Thursday, December 25, 2008


If you're going to do something Grinchy, I suggest you tape it, and send it to us here. Because I'm sure it'll be hilarious. Anyways, enjoy! :P

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

the gays, the blacks, and other random thoughts

all right...i've had a bit of writers block, but it doesn't seem to be going away so i'm just gonna push on through.

the subject of this post was originally going to be proposition 8, but i feel compelled to make a detour before i even begin: i recently went to see Milk, and i need to give it a quick shout-out. the movie was amazing, sean penn was amazing, and it was so incredibly relevant as to appear almost heavy-handed. but of course, when they were making the movie they couldn't have known Prop 8 would pass. which really makes you think, doesn't it. Just a brief background for those who haven't yet seen it, Milk is the story of the life and death of Harvey Milk, San Francisco Supervisor and the first openly gay public official. A large part of the movie focuses on the fight against proposition 6 in california: a proposition which would have banned gay people from teaching in california schools. watching the celebrations in the movie as prop 6 is defeated against the odds is a pretty grim juxtaposition to our current time. you can't help but think we may be sliding backwards. if, during a time when an openly gay public official lived every day knowing his life was in danger, they could defeat prop 6 but today we couldn't seem to defeat prop 8, what does that say about the direction our country is headed?

i don't actually think, though, that we're sliding so far backwards. prop 8 was a pretty horrendous setback, but i do believe its only a matter of time before gay people have the right to marry and this whole mess is a thing of the past. until then, though, just a couple of thoughts on the whole prop 8 thing:

1) I saw Sean Penn interviewed on Charlie Rose about Milk and various other things, and just wanted to paste a quote that I thought was particularly compelling, and also more eloquent than we've come to expect from our television sets. When asked about prop 8, Penn said,
"When they talk about it, its just a word, and ‘why not leave the traditionalists to their word?’ Well, you know, there’s 13 year old kids still today hanging themselves because the reach to identity is still too far, because they’re homosexual, or whatever the issue is….and we can’t give up a word? To save that kid’s life? It’s a national shame"
aw. Sean Penn.

2) there has been a LOT of talk about the role of black people in passing prop 8, and it just seems like its time for someone not-crazy to weigh in. people have blamed obama for not supporting gay marriage. rightly so. he really did not come through in any way shape or form on that issue. Sure, he opposed prop 8, but as a writer for Salon pointed out, "not so loud that anyone can hear him."

even so, there seems to be this sense that black people, rushing to the polls to vote for obama, tipped the balance towards prop 8. while that theory has since been disproven (it would have passed with or without black help), the fact does remain that 70% of black people surveyed voted in favor of prop 8. thats a lot. but i'm not completely sure why everyone was so d*mn surprised. homophobia in the black community is not a new issue, but everyone seemed to be trying to make it a new issue, to the detriment of logic. example: Charles M. Blow, "visual columnist" for the New York times, and currently trying his hardest to knock bill kristol from his current position as 'kaya's least favorite columnist,' wrote this piece in which he seems to imply that its not homophobia that's the problem. in fact, its not even all black people. no, black WOMEN are the problem because they're so scared of being alone forever that they have to lash out at gays for decreasing the pool of potential mates. um, what? wrong. illogical. also pretty damn sexist. i give that twenty-five fails for charles m. blow.

this type of logic-stretching seems to really be going around, though. so the black community is homophobic. everyone is trying to focus in on one issue that makes it so: maybe its the 'down-low' phenomenon (boo, hiss). maybe its that black women just can't find a man (hiss, boo). maybe it's the church (hmm...). but at the end of the day all of these arguments fail because they're trying to simplify a complex problem into a sound byte. sure, many churches have played a role in the pervasive homophobia in this country (i'm looking at you, mormons). but other churches (what up, episcopalians!) have made serious progress in fighting homophobia. just like white people, black people don't all belong to the same church. "the church" is not the problem. but i guess its not that quotable to say homophobia in the black community is influenced by homophobia in certain religious communities, homophobia in mainstream hip-hop which is, of course, encouraged by wealthy white funders, and a complex history of desexualization and hypersexualization tracing roots back to slavery that creates a lot of baggage around black sexuality and gender identity, among other things. and of course, nowhere in any of these discussions has it even come up that 'black' and 'gay' are not mutually exclusive categories. hm. i know we all want to make our point quickly and get published, but its possible certain issues would result in more productive conversation if we actually engaged with the complexity of the issue at hand rather than trying to fit it into a cute and simple box.

more on this later. i think i'm significantly late to work. i'll just leave you with this:

3) just for your enjoyment:

Friday, November 14, 2008

count it higher!

stay tuned for a for a fairly long post that's currently in the works, but for now, one of my all-time favorites...

Friday, November 7, 2008

this somehow seems appropriate...

i was feeling low, i was kind of blue. but that's all gone because of something new!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

From the heart

I'm only 23 years old, and I realize that my short time on this Earth has shielded me from many of the injustices that my people have faced in the U.S. However, as a Black Woman I recognize the rich history that we have- my mother was among the first bused into white schools in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, my grandmother grew up on the land our family share-cropped in Tennessee and my great great great grandfather fought in the Civil War and, with his brother, used their compensation to buy the land for what became one of the first freed-slave communities in Dickson County, TN.
Even with a past filled with progress and achievement, my family, like many others, deals with many of the issues that plague Black Americans: poverty, drug use, crime, broken homes, etc. I grew up plainly working class with my mother and my sister, and while she did everything she could to give me all that I needed and always let me know that I could do anything if I set my mind to it, I always had a small bit of doubt that I could really make it.
I've had the good fortune, upbringing and support to have achieved some of my own dreams already in life (graduating from college and moving to the city to try to start my career)- but never really knew just how bogged down by doubt and lack of confidence that I was. I never knew how deeply ingrained those feelings of low self-worth and helplessness were in my psyche- until I felt a great deal of them lifted when it was announced that Senator Obama would soon be President Obama.

Four years ago in Cambridge, on Harvard's campus, I sat with my close friends as we waited for the results of the Kerry-Bush election. When all was said and done the room was silent all but for quiet curses and weeping.
Two days ago I cried again, harder and stronger than I did before- but this time they were tears of joy. I was happy that change would come, excited for a leader that could inspire such unity in people all over the world, and most of all HOPEFUL for the future that my little sister, my cousins and my future children will have. They will grow up in a world where anything is possible, they won't have to say "I want to be the first Black President," they can just follow their dreams and a path that has already been set.
Some of my friends and I were talking (i.e. what Kaya mentions below)- and we realize and accept that we have been a pretty cynical generation. We haven't experienced much monumental change for the better in our lifetimes- 9/11, Katrina, the War.. time and time again things have gotten worse and worse. But this is the first time for us that something major has happened. Something amazing has occurred.

This is the first time that we not only have hope- but can believe in it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our Defining Moment

Yesterday afternoon I walked to Whole Foods to pick up a cake, and as I walked through the Financial District in New York everything around me seemed heavy and still, as though the world was on the verge of cracking wide open. Every minute of the day felt somehow momentous, because every minute brought us closer to the moment when everything might change. It sounds so dramatic, and as I was walking to Whole Foods I remember thinking to myself that I needed to calm down, but even as I was talking myself down, I came to a realization: its true that it still remains to be seen how this election will impact the world and our futures, but regardless, this election was, for people my age, the first truly momentous occasion we have ever experienced. Eight years ago, when Bush first came into office, I was in high school. When Bill Clinton was first elected, I was seven. For people around my age, the current dark ages are really all we can remember, and as such my view of the world has largely been shaped by a sense that participation in the political process is meaningless and an ever-diminishing tolerance for patriotism in the face of the United States’ growing list of atrocities and aggressions. The mere thought that a black man could be president, that an intelligent and articulate man could be president, that someone I actually admire could be president, is a new concept to me. The thought that other countries might be inspired by anything America does is something I didn’t expect to see, and the images of people around the world rejoicing in Obama's success have made me feel, to quote Michelle Obama, proud of my country for the first time. The fact is that with the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, we might not know what’s to come, but suddenly I find myself asked to open my mind to the possibility that it could be something GOOD. The fact that Obama could not only get elected, but could win in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and VIRGINIA means that fundamentally, my cynicism when it comes to the intelligence and goodness of people in general may just be wrong. This is the first moment since I first heard a friend say “people are a constant disappointment” that I’ve felt that statement might not be true. And that’s a big fucking deal.

