driven (away)

I need to be more proactive about my projects. Like pitching stories I get excited about, brainstorm, obsess over, that then go nowhere. Or actually they get obsessively logged into my list of regrets and missed opportunities. There are a few categories -- how I let myself down, how finances keep me from expanding, and things I plum forgot. The get cross-listed under "why I am a slug" instead of fill in career/adjective here.

So, as a way of motivating myself, I will begin a short description of project in beginning stages and ask for input/volunteers.

I've always been obsessed with child/girl abductions. Not only as an intellectual of sociological oddity. The reasons are numerous and shared by many: the news coverage of which little girls/women get covered by the media; how the mania surrounding abductions is overblown and used to police societal norms of behavior; the way in which women's bodies are reviled and worshipped through the attention paid to the goriest details of their demise. But it's also fascinating on a more emotional and instinct level (that is to say prior to conscience thought not inherently animalistic, not natural).

This began for me when I was wee. Walking on rural country roads, whenever a car would slow behind me I would play out the scenario in my admittedly exagerated imagination. The grab, the blindfolded car ride in the old-person car (a lincoln or a cadallac), the mocking voice of the elderly man, the un-articulated violation, death in some remote location. This would lead me to an elaborate choreographing of my episode of Unsolved Mystery. I wasted many minutes selecting the sequence of events, the settings of my family's interviews, selecting my witnesses (always my second-grade teacher idol and crush), and planning my "update" (Man caught. . . mob attacks to seek revenge). All of this for a car that was slowing to pass a lone child walking on a country road with no sidewalk. They would pass to my left and I would let out a sigh of relief. But also sadness. I had eluded a violent rape and death -- but I also was not chosen for fame and sainthood. It was clear to me at a small age that stardom came in very few ways for girls -- and the best way to remain good and loved was probably to be kidnapped.

sidenote: might the man I imagined driving that Lincoln and the man I imagined narrating the story of my life be one and the same? Was it designed that way? Because really, wasn't Robert Stack's low warble the voice you would expect to come from the dark places? Wasn't he always lurking around alleyways and cemetaries -- not always in an innocent fashion. He was a Bundy-esque host if there ever was one, seeming to take delight in the horror filled redramatizations he staged. He was always the position of power -- the older man eternally plays the perpetrator/savior. That's the risk for girls when it comes to men, non?

Most women I know of a certain age -- gen x and younger -- grew up with some kind of awareness of abduction/murder. For me, it was the dramatic interpretation of something more mundane and almost inescapable -- molestation/sexual assault. Because so many of my family members were subject to sexual abuse, my mother taught us about it at quite a young age as a means to help us avoid it. So I knew very early on about the abuse my aunt's suffered at the hands of a family friend, my cousins defiling, my mother's brushes with abuse. I heard stories of my great-grandfathers, my great-uncles, my cousins -- what they had done, who to avoid at the family reunion, to scream if you ever found yourself alone with such-and-such. But these were also men that played frisbee with us, that wandered the streets and our backyards free of confines, smiling, friendly even. It was a strange and early lesson I learned -- this is your family and they can hurt you. It also breeded a sense of the world as strange and mistrustful. You may learn in the car ride home what your new favorite uncle did to your mother's cousin when they were young. The men on TV and the newspaper -- men who were monsters, demons, who were reviled and documented -- they were not so far from the men who grilled your hot dog, who did cannonballs into the pool.

Of course there is something morbid, something depraved of looking at it this way. It's a child's take on the matter -- but also a straightforward one. There has been much discussion in feminist circles about rape culture in general. While I totally endorse much of the thinking revolving around theories of rape culture -- that a patriarchal society that devalues women leads to a place where their bodies are subject to violence -- it's also important to note the ways in which the specter of rape is used to maintain women as helpless victims. Angela Davis did an amazing job of documenting the ways in which the black rapist is used to continue racist ideology in "Rape, Racism, and the Myth of the Black Rapist".

I am acutely aware of the ways in which my fear of abduction and rape as a child were tied to real problems and legitimate concerns, but also the ways in which they are used to socialize young girls. They are used to limit, to quiet, to keep you home. Those stories and that awareness, for me, mark one of the most critical differences in growing up male and female in the U.S. The well-documented loss of confidence that young women experience in their early adolescence seems directly linked to their growing awareness of their bodies as sites of attention and violence. I don't think many ten year old boys, finding themselves playing past dark, immediately flash to their own sexual demise. But most girls I know, at very young ages, are aware of this possibility -- even if they are unable to articulate it as such.

It is this strange phenomenon -- and it's paradoxical solutions (second-wave feminism having pushed for more awareness of sexual violence, the growing awareness of sexual violence having psychological effect on women and girls, etc) that fascinates me the most. My plan for the next six months is to chronical this in a concerted fashion (which might mean me digging through the numerous articles, clippings, and mental notes I've collected over the years) and to gather stories from other women and girls. So this post will serve as the opening for another blog -- abduction season.

Of course the chronically of media fascination with young white women's kidnappings is of interest, but I don't mean this to be a place where who is missing is chronicled. I want to know what it means to be missing and what it means to fear being taken -- in all its metaphorical manifestations. Consider this an open invitation for your stories.

The final form of this project is open ended. The blog, of course, is an end unto itself. But hopefully it'll be something slightly more concrete. Perhaps nothing more than a good series of stories or a small zine. Then again, perhaps I'll solve the mystery.

today's crush

FDA official quits over Plan B pill delay from the Boston Globe.

This is what we need -- more people to stand up for ethics and science in the federal government. We need whistle blowers and people to leak documents. The fact that the FDA has put off this decision "indefinitely" is unconsciounable.

Susan Wood was the director fo the FDA's Office of Women's Health. She resigned today via email and contraceptive advocates released her statement.
"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled. The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."
My favorite part is that the religious right can't decide what it wants. They don't want abortion, but they don't want to lower the rates of unintended pregnancy. They don't want choice, they don't want protection, they don't want evidence. They want magical seeds planted into the mythical wombs of virgins. And then the unicorns will deliver all the unwanted babies to their new home in the sun.

tangential news

More meth news from a place where it was chic ten years ago. A young woman left her seven month old in a car, while she went into a friend's trailer to smoke weed and do crank. Fox gets six years in death of son.

