Saturday, June 26, 2004
I can't find anything interesting to say today. Is this the beginning of the end? Or the end of the beginning? Wiser bloggers may know.
My migraine is over, and as usual it left me on a very pleasant endorphin high for a day or so, when I went around hugging the car mechanics and the bakers and now have all sorts of related difficulties.
I feel an incredible amount of guilt about not blogging on the Iraq situation daily. It's a dreadful mess as anyone who reads blogs knows, and it's not going to look much prettier for a long time. People die all the time there as anyone who reads blogs knows also, and the United States is not exactly managing anything very well. To write about it all seems so futile, but not to write about it seems to give it no importance. So I hover somewhere inbetween, all the time burdened by the blogger's guilt. Maybe it would be enough to summarize the situation as dire and getting direr all the time?
Another blogging area that gives me guilt is John Kerry. He is of course the candidate to vote for in the next elections, as he is the only reasonable candidate being presented for our consideration. But I'd love it if he could give me something better to write about than the fact that he is actually quite human and reasonable and intelligent. Do something, John! Though of course he doesn't have to do anything, as in comparison to his rival he looks like someone zooming fast in the right direction.
And then there is sex. Should I write more about the touch of a questing tongue on the loved one's back than about the feeling of chocolate on the same tongue? So many on the internet look for sex, and I feel like a fraud when googling 'old men having sex with snakes' gives them nothing but my words. Just to clarify: the snakes don't want to have sex with old men or any sort of humans. They prefer to eat them.
The final conundrum is the dogs and their eagerness to blog. I keep telling them that there are hardly any other dogs who read, so there is no market for their endeavors, but Henrietta just wants to fume rebellion and Hank, well, who knows what Hank wants the keyboard for.
They both remind me of my words a long time ago (deep in nectar I was then anyway) that the Snakepit Inc. is a democracy, and they should have equal dibs on the blog. Either that or they threaten to go public with my address. I'm going to send them to e-bay one day.
But one thing I do know: Go and buy some strawberries! This is the time of the year for them.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Via the Hamster:
NBC Nightly News aired a package by George Lewis describing this week's L.A. police beating, and aired video from FOX & Friends as the beating happened live:
Lewis: The people on one cable network laugh about it
[Cut to video of FOX News Channel]
E.D. Hill: Well I guest that guy's done for the day
Brian Kilmeade: It's gonna be hard to -- Whoa
Kilmeade: Takin' a few swings
Lewis: But the activists are not amused...
That's fair and unbiased for you. Who else would have made sure that the American public also gets the point that beating on an unarmed man can be fun to watch? Aren't you glad that we live in a country where the Fox News unearths the real news for us?
Here is what Michael Savage has to say about women:
From the June 22 broadcast of the nationally syndicated Savage Nation:
SAVAGE: But women in America don't really like anger. They don't even like the news, I don't know if you know that. They just want it to be calm, and safe -- and they want girl talk all the time. So I'll talk in a quiet, soothing voice today so that women don't get scared and run away. I'll make it friendly for women.
SAVAGE: Then again I just scared the women away from the show -- the women aren't outraged in America. No they want girl talk. They wanna hear about the latest movie -- perhaps BOTOX, like Barbara Boxer ... you know."
Just a reminder for all who think that the world is now full of fair and sane people, that the fights of feminism are all in the past, and that to be a feminist today means you hate men, as what other reason could there possibly be to be a feminist for?
But of course Michael Savage is an utter idiot, and we should ignore what he says. Then tell me why he has a public arena for spouting off like that while I, a real, brand-marked goddess have nothing but a crappy free blog? Oh no, I get the answer. It's because I don't like anger and news and prefer talking about BOTOX. What a good idea! Maybe inject some around the droopy lips of Michael Savage? Or if that doesn't work, we could always go for Superglue.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Why do we say: "Go fuck yourself!", when we are angry at someone? (Interpret the 'we' here as a general, most of us, kind of 'we'.) And why is giving good head a very bad insult on most blog comment lines?
And why is someone a fucking idiot?