At the same time, I think I’m essentially still in shock. I expected to cry when I saw Barack and Michelle stride into Grant Park as the new president and first lady-elect, but the image so violently clashed with the understanding in my mind that this is not what America looks like, that I don’t think I was even able to fully process the moment. The fact that the new face of America is not white, that the family in the white house will be black, is I think symbolically even more important than we can imagine.

Hm. This is getting quite rambly, no? My final thought is just this: this is the first time in my life that I’ve ever seen so many people celebrate ANYTHING in this country. I stood in Union Square last night and watched a bunch of hipster youth attempting to spread a chant of “U.S.A! U.S.A!” through the massive crowd that had gathered to celebrate, and thought it was probably the first time many of them had ever used that chant, certainly the first time I’d ever enjoyed hearing it, and even if we were experiencing the moment in incredibly different ways and for different reasons, which I expect we were, and even if the coming years prove to be no better or no different, that moment was significant.


I am crying.  This is beautiful.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Nov 4th

ok so i have about 3.5 million things i should be doing right now other than blogging. this will be a short post. but i felt the need to say SOMETHING seeing as how tomorrow is...momentous.

i've been talking with friends, and a lot of us seem to be in the same general mental state: TOTALLY FREAKING OUT.

most of us seem too scared to even voice out loud what everyone else seems to be screaming from the rooftops - that obama is going to win tomorrow. the thought of proclaiming it, letting yourself believe it, and then having your hopes crushed is too terrifying. as many people have already said, liberals in this country have forgotten how to be happy, or even optimistic. the emotions we're generally most familiar with are terror, rage, and despair. so we're feeling all of those right now despite the fact that things are actually looking up. so in the spirit of that, i'm not going to talk about anything happy right now. although hopefully it IS something interesting...

I was reading an article today about who-can-remember-what, and it quoted a woman in North Carolina (I believe) who said she was scared of Obama, and that she worried he was planning on changing the American flag to something else. and for some reason that fairly insane fear, out of all the ones i've heard so far, suddenly made me feel this crazy empathy with this woman. Its so easy to see all those supposed masses of "real america" residents who hate and fear obama and think "man, those people suck." but as I was reading this article it dawned on me that if i were her, i'd probably be scared too. The fear is not of Obama himself, but of the symbolic power shift implied in electing a seemingly liberal black man as president - something is going to change, and a lot of people don't quite know what that something is. I don't think I can say it better than my friend Ann did earlier today, so i'll just quote her here:
"There is something to the fact that many of the people who actually are afraid of barack obama because of his race, or because of his liberalism, or because of both of them combined, are actually not the most secure people in america. Confused white people in western pennsylvania are not high rollers and their jobs aren't that secure. They might have relatives in prison, and relatives in iraq. The people who are against immigration viscerally are people who fear losing their jobs. The people who are afraid of changing sexuality, are also afraid of having their religion become obsolete and becoming culturally irrelevant. The people who are afraid of a black president probably are playing into the same fear that people have been harboring for centuries in this country, (is this really racist against white people to say) but a white sharcropper mentality. Super racist because your position isn't that secure either, because if I don't have whiteness, I have nothing."

I think that we among the 'liberal elite' spend a lot of time wondering why so many people who are relatively poor vote republican, when the republican party clearly does very little for poor people. But I think Ann's hit on something important which is that if you're a powerless minority in this country, you don't have much to lose. but if you're a powerless member of the majority, whether it be your whiteness, your male-ness, your heterosexuality that ties you to the faces of power in this country, you have a real fear that if you lose that one tie to power, you'll have nothing. For a poor white person, seeing another white person in power is as symbolically relevant as i can only hope seeing a black person in power will be for black people. and i just realized this post isn't as short as i intended it to be, so i need to get back to work.

good luck out there tomorrow.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

for your viewing pleasure

obama's 30-minute primetime spot. its good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

a flaw in the model

in a recent episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart mentioned Alan Greenspan's testimony before the House of Representatives that seemed interesting enough to check out. His speech was fairly uneventful - something about an economic tsunami, shock, get the drift. what was most interesting was this interaction during the questioning:

Mr. Greenspan: I found a flaw in the model that I perceived is the
critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to

Chairman Waxman: In other words, you found that your view of the
world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working.

Mr. Greenspan: Precisely. That's precisely the reason I was shocked,
because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable
evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

so now...if i'm understanding this correctly, Alan Greenspan just decided, because of this financial crisis, that free market economics as a concept is just wrong. granted, a lot of us have known that since we were like, 5, and he's 82. but still, this seems like a big deal.

i don't know, though. its a little bit of a let-down. when marx said capitalism was going to self-destruct, i kind of pictured fire, riots, and guerrilla warfare. not just an 82-year-old man getting in front of congress and saying "whoops."

oh well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

where there is life, there is hope.

you heard it from grover first.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

term limits and protests

so city council voted today to extend term limits so king bloomberg can get a third term. feel free to ponder that, while you also ponder the following: as with any event, major or minor, this elicited a protest outside city hall. but whereas the past few days the park has been filled with black and brown people protesting for better schools and better health care, today was white professionals in suits, still working via blackberry while protesting term-limit legislation. fascinating.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

battle for the earth: Hope vs Skepticism

How many times have i said or heard said among friends that this election really feels like an epic battle between good and evil? The "battle for the earth: heaven vs hell" metaphor seems to really be taking hold as people get more and more concerned about the state of the country, and as the two candidates personalities drift farther to their respective corners (recall tina fey's characterization of barack this week: "when he's talkin' it's like an angel whisperin' in your ear," and barack's joke at the Alfred E. Smith dinner that "contrary to the rumors that you've heard, I was not born in a manger..."). But I think in all the excitement about the battle for the earth, the possibly legitimate fear that john mccain is the modern-day anti-christ, and the overwhelming desire we all seem to have to throw ourselves into this election like it's the only thing that matters, we're accidentally or intentionally overlooking a quieter but in no way less important battle. This battle is also for the earth, but John McCain has nothing to do with it - it's the battle between two Obamas - the one we hope he is, and the one we fear he is.

I like to think of this as the battle between hope and skepticism, or perhaps the battle between great and just 'good.' This article by Mike Davis does a wonderful job summing it up from an economic standpoint, but it's more than just economics: the Barack actually standing in front of us on TV is significantly more conservative, more vague, and less powerful than the Barack we see in our dreams. He promises all of these wonderful things: universal health care, fighting climate change, and a better foreign policy, but we know in our hearts that he has yet to actually make a compelling case for HOW he's going to do these things. We also know in our hearts that he's intelligent, and I think that's the crux of this less thrilling but perhaps more important battle-for-the-earth. We HOPE (and we hope that Obama's message of 'hope' is a wink in our direction) that Obama is so intelligent that he's figured out the system - that his vagueness is his way of getting where he needs to go, and once there he will make the changes we want to see: changes that, if he said them out loud now, would cost him the election. We HOPE that with the possibility of a simultaneous Barack Obama presidency and an overwhelming Democratic majority in the House and Senate, we'll begin to see this country go in an amazing new direction "from day one." But we're also SKEPTICAL because wouldn't that just be too good to be true? We know how American politics work. No one's that good. If Obama's gotten this far, maybe he's not the man we hope he is. Or as Mike Davis put it in the article linked above,
"Am I unduly cynical? Perhaps, but I lived through the Lyndon Johnson years and watched the War on Poverty, the last true New Deal program, destroyed to pay for slaughter in Vietnam."
Is it even possible for Barack Obama to bring us the change he's asking us to hope for? Or are we gearing ourselves up for a slight shift in pace that will in no way actually turn us from the collision course we're currently on with our own demise? It may be impossible to know, but as with all battles for the earth, it's certainly worth thinking about...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

colin powell endorses obama

a bit late in the game, yes, but still.

if you don't watch the whole video, please skip to around minute 4:30 - it makes me mad/sad that so few democrats have been willing to say what powell says here, and i'm glad he said it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sorry to interrupt Muppet day

But this AP report on the Roast that Barack Obama and John McCain attended was just too funny to not post. My favorite part comes from Obama:
"But to name my greatest strength I guess it would be my humility," he grinned.
"Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome."

friday is muppet day!

seriously. i think every friday should be muppet day on this blog. every other day of the week is rage, so friday should be complete and total joy.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Got a Crush on Obama

(Subtitle: John Mccain is a Punk-Ass Bitch)

I need to start seeing Barack Obama's therapist.