My first instinct with these sorts of incidents is to find some humor in it's distilled essence. The starkness of the picture alone is enough to illicit the strange giggle of ironic distance and sadness that I feel.

Harrisburg lies on Hwy 99 -- just off the I-5 corridor -- in the middle of not a whole lotta much. Eugene is twenty minutes south, but it's another county and another world. It's closest place of commerce is Junction City - home of RV manufacturing (according to my father, Junction City is second only to Winnebago, IA in RV production). Except the RVs manufactured in Junction City aren't always recreational vehicles for the retirement set. Many of them are converted to homes in the many mobile home/RV parks across Oregon and the rest of the Northwest. The RV that Michell Fox went to cook in was probably built just down the road, in Junction City.

All the current meth coverage in the media is extremely charged for me. In some ways, I see it as an epidemic that has been ravaging the West and rural places (and my family) for years. Growing up, meth labs were a constant part of the landscape -- burnt out outbuildings, boarded up buses parked in fields, barns stacked with gallon buckets of chemicals. Years ago I took my college girlfriend on a drive through my small town and the outlying country it accidentally turned into a explanation of how cooking works and how to spot it. By the time our 30 min drive was over, we had deemed it the "meth tour." It would have been easier had we stepped out of the car -- meth cooking has a smell that is unmistakable. It's foul and like a lot of chemical smells, it hits your eyes first.

Just up the highway from Harrisburg this week, a mother in Salem, OR was sentenced to 18 months for passing a high level of meth onto her 9 month old child. She took him to the emergency room where nurses noted he was unusually agitated. In a move ala the NYPost The Oregonian donned her a "meth mom". Therein lies the problem. Although I see the scourge that meth is, I can't imagine that making it the new focus of the war on drugs is a positive thing. An increased demonization of users, new catch phrases to summarize addicts and their offspring reeks of the war against crack and the myths that arose from that. I mean, the fact that "crack baby" remains a prevalent term in casual vernacular even though dire predictions about the children of addicts proved to be unfounded. Moreover, despite the hysteria subsiding crack use remains high. The entire episode did little to stop distribution, use, crime, or to help addicts. Instead, the supply got cheaper, so the drug war in the streets ended, and attention waned. I fear much the same is true of the governments new found pet drug -- attention to the meth epidemic will lead to more punishing attitudes, harsh sentences, stigma for children and families -- but none of those things help anyone. Destructive drug use has to be treated and it's underlying causes -- poverty, lack of education, unemployment -- have to be treated.

In the meantime, all of us should make sure that as the meth hysteria rises, we keep the lessons of the 90s drug war and prison boom ever present. Mandatory minimums and harsh justice need to be resisted on the local level to avoid the further devastation that comes from criminalization's reinforcement of the poverty cycle.

language you tricky beast

I keep using the word sapphic in my posts. It's meant to be tongue-in-cheek funny, some ironic way to say dyke, but I realized upon cruising some of my posts it just reads as the new agey second-wave term that it is.

Not that i'm going to stop, I just wonder how that word got to be part of my written language.

Also, upon perusal, realize that I'm a huge gay. Enormous. Can't stop talking about it. I don't entirely blame myself. Everytime I watch TV I'm awed at how gay obsessed it is. From the homophobic red-state-loving news teasers on ABC (the network I have unofficially deemed "most after the anti-gay-marriage set" for it's news coverage, homophobic "According to Jim" ads, and general lack of queer characters), to the constant reference to matters of the gays. Every other blind item on gawker is about a closeted celebrity. It's hard not to be gay obsessed -- I feel like ever since Ellen got her toaster TV and pop culture can't stop thinking about it. Which probably means they are gay.


pretty pretty

his stuff is sort of trendy and apparently jonathan adler is dating that fashion guy whose always flaming around VH1, but I really like his stuff.

And by some act of God, ladyfriend and I agreed on a duvet and sheet set we both like.

So if anyone is feeling tony lately, like they've got the lotto numbers pegged, or just generous because a certain someone is celebrating their life anniversary well. . . ante up. otherwise, just take a gander at the pretty shiny.

tal changes lives

On July 8, This American Life ran an episode entitled "The Arms Trader" -- a whole show dedicated to the conviction of Hemant Lakhani, 70. In 2003, Lakhani was arrested for trying to sell a shoulder fired missile to an undercover FBI agent. He was later convicted arms brokering and providing material support to terrorism.

The theme of the show was Lakhani, but it was also the difficulty of trying to stop people from doing bad things -- before they do them. It demonstrated how the FBI had to create criminals, like Lakhani, in order to verify there were criminals like Lakhani.

Well today, Lakhani's attorney's asked for a new trial, based on one juror's comments on the show. She claimed she believed Lakhani was entrapped, but felt held hostage by the other jurors and so voted to convict.

See? Public radio is totally relevant. The story is here.

(you should obsessively go to the website and listen to every back episode of the TAL like good golly did over the course of 2004. It'll be good for you. Your job will move more swiftly, you will speak in strange radio tones that people will comment are "odd" but that you will find sexy. It'll be good, I promise.)


the bois, the bois

Speaking of the ladies college that dare not speak it's name -- Smith College got a lot of press two years ago for removing the terms "woman", "she", and "hers" from it's student constitution (replacing it with the gender neutral "the student"). Officially Smith remains a "women's college" -- restricting entrance to "female" students. The little paradox is that this fact may be what makes it a place in which so many kids are exploring transgender identity and ideas. One such kid appears in a Transgeneration a documentary airing on the Sundance channel September 20th.

Another thing I find fascinating about the growing trans movement -- aside from the huge growth of FtM identified kids -- is the coverage that it garners in the mainstream and small town press. Ft. Wayne comes up with a headline like "Newest campus minority are kids who shun original sex" Can you imagine how long the education reporter frowned over this headline, how confused she was, how many bad puns he came up with before settling on the biblical ring of "original sex"? There's an obvious sensitivity and effort behind the piece, if not a simplification of the issues at hand, but The Restroom Revolution? Come on, the last thing we need in queer politics is more overly-self-serious martyr-complex analogies.

