Friday, March 30, 2007


A Dizzy Spell

Oh, dear. Where did March go? And how did I end up on the library's team for the community spelling bee?

It was a heap of fun last year. I wasn't on the team. Its members wore glasses on strings, buns on their heads, and severe blouses. They were the Buns of Steel. The rest of us cheered and made fools of ourselves.

Making a fool of myself: my proper role.

I'm a pretty good speller, overall. However, it takes no time for the sadist calling the words to progress from bagel and crayon to opusculum, and then on to amphoriskos and cavaquinho. What's an urceole? Sounds like something you'd see in a dermatology textbook. Ew.

My darlin' and I had fun going through the 12 page, 9 point helvetica list, at first. I love words, love the sensation of them rolling off my tongue as I check out pronunciations and meanings of beautiful and exotic strangers. I learned, for example, that my spouse is a nullifidian. Who'd have guessed? After 17 years, this revelation! (That's a person with no religious belief, though it sounds less confrontational than atheist, and quite possibly a land, one invented by Jonathan Swift, at that. It's due west of the land of the Lilliputians.)

The recreation broke down when I finally went to the doctor about the muscle spasms that have had me popping ibuprofen for the last month. She gave me a scrip of cyclobenzaprine (I find myself checking the spelling on the label), which has reduced me to zombiehood for the past five days. I have been sitting and staring into space until about 7:30 or 8, at which time I say in an echo-voice, "Time for bed."

Last night and this morning I pissed away valuable study time trying to create team tee shirts.

At least today I am wearing no monkey on my back. My trapezius muscles will have to stiffen back up for a day, while I glance at the sheets off and on before The Main Event tonight, which starts at 6:30.

I don't think I'll embarrass my team. But I probably won't lead it to victory, either.

Big ol' sigh.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Bush Ponders Post-Presidential Options

Declaring that he has "many producionary years ahead" of him after he leaves office, President George W. Bush shared some of his thoughts about what he might want to do in 2009 and beyond.

One possibility, the president said, is the "Popacy. I can do those blessin' and benedickin' gestures real good."

When reminded that he was not a Catholic, Mr. Bush observed, "I'm not a statesman, either. Look how far I got with that."

Another, more logical possibility would be for Mr. Bush to assume the duties of Commissioner of Baseball. "I'd be great with the players, since we all take the same 'roids," he said, hiking his pants up a little.

Finally, Mr. Bush may throw his hat in the ring as another possible father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby. "Given my resume, I think I got a real good chance. I'd wait till after Jan. 20 to make the announcement, a course, but ol' Laura's got that empty nest thing now that Jenna's off to be a world famous arthur, and Barbara's doin' God knows what. That baby is a major franchise, anyhow. I'd be a great daddy, what with the upbringin' I've had."

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Not Your Kid Brother's Comic Book

The current term is graphic novels, but they're not always novels. In fact, all the books I've read in this category are memoirs: Alison Bechdel's artfully done Fun Home, Marjane Satrapi's fascinating Persepolis, Persepolis 2, and Embroideries. Bechdel plays with the idea of the artificer in Fun Home as she details her father's closeted existence as a teacher, funeral director, and house restorer in a small town and her own emergence as a lesbian and an artist. Satrapi weaves Persian miniatures into the backgrounds of her family's experiences in the Iranian revolution and draws upon the feminist themes to compelling effect.

Now I stumble into Palestine, courtesy of Joe Sacco. If the books mentioned above draw upon memoir, Sacco seems to be practicing graphic journalism rather than writing and drawing the so-called graphic novel. Call it what you will; it's stunning, important, and almost unbearable at times.

Palestine is a collection of strips written and drawn by Sacco as he crossed over into the Gaza Strip to get the Palestinian side of the story. The Israeli policies he discovers echo practices that we are not proud of in our own current history. Instead of Guantanimo, elimination of habeas corpus and probable cause, substitute Administrative Detention. There's a startling and distressing resemblance.