I mean, after all we are telling the person to do something very enjoyable in most of these cases. What is it about sexuality that makes us use one of the few things that is also called 'heaven on earth' as the worst insult we can hurl at somebody? I have never really understood this.
The reason may lie deep in the Calvinistic underbelly of America, but not everybody has roots in Calvinism. Or is the reason something to do with a combination of yearning and loathing in sex? A desire to be free of the need for the 'other', which seems to have inordinate powers of attraction? Or perhaps simple misogyny, combined with the assumed hierarchy of power in sex, with the man on top?
Why not wish someone a long and loveless life instead? Wouldn't that be an insult we could all wholeheartedly support?
An article with the same name in a recent issue of the Village Voice discusses the new generation of female-to-male transgendered individuals, now with much more variation in their gender identity labels:
" masculine-identified dykes, bois, and trans guys"
It seems that the transmen are now seeking wider recognition and publicity. Which is all good. Or is it? A very old message seems to be lodged within this new revolution:
Whatever their sexual orientation, most transmales remain in queer women's spaces because they feel safe there. Acceptance is growing in this community, but there still are dykes who gripe that all butch women are turning into boys, and feminists who label transmen misogynists out to gain male privilege. It's true that some transmen ridicule women, but no more than "real" men do—and there are feminists and lesbians who ridicule femininity. So what's the difference?
What's the difference indeed? Well, for one thing ridiculing women and ridiculing femininity are not exactly the same thing. For another, it's not that clear to me that just because we already have many misogynistic men we should not care about adding to their numbers. And perhaps most importantly, I get this eerie feeling from the article that it is now fine to look down on women because any woman who doesn't like it can go and get a sex change. Sort of joining the enemy you can't beat?
Not that this article necessarily reflects the true sentiments of transmales in general or even the sentiments of those interviewed for it. But they surely reflect the sentiments of somebody, most probably the author. And these particular sentiments are not wholesome. Just saying.
Thanks to Mrs. Jones for the link.
A very interesting interview with the son of the late president. Here's a short excerpt from it for the benefits of those who were doing something more interesting last night:
KING: You said, dad was also a deeply unabashedly religious man, but he never made the mistake of wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. Were you referring to the president?
REAGAN: You know, it's interesting.
KING: Everyone thought that.
REAGAN: I know. I wasn't watching TV much after I delivered the eulogy for a few days. But after a couple of days I started getting calls from people saying, boy you really stirred something up, didn't you? I thought, well, what? Well, you know, the stuff you said about Bush. I said, I didn't say anything about Bush, why would I mention George W. Bush in my father's eulogy?
No, no, no, no, the stuff about the religion. I thought, ha, funny, you then everybody thought I was talking about George W. Bush. And then I heard -- everybody thought I was talking about George -- but people connected with George W. Bush thought I was talking about George W. Bush. And then I began to think, maybe I was, I just didn't know it.
KING: Do you think he wears his religion on his sleeve? He certainly refers to it more than your father ever did.
REAGAN: Well, you know, there was that answer he gave to the question about, did you talk to your father about going into Iraq? No, I talked to a higher father, you know, the almighty. When you hear somebody justifying a war by citing the almighty, God, I get a little worried, frankly. The other guys do that a lot. Osama bin Laden's always talking about Allah, what Allah wants, that he's on his side. I think that's uncomfortable.
KING: Do you have thoughts on the war?
REAGAN: Sure, I have thoughts on the war.
KING: And what do you think?
REAGAN: And I think we lied our way into the war.
KING: You think it's a mistake?
REAGAN: Absolutely, a terrible mistake. Terrible foreign policy error. We didn't have to do it. It was optional. And we were lied to. The American public was lied to about WMD, the connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, which is virtually nonexistent except for fleeting contacts. But they're still trying to pull that one off now, Cheney and all are out there flogging that.
KING: Can I gather from that, that you will not support this president?
REAGAN: No, I won't.
KING: Will you support his opponent?
REAGAN: I will vote for whoever the viable candidate is who can defeat George W. Bush, yes.
