Saturday, December 31, 2005

charity and chit-chat

you still have time - ok, a day - to give to non-profits (and remember it's tax deductible.)

some organizations i'm thinking about:
planned parenthood
human rights campaign
women employed

new year's plans? well, after getting hit on by a very weird guy at a french restaurant thursday night (which was partially my fault) i've decided to go into hiding. roomie and i are having some friends over to play mah jongg and drink champagne. then we're going to say what our resolutions are and then promptly forget them.

(top of my list: be humble. or something like that. i think it's the same as last year's - clearly, not a lot of progress.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

why our college students can't read: they're afraid of big ideas

this article about the possibility the federal government could censor university professors chapped my hide. so fair warning: i'm about to step up on my academic elite soapbox.

here's a tip to questing undergrads: if you want a valuable undergraduate education that will perhaps challenge you to be something more than a corporate cog, don't whine that your professor hurt your feelings by saying bad things about the president. if you want to have your parents' ideologies comfortably reinforced and you never want to hear something that's different from what you already think, then go to a christian university.

first, i think these stories of university professors discriminate against students based on their students' political beliefs are crap; i don't even know what that means. how are these whiny students discriminated against because they hear something they don't agree with? besides, i don't think these stories are really true.

if anything, i think instructors are offended and horrified by our students more than the other way around. was i horrified by some of the conservative ideas of my students, both at ucla and the university of michigan? hell, yes. but everyone knows you don't fail a student because you secretly think they're idiots.

i once had a student at ucla write a paper trying to justify the internment of the japanese during ww2. i gave young billy a C not because his paper was shit because it was shit AND it was poorly researched and badly argued - but i also met with him to discuss it. i told him i was completely horrified by the paper; but when we talked i understood he wanted a provocative topic and thought the more controversial, the easier i'd grade. (he thought wrong.)

eventually, after i'd been teaching for a few years, i began announcing that certain topics were off limits: abortion, homosexuality, religion/God, denial of the Holocaust, anything resembling white supremacist/pro-slavery propaganda. did i do this because i was a flaming liberal trying to suppress the free thoughts of my students?

no. i did it to spare myself the chore of grading the crappiest papers in the universe. in the clumsy hands of those barely out of their teens, those topics are hideous, awful, boring, pedantic, and narrow. if i'm going to have to read something that says the japanese deserved to be in concentration camps make it a piece of sophisticated drivel, not inexperienced and, most likely, plagiarized drivel.

second, and call me old-fashioned, when did these kids get the idea that what they feel actually matters? yes, i realize that makes me sound terribly snobbish and so very Paper Chase, but so what. i believe that a university exists to educate people for the scant four years they're there. there is time enough for the tender young subject to revert to their type and become a shallow corporate breeder. and if it means hearing some bitter physics professor (who probably hates teaching anyway because he's stuck in podunk instead of someplace REAL) bitch about the president and the stupid war in iraq, then suck it up, young person.

and if the federal government gets into the business of 'approving' what professors can/can't say in their classrooms, that's censorship. and THAT hurts my feelings more.

[edited for some much needed clarity.]

Sunday, December 25, 2005

the quietest christmas

merry christmas!

in chicago, it's gray and rainy and right now, i'm eating cake while watching a movie on cable.
perfect. the streets are so empty, i'd like to think of everyone in their robes and jammies, cooking christmas brunch, sprawled across sofas, yawning while wrapping paper flies across the living room. and englebert humperdink is on the radio.

i just wish the cafe across the street was open. i need coffee...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

my broom's in the closet

so, for work today, i'm reading this transcript of a panel on the black church and pro-marriage policies. it was fascinating. it was not only a frank discussion of the limits of the black church as a hive for social policy, it sort of aired the ideological fissures in what most of us monolithically call the 'black community' (though everyone was pretty on board with not trusting the current administration with anything.) and it made me think of the earlier exchange with a commenter who made me own up to my classism.

the numbers quoted about the rate of out of wedlock births in the black community were sort of shocking; i hadn't realized they were that high. and the conclusion that marriage is good for economic empowerment seemed a ... rational ... one. (seemed, i say.) but there seemed to be a gap in the discussion somewhere.

