Pop Life

Saturday, February 28, 2004

 
PACHINKO!
UPDATED 3/1


  • First, something serious: I first saw this over at Fimoculous. Author/scholar Naomi Wolf recently wrote a New York magazine story about how, 20 years ago at Yale, Harold Bloom made sexual advances on her. Wolf's point in writing the essay, ostensibly, is to raise the issue of how Yale maintains a wall of silence around incidents of sexual harassment and, in essence, is uncaring about how women are treated at the institution.

    For anyone who's ever been in the academy, Wolf's points are important though hardly a revelation. My own department at UC Berkeley has had a scandalous record - like probably ALL college departments - and most of these incidents have been quietly swept under the carpet or ignored completely. Frankly, given that I could care less about Harold Bloom (his intellectual conservatism aided the cause of the Right during the '90s Culture Wars), I also thought Wolf was raising important issues about the ways in which sex is wielded as a weapon on college campuses, usually to the detriment of women.

    I mean, this shouldn't be a surprise to say that women have it pretty bad in academia. They, across the board, are tenured at a lower rate than men. They find it far more difficult to raise a family then their male counterparts. I'm sure they're also likely to get paid less for all this. And of course, there's the issue of sexual harassment which, whether manifesting in college football recruitment parties or in someone's office hours, seems never too far away from the Ivory Tower.

    Yet, instead of being supported, Wolf is getting attacked from everywhere. Here's just a partial listing:
    • In the Chronicle of Higher Education, the reporter quotes Camille Paglia (jesus, isn't she so five minutes ago yet?) as such: When she was a graduate student there more than three decades ago, [Paglia] said, her fellow female graduate students "were having affairs right and left with faculty members." "I never did," she said. "It wasn't my style, but women freely chose. No one felt that they were abused."

      This has to be one of the most absurd defenses I've ever seen mounted...maybe Paglia was quoted out of context but she makes it seem like NO kind of coerced sexual situations existed at Yale in the early '80s and given that I know this kind of shit happens NOW within the academy, I find it highly unlikely that Yale would have been so unblemished in its past. Plus, Paglia is about one step from saying, "they asked for it." I agree with Paglia's point that women are not these meek flowers waiting to be plucked by male professors - they have agency, certainly - but in trying to counter Wolf's claims, Paglia seems to step far past the other side of the line.

    • At least the Chronicle was trying to be objective. Editorials in The New York Observer as well as Slate.com go on the unabashed offensive on Wolf, trying to destroy her story's credibility, questioning her motives and defending Yale's actions.

      In Slate, Meghan O'Rouke sounds less a culture editor (her formal title) and more like a cruty legal analyst. Here's a typical passage: Yale's response to her disclosure of a 1983 offense is not necessarily predictive of its response to a present-day offenseŚnot just because the statute of limitations for what Bloom did to Wolf expired 18 years ago, but also because what Bloom did may not have been explicitly wrong by Yale's standards at the time and by law (though from our vantage point it looks sleazy).. I understand O'Rourke's point - one should be careful in bashing Yale today for what it may or may not have done 18 years ago - but even though the Slate author argues that "this may sound like splitting hairs," it really does seem like O'Rourke is splitting hairs and missing the forest for the trees.

      In fact, O'Rourke's piece bears a disturbing similarity to fellow Slate writer Jack Shafer's obsessions with debunking Peter Landesman's New York Times Magazine story on sex slaves in the U.S.. What is it over at Slate? Is there something in the water cooler out there that encourages them to become nitpicky gnats over small details while losing sight of the bigger picture? I'm all for journalistic credibility too but O'Rourke is picking an odd fight.
    I fail to really understand what the hell is so outrageous about Wolf's claims? A male professor hit on her in an inappropriate manner and Yale is failing to deal with that. I mean, seriously, what the hell is so surprising with this?