That a smug self-centeredness is the most important requirement in a media political commentator? It does seem to survive most testing I've done in my mind. Think of Christopher Hitchens, for example.
This theory may explain why there are so many right-winger pundits, for one thing. And why they seem so unbearable to me. Maybe I have been wrong all these years, and never just got the point of this all media stuff? Now all we lefties need is a training academy in pompousness and self-puffing.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
From the most recent issue of the Utne magazine:
When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.
Penny Bright, anti-GMO activist
O the of it all.
Edward Gorey, artist and writer.
I've modelled my characters after women like my mother, who was strong. I am happily married to a strong woman. I love it when my wife holds her ground and says:"You're out of line." One must be able to say that to ones parents, ones spouse, the president of ones country. For me that is democracy.
Nuruddin Farah, Somali novelist
Judge Martin J. Jenkins of Federal District Court in San Francisco has decided that a class action sex discrimination suit against Wal-Mart can go ahead. The suit, which could cover as many as 1.6 million women who have worked for Wal-Mart, is unprecedented in its scale and could create important precedents.
What is it that Wal-Mart will be sued for? According to the six women who filed the case in June of 2001, the retailer discriminates against women in pay and promotion and retaliates against those who complain. The New York Times tells the tale of one Betty Duke, a 54-year old African-American woman who has worked for Wal-Mart for nearly a decade. During this time she kept asking to be promoted, but she said that when jobs became available they were often filled without being posted. Ms. Duke also stated that she was disciplined for returning late from breaks, whereas male employees were not. A year ago her salary was finally raised from less than $9 to $12.53 an hour by a new manager.
The more general statistical evidence argues similar things. According to a study by a statistician hired by the plaintiffs it took women an average of 4.38 years from date of hire to be promoted to assistant manager, when it took men only 2.86 years. To reach a store manager level, women took on average 10.12 years and men 8.64 years. The average salaries of female managers were lower ($89,280 per annum, compared to $105,682 per annum). Hourly workers who were women were also paid 6.7 percent less than those who were men. In a study that compared Wal-Mart to other retailers in the same field the research found that the percentages of in-store managers who were female were 56.5% for Wal-Mart's competitors and only 34.5% for Wal-Mart.
The court case will try to explain the cause of these discrepancies, and perhaps also to account for comments like this from one Wal-Mart manager:
"Men are here to make a career and women aren't. Retail is for housewives who just need to earn extra money."
Of course, the explanation Wal-Mart has will differ from that the plaintiffs support. From the plaintiffs' point of view the explanation is sex discrimination which is still illegal in the United States (though for how long remains unclear if we get another four years of Bush). Wal-Mart will probably argue for societywide explanations that rely on women's lesser interest in being promoted and/or paid more. In other words, Wal-Mart will try to show that the adverse outcomes for women were based on either the women's own choices or societal inculcation of different values in men and women. Anything but Wal-Mart's own actions.
The crucial question in deciding on the most likely explanation in court is the amount of evidence the plaintiffs can gather on actual cases where women were either turned down for promotion when less qualified men were promoted or where women were clearly paid less for the same work. Evidence on retaliation is also important to obtain for the plaintiffs.
Lack of this type of evidence was the reason a similar case against Sears ended in the plaintiffs' loss in the 1980s. The promotion and pay statistics in that case were very similar to those mentioned above, but Sears won the case, largely because the plaintiffs had not gathered enough detailed evidence on actual women who had been denied promotion. Thus, statistical numbers which show that women do worse than men are in themselves not adequate proof of discriminatory behavior on the behalf of the employees. (Sears also had a little help from the judge that was presiding over the case, then a recent Reagan appointee to the bench, as well as from a feminist expert witness on Sears's side whose testimony argued that women are culturally less interested in promotions and higher paying but nonfeminine jobs).
The Wal-Mart case is unlikely to come to court for another year at least, but it's interesting to speculate about its likely outcome. I would argue that the study showing much higher female manager numbers in competitors' stores is pretty bad for Wal-Mart, as this piece of evidence can be used to refute any argument Wal-Mart might make which is based on women's characteristic differences from men in the culture. If other stores had a different experience, then Wal-Mart differences in pay and promotion can't be cultural. Of course, if Wal-Mart judges the likelihood of winning the case as too small, it will probably go for an out-of-court settlement.
