Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wilbury Twist

To bide some time until I can post my Top Albums of 2006, I've added Wilbury Twist to my blogroll. Yes, it is a site dedicated to the Traveling Wilburys! Apparently, there's going to be some re-mastering of the albums as well as the release of some never-before-heard tracks. Nothing will ever touch "Tweeter and the Monkeyman," but it's still exciting. (Via an email from Mark.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

All That Philip Pullman Allows

I've never been one to shy away from melodrama -- on screen, that is; I'd hate to live within one myself. So I've kept a little space in my brain for the name "Douglas Sirk" ever since a college media studies professor (shout out to Carol!) hailed him as the King of the genre. Color saturation, upper middle class romance, high society, the whole shebang. Not until tonight's screening of All That Heaven Allows, however, had I actually witnessed the beauty of a Sirk movie.

Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson are a dynamite couple on screen, sure. And the gist of the story is one I can personally relate to -- the abandonment of a socially sanctioned path for one less sophisticated but more personally fulfilling. But the cinematography is the true star of the film. The colors are absolutely stunning, the subtle tricks of the camera cry out for film students everywhere to take note, and the settings spark an envy to live in a wintry old mill that you never knew you had (at least that's how it worked for me). Never has pheasant hunting in the snow looked more inviting. Definitely a must see.

P.S. Everyone should go out and read Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. The man is a genius.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why Not Slide?

Thanks to my bro for pointing me to this Guardian article about Carsten Höller's slides that are currently being enjoyed by folks of all ages in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. While museum visitors may view these slides as a novelty, Höller sees them as a "serious architectural proposition." And why not? Slides would make office jobs more exciting and fun-filled; who doesn't want to see the boss in a 3-piece suit sliding on his ass to meet the Board? And what mall wouldn't benefit from the installation of slides? They'd be more efficient than escalators or elevators, that's for sure. And quite attractive, as Höller's Tate Modern example shows. So, how about it? Who wants to join the newly established Minnesotans for a Swifter Society?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Have You Pooped Yet?

That was one of the more interesting signs I encountered on my 26.2 mile journey through Minneapolis and St. Paul during yesterday's Twin Cities Marathon. Thankfully, I hadn't yet pooped, nor did I have to throughout my entire 5 hour, 23 minute, 29 second run. (Thank you, bowels.) The whole experience was simultaneously wonderful and hellish and I couldn't write a coherent or complete post about it if I tried. But, here are the most important anecdotes and observations from my first (and perhaps last) marathon:
  • Waiting for the bus at 6:40 a.m. with my white marathon sweats bag, I was confronted by an eager beaver of a young lad who asked if the 4 bus was due soon. I saw his identifying sweats bag and responded that it should be arriving in a few minutes. We then bonded over being first timers and not getting much sleep the night before. While he's regaling me with tales of a silly dream he had (something about a friend damaging his parents' car, which is an Acura in the dream, but they have a mini-van in real life, so it was like, so ridiculous), a nice couple pulled up to the curb and offered us a ride to the Metrodome. We accepted. Shout out to the nice couple.
  • The view of downtown Minneapolis from the starting gate in the early morning hour was quite astounding.
  • There were so many spectators and volunteers along the way to help the runners along. From cheering to handing out water and lube (now what was that for?) to awarding medals and finisher shirts to blasting music on their front lawns, they all rocked. Truly awesome.
  • I missed seeing Mark (and he missed seeing me) all three times that it was possible: at Lake of the Isles, Minnehaha Falls, and when I crossed the finish line. Them's the breaks. But I'll have you know he was a great post-marathon help once we did meet up at the State Capitol, supplying tissues, water, energy bars, bus fare, and a much needed hug. And what a sport to traipse all around the city on public transportation for a 5 second glimpse of little old me gasping for breath.
  • While some runners write their names on their shirts so spectators can yell out, "Go Stan!," my identifying characteristic turned out to be my trusty Red Sox hat. Especially during Twins playoff fever it was a risky fashion decision, but I appreciated all the personalized cheers -- even the nasty ones: Go Boston! Yay Red Sox! Yankees Rule! Wait Till Next Year! Red Sox Suck! The "Wait Till Next Year" guy will forever be in my debt for making me laugh when I felt like crying.
  • I heard that this course was supposed to be flat, but no one tells you that the last 5.5 miles are graded inclines! Seriously, most of the course in St. Paul was like one long hill. All along Summit Ave. spectators would yell, "Just wait till you get to the top of the hill," but not one of them informed me that the top of the hill was the 26th mile.
  • By the 16th mile, I was getting doubtful of my ability to finish. This was also about the time that I decided it would be my last marathon. Finally, though, I reached the 21st mile and realized I could walk the rest of the race and still finish within the 6 hour time limit. I felt much better after that realization and did walk quite a bit of the last 5 miles. And reconsidered my anti-marathon stance.
  • And then I reached the top of the hill! The view was spectacular and I could see the finish line and was inspired by my accomplishment to start running again so I could cross it on a strong note. (OK, like many of the runners out there, I didn't want any of the spectators at the finish line to know that I had been walking the last 5 miles. That's really why I ran to the finish.)
  • Like the dork that I am, I made an ass of myself when I saw Sven Sundgaard (of KARE 11 Weather fame) in the finish area. I was so giddy about having made it the whole way that I sauntered up to him with a goofy grin and said, "Thanks for the great weather!" Hyuck, hyuck. He gracefully chuckled and said, "You're welcome." Then I made my exit. Let me tell you, that little Sven is built. You would never guess he had all those muscles under those drab suits. Or that he was only 25! Check out Mr. Sundgaard's results here.
  • And then it was over. I gathered up my medal, finisher shirt, and sweats bag and met Mark under the 'D' sign in the family waiting area. We boarded the bus home and I hobbled around the rest of the day like an old woman. Actually, I'm still hobbling around. But it was worth it. And maybe I'll do it again -- once I forget how much Mile 17 sucked.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