  • Congresswoman Lynn Woolsley tried to intervene on behalf of an accused rapist in a case involving a 17 year old Asian American woman who was assaulted and raped by the son of one of Woolsley's aids. (In predictable but still pathetic fashion, ultra-right-wing conservative commentator Michelle Malkin put Woolsley on blast, calling her a "rapist-loving feminist.")
    (both spotted at angryasianman.com)

  • We're in awe of Sasha Frere-Jones who just wrote his first of at least six upcoming pop culture/music stories for The New Yorker, beginning with a fantastic profile of the enigmatic disco-era producer and musical provocteur, Arthur Russell.

  • Saw this over at, IMDB.com's "People in the News" gossip column: Gibson's 'Passion' Sparks Christian Fashion Craze
      Mel Gibson's new movie The Passion Of The Christ has inspired a new craze across America for Christian-themed jewelry. The hit film, which follows the final 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life, is at the center of continued controversy with accusations of potentially inciting anti-Semitism. But as well as fierce debate, the movie has also led hordes of people to buy such souvenirs as crucifixes, lapel pins and cards tied to the film's promotion. A particularly popular item is a pendant fashioned from a single nail made of pewter and attached to a leather strap, say officials of Bob Siemon Designs, licensed by Gibson's Icon Productions to produce jewelry linked to the film. The pendants represent the nails used in the film to fasten Christ to the cross. The company has shipped around 75,000 cross pendants to Christian bookstores across America and approximately the same amount of nail pendants.

  • "Smart is sexy" - so says the tagline for Rightstuffdating.com, the "Ivy League of dating." Sharon and I came upon this - of all places - on the backpage of the SF Bay Guardian, next to ads for penis enlargement, bartending school and nude modeling offers. I took a look at the site and it's basically designed for lonely, elitist graduates and faculty at a "select group of excellent universities" which, includes Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Harvard, etc. but only one public school from what I could see: UC Berkeley (woo hoo! I feel so validated...) Just to make this very clear, here's what they say: "To join you must be a graduate or a faculty member from one of our group of excellent schools. You may provide proof or we will verify your status for you." Yes, that's right folks - if you're from UT Austin, UC San Diego, NYU, Hampshire, Williams and Mary, etc., you need not bother applying. Wow, this is like intellectual eugenics.


  • How come no one thought of this sooner? It's the Chinese Restaurant Project, whose mission it is to "collect the take-out menus from every Chinese restaurant in the USA."
    (also spotted at angryasianman.com)

  • I found this blog, Girls Are Weird, because author Theresa linked to my recent gay marriage postings. She has good things to say on the subject herself, but I'm also enjoying reading her voluminous opinions about everything from the Grey Album and copyright, to the upcoming Beyonce, Missy and Alicia Keys tour. My favorite though? Theresa's confessionals about her dating history. She does claim elsewhere that she has a penchant for attracting bastards and apparently, that's no exaggeration.
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  • Friday, February 27, 2004

     
    FOUR THOUSAND WORDS



    (seen at lowculture.com)

    (seen at Hella Hip-Hop)

    (photo by Philip Sherburne)


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    Thursday, February 26, 2004

     
    CHECK THIS OUT

    I would have just added this to my blog update below but it deserves its own spotlight. Let Them Sing It For You stores a database of different words from a variety of pop songs (for example, for "I", it uses Chris Isaac's wailing "I" from "I Don't Want To Fall In Love"). Then, you program in a phrase you want it to "translate" for you into these song bits. The results, to be sure, are wacky - though, in all fairness, it's not anything that the folks at Plunderphonics or anyone who's ever played with spliced tape, hasn't done before. It just makes it more tech accessible.

    It's not a perfect system. I was able to get it to translate some of these favorite lyrics o' mine from Public Enemy's "Don't Believe the Hype: "back, caught you looking for the same thing, it's a new thing, check out this I bring." But when I put in these Tribe Called Quest lyrics, "back in the day when I was teenager, before I had status and before I had a pager," the site didn't have the words "teenager," "status" or "pager" in its database. I'm pretty damn sure Ghostface wouldn't work so hot in this either. Still, it's bound to keep you amused for at least a little while.
    (spotted at usefulnoise)
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    ANOTHER BLOG TOUR
    UPDATED


  • Are Outkast guilty of "red face"? Kandia Crazy Horse thinks so in a well-written criticism of Outkast's performance at the Grammy Awards this year.

