Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Debates summarized

Shorter John Kerry: Iraq was a mistake and we can't trust the fuck-up to clean up his own mess

Shorter Shrub: If we admit it was a mistake we have to clean up the mess. And no one likes to clean up a mess.

This is only halfway through. Bush is going to spend the next 45 minutes calling Kerry a flip-flopper and speaking to us like we're five years old. I have a headache now.

Edited to say: Well, to be fair, the Shrub has another message, which is, "First my opponent says that there wasn't a mess and then he said that I made a mess. Which is it--a mess or not a mess? Flip-flopper."

Sadly, this might work. Half of the public seems not to have a good grasp on the concept of time or cause and effect.

Edited again to fix a word. I need to learn not to blog and chat at the same time.

Friday Random Ten--Early

The Rox Populi Friday Random Ten, that is.

1. "Teen Tonic"--Les Yper Sounds
2. "Something Wicked"--British Sea Power
3. "Champs"--Wire
4. "Messenger"--Blonde Redhead
5. "Flat Feet"--Sammy Masters
6. "Electric Demons"--Electric Six
7. "Hit the North"--The Fall
8. "Fuck Policy Brutality"--Anti-Flag
9. "Reverb 10,000"--Man or Astroman?
10. "Morose"--Stereo Total

Disclaimer: As my computer has 6,000 songs on it currently, I cannot be held responsible for the poor quality of any random choice my player makes. If you think it sucks, you can safely assume that it snuck onto the computer by accident. Or the Man of Mouse put it on there. Whatever makes it easier for you to sleep at night.


Over at Alas, a Blog, Amp has posted a rebuttal to Hugo's definition of "real man" or "manhood", pointing out that pretty much all discussions of what makes someone a "real man" imply that women are lesser beings. He has a point.

I think it's a shame, really, that our culture's long-standing sexism has made it damn near impossible to articulate the concept of being a mature member of a certain sex. It's an important concept, after all. Coming into adulthood is tied into coming into sexual maturity. Being a mature person is defined largely by one's ability to conduct one's sexual life responsibly, among other things. I have nothing but total sympathy for men who want to define proper manhood by respect, kindness, a sense of justice, etc. To my mind, that's nothing more than saying that proper manhood is being a mature person as a man. But the truth is that there is no equivalent definition of womanhood that involves making choices, taking responsibility, and acting maturely.

So, what does define "womanhood"? I mulled it over a bit and then read this comment by Allen at Alas:

While girls have a certain point in their life at which their mother takes them aside and explains that, like it or not, they are now a woman, boys have no such experience. The onset of shaving really doesn't have the same significance.

Ah yes, the "you are a woman now" thing. Your body goes through a process and boom! you're a woman as surely at 12 as someone at 32. So there you go. Manhood, regardless of whether you define it as machismo or maturity, you are still defining proper manhood as a function of will. Manhood is about choices, intelligence, even the soul.

Womanhood is a biological function that women have no control over. Can you make a baby? Okay, you're a woman then. You don't earn the right to be a real woman. It is not defined by choices or accomplishments. Maturity is irrelevant to womanhood. Women themselves are irrelevant to womanhood--they are passive agents and womanhood happens to them, at least in our language.

So, I find that I have to agree with Amp. As long as manhood is seen as a result of action and womanhood something that acts upon a woman, manhood will always be defined as superior to womanhood.


That's what MSNBC is choosing to call what most of us call a "debate".

God, I wish it really were a showdown. I can picture it now--each candidate steps into the street at high noon. Kerry gives Bush a steely glare and adjusts his holster; Bush pisses himself in fear.

Alas, they are going to play by Bush's rules, so we'll see what happens.

Great female country stars--the first post

Who doesn't like a really great female country singer? God knows I do. I couldn't decide which one to post about first, but the amusing discussion in the comments section earlier this week decided it for me--Dolly Parton, of course.

Dolly Parton has had one of the strangest careers ever in music. She started out life in crushing poverty but now famously owns her own theme park. She's famous for her figure, her love of outlandish clothing, her amusing movie career, and her sparkling wit. She should be more famous for her music, though you can't blame her for being well-rounded. She had her first record deal at 14 years old and before she was 21, she was a television regular on Porter Wagoner's popular country music show. (She supposedly wrote the song "I Will Always Love You" while coping with her intense feelings upon leaving that show.)

As everyone surely knows, Parton's musical style has veered all over the place, from plain country to the more mainstream music she made in the 80's to accompany her movie career. Many people think Parton is sort of a joke, but real country fans know that she is a major talent and have nothing but respect for her.

Like Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, Parton has sort of had a resurgence in her career as of late, though she has done it more by reaching back to her roots, where all her best music came from in the first place. She put out two really good bluegrass albums in 1999 and 2001 called The Grass is Blue and Little Sparrow. If you only know Parton through her jokey side, which to be fair is very funny, check these albums out. Her ability to sing in the pure heartbreaking style that defines old school country is what has truly endeared her to country fans all this time.

Let the spluttering begin

The New Scientist predicts that one day women will be faster runners than men.

Of course, their methods are stupid. Women are gaining faster than men because the growth rate hasn't hit a plateau like the rate for men's has. And that's because women have only recently gotten even close to the advantages the male athletes have always had, so rapid improvement is to be expected.

Nonetheless, this is a good reminder that women's sports are improving rapidly and there should be no reason to keep discounting female athletes are wildly inferior to male athletes.

Texas news round-up

Texas Republicans already trying to figure out how to use this to get the death penalty age lowered to 10.

Maybe they could just let her go if she wears a T-shirt with her HIV status on it. I hear Cafe Press has good prices.

If they promise to play nothing but Toby Keith, would you reconsider?

Hell, if they decided to ban Democrats from voting in Texas altogether, you could probably get Scalia and Thomas to support it.

The model schools for No Child Left Behind get left behind.

How to be properly desperate while still being attractive

As we all know from MSN's endlessly good dating advice, it's important for single women to be desperate--after all, your entire identity is riding on the chance to get married or not. But common sense would tell you that grasping desperation in not what you would call attractive. So how does one go about being desperate (and all single women are desparate--or cold, strange weirdos) without seeming desperate? It's obviously a long, hard process involving tons of advice from MSN, plus a number of books with invariably pink covers and roses and stuff on them. Today we just tackle what to do in the earth-shattering event that your date doesn't call you.

You’re single and have been on so many dates you’re thinking of turning “small talk” into an Olympic sport. You go into every date with the hope that you’ll finally find your prince; however, date after date, the only thing you wind up finding is another frog. You come home feeling disappointed and agonize over how to tell your friends — and worse, report to your mother that once again, there was no connection.

My suggestion is to tell your friends and your mom that even if some man immediately wanted to marry you on the first date, you would have to politely decline because that's weird. And then immediately enact a policy where you don't tell your mom and your friends every time you have a date if they're going to put so much pressure on you. And get some new friends.

People start to wonder out loud what your “problem” is. They tell you that you’re just too picky and need to give people a chance. Slowly, you lose hope and become unmotivated to go out ever again.

Your problem is your friends--get new ones. Or get the guts to tell them that you're not going to marry the first guy who comes along so that they are more comfortable.

So our heroine--you, apparently--has a fun date that ends with a kiss and the guy saying he'd love to see her again. I'll spare you the details, but here's the all-important aftermath.

You run to the phone, thrilled that you finally have a happy tale to tell. You feel excited, hopeful and peaceful.

If my friend called me in the middle of the night after a date to tell me she had fun, I would reach through the phone and strangle her. Wait until lunch the next day, at least.

Until it hits you. He didn’t “technically” ask you out again — he said “he’d love to see you again.” Your heart starts pounding as the pit in your stomach grows. “What if he doesn’t call…?”

If you frequently have to sedate yourself to keep from panicking after dates, it's probably time to reassess your situation. Possibly you should consider celibacy or an arranged marriage. Most likely, you should quit fussing so much.

The next 72 hours are spent furiously checking messages, emails and dial tones.

Apparently, you just need a job. Or a hobby? May I suggest blogging and reading feminist blogs?

Luckily, we have helpful tips to keep the freak-out under control. This is important, because you don't want to scream at him if he actually ever bothers to call. That would be desperate--it's good that you're desperate, as your friends will tell you. But seeming so is unattractive.

1. Sit on your anxiety; he may still call. That panic you feel is related to your fear that this will be another disappointment — and you do not want to deal with another disappointment.

It's disappointing indeed that the seemingly nice guy is a jerk. Normally it would be good that he doesn't call so that you know early on, but I guess in your desperation you'd better take on the jerk.

2. Think about why there is so much riding on this call for you. This is not your last chance at love! This is less about him calling and more about how you feel about yourself.

Well, that and your evil friends are apparently going to ride your ass about it.

