the miscellany chronicle

bit of this, bit of that


I hate the world.

What the FUCK.

A man accused of biting off his wife's bottom lip after she called him short has rejected a plea offer and will stand trial next month, prosecutors said.

Akano Nzerem, 54, of South San Francisco, is charged with felony counts of domestic violence, mayhem, false imprisonment, battery and making criminal threats.

Nzerem told police he was provoked by his wife attacking him first and calling him a short man, according to the district attorney's office.

Police said Nzerem shoved aside his 16-year-old daughter when she tried to intervene in the argument. He then allegedly grabbed his wife in a bear hug and bit off her lip.

Police recovered the lip from the floor but doctors were unable to reattach it. Nzerem's wife said authorities have exaggerated the extent of her injuries.

Yeah, those crazy bitches-- always exaggerating the extent of their injuries. WHEN THEIR HUSBANDS BITE PART OF THEIR FACES OFF.


also, she breathes too much

There is an interesting article at the SF Chronicle about Nawal al Saadawi, a feminist writer from Egypt. It is a bleak portrait of a culture, wherein religious fundamentalists feel they have the right to dictate not only the actions of a society, but also the art produced by members of that society. (Sound familiar?)

The part of the article that really jolted me, however, came at the end of a long list of ways al Saadawi has been targeted by ultra-conservative Muslims:

In 2001, an Islamic lawyer filed divorce proceedings to break up her marriage, arguing that "an infidel should not be married to a Muslim man." But her husband, 83-year-old Sherif Hetata, is one of her biggest supporters.

"Those who oppose al-Saadawi's ideas would never allow a logical discussion of them," said Hetata, a Cairo physician. "They know that enlightened thoughts would win the day and that is why they are afraid."

A man who, presumably, HAD NEVER MET EITHER ONE OF THEM, filed for divorce. He filed for the divorce of TWO STRANGERS.

The sheer gall is the most unnerving thing about it-- it somehow seems more offensive than death threats, for some reason. Some people want to end her life, but some people are willing to settle for merely dismantling it.

(And, of course, not one of her many outraged fundamentalist critics has even read the play they are protesting so vehemently. They've all heard that it is offensive and insulting to God, they just aren't so sure WHY or HOW. But, you know, details.)

too bad they didn't make self-esteem mandatory.

Well, what a surprise.

The Kansas Board of Education on Tuesday repealed sex education policies enacted last year, the latest move by the moderate majority to undo efforts by conservatives when they dominated the board.

One rescinded policy recommended that schools stress abstinence until marriage, while the other urged school districts to get parental permission before students could attend human sexuality classes.

On a 6-3 vote, the board replaced the policies with one that recommends "abstinence plus" sex education programs and leaves it up to the state's 296 school districts to decide whether to get parental permission.

The "abstinence plus" program stresses abstinence before marriage, while also urging schools to give students information about birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

On the one hand, good that they finally got enough control to undo some of the damage their delusional predecessors had managed to do.

On the other-- how sad is it that "abstinence plus" is a step forward? And in the article, there are people bitching about how "abstinence plus" isn't what parents want. THE KIDS ARE STILL BEING ENCOURAGED TO PRACTICE ABSTINENCE, but people are still unhappy that they are ALSO being informed that sex happens, and that people having it can protect themselves.

I have vague memories of sex ed in elementary and middle school, but the session I remember most clearly happened when I was a junior in high school. My biology teacher had an array of prophylactics, and she looked each boy in the class in the eye one by one. "I am doing this because I do NOT want you getting girls pregnant," she said firmly.

In retrospect, I like the fact that she very clearly placed responsibility for contraception with the boys in that classroom, since that lot so overwhelmingly falls to women.

What really strikes me as important, however, was her borderline explicit message: teenagers (especially boys) are taught by our culture to be stupid about sex, and if calling them stupid and teaching them about condoms was the only way she could influence their choices, then that was what she was going to do. The idea that people in Kansas think their children are smart enough to make good decisions about sex BAFFLES me. Teenagers are not smart about ANYTHING, and if Kansas youth pastors can't persuade their young flocks to keep their legs crossed, then the schools certainly aren't going to either.



Dude finds whole potato in bag of potato chips

There is something devastatingly sad about that poor potato, failed by the system and whatnot.

it tends to be more of a grimace than a smile, actually.

