.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

My Photo
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

One woman's left is another woman's right

Below is a list of state, national, and international online newspapers and magazines. I ask folks who stumble by to comment on which label (right, left, center) best suits each newspaper/magazine. I realize these are somewhat arbitrary and shifting labels, but ask you go with the flow (or not - you can do what the heck you want, right?). Comment on all or some or none. Your opinion of each is also welcome.

State/Local (at least to this bird)
Los Angeles Times

The San Francisco Bay Guardian

The San Francisco Chronicle

U.S. / National
The Christian Science Monitor

The Economist

In These Times

Mother Jones

The Nation

The National Review

New America Media

The New York Times

The Raw Story

Rolling Stone Magazine

The Washington Post


BBC News

Guardian Unlimited

The Jerusalem Post

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Love of Christians


Yesterday, the SF Chron reported that five teachers at a San Leandro high school were refusing to display in their classrooms the student-made and district-mandated posters which promote tolerance and understanding of gay and lesbian students – essentially anti-hate speech posters. The teachers refused due to religious beliefs.

Today, the Chron reports the issue is resolved, the Gang of Five have agreed to display the posters. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/26/BAGHRGT0GD1.DTL&hw=San+Leandro+tolerance&sn=002&sc=534.

I doubt that these teachers have had a change of thinking or heart - and posters don’t eliminate homophobia – though they may remind folks that they need to watch their language and their actions. But I wonder about those teachers – I question their ability to be fair to students who are homosexual, clearly these teachers disapprove quite strenuously of those students’ “choices.” I suspect their homophobia will simply go underground and manifest as covert ops and passive-aggressive behaviors. One letter-writer to the SF Chron editor suggests that these teachers should not be forced to display these posters - let students be ware that these classrooms are not safe places for them.

I’m not sure how promoting tolerance and understanding of others, and demonstrating to students that hateful speech is unacceptable, furthers these teachers’ religious beliefs. Of course, I’m assuming they are Christian and ask, where is their Christian love? The Pope just recently published a papal document discussing love – the need to raise up on high love of neighbor and love of God. I don’t know if any of these teachers are Catholic, but my understanding of Christianity – or at least of Jesus’ teachings, is that love of neighbor, love of humanity, t and olerance, understanding, compassion – are noble attributes we should aspire to. We should indeed love our neighbor.

But love is interpretable and manifests itself in many different ways. Perhaps, in the minds of some, the appropriate way to express love of your fellow human beings is to call them names, chastise them, and harass them for being who they are (even though they are causing no harm to anyone). Perhaps expressing love of neighbor is appropriately done by trying with all your might to convince someone that the essence of who they are is evil, a wicked choice that can be overcome by willpower.

Holes abound in this argument, of course. We would certainly chastise a neighbor who does something illegal, criminal. We wouldn’t tolerate physical aggression against ourselves or those dear to us. We wouldn’t be tolerant and understanding of a person who breaks our laws, harms us and ours, etc.

Yeah, those teenaged homosexuals are definitely a threat here. I can see why those teachers cannot tolerate them or willingly embrace the notion that they should be treated with respect in their learning environment.

Oh dear Lord, please preserve us all from the love of such Christians as represented by those five, upstanding teachers in San Leandro. Amen.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Shameless Birthday Post

I wake up this morning to discover that completing my 49th year isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I'd been dreading this birthday - and probably managed to work through all the angst about growing older prior to this day (which happens to be beautiful - the sky a flawless blue ceramic bowl, the sun warm, the air crisp).

My daughter called early this morning to wish me happy birthday- a surprise in many ways - I just didn't think of her as that sweet and thoughtful (proof that you can learn something new, be surprised by folks in your 50th year). Maybe it was her birthday call, or maybe the weight- lifting session I had earlier (get those endorphins going) or the tall glass of water I drank, or maybe all those things combined, but I didn't feel old. I feel ... confident. Experienced.

After all, having now completed 49 years on this planet, it stands to reason that I have attained some sort of wisdom, grace, knowledge (ok, perhaps "grace" is too hopeful - I'm not known for being graceful in any situation). But I am entering the peak of my expertise phase - yeah, you young pups, I know a thing or two (see what I mean about lack of grace?).

But there are also things I don't know, and things I've not done.

I've decided to revamp for this 50th year. Having never in my life plucked or shaped my eyebrows, I've made an appointment to have that done next week. Having never once worn acrylic nails, I've made an appointment to have that done too. Why not? I've never been a girly-girl - maybe I should try it out and see.

But what else have I never done that I want to do? I've never made love as a 49 year-old in the back of a car - I think maybe I should try that. Perhpas it's different than at 16. But it'll have to be a limo - I want some room to do this properly and with all the finesse and expertise of a 49 year-old - hahaha!