1971 World Series, Game 3

Pirates vs. Orioles, bottom of the seventh, the Orioles' Mike Cuellar blushing on the mound after Roberto Clemente forced an errant throw to first with his high comebacker and trademark sprint down to first:

Cuellar, flustered, now walked Willie Stargell on four pitches, bringing up first baseman Bob Robertson with runners on first and second. Robertson to that point was hitless in the series and had lined out and struck out twice in three previous at-bats against Cuellar. He took the first pitch for a ball, then fouled off the next. From the Pirates dugout, Danny Murtaugh noticed that Brooks Robinson was cheating by two or three steps, as he had said he would against the big right-handed pull hitter, playing deep and close to the line. Murtaugh gestured to third-base coach Frank Oceak, who flashed a sign down to the plate. Robertson gave no recognition that he received the sign, so Oceak went through the motions again. From second base, Clemente sensed the confusion and raised his hands over his head, attempting to call time. But it was too late; Cuellar was in his windup. In came a screwball, a few inches outside, and out it went, soaring into the seats in right center. Only as Robertson touched home plate and Stargell congratulated him with the words "That's the way to bunt the ball!" did he realize what he had done. "Guess I missed a sign," he said sheepishly when he reached the dugout. "Possibly," responded Murtaugh, smiling.

Excerpt from David Maraniss' excellent biography of Clemente, Clemente, which is really more a book of baseball and social history than a strict bio. After reading this book, I now understand why my R.I. born and bred uncle is such a huge Pirates fan.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mama Bird

I hate Danceteria. Due to First Ave.'s unfortunate 'rhea curfew, Thursday night's Erase Errata / The Gossip show felt hurried and unnecessarily abbreviated. While openers Mika Miko would have benefited from a shorter set, Erase Errata and The Gossip were forced off the stage to please the nicely dressed Danceteria masses after all-too-brief sets.

I've definitely heard Erase Errata sound better – on their first two studio albums. Their performance certainly exhibited what happens when a pivotal band member (whose guitar pretty much defined their sound for me) leaves to pursue other opportunities. Still, I enjoyed the original band's remnants and the resulting sound enough to want to seek out their new album. Plus, I dug their style – were they going for '80s trailer park?

Now, on to Beth Ditto. Having eaten only a half hour before strutting her stuff for the eager crowd, Ditto suffered from recurring regurgitation throughout the set ("I've vomited three times already") – but dutifully re-swallowed so she could keep on singing for us. The other two band members (Brace Paine and Hannah Blilie) were also energetic and entertaining. And, Mark's right, Hannah's probably the hottest drummer around.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dicks for Dames

A recent Christian Science Monitor article picks up on a trend that has me excited, but also a little worried. It notes the remarkable increase in the number of women mystery writers (good thing), but especially focuses on those whose detectives are "not-so-hardboiled" (bad thing). The article's overall message is that women don't want to read that nasty, crude hardboiled stuff (the genius of Hammett, Chandler, and Cain be damned). Instead, most new mystery series written for women are known, for real, as "cozies" or "Malice Domestic" and feature accidental sleuths: hotel owners, cooks, carpenters, knitters, etc., who repeatedly find themselves in situations just begging for their amateur detective skills.