Seriously. I just finished watching tonight's debate, and of the three debates this one was certainly the most decisive. In the first two, Barack Obama held his own and promoted his policies. In this last one, he shone. My question is how he did that with all of the incredible garbage John Mccain was spewing his direction. If i were him, I would have chewed off my left arm somewhere around the halfway-mark. Even just watching from home, when Mccain started to talk about Roe v. Wade I got so angry my leg went numb. Yet cool-hand Barack never once even fell out of his chair. So yeah, I definitely need some of whatever he's having.

But enough about me. Let's talk about a couple of the more interesting points of the debate. I apologize in advance if at any point I get incoherent or profane.

First, a quick run-down of the candidates themselves:
Obama, as I've already mentioned, maintained his composure in the face of some shit that might have gotten a rise out of Gandhi. Aside from that incredible feat, he also made great eye contact with the camera, maintained at least a semblance of respect for John Mccain, and showed great restraint in refusing to go on the offensive on issues like negative campaigning, while simultaneously standing his ground very well. The result was that he appeared strong, but mature enough to pick his battles, leaving Mccain looking rather childish and petty.

Mccain, as I've just noted, looked childish and petty. He was rude, interrupted constantly, and seemed to be sneering quite a bit of the time. He also rambled on the issues that were really important, only seeming to have a coherent argument when he was on the offensive. The result was that he came off as desperate, and not completely in control. In short, he looked like a punk-ass bitch.

Ok, so on to the issues:

Taxing and Spending: I can only imagine what the comedy shows will be making of John Mccain's new argument in support of his spending freeze idea. Perhaps metaphors were never John Mccain's strong suit, but I've never actually seen a surgeon go in first with a hatchet, and then a scalpel. I'd imagine thats because the result would be instant yet gruesome death. which, incidentally, is probably what would happen to this country if Mccain got elected. But seriously, the Republican notion that taxes are bad, spending is bad, and everything is just going to work out on its own is getting old. Its never worked, no reason why it should start working now. I don't know, for example, how Mccain plans to "reform Head Start" during a spending freeze, but i'd be willing to bet about a million dollars he doesn't know either. Benefits cost money, and people benefit from...benefits. I'm not mad about paying taxes, if it means I get roads, education, social programs, and all that good stuff. And if it meant i got GOOD education, why I might even be willing to pay a little more.

Healthcare: John Mccain clearly practiced his burns before the debate. Most of them were so incredibly petty (I'm looking at you, 'I so admire Senator Obama's eloquence') that I'm surprised he didn't bring Barack's momma into the picture (I hear the only reason your momma graduated high school is ben bernanke said she was 'too big to fail.'*). A lot of those burns backfired. But his healthcare burn was the one that backfired the worst, I think.
"if you like that," he said of Obama's health care plan, "you'll love Canada and England."
Now maybe I'm missing something here, but it's pretty widely known that citizens of Canada and England have access to far superior health care than we do in the United States. So either Mccain doesn't know that, in which case he's even more of a dumbass than I originally thought, or he knows that, but thinks the American public is too dumb to know that. In which case i'm a bit peeved.

Education: McCain REALLY ended on a bad note here. After Obama (to his detriment, I believe) opted out of ripping McCain a new one re: education, and left him with a pretty easy out, McCain refused to take it, insisting on a final snide comment to the effect of (sarcastically) "oh so because there aren't enough vouchers, we shouldn't have a voucher system." ...yes. I think that IS the point, Senator McCain. providing vouchers to a few select people while failing to reform the education system itself is essentially condemning already struggling schools to fail, and with them condemning all the children who did not get vouchers to fail as well. Not really a winning plan. I can't even talk about it more without getting angry.

I know this is getting long, and is not even that terribly coherent, so let me skip over the tirades I was planning on going into re: human rights (and John McCain's newfound disdain for them) and racism (John Mccain's new best friend). I think Obama blew McCain out of the water on the whole "negative campaigning" issue, so I'll let it lie. I will, however, leave you with this thought to ponder:

People have, throughout this long campaign, raised the idea of a cult of personality around Obama more than once. Obama's supporters are referred to as "obamamaniacs," "obamaholics," and "obamacons." Obama himself is jokingly referred to as "the one" (or more recently, THAT one). And I just want to address that issue, because I think it's an interesting one. I think Obama does inspire devotion unlike any politician has in recent history. I found myself looking forward to his closing remarks tonight like a dog looks forward to "time for a walk." Every time he gets two or more uninterrupted minutes to speak, I start getting excited. I expect that his soaring rhetoric will make me weep with joy and longing for what could be. (With respect to that expectation, the closing comments were a bit lackluster, but i assume that's because he's saving the good stuff for his acceptance speech come November.) When he talks, I find myself listening like there is nothing else going on around me. I have a lot of friends who feel the same. But is that a cult of personality? Or rather if it is, what exactly does that mean? I think the truth is that it's so incredibly rare not only in this country but in this world for people to have the opportunity to rally behind someone in a position of power who is intelligent, articulate, and appears to have a basic respect for the intelligence and dignity of 'the common man,' that when such a person does come along, people lose their minds. I don't think anyone thinks Barack Obama is god. People are just legitimately excited by the possibility of a president they can be proud of, who legitimately values human rights, and who might even just have their best interests in mind. Its possible we need to stop thinking about cults of personality, and start thinking about the reasons behind the severe dearth of inspiring "personality" that has shaped our lives since before I can remember.

thats all for now.

*credit to my friend lizz for making up that zinger

another tidbit

if you haven't yet read frank rich's op-ed about the terrifying new twist the campaign trail has taken, please do. its one of the best op-eds i've read in a while, and simultaneously one of the most chilling.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stuff White People Like: Gentrifying Harlem.

Take a look at this post on SWPL, focusing on a September article in the New York Times.  It's simultaneously hilarious and incredibly depressing (especially taken in context of the gentrification post Kaya made earlier).  An excerpt is below:

White Plans for Harlem
The article goes into some of the plans and hopes that white people have for the neighborhood, and they include the opening of Thai Restaurant, A wine shops, hair salon, and a place that serves gourmet burgers and microbrews (implied).

White people are also hoping to close down things that they do not like, specifically churches. With over 100 houses of worship in the area, white people are concerned. Though the article does not mention why white people are upset at so many churches, it can be implied that they would feel more comfortable if they were to be replaced with condominiums, yoga studios, and white people churches (also known as Whole Foods).

Yet in spite of all these desired changes, white people would still prefer it if other white people did not move into the neighborhood.

One of the new residents says: “Harlem does have a character. I don’t want Harlem to become Union Square any more than anyone else does.”

Harlem had a good run.

