Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Cult of Personality

I finally found a personality cult I could join without reservation:  Teresa Heinz Kerry’s.  Her speech last night at the Democratic National Convention was brilliant and inspired; I even got a bit choked up when she began greeting the crowd in her many languages.  Is it possible that we may have a polyglot in the White House again!

On a related note, David Brooks is an uncritical ass.  His commentary on PBS throughout the convention has been tedious and insipid.  He criticized former President Carter for not specifically addressing “Islamist” terrorism, and his comments after Ms. Kerry’s speech corroborated his lack of critical thinking skills, complaining she did not offer any quirky anecdote about her husband.  What it must be like to be an intelligent (and opinionated) woman in this world who can only be read within the confines of her relationship with a man!  I concede that the only reason she spoke was because her husband is running for president; however, a big chunk of her speech was clearly about women not being allowed to have their own voices:

“I have a very personal feeling about how special America is, and I know how precious freedom is. It is a sacred gift, sanctified by those who have lived it and those who have died defending it. My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called "opinionated," is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish. My only hope is that, one day soon, women—who have all earned the right to their opinions—instead of being labeled opinionated, will be called smart or well-informed, just as men are....

For [John], the names of too many friends inscribed in the cold stone of the Vietnam Memorial testify to the awful toll exacted by leaders who mistake stubbornness for strength. That is why, as president, my husband will not fear disagreement or dissent. He believes that our voices—yours and mine—must be the voices of freedom. And if we do not speak, neither does she.”  --Teresa Heinz Kerry
Ah, if only she would’ve revealed some little personal tale about John, but in Spanish or French(!) as if to say, “I will speak with my own voice, but you must SPEAK MY LANGUAGE.”

Richard Clarke’s assessment of the 9/11 report is well argued and insightful, particularly regarding bureaucratic bottlenecks and institutional failures of imagination.

With the convention going on and my teaching till late in the evening, I haven’t had much time to work on other more meaningful and personal things such as this blog.  But the summer session ends a week from tomorrow.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


Okay, I've been asked relentlessly who I was going to endorse for the US elections this November, and I've finally made my decision:

Who would Jesus torture?

Let the Crusade begin! Bush/Cheney '04


For other options regarding "Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Crappiness," I recommend this site. Check out his hilarious gallery.

Lori, you might want to just delete all links to my site....

Saturday, July 17, 2004

May Day

I know that this issue is a bit dated; however, I felt it important enough to bring it up, at least in my little quadrant of cyberspace.  I wrote this article while living in Warsaw (spring 2002), and the reason I've been thinking about it lately is because my friends & colleagues in Poland, especially those serving in the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), were horribly discriminated against (Pride festivities banned in Warsaw) this spring by not being allowed to have their pride parade.
If by chance you'd like to put in your 2-cents worth, feel free to send letters to the Polish ambassador to the US:  His Excellency Przemyslaw Grudzinski, 2640 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20009.

While most citizens of Poland were preparing for the traditional worker’s parade on the first of May, Polish gays and lesbians were busy creating their own tradition:  a march and demonstration down the heart of Warsaw.

The rainbow flag replaced the red flags waved by various workers’ groups elsewhere throughout the country.  No one, including the organizers, knows why May Day was chosen for the second time as the day to march for gay rights.  But even with other parades and other reasons to march, the Parade of Equality drew a crowd of about 500 people.

A parade in Central Europe has little in common with its American version:  no floats, no marching bands, and no civic organization members in funny hats.  Instead, there were speeches from various organizations such as Lambda Warsaw, the Campaign Against Homophobia, and the local chapter of Amnesty International.

And there were cheerleaders.  The Radical Cheerleaders is an ultra-feminist group of punk women growling unwieldy slogans at the crowd.

Despite the overly sentimental “We Are the World” moment—and by ‘”We Are the World” moment’ I mean the point at the end of the parade when the participants were encouraged to hold hands and sing along with the a recording of the U.S.A for Africa anthem—the atmosphere of this event was imbued with significance and solemnity.

Lacking the diversity of various sub-groups within the GLBT spectrum, it would have been easy to confuse this parade with any other demonstration.  Even with the banners espousing equality for gays and lesbians and an arc of rainbow-colored balloons, spectators along the parade route had to stop and ask what exactly we were marching for.

The past year has been a tumultuous time for Polish gays and lesbians.  Even though homosexuality has been legal for a handful of years, social acceptance in this country that claims to be 98% Catholic is slow—at best—in coming.  The recent debate over domestic partnerships has proven disastrous.  Even the leading proponents of these civil unions in the Polish Parliament are backing down from sheer frustration with the issue as well as with the people it would help most.

The media does little to help the situation.  Reading five different magazine articles about the same issue, one finds the same quotes from the same individuals.  It is almost as if there are only a handful of homosexuals in all of Poland.

Homosexuality still has the quality of a freak show here, for unfortunately, à la uncritical media everywhere, those interviewed during the parade were two of the three drag queens in attendance and a man of African decent.  And the few protesters along the route from the Copernicus statue to the Castle Square received almost the same amount of coverage as the parade in one televised news report.

Perhaps next year the date will change, making it more aligned with worldwide celebration of gay rights typically held in June.