as a tactic in a larger strategy to eliminate widespread illegitimacy, marriage seems ideal. as a tactic in a larger strategy to stave off poverty for the community, marriage again seems suitable (as long as there were jobs, the panelists made clear.) as a way to reclaim young black manhood, marriage seems to be a positive, as well. (hm.) basically, for poor people who don't want illegitimate children and for young men who don't want to end up in jail, marriage is a good thing. but what if you aren't poor, don't have kids to worry about and you're not on your way to prison? what then?

i can't put my finger in the gap i sensed, but it'll come to me. i'm sure of it.

merry christmas, white house style

while we all get ready to visit family or friends this season, let's remember the displaced - who, apparently, are just too poor to have their homes rebuilt.

the rich, however, are totally deserving.

this administration sucks, you know?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

there's this... - Judge rules against�'intelligent design' in science class - Dec 20, 2005 (a definite win for those of us who like our church/state separated) but then there's also this.

all around, i'd call it a stalemate. (you know, if i was keeping score...)

Monday, December 19, 2005

clearly, he's listening to the wrong conversations

this is what the President would hear if he eavesdropped on me and my roomie:

Roomie: uh, don't go in the kitchen.
Me: why?
R: i farted.
M: go stand over there! not here! over there!


M: i love project runway. i had a dream last night that nick was my best friend.
R: i dreamed trent lott was holding me prisoner and you killed him to rescue me.
M: you're so problematic. so would you kiss tom hanks?
R: mm, no. but he'd be a good husband, i think. but an asexual one.
M: i had a dream i was from outer space and my outer space brother and i settled in canada and, this is icky, we became lovers!! because we were from outer space!

(and still later)

R: it was totally your idea to buy the xbox.
M: it was not. you're the one who had a jones for it. i kept asking if you were sure!
R: but you weren't saying no! you seemed really excited about it!
M: because i didn't think you would do it! i would never goad you into buying something you didn't want!
R: but you did!
M: we so aren't talking about this anymore.
R: so. do you think president bush is a tool?
M: totally. (louder) president george w. bush is a tool.

[why is he a tool? because he he doesn't seem to know what the word 'legal' is: Bush Says U.S. Spy Program Is Legal and Essential]

what i did this weekend

the holiday party i hosted for my workmates made me unfit for human interaction so i spent the weekend at the cinema. here's my take:

king kong - helpless blonde femaleness sacrificed to appease the questionable lust of a giant primate by dark-skinned natives is never uplifting. however, overly long sequences of rampaging dinosours are always fun.

chronicles of narnia - ok, who DIDN'T have the words to that lame poem, 'Footprints in the Sand', pop into their heads when Aslan left the big coronation? we get it - he's JESUS! and when are the brits going to GET OVER their fascination with all things king richard and hobbit-like? really. just get over it. and HOW LUCKY for the children than narnia is has all their favorite british foods in it, right?

brokeback mountain - sad. sad. depressingly sad. if only they had lived in san francisco or new york...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

the patriot's creed

Nobel Lecture - Literature 2005

earlier this month, harold pinter won the nobel prize for literature. if you've never read a pinter play, do so. they're dark, mean and brutal. you rebel against his plays.

in his scathing nobel lecture his gives voice to our nation's secret credo. i thought it worth replicating here, but you should read his whole lecture.

"I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'"

woo hoo! party!: Progressive Faith BLog Con

some folks who've stopped by here in the past are involved in putting together a progressive faith blog con next year. if any of y'all want to help out, join or just drop a note of encouragement, here's where to go.

they're shooting for march in new york city.
wish i could go...

Thursday, December 15, 2005


my family doesn't see snow in l.a. the way i do: they think it's scary, cold, messy, terrifying. of course, if the temps drop below 60 in l.a. it's time to put on your parka and turn the heat waay up.

i'm home to prep the house for a cocktail christmas party i'm hosting for my office and so that really means i'm avoiding making the fondue and sitting in the turret, staring at the snow flurries like a moron.

i love it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

spheres of influence: a map of the religious right

expanding universe

fascinating to see the ways that ministries give birth to media, think tanks, PACs and educational institutions. whoever said the religious right was just a bunch of country hicks was wrong.

and whoever says the religious right is persecuted is wrong, too. you can't be persecuted if you're controlling the conversation.