Poor Wal-Mart. It is having employee trouble on several fronts at the same time. It is "facing allegations that management bullied staff into overtime without pay and regularly breached child labor laws." It is also examined for the possible use of illegal immigrant contractors, and unions have long been complaining that Wal-Mart is not allowing them to organize its workers.
Well, one reaps as one sows, they say.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Today I woke up and had breakfast. It was cheese on toast if you're interested. I had my usual morning thoughts, about the meaning of life and if I really needed to buy more toothpaste.
Then I got dressed, and had the usual dressing thoughts, about why there is never anything to wear that is a) clean b) won't attract comments on the streets and c) won't strangle or chafe me somewhere.
I also hadn't finished the meaning of life thought.
Then I spent ten minutes looking for socks. What happens to socks? Who loves to divorce socks? Where do the ex-socks go when they die? Does it matter if I wear one black and one red sock?
Then I turned on the news and had the usual news-thoughts about why death isn't that bad really, and why they never advertize razor blades with the news shows. As usual, I quickly shed such disgustingly emotional ideas as very unpatriotic.
And then I sat down to write the Diary of a Boring Goddess in a Boring World. This is how far I've gotten.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning about a possible polio epidemic in Africa. Polio is a water-born disease that hits children especially hard. It can cause paralysis, deformation, muscular atrophy and even death. The new polio numbers are almost double last year's numbers:
The number of polio cases globally has reached 333 so far this year, almost double the number for the same period last year. Total cases last year reached 783.
In Nigeria, where Muslim leaders have refused to participate in immunization program, 257 cases have been reported this year.
"There is no question that the virus is spreading at an alarming pace," said Dr. David Heymann, who is overseeing the U.N. health agency's effort to eradicate the disease.
Polio is preventable through immunization. A major reason for the recent increase is the Muslim leaders' refusal to support this. Some of them believe that the vaccines contain substances which will make Muslim women infertile, and that such doctored vaccines are a Western plot against Islam. It seems like a good idea to have some Muslim researchers subject the vaccine to laboratory analysis to falsify this claim. Or would this not work? Sometimes I really think that grandmothers should be put in charge of this world for a generation or so.
I can't sleep. If your name wasn't what it is, what would you like to be called and why?
Tonight I'd like to be called Daniel. Something to do with the lion's den. But there is this silly convention about sex-specific names, and Daniel is one of those, so I could also go for Alma, after alma mater.
If I have to stay within goddess names, then Istar would be my pick of the day, though I don't want to have twenty breasts like she has in one sculpture I saw. Imagine the cost in bras!
Monday, June 21, 2004
A 32-foot Contender, the gentleman's fishing vessel, $150,000.
Yuzu-dusted day boat sea scallops at the restaurant Pearl, $36.
Two tubes for a Serotta road bike, $8
A house with a ketchup heiress, $9 million.
Basic equipment for kite-surfing, $2,500.
A writeup of all this by Jody Wilgoren in the NYT, priceless.
Yes, that's how the venerably old lady of liberal journalism lets an article on the Democratic presidential candidate be treated. This is liberalism, I guess, if liberalism is smearing everything with a sizable dose of snakeoil and selling it to the lowest bidder in taste and intelligence.
The gist of the article is that John Kerry is rich. He is rich because he has a wealthy wife. This is very bad, and should make all potential voters shy away from voting for him. Instead, they should vote for George Bush who is also rich. He is rich because he has wealthy parents. This is not bad at all, because he is a Republican and perfectly happy with the idea that only those who are rich matter. But Kerry shouldn't be rich because he is not perfectly happy with the idea that only those who are rich should matter. Got it?
Which doesn't make any difference to me, unless I have to travel to perform some weird snake rites in isolated areas. But it's nice to take note of the change in seasons, to stay in touch with the real events that are happening in nature. For example, now is the time to eat strawberries in northern climates, because now is when they actually want to ripen. Mmmm, fresh strawberries! One of the few things that I can name which is both wickedly delicious, non-fattening and very good for you. Especially wonderful dipped in melted chocolate.
