kitchen table

journal of popular studies
November 29, 2006, 1:11 pm
Filed under: Activism, America, books, Literature

My lovely friend Brynn sent me a package yesterday with the red & black thigh-highs, a new skirt, and many recent issues of the JPS.

“What?” You may ask. “That is Us Magazine, not JPS or whatever you call it.”

If you’ve ever read Mountain Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, you know that we are stealing “JPS,” short for Journal of Popular Studies, from the book’s subject, Dr. Paul Farmer. The book is among my favorites–I sincerely think everyone should read it–and besides the kick in the ass it delivers to Westerners about our lifestyle, it also shares with its readers many of Farmer’s brilliant maxims and nicknames.

Journal of Popular Studies, which he reads on planes from time to time, is one Brynn and I celebrate.  Seriously though, I kind of wish I wasn’t including Britney Spears in the same post as Paul Farmer. His work, as Kidder describes it, is a moral compass for me. A welcome, consistent kick in the ass.


two day nap

Dismay uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

I’ve sort of jumped ship these past couple weeks, been so busy with my two jobs & all the campaign work. It’s all over now though–the campaign, that is–and I am so, so please with the results.

After leaving the party at Democratic headquarters last night, a bunch of us headed down to Founding Fathers, a bar. We attempted to place our campaign stickers on the backs of unsuspecting Republicans–a fun game when your drunk on alcohol and exhaustion. Anyway, I’m ready for a two-day nap.

Follow all the news & updates here…

Lindsay Beyerstein photographing the faces of defeat in Virginia.

Buffalogeek has local analysis and some videos up from the after party.

South Dakota rejects the abortion ban.

the least glamorous stuff
October 12, 2006, 1:48 pm
Filed under: Activism, Growing Up

The real revolution is always concerned with the least glamorous stuff.
Alice Walker, “The Unglamorous but Worthwhile Duties of the Black Revolutionary Artist.”

This is what I told myself yesterday as I sat in a dark room with drafty windows, helping Seniors fill out their STAR applications. So many of them told me that if they didn’t get this tax exemption they wouldn’t be able to live, literally. One lady has 27 prescriptions for which she has to pay. One army veteran who didn’t qualify for the program and wore a peace sign on a chain around his neck, told me that by the time he did reach the qualifying age–65–he’d probably be dead.

Last monday I saw The U.S. vs. John Lennon, a film documenting the United States’ campaign to get Lennon out of the country and out of the spotlight. It was a great film, very inspiring and it spoke to my younger brother’s rock and roll sensibilities. What John and Yoko were doing was incredibly glamorous, the epitomy of glamor, but one could argue they had little choice given their intense popularity. They used their celebrity in a responsible way, to bring attention to injustice.

My point of mentioning this film is that it caused in me a small riot. Why aren’t I out there being loud and holding bed-ins and writing anti-war songs? In short, I was frustrated with myself for not being as big and glamorous as Lennon. These small, repeated acts of resistance–like helping Seniors fill out their STAR applications, or talking a mother through the process of receiving food stamps, or volunteering a Saturday to clean out the PUSH house–sometimes don’t feel like enough, especially when you lose sight of this work as part of a larger movement. And so when I see movies like the U.S. vs. John Lennon, I sometimes forget momentarily that John Lennon’s activism stemmed from years of work by the Student movement which stemmed for years of work by the Civil Rights movement. And that the real revolution happened at someone’s doorstep in Mississippi, and that there were no cameras present. Just like yesterday, in that small dark room with the drafty windows.

I take from this self-indulgent riot an indication that I need to check in with myself again, that I need to remind myself that helping someone help themselves is a revolutionary act. In the same essay as quoted above, Alice Walker writes that teaching a black elder to read is a revolutionary act, as is writing from time to time, as is kindness and love. I don’t intend to sound hokey or naive, I intend to sound sincere and responsible.

The more distant we perceive ourselves to be from movements concerned with justice, the more paralyzed we become. I always try to bring it down to a local level, until I’m talking about you and me and our shit right here. If we can’t get that shit straight, we’re never going to realize justice on a large scale.

Revolutionary work is not glamorous work and I strive to maintain a healthy level of suspicion at anything that makes me feel glamorous, in the slightest. It’s so easy to lose one’s head and that’s about the least helpful thing I can do, losing my head.

ripple effect: the saga of contraception denial continues

For those of you following the Biting Beaver’s emergency contraception saga, you will be interested to know that she has, in fact, become pregnant. So because a pharmacist wouldn’t prescribe her EC, she now has to have an abortion. Again, are these “I’ve got a moral objection to sex” pharmacists completely bat-shit or what?

BB has got a frank and honest post up about her feelings on the matter. Part of her rage is the continuous message she receives about the apparent worthiness of the fetus inside her compared to her own existence and the well-being of her three children.