(but, dude. what's up with including the reverend moon?? he's a nutbag.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

brain food

Institute for Women's Policy Research -Politics, Religion, & Women�s Public Vision

so there's this online discussion thursday about why religious women activists and feminists don't collaborate more, though our goals are often the same.

so, if you're really interested, then i guess you should check it out.

[via Faith Voices. never heard of 'em? me neither.]

Monday, December 12, 2005

more on immigration: when race riots aren't

Racial Violence Continues in Australia - New York Times:

leaving aside how this story completely reinforces my problematic stereotype of australians as thuggish throwbacks of aggression and how it makes me think that this is what happens when 19th century prison colonies go horribly awry (inbreeding!) what i like most about this story is the prime minister's disingenuous refusal to say that racism is widespread in australia.

when i read that, the first thing that popped into my mind was the country's quite recent history of repression against aboriginals.

but then my little thought bubble was soothed when i read this:
"Aborigines rioted in the Sydney neighborhood of Redfern in February 2004 after blaming police for the death of a 17-year-old boy. Forty police were wounded."

well, that's all right then, isn't it? racism can't possibly exist on a widespread level in australian society, despite the ease with which thousands of white youth assault innocent brown people, since aborigines rioted.

because the two situations are absolutely the same, aren't they?

(and here's more on immigration. this time, it's 92 GOP House Reps who want to stop all children born in the us from being US citizens. i can't believe how completely fascist it is and how easily 49% of the population thinks it's ok.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

'thanks, but no thanks': when the Other speaks

Here's a question: what does it mean to be in community with others, even other people who don't share your faith?

Some months ago a committee I'm on came up with the brilliant idea of exploring the idea of the global church in our deacon meetings, rather than spend 90 minutes shuffling papers and deciding who's sitting at the volunteer table on which Sunday. (with email, there's no need to waste all this time.) We thought, Let's have little mini-lectures about the church and all the different communities. Yay! we thought. We'll learn something!

So we brought in a religion writer from the Trib and had a nice little conversation about faith in the city and how a paper covers it. Success.

Then, since we wanted to be relevant, we thought, 'Hm. Let's bring in the guy who lectures on Islam in our Academy. He can talk to us about the Islamic community and tell us stuff we don't know.'

Yeah...big dreams. You'd think having a really measured Moslem professor and lawyer come in from the burbs and talk about the Islamic community and Middle Eastern history from the inside would not be enough to push moderate, progressive Christians over the edge, but apparently it is.

You'd think hearing a mini-lecture about the ways that Christian and Moslem culture, history, commerce and geo-politics have been intertwined since something like the 11th century would be distant enough to prevent people from freaking out, but you'd be wrong.

You'd also think that hearing an articulate brown man (who was also very very attractive - very) tell a room full of privileged white people that brown immigrants who've been living here for a couple generations don't care what you think of them and didn't really come to this country to assimmilate would have made sense but, yeah, you'd be wrong there, too.

On the whole, his mini-lecture was about more than religion; it was about his culture; it was about how much older it was, how learned it was, how grounded it was in 'enlightenment' ideas. But it was also about the cultural identity of an immigrant and this was the part of his lecture that made some of us squirm.

(What? You *don't* want to be an American?? Well, that's just...just un-American!!)

When we say we want to understand, do we really? Or do we really mean that we want that other person to say something we agree with, something that bolsters our already inflated image of who and what we are?

When we say we want to be inclusive (as a progressive congregation - I don't expect conservative churches to embrace this newfangled notion of inclusion) what do we really mean and what happens when someone you want to include holds up his hand and says, 'Uh, appreciate the gesture, but we're fine just where we are'?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

home for the holidays: a list

so, because i plan so poorly for travel, i am punishing myself by remaining in chicago for the holidays instead of seeing my family back in southern california, where my sister tells me it's a balmy 65. bastards.

clearly, i will need to find something to do. so here's a list of everything i could do during my fabulous week off:


um, i can't think of anything. (except drink champagne every night and that's no good.)