I recently found out that my boss's boss is concerned that I seem a bit "surly." His conclusion came from the fact that when he walks by my desk five times a day, I tend to keep working instead of dropping everything to give him a big smile and hello. Oddly enough, I doubt he'd have this problem if I was a dude.

This is a guy who talks a good game about equality for women, but the fact remains that his last two assistants were young women with long blonde hair (and he specifically said he didn't want to hire a male). One, who is a friend of mine, was called "Blondie" for two years instead of her actual name. When she cut OFF her long blonde hair, BossBoss was horrified, and a bit hurt that she hadn't asked for his permission before chopping it off. Whoever his assistant is, he stands over her shoulder-- oh, and he doesn't write email himself, because he has no interest in learning, so the assistant does that for him as well. Sometimes, he tugs on the assistant's hair.

Oh, and how could I forget-- he asked his 25-year old assistant why she wasn't married yet.

Anyway, I guess I'm submitting properly now, because when he walks by these days, I give him the big smile all nice ladies are supposed to wear, and I trill the most insincere bullshit I can think of, all because he actually went to my boss and said he thought I was maybe treating visitors to the office less than professionally. And when I pointed out he was full of it, she said "yes, well, he is the boss."

I kind of hate myself for shutting up and beaming like a good little girl, but I think I'll save what I really think until my promotion is final.


oh, how quaint

I saw a clip of Rich Little's performance at the White House Correspondents' Association's Dinner, and then I read the WaPo account of the evening, and the consensus seems to be: oh, Rich Little! You are so very old and out of touch! Also, not terribly funny!

And that is almost certainly the case. But I confess, within me there is something of a hope that he was so horrifically dull on PURPOSE, as a statement on what sort of humor is acceptable to a group of people who couldn't handle Colbert last year.

Or maybe it was the guy planning the event-- Steve Scully. I mean, his list of people to ask went like this:

Jay Leno
David Letterman
Billy Crystal
Jerry Seinfeld
Robin Williams
Rich Little

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? These are the only comedians in the country who were considered for this event? I find that baffling to the point of not even believing it. It's as if Scully listed the most well-known comedians in the country, who were also the least-likely ones to agree to do the event, and after the inevitable declines from all FIVE (seriously, FIVE PEOPLE) of them, he went for Little.

It is almost enough to convince me that Scully was maybe a fan of Colbert's scathing performance last year, and disgusted by the audience's inability to handle such honesty at their annual circle-jerk in formal wear. (Since, of course, every day with a press conference is a circle-jerk for the White House press corps and their Beloved Leader.) So maybe Scully gave them what he deserved-- tired old impersonations of Jimmy Carter, because that's the level of humor those people could handle.

Oh, and of course, Sanjaya. Which makes me wonder something else-- did have anything to do with the last presidential election? The state of the world is finally becoming clear to me.


because they did it first, apparently

The post is interesting, the comments moreso.

There's another post at Pandagon about meanie atheism, and it raises some great points-- atheists are despised by the current establishment, prevented from holding public office, treated like monsters-- or worse, children. (You know, sanctimonious people who cluck over atheists like lost lambs.)

The problem that's cropping up is that Pandagon-- up till now something of an ideological haven for those liberal christians who know full well the establishment of religion is an offense to God and man-- has suddenly turned into an explicitly hostile environment for people who identify with every one of the blog's beliefs except for atheism.

This, for example, is a tedious interaction to have:

atheist: Theists believe in lies, which is why they hate gay people.
theist: I do not hate gay people, and I believe in god.
theist: No, I--

Okay, so that's a little more dramatic than the actual conversations I saw happening, but to see so much rabid essentialism going on at Pandagon was a little baffling to me.

I understand that as a theistic American, I am automatically given a position of privilege. At the same time, I've spent most of my life trying to refute that privilege, openly calling myself pro-choice within the church, arguing for gay rights with people who thought I was practically a heretic for doing so, once even going up to a pastor after a sermon to ask that he stop using offensive gender stereotypes. There were people at my childhood church who wanted nothing to do with my family because we were Democrats, people who thought I was a bad example to other children because I was a girl and I spoke up in class-- people who wanted us gone.

But there are people at Pandagon-- commentors, mostly, as Amanda has been less strident-- who don't think that sort of viral influence is any good, because it comes from people who believe in god, and are therefore ignorant or purposely blind.