I agree with a former mystery store owner who "criticizes some female authors for their 'trivialization' of women. This includes talking down to them and having them deal with less-serious problems." Sure, some women will enjoy the Jessica Fletcher style mystery, but many more will appreciate a complex, serious mystery -- though perhaps with a little less misogyny than is found in your classic hardboiled detective story.

According to the article, women crime writers are better at developing characters, featuring relationships, and capturing "real life problems" than men writers. Says author Elaine Viets,

The hard-boiled male is often the critical darling. But I believe that the hard-boiled thriller is old-fashioned now. The really difficult books are the books about everyday relationships, about maintaining a job, maintaining a family. It's easy to make a thriller interesting. It's much harder to keep people interested in ordinary life, yet women have that skill to keep people reading for 300 pages. Women don't always write grand books, big thrillers. But they do the Jane Austen kind of book - the book about society.

I'm all for character development, but if that entails touchy-feely details about why a character must visit her great-aunt every Sunday, I'd rather it be left out. And relationships? Please. Just set up the mystery and solve it -- no need for extended forays into the character's lovelife (though an occasional mention is acceptable: Cara Black, Dana Stabenow, and Sara Paretsky, for example, all do it well). Plus, is there really anything worse than comparing contemporary women mystery writers to Jane Austen?

Still, I guess I'm happy that so many women crime writers are doing well. I just wish more of them featured strong, serious women who solve real mysteries on purpose, not because a dead body happens to fall into their cozy domestic laps. I also wish their ranks didn't include those who write "chick-lit mysteries," in which "Prada-type girls who happen to solve mysteries when they're not working in their wonderful Manhattan jobs." Ugh.

[For local T.C. folks, an added bonus: the article includes a few quotes from a co-owner of my favorite mystery shop, Once Upon a Crime.]

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Five Weird Opinions

Inspired by Mark's Five Weird Opinions, which were inspired by Nate's Five Weird Opinions, here are my very own:

  1. The Beatles < Herman's Hermits. Yeah, I went there. If we're using Nate's gut feeling of "whose records would you rather listen to," there's no contest for me. Of course I understand the Beatles' "importance" to rock history, but their albums just don't appeal to me. Their early pop records rate higher than the Beach Boys, sure, but it's still pop. Maybe I've heard the songs too many times to enjoy them, I don't know. Regardless, the humor ("Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter," "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am,") and potential creepiness ("Leaning on a Lamp Post") of Peter Noone and his pals gets me every time and has sealed their number 1 slot in my list of favorite British Invasion groups.

  2. The Spaghetti Incident? is my favorite Guns N' Roses album. Maybe that's not saying much about the band, seeing as how it's an album of covers and all, but I find myself holding up this album as a highlight of their career more than any other when I find myself embroiled in Def Leppard vs. GN'R debates. (I mean, really, is there any contest?) There's no doubt in my mind that their only non-punk cover on the album -- the Skyliners' "Since I Don't Have You" -- is one of the top three cover songs ever. Other highlights are The Damned's "New Rose," the UK Subs' "Down on the Farm," and their ever-so-sad version of Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory." I'm not so obsessive a GN'R fan that I believe every one of their songs is brilliant -- every one of their original albums has its own flaws. Which is perhaps why The Spaghetti Incident? is so incredible - each song is worth multiple listens.

  3. Lush were perfectly average. I stumbled across Lush in the mid-90s, thanks to WBRU over-playing their single "Ladykillers" and then sponsoring a free concert at Waterplace Park in Providence. I own all of their studio albums (plus a single or two), but I'll be damned if I can tell one from the other (with the notable exception of Lovelife, which I played until it shattered during my sophomore and junior years of high school). It's straight-up shoegazer music that makes for more than adequate mellow background noise, but rarely does a single track grab you and force you to listen. Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson prove that beautiful, harmonizing vocals can be too much of a good thing.