3. Some women think it’s nice to call or email him the next day to say “thank you” for a fun evening. This is an attempt to keep the connection going while alleviating your fear that he won’t call.

Anyone who told you it was polite to say thank you is crazy.

But what about the next time? Are you setting a precedent here?

If you end up dating him, you might find yourself calling him all the time. And you don't want that. Dialing the phone can break a nail.

4. Men are pursuers by nature, so if he’s interested, he will contact you. Try to stop worrying and go back to your life.

After all, if you keep not showing up to work while waiting by the phone, you will get fired. It might be helpful to get a cell phone if it's so important that you pick it up on the first ring.

5. Most importantly, remember that you’ve only known this man for a few hours — think about that!

And he didn't produce a ring. So it wasn't meant to be, anyway.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hedonists should stick together

While being aware of my heterosexual privilege, I find it useful to remind myself that my choices as a woman and as a person who lives openly with a man she is not married to that I cannot afford to ignore those who wish to use the law to force their beliefs about proper sexual behavior and/or gender roles on the rest of us. I found this article through The Sideshow and I thought it had some points that all straight people need to remember:

Well, that sure settles any lingering doubts about the appropriateness of media discussion of Maya Keyes, doesn't it? Anyone who doubts that Keyes' own conflicted family situation is playing a role in the aggressive homophobia he showed at the Republican convention really has zero clue about what life is like for gay kids in families. You might want to read up on a subject "where the personal is inextricably - and dramatically - bound up in the political." Yes, it's a sensitive issue, but since when is it a journalist's job to avoid those?

I am and continue to be perplexed by people who think there is something unseemly about pushing a politician's private life in his face if he's trying to make laws dictating your private life. I'm sorry, but if you have a stance that things that aren't your business should be, then we have a right to get into your business.

It's simple--you believe that people should be let alone, you will be let alone. If you believe that the law should discriminate against homosexuals, then any homosexual behavior will be held against you, and on top of that you will have to explain to people how you deal with your homosexual children. You put yourself out as a "moral" leader, you owe that much to people. Same with abortion--you tell others it's wrong, you better not except yourself and your children, as Bush has almost surely done. So on and so forth.

Gay rights are an important issue because it's about more than civil rights for a minority. It's about drawing a line that others are not to cross--family and sexual life are not to be interfered with or judged by our supposed leaders. And if they leave us alone, we will do the same for them.

Roxanne calls bullshit

A genuinely fun political blog contest is underway at Rox Populi. It is fun because I am nominated for Least Polite Political blogger. Well, Molly Ivins did describe Texans as ignorant, cantankerous, and friendly. I try not to be ignorant but I am cantankerous, and believe it or not actually friendly. You need a couch to sleep on? I'll make you coffee to boot.

Anyway, I have a nifty new plate in the sidebar that I take out and polish hourly. I am rooting for my fellow Austinites Neal Pollack and Norbizness. You should too. We rule.

Well, now I'm disappointed

In Cary Tennis, who regresses or something today and actually pulls what I like to call the "Stand By Your Man" manuever. It's a rhetorical device that's sole purpose is to let a man off the hook for appalling and most likely sexist behavior by flattering the angry woman by telling her that men can't help it, they just aren't as civilized as women. I call it this, of course, after the famous Tammy Wynette song that employs this rhetorical trick.

Sometimes its hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You'll have bad times
And he'll have good times
Doing things that you don't understand
But if you love him you'll forgive him
Even though he's hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh be proud of him
'Cause after all he's just a man

The question today is from a woman who is concerned because her sister is with a man who is an asshole who berates her for really tiny things. The example she has is that this man yelled at her sister because her sister didn't know who Colonel Tom Parker was. Frankly, who cares? Well, I care, but if you don't, I'm not going to yell at you. But after all, I'm not a man.

Tennis all but asks the writer to understand that men have special needs, you know, and a little more understanding would be useful.

And as to the Colonel, well, perhaps it seems sad that men attach such importance to these things. And he certainly could have been kinder about it. But while the importance he places on knowing who Elvis Presley's manager was may seem a little sad and small-minded, it is also part of the greatness in the human soul, part of why Michelangelo did his thing, part of why men buy guitars and learn how to play: because ordinary life is just not good enough. Going to work and going to school, getting married and raising kids, having a girlfriend and acting right and playing by the rules until your status on your insurance forms changes to deceased is so unutterably bleak a prospect that some of us must seek at all costs to find something more beautiful and more true, and if that means cutting a single and getting a manager who's a cunning, manipulative son of a bitch, why, that's what you've got to do, even if it ruins you in the end.

And then before he offers his advice, he sums up his excuse-making:

So I do not find it surprising that a man might want to acquaint the woman in his life with the story of Sun Records and Colonel Tom Parker. Granted, he's not being very smooth about it. But smoothness isn't everything. Passion counts too. Passion can be rough and uncouth. It can seem rude and unkind. It would be nice if he could sit down with your sister and say, Baby, I'm sorry I was rude and flew off the handle, I love you a lot, but this stuff matters to me more than life itself! After all, that's what Elvis would do. In fact, come to think of it, he's acting more like the Colonel than like Elvis. Maybe if she told him that, he'd get the message.

I have better advice. I learned the hard way a long time ago that when men try to shame you with your own ignorance, defend yourself immediately. If you blow it off or even let them shame you, they will lose respect for you and it will just get worse. I would suggest that instead of trying to appeal to him by sweetly showing that she has been shamed into learning about Elvis's life story, she instead say, "Look motherfucker! Is this an episode of 'Jeopardy' or a relationship?" If it were me, I would also point out that if it's a trivia contest, I will win. Not that I'm against learning about your partner's interests--of course you should. But shaming someone like this is wretched behavior.

But what I'm really annoyed at is Tennis defending this by saying that essentially men have all these passions, and women may not understand them but they would do best to tolerate them. As a woman who is so passionate about things she loves that she has startled all sorts of people, I can assure you that these sort of passions are not a result of gender. No, the story is much sadder than that--passion isn't gendered, but ability to follow one's passions is.

Men don't pick up and play the guitar or even become avid record collectors because they can see the stars, the world beyond the mundane, that women can't see. They are more likely to pick up that guitar because they know that there's a chance they can reach those stars, and historically often because they've had a woman's shoulders to stand on. Elvis Presley and Colonel Parker are famous, famous men who surely had someone dealing with the mundane details of their lives so that they could have more time and energy to look beyond the mundane. (At least Elvis had the sense to be grateful to his momma for everything she did for him.)

It's tempting to think we live in a time when women's lives aren't subsumed by men's passions, that we are free to have our own passions or at least to refuse to be the one taking care of the details while our men go out and have passions and meaning beyond the mundane. But apparently not. Cary Tennis often expresses sympathy to feminism in his columns and often makes judgements that are clearly rooted in feminist understanding, but today his knee-jerk reaction was, "Her man has some kind of passion so she is automatically obliged to take his shit so he feels supported." No, she's not. And anyway, there's no evidence that he's passionate about music. It's not like Colonel Parker is an obscure figure that only a real record geek would know about. He's probably just an asshole looking for any "weakness" to jump all over her about.

But even if he is passionate about music, she's not obliged to take his shit. The line between being supportive of a passionate man and taking crap is not so thin, believe me. First of all, passionate men don't necessarily give out crap--that's a sexist myth that has been a disservice to women for a long time. And being supportive and giving up your rights are way different things. I'm pretty supportive of my boyfriend's playing--I listen to his music, offer mild opinions and praise, put on my sneakers to help him lift his cabinet into the truck. I've even gone so far as to embarrass myself by running the drum machine while he practices. But if he ever tried to tell me that I'm dumb because I'm not his exact photocopy, he's getting a mouthful.

Badgering a woman into acting like you're some sort of amazing creature while she's dumb as a rock is not what makes the man. Truly strong, passionate men who really want to reach beyond the mundane are more than happy to look to the women in their lives as friends who also want to reach beyond and learn from them. Why would you want to cut yourself off from half the species as people to learn from?

First post on a female drummer

Each member of Sleater Kinney deserves a post of her own. I'm not going to cover all three members in a row, but I'm going to start with the drummer, Janet Weiss. Because everyone loves female drummers--don't get a female drummer if you're in a band and you don't like being upstaged, because everyone will fall in love with your drummer and ignore you. They have that much sex appeal.

Okay, kidding. (In case you couldn't tell, if I had any talent I would want to play the drums.) Sort of--there really is a romantic appeal to watching a woman drum, because the drums are the most unwieldy of instruments and watching a woman handle them with the same seeming effortlessness as any male drummer puts the last nail in the coffin of the weak argument that women don't have they physical ability to manage musical instruments. (Yes, people say this. *sigh*)

I've seen people spazz out with love for Janet Weiss, and with good cause. While the signature sound of Sleater Kinney is the way that the other two members play and sing together, it wouldn't work without a good drummer to anchor them to the rock sound. I've only seen them live once and it was really quite telling that while Carrie Brownstein and Corrin Tucker were able to rivet the audience to them, it was when Weiss really got going that so did the dancing in the crowd.

