specifically and black people in general are the real racists.

Of course Sherrod was forced to resign. The NAACP also immediately renounced her, calling her actions "shameful."

Now, even before this tape was even proved to be maliciously re-edited in a deliberately misleading way, I was put out. Maybe it was just that coming so close on the heels of the slap-on-the-wrist verdict given to the white cop who shot Oscar Grant (an unarmed black father of a girl my daughter's age, shot in the back while handcuffed and having his face shoved into the ground with a knee on the back of his neck in front of a dozen witnesses all holding cell phone cameras) but I just wasn't impressed by the degree of "oppression" on display here.

Oh, a black authority figure was less than respectful to you, and sent you somewhere else? Boo fucking hoo. Try getting shot in the back while face down and handcuffed with a cop's knee pressing down on your neck.

Not to mention the man what seeking help from an organization specifically set up as a co-op for black farmers (the incident actually occurred back in the 80s, before Sherrod even worked for the USDA), and was not a dues-paying member. Not to mention that the man was being snooty towards her. And not to mention that she did actually help him anyway during that first encounter, sending him to a white lawyer who could assist him.

But come to find that douche Breitbart had edited out the last part of the story. The full video shows that when she realized her initial reaction was perhaps related to lingering bitterness surrounding the fact that her father had been murdered by a Klansman (go ahead, grow up black in the south of a few decades ago after your father was murdered by the Klan, and see how you feel about white people, I dare you) and that she should overcome these feelings if she's going to have any luck making the world a better place.

She realized that the real problems in this country are between the haves and the have-nots, and while that's often overlaid with the matrix of the social constructs of race, it's not always. And then not only did she go on to personally help this white farmer, but she probably saved their farm and the two are friends to this day.

I agree with Joan Walsh. Shirley Sherrod is a hero.

But that's not where the irritation ends, oh no.

I'll let Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell speak for me for a moment here. She said exactly what I was thinking on Countdown with Keith Olbermann the other day.

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Nice Crash reference, by the way. Agreed about that movie as well.

So Shirley Sherrod was thrown under the bus. But after the tapes vilifying her were revealed to be an embarrassingly transparent fraud perpetrated by a huckster who is already known for releasing racially-tinged frauds to the media, everyone from the president on down apologized and jumped all over themselves to show how wrong and falsely quick to judge they were.

Tom Vilsack, the head of the USDA, even offered her a new special job. What is the new special job? An "outreach" position that would deal specifically with racial discrimination issues within the USDA.

This is the part that really got to me.

It is really annoying how mainstream white America wants black people to be, like, cultural envoys about race or something. I don't think Shirley Sherrod should have to leave her old, chosen job helping poor farmers and take a new job teaching the USDA not to be racist.

And, although I don't find him blameless in this situation (seriously, stop reacting to right-wing blowhards like their opinions matter!)I also don't think the Obama administration has some sort of obligation to "start a conversation" on race because he is black. I resent it when white people expect people of color to help them learn not to hate us.

Figure it out yourselves, already. Real life is not a movie with Morgan Freeman in a supporting role. No magical Negroes are coming along to help you overcome your own faults and teach you about love and friendship with their earthy wisdom. Deal with it.

Sigh. I'm sure this post makes me sound really bitchy and mean and violates the suggestions in this video. Until I have a working freezer so I can put some ice in my beverage and maybe cool off for a moment, I don't really care.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My fridge is broken.

The fridge broke. So I had to eat everything.

If only I had some attractive wealthy roommates to help me pay for it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The news that some group of serious xenophobic assholes has made a list of 1300 people, including children and pregnant women (with, most creepily, mentions of their due dates) and tried to have it made public, with no care or feeling of responsibility to what might happen to those people, has freaked me out way more than a little.

I mean, come on.

It's got me thinking about my own past.

I, like most Americans, am descended from other places. On both sides of my family, I am descended from lower-class immigrants, people who worked back-breakingly hard for what little they owned, and whom the American system of living consistently disenfranchised politically and socially.

