Sunday, December 30, 2007

Why Suffer Fools

Recently, I read a post, On Shattering at Close Range, in a blog that I highly recommend for intelligent writing that makes the reader think, in which the writer made some observations about a boorish dinner guest who made bigoted comments, evoking discomfort and disapproval on the part of the other guests. I left a comment in which I questioned why, when someone makes a bigoted comment based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, religious belief, etc., the rest of us behave as if we are the ones who have  done something embarrassing.  I've been thinking about this issue ever since.

It seems to me that bigotry is nourished by our silence. It doesn't matter that the object of the bigotry is not present at the particualr gathering.  Seldom are the distasteful remarks made in the presence of the group being discriminated against; does this make the comments any less reprehensible?

There is a scene in a film starring Gregory Peck, "Gentleman's Agreement," in which a non-Jewish woman tells a Jewish friend, who is a decorated veteran of WWII, of boorish, anti-Semitic remarks made by a dinner party guest. Her Jewish friend repeatedly asks her, "What did you do?" She doesn't understand the question and variously responds that everyone else ignored the man, felt embarrassed for him, etc. Finally, she really hears the substance of his question, "What did you do when you witnessed this man's bigoted commentary?" Upon understanding the question, she looks away, unable to fully face her friend's gaze, finally comprehending that silence in the face of bigotry is a sort of agreement to overlook the bigotry and in doing so convey to the perpetrator a tacit approval of his or her beliefs.

I first read the book and saw the movie when I was in my 20's, and I've never forgotten that scene.

The film was adapted from a novel of the same name by Laura Hobson, and published shortly after WWII when the world was still trying to understand the how and why of the horrors revealed in the camps. I've always thought that Hobson was challenging us all to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "What did you do?"

This is not a rhetorical discussion for me.  I am a news junkie and everyday the news is filled with behaviors that have at their root bigotry and prejudice. I can't but wonder what it will take for humankind to become intolerant of intolerance. When will the bigoted boor be asked to leave the party? When will the rest of us make the bigot feel ashamed to espouse such hatred in front of us?

I have had people suggest that I am consumed with self-righteousness because I  have no problem calling someone out for their foolish, bigoted commentary. I used to try and appease those people and tone down my challenge of the bigot's comments. It's a new day, and if challenging prejudice, bigorty, and discrimination makes me self-righteous, then hallelujah and amen, I'm self-righteous. The other argument that people frequently offer for remaining silent is that we are all entitled to freedom of speech. I firmly believe that. One of the reasons that I became a lawyer is because I believe in the principals espoused in our consititution, including freedom of speech. However, freedom of speech does not mean that I have to allow your words to go unchallenged. When I choose to challenge bigoted speech, I'm exercise my right to speak freely.  Why should someone else's freedom of speech supress my own right to freedom of speech? If you're bold enough to speak and/or behave as a bigot, don't hide behind the Bill of Rights; you put it out there, now suffer the consequences.

If we witness bigotry in words or deeds, and say nothing, then we are condoning that behavior by our silence.  Bigotry is the nasty seed that breeds hate, feeds wars, engenders genocide, and nurtures holocausts. In the words of Albert Einstien, "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

Music is by Tracy Chapman, Talkin Bout a Revolution

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Taking a moment to stand under the mistletoe

There are so many serious topics that I could address; however, I'm not in a mood to take on the serious; instead, I've elected to be gloriously silly. My blogami, Marc, has contributed to this silly mood with a delightfully humorous post that has given me many giggles. The pictured holiday greeting card is also courtesy of Marc. If you stare at it long enough, you'll catch a glimpse of the gnomes.

In addition, I finished up work early today, so I'm free to go out into a world of people gone mad--the nearest shopping mall. Have you ever noticed the similarities between the crowds at the mall during the Christmas season and the crowd scene in the 1931 Frankstein movie? You know, the one where the mob chases down the monster, carrying torches and sets the windmill on fire. (I prefer the later film versions in which the monster is portrayed as closer to the intelligent and lonely creature in Shelley's novel.)

So I'm off to the mall to join in the bedlam. Now, where is my torch?

New music is by Aaron Neville, Please Come Home for Christmas. If the music doesn't play automatically, just click on the title to listen.

Monday, December 10, 2007

How to avoid doing what I need to be doing

I'm feeling a bit stressed. Too much work to do and not enough time to do it. I remind myself that I will no doubt manage to complete all necessary tasks in a timely fashion, but nonetheless, I'm feeling overwhelmed and tired. I'm also feeling stupid because some of the stress is self-imposed. I said "yes" to helping someone with a project when I should have said no. (Note to my Blogami: Yes, I know that I have an unhealthy desire to please and that's what landed me here.)

However, rather than wallow in my despair, I've decided to engage in a little meme that I found in Mia's journal. Okay, truth is that I've already completed my wallowing and now I need something to amuse me and to ensure that I thoroughly satisfy my procrastination gene's appetite.

Following are the rules. There are always rules. Did you think that there woudn't be rules?

Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the following ... they have to be real places, names, things...nothing made up! You CAN'T use your name for the boy/girl name question. Let me know if you're playing so I can click over to your journal and read your answers.