  4. Empire Burlesque is one of Bob Dylan's three best albums (and album covers). After a number of recording sessions that saw musicians entering and exiting multiple studios, Dylan ended up with a classic album, critics and Billboard charts be damned. "Tight Connection to My Heart" (featuring Sly & Robbie) is as sing-able as any song from Blood on the Tracks. "Seeing the Real You At Last" and "I'll Remember You" are two more classics and the closing track "Dark Eyes" is pure Dylan genius. Most of you probably have never heard this album - I encourage you to do so right now. The '80s cover art is sooo hot.

  5. Radiohead's OK Computer is brilliant. No, you haven't taken a time machine back to 1997, a year when this wasn't so weird an opinion. But lately it seems like no one's a fan of Radiohead anymore and people are repulsed by the very idea of listening to OK Computer. When did this about-face happen? I'll leave that question to the pop culture professionals. All I know is that OK Computer is one of the most brilliant albums I own. (It also spawned at least one of the best music videos ever created, Paranoid Android.) Honestly, it's easier for me to pick out tracks that are low-lights rather than highlights (I'm talking to you, "Fitter Happier"). I don't expect people with anti-Radiohead biases to shift their opinions anytime soon. I'm perfectly content with the knowledge that I'm right on this one.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Three Places My Wandering Spirit Will Be In Attendance This Summer (Be Sure to Say Hello)

  1. Sure, it's the NOW Conference and all, but I'm in full support of honoring Ani DiFranco with a "Woman of Courage" award. Along with my Mom, Ani's probably responsible for my earliest feminist tingles.
  2. Either of the two Throwing Muses shows in August -- in Boston on the 11th and New York on the 12th. 50 Foot Wave is opening, so you know what that means: a double dose of Kristin Hersh. My wandering spirit's especially excited about that prospect.
  3. The Bastille Day Celebration in Paris. I've always wanted to attend, and what better occasion than the 217th anniversary.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Out of the Woods

I hate computers.
I hate computers. (This had another ending.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Can Hear the Bones Creak

Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect going into The Fall's show at the Varsity Theater Monday night. Having only started listening to them a couple years ago, and having been alternately regaled and warned about their live shows, I was prepared to be any of the following: underwhelmed, turned off, smitten by Mark E. Smith's seemingly irresistable sex appeal, or smushed by overly aggressive dancers. As it turned out, none of those four possibilities unfolded -- instead, I was amused, entertained, energized, and more than a little dance-happy, as my Fall-lovin' roommate Mark points out in his review.

Backed by his wife and three adorable young'uns, Smith ambled out on stage for the first song looking like a cross between a mini-Lurch and an 80-year-old man attending his wife's funeral. But let me tell you, he designed a perfect set list for a new (albeit well-informed) listener. The trio of "Theme from Sparta FC," "Mountain Energei," and "Wrong Place, Right Time" had me exercising my vocal chords and Achilles tendons. When the official set ended with "I Can Hear the Grass Grow," it felt like the certain high point of the night -- until the band launched into "Mr. Pharmacist" during the first encore. Yipes. The red shiver of excitement that coursed through the crowd was nearly visible. Sure, I didn't know either of the two songs in the second encore, but by that point it didn't matter since I was, well, not smitten, but certainly charmed by Mr. Smith. He and the kids managed to pull off a damn fine performance with no discernible arse-like behavior. One of my all-time favorite gigs. (And not just cause it was so fun watching Mark's excitement grow as the concert approached...though that was pretty happy-making too.)

P.S. Despite Mark's assertion, M.E.S. most definitely was not sporting a soul patch.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Return of Arkanoid

Let's play catch-up:
  • While the recent Drive-By Truckers show was pretty entertaining (particularly that humble lyrical genius Mike Cooley), the most exciting thing that happened all night was discovering that First Ave has Arkanoid! I played two disappointing games before walking off wistfully, remembering my brick-conquering days of yore.

  • As Mark reported earlier, I am extremely pleased that the interior of the new Central Libe does not take after the rather underwhelming exterior of the building. The pseudo-industrial look manages to be both utilitarian and homey, what with the cool niches and all: a fireplace, Teen Central, piano rooms and a kids section that welcomes you with mechanical fireflies (or were they dragonflies?). Not to mention the overwhelmingly magnificent mystery section, situated conveniently next to the DVDs -- where I spotted The Umbrellas of Cherbourg only to have it snatched from under my nose (sort of). Anyway, big thumbs up for the opening event and the building itself.