Which is why I so often cringe whenever images of the civil rights movement are used as paralells for gay rights. The gays face inordinate amounts of violence, prejudice, and societal demonification -- but to compare that to the state-sponsored troop-enforced push against desegregation is entirely too much. There are interesting points of intersection, connection, and cooperation between anti-racist and anti-homophobic struggles; things shared, borrowed, and learned on both sides. But to use civil rights for nostalgia and sympathy is misdirected. It takes away from it's unique place in our history. Take that HRC!

who. . . what?

Not only do some major gay meccas not appear on the list -- but the ladies colleges that are represented are wellesley (huh now?) and mount holyoke (who where?).

I'm not saying there aren't a fair share of sapphic kids at either institution, but honestly the seven sisters have better reps. I can't even begin to question the other choices -- St john's ? Lawrence ?

Florida college tops gay-friendly list -- Gay.com (courtesy of hthse)


what bi means to me

For two weeks after I go to the other coast I am dizzy. I reference it as being bi-coastal, but it's as much about


Because it's includes each of them, the strangeness is multiplied. My sadness about not living near my family gets translated into the oddity of riding the subway again. I am moved to tears by the platform shifting out from under my feet, I am oddly lonely in the cold orange bucket seat. I am also comforted and alone. It's all relief and panic.

At home, my life "back east" is a thing of wonder and resentment. My father introduces me as "My daughter Jenny, she's visiting from New York." Which makes it sound as if I was born there, raised in absentia, a representative from a strange and foreign place. I know he is speaking with pride, but sometimes it seems that he's also trying to distance himself from me. This introduction evokes two reactions: admiration (how do you do it?) and horror (why would you ever?). I alternately resent and utilize both of these reactions. When I feel disapointed in my family, their erasure of my relationships (how is your friend?) I think -- I live somewhere that is not here, I know people that are not this. I am not bound by your fear, or racism, or self-righteousness. Back in the city, I watch the people moving down the street, listen to the conversations at work, and think: I am not like this. I come from some place small and vast. I am not concerned with all of this money, all of this fame-fucking self-centered pseudo-freudian elitism. I birthed a sheep when I was young, I know fields and creeks, I know forrests and farmers. Trailer parks are not distant cultural jokes to me, but the squeaky homes of my family, friends. I am not of this place, I am not like this.

It is cultural capital -- both of them. I get to argue my working class roots and I get to abandon them at my own leisure. I get to be from New York and from down home at the same time, but each time I reference either I am lying. Talking about home feels ill-fitting,dirty. I use it to evoke a legitimacy that it does not bestow. At home, talking about New York is a performance. My life is not glamorous, my experience not half as wordly as it might sound. I have seen famous people in the street, but I am not cavorting with rock stars. It's strange -- I know my world is broader then that of my family and yet, it is not so broad. I know that my family comes from a very different place then most of my east coast/college friends but I share in much of their privilege.

I am left with vertigo. I'm floating around trying to remember exactly what the scent of a field burn tastes like. I think it is sugary, grainy, and dark. But my nose is all clogged with sewer steam, it's own rotting sweetness much the same. I can't seem to get either one straight or remember why they are different.

some cousins

plenty of reasons why they should

"We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women.
-- K.M. v. E.D (California Supreme Court)

Last Monday Cali clarified a troubling legal point in three separate cases (the others were Elisa B. v. Sup. Ct and Kristine H. v. Lisa R. and you can read all the decisions here).

The rulings contained had some stinkers like this: (from Elisa B.) "The Child was deprived of the right to have a traditional father to take care of the financial needs of this child."

This implies first that there is a "right" to "traditional" fathers and that the proper andsatisfactoryy role of father is that of financial provider. There are gross asides like that throughout the ruling, but the main gist is that they clarified an earlier decision in Johnson V. Calvert where they had said that "for any child California law recognizes only one natural mother." The court reversed itself by saying that they were talking about the specifics of that case (where a woman had a surrogate implanted with her egg and her husbands sperm and the surrogate made a custody claim as the child's "natural" mother.) The court said that in cases where two women (and by extension here one could infer two men) who intended to create and raise children together, were for all legal purposes, the parents of those children.

The exciting part of this ruling for me, besides all the positive implications for gay families, custody rights, and the boost this will give to CA's domestic partner law -- is that much of what the court cited as the validity of these parents was based on their intent (rather than their sexual organs or genetics.) So often in the law, especially around matters of identity, race, gender, and sexual orientation, strict and arbitrary guidelines are used to determine a plaintiff or defendants legal standing. However, these decisions, time and again, noted as evidence how these women identified themselves (as mothers). Citing an earlier case (Nicholas H.) the court said that since Nicholas acted as if the child were his "natural" child -- that it did not matter whether he was ever under the false impression that it was his "biological" child. The "natural" distinction was being determined by nothing innate at all.If Nicholas H. felt like he was a father to this child, that's what he legally was.

This has huge legal implications. Self-identification is usually dismissed as arbitrary or unimportant in a court of law. It is, of course, anything but. If one could extend this argument to other situations it might have great implications for transgender rights,disparatee impact claims for people of color, and the court even left open a teeny tiny door for third-parent adoptions.

In referring to Johnson on page 8 they say:

"We concluded, therefore, that both women -- the surrogate who gave birth to the child and the wife who supplied the ovum -- had " adduced evidence of a mother and child relationship as contemplated bye the [UPA] Act...And because it was undisputed that the husband, who had supplied the semen used to impregnate the surrogate, was the child's father, this woudl have left the child with three parents. We declined the invitation, stating: "Even though rising divorce rates have made multiple parent arrangements common in our society, we see no compelling reason to recognize such a situation here. The Calverts are the genetic and intending parents of their son and have provided him, by all accoutns, with a stable, intact, and nurturing home. To recognize parental rights in a rhitd party with whom the Calvert family has had little contact since shortly after the child's birth would diminis [the wife]'s role as mother."