Aware that many if not most of his readers aren't versed in Palestinian history, Sacco travels back to what he calls "the British dust[ing] off of the promise of the Lord." The perfect spot is Palestine, dubbed "a land without people for a people without a land." This is hogwash, of course, but in 1917 Lord Balfour states, "Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land."

That's Brit-speak for there are already lots of people living here, but we don't intend to consult them.This is fine with the Zionists. As Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion prepared for war in 1948, he planned that "a decisive blow should be struck, resulting in the destruction of homes and the expulsion of the population.. . Palestinian Arabs have only one role left--to flee."

Even Golda "But can she type?" Meir denied the actual existence of a Palestinian people: "It was not as though there was a Paslestinian people considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."

This is, of course, news to the Palestinians, 400 of whose villages were razed by the Israelis during and after the 1948 war. In Sacco's interviews he discovers Palestinian professionals who are routinely kidnapped by the Israeli government and placed in "administrative detention" without charges while officials go on fishing expeditions in search of substantiating the unsubstantial. Farmers talk about Israel's expropriation of land and water and labyrinthian taxation schemes to undermine the selling of Palestinian produce at home and abroad. They are forced to cut down their olive trees which are written off as a "terrorist threat." Residents describe being driven from their homes by the Israeli army, who then dub the homes "unoccupied houses and terrorist havens" before bulldozing them out of existence. Even as the government has flooded Palestinian territories with Israeli settlements and government incentives, it has continually denied building permits to Palestinians.

I can only imagine the desperation, the adamance of the first Israeli settlers, fresh from the Holocaust, to live on protected soil. But religious states strike me as a uniformly terrible idea, as do Americans and Europeans deciding Middle Eastern destinies without consulting the inhabitants. If Palestinians don't "exist," then neither do Syrians or Jordanians or Saudis.

Israelis need to revisit their own painful history, to remember what it was to be persecuted merely for existing, and then to think less about "God's" promise to them and more about the potential for sharing resources and respect.

Do check out these graphic books. They have a lot to show us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Stepping in the Glee Gum

I was pretty amused when I read that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case of Morse v Frederick, an appeal that involved a high school kid and a Bong Hits 4 Jesus banner. What fun! What a lending of deliberative powers to high school high jinks!

Now I'm not so sure. Chief Justice John Roberts seems to be steering the discussion in the direction of an overturn of Tinker v Des Moines.

The latter is a 1969 decision used as precedent in cases involving student expression. The Court upheld the rights of students who were protesting the Viet Nam war by wearing black armbands to school. Seems awfully tame in this day and age, doesn't it?

Frederick, the high school kid in the current case, was suspended for 12 days for unfurling a Bong Hits 4 Jesus banner during a parade of the Olympic torch through town, which the kids were allowed to leave class and see. Frederick, little rascal that he was and probably is, wasn't in school that day, probably hard at work on his magnum opus at home. He did arrive in time for its debut along the parade route.

The case is now before the court, with Kenneth Starr arguing for the school district. Chief Justice John Roberts used to work for Starr, back in the days before his current dizzying status. Clearly, it helps to have connections when it comes to getting a case heard.

It does seem that Roberts, whose questions show him leaning in the direction of his old boss and the school district, may have had a few bong hits himself. He keeps asking questions that have less to do with the case and more that might bear upon Tinker.

"Why is it that the classroom ought to be a forum for political debate simply because the students want to put that on their agenda?" Roberts asked Starr. Later on, he responded negatively to the idea that Tinker had given students a "baseline of political speech." "Presumably, the teacher's agenda is a little bit different and includes things like teaching Shakespeare or the Pythagorean theorem. Just because political speech is on the student's agenda, I'm not sure that it makes sense to read Tinker so broadly as to include protection of that speech."