  • Thanks to the above library trip, I've been scarfing down books like they were chocolate covered pretzels. Especially graphic novels: Persepolis and Persepolis 2 were eloquent, touching memoirs of Marjane Satrapi's youth and adolescence in Iran and as an Iranian in Austria; Box Office Poison is pure addictive soap operatic trash, but I love it. Next on my list: Cara Black's second Aimée Leduc mystery, Murder in Belleville.

  • My Mom has a blog! She's so cool.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

She Is Still Woman

Helen Reddy was giving an interview this morning as part of publicity for her new autobiography. Asked during the interview about the current state of feminism in America, Reddy stated she was a little concerned with how "everything" was going right now. Code for: Bush and his cronies suck.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Demain, dès l'aube

Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.
J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l'or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et, quand j'arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

--Victor Hugo

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Go with the Flow

Notoriously eco-friendly company Seventh Generation will send a pack of their tampons or pads to a women's shelter in your state for every virtual donation made at their website, TamPontification. Since menstrual products can cost women an estimated $40-$70 annually (by my rough calculations), this campaign could help out a lot of poor women who don't have that kind of cash to spare each month. [Thanks to the Women's Press for publicizing it.]

[Cross-posted at New Patriot.]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Vena Cava

  • I finally can listen to 50 Foot Wave's "Free Music" EP -- though I paid $5 to do it. (Very worthwhile, mind you.) If you have the computer means, you too can have the pleasure of listening to it here -- for free, as intended.

  • A fellow Carl is having a fundraiser through which you can decide his next hairstyle. Krusty the Clown? Gallagher? Bald? You decide. Believe me, this guy can pull any of 'em off. He's already raised over $3000 for various charities. You have about an hour left to cast your vote at the Hair Project.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

4-1:1-4; ?:Damon

Yes, the correct answer is Crisp. May 1st here we come.

For a more entertaining recap of the Sox's first few games, check out Soxaholix.

P.S. I recently had a birthday, along with all these fine folks. Manuel!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

"She kinda reminds me of Kristin Hersh..."

"...You know...from Throwing Muses?"

So declared the 20-something music nerd standing next to me at the Martha Wainwright / Neko Case show at First Ave. last night to his musically ignorant friends. His comparison piqued my interest -- mainly because I've never made the connection myself and they're two of my favorite artists. Sure, they both know their way around the ol' guitar strings, have simultaneously sultry and snarling voices, and are, well, goddam hot women. But to me the comparison ends there. Their songwriting styles are pretty dissimilar, as are their vibes on stage. Oh well, it was an interesting comment to kick off a semi-interesting musical night.

Poor Martha. Starting off her career playing second fiddle to her family, and now playing second fiddle to Neko Case. Martha even admitted as much: "These are not my fans; these are Neko's fans. These are who I want my fans to be." While I can confirm that the audience last night was mostly comprised of Nekophiles, I did notice a few other Martha diehards (and many instant converts). Of course, opening with "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole" is an easy way to win over a crowd, but they did stick with her through the entire set of searing vocals, stridant dance moves, and witty asides. (Apparently she pulled her cousin Sylvain out of college to pawn her merch. Her aunt is not happy.)

Yes, I'm a fan. But seeing her for the second time in a larger venue further convinced me of her brilliance. I had to bite my bottom lip repeatedly to keep my smile from leaping off my face. She has talent and charisma and thank god I could expend my post-set energy buying a t-shirt and EP and talking to her cousin.

Oh yeah. And then Neko played. She was good. Her cover of "Buckets of Rain" was fantastic. Hearing "I Wish I Was the Moon" and "Deep Red Bells" live was worth a good portion of the ticket price. The rest of the set I could have enjoyed as happily simply hearing the notes come out of my stereo speakers. Martha Wainwright she ain't.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Splish Splash, I Was Designing A Structure

Thanks to Ivars Peterson's The Mathematical Tourist, I have another mad scientist to lift up to one of my architectural pedestals: Frei Otto. The man uses the properties of soap bubbles to help him design mathematically beautiful structures, including the roofs of several Olympic buildings in Munich and the new train station in Stuttgart (soap model above). Almost as cool is soap film's simple solution to Steiner's four-cities problem.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No Whammy, No Whammy

Just last night I was remembering my childhood obsession with cheesey game shows and their hosts: Chuck Woolery on Scrabble and Love Connection, Wink Martindale on Bumper Stumpers and Tic Tac Dough, and the recently departed Peter Tomarken on Press Your Luck. Tomarken was never my favorite host -- I think Woolery's smarmy good looks and fashionable dress won me over at an impressionable age -- but he was certainly adequate and definitely better than that sad-sack Ray Combs. Plus, Tomarken and his wife died doing charitable work for Angel Flight, a non-profit that provides air transportation to needy medical patients. Not quite on par with Roberto Clemente, but Tomarken'll be remembered fondly.