She's also the drummer for a really fun band called Quasi, which is one of those two piece bands that is oh-so-popular nowadays. While Sleater Kinney is all fire and passion, with the occasional kicky tune, Quasi is more eclectic. Their newest album that I have is called Hot Shit, and it has a sort of country-ish sound to a lot of the songs. A favorite by them is Featuring "Birds", which is also a lot of fun to listen to.

Fast food and vegetarianism

There is a really interesting discussion about how the criticisms of the fast food nation are quickly spiraling into mean-spirited fat-bashing and thinly disguised arguments that the working class are somehow morally inferior over at Alas, a Blog. I think it's a real shame, because I feel very strongly that fast food companies are wrecking havoc on this nation and something needs to be done about it. See, the thing I really liked about Fast Food Nation was that he made it very clear that he was not trying to moralize about eating the fast food but more trying to describe how the business of it was changing our nation from head to toe. I haven't read it for awhile, but I remember that he clearly stated that he liked to eat fast food himself, and then he proceeded to focus on labor issues, agricultural issues, and health issues that were more than, "Ohmidgod! There's fat people around!"-type critiques.

I'm glad that people are finally speaking out about the shallow-minded fast food critiques that are nothing more than fat-bashing and fear of the working class. But I do sometimes wonder if some critics of that war aren't engaging in the same ol' beat-on-the-intellectual-snob pseudo-populism that the conservative movement has perfected. I mean, obviously the ones shilling for the fast food industry have. But people who want to criticize the fast food nation AND the war on fat people have to be conscious, I think, not to guilt-trip people who choose vegetarianism or whatever for reasons outside of weight control.

I eat a little bit of fish (brain food), but I don't otherwise eat meat. I was never the biggest steak-lover to begin with, so it was pretty easy for me to give up eating meat altogether. (Except of course seafood. Yum.) After reading Fast Food Nation and especially after reading some of Jim Hightower's stuff on the agriculture business, especially this book, I realized that the way the agriculture business in this country is run is unconscionable. The poultry, pork, and beef industries are hands-down the worst--all three of them have fallen prey to the worst kind of corporate interests, who make no bones about buying off politicians and gleefully ruining the lives of the small farmers who used to dominate. Corporate ag has very little oversight because it's pretty much invisible to your average urban American. It's understandable--the ag wars are being fought out in the country whereas the visible corporate threat in the cities is mostly the retail and manufacturing industries.

Sitting down to a steak meal suddenly turned into an exercise in allowing those corporate farmers to get away with ruining the livelihoods of ranchers and polluting the countryside with cow shit. Nonetheless, I realize that's a slightly hysterical reaction, so I am not about to moralize to others who don't see it my way. And yes, now that I pretty much don't eat meat, I'd say I'm healthier--but I'm not thinner. It's not a Diet, just a diet. I know a lot of fat vegetarians and vegetarians who have diabetes from eating too many sweets and vegetarians with cholesterol problems. The diet can help some of those problems, but only if you are careful with the sweets and other ways of ingesting animal fats that contribute so much to cholesterol issues.

I get particularly irritable with PETA when they use sexual imagery to imply that vegetarianism=thinness=sexual attractiveness. Tricking people into thinking that eschewing meat is a fast track to have a supermodel's body is not going to make long-term vegetarians out of anyone, because as soon as the newly converted realize that they aren't really losing weight, they'll go back to their old habits. Hell, they may even go on the Atkins diet.

All this is to say that it's critical that the snotty moralizing about health and weight not let us get distracted from the real issues at stake in the fast food wars--that the quest for ever-cheaper meat has become an excuse to let Big Ag rip pollution controls to shreds and create monopolies for themselves. The people that are primarily hurt by this are in fact the working class people that are being disdained in the shallow fat critiques--rural people who live near factory farms and/or cannot get decent ag work because corporate farming has destroyed all decent ag jobs. (If you've read the part in Fast Food Nation about the meat-cutting lines, you know what I mean. Meat-cutting used to be and should be well-paid work.)

And it seems to me that the only way to get this into people's thick skulls that we are paying too high a price for "cheap" meat is to first make people understand that they don't need to eat meat morning, noon, and night. The rapid spread of vegetarianism has helped, but it doesn't have to be that extreme. If people could get their meat consumption down to 2-3 times a week, or even 5-7 times a week, it wouldn't cause panic to start passing regulations that might bring meat prices up. There's obviously a lot more groundwork that needs to be done before these industries will be put under stricter control, but I still think that the all meat all the time mindset is a national mental block. And yes, in my paranoid mind, I think that the whole Atkins diet getting revised and becoming a trend overnight was no accident. If an expose ever comes out that shows that the meat industries funneled money into propaganda for that diet, I will not be surprised one bit. It's just too much a coincidence that it became the "thing" right in the middle of a huge rise in the number of vegetarians.

Some artwork

A friend of mine came by and dropped off these handkerchiefs by a local artist who does feminist coloring books. These are designs she lifted from her coloring books and put on the handkerchiefs. Her name is Jacinta Bunnell, and her stuff is great--I haven't seen such snotty feminist art in a long time.

I can relate to this attitude. Posted by Hello

A pledge you can get behind. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The great Crawford myth

Okay, it's hilarious that the newspaper in Crawford is endorsing Kerry. It's pathetic that the AP headline tries to minimize this by drawing attention to the size of the town. The article itself is especially aggravating as the AP writer continues to pee all over this small town paper by drawing attention to its small circulation and the fact that it's new.

I'm from a small Texas town and I can assure you this is not as small a thing as they want it to be. Many small town papers breeze over politics if they can help it, because small town people are bored and there's always someone who will start a personal vendetta against the editor of the paper if his politics are different than theirs. Texas small town newspapers' main job is to report on high school football and publish lots and lots of pictures of the local citizens so they have clippings for their scrapbooks.

Now, the paper's name is the Lone Star Iconoclast, and while it's overwhelmed right now, a cached version on Google demonstrates that they do run national and state news, not just high school football scores. And with a name like that, I think that it might not be the small town's official, tedious newspaper. There is also a long, healthy tradition in small town Texas of locals putting out highly opinionated "alternative" papers in order to defend what they see as their way of life--the blogosphere reminds me of these papers quite a bit. And hell, there's probably a million gradations between no controversy and all controversy in the teeny-weeny paper wars. The cached version of the paper praised anti-war demonstraters on the front, so who knows?

But I do know that this is most unwelcome news to Bush, though who knows if this story is the sort of thing that will stick with people or not. Because the myth of Crawford, TX is something that Bush props himself up with at every opportunity. Just as Reagan was able to remake himself from a decadent Hollywood actor to a cowboy who defends women and children from snarling Russians by using plenty of imagery of himself as a cowboy, Bush is using his residence in Crawford to prop himself up as what he is not. He is not a cowboy, he is not a rancher, his fucking ranch isn't even a ranch. Well, to be specific it, in the local parlance, yes, it's a ranch. We pretty much call any plot of land with a house on it big enough where you can run around shooting guns and getting drunk without the cops getting called a ranch around here. But for most people, I imagine "ranch" conjures up the image of the Wild West, of hard-working cowboys, exotic and yet homely. He spends all his time clearing brush off the ranch because it's the perfect task for sounding meaningful and earthy, but no one knows exactly what the hell it is for (well, I know, but it's a Texas secret), meaning he can avoid having people ask what exactly he uses his ranch for. If he spent his spare time branding cattle, eventually someone would wonder why he does that since he doesn't use his ranch to raise cattle.

Texans have affection for rich assholes who play cowboy on their "ranches" but don't actually do much working. I don't know why, but it's true. Probably just more of the same old feeling that we should be nice to the rich so that people are nice to us when we're rich fallacy that strikes so many Americans. Also, they don't make bad neighbors since they don't have animals tearing the shit out of everything. The Shrub was welcome to Crawford when he moved there to use it as evidence that he's just a good ol' country boy like y'all. It's thrilling to have famous people near when you think the rest of the world doesn't know you exist.

It's not just that he's lost Crawford, which could be an indicator that rural people everywhere are fed up; it's that without the carefully constructed image of him as an Everyman from Anywhere, TX where they are just bursting with pride at their boy done good, he could lose a lot more people who vote for him for that reason. The story will probably be buried, but let's hope that every comedy writer on TV just can't resist cracking on it.


If you've been trying to read this and it's been all screwy. I'm done messing with the template now. Please feel free to trash it or praise it or whatever in the comments.

New addition to blogroll

Usually I just stick them on there without drawing attention, but as this one is by a real-life friend made outside the internet, and as he's new to this, I'll make an exception. It's called Rabbit Scratch.