  • I could care less about seeing The Passion of the Christ, but props to Lowculture.com for their "Man on the Cross Street survey". Comedy.

  • On the Passion tip: "Women Dies During Screening". Looks like Mel Gibson kept the scenes of graphic violence a little TOO real.
    (spotted at catchdubs)

  • This is dumb hot. I'm not even a huge dub fan per se, but this Dub Selector interactive flash jawn has me open like a bag of candy. For real - you could spend hours here, channeling your inner Lee Perry. The crazy thing is that it's damn near impossible for you to sound off-riddim here (hint: someone should tell American Idol singers about that).
    (spotted at catchdubs)

  • Asian moms are a consistent lot. Triet over at Effervescently Meaningless posted an email from his mom and I swear my mom could have sent this too, scary.

  • Imaginary Girlfriends. Basically, it's like phone sex except it's by letter and there's less sex involved. Brilliant? Evil? Both? But hell, this ain't nothing new - we've ALL had imaginary boy/girlfriends - this just takes some of the imagination out of it all.
    (spotted at fimoculous)

  • Speaking of imaginary girlfriends, Nerve.Com's Grant Stoddard tests out the "Real Doll" and has the photos to prove it. Disturbing yet oddly alluring all the same...
    (spotted at lowculture.com)

  • Not only is this (fake?) ad for Nutrigrain bars funny as all hell, but they got a dope Ananda Shankar sitar funk track pumping underneath. The director, Justin Reardon, has a collection of similarly bugged out clips - check out his Nintentdo ad.
    (spotted at The Black Table's Black List)

  • From fake ads to real ones, those Quiznos ads, with the singing rodent puppets or whatever the hell those possum-lik mutations are, are plenty disturbing but not nearly as disturbing as the originals. Listen to the original theme, called "We Like the Moon" as sung by Joel Veitch and his "spongmonkeys."

  • There are few rules you should really observe in society. Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. Be kind to children and animals. Give up your seat on the bus for little old ladies. And do not, for the love of god, battle Jessica Hopper. Our girl Hopper was complaining about how the new issue of the Fader includes photography bordering on kiddie porn and this dumb ass, wanna-be Gavin McInnes-type responded in his blog, aiming for smarmy but landing on asshole instead. In a just world, this dude deserves a raging case of open genital sores. Or at least to get his car keyed. Whatever's clever.
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  •  
    STILL LOST: LOST IN TRANSLATION DVD REVIEW
    UPDATED


    nice slippers


    Just in time for Oscars, me and Sharon meld minds about why Lost in Translation ain't worth the hype.

    Actually, my favorite criticism of the film may actually have come from Hua who said, "I was more annoyed that they made it seem like Japanese people looked up to Roger Moore."

    Just to show that it's not just us, Lost in Translation got slammed in Japan Today. The film is just about to open in Tokyo and you'd have be pretty naive to think that at least some Japanese filmgoers won't be a little pissed off about it. If it flops over there, 1) no one should be surprised and 2) it should give American cheerleaders of the film some pause.
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    Wednesday, February 25, 2004

     
    ONE MORE THING ABOUT THE "OPPRESSION OLYMPICS"

    I originally wrote what I am posting below on a message board, in response to a post that took umbrage to the idea that racism and homophobia are equivalent in their history or level of oppression. This person was arguing that gays and lesbians have not suffered either the day-to-day oppression that people of color have to deal with because of racism, nor have they experienced the kind of large-scale acts of oppression that have accompanied, for example, the treatment of African slaves.

    This has not been an uncommon reaction by some sectors of communities of color who have bristled at the attempt to relate current queer rights activism to the Civil Rights Movement or similar movements lead by people of color for racial justice. I wanted to state, in no uncertain words, how I feel about this kind of intolerance towards queer rights by people who should really know better:

    "The Oppression Olympics" refers to the idea that somehow, you can deny someone their suffering in order to posit your own. People who play the Oppression Olympics get so hung up on their own entitlement to being the Chosen Ones of Fucked Up History that they're defensive that anyone else would try to lay claim to that legacy, even in what is clearly a show of solidarity.