As my exploration of the game show tragedy chain continued, I also ran across Michael Larson, the most successful Press Your Luck contestant of all time. Larson studied the patterns of lights on the PYL board and ended up winning over $100,000. While Larson managed to stay Whammy-free for an incredibly long time, his luck ended on that soundstage. In the years following his appearance, he lost $50,000 to an unknown thief, got a divorce, and died of throat cancer while running from the S.E.C.

Now I'm just biding my time until Ken Jennings gets busted for soliciting a prostitute and then dies in jail from dehydration.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I was born too late in the game to have seen this show at Club Babyhead in Providence in 1992. Babyhead closed in 1997, and to this day it remains a mystical venue that was always just out of my reach. Now pretty girls and boys grind on each other in the same space -- aptly called Club Hell -- where the likes of Throwing Muses, Husker Du, Lush, and The Breeders once graced the stage. What hath Cianci wrought?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My New Home

Hey! Check me out at New Patriot, where I've finally joined the ranks of Minnesotans who worship black and white pictures of women from the 19th century. I even consummated the relationship by submitting my first post.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Great Books?

Minnesota Women's Press has released its "2005 Great Books" list -- voted upon by women readers who participate in various MWP reading groups. Despite my recent increase in pleasure reading, I have to report that I've read not a one of these books. And given the descriptions (many of which give off the woman-on-a-search-for-self-journey vibe), I'm not sure I want to. There are a few that I may give a shot: Haweswater by Sarah Hall and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Telling, and...oh wait, that's it.

I know women are writing books that interest me: Nevada Barr, Sara Paretsky, Dana Stabenow, Dorothy Hughes, Ann Bannon, Ariel Schrag (!)...where are they on the list? Do mysteries and graphic novels not count as books?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Watson & Crick on Radical Feminism

In the latest Bitch issue, there's a fascinating interview with history-minded feminist Vivian Gornick, who offers this excellent answer to a rather broad and ridiculous question:

Q: In the 1990 New York Times Magazine article I mentioned earlier, you wrote, "Radical feminism is not wanted this year, perhaps not this decade." What do you think a contemporary radical feminism would look like, and how might it be galvanized?

A: The thing is, what radical feminism did in our time was put the terms in place. A good analogy would be when DNA was discovered by Crick and Watson. In the 1980s, I did a book on women and science, and I met many biologists, women and men alike, who all said that DNA was the great, astonishing, explosive discovery. They said, after that, it was all just putting the markers in place - the map was there, all they were doing was filling in the map. For some people, that was a way of explaining that they felt cheated at not being able to have won the Nobel Prize for themselves for this; some people felt demoralized; some people felt that now the drones would take over. And other people understood that if you kept on working hard, without the glamour of knowing you could win a Nobel Prize for figuring out DNA, you would make significant discoveries. And that, of course, is exactly what has happened in the past 25 years: All kinds of things have been [done] in science that they never dreamed of doing when they said, "Oh, it's all been discovered already."

That's the only thing I can offer you [laughs], that analogy. What I really mean is, keep on pressing thought to its deepest conclusion. Whatever insight anybody has into how women's rights somehow exemplify the human condition, existentially and politically and culturally, to that extent you do good work and you live a good life. Who knows what will be the next contribution that opens up another few hundered people to deeper thought about all this? That's my idea of radical feminism: Just think as deeply as you can about the usage that inequality for women has been put to. There are reasons for all the anxiety [about feminsim], and there are interesting questions to ask: Why is there such resistance? Why is it so unwanted by so many, men and women alike? Why is it so feared? What's really behind it?

Those are the things that Stanton turned to toward the end of her life when she got bored with suffrage [laughs], like we get bored with abortion.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dying of Thirst

This is some pretty shitty stuff.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Yeah, Karpinski is the former commander of Abu Ghraib, but why would she lie about this? Or about the lack of support for women soldiers reporting sexual assaults?

"It was out of control," Karpinski told a group of students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law last October. There was an 800 number women could use to report sexual assaults. But no one had a phone, she added. And no one answered that number, which was based in the United States. Any woman who successfully connected to it would get a recording. Even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hot line was still answered by a machine that told callers to leave a message.