Hopefully, my content won't suffer, as he sends me a lot of the links that I post on here.

Okay, real election news

The voter registration campaigns are working wonders. For all those who think that the Democrats are completely clueless on how to run a campaign because everything on TV is so down, down, down, pay close attention. Kerry and his people are not stupid--they know that the major news networks don't want him to win as a general rule. So they are taking this election to the people directly--and they are incorporating Bill Clinton's advice.

What they have that Clinton didn't is massive efforts by people not directly related to the campaign that are dedicated to getting out the vote for Kerry. And it's clearly working, and it's going to get better from here. If you live in Austin, there's a huge burlesque show on Sunday that you have to either produce your voter registration card to get into, or register at the door. Creative efforts like this are pulling in younger voters, I'm sure of it.

Of course, the next step is actually getting people to vote, but I'm sure that these registration efforts can be turned towards that on election day. I've heard that some places will be throwing parties that you can't get into without your "I Voted" sticker--that's a good idea. (In fact, the polling place is like right by my house in my's an idea.....)

The most important election ever

Okay, maybe not. But go vote at the Washington Post for best blogs so that a bunch of idiots, wankers, Bush-lovers, and racists don't win.

But be prepared to be irritated with the nominees. While the liberal blogs are all pretty good ones, there's not what you'd call many women in the bunch. *sigh*

Ronnie Spector

In honor of Phil Spector taking one more step on the long journey to jail, today's female musician will be the person who's probably taken more of his crap than anybody--Ronnie Spector, girl group singer extraordinare. Ronnie Spector has recorded some really fantastic pop music over her now four decades long career, but to call it a tumultous career would be risking understatement. Still, she will go down in the annals of of pop music history for her truly distinctive voice, if nothing else. But she should also be remembered for her persistence and ability to work well with a huge variety of artists.

Ronnie started off with her own group, The Ronettes, who are one of the classic girl groups of the 60's, and really a breath of fresh air, all trashy good-naturedness. She's recorded with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Eddie Money to Joey Ramone, of course. She is well-known for her willingness to put on bold performances in the 60's, when women were not encouraged at all to be anything but demure as performers.

For further reading, here's an interview I enjoyed. She also recorded an EP with Joey Ramone producing a few years ago called She Talks to Rainbows that's just really fun to listen to, if you want to hear some more recent stuff she's done.

Phil Spector is a loathsome twit

Not that he was ever really all there, but this latest paranoid ranting is just ridiculous. Because the L.A. District Attorney's office won't respect his right, as the rich and famous Phil Spector, in his home to shoot whatever woman he wants, they are a bunch of freedom-hating Nazis. Sure, asshole.

Is there anyone who thinks that he's innocent? I mean, come on!

Monday, September 27, 2004

This is why handguns should be legalized....

....but only for women.

They have banned women from wearing revealing clothes on buses after three men were arrested for allegedly gang-raping an 18-year-old schoolgirl at a bus station in the town of Manzini.

Witnesses said the men - a bus driver and two conductors - shouted abuse at the girl for wearing a miniskirt.

When about 1,000 women demonstrated against the attack, drivers and conductors threatened to do the same again. One conductor said: "Women who wear miniskirts want to be raped, and we will give them what they want."

It wasn't "shouting abuse", by the way. It was a violent and lengthy gang rape involving brush handles and god only knows what else, and many female witnesses tried to intercede but as one can imagine, it is difficult for one woman to pull another from a crowd of men.

I imagine, though, that if only women carried guns that these men wouldn't be so comfortable self-righteously declaring they had a right to rape any young girl who dressed in a manner they didn't like.

I'm just saying....

Texas political corruption made understandable

Thank god, as usual, for Molly Ivins. This week she clarifies exactly how big a scumbucket Tom DeLay has to be to actually violate Texas campaign law.

Seriously, in this state it's legal to give out checks right before votes on the floor of the legislature. Most everything is legal but these guys managed to find some laws to break. DeLay is an ethical nightmare when it comes to fund-raising. This is a man who has tried to hide political giveaways in a charity for foster children.

Naomi Wolf is fixing to turn in her feminist credentials

This load of crap she dumped on the unsuspecting public is just appalling. It's all about Teresa Heinz Kerry needs to suck it up and turn into the adoring housewife if she wants her husband to win.

Wolf obviously doesn't remember the cookie fiasco of 1992. You know--where the Democrats, desperate not to scare off anti-feminist voters made poor Hillary Clinton submit a cookie recipe in a blatant attempt to "soften" her image up? A hard lesson should have been learned from that. Yes, there are a lot of people who romanticize housewives, and that means that they sincerely believe that women really are happier baking cookies in pearls, thinking only next how to make their husbands and children happier. Someone who fakes it badly, like Hillary Clinton, not only comes across as a phony but also threatens to destroy the romantic image. And now those people who they were trying to appeal to hate Hillary Clinton with a focused rage that's really astounding.

And that's why Teresa Heinz Kerry isn't being reined in, because they are hoping that her honesty appeals to people. And while I don't doubt there were a lot of conservative housewives who are appalled by her, it's important to realize that there's also women like me who started liking John Kerry way more after realizing that he managed to get such a spitfire to marry him. Believe it or not, there are some of us who don't think that a real man is defined by how well his wife is cowed.

If nothing else, this quote is beyond irritating:

Contrary to RNC spin about “earth tones” and “alpha males,” I was actually an adviser on women’s issues for the Gore campaign. But any cultural critic can tell you that a presidential campaign involves powerful gender archetypes, and presidents are archetypes of male potency.

RNC spin it may have been, but quit throwing yourself a pity party, Wolf. You were made an adviser on women's issues and decided that instead of telling Gore to talk about women's issues, that he needed to pretend he was some alpha male stereotype. It's insulting to women to be treated that way. Look, it's not women really that are all that impressed with the cowboy crap that Bush does--if they were, they would have voted for him when he was working the cowboy crap way harder in the 2000 election. The alpha male imagery is aimed straight at men who like to feel like they identify with it.

Anyway, all this hand-wringing about losing the women's vote for the Democrats is way premature. I agree that Kerry could win it in a walk if he started addressing women directly on issues that they find important, but there's no way to know that he's not going to do that. Bush is polling high with women now but only because they are going into the 'burbs and telling women that if they don't vote for Bush the Muslims will kill their children. This strategy could very well blow up in their faces any day now.

And Naomi? Um, just because you're a sneakers-wearing suburban mom doesn't mean all women are.

Thanks, Avedon Carol!

College Republicans continue to protest getting educated

I do sympathize with college Republicans. It's getting increasingly difficult to maintain the ignorance levels required to vote for the party--it's to the point now where simply knowing how to read puts them in grave danger of finding out that their beloved President is a nimrod. Their efforts to stomp out liberalism on college campuses are getting ever more surreal--check out this story about a college Republican who has started a harassment campaign against a college professor who has committed the sin of being dedicated to animal rights. The whole thing is a hoot, since a few other examples of grievous liberal sins that drew out the wingnuts are extremely mild. This is probably my favorite:

Among numerous complaints being investigated by Horowitz's organizations throughout the country are the one against Wolfe and one against an Indiana University professor who, in a class on the history of rock and roll, allegedly bashed the war in Iraq and made derogatory remarks about Rush Limbaugh and his addiction to prescription pain killers.

Who the fuck takes a class in the history of rock and roll music and expects to hear kind words about right wingers?

Okay, for those who don't know, college professors have a right to free speech and not obliged in any way, shape, or form to refrain from expressing their political opinions. While it's wise for educators to refrain from haranguing students, it's ridiculous to expect them never to let a political opinion pass from their lips. Neither of these subjects is out of place in a class on rock music--how else is a professor to teach the subject of anti-Vietnam music to students while there is a similiar war going on and not mention it?

The Limbaugh comment sounds extremely pertinent to the subject to me--any realistic assessment of the history of rock music should include some discussion about how the music is being co-oped by screaming hypocrites like Limbaugh who claim to hate the counter-culture and everything it stands for but want to use its emotional power (not to mention indulge in its excesses like drugs) for their own ends.

And I can see right off the bat how that would offend the Republicans in the class. The great dilemma of many a young conservative is how to both participate in the cheerful hedonism of college life while participating in a cultural movement that wants to stomp out sexy fun like rock music. The usual strategy is to just ignore the contradiction, which is much harder to do when someone is pointing out that very contradiction in a classroom setting.

Anyway, the entire article is a head-scratcher--it's just alarming how much censorship on campuses that conservatives feel free to ask for. I mean, within this article alone, they are demanding that the students be lied to about everything from rock music's relationship to politics to whether or not diets heavy in pork products are bad for you.

Via Catch.