How often can one person hear that a fetus is more important than their own life? Than the lives of their children? How many times can you be reminded that you are, to them at least, a sack of shit and not worthy of even living?

Am I cold hearted about this? You bet your ass I am. I’m angry that my life is apparently worth so little because I had sex. I’m angry that people would literally try to fucking murder me by sending me a list of fatal herbs via a ‘helpful’ email. And that is to say nothing about the picket lines I will most likely have to cross. That speaks nothing to the shame that this society will attempt to thrust upon me for this situation. It speaks nothing to the anger and rage I feel that the penis which was actually attached to the condom apparently becomes utterly invisible.

Read the whole thing here.

Both of these are great ideas
September 29, 2006, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Activism, funny fun fun, Online Community, Websites

1.  October is national Walk or Bike to school month.

2.  Flickr toys! Make calendars, collages, and mosiacs. Play, play, play.

Talk to me when you’ve been a right-wing political hack
September 5, 2006, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Activism, conservative craziness, Growing Up, politics

One of my favorite writers at livejournal, Laura, has an Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly up at her journal. She takes O’Reilly to task for asking celebrities like George Clooney and the Dixie Chicks detailed, case-specific questions about the war on “Islamic Fascists,” and gives a pretty great history of The Muslim Brotherhood, which O’Reilly mistakenly calls “The Islamic Brotherhood.”

Laura’s post also made me think about an oft-employed tactic mostly older, mostly male relatives have used on me during discussions in which they disagree with my stance. I’ve heard it employed by non-relatives too, across the gender lines. I usually call it the Talk to Me When You’ve Been a Teacher for 35 Years argument since this was the first version I heard as an Opinionated Young Person. The older person, and it really doesn’t matter how much older, dismisses the younger person’s thoughts and ideas with simple, “Yeah, well, talk to me when you [insert specific experience; ranging in detail, depth, and length of time to “complete” said experience] and then we’ll see.” Besides the “Talk to me when you’ve been a teacher for 35 years,” response to a discussion about education reform, I’ve received the “Talk to me after you’ve been in the Korean War,” and “Talk to me when you’ve got a mortgage.” (My friend Stephen, with whom I am applying for a mortgage, and I are secretly excited to be fake-condescending to our friends and respond to anything they say with, “Well, [Friend’s name] talk to me when you’ve got a mortgage.”)

It’s not so much that I think the experiences of teaching for 35 years, or being in a foreign war, or having a mortgage are insignificant. It’s the assumption that there is only one right conclusion derived from such an experience that bothers me, as well as the admittance that then and only then will Older Person consider Younger Person’s ideas. It’s unfortunate because a potentially great teaching-moment is flushed down the toilet.

All that aside, I don’t want to claim that I haven’t dismissed someone’s argument for a perceived lack of experience on their part. But what I always strive to do, and what I think we’d all benefit from, is to see those moments as an opportunity to share an experience. An opportunity to trace the evolution of related beliefs and, quite possibly, earn some respect.

dELIAs joins the likes of Abercrombie in exploiting its female customers
September 3, 2006, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Activism, Feminism, Gender

Boyfriend and I were at the mall yesterday during the Ernesto-sponsored rainstorm—a bad decision on many fronts—when a nauseating discovery was made at Delia’s:


He actually pointed it out to me, saying something along the lines of, “What the fuck?” Folks might remember all the buzz last year when a group of girls, otherwise known as Girls as Grantmakers, proposed a girlcott of a slew of Abercrombie & Fitch’s t-shirts. With slogans such as, “Who needs brains when you have these?” strategically printed over the shirt’s front, A&F was joining a long line of product-placers who have caught flack for valuing profit over gender equality. (My personal fave is the “Math is Hard” Barbie.)

Delia’s, which this author remembers more as a must-have catalog from high school days than a store in the mall, has long been cashing in on “alternative” fashion trends and dispatching the lace-up combat boots/fishnet tights/plaid mini-skirts to every dare-to-be-different girl in the country. Unfortunately, this ongoing vintage-logo trend in t-shirts has them stooping as low as their friends over at A&F. The “I’m tight like spandex!” tees are blantantly advertising the wearer’s virginity, sexualizing her innocence as creepily as a kiddie-porn producer. It’s nasty, nasty. Once again, girls are being told that their bodies are the most valuable thing they have to offer. And that’s not tight, I mean, err, cool. Yeah, that doesn’t work there either.

Anyway, here’s an idea: write to or call Delia’s, tell them how unfashionable sexism is, and let’s raise a fuss…

dELIAs, Inc. Executive Offices
435 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 807-9060

UPDATE: Carolyn brought to my attention that we could leave a comment on the website. Go! go!