Um. I'd like a hit of that, John Roberts, if you don't mind. But you do seem to be straying from the case at hand. This is a political debate?! I can see an earnest young debate team captain presenting the topic: Resolved: that bong hits should be extended to Jesus. This prank took place outside the classroom. Even if it had happened during a field trip (the closest thing to an equivalent), the lad was counted absent that day. The curriculum, unless you are a frustrated upholder of the need for strict adherence to spelling principles, is beyond the pale of this unfurling.

Supreme Court justices by practice must massage the precedents. What makes me nervous is that Roberts is trying to dismantle the political discourse of students through this case. Just in time to shush the kids about the wars the administration expects them to fight as it expands its hegemaniacal plans for battle.

Interestingly, Pat Robertson and others who might have been expected to express outrage over this case have been on the side of the kids. They see shushing Jesus comments as an obstacle to the eventual restoration of school prayer. Sam Alito is right there with him, as are other evangelicals. Talk about strangers in the sack!

This should remind us all of a sacred obligation: not to turn teenage shenanigans into a federal case.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The Trip I Had, Not the Trip I Wanted

Oh, dear... I am so exhausted that I am paraphrasing Rummy? Allow me to explain.

My treasured friends, Sydney and Jacqueline, and I were off to the march on the Pentagon. We were pumped up, to say the least. We were also going to stay on another day and a half to see a bit of DC. Off we went to the Manchester Airport.

Cancelled! Our flight was cancelled! I'd heard forecasts of freezing rain in DC, but cancelled? My companera Jacqueline is a sort of amateur travel agent. She found a flight still happening in Boston, and we headed there.

We arrived in Boston, just in time to learn that our flight there was also cancelled. Lunch. Distress. Discussion. A decision. We'd rent a car and carry on. That way we could drop the car (which is an inconvenience in DC) and use our return flight tickets home. We hopped a rental shuttle and headed for Avis.

Here are Jacq n' Sydney on the shuttle. Purty cute, huh?

We rented a (yawn) Ford, and began our journey south, delighted with our new plan. We would rotate driving duties and arrive in DC in time to snooze a bit at our hotel before the march.


We crawled along in Mass Turnpike traffic while snow increasingly bombarded us, leaving a thick, greasy frosting on the road. Our top speed was 15 mph. As we approached the Hartford turnoff, more frosting, more gridlock. More cancellations and dire forecasts on the radio.

Was this not Meant To Be? Why hadn't we taken a train? Well, because a train would have taken too long. (Insert another hah here). Now we were going to not take anything. Reluctantly, we decided we had to return the car. We'd been out in the soup for an hour.

We returned the car. Avis was understanding. We went back to our own car in the airport garage and stood looking out at the mess that stood in the way of our trip. Nothin' moving except the snow plows.

We then sadly turned for home, up a clogged Interstate 93. By this time the snow was piled up everywhere, with hardly a snow plow in sight. It was just us and 93,000 other idiots on the road, with about half of them yammering on cell phones as they drove. This meant that we would stop many times while the cops and the emergency vehicles would clear the accidents they caused off the road. Then we would slowly start up again. What fun.

Finally around Manchester we got into a groove. We were moving! A fleet of snowplows scooted along to our right as if in some sort of parade. Cool!

We stopped in Bow for a shitload of junk food. By then I was reconciled to going home, seeing my dear spouse, my Maddie-dog, my Rudy-Toot-Toot of a cat. Home!


The gas we bought in Bow turned out to have water in it, and our gas line froze, somewhere about ten miles out. Sputter! Stop! I looked out the window while Sydney tried to wave someone down. The snow covered him quickly while J and I tried to keep our spirits up by singing "Hop, Bunny Bunny," the most ridiculous camp song I've ever known:

"I like a wabbit, a cwazy, cwazy wabbit, Hop-hop, Bunny-Bunny, Hop-hop, Bunny-Bunny..."