My mother, second youngest in an Italian Catholic family of 13 surviving children, never had her own bedroom. My father, oldest child of two Afro-Cuban immigrants, famously states that his first bed was a box (and whether or not this was true or merely his own brand of constructed folklore I have never properly established).

In any case, my immigrant family members found themselves left out of the American political process. This may be why the political figures that exist in my family have always been elevated to near-legendary status.

For me, the political has always been personal. A friend once nicknamed me "Political Spice." It's in my genes I guess.

On my father's side of my family, a man named Generoso Campos-Marquetti was the first black man to hold a political office in Cuba, and played a key role in the Race War of 1912. On my mother's side of the family is her uncle Frank Rizzo, the 1970s Philadelphia mayor with mob ties. During their many knock-down, drag-out fights my mother often invoked her familial mafia connections the way a woman in an ancient Greek play might invoke the furies.

Also, I really want to see this movie.

I'm not sure what my point is, I guess. Most of America is descended from immigrants. Property crime and violent crime in border states is down. Undocumented immigrants form a crucial part of the nation's economy. Also, a generation or tow ago, I might have been in the shoes of those 1300 people in Utah. And political power is hard to come by, and is treasured for generations after.

So, what's the problem? If your big beef is that these people are here illegally, then make it easier to come to the United States legally, problem solved. (I have a friend who works in immigration law, and trust me, it's a seriously difficult process.) It would take care of the human smugglers and the drug runners who control the process now.

But it wouldn't deal with the problem of their being so many brown people, which is increasingly more obviously the anti-immigration crowd's real issue.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Another Abbie Summer

There are eleven foot tall sunflowers in my yard this year.

2010-07-10 14.35.25.jpg

Abbie is four now, and still retains a hint of babyness, as when she falls asleep, sweaty in the summer sun.

2010-06-08 19.34.50_Albuquerque_New Mexico_US.jpg

But she's also sort of a badass, as when she won her match at a recent judo tournament.

(Hilarious slo-mo and soundtrack courtesy of my father, who also took first at the same match.)

It's another Abbie summer.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Comment moderation on

I'm turning comment moderation on, just because I'm tired of deleting spam comments. If you're one of the three people who still check in here occasionally, I do check the comments on a daily basis.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Stupid e-mail forwards

So I frequently get unwanted email forwards from several members of my family. How do people deal with those? I usually just grit my teeth and delete sight-unseen, especially if they come from in-laws, but this one from my very own mother was particularly galling.

Don't buy Pepsi in the new can. Pepsi has a new 'patriotic' can
coming out with pictures of the EmpireStateBuilding, and the
Pledge of Allegiance on them.
However, Pepsi left out two little words on the pledge,
'Under God.'
Pepsi said they didn't want to offend anyone. In that case, we don't
want to offend anyone at the Pepsi corporate office, either!
So if we don't buy any Pepsi products, they will not be offended
when they don't receive our money that has the words
'In God We Trust' on it.

Pretty darn fast!!
Not being a huge fan of Pepsi even in my soda-guzzing heyday (as i often put it when I was still a brash obscene punk-rocker, Pepsi is Coke for pussies), I have no idea as to the veracity of this, but like all stupid e-mail forwards it's probably completely false. In any case, here was my reply.
Just fyi, the Pledge of Allegiance as originally composed by Frances Bellamy in 1892 did not contain the words "Under God." Those words were only added in 1952 during a particularly shameful, jingoistic, xenophobic period in American history riddled with extreme fundamentalism and fear.

The separation of church and state is an American value which I feel our founding fathers held sacred, protecting not only the state from the church's influence but the church from the potentially corrupting influence of state power. I would happily toast the country that I love with a glass of Pepsi, but I don't drink soda anymore actually, it's terrible for you.
Also, Frances Bellamy was a big-time socialist who briefly considered adding "equality" and "fraternity" as well as "liberty" to the pledge.

I almost hit "reply all" on that one, but decided not to out my mother as having a weirdo commie pinko child who doesn't even drink high fructose corn syrup. I'm too nice, I know.

Monday, April 26, 2010

So Arizona's a police state now...