Murder by dehydration, maybe that's their game, hmm?* Seriously, this is messed up. Women afraid to drink water in the desert so they don't have to pee in the middle of the night and face rape from their peers? Ain't the military wonderful?

[*Frivolous M.B.D. reference.]

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Top 10 Reasons Why George W. Bush is Responsible for My Drunken State

10. He immediately invoked a true American hero, Coretta Scott King.

9. He severely altered my understanding of world geography -- is the world really only composed of the United States and the Middle East?

8. I'm extremely nervous now that terrorists like bin Laden may "seize power in Iraq and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world" or "murder children in Beslan." Boy, that bin Laden sure gets around!

7. I have to re-think my whole life philosophy, as I always thought there was peace and honor in retreat.

6. I am wracking my brain trying to identify the "appropriate members of Congress."

5. He made me fucking scared about U.S. dependency on natural resources from other countries, especially from the Middle East. But, see, I thought in 2003 our fair nation was responsible for 20 percent of the world's production of natural gas. I'd tell you the most current figures for crude oil too, but that page seems to be conveniently absent from the online PDF version of the Statistical Abstract. You'll have to be satisfied with the 2000 figure, when the U.S. was third in the world in crude oil production.

4. I hadn't realized we were only allowing immigrants into the U.S. to take shitty jobs that "real" American's didn't want. Now I have to shift my support away from immigrants' rights to drivers licenses, public education, and welfare benefits.

3. He appears to consider the existence of 45.8 million uninsured Americans to be an adequate "meeting the responsibility" of providing health care for the poor and the elderly. Especially when 24.3 percent of people with incomes below $25,000 were uninsured, I fail to see how Americans are meeting said responsibility. Get me a drink.

2. He credits the reduction in abortions in this country to "support for abstinence and adoption," when every sensible person knows that abstinence-only education is a farce that is harmful to teens' sexuality. The Guttmacher Institute (and Henry Waxman) have demonstrated the falsity of information that is meted out by the nation's most popular abstinence programs. Uh, maybe the decline in abortions is due to more responsible use of birth control, or perhaps to the horrendous lack of abortion providers in certain parts of the country? (Yeah, only 13 percent of counties in the United States are home to doctors who provide abortion services.)

1. My ears will never recover from hearing Bush utter the word "rostrum." Vaguely sexual, vaguely school-marmish, it disturbed me to no end.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ring Around the Collar

I usually find Jacob Reitan's "Faith in Action" columns in Lavender hokey and boring. But his recent interview with Father Bob Pierson -- the priest who resigned his position as Campus Minister at St. John's University following the Vatican's pronouncement on gay priests -- was actually quite interesting, though mostly due to Pierson's logical responses.

I don’t think that it is healthy for young men, or young women for that matter, to run away from their sexuality. My concern would be that if people start doing that to embrace their sense of religious vocation, we are going to end up with lots of unhealthy celibates, because they are not dealing with their sexuality properly.

Nice that Pierson's finally becoming disillusioned with the Church's approach to sexuality. Wonder why the Church's approach to women didn't get to him first.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bigger than Roe

As if Alito's potential (and likely) threat to Roe v Wade weren't enough to make any feminist squirm, his other prior decisions demonstrate that he is a threat to much more than women's right to bear -- or not to bear -- tykes. He has proven to be less than supportive of race and sex discrimination claims on the job (Sheridan v E.I. Dupont De Nemours and Company; Bray v. Marriott Hotels); and apparently isn't so fond of the FMLA (Chittister v Department of Community and Economic Development). See the National Women's Law Center Alito Report for the full sordid details.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sufjan and M.I.A. Be Damned

In writing last year’s Top 10 Albums, I claimed, “I don’t have it in my blood to put anybody above Kristin Hersh.” Well, this year’s list proves that my blood has been slightly tainted over the past year: two albums actually out-ranked 50 Foot Wave’s 2005 release Golden Ocean. And they weren't Sufjan Stevens and M.I.A.

1. Martha WainwrightS/T
Martha’s long been lost in the crowd that is her talented family. Singing back-up for Rufus and the McGarrigles aren’t bad gigs, sure, but her B.M.F.A. EP and sporadic one-woman performances at Rufus shows indicated that she was after something more. With this debut full-length, she went out and snatched the spotlight by the ovaries. It’s been pointed out that some of her lyrics need work. I agree. But even with some lackluster wordsmithing, this is still the best album released in 2005. From the beautiful songwriting of “Far Away” and “Who Was I Kidding?” to the searing bite of “Factory” and “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole,” this album fucking rules. Little bro’s gonna have to pull a big one out of his hat to top his sis next go 'round.