    After all, it's not like gay and lesbian activists are trying to hijack the Civil Rights Movement's legacy and in the process, somehow minimize the African American experience. What they have done is tried to draw parallels between the ill-logic of racism with the ill-logic of homophobia. What could possibly be the point of forging walls between communities who have BOTH suffered terribly in the course of history?

    As a visible person of color and someone who studies race and racism, I'm fully aware of the complicated and abhorrent histories suffered by all kinds of communities. Because of that, it seems to me that it's far more socially powerful and progressive to MAKE linkages between people rather than seek to separate and treat oppression as a competition to see who has been fucked over worse. Which is worse? The near-genocide of this country's indigeneous population or the Middle Passage of African slaves or the Jewish Holocaust? And if you choose one as the "winner" does that negate the other two? I certainly hope not - these are all terrible examples of humanity gone awry and ALL need to be remembered if we are to avoid repeating them again.

    The ban against gay marriage is, in its civil ill-logic, almost identical to the hysteria that created anti-miscegenation laws in the 19th century. People quoted the Bible, they spoke about how "unnatural" it was for races to mix, blah blah blah. I mean, even as recently as 40 years ago, states actually had laws ON THE BOOKS that forbade marriages between whites and people of color. Nowadays, we can all agree that such laws were absolutely ludicrous. So is it with the issues around gay marriage. There is a linkage here, one that cannot and should not be denied.

    May I also invoke the memory of Audre Lorde, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and others who, throughout their lives, struggled with the so-called "love that dare not speak its name". These men and women recognized that their oppression came along multiple axes of power - they were decried for being BOTH Black and queer and I very much doubt they would have ever sought to divide their suffering into neat boxes that could be weighed on a scale against one another.

    I suspect that part of the ire might come from the fact that homosexuality is treated as a form of whiteness among some people of color. Within communities of color, queers are often treated as traitors and outcasts but lest we forget, there are MILLIONS of queer Blacks, Asians, Latinos, etc. in the U.S. who are doubly marginalized - both from outside society and within their own community. Dare I say, for them, racism and homophobia are not forms of oppression that oppose or negate one another but are part of a larger web of discrimination and intolerance that billions around this world suffer from.

    Now is not the time to be splitting hairs or playing the Oppression Olympics. Now is the time that all of us who have ever suffered under the weight of intolerance - whether as people of color, as the underclass, as women, etc. to recognize the wisdom of James Baldwin as he said unto Angela Davis:

    "Some of us white and black know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unpresedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, were are worse than the murderers hired in our name. If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own - which it is - and render impassible with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night."

    Think about it.
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    Tuesday, February 24, 2004

     
    BUSH SUPPORTS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO BAN GAY MARRIAGE: GUESS WHO'S PANICKING NOW?

    According to CNN, President Bush has come out in support of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

    Up until now, despite all the polls and all the scuttlebutt about Bush being vulnerable in November, I never really believed that he was going to lose...mostly because I'm cynical. This presidency, as many of you out there will agree, has been beyond our worst nightmares and as much as we wish we could wave a wand and make Bush disappear, but he's proven to be supririsingly tenacious and able to get the American public to side with his most of his policies, no matter how contentious or misguided the rest of of us find them.

    Finally, I'm starting to change my mind. By supporting this Amendment, Bush is revealing his own vulnerability and desperation. I don't doubt, in my mind, that on a moral level, Bush believes that he's doing the right thing but no one as politically coached as Bush is would ever come to this kind of public decision without ulterior gain in mind. This is, simple, naked and plain, an attempt at forcing an election-year issue that can drive a wedge between himself and his Democratic opponents.

    It may yet work. The majority of Americans do not support gay marriage and it's safe to assume that a large number of them would be all in favor of an amendment. Whether or not the amendment would ever pass (keep reading below) is almost besides the point: if the Republican machine can whip the public into a paranoid frenzy around gay marriage and use it to club the Democrats with, Bush may have made a very shrewd (albeit reprehensible) political move. The Demos have already come out blasting Bush's plan, which likely plays into the President's gambit but at least they're doing the right thing. We hope.