I hereby invite all Hispanics of Arizona to move to my home state of New Mexico. The weather's nicer, the tourist traps are less cheesy, the food is better, and the rent is cheaper.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Jesus Wouldn't Do

I know I'm an atheist, so I might be way off base here, but I'm going to go ahead and make the assumption that the Teabaggers in this video, like every other Teabagger I've met or heard of, are God-loving Christians.

Jesus said "Blessed are the meek," not "Blessed are the red-faced and screaming." Jesus healed the sick and infirm, he didn't threaten and humiliate them. Jesus said the best way to get into the kingdom of heaven was to sell all of your possessions and give the money to the poor, not to greedily hang on to every last dime while people are dying around you for lack of what you take for granted.

I seriously recommend these people go home and read about Jesus for awhile.

People, often these same Teabagger people, usually say, "We are a Christian nation, with Christian values," but either I'm confused as to the true nature of Christian values or these people are acting in a seriously fucking un-American way. (Or, at least, what should be an un-American way, but you know, despite everything I somehow manage to retain a mild patriotism about my country.)

Or, who knows, I shouldn't assume, maybe they're another religion. In which case I'm pretty sure they should also go home and study for awhile, because I'm not familiar with any religion that advocates behavior of this nature.

Maybe they're atheists like me. In which case they should seriously shut the fuck up because they're making me look bad.

Although bully for the guy wearing the baby.

The guy in the video has a pretty eloquent response.

This health reform bill is a universe away from perfect, or even good. It's not even really health-care reform but health-insurance reform, and a pretty weak attempt at that, even. It's a step, though. At least it would show that we're willing to take some action. I hope it passes, and that the result is as Bob in the video says, more families crying with happiness at good outcomes than crying out of sadness and worry.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Flying while Muslim and forgetful

I just had to share this story because I laughed so hard I almost peed when I heard it. I just hope I tell the story as good as my dad did.

My father is Muslim, not conservative or anything, but fairly observant. He wears identifiably Islamic dress. Being black, he more often gets "read" as "friendly African" than "scary Muslim" by those inclined to do such "reading." That is, until the whole Nigerian underwear bomb thing happened.

He is, incidentally, also a scientist and as such is a bit of a gadget tech nerd geek kind of person. He also does a lot of business travel.

Naturally he has an iPhone. Naturally he also has a "call to prayer" app for his iPhone. And, being a bit on the daffy forgetful side and oddly inept with technology for a techie guy (I get a lot of pocket calls from this same iPhone), naturally he also forgot to turn off his iPhone before getting on a plane during his last business trip.

Literally, my poor father took one step onto the crowded plane and his call to prayer app went off, turned all the way up, blasting "Alllaaaaahhhhu Akbar, Allllaaaaaahuuuu Akbar!" in front of all the passengers and crew.

Everyone gasped, turned to look at him, eyes wide. The lower lip of the flight attendant standing next to him started to quiver. With the strains of the adhan filling the cabin and images of getting tackled by some Soldier of Fortune-reading Teabagger Militiaman running through his head, my dad slowly took the iPhone out of his pocket and silenced it, saying, "Sorry, it's just my phone!"

Hearing his New York accent must have relaxed everyone and they all audibly exhaled at once. A Hispanic man in front of him started cracking up laughing. Oh, just a regular American dude, no worries.

I wish I could have seen their faces! I would have cracked jokes the entire flight.

"You thought he had a bomb! My dad! The Star Trek nerd! You almost peed yourself in fear because a phone made a noise you heard once in a movie!"


Saturday, February 13, 2010

My favorite thing so far about the Winter Olympics

Besides manic tap-dancing punk-rock fiddlers and the apparent respect for First Nations people that the Vancouver Olympic Committee has, of course.

But my favorite thing so far about the Winter Olympics?

Azerbaijani Rainbow Pants. Awesome.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Back from the Aelthing!

So, back from this year's Taos Aelthing. Pictures can be found here. Unfortunately, due to some camera issues there's less photos than usual, but I'll try again to wrestle with the memory card tomorrow. I still need to take a shower and wash the campfire smell out of my hair. Give me a few days to recover.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

It's Aelthing Time!

