‘Course, *this* makes me a hippie.

It is highly dangerous to take social cues from the “Style” section of the New York Times. But if the yuppies are doing stuff this fun, I think I could be one. Except for the “uppwardly mobile” part. And possibly the “young” part. But the fact is that I would like to try this.

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Banning Ray Bradbury? Who ever came up with that idea was quite something.

So the idea is this; bold all the books you’ve read all of, italicize books you didn’t finish. Behold:

1 The Bible

#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chauce
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#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Capital by Karl Marx
#37 Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 A Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright

#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
#102 Émile by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#103 Nana by Émile Zola
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Some of these confuse me as “banned books.” What were the circumstances for banning Little House on the Prairie?

What’s next, people? Marrying dogs?

As the boys say, “unless you’ve been living under a rock” you know that the gay marriage ban in California was overturned last week. Here in my home state, marriage has snuck in under what CNN called a “loophole,” a hole looped by my all-time favorite, Governor Patterson, that orders state functionaries to honor MA and CA marriages here in NY, regardless of our own locally segregationist marriage policies.

Perhaps it is too soon to say, but it looks like the days of orientation-segregated marriage are numbered.

To tell you the truth, it makes me a little nervous. I don’t like marriage, and to be honest, its not entirely transparent why. Back when I was straight, I limited my engagement with this institution to the city’s back-of-the-bus vehicle for gay partnership, because, really, what kind of person buys into segregated institutions, on purpose, from a position of privilege? Plus, I didn’t–and don’t–think rights like health care, pensions, living wages, education, free movement across borders, living wages, and parental rights (etc) should be allocated on the basis of people’s love lives.

Well, that and the consumer-fest of wedding showers and the specter of adult women playing candy-penis-based games at bachelorette parties make my skin crawl. I suspect I won’t like it any better when the tradition is “transformed” into “pin the boobies on the (other) bride”, and vulva cookies instead of penis Popsicles. I love looking at naked people, but truly hate going to strip clubs. Particularly with (my) blood relatives. Gay strip clubs seems likely to only make that kind of scene more awkward.

I don’t like going to church. I hate posing for pictures, and I despise matching dresses, except in the context of vintage Motown. And, any open bar that I have to pay for seems to entirely defeat the purpose.

It appears that marriage, or at least weddings, just may not be for me.

I could just live an let live, and leave it at that. But, Mattilda has been arguing high and low that the evolution of gay marriage as the number-one demand of the movement was a strategic mistake and an example of the worst kind of right-wing, assimilationist politics. This argument strikes me as essentially correct; universal health care would have been a better demand to focus on in the early nineties. If the queer lib movement had done that, the 2008 elections might be somewhat different, and have more actual political content.

Mattilda makes a good case, but not one that tells us much about gay marriage, the issue at hand; things didn’t go her way a decade and a half ago, so here we are.

Where is that again?

A lot of people are worried that gay marriage will fatally maim “gay culture,” further stigmatizing things like hook-ups, sex work and public sex while undermining the political economy of kinky subcultures and all-night dance clubs. If that happens, it will make me sad, but not in an intensely personal sense; I’d feel the kind of dread one might experience as their favorite island paradise is transformed into a hell of matching condos, but not the kind of identity crisis inspired by losing ones physical or spiritual home.

That’s because my preferred mode of sex and romance looks, on the surface, a lot like traditional, monogamous, boring-old marriage. I can take or leave public sex, promiscuity and kink, but I really like partnership, and the intensity and interdependence of two. I like to be someone’s special someone. I like being proud of my partner, becoming part of a family, commitment, cooking dinner and spooning. I realize these good-for-me things are not necessarily tied to monogamy or pair-bonding, much less to marriage. I’m just pointing out the resemblance to popular, romantic view

Which makes it seem like I’m nitpicking on this marriage issue. As my mother constantly asks me, while I mercilessly dissect every latest piece of potentially hopeful news, “Why can’t [I] just be happy?”

Because, thats why. I think underneath my sense of ambivalence, lies a serious flaw in the “new,” supposedly gender-neutral marriage. Namely, the new institution will still be segregated. Inherently so. Expanding marriage is expanding social inequality. I hate that.

Honestly, I wouldn’t really miss house music, if it didn’t make it into the brave new world. And if we think about “gay culture” in those terms, the the ill-effects of gay marriage seem to mostly affect the boys; the political economy of public dyke culture has long been comparatively tenuous at best.