    This could, however, seriously backfire on Bush. It is very hard, in this day and age, to campaign on such a blatant show of intolerance even with presumed, populist support. Moreover, let's face it: Constitutional amendments are no easy sell. This country, in the 1970s, failed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, a far, far less radical proposition (hey, men and women are equal!) than what is being floated out now. With the exception of Prohibition (and we saw how well that went), most amendments don't limit rights, they create them. Even though most of the major Democratic candidates do not support gay marriage, they also do not support a ban on it, preferring to leave it up to the states to decide (it's a bullshit, cop-out move - "states rights" gets trotted out anytime a federal politician wants to take a pass on making a stand). It is highly unlikely this Amendment will make it out of Congress UNLESS the Republicans are able to wield it in such a way as to force scared Democrats to vote their way in order to save future Congressional seats.

    Even then, it's also questionable whether people in the states would actually ratify this. Despite the opposition to gay marriage, I would hope and I have some faith in the idea that many Americans would realize that taking a step to ban gay marriage, at the Constitutional level, is one step too far. Like I said, I could be wrong about that, but I still have some faith in my fellow citizens.

    The only good thing I see out of this right now though is that it's a sign that Bush is panicked and ready to do whatever he needs to do get people's minds off of Iraq and the non-existent WMD, off of the economy and its shortcomings for working people, off of Bush's fumbling of international relations, off of his sketchy military record during the Vietnam War, off of the deficit, etc. etc. He thinks gay marriage is his trump card but he's playing it now because he knows he's vulnerable. At last - something good out of an otherwise bad day.
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    IT'S GREY TUESDAY

    don't you have this yet?


    Grey Tuesday is upon us - for those who slept, you can download DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album today. If you don't still don't know what that is, you're hopeless - skip this thread, go below and read about Lost In Translation or something.
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    Monday, February 23, 2004

     
    MEDIA SPINS: GAY MARRIAGE
    HIP-HOP AND BLACK HISTORY
    THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
    AND...SEX AND THE CITY


  • I don't know why I feel surprised but I wasn't expecting the Indianapolis Star to have a huge opinion - let alone three of them - about the current gay marriage controversy in San Francisco. However, the Star commissioned three columnists to share their opinions about the current situation and they offer a summary of the three columns. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, but all three are at least nominally supportive. One is flat out supportive and the other seem to pass the buck to judicial and legislative decision-makers but none come out and say, "this is wrong wrong wrong...damn these crazy Bay Area queers to hell." Refreshing - who knew Indy was so progressive?

    Meanwhile, here in San Francisco, S.F. Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders writes a strangely critical view on gay marriage. I say strangely because her logic is impeccably flawed - she prefers the "oh my god, they're breaking the law" approach and dismisses the idea that couples who are getting married in S.F. right now are practicing a form of "civil disobedience." She's apparently appalled that people would compare the current gay marriage controversy with the Black Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s, arguing that CRM pioneers like Rosa Parks faced far more hostile receptions in the South of that era than any of these gay couples do in San Francisco. This doesn't work for me on multiple levels.

    1) Saunders wants to play what labor historian Robin Kelley has called "comparative suffering" and which I prefer to deem "the oppression Olympics" where one group posits their oppression as superior to another's, thereby negating that the other group even undergoes any suffering. I don't know if Saunders really wants to get into a debate about which is more hateful - racism or homophobia - and given her severe lack of historical knowledge, I don't think anything she'd have to say on the topic would be particularly credible.

    2) After all, she writes of Rosa Parks, "In 1955, Parks was a lone black woman on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, who after a hard day of work, courageously refused a driver's edict to give up her seat to a white man." This, of course, is the familiar myth of Rosa Parks as the "lone black woman" but scores of historians, including the aforementioned Kelley, have debunked this, pointing out that Parks was part of a much larger civil rights movement in Montgomery and that her decision to refuse to move to the back of the bus was neither random nor lone but part of a calculated strategy laid out by local CRM groups. Parks was part of this larger movement in every way possible and in this respect, it is not outrageous to compare queer couples getting married in San Francisco with her. After all, both are doing so in the face of widespread local, state, federal and cultural opposition. Both are doing so with the knowledge that they join a larger movement towards what they think is the morally right thing to do. I'm not saying that the queer rights movement and CRM are equivalent - they come from two entirely different eras, but that doesn't mean that they aren't comparable. One gets the feeling that you could easily go back to 1955 and find a columnist like Saunders decrying the Montgomery Bus Strikes as illegal and unworthy of support. The thing is - Saunders will absolutely be on the wrong side of history when this all goes down even if she doesn't know it yet.