Click here to see the rest of the post.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

a tiny point

i'm trying a new tactic: sprinkle in some short one-liners among the way-too-long posts. that way it looks like i'm updating all the time, but i don't have to think that much.

my point for today: how is it ok for mccain/palin to be using "we cant allow another holocaust" as a talking point? palin's said it twice now while i've been watching and mccain once. all of those were in reference to israel, not darfur (an ACTUAL genocide). comparing the conflict in the middle east to the holocaust is wrong both morally and factually.

and newsflash to the mccain team: you're not winning any special points for being anti-genocide. i'm pretty sure obama's not "pro."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Entitlement Gone Wild!!!

(subtitle: why I can’t live in Park Slope, and why no one should read online comments)

As promised, another blog post within literally days of the last one. Don’t get spoiled, though. You never know when I might get lazy again.

Anyways, let’s start out with some news/bragging: I recently moved out of park slope and into bed-stuy. And I literally couldn’t be happier about it. I’m sure I’m romanticizing the whole situation (it’s still new york, after all), but the fact remains that my first morning at my new place, I walked out the front gate and a passer-by said “good morning” to me. Shocking! Unheard-of! By the end of the week I had been introduced to not one, not two, but SIX of my neighbors. Who smile at me on the street, and sometimes talk to me on the subway. I’m in heaven. Which, of course, brings me to my current topic: hell. AKA park slope, Brooklyn.

I know what you’re going to say – hating on park slope is SO last season. But I say last season’s not all that long ago, and I don’t think the issue was properly addressed back then. Let’s quickly go over the typical reasons people might hate on park slope: it’s overpriced, over-gentrified, and full of self-righteous yuppie parents who want to turn the whole neighborhood into a playground for their entitled little children. It’s full of strollers, puppies, yuppies, and gays, all of whom will judge you on the street for not being one of them. True. But let’s “unpack” that, shall we?

There are a lot of reasons to hate park slope, some legitimate, some not. An example of “not” legitimate would be “I hate puppies.” No one hates puppies. Your argument doesn’t hold water. Similarly, no one hates good food. People do, however, hate overpriced good food. Which leads us to gentrification. The complaints about gentrification, and specifically the complaints about the attitude of park slope residents, get to the heart of the issue I want to discuss here: the false sense of entitlement that seems to permeate every aspect of white middle class culture these days (and not just in park slope. I guess this isn’t just about hating on park slope after all). Trust me, if anyone knows about the sense of entitlement today’s 30-somethings and soon-to-be 30-somethings seem to have, it’s a former Harvard student. I survived that, so now I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert, and in a fine place to talk about it on a larger scale: New York.

A recent Village Voice article prompted me to start thinking about this topic yet again. I of course recommend that you read the whole article (it’s very illuminating), but I’ll summarize it briefly here for your convenience: A well-off young Manhattan couple, with the help of some friends, purchased a building in prospect heights (just north of park slope, for you non-New Yorkers) at a price that was significantly under market value due to the fact that there were several rent-stabilized apartments in the building. They then began evicting, one by one, each of the rent-stabilized tenants (four families, to date) so that they could convert their own dwelling into a 20-room home. Only one of the rent-stabilized tenants remain, and the two parties are currently involved in a legal battle over her eviction. The current tenant, Evelyn Suarez, has been living in the apartment for 28 years and currently shares it with her boyfriend, her son, and two young nieces. She pays $402/mo for an apartment that most likely would rent for somewhere around $1800/mo if it was new to the market today. Various factors have been thrown around as arguments for one party or the other, including the fact that Ms. Suarez is unemployed, the fact that she has colon cancer, and the fact that the apartment is slated to be turned into storage space for the new owners.

Needless to say, the issue has blown up. There was a “block party” to raise awareness about it a while back, and something about a councilwoman speaking out against the landlords. Obviously there was a Village Voice article about it. More interesting, I think, is the reaction on the Brownstoner real estate blog (a blog heavy in park slope readership). I don’t want you to have to go through the painful process I did of reading every single comment, so I’ll just pick out some of the best ones for you (I’m sparing you the comments on the Village Voice website because, frankly, some are too racist to re-print):

“These renters could have purchased property but did not. Tough luck.”

“Why should folks who don't want to work be able to live off welfare in rent controlled privately owned housing? It's frigging nuts!”

“is it immoral to eat as much food as we eat in America while folks in Darfur starve?

everytime you go to grocery store to buy that big steak, the politicians should picket infront of the store so you feel guilty that someone who doesn't have the money to buy the steak can't have any.”

“I bought when I had no money, and did it as a single working class female by(1) saving every cent I otherwise would have paid in rent for eight years when I had a stabilized apt in Manhattan and (2) buying in a neighborhood that none of my friends would visit. I had to fight banks to get a mortgage, since the neighborhood was still redlined. It was called Clinton Hill. My parents wept and my friends said I'd be dead in a year.”

“This is retarded. The problem with long term rent control is it gets people used to living in areas they realistically cannot afford to. Another way of looking at it is rent control removes a major incentive to improve your lot in life through hard work and sacrifice: financial stress.

The guy who lived there for 17 years and didn't bother to learn English...gee, I wonder why he's not rolling in money right now? Must be the rich peoples' fault. They're so cold and heartless.

My view? Don't punish achievers (like the buyers) and don't coddle losers (like at least some of the tenants). Give the tenants their Section 8 housing and be done with it.”

And of course, my favorite:
“The sense of entitlement that is rampant throughout the city has no limits. Why are these people so special that they should prevent someone who has spent tons of hard earned money from using their own space exactly as they wish.

Rent stabilized units are an incredible perk that most of us will never enjoy. Be happy you enjoyed it while it lasted and respect people's rights to their own property!”

I’m going to resist the temptation to point out the myriad flaws in each of those posts individually, but I will point out that I think these posters and I have some disagreement over the meaning of the word “entitlement.” Because my argument is that at the end of the day, that’s exactly what this all comes down to. Entitlement, which unhelpfully defines as “the state of being entitled,” is a word I would define as “a belief that one is deserving of some benefit or advantage.” By definition, then, people who are DISadvantaged (aka people who can’t afford to pay market value for their apartment, perhaps) cannot really exhibit a “sense of entitlement.” People who do have certain social privileges and advantages, though (i.e. wealth), such as the type of person who might spend their free time reading a New York real estate blog, can and do exhibit a “sense of entitlement,” and nowhere is it more apparent than in their reactions to public outcry against injustice.

As you can see from the comments above, posters on the whole reacted in a number of fairly predictable ways, such as attributing all poverty to laziness rather than disadvantage; displaying indignance that anyone might want to deny the landlords the house of their dreams; decrying rent stabilization, welfare, and other forms of social programming as unfair to the hardworking middle class; painting themselves as ‘the victim’ by self-labelling as working class while simultaneously talking about working-class neighborhoods in a way that OBVIOUSLY indicates an unfamiliarity with them; and throwing up their hands with the argument that life is unfair, there’s nothing any individual rich person can do about it. In other words, entitlement. To acknowledge that not everyone has access to the resources necessary to lift themselves out of poverty, much less afford the down payment on a New York home, would be to acknowledge that you, as a New York homeowner, have in some way benefited from an advantage you did not earn. Which would mean you should be feeling guilty, which is not something you do feel/want to feel, so the whole thing must be bullshit. It’s the same reason people don’t like to talk about white privilege, male privilege, or any other types of privilege that generally seem to make our society uncomfortable. No one wants to be the bad guy.