But, if we look deeper, we can see that gay marriage may, in fact, undermine core feminist principles, reinforcing ideas of domesticity and adulthood that feminists have been battling since domesticity was invented. This expansion of marriage will segregate the gay world in a way that the straight world has long been segregated, dividing us into ‘single’ and ‘married.’ It will expand the reach of a social logic into a sphere once carved out to oppose it, further legitimizing a series of social assumptions that make people’s lives worse, and whch stigmatize the majority of us that don’t meet the marriage–and parenthood– norm. For example:

“Single people would rather be married/are social failures“; Gays “bachelors” and single women have long been stigmatized as lonely, mentally disturbed, socially unsuitable and sexually dangerous. We are cat ladies and pathetic men with tiny dogs. Sex In the City may signal a decade-long extension for women on the marriage imperative, but it’s by no means an amnesty. Everybody wound up hitched, in the end, right?

It’s okay. Don’t tell me how the movie turns out. I don’t want to know. I’m just afraid that adding the choice of gay marriage to the pre fixe menu of adulthood options will only make this worse.

“Single people would rather be married to one person:” The fight for gay marriage makes it hard to talk about families based on mutually supportive romantic relationships between more than two people. When even Dan Savage can’t come out and say that he has your back, you know you are being thrown under the bus of socio-sexual normativity.

“Single people are social children”: Surely I’m not the only one who has faced demotion to the “kids table” upon finding myself single or arriving at family events partner-free? Only to have someone ask when I’ll be “settling down?” More marriage will make us even weirder at Thanksgiving, glaring enviously as our married lesbian cousins are offered more wine, while the singles smile and convince small children to stop throwing soft food.

“Reproduction and parenthood truly gives life meaning–especially for women”: Opponents of gay marriage have been making the rounds arguing idiotically that gay marriage is wrong because children deserve two parents. Personally, I think children deserve at least four parents, but that is another post.

My point here is that these right-wing asswipes assume that the purpose of marriage is to create infrastructure for childbearing and parenthood. One walk around Park Slope and I quickly begin to worry that gay marriage aficionados disagree only in the details.

I think children can be great, but I hate to reinforce the idea that having children is the highest purpose that women–or other adults–have in life. Writing books, doing fantastic plumbing, making art, teaching, being a great friend, aunt or conversationalist also strike me as worthy goals.

Gay parenting, at least in part, also depends particularly heavily on a social structure that systematically separates children in oppressed nations (domestically and internationally) from their families. My thoughts on adoption are much longer than we have time for here, and in no way amount to a blanket condemnation, but it is worth worrying about the degree to which increased heteronormativity among the gay upper-crust can create “demand” in a market for human babies. To the extent that this happens, its a great example of how the heteronormative “success” of some is dependent on the normative failure of others, particularly poor women.

“Friends are nice, but not very important”: We all have priorities. But state-and-culture sanctioned marriage vastly elevates a single relationship above all other relationships we have in life. Fidelity and honesty are the least common denominator for human decency in the context of marriage, but fucking over ones friends is much less stigmatized in society at large that cheating on a spouse. When you “break up” with a friend, few will ask “what happened!?!” or offer condolences. Its my opinion that we’d all be happier with rich social lives filled with significant relationships. Straight culture doesn’t have much time for that perspective; will the gays go the same sad way after marriage?

“Extended family is nice, but not very important”; Marriage has, at various times and places, operated as a kind of treaty between extended families and clans, but in our world reflects the formation of an autonomous, nuclear unit. Stigma against, for example, single mothers, discounts the value of supportive extended family networks and is usually based in the belief that there is one, and only one, right way to go–two parents and one or two kids.

For queer people, “family” can mean a non-biologically based version of this extended family model. As the gay version of the nuclear family becomes more socially valued and–likely–more popular, can both models co-exist?

If not, I know which side I’m on.

“Working class and poor people, and Black people are not responsible or successful”; Related to the assumptions above, its already the case that the straight ideal of marriage and the nuclear family is heavily class-biased and much more difficult to attain and maintain under economic duress; for example, in situations where where workers are forced to migrate long distances away from their families, in circumstances where large percentages of a community are in prison, or where unemployment is high. These days, all over the world, we are talking about a lot of people.

