Saturday, December 8, 2007


The Holiday Hawk is back, although it has been deleted from Wikipedia as advertising spam. I was struck by Sierra Mist's decision to return this commercial, given how inflammatory it will appear to those who wilfully misconstrue the word "holiday" as an assault on Christmas. (These same people, of course, forget that Christ was not born in December and the assignation of Christmas to that date was an assault on pre-Christian religions, the ultimate in cooptation.)

I have a hard time believing this angle has not been discussed at Sierra Mist, and they have consciously chosen to go with the majority on this one: Wishing someone "Happy Holidays" is a respectful way of extending good will without forcing them into YOUR religious expression. I don't remember the "Seasonal Squirrel" from 2006 -- if it's new, it's a clever extension of the theme. Makes me want to go out and buy a Sierra Mist on the spot. And if this is the thin edge of the wedge, bring it on, baby.

And -- speaking of pop culture and waaayyy too much time watching TV, here's a site that Geek Monthly calls the "obsessive TV geek's wet dream": Crossovers and Spin Offs Master Page at Poobala. Here you can find out if there's a cross between Angel and Star Trek Universe, between Flintstones and Bewitched, between Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, between Murphy Brown and The Nanny, between St. Elsewhere and Oz.

A bit of explanation offered by the site's creator, Thom Holbrook: "When shows crossover or spin off other shows the implication is that those shows share a reality. If The Jeffersons and Archie Bunker can meet each other they clearly are part of the same world as opposed to Archie Bunker being able to turn on his TV and watch The Jeffersons. Now when you figure in that many shows do LOTS of crossovers with various shows that can lead to tons of shows all theoretically being part of the same reality." You can then click on a link where shows are listed by their shared reality. (Note: Having a "dream sequence" about a character in another show does NOT count as a "shared reality".) Oh, and in the examples listed in the opening paragraph? The answers are No, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. Go to the site for details.

Thanks to Kat for the link to Sarah Lyon's Female Mechanics Wall Calendars. The 2008 Female Mechanics Calendars include full-color photos of each mechanic "along with bios telling their stories of how they got into the non-traditional labor field of mechanics. Found mostly through word of mouth, the calendars include automobile, motorcycle, hot rod, jet airplane, helicopter, bicycle, and diesel truck and bus mechanics. The project challenges stereotypes of the typical tool-girl, pin-up calendar by showing women working in their shop environments."

After a week in which flat-earther Sherri Shepherd insisted on The View that "B.C." had no meaning, that "Jesus" came before all other religions existed, it's a relief to find the words of Francesca Grifo, head of the scientific integrity program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Interviewed by Danielle Maestretti in Utne Reader, she has light to shed about methodology, scientific literacy, media balance and political manipulation in Pseudo-Science Debunked.

Utne's Science and Technology Blog also brings us details of a new study from Yale University which "suggests that babies as young as six-months old can tell the difference between helpful and unhelpful creatures". There's a link showing the video used in the study and a link to the original article in New Scientist by Roxanne Khamsi. According to Utne, "Almost all the babies in the experiment preferred the helping blocks. In order to make sense of the experiment, the babies needed to know that the block wanted to go up the hill. This suggests that babies are able to understand other people’s intentions long before they can mutter their first word. The study also suggests that that very early in human development, people learn to like nice people." And those few babies who DIDN'T prefer the helpful blocks? -- they have a future in whatever Cheney takes up after surrendering the Vice Presidency.

("Not Out of the Woods Just Yet", linoleum cut by Raymond Verdaguer)

I also want to recommend a recent interview with Thom Hartmann at Alternet How Liberals Can Speak Without Boring Everyone to Tears, written by Onnesha Roychoudhuri.

Here's one excerpt I particularly liked: "There are two types of conservative... There are the predator cons. These people, probably because of some variation on obsessive compulsive disorder that has focused itself on money, are willing to harm others, to steal from others in order to enrich themselves, and they're so sociopathic that they can still sleep at night...I think we need to acknowledge that some of these conservatives are actually predators. They're sick people."

He talks about the need to contradict attempts to manipulate our fear with laughter -- "loud, sustained laughter" -- and the value of referring to Iraq as an "occupation" rather than a "war". Or fighting the Republican re-framing of inheritance taxes as "the death tax" by re-reframing it as "the rich kids tax".

And regarding strategy, he suggests:

"We must become the media. Since Reagan stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and then Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act, the media has become this monolithic monster. We have about 90 percent of everything that Americans see, hear and read, outside of the Internet, coming through the filter of fewer than a dozen corporations. Before Reagan came into office, it was more like 60 or 70 corporations, which still wasn't all that great. And if we lose 'Net neutrality, we may find the same thing will be the case with the Web over the course of a very short number of years. So, we need to become the media, at least over the short term.

"This is very much like the American Revolution. The media was relatively centralized, in as much as people had to answer to King George III for anything that they said in the media. There were three major areas: There were women's groups that would get together under the guise of sewing together, there were men's groups that got together, mostly in bars. Sam Adams is most famous for this. They all plotted revolution. Then, there were these pamphleteers who were nailing things to trees in the middle of the night. That's what we need to do. We need to be the ones who, over Christmas dinner, at the water cooler, are sharing with friends, neighbors and co-workers, the reality of what's going on in the world.

"If every progressive in America could reach out, to change the stories and recalibrate the vision of just ten other people, we could easily hit a critical mass that could change this country. This is how women's suffrage came about, how the Civil Rights Movement came about, the end of the Vietnam war, and the direct election of the Senate in 1914. This is how every major movement in the United States happened."

Consciousness-raising is certainly how the Second-Wave of the Women's Movement occurred -- not university classes or mass events, but small groups of women in living rooms talking things over. I haven't seen chat rooms or blogs effectively replacing it, because there we have to endlessly deal with the reactions of those who have not a clue what our shared experience helps us understand.

It isn't just, as Paula Gunn Allen said, "The root of oppression is loss of memory". It's that memories begin as shared reality, and the current liberal condemnation of "separatism" as a forbidden implement in our toolbox is a perhaps not so accidental way of keeping key target groups whose voice is not fairly represented elsewhere from finding each other and defining their/our own route to change.

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