Going to the 2010 Taos Aelthing (holy crap, can't believe it's been so many)! See you next week.

For past Viking exploits, see here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whitewashing and Americanization

I hate Hollywood.

I take that back, I don't hate Hollywood. I actually kind of love the whole stupid glamorous self-absorbed situation. But they are working my last nerve.

First, there's the new film Extraordinary Measures, which looks kind of dumb on the whole anyway. But there's nothing overtly offensive about that, really, until you read this.

Basically, the story has Brendan Frasier and Harrison Ford working together to find the cure for a rare disease that strikes children. Harrison Ford plays the doctor, Brendan Frasier the aggrieved parent. It's based on a real-life story...sort of. As mentioned in Roger Ebert's review:
Dr. Robert Stonehill doesn't exist in real life. The Pompe cure was developed by Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen and his colleagues while he was at Duke University. He is now director of the Institute of Biomedical Science in Taiwan. Harrison Ford, as this film's executive producer, perhaps saw Stonehill as a plum role for himself; a rewrite was necessary because he couldn't very well play Dr. Chen. The real Chen, a Taiwan University graduate, worked his way up at Duke from a residency to professor and chief of medical genetics at the Duke University Medical Center. He has been mentioned as a Nobel candidate.

I suspect Dr. Chen might have inspired a more interesting character than "Dr. Stonehill." The Nebraskan seems inspired more by Harrison Ford's image and range. He plays the doctor using only a few spare parts off the shelf. (1) He likes to crank up rock music while he works. (2) He doesn't return messages. (3) He's so feckless he accidentally hangs up on Crowley by pulling the phone off his desk. (4) He likes to drink beer from longneck bottles in a honky-tonk bar and flirt with the waitress. (5) "I'm a scientist, not a doctor," he says. He's not interested in Pompe patients, only the chemistry of the disease.
Uh huh. Why? Why does Hollywood feel the need to consistently whitewash Asians (and other ethnicities, but somehow this seems most prevalent with Asians) out of real-life stories? Or even cartoons (I'm looking at you, The Last Airbender! Or how about you, Prince of Persia starring super European-looking Jake Gyllenhaal!) At least the trend of remaking every successful Japanese horror movie to come across the Pacific into a crappier film starring white people seems to have slowed lately.

Second, and just as annoying really, comes this news that apparently a Hollywood biopic about Winne Mandela is being made, without ever asking her or even telling her about it.
Titled "Winnie", the film is directed by South African film-maker Darrell J. Roodt, whose work includes "Cry, The Beloved Country" and "Sarafina."

But a letter from her attorney Bowman Gilfillan said Madikizela-Mandela was "extremely concerned" to hear about the film, saying "she has never been approached for consent or at all," according to The Star newspaper.

"It is difficult to understand how a production bearing the name of an individual who has not been consulted at all could ever be appropriate or tell the full story of that individual's life as media reports suggest this production is intended to," the letter said, according to the paper.
Which is kind of rude, to say the least.

And that's not even mentioning this aspect of it.
The film had already stoked controversy in South Africa when Hudson was tapped to play the role, sparking outrage among local actors who complained that South African talent had again been overlooked by Hollywood.
No kidding. While I'm sure Jennifer Hudson could do an excellent job (although it would depend on how distracting her fake accent winds up sounding, I guess), they didn't even try? Maybe it's for the best, they might have cast Charlize Theron or something.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Haiti is a Nation of Heroes."

Sometimes I think Jay Smooth lives inside my head. Literally, every video he makes I nod my head in amazement.

Am I the only one having a kind of mixed reaction to the outpouring of fundraising for Haiti? On the one hand, of course it's wonderful that so many people are giving, of course I think that it should be on tv, it's news, of course I think it's great that celebrities are involved because they have the ability to reach more people, make an issue more visible, etc.

But, I have this kind of queasy feeling about it all, like, it's not like Haiti didn't need help before. It's like, hundreds of thousands of people have to die suddenly in order for people to pay attention. And I'm afraid that this situation leaves the door open for more of the IMF/World Bank, etc type loans to screw over the Haitian economy further, or for the spread of further US corporations to "create jobs" etc etc.