And I hate this kind of binary thinking. I hate it when "religious" people talk about how disgusting abstract gay people are. I hate it when white supremacists talk about how disgusting abstract black people are. And this disdain for abstract theists is frustrating in a similar way.

I find myself especially frustrated because they are using "logic" to tout a position which we know-- experientially-- does not work. Finding a person you disagree with and calling that person an idiot does nothing but create hostility. Asking them actual questions about their beliefs, explaining alternative points of view, and maybe undermining illogic and ignorance-- that is something that works in real life.

There have been examples of the latter form of dialogue cropping up with the partial-birth abortion ban, one heart-wrenching example here. She explains that the D&E was necessary to save her life, that the twins she was carrying would not have lived even if she sacrificed herself for their sake. The result of her telling a story about a real person instead of a construct is that many commentors say that they have always been pro-life, but reading her story has made them realize that the issue is more complicated than they ever knew. One person says:

I used to be a fundamentalist, and was pretty ignorant on all things related to pregnancy problems. I've since done a 180 on most of my views, abortion included, and most of that has had to do more with education than just viewpoint. It was hearing stories like yours that made me realize there are situations I never dreamed of, that the world isn't as easy as I would have liked it to be, that anyone who claims there is "never" a reason to do something is someone who hasn't been exposed to reality.

I am a theist, and nothing is more beautiful to me than someone saying "I used to be a fundamentalist," because it means a person can believe something, learn more about it and change his/her mind. People can re-examine their convictions-- but they do it from hearing new things, from learning subtleties, from unexpected experiences, from gentle disagreements-- from almost anything except HEY MORON YOUR GOD IS A DELUSION.

I think Dawkins certainly has a place in public discourse, but at the same time I wish that some of Pandagon's commentors would consider that the more personal camaraderie of a shared space and philosophy does not lend itself to his sweeping statements and generalizations.



Cho Seung-Hui's Plays

Someone who was in a writing workshop with the gunman said:

When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of. Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn't pressure him to give closing comments.

I find it interesting that in a culture which often devalues the written word-- and here, at a Tech school, where math and science are so important-- it turns out that this man's writings are turning out to be the most reliable source of insight into his psyche, and even indicative of his future behavior.

'Creative Writing Workshops' don't necessarily spring to mind when the world is trying to understand his reasons for doing this-- everyone wants to know about the girl he killed first, how he knew her, if there had been other warning signs to people who knew him.

But the picture being painted as more people speak up is that almost no one knew him-- which means that these short one act plays are going to stand in as his friends and family, at least for now.

And the rage in them is eloquent, even if the writing is not.

The idea that all the people in his writing workshop recognized and feared that rage-- long before the rest of the country would experience the same emotion-- is pretty stunning. There is an artistic conceit that writers can create their works out of nothing but imagination-- yet in my experience, that is rarely true. A classmate with serious sexual dysfunction wrote poems full of corresponding imagery. Another classmate in a fiction workshop wrote borderline terrifying stories about the sexual degradation of female characters, which in turn made me uneasy in my interactions with him. The correlation between writers and their writings has proven to be nearly unavoidable, more than ever this week.

I don't know that the English Department could have done anything to prevent it-- and I think it's an unfair burden to lay at their door. But he buried his early warning signs in that text, and the people who read it understood exactly what it meant, even if they didn't find out how right they were until the killings began.

he also believes in unicorns.

Good call, asshole.

Sen. John McCain says the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech does not change his view that the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to carry a weapon.

“We have to look at what happened here, but it doesn’t change my views on the Second Amendment, except to make sure that these kinds of weapons don’t fall into the hands of bad people,” McCain said Monday in response to a question.

“I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon,” he said. “Obviously we have to keep guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens.”

OH! Is that all we have to do?? WHAT AN AMAZING THOUGHT! So basically what he's saying is that people who sell guns have to be CLAIRVOYANT, right? I'm pretty sure Cho Seung-Hui didn't have an extensive criminal record before his rampage, which is also true of all the past teenage killers who decided to exact revenge upon their tormentors.

I mean, the sheer idiocy of "no guns for bad people" is so extraordinary as to be practically a sign of mental illness. Shall we start relying on pre-cogs as well?

Part of the horror of the Virginia Tech massacre-- and every incident like it-- is that they come from people who seemed fine, who seemed normal, who seemed just like everyone else. If the friends, family and acquaintances of a soon-to-be murderer can't imagine such a thing, how does McCain think A PERSON SELLING GUNS will be able to?


toy stores + rape = ?