Hmmm...my birthday is actually my new year's. Now's the time for those resolutions and goals. I like the goals part better than the resolutions part. Resolutions are meant to be broken; goals are meant to aspire to and achieve.

I've learned that unless you make plans and follow through, goals don't just happen. You have to visualize, stay focused, figure out what steps you need to take in order to achieve the goal.

Guess I need a plan about that limo and lovemaking. Hmmmm...

What a shameless post - but I'm too old too care! Hurrah!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Nagin Channels God

Just when I though it might be safe to look at the news again...

According to the Associated Press (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2006116/ap_on_re_us/katrina_nagin), New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told listeners of his MLK Day address that he knows how God feels and thinks:

“Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it’s destroyed and put stress on this country.”

“Surely he doesn’t approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses.”

“But surely he is upset at black Americans also. We’re not taking care of ourselves."

“This city will be a majority African American city. It’s the way God wants it to be.”


One would expect something like this from Pat Robertson, but from a former businessman (general manager of Cox Communications) and Republican-turned-Democrat elected on a reform platform? Naaah…say it ain’t so.

Has God truly conveyed his thoughts to Nagin? Of course not – this is a rhetorical device on Nagin’s part. How can we possibly take the idea that Nagin knows God’s mind seriously? Nagin’s conception of God allows him to infer and create what God might think, what God might feel. God according to Nagin. All fine and well I suppose. But I take exception.

I don’t conceive of God as an entity that concerns him, her, or itself with the particulars of our human existence, and I refuse to believe in a wrathful, vengeful God or one whose administration of punishment produces collateral damage. And I am simply sick to death of politicians and public figures using their self-proclaimed intimate knowledge and understanding of God to further their agenda – even if the agenda itself is noble and just.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Jack's Choice (ohdearlord,not another Brokeback post!)

I've become embroiled in a conversation conducted via the comments on a blog (http://www.livejournal.com/users/darkthirty/) that began with darkthirty's question: What is the theme of Brokeback Mountain? The conversation evolved quickly to a discussion of choice and deceit - a direction I'm sure DT had in mind from the beginning. I find it fascinating and share portions of that discussion here:

Really, all this talk about beautiful movie, moving, and all that, yet - what is the theme. Cause all I saw was deceit and fear - I cannot, for the life of me, understand where the so-called beautiful cinematography comes from - are people sure it was this movie and not Pride and Prejudice? Anyway, I saw the movie and it's not Abelard and Heloise, although the film has been compared to that on an Austen list.What is the stated theme of this movie. Answering that will, I am guessing, deflate the hugely lopsided evaluations of the movie... but, let's see what people say...

What is the theme?=What is this movie about?It's about ... forbidden love.But what about what its about? What about forbidden love? Brokeback illustrates that forbidden love, as defined by the arbitrary and lesser-angeled "morals" of our society, causes despair and agony, not only for those individuals involved in the forbidden love, but those closest to them, and ultimately, for society as a whole (though admittedly, that's a stretch as the movie doesn't speak directly to the society-as-a-whole issue). Although this particular forbidden love is gay love, the theme is universal, as we are all familiar, either through literature, film, music, or personal experience, with forbidden love of one kind or another.

Well, it's not forbidden, that's the issue, it's a choice one character makes, based on fear - on something his father showed him. Within 7 years of the start of this movie, 1963, there were gay rodeos. It's the choosing that's the point here. And, because it could be ANY choosing, it's an irritating film because it sentimentalizes the choosing of deceit and fear.

Aw, I concur to a point, the movie is in many ways about the choices we make. However, choices are socially-situated and constructed, and it;s indeed human nature to make some choices based on fear. It must be extraordinarily difficult to choose a relationship that if pursued publicly, will result in ostracism, public defamation and humiliation, not to mention grave physical danger - a relationship that one has been taught to consider substandard and morally bankrupt. It takes an exceptional human being to withstand that sort of fear and rise above that sort of enculturation. Thus, it's not necessarily ANY CHOOSING - the choices are constrained and heavily weighted.