Now -- at first glimpse this could look really terrible. They go to great lengths to point out how they did not sanction third-parent adoptions. However, they leave huge huge gaps that could easily be filled by the proper plaintiffs. First they say that there was no reason to sanction it in this case becasue the genetic mother and father were biologically related to the child and the intending parents. They go on:

"she who intended to bring about the birth of a child that she intended to raise as her own -- is the natural mother under California law."
But if three people -- say two sapphic ladies and a fey man -- intend to create and raise a child together, if that man donates semen, time, and financial support, but the child lives primarily in the residence of the two ladies who both decided to have and raise the child together -- well, then, might that reach the standard the court needs to "sanction" such arrangements? Isn't it time that our courts acknowledge the frameworks (multiple, self-identified, various, complex) that many of us were raised in and choose for ourselves as adults? Wouldn't this lead to more cooperative parenting relationships, couldn't it foster new understandings of family, erase stigmas, and change the underlying discriminatory practices of current custodial law? Why, yes, yes it could.

The saying goes "intent is 9/10ths of the law." If so, then the family arrangements we choose should be of utmost significance. As a queer person, I know that my family will have less to do with biology and more to do with design, choice, and intent then most straight families. For me, there are no accidents, there are no "we'll see how it goes." My family will be planned, will be a mix of elements, will require input from multiple people, and will be dependent on a strong and extended network of friendship and support. I hope for a day when that intent can be as legitimate and binding as the "natural" and "sacred" bond created by a broken condom, one night stand, or any other number of accidental family arrangments that are currently sanctioned under the law.

By the way, the best part about all three of the decisions was in Elisa B. Elisa is the one who was trying to get out of supporting the twins born to her parnter, one of whom has down's syndrome
...Elisa testified that she entered into a lesbian relationship with Emily in 1993. They began living together six months later. Elisa obtained a tattoo that read "Emily, por vida," which in Spainsh means Emily, for life."

Thanks for the translation, but could you please clarify what it means when two dykes shack up after six months and get cheesy tattoos for one another? How do you say -- doomed to fail?

i can't help it

i am a nerd about this in a way that i should probably investigate in a more profound way, but it makes me feel small and giddy and uncomfortable when i do.

with that being said: sleater kinney is going to be on the L Word. That's what I said.

check it

and now i'm just going to let loose:
aug. 3 interview with terry gross
the new yorker festival i can't attend
the new video on myspace


tangential news

From the editor's mailbox. I can't make sense of most of it, but the end is where everything goes awry.

Albany Station: Music or gas?
Comment on "Name Done Right" (Editorial, Aug. 17):

Now that the Albany station is named the Albany Station, the next thing on the list I think we should change is the town's name to the Albany Station. Just this week, I bought gas at the Albany Station. Then I turned the radio on and got the Albany Station, so it depends on what you're looking for. It's got to be here some place. Just ask, we are friendly people.

I have lived in the pothole-in-the-road district for 30 years and sure do wish we could change the name to the Smooth Move or something like that and have it stand the test of time.

Gil Renz, Albany

Is he really proposing changing the name of the town to Smooth Move? Possibly, but why would this stand the test of time? That, readers, is the mystery of mailbag poetry.


the eternal promise of capitalism

monkey business

Whenever I visit my family I feel the urge to work -- to gather all the details and ephemera that elude me when trying to describe the place I'm from in the busied haze of the city. But all of my efforts at audio recordings or dedicated writing time seem to get lost in hours of sitting around the kitchen table or lounging in the backyard. Luckily these moments lend themselves to still photography. check it

The funny thing about my family is that semi-religious background aside, they are a foul-mouthed dirty joke crowd. Every third reference or so is to the fact that my g'ma is cranky because she hasn't gotten laid since her divorce thirty years ago or how she turned the old-man neighbor gay because she wouldn't let him get any action. She suffers all of this "filth" with the constant retort of "up your bucket." She defends this phrase with the saying "I ain't cursing, I'm just letting you know where to put it."

So my cousins older children (16,15,13,11) took the youngest of the brood and warped her mind in just the right way. The adorable and attitude-ridden toddler who has recently taken to declaring anyone she doesn't like "dead" had developed an expression known as "monkey face"

But none of the other children found this very amusing. They taught her a new face, the "real" monkey face they told her. And to see a child mimicking her older cousins is both disturbing and hilarious. Moreover, it demonstrates the essential nature of my family. Because upon discovering the "new monkey face" her mother, grandmother, and I did nothing to abate it, but rather requested it's display over and over again and took pictures.

Oh those silly apes.


turnaround is a bitch

the intellect of the internet

go to google.

type in "failure"

then hit "I feel lucky"


fixed it

i was wondering why ya'll weren't leaving comments, just sending me long political diatribe emails.

all is solved. leave comments so we can shout at each other in public. like family.


going west

Pronunciation Key (tnjnt)
adj. 1.Making contact at a single point or along a line; touching but not intersecting.

tangent, OR (city, FIPS 72600)
Location: 44.55120 N, 123.10790 W
Population (1990): 556 (207 housing units)
Area: 9.8 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 97389


Noboby says it better

For all the clarification you need about NARAL's anti-John Roberts ad, see Bitch Phd . She's smart.

why destroy when you could build?

From the NYT: Palestinians prepare for Gaza withdrawal, but it won't be immediate:
"Israel has set aside a month to evacuate the settlers. After the settlers go, the military will probably need another few weeks to tear down the more than 1,500 homes in the Gaza settlements, a move that the Palestinians have approved."

I don't understand why existing structures need to be destroyed? Why shouldn't those homes to distributed to Palestinian families?

Still, the fact that with the return of Gaza, Palestinian isolation may be alleviated by the reopening of the Gaza airport, the freeing up of travel routes, etc. Although all reports continue to be cautious -- anticipating an attack by Jewish militants -- it seems that with three days left, the withdrawal has been fraught, but successful. The nyt's article is very pessimistic about the Palestinian celebrations that will follow the pull out. I can't imagine one could expect reserved calm in this situation though -- there has been nothing to celebrate besides deaths and oppression since the 2000 uprising. Scratch that, the uprising occurred because there hadn't been any progress or anything to celebrate in the years preceding it either.