What is your name - Sheria

 4 Letter Word - slut (it's a term of endearment used as a greeting between me and my dear friend of some 30 years, as in, "Hello slut, have you been behaving yourself?" Caution: If your mother, who sounds just like you on the telephone, is visiting, don't let her answer the phone.)

Vehicle  squad car (I've ridden in one. Don't go there, my dad was a police officer.) 

City Seville (Oh to be in the south of Spain!)

Boy Name - Sebastian

Girl Name - Salome    

Alcoholic Drink Scarlett O'Hara

Occupation -Sailor

Something you wear Silk

Celebrity Sidney Poitier

Food - Samosas

Something found in a bathroom   soap

Reason for Being Late super hero (I'm secretly a super hero and I never know when I'll have to take a few moments to save the world.)

Cartoon Character Sylvester the Cat

Something You Shout  Sweet cheeks! (You shout what you want to and I'll shout what I want to!)


Animal snow leopard

Body part shin

Word to describe you sassy

Tags: , ,

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Embracing Me or How I Became a Red Hot Mama

This entry began as an email to my blogami, Marc. (Don’t you just love that word? Marc found it. Ami is French for friend.)  He wrote me a very thoughtful email in response to my email response to his comments to my journal entry on dating. I started an email response that just grew and grew and voila, a journal entry! Marc Olmsted also created the artwork that graces this entry. He calls his creations Hy-Art as they are a hybrid mix of two or more classic works of art combined in such way as to present a new vision of the original works. Go to his journal for other examples of his artistic creations.


I have come to realize that I have finally arrived in a good place when it comes to self-image and self-love. It’s been quite a journey getting here. As a child, as an adolescent and as a woman, I was convinced of my utter unattractiveness, that I was down right ugly. My mother didn't help, as she was highly critical of my appearance. In her eyes I was too fat, too dark, and my hair was too nappy. She was constantly putting me on diets, buying skin lighteners by the gallon, and using a hot comb to straighten my hair. However, what she believed was a reflection of the message that the larger culture was sending and in her own way, she was trying to give me the tools that she thought that I needed to make my way in the world. My mother's skin color reflects the miscegenation on her father's side of the family. My grandfather's father was a white landowner. I get my skin tone from my father's side of the family.


Everyone is impacted to some extent by cultural norms of beauty, but for a black girl growing up in the fifties, there was nothing to reflect that there was anything attractive about being black in the media images surrounding us. Lena Horne was the epitome of black beauty, because her features were more European (which she enhanced with plastic surgery), her skin was caramel colored, and her hair was straight in texture and then softly curled. The entire message from within and without black society was that lighter skin and straight hair was better.


I broke out of bondage a few times. The first time was when I was 14 and decided that I wanted an Angela Davis style afro. My mother was horrified but she eventually just gave up and ignored my embarrassing do! However, by the time that I hit my twenties, chemical relaxers were all the rage and I began getting my hair chemically straightened. The advantage was that unlike hot comb straightened hair, chemically relaxed hair could survive rain, showers, and swimming pools for about 8 to 12 weeks before reapplication was needed. When the Jheri curl hit the scene, I switched to what was a less debilitating process for the hair and was happy with my controlled curly look for years.


However, I was still fat and dark and convinced that I was one step away from grotesque. It wasn't until I hit my thirties that I made peace with my skin color. Partly it was due to Whoopi Goldberg's one-woman show in which she adopted a variety of persona's and engaged in comic monologues with serious undertones. I was particularly struck by her creation of a six-year-old black girl who was wearing a white man's shirt on her head, and referred to it as her "long blond hair." In a monologue less than 10 minutes long, Whoopi skewered the whole notion of "good hair" (straight, silky, more like white people's hair) and "bad hair" (kinky, nappy, more typically black people's natural hair texture).  Her six year old persona was also concerned about being "too black," and Whoopi used her humor to point out the ridiculous beliefs that powered such nonsense. I didn't shed years of insecurity in the course of watching her performance but I started the journey to self-love.


At some point, I later read an article by Audre Lourde on the politics of hair, in which she talked about the complex societal issues that surrounded black folks' hair. I don't remember all the details, but there had been several lawsuits involving employers attempting to ban certain hairstyles from the workplace as being unprofessional, hairstyles typically worn by black people--braids, cornrows, twists, afros, and locks. Ms. Loudre made me think about the politics of hair in an entirely new light. [Lest you think that this issue of hair is a thing of the past, this summer, two women who worked at a corrections facility in Virginia were fired because their supervisor decreed that their natural braids and locks were inappropriate and extreme hairstyles, and they refused to alter them. In 2006 in Virginia Beach, Kokoamos Island Bar refused admission to people wearing their hair in locks, twists, cornrows, or braids.]


My real eye opener came when I turned 40. Several of my lighter complexion black female friends and virtually all of my white female friends were bemoaning the wrinkles and crinkles of aging, but my darker sisters and I were as smooth as we were at 30. For the first time, I begin to see a real advantage to darker skin. As my good friend H wisecracks, "Black don't crack." The extra melanin in darker skin is a real advantage when it comes to showing the signs of aging, as much of the damage to skin is done by the effects of exposure to sunlight. Vanity is my name.