www.glaad.org documents gay rodeo as beginning in 1976 in Reno, Nevada, though I've also read 1976 as a start date as well. Yes, some gay community and culture may have furtively been "thriving" in 1960s Wyoming, but here's another date that surely you are familiar with: 1988 -the year Matthew Sheperd, an openly gay teenager, was viciously beaten and killed for being gay of course in Wyoming. Yes, Matthew made a choice I suppose - he rose above the fear of being openly gay in a hostile environment. It cost him his life. Not much of a choice. Perhaps he should have heeded a little fear and deceit. So, I posit that the movie is indeed about forbidden love and the awful "choices" such forbidden love forces one into: deny the love and suffer extreme mental anguish, embrace the love and suffer as well. Perhaps the movie is also about the limited range of choices we create for ourselves and others when as individuals and a society we adhere to fear, bigotry, and hatred. But along your lines of choosing fear and deceit, I invite you to my blog entry: What John Wayne Might Say to Ennis and Jack. Check it out if you're so inclined. birdsblog.blogspot.com Thanks for the opportunity to "dialog" on your blog. Regards, Bird
* * .* * *
I want to add here, at the end of this post, for folks who may have misconstrued my JW post - I in no way endorse or embrace JW's point of view - I merely looked at one JW movie after another and wondered how he might view Jack's and Ennis' relationship and how it would stack up against JW's values - or rather, the values of the characters JW played and the value system inherent in Westerns in general. Hope that mouthful made sense!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

How F*-#@^ed Up Are We? A Movie Rant

In the past two weeks, I've seen Brokeback Mountain, Munich, and Crash. And if I wasn't before (simply rhetorical conjecture here - no doubt I probably was and am), I am even more convinced now that as a species, we humans are purely self-centered, hate-filled, bigoted, uneducable, idiotic, twisted, tortured souls with relatively few redeeming characteristics. (Nah, c'mon Bird, don't hold back - how do you REALLY feel about us?)

My channeling of John Wayne bears some scrutiny. Let's think about this. JW (as in WWJWD?) would have Jack and Ennis risk grave physical harm in order to stand tall as men, be true to their selves and each other. Do we demand this of heterosexual couples? Of course not - we only ask they stick together in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer. As a society, we don't expect heterosexual couples to risk dismemberment and torture (oh - I separate the two - as if dismemberment doesn't equal torture - nice distinction - I should go work for the Bush administration and write legal memos - hey GW, we can cut the dicks offa anyone - no problemo - ain't no crime, ain't no torture. Hmmm... guess we'd best start forcing clitorectomies on lesbians - that would in no way constitute torture - besides, those bitches have it coming to them and they have less standing than gay men - what the hell, we'll never get caught, and if we do, it will matter even less.)

Alright, that's relatively off my chest. Back to the general failings of human kind. I grow more and more convinced that the sooner aliens from outer space discover and destroy us (as in, the only good human is a dead human - as in - we are a breed apart and make no sense (a line stolen from Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans - only his character was speaking of the white man) the better.

But what about the movies, Bird?

Crash is finely written, filmed, and acted. Most of the characters are despicable - and sadly, accurately reflect us - all of us. Some scenes caused me to cry out in pain, in warning, in despair. We are a deeply fucked-up species. Hip high school and college instructors will glom on to this film, show clips in class, and force students to write witless, vacuous, and trite essays about the nature of race relationships in the United States. By doing so, they will suck the power and force out of the movie and absolutely no real, substantive societal change will result (not like that would happen anyway - so it ain't the teachers' fault).

Munich made me cry. Spielberg uses actual news footage in the beginning of the film and seeing those grainy images flickering on a large screen made me nauseous. I was 15 in '72, and saw the tragedy (instead of the thrill of victory- though Jim McKay's use of that term would come later in his tenure as ABC's Olympic anchor) and those news clips brought it back on a visceral level. I left the theater wanting to accost Israelis and Palenstinans and yell at them , "What's a matter with you? Knock this shit off you fucking idiots. And if not, just bomb each other off the face of the earth now would you, and be done with it. It's enough now!"

The power of Brokeback's societal statement is wrapped up in its narrative of a romantic and tragic love. The movie simply breaks your heart. It does so with exquisite and elegant craft. Ang, the actors, the crew never drop a stitch or miss a step. But as a friend of mine commented, "Can't we ever have a gay love story in mainstream film that has a happy ending?" Nope - can't have that. Unacceptable. Not acceptable as reality or art. Gotta send a message.

I'm done with "important" movies. There's only so much despair and hurt I can take. I haven't read the news in a bit - just to avoid such despair. I need to watch That Darn Cat , or A Charlie Brown's Christmas, or read Family Circle (god forbid - have things gotten that bad?) or write some horrid, fluff piece (this is horrid, over-generalized, but not fluff) and forget about the ridiculousness of humans. But we are fucked. We aren't going to hell in a hand basket - we are already there.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What John Wayne might say to Ennis and Jack