It's a chick thing. Sydney did not find it at all uplifting. The snowy window was pretty, but my feet were getting cold. I wiggled my toes and sang. A guy offered us a ride to a nearby (tiny) town, no doubt shuttered for the night. A cop told us to stay with the car, and he would call a garage for us. For us and 50 other drivers similarly stranded on the same stretch. I wiggled my toes for another couple of hours.

Rescue finally came at around 11. Up went our car on one of those flatbeds that has partially replaced the old fashioned tow truck. We crammed into the front seat of the truck and enjoyed our driver's taste in heavy metal music. Really. I hadn't heard ACDC in years. What could be more appropriate than "Highway to Hell," I ask you!?!

Then it was on to a motel room. I love motel rooms. I love their big beds and Gideon Bibles and little packaged soaps and cable television and tiny free shampoos. I settled into my room and turned on the telly.

HBO! And a poetry reading at that! Now we were getting somewhere! After the reading I channel-surfed for a while after that, read the end of a novel I'd brought with me, and settled in for sleep.

There was one of those nice continental breaskfasts at our motel, and I munched on Cheerios and watched Fox News emphasize the counter-demonstration over the demonstration on a flatscreen TV while we struck out on getting a mechanic on a Saturday to check out the car.

So we called AAA again, and eventually along came Vic. The snow had turned into freezing rain, so the last of our flight hopes were dashed, and we really were going home. This time the truck could hold only one passenger, (it was a genuine tow truck, not a give-your-car-a-ride truck,) and I volunteered to join Vic. I'd enjoyed my trip with the metal guy so much that I wanted to see what this guy was into.

Vic wasn't into heavy metal. He was and is into his wife and three kids and helping other people out. We talked about them and tea and fair trade coffee and homeschooling his kids and his faith.

I didn't engage him on the subject of the war. I could tell that we probably weren't on the same page about that. Still, I enjoyed our conversation and thought he was a pretty fine guy. Such are the possibilities in this country of ours.

So I didn't get to the march. I did get to see snow make pretty patterns on the car window, to sing "Hop-Hop, Bunny Bunny" with Jacq, to make the acquaintance of a couple of guys who pull the rest of us out of the snow, to enjoy an Afro-American poetry slam on HBO (who'd have guessed that they even broadcast such a thing?), to see how the media played down the march, even turned it into some Socialist agenda event.

You know, the Congress isn't going to get this all right as the result of our March-march. We're not going to see any response to our efforts, either at the Pentagon or at home. I'm already planning to head to DC for the May march.

You can bet we'll have to have another march. I'll be at that one, you can bet.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Permission Slip

Dear Miss Crabtree,

I am writing to give my little Hillary permission to say whatever she wants to about gay people, after whoever has said whatever has been said.

Because she is so smart and has such a high I.Q., I understand that Hillary will sometimes evade saying that I am potentially just as moral as the next clod, and after Barack says that I am OK, that she will say that I am OK, too.

It is rough out on the playground, and Hillary must contend with bullies, especially near the slide and tether ball court. She doesn't go near the monkey bars but prefers the see saw and the swing. Please be ready at a moment's notice to allow her to change seats on the latter.

We believe that Hillary is a very promising young lady and is worth any concessions you can make to help her fulfill her potential.

Yours truly,
Her Queer Relatives


Targeted for Censorship: This Year's 'Champs'

I became a fan of the American Library Association's Committee on Intellectual Freedom long before I began to work in a library.

I was a curriculum director in a K-12 school district in California when I got a call from a "concerned" mother who said that the reading textbooks we had adopted was giving her kid nightmares. I had just stumbled into my first coordinated censorship campaign from Focus on the Family and other organizations of that political stripe. It was a statewide campaign, complete with prepared materials that looked home-baked only weren't. They popped up in about 35 other districts. I only survived it because of the work of the ALA; facing down censors can be a very lonely activity.

Since then I have looked with considerable interest at the ALA's Top 10 books targeted for censorship of any particular year. This year's champs, according to the ALA press release include:

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) received a total of 546 challenges last year. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. Public libraries, schools and school libraries report the majority of challenges to OIF.