Every time I bring this up people look at me like I'm kicking an adorable puppy.

This is a similar feeling I had after Katrina, and after (well, after reading about, as I was too young to really notice at the time) Rwanda. (Although it hasn't done much for the people in Darfur, really.)

Why do we only care when Bono tells us to? Why do we only notice when it horrifies Anderson Cooper?


**added** And just to make clear, I don't leave myself out of the "We" mentioned above. I've been keeping this blog for almost a decade, and I don't think I ever wrote about Haiti once. Why not?

Oh, oh, and if you want to know the type of havoc IMF and World Bank loans can wreak on an economy, I can't recommend this movie enough. (Again.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Life with Abbie

I'm done with my current writing assignment, so I have nothing much to do.

Now is the time to make you all bask in my daughter's adorableness!!!!

(Yes, I *do* enjoy annoying the sanctimoniously "childfree," why do you ask?)

Abbie has been spontaneously breaking out in these semi-descriptive arias lately, where she screams/sings what she's doing, what I'm doing, or just random stuff. Hilarious.

She builds these great, ornate, huge, floor-spanning Lego creations. Awesome.

She likes to make up weird games, like "Peekaboo Mice." To play Peekaboo Mice, you first have to think about mice, then you turn off the light, then you turn it back on and scream, "Eek, mice!"

No, I don't really get it either.

She loves to totally rock out dancing.

She's in the question asking phase. This just happened:

ABBIE: Mama, how come I ask you so many questions?
ME: *dies*

And also, here's Abbie and a ukulele.

The end.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help in Haiti

By now everyone probably knows about the horrific situation with the earthquake in Haiti. Maegan la Mamita Mala at VivirLatino has a good link roundup of places and ways to help. This is the one I did.
For those interesting in helping immediately, simply text “HAITI” to “90999″ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.
I hope this isn't as bad as it looks at the moment.

Monday, January 11, 2010

RIP, Miep Gies

What a brave woman. This part, especially, touched me.
After the apartment was raided by the German police, Gies gathered up Anne's scattered notebooks and papers and locked them in a drawer for her return after the war. The diary, which Anne Frank was given on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life in hiding from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944.

Gies refused to read the papers, saying even a teenager's privacy was sacred. Later, she said if she had read them she would have had to burn them because they incriminated the "helpers."
Emphasis mine. I always felt a little weird about reading Anne Frank's diary without her permission. And in this age where we all spew our inner thoughts all over the internet, Gies's respect for the privacy of others seems all the more admirable.

There should be more people like her. RIP.

I have just met you, and I love you. Will you be my prisoner?

Best pickup line, ever.

I recently (finally) saw Up, and it made me cry. And I'm talking, embarrassingly, openly weep-in-front-of-friends-and-family-members cry.

Here's the part that really got to me.

Even all those years later, even after having the best kid anyone ever had, I guess I still wasn't over it.

See, I can barely even type the word! Miscarriage. The miscarriage. Still, in my opinion, too taboo of a subject in American culture.

The rest of Up is also fabulous, especially Dug the dog in all his earnest literalness. But that little montage alone is perhaps the most moving piece of American filmmaking I've seen in years. If there's any sense of justice living in the souls of the people at the Academy of Arts and Sciences, it will garner an Oscar nomination. And I mean a real, big-kid Best Picture nomination, not the Best Animated Feature, kid's table consolation prize.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Where the HELL have you been?!?!?!

I have to apologize as I've mostly retreated to the relative safety of Facebook. I, like a lot of sensible people, have pretty much had it with the blogosphere.

I may or may not be entering grad school next year, depending on how seriously they take my awful GRE scores. Yeah, I kind of choked on the math part.

Consequently, depending on how much time I'll be having on my hands, I've been considering what to do with this space. I've been doing some freelance writing for hire lately, and it's kind of got me into writing and pop culture analysis and that sort of thing again. I might consider doing some blogging about it.

Look for more in the near future, for sure. I'm not dead or anything, I swear.