Failure to meet these family/marriage norms used to be something that queer people shared with this majority, helping, I think, to contribute to a left queer and liberal gay political spectrum; what will happen (has been happening?) to queer politics as the elite minority of gay people get hitched, fit in, and lose any vestigial sense of connection to other oppressed people?

Sorry. That was rhetorical question.

In any case, you can play this game at home. There are many more oppressive and divisive assumptions that marriage–even gay marriage–help to reinforce. Feel free to contribute–I live for participatory rants. In the mean time, I’ll wrap this over-long post up by suggesting that this kind of (il)logic has always been oppressively applied to gays in the straight world, and to some extent even within the queer sphere. But gay marriage further entrenches this normative logic in a realm where it was once seriously contested. Part of me is glad that it looks like people who want to get married will now be able to, but, as a woman who, in all likelihood will never be a mother, and a human who hopes for liberation not just for the elite, these developments also make me feel a little like dressing up in a sequined mini and heading out for fabulous karaoke rendition of Nowhere to Run.

I wonder if she’s already writing it?

Because it is May, and because I once used the word “salutatorian” in a post about how stupid capitalism is, a top search that finds my blog is “what makes a good salutatorian speech?”

Kids, let me just say that I am the last person you should ask. I have never been a salutatorian. I was more the kind of student who screwed around and then sneered at the kids who thought they were smart, but who were obviously actually just working really hard. Because of this retrograde attitude and general lackadaisical approach, I came in 12th, not second, place. For the same reason, I also misspelled “salutatorian” the first time around.

Despite my total lack of credential, I want to offer you some advice on your speech. I may have never been a salutatorian myself, but I did date one. Or maybe he was a valedictorian, I can’t recall. In any case, he was the kind of person who was very smart and who also worked very hard. That is why he is now a doctor, while I remain a doctoral student.

Though my date’s actual rank my have receded into the distant haze of memory, I do recall his speech. He quoted it to me the night we met, in the back of a student ride van between elite liberal arts college campuses. It went like this:

A man goes to a monastery to find enlightenment. The program is that he meditate alone for a year at a time–no speaking, no singing, no human contact.

At the end of each year, the man is permitted exactly one word with the great teacher of the monastery as his only guidance through this intense spiritual task.

At the end of the first year, the man is approached by two monks and led to the top of the mountain where the teacher lives. He is led into the presence of the great man, who looks at him, inviting him to speak. The man says, simply, “The.”

He returns for another year of quiet contemplation. Again, two monks come to take him back to the teacher. This time, the man says “Food.” Then he goes back.

The third time our hero gains an audience with his guru, after 3 full years of arduous spiritual struggle, he looks at the teacher and say “Here,” and then returns to his isolation.

After four years, the now practiced student completes his sentence, relating the insights of his four-year-long meditation practice to the teacher, saying “Sucks!”

Now, I realize this is not an incredibly funny joke. But it is kind of funny as a dig at compulsory education, and I think my friend even managed to get in trouble for this speech. That is, if he even gave this speech. I have no way of knowing, so I can’t say whether using this silly joke as a salutatorian speech will work to earn you the campus-wide recognition that you deserve. But I do have it on good authority that sometime in the future, this speech just might help you get a lazy college freshman into bed on a first date.

Go boldly into the future, runners-up!

Meme Gone Wild!

May 22, 2008

Some people are masters of the quotably pithy; some aren’t. As it turns out

What happens when an innocent blog “meme” is ripped loose from the social conventions which traditionally bind it?

What happens when cheeky bloggers act as though no “tag” is our master?

I’ll tell you; more fluffy blog content! I stole this meme, too:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Locate the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing…
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged me.

1. Three books were equally near to me. They are, in no particualr order, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville; The Intuitionist, Colson Whitehead; and The New Imperial Challenge, eds Leo Panitch and Colin Leys.

2. done, done and done.

3.ok

4. quotes as follows:

“Regarding religious institutions in a human point of view, he acknowledges their influence on manners and legislation. He admits they may serve to make man live in peace and prepare them greatly for the hour of death. He regrets the faith that he has lost; and he is deprived of treasure of of which he knows the value, he fears to take it away from those who still possess it.”

Hmmm. You would think that randomly isolating sentences would make them seem more profound, but in this case, decidedly not Next!