Pilgrims, daylight’s burning on your relationship. You gotta stand up like men and do what ya gotta do. People will think what they’re gonna think, but you can’t let that keep you from doing what’s right – because that’s what men do – they do what they know to be right. And right now, you’re both nothin but sissy cowboys – no men at all. Look at you. Deceiving your women, leaving them home alone while you go out carousing, lyin, cheatin’ your way into each other’s arms – that’s no way for a man to behave. Running off to the saloon for a good all-night card game is one thing and you’ll never see me speak ill of another man who does. But in those years I left Maureen O’Hara alone at night, it weren’t so I could run off and screw some other woman, or betray her in bed with a man. No. It was for friendship and that’s what a man’s gotta do sometimes. But you fellas, you’re lying and cheatin, and deceiving, cause you ain’t got enough stomach for the way it is or the way it oughta be. Ennis, Jack’s right. You two outghta lit out of here and start up your own ranch. You ain’t a man if you pay heed to what others say when you know you’re right. A man’s gotta stand up, and it doesn’t matter if as a consequence someone takes a tire arm to his face or cuts off his dick. I’ve seen Apaches do worse and respect a fella that can take that kind of abuse because he knows he’s right. Now you can bellyache and say no one deserves that kind of treatment, but as our friend Clint would say, deserve’s got nothing to do with it. So pilgrims, you stand tall and act like men.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Musings on John Wayne, Westerns, and self-centered writng (again)

Somehow for Christmas I received over 24 John Wayne movies. Of course, this didn't just happen by accident. My family finds it extremely ironic that I, a middle-aged, latte-drinking, liberal/leftist/radical (depending on whom you're talking to in the family - frankly, I think I can often be conservative) college teacher likes John Wayne movies. I know the family meant it as a joke - but I truly appreciate the collection of JW (I prefer to call John Wayne JW, or on occassion, when I'm in the mood, Yohnny) movies my family showered me with on Christmas morning. I ended up with the largest pile of presents to open - not that we count in my family (no, we eyeball...hmmm...).

One DVD alone has over a dozen of JW's early works - B&W, B-grade, hour-length features - usualy with the big guy chasing after a stagecoach and of course, looking tough.

So I've spend the last several days watching John Wayne movies and then saddled-up to see Brokeback Mountain, a Western of a different sort. But really, truly, Ennis and Jake have a lot in common with many a John Wayne character, and Brokeback is a Western sure as shit stinks. (A topic I hope to return to in some other post - Brokeback, not shit stinking.)

I'm in love with Westerns, not just with John Wayne. It occurred to me as I was watching Hondo, that I want a cowboy, I'm attracted to cowboys. I like the idea of adhering to your own moral code, sticking to what you know to be true, being true to yourself, no matter the cost. That's what John Wayne does. (Not to mention that John Wayne is a extraordinarily graceful man - that walk is something and the way he leans into woman...ok, that's a different post entirely too...) In Hondo, he shows up at a ranch in Apache territory - he's a drifter, a scout, a killer of sorts, but a man of competence and wisdom - he knows how to read the signs of his world and how to interpret them. He tells the farmwoman's little boy that the dog whom accompanies him doesn't like to be petted, but "you do what you're gonna do" he tells the boy - who of course keeps trying to pet the animal and is bit for his troubles. The boy's mama is upset, but JW explains that's how one learns - by doing what you're gonna do and experiencing the outcome. Tough love I suppose, but no different than Mark Twain's often quoted maxim: "Good judgement comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgement." Mark Twain wasn't a cowboy, but he did travel in the frontier territory of his day.

Surprisingly, in quite a few JW movies, his character sides with the Indians (ok, yeah, we use the term Native Americans now, or indigineous peoples, but back then, we called 'em Indians, or Injuns, or damned Injuns, or no-good Injuns, in keeping with the ever popular 19th century maxim, the only good Injun in the one's that dead." But in John Wayne movie after John Wayne movie (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, Hondo, The Searchers, McClintock), the view, the perspective on Indians is more complicated, nuanced to some extent. Although somewhat of a white man, patriarchal view, it also includes a sypmathy toward Indians and an understanding that the influx of white settlers into Native American terrirories cost the Indians and was unfair - and demasculinized the Indian - the chief, the brave, the warrior - turned an independent people into a welfare class of sorts (of course, you could decontsruct this point of view, especially in the case of McClintock, as a commentary on the what conservatives saw as the growing welfare state in the US). This seems especially pertinent in McClintock,which being a comedic western, treats all the characters and situations with humor, nonetheless puts forth a judgement on the transgressions of the white government and its treatment of Native Americans.

But I am off track here, if I ever was on track to begin with. What was this post about?Cowboys? Westerns? A ridiculous infatuation with John Wayne? And again, I return to narcissm and auidence - because who is this post intended for except for me? Who else could possibly care, or follow this post, since it is so oblivious to the needs of a reader and only concerned with the writer getting her thoughts on paper.