Sunday, January 27, 2008

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT/READ/DO



Rumor has it that Oliver Stone is planning to make a movie about Dubya, a piece of art I'm not sure we need. But Friday night David Letterman's Top Ten List mined this for delicious comedy:

TOP TEN REJECTED TITLES FOR THE GEORGE W. BUSH MOVIE

"Jackass 3"
"The Lyin' King"
"The Departed as of January 20, 2009"
"Stop Or My Vice President Will Shoot"
"Dial M for Moron"
"Das Boob"
"When Sally Met Cheney's Daughter"
"White Men Can't Govern"
"The Nightmare Before Hillary"
"Raging Bullshit"



The Eighth Annual Weblog Award (Bloggie) nominations have been released and are online. I've been slowly going through the list to discover websites I've never visited. Some lovely stuff out there, including Liza's perennial design faves The Sartorialist and Apartment Therapy.

But I was dumbfounded and dismayed by the five nominations for Best LGBT Weblog:
Puntabulous
Good As You
Lesbiatopia
The Wishful Writer
PerezHilton.com

I examined them all carefully, hoping to find substance and reason for their selection. What I found instead was an obsession with celebrities, both as targets of nasty gossip and as crushes (most of them straight); mindless shopping and product placement; egregious and apparently mandatory overuse of pink; and a writing style that leans heavily toward

Writing a single sentence or sentence fragment.

At a time.

Separated by double spaces.

For the attention-deficit impaired, I suppose.

Only one, Good As You, covered political issues at all, and these tended to not be international or what I think of as liberation issues (i.e., liberation outside the rubric of the insular queer world). This is what Roseanne meant when she complained about how narrow our focus has become. Used to be, "lesbian" issues included reproductive rights globally, class, race, children's rights, hunger, environmental and anti-war efforts, as well as of course feminism and sexism. But for the few websites above who actually had tags or the ability to search by topic, not a single one of these categories could be found. Not even the trendy "gender" which is now used as a coat of whitewash to distract us from woman-hating.

This lead me to research how the nominations are made, and to say the process is flawed would be to understate it. So, I won't be voting. I will pass on recommendations for interesting websites out there, however -- ones that either honestly admit they are confined to a clique or genuinely address wide human concerns. If you have rants or raves to share, pass them on to me and I'll print them here.

(Seafood brodetto)

Yesterday as I watched my allotted two hours of cooking shows on PBS, I noticed again how aptly the phrase "food porn" fits some of them, particularly the Martha Stewart efforts, "Simple Food" and "Simple Baking". The stripped down kitchens, the unnatural camera angles and close-ups, even the cheesy non-stop background music is all reminiscent of pornography. I've thought for a long time that porn bears as much relationship to actual sex as fast food does to nutrition, but now I'm wondering how reliable the yuppified version of "good eating" has strayed from actual food as well.

Lydia Bastianich, however, brought us squarely back to reality with her Sicilian brodetto (made with grouper) over couscous, accompanied by a salad of blood oranges and mandolined red onion slices. I could literally smell the tomato of the broth. I've learned to never watch her, Ming Tsai or Jacques Pepin without a decent meal under my belt -- the hunger pains are psychic, otherwise. Just like, in the obverse, I've learned to never watch CSI with food in front of me.

(by Maira Kalman)

When Mama died, the day after the funeral my father asked me to sort through her belongings. He said he couldn't sleep in their bedroom until her stuff was dealt with, and he wasn't able to do this job himself.

I was, at that instant, reminded of a dreadful car wreck I had narrowly missed in 1978. I was driving back from having taken my daughter to a daughters-of-lesbians summer camp in Willits, California. From Santa Rosa south, the freeway traffic was almost bumper to bumper but, crazily, moving along at a 70 mph clip, something common to California. A disaster waiting to happen.

I was driving Susan B., the borrowed Ford compact truck of my roommate, and on edge. When the big car ahead of me slammed on its brakes, coming to a screeching halt, I did my best to follow suit but at the last minute I knew I wasn't going to be able to avoid a collision. In microseconds, I saw that the median strip to my left was clear (all grass, no drop-offs or trees) and swung into it, rolling to a safe stop after a few hundred yards.

I didn't hear the impact behind me. I saw the wreckage, though, as soon as I turned off the truck and got out. A small car that had been on my back bumper had plowed into the stopped car ahead of me, crumpling the front end into almost nothing. I could hear screams coming from the car.

A Chinese-American family poured out of the big car. The woman who had been driving was in shock. The man from the passenger seat, however, immediately bore down on me, yelling that it was my fault, I shouldn't have gotten out of the way. I stepped around him and went to the car with screaming.