After all that sinful talk, I'd like to give this list of opinions by the so-called Founding Fathers of the United States on the role of religion in the country they were creating:
"The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian Doctrine."
"I do not find in orthodox christianity one redeeming feature."
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My mind is my own church."
"The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give the assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma."
(I got these from a commenter on a thread at Atrios, but I failed to copy the signature line, and now I can't locate the comment.)
Sunday, June 20, 2004
for posting my short story so near to Fathers' Day. This was not intentional, and I was thinking of deleting the story, but it seems a bit late for that now. The posting was triggered by something in my private life, and I wasn't paying attention to the holiday schedules. In any case, my story is not about fathers especially but one particular type of family abuse.
Fathers in general are like mothers in general, people doing a difficult job with very little help. And for that they get one shopping day a year from the wider society. Though of course parenting has its own innate rewards. I heard a story today from a father who had to get up this morning at 6:30 a.m., because that's when his daughter's pancakes were ready to be eaten...
This is a short story. It might not be good to read for anyone who has suffered from childhood abuse. Come to think of it, it might not be that great a read for anybody (it's pretty horrible), but this is my blog and I want to publish it.
Pollyanna is a monster. She doesn't know it yet; she thinks that she is a little girl, but her father is a monster and her mother too weak to offset him. So Pollyanna is a monster, or at least will be one when she grows up. It is in her blood. It is written.
Right now she is playing, pretending. She pretends that she is Jesus. She stands on a rock, gauging the distance to the ground (it isn't very much), wondering if jumping down would kill her, wondering if anyone would miss her. This makes her pleased in a sickly sweet way, like finding the hidden places in her body which she is not to touch or she'll get beaten. These are the slender roots of monsterhood tentatively exploring Pollyanna. It isn't too late to uproot them yet, but it will be.
She will have a choice, of course. She could avoid completed monsterhood by becoming a mother of monsters instead; an empty receptacle. Most people would prefer that she choose this; most people are uncomfortable with fully fledged female monsters. Monsterhood seems to belong to men. But Pollyanna will choose differently; she will walk the path less trodden and perfect her own monsterhood.
She is quite a pretty little girl and very intelligent. She knows that her father is disappointed in her. But she is too young to understand that he would be disappointed in anything , that disappointment is what monsters feel, except when they inflict pain. Pollyanna searches herself for blame and finds plenty to work with. The pain will come later. Now it is enough that she has learned to strangle her doll, that she has learned to identify with the evil queen rather than with Snow White. Things are moving according to plan.
Her father is restless. The monster inside him is hungry and wants to tear at something. Its eyes fall on Pollyanna, playing quietly on the floor. Her father thinks of things that might hurt her. He is not a smart or well-read man and his imagination is feeble. All he notes is her sex, but that is sufficient for the monster's needs. Pollyanna's father calls Pollyanna a whore, a whore's pup, a bitch. She doesn't know what most of these words mean but she knows about puppies. They are nice. So why is daddy so angry?
He tells her that she is useless, a burden, that all women are useless burdens. He kicks her. When she cries, he yells at her for being a shivering heap of jelly. Pollyanna doesn't know what to do, how to behave. She hides in a dark closet; her insides all locking up like so many dark closets, each containing a word or two, an expression of hatred on a man's face, saliva shooting from an angry mouth. She hides, waiting, growing thick shells everywhere. She thinks of something else: how the spider feeds herself, how the wind blows through her web. She hides like a small animal, waiting patiently for the predator to leave.
The predator doesn't leave, of course. The predator in this case owns the prey, it even owns the prey's love. Pollyanna's father is not a bad man, truly, only obsessed by his own monster. He even feels slightly nauseous after his outburst, but comforts himself by thinking how much he had benefited from a harsh upbringing. One day, he thinks, she'll thank me for this.