Young'uns who rock

Today I'm going to post about an entire band instead of just the one musician because these girls have been together in a band since junior high school--The Donnas. I wasn't going to mention them so early on, but apparently there is a misconception going around. Or maybe there is. I was wearing a band T-shirt of theirs last night when I went to the corner store and the cashier asked me how long it's been since they "quit singing". I decided she meant they had broken up and I said no, that they were still together and she looked at me funny and just said she wished they were still singing.

When I got home and told that story to my boyfriend, he was as confused as me and suggested that the cashier had mixed them up with someone else, possibly a 60's-style girl group. "Their name does remind me of something like The Shirelles or The Ronettes," he said, earning massive bonus points for remembering names of 60's pop groups I like. I pointed out that would be funny if that was her mistake, since they named themselves The Donnas in homage to The Ramones who draw on girl groups for inspiration themselves. *ohm*

The Donnas were Ramones-style pop punk when they started out, but since then they've wrested creative control away from management types and have really come into their own sound, which is way more straightforward rock. Their latest album is pure L.A. rocking out type music, and that means their fan base has just blown up in size. The first few shows of theirs I saw were crowded but not outrageous. The last time we went to see them, it was so crowded that someone opened up a Zippo behind me and somehow managed to put a tear in my leather jacket. Vintage suede jacket, argh. (I know that I shouldn't be so vain, but if you can't wear your badass cool vintage finds to rock shows, then where, pray tell?)

But in all honestly, I do have to say their latest album Spend the Night is their best, and it's great that they are getting more success as they come into their own as musicians instead of just falling apart as a lot of young groups do as life catches up with them. Their professionalism is really just astounding for such young women, especially in a field like rock music where professionalism is a complete joke.

The smiling saga continues

The discussion of the issues of men, women, smiling, and sexual overtures keeps getting more complicated here and here. It's bound to be complicated because in all the interactions that people have, there are levels upon levels of meaning and tons of potential for misunderstanding. Naturally.

To begin with, the comment that Hugo made that caused me to respond that I don't feel like I "owe" anyone a smile. (By the way, he is referring to his younger self--this isn't how he feels now.)

Why is it that men are always guilty until proven innocent? I know there are some "bad guys" out there, but it is incredibly hurtful to me that women won't smile at me in the hallways or on the street because they have lumped me in with all the others! I get so tired of paying the price -- in terms of women's mistrust -- for other men's failures and betrayals and bad behavior. Why can't women see what a good guy I am?

By pointing out that some men try to "fix" the situation of women who don't smile at them by "correcting" them and telling them to smile, I meant to point out that even though some women don't grin at every man on the sidewalk for reasons all their own, men who would tell them what to do are conveying the message that women are on the sidewalk for his personal enjoyment and someone is falling down on the job. Not all men feel this way, not most men. But enough men that it can create some seriously tense situations.

It's true that most of the time most people pretty much ignore each other. I work on a college campus and walk by roughly one gazillion strangers a day and most of us don't make eye contact not because that's way too time-consuming. I am under no illusions that men pay much attention to me or to anyone else (barring of course some of the fashion disasters that everyone is staring at).

But a man who is frustrated that a woman doesn't smile at him is clearly paying attention and expecting a smile from that woman. And a startling number of men think that if they try to get a smile out of a woman and she doesn't smile that it's because she is angry at him or angry at men in general. A man barking at a woman and telling her to smile is just an asshole about it. But even someone like 19-year-old Hugo who wondered why women didn't smile in the halls was assuming that they were noticing him and choosing not to smile. I'll bet that in a lot of those cases they just didn't see him at all because they were lost in their own thoughts.

And that's exactly what I think offends the men who get up in your shit and tell you what to do. As La Lubu points out in Hugo's comments, men who do this probably know that they aren't going to get a smile for their hostility. My guess is it's either punishment then for not doing what they want you to do, or more likely just a way to draw your attention to where they think it belongs--on them. I don't think it's self-flattery to say that someone who bothers to bother you is wanting your attention on one level or another.

My only point was that women are supposed to be nice to everyone and can attract really hostile reactions for extremely minor infractions against the cult of femininity--read all the stories in Hugo's comments about getting yelled at for not smiling, turning down a date, whatever. A surprising number of them did have a sexual component to them, which has really caused me to rethink things a little.

Of course, in a situation this complex, it's difficult to really put forward any kind of bold assertion about people's behavior. I think that it's obviously true that the vast majority of expected "receptiveness" from women has very little to do with flirting and sex and stuff. But if there's reason to believe that a man does have a sexual motive, does it ratchet up the chance of an interaction turning hostile? If so, why?

Luckily, I live in like the perfect enviroment to observe this stuff. Not only are there gazillions of people interacting on a college campus, the sexual tension is high, as can be expected. Even so, I can safely say, I think, that most men who I have quick and friendly interactions with aren't thinking about that at all--not the guy who sold me my soda this morning with the shit-eating grin (yes, I smiled back), not the one who opened the door for me, etc. Tough call on the one who chased me down to ask what book I was reading this morning. (I have a funny feeling what my boyfriend's idea on that would be, but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and figure that he was just asking what the book was.) But sometimes, you can tell that a guy is trying to pull you into a conversation for specifically that reason. And since Austin is a very cool city, most of the time when you weasel out of it, they don't care and just go on their merry way. But I have lived in places where prying yourself out of a conversation with a man who was trying to ask you out is a delicate operation because there was a high chance of getting called a bitch or whatever.

No one likes to be rejected, of course, not me, not anyone. Taking rejection well is an art, as is rejecting someone nicely. (That's why it's wise to pull out of a conversation as quickly as possible with someone who is fixing to hit on you--the less they put on the line before they get rejected, the less rejected they'll feel.) And rejection is a two-way street. Women hit on men all the time and get blown off all the time and I'm certainly not denying that. But take a man who feels like he's superior to women and that situation and things can get nasty quickly. Not dragged off and raped nasty, generally. Name-calling nasty, butt-grabbing, whatever. If you live in a conservative part of the country, this could be something that happens quite a bit.

Anyway, a lot of stuff to think about, but I don't want to get long-winded. Generally I'm not a guarded person around men, even strange men. Part of that is just me, but I'm beginning to think part of it is because I'm shielded for various reasons from having hostile men "misinterpret" my smiles and general friendliness--by virtue of living in a liberal city where cruising and flirting is so common that no one takes it seriously, by virtue of being quick on my feet and able to play a little bullshit ji-jitsu with men who won't take no for an answer, by virtue of having a boyfriend or male friends around me in most social situations who scare off asshole guys, you name it. But if these things weren't true, I can see where I might be a little more afraid to just smile at any old person.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


Well, the comments threat at Hugo's blog got hijacked over the debate over whether women should smile or not at men. Ack! I feel kind rotten about it. I think that there are some massive misunderstandings. (Actually, misunderstanding suits his original topic well, which is why men who mean well can honestly get put off by the "guilt" thing.)

Since the focus in this discussion is often on women's very real anger at sexism and fears of violence, I thought I would point out that women are cautious over men for somewhat mundane reasons, too. My example was men who tell strange women who are lost in their thoughts or even frowning for whatever reason to smile. My point is just this--when a man tells a woman to stop doing whatever she is doing to smile at him, he is essentially saying that her obligation to make men feel good overrules anything else that might be occupying her mind at that moment. I could be wrong--maybe there's the whole smile squad, and all I've ever seen is the male members going after women in public. But I don't think so.

Apparently, this touched a nerve. In a very raw and basic way, one of the most sexist demands on women is that they handle the responsibility of prettifying the world--being cuter, nicer, lifting moods, smiling, handling social niceties, etc. It's hard to criticize this, because it's difficult overall to criticize anything that can be seen generally as a good thing. This is why the issue of women's nuturing nature is a big issue--nuturing is a good thing, so it's difficult for people to see why characterizing women as especially nuturing is wrong. The reason is that this isn't about women being better--it's about tearing down stifling gender roles and achieving equality and freedom. Characterize women as inherently nuturing and women who aren't particularly nuturing will get labeled as bad women.

I think we're off-track to talk about whether women should or shouldn't smile or whether it's dangerous our not, and for one really good reason--it's not about "should". It's about freedom.

I am a really smiley person, a huge goofball. Looking through the mountains of pictures my boyfriend takes, in most I'm smiling even and especially if I don't see that my photo is being taken. Or actually laughing. That's my personality--believe it or not, that too can be considered unfeminine because the proper girlie smile is demure, head down, eyes up adoringly, not a big shit-eating grin. Hell, laughing women might be an even bigger threat than those lost in thought or frowning vaguely at stress in their own lives.

It doesn't matter if some women are pleasant and smile at strangers or some can't be bothered and some laugh so hard that insecure men can't handle it. The issue is privacy and freedom. Women have the same right as men not to be under constant survelliance. Our behavior doesn't need to be corrected by strangers who have their own opinions about what makes a person sexually appealing, and nor should our very desire to be appealing be up for debate.