Other people had stopped, and two or three men wrenched open the car doors, revealing a pair of teenaged girls in the wreckage. The driver, blond, had hit her head on the windshield (no airbags yet) and blood cascaded through her hair, down her face. She was able to stand up and get out of the car, however, saying over and over "What happened?"

Her friend, a brunette, had hit the dash with her knees. She was not able to move on her own, and one guy picked her up, carried her into the median, where somebody else had spread a blanket. He set her down gently. She was the one who was screaming, one scream after another. Both of her jeans legs were split open from the impact, and one knee was already swelling, bulbous and going purple. The other knee was split open, down to bone and joint, an unbelievable gaping wound. She looked down, saw it, and her screams changed timbre.

I checked the head of the blond and found only cuts but not bad ones. I sat down between her and the screamer, and said "You were in a wreck. I'm sure someone's gone for help."

The Chinese-American man stood nearby, still yelling it was my fault. All the other guys around me didn't seem to know what to do. They didn't want to look at the young women. One guy handed me a clean white handkerchief, which in retrospect was probably to wipe away blood. Instead, I draped it over the knee of the screamer. She stopped in mid breath for the next scream, looked confusedly at the handkerchief, and reached as if to pull it away.

I said "No, we need to keep it clean, okay?" Which was not the point -- the point was to remove from her view her dreadful injury, a memory she didn't need to keep reviving. But she left the handkerchief, and started crying instead of screaming. Crying I could deal with. Her friend began crying too. They both leaned against me, a fat dyke in overalls and buzzcut, and I held them tenderly.

One burly guy set a first-aid kit down on the blanket. I said "Can you get something out of that to clean her face and head, see if there's active bleeding we need to stop?" He shook his head, looking as if he might vomit, and walked away. Nobody else got near the blanket. It was just me.

When the cops arrived, the Chinese-American guy sicced them on me immediately. Turns out, his wife didn't have a license yet, she was just learning how to drive. Once the cop heard my version of what happened, he said "You have no impact? You were in between them but got out of the way?" I nodded, and he said "You can leave, then."

He was white, and I thought about Judy Grahn, leaving the black man on the Bay Bridge to the white cops. I wondered if the Chinese-American family was going to be okay -- well, not the husband, he could rot in hell for all that yelling. But I couldn't take care of them and the teenaged girls at the same time.

The paramedics arrived several minutes later. By that time, both girls were cried out and actually talking. The blond girl said her dad was going to kill her. I said "Nope, he'll be thanking god you're alive, once he sees that car." The brunette wanted to look under the handkerchief again, and I persuaded her not to: "Leave it to the hospital, they are going to operate and fix you up good as new." I asked one guy, ten feet away, to go find their purses in the car. When he brought them back, he handed them to me, not the girls.

The paramedics told me to get out of their way, and I did. One of them looked under the handkerchief but, thank god, did not remove it. They got her on a stretcher and began rolling her over the grass to the ambulance. The blond, helped to her feet, looked around wildly at me and said "You're coming with us, right?"

"Let me lock up my truck" I said, handing her both purses. But the paramedic beside her said "Are you family?"

"No" I said, "I just stopped after the accident."

"We can't transport you" he said, leading her away. She looked back after me. I'll never forget her face. I hadn't even found out their names.

In the movies, they show the men taking charge, knowing just what to do, leading everyone to safety or making clear-headed decisions, while women fall apart and behave irrationally. In my personal experience, it's just the opposite. Women are used to dealing with catastrophe, rotten circumstances, rivers of blood and bodies in distress. Early on, we learn that the best way through some trouble is right on through it.

So, I walked into my mother's bedroom and slowly dismantled her life. I discovered her secrets. I made choice after choice about what to do with every single item she owned and treasured: Save for family, give to Goodwill, throw away.

Until I got to the glasses in her purse. That's when I lost it.

I hadn't heard, then, about the program that passes on prescription glasses to poor people elsewhere. I could think of no one whose vision deficit exactly matched hers. The style she had chosen, big tortoise-shell squares, was so evocative of her, but her alone. She'd never need them again.

But I couldn't bear to throw them away. Finally, sobbing, I put them into the Goodwill bag. Let them do the deed.

Now my father is dead, and no one yet has sorted through his detritus. My older brother said he would, but didn't get around to it for the four months before he died, too. I plan to hire someone to do this work. It's a ghastly job, and should be saved either for the folks you love the most or those you don't know at all, nothing in between.

The last ten days, however, I've been trying to find a home for Daddy's dog, Sheba. She's over 11, was devoted to him exclusively, and now that my former sister-in-law has moved out of Daddy's house abruptly, there's no one there to look after Sheba. I've been calling the next-door neighbor, LeeAnn, who was very good to Daddy and is now taking care of Sheba. The dog door from her run into the house is still open, though the electricity is off and I am worried sick that it's too cold for her to survive. I paid this week for her to get groomed, and have placed ads with Craigslist and Petfinder. I've called every no-kill shelter in the North Texas area, spent five hours not sleeping one day to do it, and have found no takers for her. I'm sure she's frightened and bewildered.