I sometimes lament that I was an errant and arrogant teenager, who rather than conjugating verbs in Spanish I, took the bathroom pass and spent my hour lounging on the newspaper room couch. I cribbed other people's homework and used the young (and as yet, undiscovered by one Ms. Cina) internet to translate longer assignments. This not only got me through Spanish I, but another semester of Spanish II. To this day, I can figure out basic words, but can do more but ask permission to go to the bathroom.

Still, cruising the internet researching a story I want to pitch, I realized I speak an entirely different language then other people. It's pretty useless in my everyday life and absolutely meaningless in terms of travel, but I speak Mormon.

words of interest:

EQ (elders quorum)
Relief Society
Law of Consecration
the Still Small Voice
Head Council
the Twelve Apostles (no, not those ones)
Patriarchal Blessing
Oh my heck
Home Teacher

But it's hard to explain just with single words -- it's this whole other manner of speech, a language that uses English to allude to a different set of metaphors, reference, and world view. It's this whole other history -- where Joseph Smith, Nephi, pioneer picnics, the quorum of the seventy, stake gatherings, green jello, casserole, pregnancy, tithing, and baptism by immersion are the points of departure. It's this scrubbed down, shiny version of speech imbued with so many references to love and absolutely devoid of curse words.

I always wince when people describe me as Mormon. In some ways, it has nothing to do with me. Not only did I begin to reject the church when I was quite young (with some reborn-ish moments in times of teenage crisis and guilt), but in some ways my family was not very typical -- in the Utah mormon sense. Still, I forget sometimes when I bring people to my grandmother's house that a painting like this:

dominates an entire wall of the living room. When people see it -- eerie light emanating from God as he delivers the gospel to a young New England boy -- it's hard to know what to say. "Oh, that's a painting of Joseph Smith in the grove" never really cuts it. For me, it doesn't seem all that different from grandparents with giant crosses or paintings of Jesus over the headboard in the guest room. But it is.

There is much more. It's hard to explain the way I know people, in these extended semi-kinship relationships. I'm not talking polygamy, but there is an intense community in Mormon churches, one that defines its member's social interaction. People I grew up "going to church with" aren't just girls I saw once a week: we spent Monday and Wednesday evenings together; we played "church ball" all our lives; I was at their baptism; I was encouraged to befriend them over all other children; I attended their sisters weddings receptions in the church gym (another odd note -- most Mormon churches have basketball courts, usually behind the chapel.); I was at the potluck that welcomed their brothers back from their missions. It's this whole web of connection and knowledge, of kinship, that gets left behind when you leave the church.

After reading Mrs. Pant's entry about her protestant upbringing a few Sundays ago these words crossed my mind:
"The ladyfriend is out of town. No one knows where I am. I could go to church and never have to explain it to anyone."
What? The thought surprised me so much I turned halfway around in my chair to see where it might have come from. I couldn't figure out why my mind just said that. Even then it didn't totally go away.

I've decided that it wasn't religious guilt or anything to do with a yearning for Christ. I just wanted to go to a place where old ladies hug you for no reason, where everyone knows everyone's name and calls them "sister", and where there is a whole other language -- secret, private -- that you can speak. It's a club and it's the place where my ideas of community, charity, and support were forged. In some ways, Mormonism is what leads me to being so liberal.

That is today's official brainfuck.

But it's true. Growing up, when someone was sick, lost their job, or had a baby -- duties were informal divvied up amongst church members. Mormons are strangely organized. They run the largest genealogy database in the world, have a world-wide system of churches and missionaries, and a local system of "home teachers" who, theoretically, monitor the well-being and spiritual devotion of everyone in the ward. So on a Tuesday night you get a phone call, "Phil is out of work and we need to organize meals for the family." Boom! Every day for a month a casserole arrives on the front stoop with a cute card and a "this dish belongs to Sister Robbins" adhesive label on the bottom. There is a separate church welfare program, amazing babysitting networks, a tithing system whereby you give ten percent of your income, and some Mormons take a passage of scripture seriously and believe that Joseph Smith intended for the church to live communally with shared possessions and equal wealth. That's right kids, Mormons -- those red state conservatively dressed smiling blonde people -- are closet socialists. God love 'em for it.

It's a strange feeling. My religious upbringing shaped a lot of who I am -- down to the words I use -- and yet I am completely and totally severed from it. I often experience the same sadness living so far away from my large and very-extended family. It seems so natural a thing to return to, a place where I am -- in one way -- most myself. Yet, it is the furthest and most alien thing to who I am. Perhaps it is not that I am most myself at all, perhaps it is a place where my history comes full circle, where I remember most about all aspects of myself. First, because in a church context (or surrounded by Mormons at some family function, some wedding, some basketball game) I am so aware of that which is not Mormon about me. I feel glaringly queer, acutely political, and affected by the city that I currently reside in. But at the same moment, I am reminded of other things I am -- daughter, childhood friend, favorite student, babysitter -- by people who shaped me.

I think that sense of history and place is missing from my current life. I can't ever explain EFY to another person. If I do, it's an oddity, another strange little quirk in the rural and religious upbringing of good golly -- rather than what it is.

Which is tender, and strange, and mine.

I have a fair amount of vitrol and rage at "the Church" -- but when I hear that derision in other people's mouths it seems malformed. I always want to say -- but once when my mother started to recede from the world and my father had taken to working late every night, I stepped out the front door and found a three-bean casseroles, rolls still warm from the oven, and a jar of homemade applesauce. No note attached, no request for acknowledgement, just a piping hot dinner set delicately on top of an oven mitt.

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm telling you why

Or not me, really, the crazy internet saavy evangelicals who believe that foreign policy should be dictated by how much unrest it can cause worldwide and who track the "rapture index" online as a way to measure when God will rain holy fire upon us all. Now, despite what you may believe, this index doesn't simply rise and rise until the glorious day when the righteous amongst us will be lifted from their earthly confines into the rapturous and loving arms of our/their God. Rather, it dips and falls, with apparently no real rhyme or reason. So it may seems like we are further away from the rapture this year, then say, last.

My favorite part is the wild conjectures in the category explanations.