    3) Saunders writes: "Rosa Parks stood firm in hostile territory, the segregation-era South... Segregation was a system that subjected blacks to relentless humiliation.San Francisco is gay-centric." The comparison here is totally disingenuous - as Saunder herself writes, Parks was in hostile territory, meaning the ENTIRE SOUTH. Well, last I checked, S.F. is gay-centric BUT THE REST OF THE NATION, hell, the rest of THE WORLD is not. That seems like fairly hostile territory to me.

    4) Saunders also writes, "When Rosa Parks defied the law, her fate and the outcome of her cause were uncertain. In San Francisco, the issue of gay rights has been settled in every area but marriage. As Jesse Jackson noted, gays always could vote and enjoyed other rights. The only question left is whether same-sex marriage can be called marriage -- and there are plenty of gay people who don't care about the outcome." First of all, Jesse Jackson is just wrong on all this - read Margaret Cho's recent reply to him. Second of all, the statement that "there are plenty of gay people who don't care about the outcome" is even more abhorrently disingenuous than her previous statement. No doubt, in any civil rights movement - be it based on race, class, gender, etc. - you will find many who are just fine with the status quo. In the case of the CRM, there were many Blacks who had no real issue with segregation and did not "care about the outcome." That, however, does not change the moral issue at hand here.

    True, there are many queers who feel like the institution of marriage is a flawed one (many straights couples believe this too) and I think that's a perfectly fine stance to take - I may even agree with the logic. But marriage, by its very treatment under the law IS a civil right. It is a pact that is recognized, endorsed, even rewarded by the state. As such, to approve it for one segment of the population (straight couples) while denying it to others (queer couples) is a fairly clear case of civil prejudice and discrimination. Whether all queers support the idea of gay marriage or not is besides the point.

    By the way, in a previous column, Saunders also compares the current situation to a hypothetical one were polygamists began clamoring for marriage rights. This is a cheap card to play - one that many conservatives have already deployed. I don't think it's even worth trying to debunk except to say that it's far easier to prove that polygamy is a damaging social practice (since it historically, in the U.S., has been used to subjugate women) in ways that queer relationships are not. Ok, next!

    5) Lastly, Saunders writes, "As for the self-congratulatory term "civil disobedience" -- well, the civil part is missing. Hello. It can't be civil disobedience when there is no civil penalty, and there is a government sponsor." Well Debra - you are right in pointing out that said couples don't face persecution by the city since the city is essentially endorsing the current trend, but how did you manage to overlook that these couples are facing the sure-to-come wrath of the state and federal government? At least in the case of Montgomery and other flash spots in the CRM, actvists could nominally (and I stress "nominally") count on the support of the federal government that was supposed to have protected them - and in rare cases, a begrudging JFK and Lyndon Johnson did so by sending in the National Guard to help desegregate schools and cities. Queer activists are facing a President who is theoretically contemplating a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage or at least, some kind of federal legislation to that effect.

    It's a complete reversal, in some ways, of the CRM experience where organizers had to contend with a hostile local government and indifferent but theoretically supportive federal government. In this case, we have a supportive local government but an unquestionably hostile state and federal government. I'm not sure if anyone should really make the argument about which is better or worse. Surely, I'd rather be queer in San Francisco right now than Black in Montgomery circa 1955, but then again, I'm not sure if I'd rather be gay in Montgomery right now or Black in San Francisco in 1955. These kind of historical attempts at non-critical equivalence (vs. simply noting the moral parallels) are inherently flawed and no self-respecting historian would try it. Saunders is no historian, no comment on whether she's self-respecting or not.