One of the most basic tenets of democracy is the protection of minorities from the majority because ultimately we all will belong to the minority in time.
On a related note, Alanis Morissette comes out in favor of required reading:

"It [having sexual experiences with a female friend in my 20s] was lovely, I loved it. And while there's part of me that deeply wishes I was hardcore homosexual, unfortunately I feel I am deep down heterosexual. I really think [gay experimentation is] a rite of passage, and I highly recommend it to anybody who's pre-lifelong-commitment. Wouldn't this planet be a different place if all fraternities and macho communities were required to experiment with their sexuality? I think it would be really great; it should be like required reading."

-- Singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette to the Miami gaynewspaper The Weekly News, May 27.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Francophone Francophobe

It’s good to know the majority of words I’ve misspelled in the recent past have been French, a language I took one class in (no, not one course, but actually a one hour-long class when I was a sophomore in college). I dropped French after the first day and signed up for philosophy instead. (Yeah, that served me well.) As they say in Springfield, “Camus can do, but Sartre is smartre.”

And I may not be able to properly spell ménage à trois (oh wait, I just did!), but I know what one smells like.... Hee hee! And dear Editor (i.e., Stephen), what other non-Francophone can not only properly spell pamplemousse but order a vegetarian pizza in the Grand (Old) Duchy of Luxembourg and a café au lait in Montreal without any problem?

Le chat est bleu right back to you! (That’s the only thing I learned during my French studies. Everything else has been picked up during covert listenings to Pimsleur tapes, a drunken night with Poles at the Noir Désir concert, conversations with pretentious academics & artists, my world(ly) travels, as well as a shared car with a stoned Frenchman on the overnight train from Prague to Warsaw).

Speak my language: Franglais!

Monday, July 12, 2004

Book Burning

Disturbing trends and tendencies are developing in Fortress Amerika.

There certainly exists a disturbing correlation between the topics of these two articles. Here is a selection from each:
The Nazis were right in believing that one of the most powerful weapons in a war of ideas is books. And for better or worse, the United States is now in such a war. Without books, we cannot succeed in our current struggle against absolutism and terrorism. The retreat from civic to virtual life is a retreat from engaged democracy, from the principles that we say we want to share with the rest of the world.... So the crisis in reading is a crisis in national politics.

By requiring foreign journalists to obtain special visas, the United States has aligned itself with the likes of Iran, North Korea and Cuba, places where reporters are treated as dangerous subversives and disseminators of uncomfortable truths.... The USA Patriot Act ... placed antiterrorism measures in a peculiar conceptual proximity to laws supporting the control and removal of undesirable aliens, although with a new emphasis: As dissident writers seem to have disappeared from the public sphere, journalists have become the new subversives, even when they have no agenda at all.

Would it be possible for this great nation to continue by sheer inertia without either the most basic rights currently guaranteed by the Constitution or the minimum of civic participation by its citizens?

To counter the authoritarian orthodoxy, I solemnly swear to read more. So help me Sartre.

And from outside, in the great, big world, news stories filter in about human goodness: Women as peacemakers: from victims to re-builders of society. This story is one of the UN's 10 Stories the World Should Hear More About.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

25 Years Ago Today...

On July 11, 1979, the abandoned United States space station Skylab made a spectacular return to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere and showering debris over the Indian Ocean and Australia.

A namesake, a metaphor, a marvel. (By the way, "skajlab" is the Polish spelling for "skylab.")

Friday, July 9, 2004

Insomniac Attack

…or can it really be considered insomnia when I slept for almost 11 hours last night? I have faith that it will all balance in the end.

So far, my summer courses are going well. It’s exhausting as hell to be on for almost 70 students (about 35 in each class) for the entire evening, but I’m sure to value the experience. It’s truly amazing that there are no students I flat out dislike from the start!

Last weekend was blissful, spending time with Stephen. He took off work Friday, so we exercised at the Y, and then went rollerblading at White Rock Lake in the afternoon. Saturday we watched the fireworks in Addison with his family and Kris; then afterwards, we & Kris sat in her backyard solving all the world’s problems around the chiminea.

Sunday we drove out to east Texas to have a Fourth of July cookout with my sister and brother-in-law. Spent a huge chunk of the day out there watching the horses & cows and playing with her huge dogs. I ended up smashing my hand on a rusty gate, and I’ve been wearing a bandage since.

Monday we finally caught Godzilla at the Angelika—the original Japanese version with subtitles. Despite seeing the string move Godzilla’s tail and the miniature trains & cars, the film was brilliant in critiquing nuclear weapons as well as indicting those tendencies in man that are more primitive than a creature from the Jurassic period. Watching Tokyo being destroyed by the monster’s radioactive fire breath was surreal after recently watching The Fog of War that showed actual footage of America’s firebombing campaign in Tokyo (in which a mere 100,000 Japanese were burned alive). Things like that are hard to bear. And what were the Japanese who participated in the filming of this movie in 1954 thinking, having survived that holocaust just a few years earlier?

Alas, I can’t answer all questions tonight, so I will now return to bed. But, ah … more terrible math to make me jolt upright if I do doze off.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Antarctic Recluse

Keeping inside from the heat as I prep for my two night courses (5:30 – 9:40pm Monday – Thursday), I wonder just what is going on out there, where (post) post-modern existentialists wear Chanel and drink lattes and I have to set up group email accounts for my 70 students so as not to “lose” them over the next five weeks. “Give me Chanel (and a double soy latte), or give me death,” he sneered through the windows of his frozen igloo, surrounded by cats and (dust) bunnies. Perhaps I’ll be able to poke my head out again soon. If not, then we shall meet again in August….

Until then, keep the Maureen Dowd coming!