Like most...sane people, I have some issues with Perez Hilton-- but I was pleasantly surprised to see a post with this headline:

Rape is Funny?

You want to be offended by something? How about a doll depicting a rapist and sold at Toys R Us?

Quentin Tarantino has been turned into a doll to accompany his appearance as Rapist Number One in Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse movie Planet Terror, which bombed in theatres.

The lifelike miniature is available at Toys R Us stores.

We're sure Tarantino would say, "Oh relax, it's just a joke."

Because rape is so funny, right?

I think it's a bit sad that I'm so suprised at someone in a public forum questioning the comedic impact of rape.


all about access

I was reading a magazine once-- I think it was Glamour-- and some woman wrote in to talk about how her boyfriend was creeped out by her "feminine products", and he wished she wouldn't be so indiscreet about them.

This woman kept her tampons in the cabinet under her bathroom sink.

Now, look, menstruation is obviously kind of ooky-- there's blood! And yet, when you compare a woman's experience of bleeding with a man's experience of knowing that sometimes women bleed, I still think that the dudes are getting off pretty easy.

Which brings me to the other kind of getting off-- I just don't think that any guy who FEARS MENSTRUATION should be allowed to have access to non-menstruating vaginas either. If a vagina doing what a vagina is supposed to do every twenty-eight days creeps you out, then you shouldn't be allowed to make nice with vaginas at all. Ever. No matter what time of the month it is. I mean, if a dude was to bleed from the peen periodically, would he ever shut up about it? No, no he would not. Men in our culture are usually taught to revel in bodily function, and the reciprocal disgust with women tacitly admitting to bodily functions by PURCHASING PRODUCTS TO DEAL WITH THEM AND STORING THOSE PRODUCTS IN THE ROOM WHERE THEY ARE USED is what makes me all twitchy with irritation.

If you like vaginas and the process of getting to know them, then learn to like all of them. I have some friends with a few habits which bother me, but I find that the friendship is usually worth getting over those temporary annoyances. I think that is a fair model to follow in this particular relationship paradigm as well.


we're all philanthropists in theory

I just read an interview with a writer who I actually admire quite a bit-- but then she said something which made me just roll my eyes in exasperation. So now I must address the idea which I find so tiresome.


Okay, wow, is this one of the stupidest catchphrases ever.

Look, I get the idea of it-- hey, if you aren't living life like you know you should, then change! If you work in corporate America and it is killing your soul, be true to yourself and get out! Yeah! Self-actualization!

Except, of course, that none of that makes any sense. If I'm a frustrated poet working in an office instead of pursuing grander literary dreams, then that doesn't mean I need to be 'truer' to my poet self. It means that my true self is someone who is willing to swallow mediocrity rather than take real risks to do something more interesting.

So, you know, Donald Trump, bullshit artist, is true to himself: he is the human embodiment of greed and commercialism. Britney Spears is being true to herself-- not because she's in rehab, but because she hates herself and her life and she ingests massive amounts of drugs and alcohol to deal with that knowledge.

I think I mostly resent the idea that being true to yourself is a VERB. Every person in the world is true to him or herself, because your actions dictate what sort of person you are and what sort of life you are willing to live. I can't DECIDE to be true to myself, because it is involuntary and automatic. I lead the life I lead, no matter what I think I should/could/would have been doing given the right chance.


sonnet 116

Here is a clip of a boy named Daniel reading one of Shakespeare's sonnets. I'm not sure what I like best-- the way he speeds through the poem but seems so pleased at the end, his oddly insistent pronunciation, or the way he argues back with the off-camera grown ups who tell him he should read it "like a poem".


come read these stories! no, not the ones we made up.

Right, so I have a problem with both of these headlines:

1. They have been keeping this porn story in HEAVY rotation on the website, and the article seems to be written at the expense of the guy who thought he was doing the right thing. Look, obviously, running into a neighbor's house with a sword is not a great idea-- but being that determined to prevent sexual assault? I'm having a hard time faulting him for that urge. I don't think this story is as wacky as CNN seems to think it is, given all the emphasis on the crusader living with his mom. It's such an easy-- no, LAZY dichotomy to exploit-- one guys lives with his mother, one guy lives alone and watches porn all day long, so guess which one is a loser!