"The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported," said Judith F. Krug, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. "For each reported challenge, four or five likely remain unreported."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


You Expect He'll Appoint Someone Better?

This fabulous montage of journalistic fury is headlining the Huffington Post as I write this. Everyone is calling for 'Berto's resignation.

Just as everyone called for Rummie's ouster. And the baddies at Walter Reed. These are pretty anemic demands, in my jaundiced view. After all, these shenanigans start at the top.

Are the baddies at Walter Reed really the problem? Those fellows at Walter Reed probably didn't have any resources to make things better for our vets. Our tax cuts at work.

Don't get worked up about these underlings. These guys aren't doing anything that their boss doesn't want them to do. Their biggest wrongs probably involve staying on the job. Anyone bursting with integrity would quit. But Bush'll give them medals and nicknames and Heckuva Job evaluations, anyway.

Heckuva nice guy to work for. Just don't ask him to spend any money on anything that would benefit (a) the troops (b)wounded vets (c) anyone who isn't a card carrying major donor Bush loyalist.

Get it? Bush can't hire anybody who's better than he is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Be There or Be Square

On Saturday I will join my good friends Sydney and Jacqueline at Constitution and 23rd to begin the march on the Pentagon.

As a transplanted westerner, this will be my first Washington march. In the past I've expressed my concerns on the Left Coast. My favorite march was the one in which a bunch of gay brothers strutted along chanting,

"You say Gre-nah-da,
We say Gre-nay-da,
Let's call the whole thing off!"

But I am always open to new favorites. So I'm off to DC.

You come, too.

Come because you care about the well being of the young men and women in Iraq who have been put in harm's way by people who haven't a decent clue.

Come because you can't afford for your local national guard units to be away from what they are best trained to do: help out at home.

Come because you'll meet people who share your values. Come to share, and come to learn.

Come to show the rest of the world that ordinary Americans (if there be such) are mortified by the practices of the Bush Administration.

Come to show that we all haven't been so distracted and anesthetized by our culture and our privilege to cease to care about the harm that we are inflicting on innocent Iraqis.

If you can't make it, write, email, or call your representatives to let them know that you are with us in spirit. As the Democratic Congress quakes in its boots about just how to get our troops out of Iraq, they need constant reassurance that doing that is just what they were elected for.

Let's take to the streets, the airwaves, the communications systems.

Let's get our troops home.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Say It with Flowers! Scooter Libby, FTD Create 'Pardon Me' Signature Line

Inspired by the entrepreneurial flair of ex-convict Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby today inked a deal with floral giant FTD to create a signature line of Pardon Me bouquets and planting designs.

Featuring the Pardon Me dwarf day lily, the Libby line will be "perfect for any occasion, from the faux pas to the felony," said an industry spokesman, "from the unfortunate fart to lying to the FBI. This is going to be big--bigger than our Halloween Boo-quet."

"The Pardon Me day lily's time has come," declared Libby, as he stood on the steps of the FTD building to announce his line. "Looking a little pale? A Pardon me corsage can accentuate just how pathetic and wan you have become. Perfect for that sentencing hearing!"

Libby is hoping that his new Pardon Me sweat band will send a message to his friends in the White House. "What's great about this sweet Leilani look is its eye-catching nature. People get busy with launching new wars and forget to keep in touch. This one says, 'Pay attention! I'm dyin' here!'"

Finally, the Pardon Me boutonniere is for that very special formal evening. "If anyone will let me into party fundraisers, this will be my choice," Libby said, adjusting the sprig behind his right ear. "It's important to get the ear placement just right. On the right is what you want. The right says that you are an evangelical anti-terrorist freedom fighter with latent homosexual tendencies. Wear it on the left side, and you're saying, 'I'm into peanut butter and chains.'"