12. Drug Abuse
(Rev. 9:21) Everyone knows what drugs are today. The Bible also may make mention of drugs. In the book of Revelation the word sorcery has the Greek word pharmakeia as its root. This is where we get the word pharmacy. When it says, "they repented not of their sorceries," it could mean they repented not of their drug use.
Or it could mean wizards! Maybe you should look into your ancient languages a little more before you start playing "etymology for guessers".

The best part is that they explain very litte. Anti-Christ is at 2. Are there two? Are there not very many, so we're running low? And if you know who the anti-christ is, why aren't you publicizing it? Shouldn't there be like, a press release about that?

I am not intimidated by religion or the religious. I think that the swelling in evangelical fervor nationwide began in the early 90s -- as twenty somethings many of us witnessed the way that pop-culture infused religion converted so many of our friends who a decade or two earlier may have been seduced by Led Zeppelin or punk rock. I don't think it's too far fetched to attribute some of the evangelical fervor of our generational compatriots to our economic situation. As salaries have stagnated over the last twenty-five years (oh what year was that? oh yes, the year the closest thing I've ever known to the anti-Christ took office), house prices have risen astronomically, and our economy has faltered. We are the first generation who will not exceed to the prosperity of our parents, but who have the potential to lead less prosperous lives then even our grandparents. Easy analogy (swiped from a Susie Orzman public tv appearance -- forgive me, sunday afternoons are long and I am weak) I payed more for my college education than my grandparents did for all of their homes combined.

Since so much of reaganomics depends on the grand illusion of self sufficiency, the majority of people don't believe our national economic policies are to blame. Besides, Republicans (and new Democrats, I do not excuse Clinton here) have offered so many other herrings of various colors (usually light brown) that it's hard to blame the nice man who starred in so many of those moving pictures. Or the cowboy in office now, who likes to take August off to walk aimlessly around a ranch he's never worked a day in his life. It's much easier to patrol the border for those treacherous, below-minimum-wage working enemies. It's much easier to go out to the garage, frustrated with the lack of living-wage jobs, your inability to afford a mortgage, school for your children, or healthcare for yourself and tip one back for Jesus.

All this is not to say that religion is some big hoax or simply for the weak minded. I do maintain that the current version of Christianity is not the religion that emerged during the 50s and 60s -- one imbued with social responsibility and the desire to contribute. It is marked by a distinctly conservative ethos -- which is to each his own, prosperity on the backs of others, and scapegoats for all. To distract from high unemployment, the erasure of pension programs, temporary employment, loss of benefits, and untenable salaries today's mega-churches offer targets for frustration. Job problems: blame immigrants. Marriage trouble: blame gays. I do think that the current brand of populist religion is fueled by a fear and sadness that results from not being informed enough about one's world. Without information about what causes root problems one's options pretty much are to pray to God. An angry vengeful God that plays three-chord songs at summer festivals. Yeah, that God rocks.


racist fucks

So the Minutemen movement has spread and revealed its real roots.

(there used to be a picture here of skinheads doing a 'heil hitler' salute, but I had to take it down. Just loading the page and having it be there was creeping me out.)

A counter protester chronicled how the Save Our State/Minutemen displayed Hitler Youth flags along with Confederate and American flags at a protest at the Laguna Beach Day Laborer center on July 16, 2005. Indymedia has more pictures to document the link between these groups (who are syndicating all over the West, Pennslyvania, Ohio, and many other states) and racist organizations.

The governor? He has said that he supports their "anti-immigration" cause. Way to go Arnie.

The SOS website evokes violent languages and "calls to action" with slogans like "is your community becoming a third world country" and "Had enough?" These people are scary, racist thugs -- why have the mainstream media been painting them as cowboy-esque conservatives? Hate crimes against Latinos are up in California as well as crimes against African-Americans and Asians.

So scary what waves of extreme conservatism bring. Remember, it was during the Reagan/Bush Sr. years that Tom Metzger and the neo-nazi movement gained strength and renewed vigor. The end result, in some ways, was the Oklahoma City bombing after which the government started taking the threat of extreme right Christian Identity movement seriously. Of course, the harrassment of hard working immigrants and citizens should be enough to cause a political backlash. Anyone in Cali, Arizona, New Mexico or anywhere else these guys are trying to organize needs to be protesting and writing letters to the paper. Don't let them set the tone of the debate any longer.

it may be anecdotal but it's evidence all the same

This story has me falling down for so many reasons. But on the marriage question, there is this gem on the inherent nature of that oh-so-holy institution:
"The United Nations says abductions, which lead to marriage, are rife in rural areas."
We're not talking run-of-the-mill eloping either, the story is referencing a 12-year-old girl who four men abducted and severly beat.

Luckily, she was rescued by a pride of lions. Phew!


the real marriage debate

The ladyfriend thinks it's funny lately, in social situations, to mention how I'm opposed to gay marriage. This usually gets at least one lesbian's face to crumble, often because they can only imagine that it is some form of self hatred or internalized shame. Like I'm going to say "Yes, I think we are deviants and should be kept in legal limbo for punishment." It is funny, but also awkward, to explain why I'm opposed. What's worse is that when I advocate for the abolition of all marriage, they say "Oh, well then. . ." First, as if it isn't a challenge to all marriage (gay or not) and second, as if it is a ridiculous notion that doesn't need to be engaged.This interview is from Bitch magazine's summer issue. I excerpted the relevant parts, the sections that had me panting and saying "yes, yes,yes." It articulates many things I often struggle to say an intelligently. It's an interview with queer activist Matilda (aka Matt Bernstein) by Debbie Rasmussen...
Some of the essays in That's Revolting seem to suggest that the anti-assimilation movement is new -- hasn't it always been there, but now it's playing out differently?

Definitely. There's always been a tension between the assimilationist and liberationist models of queer struggle. In the '70s, for instance, there were radical queer activists and there were rich gay lobbyists. But there was a sense of balance, because even the rich gay people were stigmatized. What's happened in the last 10 to 15 years is that people with some kind of privilege are now able to be out
and also keep their privilege. So Rosie O'Donnell, after years of calling activists Nazis for outing her, can come out and be a spokesperson for "gay and lesbian issues." And those kinds of people -- gay people with the most privilege -- have repositioned their desires as everyone else's needs.