Plus, pressing charges against someone who tried to save a woman from being raped? That's a much bigger douchebag move than anything else here.

2. Okay, WOW. What a clever little turn of phrase-- the Baptist Church is being TARGETED NEXT by sex abuse victims! Poor church! It would be so easy for this to be phrased in some other way-- "Sex abuse advocates urge Baptist Church to take steps," or "Baptist Church under pressure from victims of sex abuse."

But using the word "targeted" seems to imply some sort of unreasoning vendetta, which is exactly the opposite of what the article itself describes. If anything, the Survivors Network-- originally intended for those abused by priests in the Catholic Church-- has finally realized the extent of parallel abuse perpetrated-- and ignored-- by members of the Baptist Church clergy. Furthermore, representatives from the Baptist Church organization are responding to a call for accountability by saying-- get this-- NO CAN DO! Our hands are just TIED, and we feel awful about all the kids getting raped or whatever, but we certainly can't do anything about it.

That's it. That is their response to the revelation that Baptist ministers who abused children were often not punished, or sent away from one church only to end up preaching (and abusing) at another one.

So spare me, CNN. Portraying a man trying to stop a rape as a loser is bad enough, but to then portray actual victims of sexual assault as heartless rampaging religion destroyers just emphasizes CNN's determination to write headlines that are as insulting as they are misleading.

concept searching

I like searching flickr for random words. I searched for 'majesty'-- got a lot of grand landmarks, but this picture by lorenzodom was what amazed me.

no, she didn't.

I've been reading through the Pandagon archives, and I found one article from June 2005. It starts off as being about-- shocking-- rape at the Air Force Academy-- but ends up having a lot of information about actual studies about rape culture. Most of them directly contradict comforting rape stereotypes (she was a slut, she wanted it, she brought it on herself) by actually studying the behavior and psychology of rapists, not their victims.

The BSU [Behavioral Sciences Unit of the FBI] is famous for helping track down serial killers, but they do a lot more mundane criminal work than that. One important innovation that was driven by the BSU was that BSU member Roy Hazelwood cleaned up and innovated the sex crimes division of the FBI to make it more effective at solving crimes and research.

After years of work in this area, just guess what conclusion Hazelwood came to about the best way to approach sex crime justice and prevention? You guessed it. Hazelwood drew on feminist work in the area of sexual assault and rape and concluded that the previous theories of rape and sexual assault that emphasized sexual desire were completely backwards and that most rapists have power and control issues, with only a select few really having sexual desires that drove them to rape specifically. Completely contrary to what the “boys will be boys” crowd espouses about rape and sexual desire, the ones who attack out of sexual desire are the most dangerous, not the least.

Read the rest here.


I like to read craigslist personals. Here is one I found illuminating.

Heres the Truth! - 23

Reply to:
Date: 2007-02-21, 3:22PM EST

Marriage is an important part of getting ahead. It lets people know you're not a homo. A married guy seems more stable. People see the ring, they think 'at least somebody can stand the son of a bitch.' Ladies see the ring, they know immediately that you must have some cash, and your cock must work.

That is some excellent reasoning! I might encourage my friend to work some of these statements into her upcoming wedding vows.

I admit that I am a bit perplexed-- is this young man looking for marriage candidates (who are also fans of unvarnished 'honesty'), or is he just explaining the state of the world to women looking for love? You know, in case they were wondering?

I like meeting a married man, glancing at his ring, and then giving him a daring wink while saying, "hello-- your cock must work, mister presumably-stable moneybags! Well done."

also, there should be a vicar

Graham Norton wrote a little essay called Why I love celebrity culture which perhaps illuminates my reasons for trolling the pop blogosphere-- I definitely have leftover childhood dreams of living "in a one-street hamlet somewhere in Cornwall"!

Of course, the only thing he's really forgetting is that those vile kids we all remember from school are the only ones willing to spend their time showing off for the papparazzi. There was a girl in my high school who would enter a room full of people and BURST into irritating song, all the while wearing a "modest" expression that said: it's okay to admire me for my MOXIE and my STAR POWER, you guys! Don't be afraid to request another song! (Everyone present was, of course, miserably uncomfortable during the whole spectacle.)

I'm not saying she was the type to eventually flash her ladybits to creepy, doughy men with telephoto lenses and coffee breath-- but, you know, I'm not saying she wouldn't go for that either.