“‘Did you miss me?” Lila Mae asks, before she can check herself. Check that impulse. Natchez sweeps his arm into the foyer.”

The Intuitionist is a truly great book, but nothing about that passage particularly suggests it. Moving on:

The reaction to the invasion of Iraq was dramatically different. There were enormous protests well before the attack began, and again on the day it was launched –with no counter demonstrators. That is a radical difference.

I have to say that this meme just made me think that (barring some notable exceptions) most words aren’t very interesting without a whole lot of other words spread around to back them up. I suppose I really am a grad student.

5. Instead of tagging, I’m just encouraging more stealing.

Round Two! Ding!

May 14, 2008

What *will* they think of next?

If the MSM and the Blog-stream media are to be believed, Hillary Clinton as potential president is toast, or very close to it. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the inner workings of the Democratic Party, nor do I care to underestimate Clinton’s desire to win and/or willingness to resort to technocratic fiat to make her thing happen.

But if it is true, if she is out, that means the fun is REALLY about to start. And by “fun”, I mean “steaming pile of racist horseshit”.

Not that the Clinton camp has thus far avoided racist innuendo, insult and implication. Hardly. But if Barak Obama is crowned presumptive nominee, I think we can expect to see the matter escalate to an entirely new, amazing, level of hideousness.

Because, in a way, Obama is perfect. He’s a perfect avatar for both competing strands of emergent American racism; both naive liberal color-blind racism and conservative, Islamophobic, strategically color-blind racism find a near-exact answer in Obama’s personal and political history.

Thats not entirely amazing; after all, color-blind racism is color-blind racism. They’re not so different. But it is incredible how well-suited Obama is to playing both the hero’s role for the liberals and the worst enemy of conservatives.

For blind liberals, including Obama himself, Obama represents “Hope” and “Change.” It sounds vague, but in fact, its very specific. Specifically, a quick perusal of Obama’s website makes it clear what isn’t  what isn’t expected to change: reform to create universal health care and education, a new, just, criminal justice system, investment in our crumbling infrastructure, or a reversal of the U.S.’s heretofore imperialist foreign policy.

Instead, its a hope that things have already changed, and in a specific way; Obama, as his supporters contend, “embodies” change. His mixed-race status, his “articulate” personae, his personal history that simultaneously embodies blackness but avoids a connection to the history of Black slavery in the U.S.– it all represents transcendence of DuBois’ famous “color-line.” A new post-race era of American life, and a confirmation of the progressive power of waiting around for things to improve.

Meanwhile, for conservatives, Obama manages to embody a holy trinity of enemies-under-the-bed; secret socialism, underground “Islamism” and overt (is there any other kind?) Blackness. They can use his Blackness while avoiding it–drawing (more-or-less) implicitly on anti-Black racism by attacking him for his secret political radicalism and covert association with Islam.

But Obama is neither what liberals hope for, nor what conservatives fear. He’s certainly no socialist. He’s a fairly secular Christian with an absentee dad who was a secular Muslim. At the same time, his Blackness does nothing to ameliorate the increasing social inequalities faced by working class Black people in America, even as it reflects the changing configuration of race and class politics in the U.S.

I worry that this deadly confluence of color-blindness will leave liberals unprepared to mount a response to racist right-wing attacks on an general election campaign for Obama. I worry that we’re about to find out how deep race and racism really runs in America. I worry I’m right.

I don’t wanna watch.

Somewhere, some Black people also think this is funny.

Apparently, many white people really like the blog Stuff White People Like. I have been sent the link to Stuff White People Like by aproximately 1,297 white people. They thought I would like it, being a white person and all.

White people like Stuff White People Like for the same reason we like jokes about how white people can’t dance. Because it implies that whiteness is a cute, if inherent and unchangeable foible. We can’t help it! We’re white!

Whats wrong with Stuff White People Like is that it is basically, totally wrong. First, there’s its utterly class-blind approach, a problem which becomes apparent if you are unfortunate enough to peruse Stuff Educated Black People Like.

As a result of this significant lacunae, Stuff White People Like is more or less completely off the mark, obscuring the stuff all white people *actually* like. I’ve begun an incomplete list below:

1. Jokes about how white people can’t dance

2. Police protection

3. The freedom to do lots of drugs without going to prison.

4. Book deals.

Feel free to contribute!