In my forties, I began to experiment with more natural hairstyles. I gave up the use of chemicals to alter my hair texture. I wore braids with extensions, which means that the hairdresser braids your hair while adding in extra hair, artificial or human, to add length and/or volume to the style. But a little over a year ago, I went through another hair evolution.


Not long after Imus’ remarks about nappy hair, I decided to forego the extensions that my hairdresser added to my “natural” do to provide increased length and volume. Actually, decided is not exactly accurate. I had an appointment for Saturday morning to get my usual twists with extensions added. On Friday night, after I had removed the current crop of added human hair, my hairdresser called and announced that she was overbooked and couldn’t see me until Monday. I had only two options, stay in all weekend or give myself a hairdo. I washed and braided my hair that evening. The next morning, I unbraided my hair into a decidedly nappy afro.


I called my sister. “I have a fro. I think that I like it but I need input. Can I come over?”


My sister has a glorious head of locks and I trusted her to tell me true as to whether I was rocking the fro or just delusional.


When I walked in, she gave me her emphatic approval of my new/old style. Since then I’ve been sporting truly natural hair with no extensions. I’ve rediscovered my own hair. Sometimes I wear an afro, at other times two strand twists and my current favorite is a look known as the twist out. The nappy texture of my hair is essential to my ability to wear these hairstyles. I love my nappiness; it takes me back to my youth, when I first wore an afro.


I've also come to like the woman that I see in the mirror. She's attractive. Her skin is a smooth and glowing mahogany color, her hairdo is cute and sassy, and she has a beautiful smile. I'm also no longer afraid of a full-length mirror. I'm buxom, curvaceous, womanly. A few years ago when I committed to losing weight it was because my excess weight was taking such a toll on my physical health. I had long given up the notion that I could be attractive and saw no point in fighting the weight battle; I would still be ugly. But as my health slid down hill, I realized that I wanted to live more than I wanted the numbing comfort of food.


I confess that I'm proud of myself. As I have mentioned before, to date I've lost 148 pounds. No surgery, no pills, just treating myself to healthy food and exercise. I feel younger which is good, because now my feelings match my unlined brow. Told you that my name is vanity.


I admit that I would like to be a part of a twosome. I haven't been in a relationship in quite some time and looking back on past relationships, I recognize that they were for the most part, emotionally unhealthy. I didn't love myself, how could anyone else love me? I made bad choices, selecting men who were unobtainable for whatever reason, and men whom I knew would ultimately leave me. I'm wiser now, and I know that I deserve better.


I don't like being rejected, but then again, who does? I really appreciate the kind words and the supportive advice that I receive from my postings about my online dating woes, but I really am okay. You see, I think that I'm an interesting, funny, sexy  woman and any man would be lucky to have me. I'm also pretty damn cute! 


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Another Journey into the Twilight Zone of Online Dating

It's the time of year when little children are dreaming of dancing sugarplums and I'm dreaming of a date for New Year's Eve.  I've never seen a sugarplum and I can't recall the last time I had a New Year's Eve date, but each year, I still ask Santa to bring me one; the date, not the sugarplums. I decided to do a Google search, and discovered a great many recipes for sugarplums. Some of them actually have plums in them. There is also apparently a variety of plums know as "sugar plums," but I should have ordered them in August; they have a very short ripening season.

No more visions of sugarplums dancing, it's time to return to the dating issue. My subscription to expired one week ago and I have elected not to renew it. I think that I first signed up with eharmony about 18 months ago. My first subscription was for six months ($173.70) and my second was for 12 months ($251.40). Even though the first six months didn't yield great results, naturally I renewed for 12 months because it was a better bargain.  I own lots of stuff that I don't need or use because it was a bargain.

So when my eharmony subscription expired last week, I decided to be strong and ignore all the renewal reminders that I've received over the last three months. As a result, eharmony has pulled out all of the stops. I've received an average of five matches per day since my subscription expired.

Eharmony is evil and tricky; they send me the matches, allow me to read their profiles but if I want to communicate with any of them, I have to rejoin. Get thee behind me, eharmony, I will not succumb to temptation!

I just spent the last hour perusing my new matches. (It can't hurt to look!) It was a good use of my time because it reminded me of why I have decided to forsake my eharmony membership. If you have never used eharmony, then you may not have heard of its 29 key dimensions of compatibility. By matching those dimensions, eharmony is able to match you with your potential soul mate. It's a scientifically proven method of matching and eharmony is the only service to use it. Stop laughing, I also still believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Oral Roberts.

I'd like to share some highlights from my scientifically selected matches. The names have been changed to protect me from potential liability. First I read Paul's profile. He's divorced, 6 ft, age 56 and he doesn't want more children. This is a good thing as my womb doesn't want any either on account of this menopause thing. One of the profile questions asks, "What is the most important thing you are looking for in a partner?" Paul is honest; his response--appearance. However he is "not a superficial person" and he wishes that the one thing that more people would notice about him is "his sense of caring." The one thing about him that only his best friends know is that he's "sensitive." I can't image how he's managed to keep his sensitivity and caring under wraps for all these years.

Then there's Larry, Harry, Sean, and Dave, all clearly very busy, as they didn't have time to answer all the questions, responding to 40% of the questions. Who knows, I may be compatible with all of them but alas, I'll never know!