The thing is, we live in a society with a whole long history of oppression, injustice, and general inequality. Which has, of course, led to an uneven distribution of resources and privileges. You can either deny that, and in so doing perpetuate it, or you can acknowledge it and try to change it. The reason I can’t move back to park slope: no one wants to acknowledge it. People who are well-off enough to be able to afford a neighborhood full of no one but their peers get a free pass to stop thinking critically about their place in society, and a sense that they’re entitled to all the comforts they desire, no matter the cost to people less fortunate than themselves. It’s that sense of living among people wholly unaware of their own privilege and content in that fact that makes me so uncomfortable in Park Slope, the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, etc. It’s definitely not the puppies. I love puppies.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dr. Dumbass, or How we Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hockey Mom

Alright, before I get into the post I recognize that I probably owe you some sort of “explanation” for my long absence from blogging. Its like this: as you may know, we started this blog because there’s a lot of really f*cked up shit happening in the world that makes us mad. Hence the tagline “we rage, so you don’t have to.” Blogging is actually a really great way of channeling some of that rage into slightly less negative energy, I’ve found. But recently, what with the presidential campaign heating up and the economy spiraling down the drain, there’s just been so much to rage about its hard to make a coherent sentence. So I’ve been reading a lot, writing…not so much.

BUT good news: I’m back. Time to channel all that rage into something productive again. If things go well, expect this to be the first in a series of blog posts that are NOT weeks apart from each other. And I apologize in advance: they may be lengthy. The topic of this one: well, the title says it all, I think.

Ok so down to business:

The remarkable and terrifying ascent of Sarah Palin to the national stage is so problematic in so many ways that I could probably write quite literally a hundred separate blog posts about it. There’s the sexism, the republicanism, the global warming, the foreign policy, the fucked up campaigning, the terrifying ambition, the cold heartless and oh-so-creepy way in which she responded to gwen iffil’s question about “what if the worst were to happen,” the accent that I think she may be exaggerating…seriously, the list goes on for miles. But today I’d like to focus on just one issue, and this is one that is not entirely Sarah Palin’s fault, although she’s surely not helping. I call it the war on intelligence.

This has been a common theme in politics for frankly as long as I can remember, but now that I’m old enough to care, I have to point out that it’s getting dangerous. The idea that it’s more important for a candidate to sell him/herself as likeable, and “average,” than it is to provide policy recommendations and prove him/herself knowledgeable in areas of domestic and foreign policy is deeply, deeply troubling, and nowhere is it more clear than in the Republican Party's marketing of Gov. Sarah Palin.

As Palin quite literally can’t seem to stop saying, she’s a “Washington outsider,” a “hockey mom,” and all those other run-of-the-mill, joe six-pack type terms that, when overused, can turn a vice presidential debate into a disastrous drinking game. Say it ain’t so, joe! Doggone it, she’s gone just a little overboard trying to be folksy and down-home. But my real problem with this is not how f*cking annoying she gets when she says “you betcha” for the ten millionth time, its that people actually LIKE this shit. People enjoy it when she replaces substance with fake authenticity. And yes, I realize that’s an oxymoron. at least i know what an oxymoron is.

As Barack Obama would say, “let’s be clear:” I understand why people want a president or vice president they can relate to. You want someone who you think you can trust to share your values. You want someone who appears to have respect for people like yourself, because if they don’t respect you, they may not have your best interests in mind. I get that. I agree with it. But that’s no longer what this is about. With Sarah Palin, you’re not getting a politician you can relate to, you’re getting a politician who IS you. And YOU are not qualified to run this country.

I think it was Maureen Dowd, shockingly enough, who verbalized it so well in a mock-conversation (god, she loves those) between Barack Obama and President Bartlett from The West Wing. Bartlett, in Dowd’s column, says, “Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence.” That’s just it. What in the name of all that is holy is everyone’s problem with excellence? Relatability is important, but more important, I want the person or persons I elect to office to be intelligent. I want someone capable. I want someone who understands economics better than I do, not someone whose confusion reminds me of my own and evokes my empathy. I want someone whose foreign policy plan would consist of something more than not second-guessing Israel. Sure, I want someone who reads the newspaper often enough to know which newspapers she reads, but that’s setting the bar a little low, no? I’d rather have someone who reads several newspapers and understands the nuance of what she reads. I’d rather have someone who not only understands economics better than I do (another seriously low bar), but understands economics well enough to handle the current crisis. I’d rather have someone excellent.

Running the country is a big job. Its one that I, after four years at an “elite” college, am in no way qualified to do. I would hope that the people who are actually campaigning for the job would have an interest in proving to me that they, in fact, know more than I do. But instead, the Republican Party seems intent on proving that they’re exactly like me. Worse, they seem intent on proving that I, with my Ivy League education, my love for arugula, and my newfound ability to pronounce Ahmadinejad, am “elite,” and that they are even more “average,” which in their twisted world means “better.” *I* recently injured myself trying to hang a picture on my wall. I like to dream that come January, our country will be led by people who pride themselves in being smarter than me.

To be honest, the really troubling part about all of this is the fact that I think we all know by now it’s not just the presidential election. The war on intelligence has permeated most aspects of American life. Being smart is just not cool. Our public education system is terrible, but being a champion of education will not get you terribly far politically. Creativity is excessively undervalued in this country, and, whether it is an accurate representation or not, the image of the “average American” that is being put forward by politicians is one of an unambitious, hard-working, not terribly bright, white man who likes beer and hunting, loves his family, and has no interest in politics outside his home town. My suspicion is that very few people actually relate to that characterization of the “average American.” The idea that white Americans living in small towns across the U.S. care about nothing other than working 9 to 5 and getting health care is frankly insulting: my suspicion, and by all means correct me if I’m wrong, is that people all over America have diverse interests beyond their basic human needs, and that given the opportunity to give their children a better education, no one would turn it down because it’s “elite.” So enough of this nonsense. I say we fight back and say “no” to mediocrity. And while we’re at it, dear god can we please say “no” to Sarah Palin?

Ok, I'll leave you for now, but here are just a few things I feel compelled to share with you, that I couldn't quite work into the post:

a great op-ed in salon on media reactions to palin

and this:

that's all, folks!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sigh.. seriously?

On the heels of a particularly moving acceptance speech by Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, Sen. John McCain has chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate for the upcoming Presidential election.
All I have to say is that I am sick of this entire election/ordeal and am pretty royally pissed.  What an underhanded tactic.  I only hope that former Hillary supporters that were otherwise unswayed by Obama will not be easy to move to vote for McCain simply because a woman is on his ticket.  I am a woman and a feminist myself, but looking at some of Palin's super conservative stances (pro-life?) I don't think that I could be convinced to vote for her, not at all.

Blah.  This just goes to say- make sure you're registered, and that you get out and vote.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Review: Trouble the Water

Friday night I was all ready to settle into some television and a slice of pizza when one of my roommates forced me to get up off my butt and head downtown to the IFC Center to see the opening screening of a film called Trouble The Water.  Reluctantly I went (I can be really lazy- I was tired!) but fortunately was incredibly grateful that I did.
The film, executive produced by Danny Glover (who was there!  He was standing in my way as I tried to sneak in some outside food lol), follows a trio of Hurricane Katrina survivors who lived through the storm and are attempting to rebuild their lives in its environmental, social and economic aftermath.  TTW uses footage taken by the documentary makers, clips from news channels/speeches and home video caught by one of the main subjects of the film, Kimberly Rivers Roberts.
Roberts, her husband, and a friend (encountered during Katrina) return to New Orleans two weeks after the storm to find their homes destroyed.  Unlike what you'd expect, TTW doesn't just talk about how much of a failure the infrastructure our government's disaster relief groups were, but it brings life to the fact that the people whose lives were most devastated by the storm were already dealing with life-threatening situations, drug abuse, death and financial instability.  Kim's mother died of AIDS, both she and her husband were former drug dealers who were failed by the public education system, their friend Brian is a former addict, they have no bank account and- like so many others- couldn't leave New Orleans because they simply did not have the means.
Trouble The Water not only reminds us of what happened during Katrina (as well as the fact that the US Government cares very little about the impoverished minorities crowded in its urban centers) but brings to light the fact that the sicknesses exacerbated by Katrina in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (poverty, poor public education, drug use, STIs and STDs, violence, abuse) not only existed before the storm, but are still here and will be here long into the future unless we take some sort of action.  If there's only one word I could use to describe this film, it would be:
I strongly urge you to go if it's playing in your city- click here to find information on screenings and openings.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

a bad week

the bad news just keeps rolling in: RIP isaac hayes, who was pronounced dead this afternoon after his wife found him collapsed next to the treadmill (my new biggest fear). apparently he and bernie mac recently completed a movie called "soul men." sounds like that movie is going to be accidentally depressing.

