february 2005

click here for permalink February 21, 2005

Why do my favorite people keep shooting themselves in the head?

Last night, Hunter S. Thompson shot and killed himself in his Colorado home, often referred to as a "heavily-fortified compound" and today, hastily transcribed eulogies spread across the news networks, canonizing the already legendary journalist.

The first thing that crosses my mind, and the minds of most people I know, when I hear that someone has committed suicide is "why" but, of all the articles I've read today, the only one that even came close to questioning Thompson's final motivation was the New York Post when they quoted an unspecified friend as saying, "He's been sick and down more than usual for the last year."

The BBC quotes another of Thompson's acquaintances as calling his death "sad" but "not surprising." Taking this sentiment to its logical extreme, Cintra Wilson, an early favorite salon.com contributor, weighs in with a tribute to one of her heroes, delivered in a hail of Hunteresque, adjective-abusing imagery. "I think it is improper and disrespectful to whine about this suicide," she says, calling it "an exit somehow befitting the self-styled anarchy and insouciantly godless iconoclasm of the man."

Am I on my own here, wondering what prompted him to check out early? Are we to assume that age 67 is not all — that it is, in fact, much less — than it's cracked up to be? Or that anyone with a documented and mythologized history of self-abuse like Thompson's should be considered a blessed anomaly if they see the far side of 40, regardless of how the technicality of death plays out in the end?

I'm sorry, Cintra, this may sound like whining but wasn't the world already inhabited by far too few characters like Thompson, whose flaming wit and brazen wisdom were like a towering pillar of truth in the midst of a media on the verge of collapsing under the weight of it's own seething stupidity and depraved corruption, an imminent supernova of trash, greed and lies?

Maybe it's selfish and self-pitying to want an explanation — to take the actions of another person, unknown and unknowable in spite of the grueling journeys through mental landscapes apparently shared, personally — but right now it seems extremely important that we don't internalize the idea that one can only swim against the current for so long before the undertow inevitably drags you down.

Anyway, it seems extremely important to me.

Well, Hunter S., you found the American Dream as far as I'm concerned... fame and freedom, money and guns, a heavily-fortified compound in the hills and two generations of faithful fans, pharmaceutically-fortified and ferociously inspired, in your wake.

As you once said; "Never lose sight of the primary responsibility. But what was the story? Nobody had bothered to say. So we would have to drum it up on our own. Free Enterprise. The American Dream... Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas. To relax, as it were, in the womb of the desert sun. Just roll the roof back and screw it on, grease the face with white tanning butter and move out with the music at top volume, and at least a pint of ether."


click here for permalink February 20, 2005

Hey, ladies... do you dread and despise shopping for bras? Do you wish you could punch the next person who tells you that most women don't even wear the right size? (Oops, that would be me!) The first time I heard that, I was 15...

I had just walked into a very upscale lingerie shop (the kind that would have spelled it "shoppe") in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was with my grandmother, who was actually the one in need of fine foundation undergarments that day; I was simply tagging along because shopping when you're a teenage girl has nothing to do with need and everything to do with... shopping.

We entered the dimly-lit boutique and were immediately drawn to opposite poles on the ladies foundation spectrum; she, in the direction of well-crafted, comfortable sports bras and I, in search of the brightest and laciest items I could afford.

I was rifling through a rack (no pun intended) of fabulous red and purple things when a matronly salesperson of about 55, distinctly reminiscent of a women's prison warden, approached me with a menacing "Can I help you?" I turned on my most earnest and businesslike manner, in hopes of avoiding being evicted from the "shoppe" like some underage hooligan by the self-appointed sentinel of the skivvies.

I would soon be mortified (and, in fact, would be for many years hence) by how badly my strategy backfired; the warden now turned her professional attentions on me full force; pulling my arms out at the sides, crucifixion-like, turning me to the left, then the right as a butcher might do to a rabbit just before skinning it.

She asked me what size I wore. I told her, meek yet comfortably assured of my correctness (and of nothing else at that moment). No, you're not, she snapped. Try this one. She shoved a bra into my hands. It hadn't a single number or letter in common with my previous size (which, come to think of it, was actually my mother's size. I had tried on one of hers once and it fit just fine — like, there's more to it than that?).

What followed was a dressing room experience that I still can't talk about, but let me just say, fifteen years later, I'm still wearing the size I discovered that day — and I guess I have the matronly prison warden of a "shoppe" in Charlottesville to thank for it. For those of you who didn't have the good fortune I had at 15 (or think the years might have changed the numbers on you), Triumph International comes to the rescue.