Some of my matches are quite talented. For instance, there's Jason who, in response to the question to share something only his best friends know about him, shared that he can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his tongue. I would be more impressed except that I can do it myself and I don't need any more cherry stems with knots in them. (If we ever meet face to face, just ask, provide the cherry and I will demonstrate my talent. I forget why I worked at mastering this skill but I was in college when I perfected it.) 

I like Charles, who is most passionate about two R's--reading and rollercoasters.  However, I'm not one for rollercoasters. After a particularly perilous ride in my 20's I promised God that if She allowed me to survive that I would never plop my fanny on another rollercoaster ride. However, I took his interests in such as indicative of his adventuresome nature. I also liked his response to the query regarding what do only his best friends know about him: he once showed Mel Blanc the location of the restroom at Cal Poly University Union. He sounds funny and charming but I'm sticking with my resolve to refrain from paying for a man ever again. I will not renew! Charles, if you are reading this, call me!

I can't end without mentioning Ken. I'm pretty certain that English is not his first language based on his use of language in his responses. I don't say this as a put down; I can only imagine what my own responses might inadvertently say if I were to write them in French, a language that I once spoke with some fluency but that I haven't made use of for 20 years. The final question asks if there is any additional information that you want your potential match to know about you. This is Ken's answer exactly as written: "I believe when someone is in stage of choosing him or her, there should be accurate knowledge about criminal sexual history of their partner. So that there is least chance of getting a partner with objectional background."

I think that Ken and I would get along just fine, as I don't have a criminal sexual history, at least not to my knowledge.

For the next couple of weeks, the music will be of the holiday kind. First up is Christina Aguilera singing Merry Christmas, Baby. If the music doesn't begin automatically, just click the song title to hear it.

Mea Culpa

I have a few comments about my last entry posting the lyrics to a song that I found very funny.

I apologize for being insensitive. If the victim of the "violence" in the song had been  a woman, I doubt that I would have viewed it as amusing. I was insensitive and didn't think about it as connected to any reality. The friend who wrote the song is a wonderful man and he wrote it as a humorous piece and wasn't condoning any type of domestic abuse. There was a series of events involving an over night guest, a wayward pet under the guest bed, and boxing lessons that inspired the tune. For my 50th birthday, my friend provided me with the only recorded copy of this song and it had the desired effect; it made me laugh. The irony is that my friend is a man who is a champion of the downtrodden and abused, and I confess, he was reluctant for me to share his song. Clearly, he is also wiser than I am.

In comments and emails, several of you have pointed out that domestic violence is a serious issue. I totally agree and I did not set out to trivialize such a serious problem in any way. For a two year period, I represented victims of domestic abuse in court, helping them secure restraining orders and child custody orders against their abusers.

I do not find this song offense and I am not apologizing for the song.  It still makes me laugh and I think that my friend is a very clever satirist. His song seems far removed from the reality of domestic violence in my mind. However, I am apologizing for my insensitivity in not recognizing that its subject matter was potentially disturbing and offensive to some.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Love and Pain Go Glove in Glove

As my friends and family know, I have an offbeat sense of humor. I like novelty songs, those intentionally humorous comedic narrations put to music like Ray Stevens' The Streak, or Elmo & Patsy's Christmas classic, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. 

As a result, someone that I may or may not know, gave me a unique present for my 50th birthday two years ago,  a recording of an original novelty song that he or she wrote. I recently asked him or her for permission to play the song in my journal. He or she said that if I identified him/her in any way that he/she would kill me. He/She also said that I was not to acknowledge that the composer and singer of the tune is anyone that I know, again under pain of death. As long as I adhered to her/his request, I could use the song.

So, I may or may not know the man or woman who wrote this novelty tune. I will suffer torture rather than reveal her/his identity, because torture is preferable to certain death should I speak the name of this person that I may or may not know. (Note: For those of you who sometimes take me far too seriously, she/he did threaten to kill me but I don't think that he/she meant it.)

To listen to the song, please click here.

The lyrics are posted below. The fun of novelty songs are the lyrics. Of course, I had to listen to the song three times in order to write down the lyrics; there may be errors. I also love the unknown person's deadpan delivery of this tune.

Killer (Down Goes Frazier)

I’m in love with a tall silly girl

She’s every light that shines in my world

But there’s just one thing ‘bout her makes me blue

And if you got a minute

I’ll share it with you



She’s a boxer

And sometimes she gets mad at me.


I’m as happy as a man can be

To have that girl with me.

But if you said some things can be better,

Well I’d agree,

Like I wish that I could count pass by three.


Repeat chorus

I didn’t want my baby to be bored,

But she found a trainer from the psychiatric ward.

He showed her how to sting like a bee.

She’s landed every punch she’s learned on me.


Repeat chorus

I bought her a wedding band.

She knocked me out later with the same hand.

Her neurologist friend knew what to do,

But for some reason he hit me too.

Think he might be a boxer

I don’t know why he’s mad at me.


No one ever said that love is a thorn less rose

But when I ask my baby to let me get in close

For some reason, she won’t let me in.

I try to kiss her;

She uppercuts my chin.


She’s a boxer

Love’s gonna be the death of me.


If you want to steer clear of total mayhem

Don’t let her catch you under her bed at five AM.