Take universal healthcare. In the early '90s, this was almost a mainstream queer issue. So many people had died of AIDS, and there was recognition that if people had access to healthcare, a lot more people would still be alive. But then the priority shifted from universal health-care to gays in the military -- the ultimate irony. That was a big turning point. Now the assimilationist model is so dominant that more radical and liberationist politics and identities are being erased. That's what assimilation means -- cultural erasure. All the resistance or threat within a queer identity is erased. The assimilationist agenda fights for an end to discrimination in housing and employment, but not for the provision of housing or jobs; domestic-partner health coverage, but not universal health coverage. Even with anti-queer violence, the terms of the debate are about tougher hate-crime laws, instead of fighting the underlying systems of racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia.

So now, when the queers say they want to abolish marriage and the military, they're considered so out there, whereas 10 to 15 years ago, there was more of a balance. There were still gay people willing to step on the backs of anyone to get ahead, but they didn't have such a stranglehold on all public representations of what it means to be queer.

Which highlights the limitations of any identity-based movement that isn't' rooted in a deeper political critique, or that's disconnected from other movements.

Right. As the people with the most privilege develop more access to power, they take everything that's a threat out of the queer identity -- whatever it is. And it becomes "We need a place at the table in the White House," instead of "We need to get housing for people on the streets." We see it all the time -- people with some privilege access more power, oppress everyone else, and call it progress.

But unfortunately, I think a lot of people are drawn to the assimilationsist model -- it offers a very easy way out. [People think], Oh, we don't actually have to change the system, all we need to do is become part of it, and then everything will be okay. But especially for people living in this dominant colonial power, everything we do we are doing on the backs of other people, people who are dying -- both inside this country and outside.

The idea of reforming marriage is often brought up within certain threads of feminist and/or queer organizing

how can you be a feminist and support marriage? Marriage is a central institution of misogyny, patriarchal violence, and oppression. If we're trying to get rid of these things, we gotta get rid of marriage. It's just very basic.

People talk about marriage as a privilege -- the state sanctioning this one type of carnal coupling, this monogamous, long-term "stable" relationships. A relationship that maybe will get you a really bad health plan, or maybe get you some inheritance rights, or maybe will get you to stay in the country for a little longer instead of, again, talking about universal access to things like that.

Take hospital visitation rights: Anyone should be able to choose anyone to visit them in the hospital -- whether it's someone related to them or someone they met three days ago. So this argument that marriage solves the issue -- what does that solve? It means that the state is sanctioning this one type of carnal coupling sot hat one person is allowed to visit you? [Laughs.] And only if you have that one person.

And people ask all the time, "Can't marriage be a stepping-stone, a beginning?" My answer, of course, is no: Becoming part of a violent system that despises you is just a stepping stone to suicide and cultural erasure. If those are the goals, sure, marriage will get us there.

The push to legalize queer marriage also seems likely to damage what progress had been made in broadening definitions of relationships, family, gender, sexuality. Marriage is increasingly cast as the ideal relationship.

Right. People say things like, "Oh, finally, it's legitimate!" Queer people who have had successful relationships with one or tow or five or 10 partners over a number of years, or who prioritize a friendship that may not be sexual, or who have a whole close-knit chosen family that includes any number of different people, from fuck buddies to friends who've been around for 20 years -- all those different ways of living are being erased for the idea that "Now we have to have this one thing -- that's the legitimate one, and everything else comes after that."

For me, the potential for queer identity lies in creating new ways of loving one another, lusting for one another, and taking care of one another -- transformative things outside the status quo. There are other ways of being together and being monogamous and having stability. People can have a monogamous long-term relationship that's amazing and radical and transformative. But it doesn't' have to be this institution that is fundamentally oppressive.

What's your response to people who argue that trying to abolish marriage is a waste of time because it's never going to happen?

Angela Davis has a great quote about prison-abolition work; she says that many people say that we're never going to abolish prisons, but that's what people said about slavery. And while slavery continues through a prison-industrial complex that keeps black people in jail and uses their labor at a very reduced cost, just because it seems implossible now doesn't mean it shouldn't be the goal.

And silencing the marriage-abolition perspective furthers the myth that there are only two sides to the [queer-marriage] debate: those who are for it and those who are against it. People who oppose marriage are shut out of the picture, since we expose the gay-marriage movement for what it is -- a grab for privilege.

Do people criticize you for picking on a movement that's already marginalized?

Oh my god, yeah. The assertion is more like, "Mainstream gay people aren't the real enemy." And my answer is, when residents of a gay neighborhood like San Francisco's Castro fight against a queer youth shelter; when gay people across the country enact neighborhood "beautification" programs that mean getting rid of the trannies, the sex workers, the poor people, the people of color; when gay political consultants engineer elections to elect anti-poor, pro-development candidates, mainstream gay people actually become the real enemy. And mainstream gay people have to be held accountable by someone. Straight people aren't going to do it. The only possibility of holding mainstream gay people accountable is from queers.

I think the way mainstream gay people -- those with power and privilege -- position it as either us or the Christian right is very convenient. But they serve the same violent system -- the same war machine, the same erasing of identities, the same model of marriage and military service. And sure, the Christian right is an enemy, but in some ways it's a lot less threatening than mainstream gay people, who use this sham of gay pride or gay community as a screen behind which to oppress everyone else and get away with it.

All of that is to say, that I find straight marriage as problematic, unradical, and disapointing as any gay one -- and not just because of the bad dresses.


grass seed warehouses to break into, trains to hop

One week at home will include:

blackberry cobblers (multiple)
Me and my g'ma mae will pick the berries from the ditch across the street where they don't spray pesticides. We'll cook them at her house and eat one before it cools. Then we'll have another after dinner. i'm going to freeze two or three and see if I can get them home intact. I am taking my first -- ever! -- direct flight across the country, so they won't suffer a twelve hour delay in las vegas, or have to spend the night in st. louis, or a long confusing afternoon traversing the trams of the atlanta airport.

nephew obsession
I will stare at aj until my eyes cross, I will feed, burp, swing, clap at, and coo for him. I will fall asleep with him on my lap. I will make sure he knows, from now until he runs away at sixteen to live in the big city with me, who his favorite aunt is.

hold back no cookies
I'll tell the cookie story later, but I'm going to stay up late at my grandma's with my cousins, their kids, and my siblings. We are going to gossip about the family, we are going to talk about whose pregnant, who went to jail, who moved and to where. We are going to laugh until my aunt snorts and slaps her leg. We are going to make my grandma blush and say "well i never!" over and over again. We'll play dominoes and chew gumballs for 30 seconds each, and throw the excess into a bowl in the middle of the table.