Touched by the FTD Pick-Me-Up teddy bear gift and daisy bouquet he received after the jury found him guilty in his recent trial, Libby realized that he could speak through flowers, too. It was then that a sympathetic nurseryman introduced him to the Pardon Me day lily. He immediately contracted with three perennial farms specializing in the attractive plant.

"We're not going to stop at arrangements and corsages, either," Libby declared. He has persuaded White House gardeners to plant a blazing bed of Pardon Me's just outside the Oval Office.

They will bloom continuously through January 20, 2009.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Fun at 10 Below

When life gives you lemons, blah, blah, blah. Actually, for a person born and raised in Southern California, below zero weather is pretty exotic. When I first moved to Vermont, I stood out in zero degree weather to try to register the reality of what zero meant. (I never really figured it out.) Then I did what the natives do--learned to dress for the part and got on with the activities of daily living.

Then I read about Japanese tourists in Alaska.

They go to Chena Hot Springs Resort in the dead of winter to see the aurora borealis. They splash about in the hot springs. Braving 50-below temperatures, they blow soap bubbles which immediately turn into solid little Christmas ornaments. They throw boiling water into the air to watch it freeze into little marbles. They stick bananas outside to turn solid and use them to drive nails.

I wasn't interested in turning a banana into a tool, but I am an inveterate bubble blower. I raced over to Dan and Whit's general store to replenish my bubble making supply. My spouse read the label on the bottle. "Ages four and up," she said tonelessly. I headed outdoors.

I blew a few bubbles that floated around uncertainly and then popped. No Christmas ornaments there. That's the difference between ten and fifty below, I shrugged to myself.

But as I turned to go back indoors, I saw one lost little bubble, separated from its fellows, lurching through the frozen air. It looked wounded, like a leathery little fruit that's sat in the basket too long and collapsed on one side. I blew a few more and realized that I'd get no closer to Christmas ornaments.

So I returned to the roaring fire in the woodstove and resumed the regular fun at ten below: noodling on my novel, bitching about the Scooter, Dick, Dubya and Dick, and working the Times crossword.

Someday we'll get serious about aurora borealis and do it right. Maybe we'll go at Christmastime.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Ah, Books

As I've said before, I work in a library. However, this is not my mother's library. (My father wasn't much of a library user.) Our library director has several studs in her ears, a "Got Rights?" bumper sticker on her car, and a gay brother and sister. It's a most liberating environment. Yesterday a volunteer blasted through the door to share the joyous news that Scooter had indeed been found guilty.

I was born and raised in Orange County, CA. Our library had copies of The Naked Communist and None Dare Call It Treason. So, this definitely isn't my mama's library.

Yesterday I received an email from my best friend, an announcement of the winners of the Pimp Your Book Cart contest. Library staffs do just that. Here's this year's champ.

We missed our big chance. I can only hope that we'll get a chance to enter next year. We'll start planning early.

Additional views and runners up can be found at the link.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Santorum Daughter to Undergo Exorcism

Little Sarah Maria Santorum, whose distressed countenance mirrored the family's disappointment during her father's concession speech last November, will undergo exorcism at the vestry of St. Thomas's Catholic Church, a spokesman speaking on conditions of anonymity confided today.

The younger Santorum daughter has become possessed by the mouth of Dick Cheney, sources close to the family say.

"Our progress in Iraq is awesome," she has been known to declare in catechism class. "Saddam was behind 9/11. I never said that. Al Quaeda's on the way over here if we lose over there. Did I say that? I didn't say that. Don Rumsfeld's the greatest secretary of defense this country has ever had."

Santorum himself is opposed to the exorcism. "She's speaking the truth about two-thirds of the time," he said as he objected to the ancient rite, which will begin at 1 o'clock this afternoon.

It is Mrs. Santorum who insists on the ritual. "It's the mouth," she told intimates. "I just can't live with that mouth running amok on her face. That hand on her shoulder also creeps me out."

Sarah Maria has been promised a hot fudge sundae and a new Laura Bush doll if she undergoes the exorcism.

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