and word on the street is morgan freeman got in a pretty bad car accident earlier this week. damn.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Rest In Peace

Bernie Mac passed away this morning due to complications from pneumonia (combined with his sarcoidosis)- he had been hospitalized since August 1 and was expected to have a full recovery.
This is really sad, for obvious reasons.  Bernie was not only a great comedic talent (admit it- you cracked up because of at least one of his jokes or performances) but also discussed a lot of very REAL issues like poverty, inner city education and drug abuse in his performances.  He was totally real and unashamed of where he came from- and where a lot of his family still was/is.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the McCulloughs and the rest of Bernie's survived family and friends.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Politicians for Ohio

1.) I know our posting habits have been utterly atrocious, so you know- sorry for that.
2.) I'm visiting my family for a tiny tiny stint here in my beautiful home state of Ohio (I saw a Mommy duck and her baby ducklings crossing a road this morning!  Say it with me: Awwwww!) and as I was watching the local channels with my Mom I came to a realization- I have managed to avoid most campaign commercials in NYC.  True, I don't often tune into the local news (damn internet generation) but I know that I soak in all sorts of television, news and media.
It wasn't until I was inundated with "Time for a Change" and "No New Taxes" and "I am Barack Obama/John McCain and I approved this message" commercials that I realized just how serious everyone already is about this election in Ohio.
Clearly Ohio is one of the most major swing states and like, a prized jewel for all presidential hopefuls, but geez.  The moral of the story is, I'm definitely coming home and casting my vote in person- especially after the "let's not count any absentee ballots" fiasco of 2004- so that I can help dear old Ohio break out of her fucking up elections habit.
Make sure that you're registered to vote, if you aren't already- and whoever you think you'll be casting your vote for, make sure you're at least educated on their stance regarding the issues that most affect you in your day to day life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

a thought

i'm feeling both guilty about not having blogged in about a millenium, and too lazy to write a post, but i did have a thought today that i thought i'd share with you all...

when i first read about spain's new laws protecting the rights of apes, i was all for it. but then today it dawned on me that technically, when i'm doing the kind of office work i like to call "monkey work," it might actually now be illegal in spain to subject a monkey to my job. aka yes a monkey could do this, but a monkey would never have to stoop so low.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Review: Personal Days

You're young.  You're restless, and every day you wake up earlier than you really want to hobble into the strictly-scheduled bathroom and create some semblance of "I'm alert" on your face and give yourself some mental pep-talk for the day ahead while you're washing the lethargy away.  All this preparation to go to a job.  Probably your first job.  Most likely not your last job.  And likely not your favorite job.  This is what the first year looks like to most undergraduates that find themselves working in an office that isn't quite i-banking/consultancy crazy but also isn't as free-spirited as how you'd imagine the lives of those young reporters and publicists are (although it's probably true that, as you're lathering that Clearasil on your face in the shower, they're mindlessly rubbing a stick of deodorant on, wondering where the weekend went).
It was this general feeling of being stuck in the workplace doldrums that made me notice the interesting cover of the book Personal Days by Ed Park, and it was my own general fed-up-ness with Corporate America that moved me to buy it after reading the little blurb on the back, which I will conveniently lay out for you here:
In an unnamed New York-based company, the employees are getting restless as everything around them unravels.  There's Pru, the former grad student turned spreadsheet drone; Laars, the hysteric whose work anxiety stalks him in his tooth-grinding dreams; and Jack II, who gives unwanted back rubs, aka "jackrubs" - to his co-workers.
On a Sunday, one of them is called at home.  And the Firings begin.
[Personal Days is] ... a novel for anyone who has ever worked in an office and wondered: "Where does the time go?  Where does the life go?  And whose banana is in the fridge?"
Before I get into my opinions of the book and what, if anything, it made me felt, let me go ahead and just lay out some of the basics.  It's a quick, easy and inexpensive read, taking only $13 out of my wallet and a couple hours of my time (the story only spans about 241 pages of this small paperback).  What's more, Ed's interesting use of formatting and storytelling (moving from first person descriptive, to casual, to an intimate confession from one colleague to another) draws you in, and if you've been working in real job for any span beyond the typical internship-commitment, definitely hooks you.
And the story itself?  Park does a great job of casually introducing you to each character, giving you a small glimpse into their personalities, dreams and backgrounds but leaving most of their personal development up to your own pure conjecture.  You are brought into this unnamed company through water cooler conversation and incomplete memos scrawled on Post-Its, and you are introduced to workers at their most awkward moments, sometimes only very briefly.  In essence Park makes you another worker at the office, privy to all the gossip that travels between cubes but not a connoisseur of any particular information- after all, how much do you really even know about the people that you actually work with?
I found the story, the dialog and the way in which Park unfolds his plot completely believable, totally engrossing and altogether endearing.  As much as I wanted each character to reveal more about themselves, to succeed in the office, I had an equally strong desire for them to be let go, to be given the opportunity to find that piece of them that invariably went missing while sunning day after day under the florescent lights of the floor.  Park creates a completely realistic (at times scarily so) portrait of the workplace that could really be applied to any industry or city, and at once thoroughly captures the essence of this generation's cynicism while simultaneously showcasing our enduring and ironic optimism.
To put it shortly: I completely enjoyed it, and recommend that you check it out.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Black? Help us keep out the Mexicans!

So I meant to blog about this a WHILE ago (like when I first read the article) but I've had a lot going on an dam a negligent blogger - sorry Kaya!  Anyway, according to the New York Times, the US Border Patrol, in an effort to beef up its forces, is now reaching out to young African Americans.  You read that right- border patrol is stocking up on Black kids.
Maybe I'm being a bit sensitive, after all I usually get pissed when I hear about one government group or another reaching into a very specific pool of minorities b/c they figure those kids have no other alternatives and little prospect for work outside of government or law enforcement.. but even so this seems severely fucked up.  I don't normally like to 'air family business,' but I think it's no secret that Black Americans have a huge and I mean HUGE amount of tension and resentment for ethnically diverse immigrants.  Why?  Well, outside of the normally American reasons ("they take away our jobs!" "they suck up resources!" "they take space in schools!") many immigrant groups come to America with a messed up view of Black Americans fueled by hip hop videos, violent movies and racist portrayals, and this perception can sometimes manifest itself in feelings of superiority.  Not to mention Black Americans are pretty much the lowest caste in American society, and the idea that people can come in from another country, be in America for a few months and already have more social and economic capital than Black Americans (who were the base and foundation of even creating America) is pretty fucked up.
So, even though you know they would never admit this, I think it's pretty obvious that this is definitely helping their recruitment agenda.  Kill two birds with one stone- help darken up the group that's trying to keep a country built on immigration "pure" and recruit kids that have a blind resentment (and sometimes hatred) toward a group of people that they have more in common with than they think.
You know, these are the times when my dual status as both a Black American and a first generation latino immigrant make me have all sorts of complicated emotions.  It's all just very sad.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

review: passing strange

I finally saw the musical Passing Strange, which I’ve been wanting to see for some time, last night. I thought it was incredible, and without giving anything major away (I hope, but if you really don’t want anything ruined, I’d stop here) will proceed to explain why.

The play is a coming-of-age story about a young black man from L.A., raised somewhat in the Baptist church and played (intentionally?) by an actor who bore somewhat of a resemblance to a young James Baldwin, who flees to Europe to “find himself” as an artist. The writer, co-composer, etc. etc., Stew, is also the narrator and basically co-lead. And if you haven’t figured out by the end of the play that the story is a bit autobiographical, a subtle face-to-face talk between Stew and the young protagonist, wearing almost-identical outfits, will probably clue you in.