Astarte wondered, and fairly I suppose, if I'm not a hypocrite because I have my times when I like to wear cute clothes and be sexy. No, I don't think so. If I want to wear nice clothes and make-up, I do. If I'm too busy to do those things, I don't. If I'm not in the mood, I don't. If I want to wear them to impress my select friends but I don't care what strangers think, that is also my right and good for me.

It's the same with being a pleasant, smiling female. Sometimes it's sunny and all is right and you feel like you are in a musical and are walking down the street singing and just grinning like an idiot at everyone you see. Sometimes you are busy and lost in your thoughts. Sometimes you are beset by depressing thoughts and are sad. No matter how you feel, you don't owe it to strange men to lift their spirits by having women smile demurely at them.

The only thing I was pointing out is that even in small ways, sexism makes it hard for women to comfortably go about living their lives, something men take for granted. Instead women are under survelliance, having their behavior inspected and corrected out of the belief that our feelings should be subsumed to those of men we don't even know walking down the street.

Bush is just a coward

Apparently, it wasn't just laziness that made Bush neglect his duties.

He was a big ol' fraidy cat.

Of course, if this gets flogged in the media, the wingnuts will say this shows that Bush is braver than Kerry because he had a dreadful fear of flying to overcome. Kerry isn't brave, because fighting the V.C. is just natural to him.

The joys of being a pervert

So I went to see A Dirty Shame today. I wanted to see it so badly, I actually ventured into an ordinary theater to see it. (Usually, I pretty much only go to the Alamo Drafthouse, because they sell beer cheaper than a small coke at a regular movie theater. If I'm paying that much money for a drink, it better be alcoholic.) There is no way this will be a sober, well-reasoned review as I love John Waters and think everything he touches turns to gold.

As I stated earlier, it's because he actually bothers to satirize the people who actually deserve it, taking on homophobes, misogynists, uptight middle class assholes and everyone else who are the real problems in our society. And he's funny.

Waters basically took a list of every goofy perversion he's ever heard of and stuffed his movie with it. Kinkiness is a great topic for him, because very few things can get people uptight faster than the fact that other people do weird things in bed. But it's a leap of logic to go from not liking what others do and actually trying to stop them.

Waters takes these kinds of tensions and exagerrates them to the heights of absurdity. The censorious types are all shrill and seem even more perverse than the happy perverts. (Mink Stole, as one of the "neuters", goes off on a monologue about getting your virginity back through surgery.) It fits nicely into Waters' lifelong habit of writing stories where outcasts make their own space where they can be free of oppression from those who think that weird is the same thing as wicked.

And it was pretty funny watching my boyfriend chortle evilly throughout. He thinks that the world is stuffed full of perverts who just won't admit it, and therefore a movie where the perverts come out and take over the streets fits his worldview just fine. It's worth the price of the ticket just to see Patty Hearst humping some dude's leg. Highly recommended.

Edited to add: Oh yeah, it's NC-17. Probably in part because it's all about sex, but mostly because it shows penis. Waters is a feminist filmmaker in his own fucked-up way--until recently, every single movie he made had a female protagonist. Actually, only Pecker had a male protagonist. In most Waters movies, men are pretty much just sex objects. This movie is no exception. Tracy Ullman is married to Chris Issak (*swoon*) and falls in with bad boy Johnny Knoxville, who I now realize is pretty hot, too. And when everyone falls down to worship Ullman's cunt, it's just good dirty fun and not some deep statement.

Also, a really funny interview to read. They talk sex with John Waters, but they talk politics, too. Great quotes I have to steal:

And I'm so excited about this election. It's going to be a complete tie. It will come down to one vote, and then there'll be anarchy. No one's giving in this time.


As much as I hate Bush, certain liberals have this idea that they're the only person in the world that has someone in bed with them. I just want to say, "Would you fucking vote and shut up?" Or do something. Go out in the streets. Or you know, be something. I'm voting for Kerry's wife. I love her.

Defending Kerry against his supporters

Greg at The Talent Show heaps some well-deserved shame on fellow Democrats who are not supporting the Kerry campaign as they should. Don't forget that a dedication to party loyalty is what gets the Republicans in power, keeps them there, and also pulls the platform rightward. There's no reason to think that a little solidarity couldn't do the same for us, even help us pull the party leftward.

But that's an old argument. Greg is reality-checking people on a number of issues, not the least of which is to remind them that John Kerry is a good man and likely to be a good President, and is not a boring ABB candidate. This paragraph is also of interest:

I've heard so many wishy-washy liberals lately say "If he won't defend himself, can he defend us against terrorists?". Well, if being a ruthless campaigner is the most important criteria for you, go vote for Bush. But before you do, let me remind you that the guy who's doing such a great job against his political opponent has done a pretty shitty job against al Qaeda.

Anyone who says this is talking about stuff they know nothing about. Kerry is not a wimp or a coward. He has a distinguished history of standing up against corruption, and there is no doubt that he will take that courage and put it to use in our fight to root out terrorism. Rooting out the crap is exactly what he's good at.

As Greg points out, being a good campaigner is not the same thing as being a good person in the job. In fact, I would consider it a strike against your ability to do the job, because if you are good at the smooth lying that is part of a great campaign, then you will have no reason to keep yourself accountable to the voters. Look at Bush--he knows he can crap all over D.C. because he has some of the best campaigners in the world to spray perfume all over his shit.

Texas liberals are crazy

But it's a good thing. I am always emphasizing that citizens around the country should be spending some time familiarizing themselves with our screwed up politics in Texas, as the way that Texas is run is now affecting the entire world. George Bush and Tom DeLay in particular come out of a school of Texas political thinking called "Win At Any Cost".

Texas liberals are crazy because Texas conservatives drive us insane. As Molly Ivins is always pointing out, all you need to go cross-eyed is to spend any time at all listening to members of the Lege (Texas legislature) speak. I remember a friend of mine in college who went to her first legislative session to help represent a group dedicated to protecting children's rights in divorce cases. Coming back, she was seeing red because one hoary Republican got up and started pontificating on how giving child support was wrong because women just spent it on luxuries like expensive clothes and new cars. His evidence for this statement was that his ex-wife had recently purchased a car for his teenage daughter.

Texas politicians, especially conservatives, are notorious for their unwillingness to restrain themselves from just saying any fool thing that pops into their heads. The classic example of this is Clayton Williams stating that women who are get raped should just lay back and enjoy it--this was in the middle of a campaign for governor. To this day, you can find people who will defend that comment. If Texas liberals have little tolerance for cleverly disguised bullshit, then it is because we are used to dealing with undisguised bullshit on a daily basis.

The myth about Texas liberals is that we are rare. Not by a long shot--there are millions of us. And we vote. And we don't make it all that easy for the conservatives of this state who just wish we would shrivel up and go away.

With this is in mind, I would like to recommend two new books by very funny, very astute progressive Texans. One is Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush by Jim Hightower. It's a pretty typical Hightower book, but that's a good thing. Goofy, unapologetically progressive, and with lots of jokes about drinking beer--who wouldn't want to read it? The great thing about Hightower is that he deliberately avoids talking about social issues. He is irritated about how the Republicans use social issues to distract working class Americans from paying attention to the important issues--money and freedom.

One of the reasons that the media avoids talking about the economy and about dry civil rights issues is because these are unsexy matters. (The other reason, of course, is that their corporate overlords tell them not to.) Hightower has a great grasp of how to tell stories about corporate greed and scary political power grabs through interesting and telling stories. Tell someone that said CEO made this much while laying off this many people will put them to bed. Hightower puts feet on the street and gets people's personal stories and brings the whole thing home.

Hightower firmly believes that most Americans hold two values close to their hearts--the belief that if you work hard, you should be able to carve out a middle class existence for yourself and your family and that people should be able to live free without having anyone, not corporations or government or whatever, meddle in your business. He feels that if liberals can tailor their message to these two values, they will able to beat the beady-eyed conservatives off and take this country back. Read one of his books, and you'll find that you'll start agreeing with him.

The other new book is by Molly Ivins called Who Let the Dogs In? (It's a shame that it's got a stupid title, because the cover art is awesome--various politicians drawn as different breeds of dogs.) This book is an absolute must-read. It's various columns by Ivins since the Reagan era and it will give any liberal a good sense of the history of the political evolution that's led us to the dire situation we have now.

Ivins out and out states in an early essay about Ronald Reagan that Texas liberals have the upper leg in surviving under wingnut regimes because we have no relief from that in Texas. Her advice in this area is more valuable than ever, as we have a truly crazy wingnut in the highest office in the land right now. I consider Ivins to be a must-read writer every week, but even if you don't follow her column, there is tons to get out of this book.