2. Sleater-KinneyThe Woods
Am I biased towards The Woods because this is the first S-K album that I’ve purchased within even a year of its release date? Am I biased towards it because I finally saw them live this year and nearly exploded with excitement and love afterwards? Is that why I rank it so high despite bizarrely widespread distaste for the “direction the band has taken”? Hell no, I ain’t biased towards anything. The Woods is rocking - coming through stereo speakers or live in concert - and that shouldn’t scare anyone off. Blast the album, sing along with Carrie to “Modern Girl,” and be happy. I know I am.

3. 50 Foot WaveGolden Ocean
Ah, the inevitable Kristin Hersh appearance. Infinitely re-playable for sure, but Golden Ocean’s basically a simmering expansion of last year’s six-song EP, which is why I couldn’t rank it higher. Still, “Long Painting” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard and the rest of the album is blisteringly punky with Kristin’s unmistakable voice topping everything off.

4. The Go! TeamThunder, Lightning, Strike
Technically a 2004 release, but an expanded version was released in the U.S. in 2005, so I’m keeping it in. Pure, unadulterated dance-joy. For more, check out my earlier review.

5. Antony and the JohnsonsI Am a Bird Now
Like Macy Gray’s voice, Antony’s is one that either grates on your nerves or makes you praise whichever sperm and egg came together to help mold those vocal chords. Obviously, I belong to the sperm-and-egg-praising group. Filled with stellar guest appearances (including Lou Reed and Mr. Wainwright, yet again), Antony leaves no doubt as to whose album it really is. Special thanks to Hot Doorknobs for letting me borrow it initially. Thankfully, I now have my own copy, so I don’t have to travel to Brooklyn to listen to it.

6. Detroit CobrasBaby
One of the most fun live bands around (see #7 for another one), this album is great at communicating their live energy and sass. “I Wanna Holler,” “It’s Raining,” and “The Real Thing” are particularly fantastic. And stick around for the attached Seven Easy Pieces EP featuring the rambunctious “99 and a Half Just Won’t Do.”

7. Old Time Relijun2012
This album kicks off with two heart-stopping tracks -- "Chemical Factory" and "Los Angeles" -- and only gives you a couple songs thereafter that are tame (or ridiculous) enough to get it started again. Those there being filled with saxophonic squawks and mouth organ dilly-dallying. Skip those, love the rest.

8. Kate and Anna McGarrigleThe McGarrigle Christmas Hour
What, a Christmas album? Damn straight. Now that the presents have been opened, I’ve tucked this one back on the shelf. But guaranteed in mid-January I’ll be pulling it out again so I can hear the beautiful opening track, “Seven Joys of Mary,” or Martha’s fantastically bitter “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” Extra cheers for the traditional French carol medley, “Il est né/ça bergers,” which brought back some bizarre pew-seated memories. And never have I enjoyed “Blue Christmas” more than Chaim Tannenbaum’s (??) version.

9. Juliana HatfieldMade in China
Boy, does the title of this album's opening track aptly describe Juliana -- "New Waif." She is certainly scarily tiny now. But she still knows how to elicit some big sound out of that guitar of hers. Not my favorite album of the year (right, it's #9, see), but I definitely dig it. Especially "What Do I Care": "What the fuck?/It's a miracle I'm even here" and "My Pet Lion": "I got tricks to keep me in line...Like sitting on my hands." Is there something you're trying to tell us, Juliana?

10. The FallFall Heads Roll
No, this isn’t just a dutiful nod to Mark’s favorite band. This album truly is great. Well, at least it definitely has some great tunes ("Pacifying Joint" and "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" for sure), with a minimum amount of Mark E Smith squealing, and a maximum amount of his rad lyrics and sneers. I mean, who wouldn't enjoy his swaggering nonchalance throughout "Ride Away"? "Uh hey hey!"

Honorable mentions: The SoviettesLP III; The Hold SteadySeparation Sunday; The PositionsBliss. And a special congrats to Rufus Wainwright who appears on three of these albums, none of which are his. That’s gotta be worth something.

Happy New Year's, y'all.