She won’t buy your story about the dog,

And for the next six months you’ll just see a sparkling fog.


She’s a boxer

She’s a boxer

I love her but I forgot her name.

Ah, she’s as pretty as a butterfly

But she hits like Ali

She’s a boxer,

But sometimes she gets mad at me.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't believe everything that you read

The following entry is a creative writing meme generated by my friend Marc. You select characteristics based on your date of birth and write a journal entry using those characteristics. For instance, based on my birthday, my persona is named Lurleen, she's living in the middle east and a love affair plays some major role in her life. If you want to try the meme for yourself (it's a great creative writing exercise) check out the details in Marc's journal.

Sorry that I haven't written in a while, but I've had to move again. I really liked the little town I was living in but Omar got wind of where I was, so I packed up my stuff and took off again.

I suppose that I shouldn't feel too sorry for myself. I can just hear my mama's voice saying, "Lurleen, you can't move half-way around the world to be with some man you met on that damn computer." In 52 years I've never been able to do anything right in that woman's eyes. Lucky for me, she doesn't even know how to turn on a computer, so she'll never read this. Lord knows, if she did, I'd never hear the end of it.

Thank y'all for all the kind words and I appreciate the prayers too.  It's not all bad, Qatar is a beautiful country; although it's kind of small, about the size of Connecticut, sort of limits your places to hide. Pretty much everybody here has jobs and you don't have to pay any income tax! I'm working for a nice family, teaching the mother and her two daughters how to speak English. LOL, in yesterday's lesson I taught them the many uses of "y'all."

I've gone over and over it in my mind, thinking what I could have done differently. I did that whole guided communication thing with Omar on I thought that we had gotten to know each other pretty well. Of course, just because a man says that he loves you, doesn't mean that he does. Hmm, I think I've got a potential country song lyric in there somewhere.

Maybe I should have realized that he was serious about wanting children. I definitely should have done a better job of hiding my American drivers license. All that fuss just because I was a few years older than what I said on my profile. I look good for my age and I've been told by lots of folks that I don't look a day over 30. Why would a 60 year old man want to raise a passel of children any way?

I've been here 14 months and at least I've made a few friends. My heart is still broken; I really loved that man. Friends tell me that he's still a bit upset with me for lying about my age, so I guess I won't be calling him on the phone any time soon.

If you are reading this and you know my mama, please don't tell her anything. The last thing I need is her calling me up and screaming, "I told you so" in my ear.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

There is something new under the sun

An old friend from my days as a teacher, has begun a blog. We both left the public high school where we taught in the same year, but we've maintained a sort of communication over the years via e-mails and a listserv of which we both were members. I seem to recall that he actually started the listserv to engender discussion about government, politics. etc. But I am digressing, I set out to introduce you to my friend's blog. He is one of the most interesting and thoughtful people that I know, and he writes quite well. I promise that you will find it worth your time to check out his blog, just click here to visit him. He calls himself the Self Sufficient Steward and you'll inderstand why if you check out his blog.

I also recommend another friend's blog that I have encouraged you to check out in the past. Marc is a Renaissance man; he works in a variety of creative modes including poetry and cyberart. He has recently created visual collages or pastiches that take works of art by established Masters--Botticelli, Da Vinci, Picasso, Sargent and others--and fashions them into new works of art by adding and/or removing visual elements that give the work a new perspective.  He has dubbed these intriguing images, Hy-Art (a merger of hybrid and art). It's difficult to fully explain what he does in words; you simply must visit his journal to see for yourself.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dog Chases Tail

I don't care whether or not Duane Dog Chapman is taken off the air. In case you have missed the buzz, Dog the Bounty Hunter ordered his son to give up his African-American girlfriend or leave the family business. The reason Dog was concerned about Monique (the son's girlfriend) is because Dog and other family members like to be free to toss about the n-word and didn't think that Monique would understand that it was just the way that they talked, no offense intended. The discussion took place in a conversation with his son via cell phone. The son apparently recorded the conversation and sold the tape to the National Enquirer. Oops! Now, A&E has suspended Dog's televison show and rumor is that he may be fired. If you haven't heard the tape, you haven't missed anything. However, If you want to hear it for yourself, unedited, click here. I warn you, it's graphic.


I don't watch his show because I have no interest in it. If you have ever visited my journal before, you know that I am not above watching reality shows; it’s just that a bounty hunter chasing folks doesn’t garner my attention. What I do find interesting is how many people are concerned that Chapman is the wronged party in this nonsense. I have a bad habit of reading message boards and they are filled with righteous indignation that (1) Dog’s privacy has been violated, and (2) there was a government conspiracy to discredit him. I know; it sounds bizarre, but I can’t make this stuff up.


There is also some reasonable skepticism regarding the initial source of the story, the National Enquirer. Normally I don't put any faith in any story that I read in the Enquirer. However, Chapman has acknowledged that it's his voice on the tape and he is busy falling all over himself apologizing for what he said. I don't know about you, but if there was some tape that purported to be me making racial slurs, and I didn't say those things, my first line of defense would be that the tape is a fake.