The thing that is refreshing about Ivins is her steadfast belief that politicians, whatever their foibles, are human beings and should be regarded as such. It's important to be grounded like that. It does no one any good to insist repeatedly that Bill Clinton is a liar and a sneak because he comes off a progressive person and then turns around and passes some decidedly non-progressive legislation. Ivins is there to remind us that Clinton is someone who means well but after decades of having to compromise constantly to get anything done in a decidely conservative Southern state, he just didn't have the gumption to stand up for himself. That may be worse or may be better, but if you don't see it for what it is, you are prone to making some serious judgement mistakes. One I see often is thinking that therefore all Democrats are like him and that we can expect Clinton Part II when Kerry is elected President. (For one thing, I think that Kerry takes personal intergrity more seriously--really.) Ivins is very good at reminding readers that parties, while important, are not everything. And that we shouldn't have been surprised that Bush the II is not Bush the I.

Anyway, both books are great, especially for people who want to bone up on the state of liberal and progressive politics without having to get lost in piles of policy wonkery or have to read shrill screeds that make everything seem like it's a dire emergency. If there's one thing that being a Texas liberal will teach you, it's to have endless optimism in the face of overwhelming odds and that yes, a good, solid sense of humor plus a taste for good beer can make all sorts of things much more tolerable.

Readers put in suggestions

I'm pulling suggestions for female musicians that commenters would like to highlight and bringing them up here.

Elayne points out a lovely blog post on the Indigo Girls here. I would add that generally I don't really like the acoustic singer/songwriter-y stuff, but their music is fun to listen to.

NancyP is an opera fan and would like to remind everyone of the great Maria Callas, a diva from where "diva" is a title you earned by singing, not by showing your legs on VH1.

Cuddlefish reminds us of Sue Foley, who I probably might not have remembered, even though I see her all the time on TV here in Austin. The conventional wisdom is that women can't play blues guitar, and because of this Bonnie Raitt is given the token treatment--I've actually heard sexist fans say she's the exception that proves the rule. Too bad for them that fantastic guitarists like Sue Foley are out there to make you wonder how many exceptions does it take before you realize there are no rules?

Since we have a sampling from all sorts of musical genres, I thought I would bring up someone I was listening to last night who prided herself on her ability to sample from all sorts of musical genres--Nina Simone. She would probably consider herself a folk singer, but she tended to sing everything from jazz and blues to Broadway tunes to folk music. Nina never intended to be a singer at the beginning--she was a piano player, but it was hard for her to get jobs unless she sang as well.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

First daily musician post

In honor of the fact that yet again The Cramps came to town and I forgot to buy tickets, even though I love them, the kick-off female musician to highlight today is Poision Ivy, the guitarist and founding member of The Cramps. I totally forgot they were coming until we got downtown last night and heard them playing an encore at Stubb's and sounding great, of course.

The Cramps are probably the first and definitely the best psychobilly band. For those who don't know, psychobilly is punked up and often spaced out rockabilly music. For most of the country, the sound never really took off. However, down in Texas, we fucking love psychobilly. You have The Cramps to blame for Texas bands like The Reverend Horton Heat and The Flametrick Subs. Pretty much all psychobilly guitarists will imitate Poison Ivy's spaced out playing on one level or another, but very few can really reach the levels of just pure weirdness that she reaches.

The rules

The rules for my new daily task are as follows:

  1. The first rule is that whoever is profiled may be anywhere on the scale of creative control from ruling the roost to meekly adding in a little sound. All female musicians have to put up with a ton of shit--so all will be honored here.
  2. No posts where a female musician is just linked to her album or profile and left at that. I vow to add a couple sentences about why I think today's female musician fucking rules.
  3. That being said, the major way to get a daily post is to be someone I like. I refuse to apologize for my bad taste.
  4. However, I am way more than open to suggestions. If you have a female musician you adore, please let me know. I will post any and all suggestions on the condition that whoever is submitting explain who the woman is and why they think she rules. Submissions may be the post of the day or accompany the post of the day. But as long as you explain why you like said musician, she's on the blog.
  5. I considered an out and out ban on discussing the husbands and/or lovers of these women in their profiles. But I realized that was dishonest--a lot of really cool women use their husbands/lovers to gain access to an audience. They should not be punished for this; why should they eliminate an important contact to getting a larger audience? Men are not generally examined for abusing friendships to get to the top, so Mouse Words will not punish women for it.
  6. That being said, if a woman's husband/lover has no bearing on her career, he will not be mentioned. The basic rule is that we will mention no more of marriage or family life than profiles of male musicians do, and probably much less, since that crap is boring.
  7. We reserve the right to occasionally link to female musicians we have ill will towards, but we think need recognition anyway for whatever reason. Courtney Love is the reason for this rule, but we will go into more detail if and when we tackle that frightening topic.
  8. I repeat--I will be profiling women who are not front and center in their bands. I will deliberately profile women who are in the background and might otherwise be invisible. The reason for this is that women in music are treated like freaks--as often as not, an attractive, vivacious female member is the very reason that a band is catapulted to fame. (I would call it the Blondie effect, but I'd rather call it the No Doubt effect, since No Doubt has nothing to distinguish itself from other crappy ska bands expect an athletic lead singer. Blondie, however, fucking rules.) We are not here to put down those who gain fame that way. But we are here to remind everyone very firmly that women can be other things in bands besides lead singers/sex objects.
  9. Singers are musicians. Singing may actually be the hardest thing to do in a band. Voices are certainly the most tempermental of instruments. Singing is traditionally the easiest way for women to get into music, because it's the only one where sex differences actually matter--women can hit higher notes that men.

Everything you need to know about how women are systematically disparaged, you can learn from observing the plight of female singers. Female singers are necessary--without them, you can't reach the high notes. People love female singers, always have. Maybe even more than male singers, for whatever reason.

One of the guiding principles of studying patriarchal history is that where women are necessary, you will find extreme attempts to try to reduce or even erase women's importance. The efforts to deny that women's soprano voices were necessary for opera went so far and became so cruel that they are legendary now--kidnapping and castrating thousands and thousands of young men in hopes that a few would grow to have beautiful soprano voices. (That this happened is a fact to keep in mind the next time a liberal-ish anti-feminist tells you that men surely wouldn't hurt themselves to keep women oppressed.)

In American music, female singers are accepted and actually sought after. This is where the other principle of female oppression comes into play--if you can't deny that you need women for something, deny that their work has importance. Female singers are here to stay, so singing became the shit work of music. While everyone respects someone with god-given pipes to die for, it's generally believed that singing is the easiest thing to do in a band. Male lead singers are feminized and made into sex objects. The notion that singers don't matter has created an avalanche of mediocrity as music producers try to outrun each other in a way to coax an Aretha-sized voice out of the smallest girl they can find.

But singing is hard--hard on the body, hard on the mind. It's harder to remember all the lyrics to a song than to remember how to play it. If your guitar wears out, you can buy another, but singers got only one set of pipes. Yes, there are singing lessons, but that doesn't change the fact that you have to learn by ear. And the singer is the conduit for the audience. I heard a very famous jazz musician (probably Charlie Parker, but I'm not sure) say that the goal for everyone who plays an instrument is to imitate the human voice as closely as possible. By that measure, Billie Holiday was probably the greatest jazz musician whoever lived.

The hardass badass women who play

Here at Mouse Words, the blog, we are known to complain occasionally that female musicians get no respect. At the House of Mouse, we complain about this issue pretty much daily.

I love music, but I can't play. There's no where to turn to win--most nights at most shows, you'll see hardly a female on stage. Play in a band that is all female, and find yourself playing shows where the gimmick is "girl bands". Not that this is in itself a negative experience. A friend of mine found herself opening occasionally for Sleater Kinney. Annoying issue--her band had nothing in common with Sleater Kinney except that they were all women. But she had an overall good experience, as she met some really cool girls, blah blah.


The fact is that women are musicians. And they aren't in neat, easy-to-stereotype ways. Female musicians that are already out there are the best example that women can play how they want when they want--but they are mostly invisible.

I won't shit you. Being a woman and playing can be a nightmare. The hardest part is that punk rock should have just thrown those doors wide open--as Sarah Vowell eloquently pointed out, punk is inherently feminine. And certainly, punk made it easier for women to form and be in rock bands--if you are going to be contrary, it does no good to kowtow to the tedious belief that women are audience, men are performers. But it sure wasn't enough to achieve parity. And men keep taking over and just squeezing out what female musicians have a platform. Hey, do you think the angry, angry female bands that came out in the early 90's were bitching about nothing? Without their anger and their feminist-inspired willingness to write lyrics about extremely painful and extremely personal stuff to draw on, I highly doubt that Kurt Cobain would have been inspired to do more than just play Melvins-esque crap into obscurity.

The story of female musicians is the Zelda Fitzgerald story--create until your heart bursts and have a man put his name on it.