Skip the intro, pick a region and find the link to Lingerie Advice, "Your Real Size." It won't save you a trip to the store but it's definitely a fun application of Flash technology (and it confirms that I'm one of the 20% who is wearing the right size!).

And now for something completely different (it's all about balance, you know)... It's been over a year since I did an online quiz worth passing along — for that matter, did any quizzes at all... but I'm not complaining. I wouldn't wish that kind of free time on anyone! Here it is.

Which Western feminist icon are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

You are bell hooks (no capital letters)! You were
one of the first black wymyn to discuss in
public spaces the differences between being a
black womyn and being a black man or a white
womyn. You are the mother of intersectionality
and you couldn't care less about identity
politics. Thanks for making feminism accessible
and calling the white, middle class wymyn on
their bullshit!


click here for permalink February 7, 2005

This weekend marked the one year anniversary of the last weekend I spent connected to the outside world via coaxial cable. That's right, no TV on Superbowl Sunday. Bearing in mind the last thing I caught before the screen went black was last year's half-time event...

Which people (okay, idiots) are still talking about so, really, I couldn't have been more pleased. In fact, I was completely (even blissfully) unaware that it was Superbowl Sunday until a friend came over to try on the dress I'm making for her and, even though I've told her at least six times that I don't have cable, the first thing she said when she walked in the door was, "I can't believe you're not watching the game!"

("What game? And I've told you at least six times that I don't have cable...")

So, today, I found myself at Adbusters.org reading the calls to action for TV Turnoff Week (April 25 — May 1), which they sponsor, if that's the right word, every year. They have all these encouraging testimonials, complete with a forum full of alternate activities, to entice potential turners-off;

"What happens during a seven-day experiment in life without TV? ...You find yourself passing time in ways you never expected."

Well, I can certainly attest to that but, as I was reading all this, a strange realization dawned on me. No one, not even Adbusters, advocates turning off your television... for good.

Granted, I'm not Amish and I certainly didn't choose to disconnect when I did. Giving up cable was just another sad milestone in my year of poverty (you want to talk about passing time in ways you never expected? Try Consumer Research focus groups). But now that I can afford it?

The other day someone was telling me all about how they were watching Fear Factor the night before and how they kept trying to change the channel but they just couldn't look away because it was so gross and they made this girl eat a... And I'm thinking, Um, shut up?? Jesus christ, just because your brain cell count has dropped below the self-preservation threshold...)

A year ago, all I could think about was how I was going to function without The Daily Show to tell me what's really going on. I still miss The Daily Show (which isn't on DVD like The West Wing and CSI) but all those other shows... Will & Grace, Law & Order, ER, 24, Trading Spaces? You know, it actually took me several minutes to even think of five shows I used to watch.

The problem is, now that there's no Breaking News or Special Reports or late night monologues or State of the Auction, er, Union Addresses to invade my space and make me angry, make me want to rant and argue, I've found I'm pretty content to live in a vacuum and let the world go to hell in a handbasket without so much as a comment.

Watching TV and letting it make you stupid is bad... not watching and letting it make you dumb is worse.


click here for permalink February 1, 2005

If a recent study of American high school students is anything to go on, the next generation could end up saving the government millions of dollars normally spent on repression and propaganda. Turns out, they wouldn't know free speech if it stood up and screamed "fire" in a theater.

According to CNN, "Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories... It was also clear that many students do not understand what is protected by the bedrock of the Bill of Rights.

"Three in four students said flag burning is illegal... It's not. About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet... It can't."

Frightening. It's not like I have anything against saving the government money but I felt it was my duty as citizen (of, well... Canada, naturally. But also, and most especially when I'm at the US Customs Counter, the United States) to devote a little pinkspace to The Bill of Rights.

For those of you who graduated from high school back when it was challenging, consider this a refresher course... and for those of you who aren't American... we all know you can recite it. Nobody likes a show-off.

The Bill of Rights: A Transcription
(Courtesy of The National Archives Experience at www.archives.gov.)

Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights."

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 222222
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

So, there you have it... it's no Declaration but it's a pretty interesting read. (In all seriousness, if you want a taste of what it was like when "proud to be an American" meant something other than "gun-toting, inbred psychopath," read the Declaration of Independence... or watch "Thirteen Days," but the Declaration ends on a more optimistic note.