help me out.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

ah, tolerance: ford and the gays

2 Ford Brands Stop Ads in Gay Publications - New York Times

here's what gets me:

"Ford's move came nearly a week after the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association canceled a boycott of Ford vehicles that began in May, when the group criticized Ford for being too gay-friendly."

what's 'gay-friendly'? glad you asked:

"The American Family Association first announced the boycott against Ford and related brands on May 31. The group said Ford gave thousands of dollars to gay rights groups, offered benefits to same-sex couples and actively recruited gay employees."

so, let me get this straight (no pun intended); in order for The American Family Association to be happy, they'd like to see Ford direct unfriendliness toward gays in the form of denying health benefits to their employees and, apparently, not hiring gay people at all.

(that's what it means when you don't actively recruit - it means you don't hire.)

i wonder, if Ford does what the American Family Association asks, would its acts be discrimination?

(or, are the gays just a bunch of whiny pansies, uh...individuals?)

Friday, December 02, 2005

blog against racism: almost forgot!

[you think this is going to be about katrina, privilege or something that makes everyone get all upset and angry. no. it's about my hair. but hang in there; it's a story then a question. y'all have to answer the question.]

The Story:
There's a man in my office who has a certain fascination with my hair. He's older, in his mid-50's, and is one of the 3 men who work here. When we first met, he complimented me about my hair. Graciously, I said 'Thank you!' And I smiled. Then he kept doing it. Every day, something about my hair. How full, how glorious, how beautiful, how fabulous, how big, how stupendous, how whatever. And then he'd say, 'I mean this in a totally non-racist way, of course.'

Hmm, I'd think.

Then, when the snow and the cold came, I changed my hair. I blow-dried it straight so I could fit it under my hat. And when I came into the office, he almost died. He edged into my career station and said, 'Your hair! It's'

I said, 'It's only hair. But thanks.' And so it's been since before Thanksgiving.

If he talks about my hair one more time I'll blow. I've endured this since May and I will seriously have to read him a lesson if this continues.

The Question:
Why would comments about hair piss off a brown girl?

[yes, it's a test. it's much more interesting than asking if someone's been a victim of racism, huh?]

Thursday, December 01, 2005

oh, i'm sorry; i thought this was my uterus...

A Man's Right to Choose - New York Times

while this didn't make me choke on my coffee, this last bit made me sort of gassy with exasperation (i'll bold the most gas-inducing parts):

"Why couldn't I make the same claim - that I am going to keep the baby regardless of whether she wants it or not?

Well, you might argue that all the man provides is his seed in a moment of pleasure. The real work consists of carrying a child for nine months, with the attendant morning sickness, leg cramps, biological risks and so on.

But how many times have we heard that fatherhood is not about a moment, it is about being there for the lifetime of a child? If we extend that logic, those 40 weeks of pregnancy - as intense as they may be - are merely a small fraction of a lifetime commitment to that child.

The bottom line is that if we want to make fathers relevant, they need rights, too. If a father is willing to legally commit to raising a child with no help from the mother he should be able to obtain an injunction against the abortion of the fetus he helped create.

Putting this into effect would be problematic, of course. But while such issues may be complicated, so is family life."

so, basically, let's just have men force women to give birth. yeah, i'm all for that.

while dalton's argument is fairly even in tone, it won't prevent me from calling him a complete tool.

his toolship: dalton, i'd really like to know how you (and other men) are going to justify forcing a woman to give birth against her will. i'd really like to see how your willingness to perform your fatherly duties outside of a woman's body justifies taking ownership of her body for 9 months against her will.

at the end of his 'waah waah' essay dalton tries to slide in an obligatory 'please ignore the fact i'm talking out my ass' by saying 'of course' his modest proposal would be hard to implement. but he doesn't say the reason why his idea won't work: there's a woman attached to the other end of that fetus!

wouldn't everything be so much easier if we forgot there was a woman attached?

here's a tip from me to dalton: until we find a way to hatch a human embryo so a guy can sit on it like a penguin, you can kiss your dream good bye. (ass.)

the bar of persecution

this article, about 4 pharmacists being suspended for not dispensing prescribed medication, came to my attention today.

and it makes me ask what religious persecution really is.

really. what is it?