However, what I find most fascinating is the defense of Chapman's repeated use of the n-word. Although I've never watched a single episode of his show, I think that it is safe to assume that Chapman doesn't use the n-word on his television show. His argument with his son against his son's black girlfriend is that they use the n-word a lot and that she may turn this information over to the media. According to Chapman, he doesn't intend it as a racial slur or an insult but he and other family members just spout the word on a regular basis. My question is, if Chapman can tape his weekly show without the use of the n-word, why can't he refrain from its use in his everyday conversation? Does he have some form of Tourette's syndrome that causes him to say the n-word on all occasions that he is not on television?


Chapman chooses to use the n-word when it suits him to do so. He knows that it is offensive, that's why he wanted his son to dump his girlfriend. He didn't want the public that watches his show, puts money in his pocket, clothes on his back, and food on his table, to know that he regularly chooses to use a racial slur. Evidently, it never crossed his mind that another solution, other than ordering his adult son to end his relationship with Monique, was to stop using the damn word.


I have no pity for this man. He has had more than his 15 minutes of fame. A&E isn't considering dropping his show to punish him for what he said. The network is considering dropping his show because rather than being an asset, i.e. a moneymaking enterprise, his stupid words have made him a financial liability.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Sky Isn't Falling but Chicken Little Is Living Over at

I was visiting a few journals earlier today when I ran across an excerpt from an online publication with which I was not familiar, the After checking out the publication further, I recognized why it wasn’t on my reading list. I find it to be sanctimonious, bigoted, and prone to embellishing fact with fiction. Following is the excerpt that caught my eye:

"Mom and Dad as well as husband and wife effectively have been banned from California schools under a bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who with his signature also ordered public schools to allow boys to use girls restrooms and locker rooms, and vice versa, if they choose."


There are a few facts that I find important regarding this topic. The California state legislator passed an anti-discrimination bill and Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law. The law does not ban the use of the terms “Mom and Dad” or “Husband and Wife.” The law, Senate Bill 777, essentially forbids discrimination based on a list of characteristics. In application, it will likely require that if such terms as mom and dad etc. are used that there must be other inclusive terms used as well so as not to discriminate against public school students based on familial status. SB 777 isn’t entirely new. It expands on existing anti-discrimination law in California that provides equal rights and opportunities to all persons in public schools in the state regardless of their disability, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, or any other characteristic contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in that section of the state penal code. SB 777 expands the prohibitions to include the denial of equal rights and opportunities to anyone based on gender or sexual orientation. Seems like common sense and fairness to me, unless you think that it is okay to discriminate against people based on gender or sexual orientation. (Please don’t get waylaid by misguided notions that sexual orientation includes pedophilia or other deviations from consensual interactions between adults. The whole notion is a scare tactic meant to detract from the very real denial of human rights to members of this society based on gender identity or sexual orientation.)


The law is directed at engendering a positive and healthy school environment for all children, including those who do not have a family that consists of a mom and a dad. This does not only apply to children who have parents that are gay. Some children have only one parent in the household. Given the high divorce rate among heterosexual couples and the reconfiguration of families that may ensue, many children have a mom, dad, step mom and step dad. Some children live with grandparents or aunts and uncles who serve as the primary caretakers. Imagine what it feels like to be a five year old and every story that the teacher reads in class, every poster on the wall, every song that you sing, makes you feel as if you don't belong or fit in because you don't live in a traditional family structure consisting of a "mom and a dad."


In addition to sexual orientation, the new law also addresses gender discrimination issues. Gender is a topic that is rarely considered by those of us who have never experienced a sense of not belonging in our own bodies. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but from what I read, “gender identity” refers to a person’s sense of self as male or female. Some individuals are born with a gender identity that does not match with their anatomical sex characteristics. I confess that I have tried without much success to imagine how it is to feel like one gender and have the physical characteristics of the other. On a purely empathetic level, I do understand that this causes emotional pain and confusion that is only further compounded by the rejection and judgment imposed upon such individuals by the larger society and often by family members as well. Adolescence is difficult enough without this added twist on identity.


Which brings me around to the “sky is falling” hype espoused by about bathroom use. SB 777 does not eradicate the use of gender identification of public restrooms; bathroom doors will continue to have some identification as male and female on them. The law simply allows individuals whose gender is at odds with their physical characteristics to use the restroom that identifies with their gender identity. That is, if you think of yourself as female and are externally exhibiting female dress etc. although you were born a biological male, you may use the female restroom or vice versa, a biological female whose gender identity is male may use a male restroom. Most individuals with Gender Identity Disorder dress and behave according to gender identity not anatomical sex characteristics.


There are a few other things to think about before jumping on the sky is falling bandwagon and woe unto family values express train. Gender Identity Disorder (aka Gender Dysphoria) is considered by the American Psychiatric Association to be a disorder and not a mental illness  or disease. An individual's sexual orientation is just that, an orientation, not a choice. If it were a choice, we should all be able to recall when we made that choice. I don’t recall choosing to be heterosexual or gay, do you?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Searching for Connections

I've been thinking a lot about connections this week. I visited Gina's journal where she had posted two exquisite photographs of a spider web. Gina is a gifted photographer. The web looked so delicate; it reminded me of the hand crocheted scarves that my maternal grandmother carefully placed on the tabletops in her home and on the arms of overstuffed chairs. But spider webs are actually quite strong; their delicate appearance is deceptive.