Among the plays many strengths were a number of great songs, fantastic wit and humor (I’m looking at you, English phrases translated into 2-3 sentences by new-to-english Europeans), a great many glorious meta-moments (if you don’t know I love those, we’ve probably never met), and phenomenal acting. Among its weaknesses…I’m actually hard-pressed. I think the only thing that really irked me was the occasional sense of self-importance on the part of Stew, but even that grew on me by the time we got to intermission.

The play was extremely intelligent and handled a lot of issues around black identity, black countercultures, class in the black community, and the quintessential conundrum Baldwin lays out so beautifully in his essay “on the discovery of what it means to be american.” To share a scene with you (to the best of my memory), the main character, in his attempt to be legitimized as a true artist and revolutionary, claims all of black american oppression, saying “you don’t know what it’s like to have to hustle for a dime on the streets of South Central L.A.!” cue narrator: “no one in this play knows what it’s like to have to hustle for a dime on the streets of south central L.A.”

The play was full of this type of social commentary that felt light-hearted, got the audience to laugh, and then brought you back within yourself to realize the gravity of the point made so lightly on the stage. As always, it was fascinating to watch the audience and see who was still laughing when it wasn’t really a joke anymore. The narrator interacted with the audience in a very natural way, the cast interacted with the band equally seamlessly, and the result was a pleasantly self-aware, amusing, and thought-provoking production that I highly recommend to anyone who gets the chance to see it. It was great.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

a momentous occasion

you know its big news when i risk being seen blogging at work, but i had to stop everything for this breaking news: maureen dowd has written an op-ed that is completely reasonable, rational, and respectful. i agreed with it, and enjoyed reading it.

seriously. my world is turned upside-down. the big M.D. managed to lay off the liquor, put down the haterade, and sit down at her computer completely sober, as far as i can tell. and the result is a really valid point - what IS with this american aversion to having a president who is actually somewhat intelligent? because of course when they say obama is elitist, they mean intelligent. they can't possibly mean he's the beneficiary of centuries of privilege like every other president we've ever had, so what they mean is he's the beneficiary of years of very recent privilege in the form of an ivy league education. and that he's not trying to pretend like that's not the case. oh, right, and that unlike our current president, he actually made use of that education. i see what they mean. that IS terribly elitist. lets vote in some more of bush's boys. they may be billions of times more privileged than obama, but at least they'll never admit it to our faces. i hate honesty.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the best and the brightest (aka you're not special)

a recent new york times article sent me on a journey of mental self-discovery - mostly made up of complaining to anyone who would sit still about how pissed off i was about the whole affair. so maybe "self-discovery" is a bit of a stretch. even so.

the topic: a so-called 'elite' education, and what that means to the individuals who go to schools such as harvard and yale. the times article asks the question "why are so many ivy-league graduates going to wall street?" the article fails to really answer that question because, like so many articles in the times of late, it is poorly-researched and has little to no structure. too harsh? suck it, times. teach your writers to use this crazy thing i call a "transition." research would also not hurt, while you're at it. the writers basically selected seemingly at random a handful of harvard seniors whose main similarity seems to have something to do with how much they enjoy hearing themselves talk to, shockingly enough, talk about their struggles to do something different from the hedge funds and i-banking all of their friends are going into. the writers did not, of course, interview anyone from any of the public service organizations on campus. one of the students in the audio slideshow segment actually had, as his plans for the coming year, NOTHING. i think that was supposed to inspire me to be bold like him and not sweat the whole 'job' thing, but i'm guessing he has someone else paying his rent while he does the whole "i'm too deep to be corporate and too rich to get a job like you commoners" thing.

i digress. i'm not actually here to rant about what a shitty job the times does of researching for articles, or the questionable merit of their interview subjects. the basic question still stands, and i think a few other people have done a better job of answering it than the times did, so i'd like to share some thoughts with you.

William Deresiewicz, in a better article (admittedly long, but i think worth it) starts out a bit awkward with an attempt to blame his own lack of social skills on yale, but goes on to turn that uncomfortable anecdote into a pretty interesting analysis. he talks about the constant repetition that you are the best and the brightest, the elitism at every turn, the vast amount of support you get from the institutions, and the notion of "entitled mediocrity." read the article for the nuance, but the main points i think are twofold:

1) entitlement: going to a school like harvard teaches you that you DESERVE to do a shitty job and still get an A, you DESERVE a six-digit starting salary your first year out of college, and you DESERVE all the praise you get. even more, you deserve those things because of something innate within yourself - that you got where you are because you really are the best, and not because of any privileges you may have had along the way. and most people, by the time second semester of freshman year rolls around, have begun to completely take every benefit they get for granted to the point that they would readily argue that an A- in a class they worked hard in proves there is no grade inflation, and that 3-week extension they got on a paper because they got sick is in no way out of the ordinary. by the time you graduate, your grip on reality has a 3.5 year head start, and you'll probably never recapture it.

2) expectations: harvard grads, and the parents of harvard grads, seem to expect not so much the development of the mind, as Deresiewicz puts it, but of the career. specifically, a high-paying corporate career. Deresiewicz calls it a lost opportunity, barack obama calls it a 'poverty of ambition.' it all amounts to the same thing: in a part of the world where you can afford to do pretty much whatever you want and still live a comfortable life, the "best and the brightest" don't consider 'anything you want' to be within the realm of acceptable careers. i know literally one person who did the teaching certification program through harvard, even though i knew tons of people who loved teaching and wanted to teach - my theory: you don't want to look as though you're "wasting" your ivy-league education on something you could have learned for less money. you don't want to look as though you failed to be all you can be. and while you're trying so hard not to fail, you're failing to realize that you're wasting your education instead on a career path that only requires you go through the motions: take test prep classes and AP classes in high school, get into an ivy league school, take uninteresting but easy classes to keep your gpa up, do e-recruiting for a major consulting firm, start in on a career you had never even heard of before you got to college, and that requires absolutely none of the education you had available to you but probably didn't take advantage of in your four years of college. talk about failure.

in the context of this discussion, jk rowling's recent commencement address seems pretty relevant. in her speech, on "the fringe benefits of failure," she explained that if she had not failed to succeed on the path chosen for her by parents, school, etc., she would never have had the courage to try doing what it was she actually wanted to do. and to me, that's the real answer to the question posed by the times. why are so many ivy-leaguers going to wall st? because it's ridiculously easy. you can get an entry-level job at an investment bank or a consulting firm with literally no knowledge at all, they'll train you on the job, and then pay you an absurd amount of money to just continue on the path they've set you on. once you're in, it's difficult to fail. whereas not taking that job forces you to think about what you actually might want to do, and in the process of trying to figure that out, more likely than not you'll realize your harvard education didn't prepare you for it (either that or you wasted your harvard education trying to fit in with future i-bankers and now its too late to go back and take that class at the school of public health), and you're no better-equipped to live your dream than you would be if you had gone to a different school. basically, you're not special, you're young, and you have a lot to learn. and coming hard on the heels of "you're the best and the brightest," "you're not special" just doesn't have that same magical ring. most people don't want to hear it.

so they don't hear it, they go get that i-banking job they've never dreamed of, and if they take the time to read shit like my blog, they get indignant because they have about 25 ready-made rationalizations for why i-banking was the career that made the most sense to them (and strangely enough, everyone they know). poverty of ambition is actually the perfect term for this. if i ever meet barack, i'll have to thank him for that.

anyways, to end this needlessly long post on a happy note, big shout out to all my people who are doing, or in the process of finding, whatever it is they want to do. there's a lot of those people too, and no one ever writes an article about them. dag.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Yeah I know this is old

Apparently efforts to repeal this crazy ban have been stalled.  Part of me understands the logic behind a ban on HIV-positive visitors- but a very small small silly part.  At this point, the way HIV is ravaging communities, I don't think a reverse-quarantine is going to do much difference for anybody aside from being incredibly discriminatory.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

brace yourselves

i know its been a while. what can i say, i get lazy from time to time.