    6) Let me just state this again - those who oppose gay marriage on the grounds that it's illegal or immoral are on the wrong side of history. And you can huff and puff all you want about how wrong I may be for saying that but there are few things I am more certain of. Just an anti-miscegenation laws were morally indefensible a scant 50 years ago, the current opposition to gay marriage will similarly be recognized in the same way. It won't happen tomorrow but it will happen.


  • The Toronto Star recently published a story about how black youth respond to hip-hop and how the music/culture has shaped the public's perception of them. In the Star article, several of Toronto's Black youth express frustration with how they only understanding that people seem to have about contemporary Blackness comes exclusively through hip-hop. For example, it quotes one Cara Eastcott, a high school senior, complaining that during her school's Black History Month assembly, "There was nothing about the civil rights movement, the struggles people had to go through in Canada ? still do ? the diverse black community here, blacks in politics. It was just one big hip-hop talent show. It was a BET (Black Entertainment Television) video ? basketball, bling bling and hip-hop, that's what black culture was."

    This is an important topic - and not one that's gotten a lot of play save Ta-Nehisi Coates' Village Voice article from last June about 50 Cent and the representation of Blackness in contemporary media. While it's become quite fashionable to talk about hip-hop's multicultural community and mass appeal to many beyond the Black community, as a media-driven music and culture, hip-hop still represents Blackness to most around the world. The images and ideas that hip-hop espouses may be consumed by a rainbow coalition but they still largely only represent Blackness (ok, Aesop and Slug aside). No wonder many Black youth would be angry with the ways in which their realities are represented (or not) through the media machine of hip-hop. It must be even more infuriating to see the ways in which Blackness becomes uncritically consumed, appropriated and paraded by a variety of other youth, Black, White, Asian and otherwise. I hope this piece, along with Coates', helps to invigorate more discussion about the ways in which hip-hop mediates Blackness to the wider public and the social consequences that arise thereof. Ironically, for a music that's so traditionally thought of as race-conscious, the racial debate has all but disappeared from contemporary conversations around hip-hop. It's high time race comes back into it since, as many have always known, it never left to begin with.

  • I have absolutely no interest in going to go see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (I find Christianity, as a whole, off-putting so you can only imagine my antipathy towards Gibson's particular orthodoxy) but I thought David Denby's review of the film for the The New Yorker to be one of the more intelligent and articulate critiques of the film - one that doesn't solely play the anti-Semitisim card but also notes that Gibson's view of Christ undermines the benevolent nature of Jesus that the mainstream Christian Church has cultivated for eons.

  • I'm not just putting Sex and the City last because it's rather more frivalous than the previous three topics but let me just say: the series finale was kind of wack. Provided, it is tough to wrap up any series and I suppose we should all feel blessed that there wasn't some bizarre "this was all the creation of an autistic imagination" (St. Elsewhere) or "let's get Joannie and Cha Chi married" (Happy Days) send-off but SATC tried to do just a 'lil too much in too little time. Only Miranda's self-contained storyline - dealing with Steve's aging and increasingly senile mother - had real heart to it. Charlotte's baby quest was busted ass tired three seasons ago and while it's nice to know Samantha doesn't always have to play the unrepetent slut, she hit her high point earlier in the season with her breast cancer battle and is now little more than a narrative afterthought.

    As for Carrie. *sigh* Well, I'm glad she ended up with Big John but for chrissake, what terrible writing and thin chemistry between the two of them. 'Cuse me for saying this but after six seasons of Big torture, it would have been nice to have enjoyed the two of them having more of a moment together than Chris Noth saying, "Carrie, you're the one." It's enough to make you reach for the air sickness bag. Unlike other detractors, I'm not mad at how they resolved Carrie and Petrovsky's relationship except to say she should have noticed he was single-minded and self-centered long before he asked her to come to Paris. It took her until now to figure that out? And damn, her heartbreak lasted about as long as it takes to pop a bag of microwave popcorn. Oh well.

    Anyways, Sopranos kicks off March 7th, with season three of The Shield coming about a week or so later. Woo hoo!
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