I'm going to swim in a pool stranded in the middle of a field and in a river, muddy with summer harvest.

the awful beauty of field burning
I'm going to drive to the foot of the Cascades and turn my dad's truck back around. I am going to bring a cheap beer and mid-90s alternative rock for the CD player. I'm going to watch them set a field on fire and watch it light up the whole floor of the valley while all those sad Northwest boys croon into the radio.

lip sync reunion
so growing up our main summer vacation was a weekend in central oregon, at a place called sunriver, for a trial lawyers conference. My parents were alternately younger , but had older kids then everyone else. It was the four of us (the little came in the middle) then, plus a few of our friends, my cousins. . . let's just say that most of the lawyers attending the dinner on Saturday night did not arrive with twelve kids. When I was younger, I truly thought it was a grand ball. It was the fanciest thing I had ever been to, women wore dresses not made of cotton and there were waitresses and bus boys who wore cumberbuns and bow ties. The other adults (not my parents) sipped at cocktails and glasses of wine served from a bar at the back of the room. My siblings and I drank glass after glass of shirley temples, toothpicks loaded with cherries I didn't even eat, but liked to pluck the stems off.

Going back as an adult, I saw what it really was -- a chintzy conference dinner with a standard buffet and petty jealousies. I realize now how awkward my parents must have felt -- young, burdened by the rowdiest kids in the room, but they never showed it. Instead, we embraced our status and every year entered the lip sync contest under the auspicious name "The Tribe." This was something we took very seriously. My father never competed in the weeks other events -- the golf tournament, the swimming competition. Once he played in the softball game, but none of us went to watch. The lip sync was our bread and butter, it was our time to show all those hairless, bloated men with red faces, those Portland attorneys, those wives who glared at my mothers perm, her jeans, her brood -- what it was all about.

Our classic routines included Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling" in which we constructed a wall for the main protagonist to climb, a pond for him to swim through (chased by snapping teenage mutant ninja turtles), and distributed 300 small bells to every table in the joint. Bette Midler's rendition of "Ms. Otis Regrets" where my brother, our neighbor Jed and my cousin Jake all more black spandex dresses, wigs, and maid aprons. We did "I Love Rock n' Roll" and I wore leather pants and we had 13 year old boys crawl on all fours around the stage. We've done western, beach boys, disco. . .my whole family cavorting around with painted faces, blacked out teeth, with stage jitters and giggles. Like all forms of camp and drag, there was something resplendent about it, some way in which we were remade by our farce, by our pretending. Our own dysfunction -- usually highlighted during rehearsal the afternoon before -- fell flat in front of the murder, intrigue, sex, and betrayal of pop music. There we are, swing dancing around one another, grinning. I think lip sync is very close to what it means to love.

So this year is the first year I've been to this conference since early college. The location has changed -- my older siblings and I are all approaching thirty, there will be spouses, and now children, in tow. But we are all going to do a lip sync together. I am going to dance with my poppa, shake my hips next to my older sister, and watch my brother break out into a wide, sheepish grin. I am so excited. And we're taking requests.

romer v. evans

Apparently Judge Roberts is not just an anti civil rights nut job, he also did some good work in his day.

I knew that he worked as a cooperating attorney with the ACLU on a number of cases, but apparently he also advised legal counsel, coached moot court, and strategized legal theory in Romer v. Evans. The NYT says that Roberts did not report his participation in his 83 page response to the Senate questionnaire.

Now for a short history lesson.

Romer v. Evans revolved around Amendment 2 in Colorado. In 1992 the Christian Coalition, led by mousy Ralph Reed, started raising funds and proposing anti-gay ballot initiatives all over the West. That year they fizzled in California, but made the statewide ballot in Oregon (Measure 9) and Colorado (Amendment 2). After a few years of legal tussle, the Supreme Court ruled 6-to-3 in 1996 that Amendement 2 was unconstitutional because is nullified the rights of gays and lesbians and barred the passage of antidiscrimination laws.

"It's one more piece of the puzzle as we keep trying to find out who John Roberts is," said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, the advocacy group that helped bring the Romer case.
Not a total mystery (see below). . . but complicated yes.

That victory paved the road for Lawrence v. Texas that overturned Bowers v. Hardwick (and no, not after all these years will I get over the fact that the case that upheld a ban on sodomy had a plaintiff named HARD-WICK. Giggle, it's good for you). Romers was a slow, but critical move, that illustrated to gay-rights activists how to shoot straight up the middle of the court to get a positive decision. After Romer the Christian Coalition and the Oregon Citizens Alliance fizzled, lost funding, and were swallowed back up into the belly of right wing umbrella organizations.

And for that I have to partially thank a guy who worked hard to cripple the Voting Rights Act?

I'm not sure that this is as confusing as the news reports make it seem. First, there is the closeted explanation. But since that's mostly a joke, there's the fact that the attorneys in Romers came looking for him to get the most conservative perspective possible. He assisted, but he may have done so in the way that many attorneys do, as a game, a challenge to his intellect. Besides, the fact that he helped strike something like Amendment 2 is not all that surprising. It was a poorly written, badly crafted piece of legislation, that could have be interpreted to say that gays and lesbians lacked constitutional rights. Even some homophobe conservatives felt uncomfortable with writing that level of discrimination into law -- especially since had it stood, it wouldn't have been for long. This isn't as big a revelation as it seems at first, but does still offer a glimmer of hope about Roberts (who will, if he makes it onto the court, be there for many many years to come). That his reason and intellect can be appealed to, that he can be counted on to be considerate, even innovative. No one can say that about Scalia.