I also stopped by to visit my friend Marc's journal. Marc is all about connections. When I think of Marc, I am reminded of a line from John Donne's Meditation 17, "No man is an island, entire to itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind..." In addition to being an extraordinarily decent human being, Marc is also quite witty, and he makes me laugh.

Marc led me to a blog by one of his friends. It's called kickin tina. There's lots of good stuff there and I've book marked it so that I may return. If you visit, be certain to read the entry entitled "everything zen." It's about connections or perhaps the lack of connection. It made me start thinking about how so many of us are constantly seeking connections, about how we often fall into pseudo connections, mistaking pale imitations for the real thing because we have deluded ourselves into believing that anything is better than being alone. A couple of years ago, I wrote a poem about the need for connection, at least in my mind, that's what it is about. The poem is below.

There Is Nothing Original In Suffering


For every poem about love fulfilled,

there are written

one hundred times one hundred of love forsaken.


For every promise of love forever,

Jove’s mirth fills the arch of heaven,

for it is written that love’s perjuries conjure laughter.


Abandoned lovers,

swaddled in denial,

believe aches of the heart

to be a solitary pain,

newly born to the betrayed.


And so poets,

knowing there is nothing original in the sufferings of the heart,

write one hundred times one hundred of hearts mangled,

blinding lovers to a knowledge

much sharper than love broken--

that it has all been done and will be done again.



The music is an a cappella version of a folk song,

Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair, that I heard

back in the 1970s performed by Joan Baez. The origins

are Scottish but it is also attributed to being popularized in Southern Appalachia in the 18th century. As with most folk songs, the lyrics vary a bit from version to version.

click here to listen to the song.


In full disclosure, I should add that the recording of the song is by yours truly.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Music and Memory

I listen to music with my entire being. Certain melodies wrap around me like a clear blue sky on a summer morning; others wash over me like waves lapping at the shore; and then there are those that crawl under my skin, merge into my soul and I am one with the music. I heard such a song 20 years ago.

Public television was trying to ride the MTV wave to boost its viewers and began broadcasting a half-hour program showcasing movie videos from around the world. I loved the program; there was no XM radio in 1987 and music from other cultures was not readily available in any other venue. I was particularly fond of the reggae music that was often featured. However, one evening the guest was a young man from South Africa, whose name I had never heard--Johnny Clegg. He was accompanied by his band, Savuka. I began watching out of curiosity but I continued watching because the music spoke to my heart and soul.

Clegg was in his early thirties. He was born in Rochdale, England but in his childhood came with his mother to her childhood home in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia). Eventually they moved to South Africa where he learned to play the guitar and speak the Zulu language. Then he did the unthinkable, in defiance of the law against mixing of the races, and white and African culture, he formed a band with a friend who was black.  That first band was called Juluka, Zulu for "sweat." By the time I watched him perform on PBS, that group had disbanded and he had formed a new, interracial band called Savuka (we have risen). Savuka performed music that mixed Zulu and English lyrics, and African rhythms with European and Celtic folk music. In spite of the fact that they could not legally perform in public in South Africa, their music caught the attention of the people and was sold underground. Of course, I didn't know any of this when Johnny Clegg and Savuka came out on the stage to perform as I sat in front of my black and white portable television 20 years ago.

All I knew was that this white man was performing with a group of black men and one black woman, and they were making wonderful music and having a great time doing it. I eventually got their cassette and I played it over and over again. There was one song in particular that crawled inside my head and that has remained there all these years. It's called, "Asimbonanga," (we have not seen him). When I first heard the song, most of which is in Zulu, I couldn't understand most of the words, but it didn't matter. I knew that it had a message that was worth hearing.

I hadn't thought about this song in many years until today. I was chatting with a friend who had sent me a link to Carol Burnett's parody of Gone With The Wind (we all know about my GWTW fixation) on YouTube. As we were chatting, we marveled at how you can find anything that you want (sort of like Alice's Restaurant) on YouTube. When I got off the phone with her, it dawned on me that Johnny Clegg and Savuka performing "Asimbonanga" might be on YouTube. I hadn't heard the song for years. The problem with cassettes is that they don't survive being left in the car repeatedly when summer temperatures are above 95 degrees.

I found several versions on YouTube, but the one that I like is sort of a grainy video that probably dates back to the late 1980s. They sing the song just as I remember it. I've watched the video three times already. Whoever posted it also posted the lyrics and included the English translation for the Zulu lyrics; I've pasted them below the video. I hope that you enjoy it. I still get chills listening to this song; I particularly love the descant that the female vocalist adds towards the end. In the beauty of this song lies so much bravery and hope. Clegg is still performing, only now he can do it openly with his Zulu band.


Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang' uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph'ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph'ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water


A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me


Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonang 'umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph'ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph'wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la' siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Making a Difference

Hello y'all. I copied the information below verbatim from Marc's blog to help spread the word. As Marc points out, this is an easy and cost free thing to do that will help a lot of people, so please pass it along.

Fight Breast Cancer with a Click

Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site (see below link) and
click on "donating a mammogram" for free (pink window in the middle).

This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/ advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate mammogram in exchange for advertising.