I keep having nightmares about dogs in distress.

When Mama died, Daddy would have taken her cat of a dozen years, Bella, to the pound and her put to sleep. Instead, I flew Bella back to California with me. Five years later, she returned to Texas when I moved back home, and died at almost 18, having hung on through severe health problems and a grudging acceptance of me as a replacement for Mama.

This, more than anything, is the difference between my parents: How they cared for animals. Daddy would probably be fine with me having Sheba put down. But I'm not fine with it. I'm my mother's daughter, and I want Sheba to have a second chance. Something women grant over and over again to the needy in our lives.

6 comments:

liza cowan said...

good grief! I wrote a long comment and what happened to it???

liza cowan said...

OK, let me try this again.


I agree that the Bloggies are basically crap in most categories. I checked out a lot of the ones I didn't know in the categories that interest me and they are, can I say it again? Crap.

The glbt ones are just about dating, sex or second hand show biz gossip. What are they thinking over at the bloggies? Oh, right, they're not.

And you've got me laughing about

people who post

one stupid line

at a time.

Do they think they are writing some kind of blog poetry? I've seen this form a lot on blogs and you know what? It's only women who do it. I think it's part of a highly gendered, overly feminized response to our culture. It's as if they are saying, "I'm so girlish that you can't take me seriously enough to find me threatening, even though I have the nerve to have a blog."

Seriously, women, get it together. Write declarative sentences. Write strong prose. State your opinions as if they mattered.

The blogs nominated over at TLL are basically the same as the ones nominated on Bloggies. Watered down, *girly* crap. Even when they are written from a self proclaimed butch perspective, they are still acting, writing, like culturally feminized creatures who ignore issues that matter, don't make connections and don't take thinking or activism seriously.

The nominated blogs are mainly about relationships, dating, sex and second hand gossip about The L Word.

Even TV can be written about from a critical stance. I posted about this blog over at TLL again earlier today, hoping that some readers might actually wake up.

So hat's off to you, Maggie, for thinking, writing and connecting to larger issues.

AskALesbian said...

Hi,
I have to take amused exception to the depiction of nominee blogs as lacking reason and substance. "Crap", as Liz Cowan said. After all, I stopped by this blog (which I think is a lovely shade of blue, btw) and found Jesus' image in the ass of a dog. (Or is it a goat?)
I also found something that I didn't think was that funny from The David Letterman show. Hmmm. Pop culture? How does that connect me to the "larger issues"?

I make it a point to post stoopid shit
on
my
PINK
blog all the time.

I count on people who don't like it to not return.

I don't intend any disrespect. I am interested in this blog and look forward to exploring more of your writing. But, if your clique doesn't like my clique?? Please!

You are a professional, but I have a voice too, however uneducated it might seem to you, and to others.

Best regards,
Peg

Liz Cowan said...

Peg, I apologize if I offended you. Possibly I didn't read your blog. But in general, I do think that the GLBT blogs nominated for Bloggies and TLL - the ones I read - were superficial, and I'm sure I'll never visit them again.

I genuinely hoped to find Lesbian blogs that spoke with humor, insight, intelligence about issues and ideas that I find interesting. I'm looking for writers, artists and thinkers whose blogs enlarge my world.

This is what was lacking in most of the blogs I checked out. I'm sure I missed a few, maybe I missed the best. But the trend was there.


Do I want to hear about someone's dating experiences? Generally not, unless they are really well written and illustrate an illuminating insight. But over and over and over. No.

Do I want to read about television and movie stars? Yes and no. I love media and am starved for good, substantive discussions about it. But didn't see any of this in the sites I went to. Acres of screen shots of The L Word doesn't take the place of insightful criticism.

What I want is public intellectuals. That's why I was disappointed with the nominated blogs - the one's I read.

And that's why I love Maggie. She enjoys thinking.

Blue said...

I, personally, had my first laugh of the day at the Top Ten. I needed a chuckle - thanks, Mags.

askalesbian, as soon as I'm done with the latest installment of Ginny, I think I'll go peruse your blog!

thewishfulwriter said...

I am one of the nominees who posts

one sentence

at a time.

it's my writing style.

my voice.

I am not stupid. Nor do I think anyone who reads or visits my blog is stupid. Or has ADD.

If my writing resonates with a reader, I'm honored. If it doesn't, I expect they'll move on.

I've read numerous blogs that have done nothing for me. But I've never written a post slamming their content or their style.

Because each blog offers SOMEONE something.

I recognize that and value that.