All of us at Mouse Words knows that pointing out the gross injustice of this is not fashionable, but we don't care. But we also felt impotent to make any difference--we can't play, so we thought we were limited to purchasing albums by women, going to shows with female artists, and educating our friends about female musicians they would like but may not know about. But we can do more than that! We have a fucking website and a huge backlog of useless trivia about music!

With resources like that, there is only one thing to do. Mouse Words will be highlighting a female musician that we like every single day. Some will be really famous, some you probably haven't heard of. I want it to be weird and arbitrary and random, because my point is women are already out there and already playing. If we start looking at the female musicians we already have, then it won't be so hard to see that we need more.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Friday cat blogging

One more cat, and I'd have a complete triangle. Posted by Hello

I never thought I'd say this....

....but kudos to Montel Williams for stepping out and admitting that he has to use marijuana to control his pain from MS and wants to see it legalized for medical use.

Mr. President, I am not alone. Tens of thousands of Americans, your citizens, make this daily choice. They are people like me who suffer from pain and spasms from MS, wasting from AIDS and cancer, and from numerous other symptoms. Because of medical marijuana, those of us with chronic or life-threatening illnesses have emerged from the haze of narcotic-based or morphine-like painkillers and other toxic medications to continue being productive citizens.

For people like me who have been through the gamut of FDA-approved drugs with no relief, marijuana has given us our lives back. It allows us to sleep through the night, to gain weight and strength, to read a bedtime story to our child, to run an office. It offers us the liberty — the freedom to live with dignity — that is one of our inalienable rights as American citizens.

There are few things more telling than the government's hardline anti-medical marijuana stance. This is a democracy, and the people have spoken all over the country in places where the citizens have voted to make it legal. And yet that mean asshole we have for Attorney General just sets his jaw and lets it be known that cancer, MS and AIDS patients can just go fuck themselves if they want pain relief. There's hippies out there laughing at cartoons and until this wretched plague is stamped out, weaknesses like sympathy for those with chronic pain cannot be tolerated.


A friend of mine, looking at my blog, hit "Next Blog" and got this.

I like it. I might like it more if I knew Spanish, though.

Debate rules

Check out the rules that the Bush campaign had to have in place before the debates. Specifically, check out page 12, paragraph d) and e).

You read that right. Audience members will not be allowed to go off-script or ask follow-up questions. If they do, they will have their microphone cut.

Why don't they just have Fox run it and get it over with?

For your entertainment

Looks like a John Bircher sort got through on C-SPAN.

The clue train missed this article

A better compendium of clueless people would be hard to find than this article from the New York Observer. It's about fuck buddies. It goes to show that while it might be easy to shake off the belief that you have to be in love with someone to have sex, it's hard as hell to shake off sexist stereotypes of how men and women feel about love and sex.

First of all, the writer commits the number one sin of these pieces, which is to assume that since her life circumstances are changing, then the world is changing.

Indeed, a few months ago, when The Onion gave us the faux headline, "Fuck Buddy Becomes Fuck Fiancé," it raised a valid question: Where have all the fuckers gone?

Have they all gotten married?

I called Kyle Smith, author of Love Monkey, part of the fledgling "lad-lit" genre. "Fuck buddies are an urban legend," he said. "You never hear of them anymore."

But you did hear about them in the 90’s.

Since it's harder for her to get a fuck buddy than it was in the 90's, it must mean that casual sex is out. Of course, she might find that if she suddenly became the same age she was in the 90's, it might not be as hard to find a fuck buddy. To put it simply--the world isn't getting older and stuffier, my friends. But we are.

Of course it's harder to screw around at 30 than 20! Of course the men you date will start wanting more--dating, marriage, babies. People grow up, for god's sake. And thank god. Right out of adolescence, dating is a nightmare. Guys are firmly trained to loathe girls in high school and it's difficult for them to transistion from heaping hate to actually being nice to one. But now I'm older and the men I know like women. Of course, this does mean that men you date might come on a little hard with the relationship stuff, but no one ever promised sex and dating would be perfect.

The author then speaks to a woman who is exactly my age who has a hole in her thinking so large you could drive a truck through it.

"People have started calling me ‘Mansley,’" said a pretty 27-year-old blonde named Ansley, "because I’m more of a guy than the people I hook up with. Tell me, when did all the dudes freaking turn into chicks? For my last fuck buddy, I made sure I chose a total player—and yet, once he realized I was only in it for the sex, he lost it. He actually screamed at me, ‘Listen, I am not a piece of meat!’"

This young woman works at Coyote Ugly (ugh), and doesn't seem to grasp that the reason that the "total player" might not have liked being used like he was using her is that in his mind, he's a person and she's the piece of meat. It's emasculating to be used for sex like men often use women--she inadvertently confirms this by calling him (sigh) a "pussy" and a "chick".

The author also interviews Candida Royalle, who I would think would be a teeny bit smarter than this, but no.

Turning a guy into a fuck buddy isn’t as easy as one might think, as former porn star Candida Royalle discovered when she slept with an acquaintance. "I hadn’t made any bones about the fact that it was just sex, and we’d both had fun and thank you very much," she said. "Anyway, after I turned down his invitation to go out, he got so upset—he said he felt used and asked me how could I treat him like that and blah blah blah. I was shocked!"

Okay, it's annoying. But shocking? I mean, how much more can a guy spell it out--does he have to say, "In my world men use women, not the other way around?"

The stereotype, repeated by some clueless young men in this story, is that women have sex for love and men have sex for sex. This is a very, very, very self-serving myth for men. If you are a guy and you believe this, then it means every gasp of pleasure, every smoldering look is all because she is head over heels in love, even if you are clearly just using her. For whatever reason, one of the most flattering things in the world is to be adored without giving back. But if women can just have sex for its own sake "like a man", then men have to live with the fact that not everyone woman they've ever been with is necessarily breaking her heart over him.

Also, if women can have sex without being in love, then they have leverage to make demands. This is a huge issue for this young man:

"But when the female makes it abundantly clear that she too wants some romping good fun, then suddenly the possibility that we can’t provide is readily in our faces. An aggressive girl suggests two things: sexual experience and a demand to be pleased herself. These things are terribly frightening to a guy. Why do you think we all love 16-year-olds?"

When someone is "in love" with someone who can just walk away laughing, the "in love" person has no power. (Except to give up, which she should do.) It's just easier to sleep with someone who is afraid to make demands for fear you'll leave and she'll be tarnished a "slut", isn't it? This prince of a man keeps going:

"The last girl I had sex with told me ahead of time that she would only sleep over on the condition that I set the alarm clock for 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, because she had a ton of stuff to do the next day. I thought she was kidding—until we both woke up the next morning for a little morning sex, and, within two minutes of completion, she had her clothes on and was out the door. No breakfast, no cuddling, no nothing. Needless to say, that was the last time we slept together."

(Note to women in the New York area: This young man gives his name and age--Dan Madigan, 21. Do not sleep with him. He will whine if destroy the illusion that you are just a sex toy by mentioning that you have a job and a life and stuff. Jesus.)

The article closes with a quote from a couple of people who make sense--a young woman who points out that guys don't like girls who might be in it just for sex because it's an ego blow. (Once more with feeling--after all, who doesn't want adoration to be his due?) And the other is Erica Jong, who makes it a bit simplistic, but at least shows some common sense:

"It just goes to prove how utterly fucked up the male sex is," said 62-year-old Erica Jong, the author of Fear of Flying. "Men are trying to protect themselves from being hurt, and in a way, women are, too—protecting themselves from being hurt by taking on the male mannerisms."

Well, yes and no. I don't think women who enjoy casual sex are necessarily lying to themselves to protect their ego. But I do agree with her that the idea that men only want sex is the biggest lie of all, and it's one that was built specifically to protect the male ego.


Boy, the right is really trying to push the lie that "neocon" is coded anti-Semitism, aren't they?

It's almost delightful when conservatives, tired of having to endure truthful criticisms of their beliefs, just try to turn those criticisms around and call it a day. This is a particularly favorite strategy in the area of identity politics. The big two:

*It's not anti-feminists who hate women, it's feminists! After all, they are trying to shove freedom on women who don't want it.

*It's not conservatives that are racists. It's liberals who are racist because they point out that America has a history of racism. Anyway, it's worse to call someone racist than to be a racist.

I have yet to hear how the ban on gay marriage actually helps gay people, but someone in a think tank somewhere is trying to come up with one. The "neocon" thing is just the same old story. They think we are trying to shut people up by pointing out racism, so they think they can shut up critics by falsely accusing them of anti-Semiticism. As usual, it's a bad fit and won't work at the goal of shutting up war critics.

Sadly, it will work to give war supporters a way to feel warm and cozy about this murderous disaster. You know, because being for the war at least means you don't hate Jews. Or something like that.