so after much internal debate, i'll give in and write my first (most likely of many) post about michelle obama. lets start it out on the right foot: the woman is fly as hell. did you SEE that purple dress the other day? damn. she clearly puts the right kind of effort into her wardrobe. i find that although you should never "judge a book by its cover," its always a good thing when someone takes the time to look good. if michelle obama were unshowered, for example, i'd be concerned. but no troubles on that front.

moving on: i can't even (don't even want to) IMAGINE the kinds of racist and sexist shit we are in for between now and november. if i were michelle obama, i would have put my foot down the first time barack mentioned the whole "running for president" idea and said "frankly, i don't feel like it." because god knows she is going to have to go through a world of pain for this. its already started, with the accusations that there's a video out there somewhere that shows her using the word "whitey," and with the heightened media hubbub surrounding the idea of michelle obama in general. i've read about a thousand "who IS michelle obama" articles in the last week. a thousand. and the level to which they invade her privacy is sort of unreal. the kicker for me was the recent piece of news everyone's seemed to grab on to: they've somehow forced the release of michelle's college senior thesis on being black at an ivy league school in the '80s, and everyone is dying to dissect it, to the point where i even read an article today that quotes the "dedications" page of her thesis. think for a moment about how humiliated you would be as a grown-ass successful woman to have the media close-reading something you wrote when you were barely 21. ouch.

but the big thing with michelle obama, the thing i predict will continue to be the biggest issue she'll have to deal with, is obvious even now: white people all across america are trying to decide whether or not she is, in fact, an Angry Black Woman. and they are looking for any reason they can to label her as such. the whole "first time i've been proud of my country" thing was a nice firm start, and paved the way for people to go crazy over the "whitey" video that does not even exist. i can only imagine what's in store for the future. its clear at this point that michelle obama is an intelligent woman who thinks a lot about race, and frankly, thats probably not going to win her any popularity contests. unfortunately for the obamas, america doesn't love it when you're smart enough to understand how fucked up she is. soooo moral of the story: i'll probably be posting soon in outrage about some new shit the media did to michelle obama. brace yourselves, people.

on the plus side, maureen dowd has, for the first time possibly ever, earned my respect by writing this piece. the 12-step program is working, M.D. i'm proud of you. you may turn out to be aiight after all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Just in time for Father's Day!

Click here to go to an ebay charity auction for Bill Cosby's sweaters from the great days of Cliff Huxtable. Proceeds benefit Cosby's N.A.S. charity, fixing the hood one ungrateful youth at a time.

If you guessed what N.A.S. stands for +10 points.
If you guessed/said it and aren't Black -2,000,000,000 points.
Sorry, sometimes it beez like that.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Obama wins nomination, CNN projects"

I hate projections- they stress me out.  Somebody please get me when they get an official word.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

democracy's last hurrah

ok so i stole that title from a friend, and i'm not even going to write about it until later in the week.

right now i really should be getting to bed seeing as how i have to be up mad early in the morning, but i figure if i don't post this now i'll forget, like i do every day.

this is what i've been saying for some time now. except i've been saying it to myself and my roommates. not the new york times. i know speeches aren't going to like, change the world or any shit like that, but hillary still really needs to make one. so kudos to this chick for pointing it out.

and on the subject of politics, stay tuned in a few days after i get some rest and rehydration for me going apeshit about obama quitting his church and the rumblings about this michelle obama video. anger management, here i come.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

dear douchebag in my building-

I really don't like you.  In fact, I may actually hate you.  I understand that you want to pay cheap rent and still follow your dreams of living in the big city.  So you split a bedroom in anapartment with your girlfriend, even though you know you're visibly uncomfortable around all of the 'colored' people surrounding you.

So you come out of your unit and you smile and say " hi, nice to meet ya!" with your douchey square plastic-framed american-apparel-looking glasses and rush down the stairs.  But when that old Black woman takes a long time moving her walker up the stairs instead of offering to help her with bag of stuff she's juggling you look annoyed and huff past her, thinking that nobody sees you.  But I see you.  I know you.

You smile at the women in the building even though we can very clearly hear the big arguments you and your roommate have, and have deduced that you two share a, to say the least, slightly abusive relationship.

So, in short- you suck.  I'll be glad to no longer be your neighbor.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

so wonderfully exotic

One thing that I’ve always loved about fashion photography has been the rich colors, unexpected shapes and oftentimes bold composition of each shoot.  Since I was 10 years old I remember soaking in the pages of Vogue, Harper’s and Elle, not for the (generally uninspiring) editorials or tips on what was new or in, but in sheer appreciation of the art that I’ve come to love.  Of course, I’ve always accepted my love of fashion with a grain of salt- after all, as I’ve stated before, it’s an industry rife with elitism, sexism, racism and exploitation, the proverbial playground of the privileged that, on its upper levels, is all but closed to us plebeians.

So over the years I’ve been an active consumer and a casual fan, never overestimating my love, knowing that while she can be beautiful, creative and provocative, she’s also often petty and manipulative.  Which, sadly, I was reminded of while flipping through this month’s Vogue.  The June 2008 issue of the fashion industry’s bible was dedicated to SJP and the upcoming SATC movie, but deep in the recesses of its layout is the article “from here to timbuktu... and beyond.  Sally Singer travels to the end of the earth for a little night music.”  I’m sure you’ve already caught on to what annoyed me about this article.  Bright pictures of model Liya Kebede mingling with the Malian locals, sporting “ethnically inspired” fashions in the most ethnic of all places (oh, Africa.  Sigh.)  If the imagery itself weren’t enough to warrant my defenses popping up, this quote definitely helped spark a bit of anger:

“Which brings me to the true glory of Mali: the wanderers themselves... You see women driving pink 125 cc. bikes in kitten heels, stretch pin-striped pencil skirts, and blonde bobbed wigs.  You see schoolgirls in Heidi pinafores and young boys in hip hop gear, pastoral floral dresses.  Above all, you see the world as if exfoliated of the dead layers of Western trends, norms, preconceptions.  It’s a visual and auditory jolt that makes this sandbox at the end of the earth feel like the most privileged of all playgrounds.”

Yes, you read correctly.  Now, stripping away some of the most immediately annoying parts of this article (“this sandbox at the end of the earth,” right.. how exactly is Mali at the end of the earth?  If I’m not mistaken California could easily be qualified as the “end of the earth” to this white woman fashion news editor, but come ON how completely cliche and colonial) the most frustrating part was how this woman continued the theme of “oh how quaint, look at how luxuriously I can live in this dust bucket of a country!  This is so deliciously different from my every day life!”

Oh, and the comment about Mali being stripped “of Western trends, norms [and] preconceptions?”  PLEASE.  Oh goodness, that right there almost made me want to vomit.  I’m no expert on Mali or Timbuktu, but I seriously doubt that the eclectic hodgepodge of outfits seen on the streets of this city has much to do with a collective fashion statement by the people as much as it has to do with a myriad of economic issues and access to certain resources.

And okay, I get it, if you’re an American who has never been to Mali (which I never have) I’m sure that the change from Western culture and amenities would be really jarring, and would inspire you to have a different appreciation both for your home and your new surroundings.  But, in this day and age of hyper-sensitivity to global issues you think that she’d at least once bring up something about the environment and its condition that had at least a tiny ounce of social relevancy (aside from immediately mentioning and dismissing her non-status as an anthropologist, economist or tourist) but, no, of course she did not.

So we get to the point- when the hell IS it someone’s job to have cultural sensitivity?  Surely this can’t only be reserved for us anthropology students and those in academia- I mean, this woman is a lead editor at one of the most highly circulated publications in the business, and she’s continued to support the ignorant stance of appreciating a place only for its superficial merits.

Blah.  I just got all aggravated.  I’m going to go get a pepsi.  To calm me nerves.