None of this is credible. Monsters can't be explained, can't be made credible. They are human. Maybe it matters that Pollyanna's father was sent to wage war at sixteen, that a grenade falling next to him turned his best and only friend into spaghetti sauce all over him, that he couldn't wash it off for hours. Maybe it matters that his mother had a child every year and rejected this one in her exhaustion, that his father was also a monster. Then again, maybe none of this matters. All this is human.
Pollyanna dreams that night. She dreams of killing her father with an axe; splitting him into two identical halves. She dreams that each of these halves splits again and again until the world is full of monster fathers. She wakes up and vomits. She knows about murderers going to hell and about the necessity to love the father. She now knows that she is wholly evil. The baby monster inside her sighs contentedly, sucking its thumb. A potentially perilous moment has been successfully turned into another step on the road to full monsterhood.
Creating monsters takes delicate handling. It is important not to go too far too soon; this kills the victim. It is important to give her lulls from torture, time to gather hope and other interests, because these, at the right moment, are the substance from which the next layer of the monster will be built through careful destruction. One opens the door to the victim's cage, one turns away, whistling with apparent unconcern, one waits. When the victim finally believes her eyes and gathers enough courage to try to step outside, one slams the door on some fragile bone in her body. Simple.
But Pollyanna's father is not inhabited by a great strategist. Sometimes they forget about her for weeks, even months, while enjoying other escapades. This means that her monster is growing slowly; it might end up a puny puff of evil air. And her mother, weak as she is, still offers some resistance to the plan. So do her few friends, her books, and, later, some teachers. There is cause for some discomfort.
Still, most people won't stand in the way of the father's rights to his daughter. What helps even more is the nature of the barbs Pollyanna's father and his monster are inserting in her center: they are dipped in misogyny and Pollyanna doesn't have enough closets or shells for all of them. They will fester nicely, and once she is beyond her father's control there will be enough others who take over the task of feeding her monster. It will, after all, grow up healthy and powerful.
What will they become, Pollyanna and her monster, when they are grown up? The possibilities are fascinating. Sometimes the shells the victim has built are so strong that the monster can't get out. It will then corrode the victim from the inside, slowly eating her up, tidbit by tidbit, until all that remains is an empty husk, like the ones bumblebees leave in the fall. These husks act quite normally, and have many good uses. But they are not perfected monsters, and we know that Pollyanna will reach perfection.
She could become a walking weapon, with breasts like hand grenades, a toothed vagina, a forked tongue. She could lure men into her bed and their deaths, or into madness, castration, womanliness. This would be too easy. Pollyanna's talents and promise are far greater.
Perhaps she'll take her poisoned barbs and use them against other little girls. Perhaps she'll wear austere, expensive suits and give measured speeches defending the sanctity of family, the primacy of parental rights. Perhaps she'll do research that proves little girls everywhere to be temptresses, seductresses, sirens; that proves they lack human worth. She'll tell us, in a bracing voice, that misogyny is but part of a healthy sexual instinct. She and her monster will take CEOs and politicians to their cold bed, choked in platinum chains, and orgasm, together, when the pain is almost unbearable.
She might reach even higher, for the stars. Think of our little Pollyanna leading her own army, her own country, with weapons we can only imagine today. Think of queen Pollyanna, with lips the color of dried blood, with long, raking nails, with garlands of human bones around her brow. Think of this. Why not? Many monsters end up on top. Pollyanna is smart and she will be well trained. Her father might, one day, indeed look at her with pride, hardly believing that he helped to create this exquisite creature.
All this is still in the future. Right now Pollyanna is under her bed, not breathing very much, not moving at all, sucking the ear of her worn-out stuffed rabbit. She strains her ears to listen for his steps, falling heavily in the room, to listen for his breath getting angrier and angrier. She tries to be elsewhere, by the brook, watching yellow leaves floating on the water's surface, seeing them as boats with white sails, sailing somewhere far away. She tries, but it is so hard. Will he find her? Are the footsteps getting closer? She hurts all over, the doors of her inner closets bang open and shut in the wind, the boats sink, each in a little whirlpool. Are the footsteps getting closer?