Here's the web site! Pass it along to people you know. *


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Humane Values

This entry began as an email response to my  friend, Indigo, regarding her comment to my entry, "You Might Not Like What I Have to Say." I respect Indigo and I value her opinion. However, as my email got longer and longer, I realized that I had not really clearly said all that I wanted to say in the previous entry, so I scrapped the email and wrote this entry instead. Thanks, Indigo, for being my inspiration today.
I totally agree with Indigo's assertion that all living things deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, to live without cruelty and abuse.  My point wasn't to defend Michael Vick but to question why we find it so much easier to build public fervor about his actions than we do about the human to human cruelties that go on around us daily. It seems to me that if we focused the same intensity of outrage on things like homelessness and world hunger, that we could do far more to eradicate both.
Vick is just one man, a small cog in the cruelty that revolves round us daily. If every person who is gainfully employed would donate just one dollar a month to charity, think of the number of issues that we could address--more shelters for the homeless and abused, improved housing for the poor, access to medical care for the poor, more feeding programs etc. Why do we accept that people living in poverty is a necessary reality when we have the power to ensure that all people have a standard of living that includes the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and health care? I'm not advocating that Vick and others who abuse animals be allowed to escape all punishment but I am frustrated and disgusted that one individual's participation in abusive acts is garnering far more public outcry than the ongoing, non-stop, societal failure to take care of those among us most in need of our help.
What profoundly disturbs me about the intensity of the let's crucify Michael Vick syndrome is that it allows us to perceive ourselves as humane and caring without having to really do anything that is humane or caring. How much effort does it really take to be appalled by the abject cruelty of dog fighting? But what does our disapproval and dismay really cost us? Nothing, absolutely nothing and when we are done with our outrage, we go back to our lives as before. We are not better for the experience; we are not kinder; we don't recognize our responsibility to ensure that all people have food, clothing, shelter, and access to health care. We will continue to support election of officials who run on platforms of non-caring; the politician who adamantly promises no new taxes and declares that the illegal immigrants are the source of all our problems; the politician who asserts that the single most important issue is family values and that he/she will work to guarantee that the alleged sanctity of marriage remains inviolate by denying the rights of others based on their sexual orientation. We will not stop to consider that as painful as taxes may be, that they support the infrastructure of the social programs that care for needy. We do not see that in denying the rights of consenting adults to love whom they choose, we are violating the very family values that we espouse to support. Ultimately, we also are not really taking any meaningful steps against animal cruelty. We simply choose to ignore the cruelty inherent in the raising of most of the animals that eventually end up on out tables. However, we are able to feel satisfied that we responded humanely to the actions of these despicable men involved in the dogfighting business; satisfied that we are not like Michael Vick and his partners in crime. So satisfied that we go back to our lives as usual instead of raising a public outcry demanding that all beings receive the care, respect, and lives free from abuse and cruelty to which they are entitled.
I think that as a society  we have numbed ourselves to any sense of being our brother's keeper. Certainly there are individuals who engage in charitable activities and show concern for those who are less fortunate. However, as a society, we tend to abdicate collective responsibility for taking care of those who for whatever reason are unable to provide for themselves. We waste a great deal of energy focusing on whether or not they are deserving of our concern and care. I don't understand the concept of deserving of help; am I not my brother's and sister's keeper? Don't they deserve my help simply because they exist?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

You May Not Like What I Have to Say

I don't approve of dog fights but then I also think that boxing is a cruel sport. Two people climb into a ring, and try to see which one can knock the other one out first.  I don't get it, but lots of people clearly don't have a problem with boxing, even though on occasion, someone dies as a result of being in the ring. One is legal, the other is not; I get that. I also understand that the dogs don't have any say so as to whether or not they will become fighters. 

I also recognize that this is a society where boxing is an acceptable, popular, profitable, and legal sport.  But this is also a society where sportsmanship often takes a backseat to violence. Fights among opposing teams at athletic events have become expected in some sports. The violence has invaded the little league venues as well.  Parents yell, curse and smack each other while attending their children's athletic activities.  In a truly sad case a few years ago, one parent beat another parent to death as a result of his disagreement with the way the victim monitored a pick up hockey game. As a society, we often behave badly and engage in violent behavior.

We also mistreat animals in other contexts. Hogs, chickens, turkeys, etc. are raised under horrible conditions to supply us with meat on our tables. There is nothing humane  about slaughterhouses. So, I'm tired of folks acting as if Michael Vick is the second coming of Satan because of his involvement with dog fighting. I think that he is definitely ignorant and could have used a good mentor to help him understand that he was on a dangerous and self-destructive path. I think that he was engaged in an illegal activity and deserves some punishment. I find dog fighting reprehensible and cruel. I cannot comprehend how anyone would view it as entertainment, but conservative estimates are that there are 40,000 people involved in the business end of dog fighting--putting on fights, buying and selling dogs. The size of the viewing audience cannot be precisely determined but dog fighting prize purses may be as much as $100,000. It's a big and illegal industry.  However, I also know that Mr. Vick did not invent dog fighting and there are far scarier monsters walking among us than Michael Vick.

I can't stop myself from reading the comments on message boards about the Michael Vick case. Many advocate that Vick be executed for his cruelty to animals. There are also a shocking number of comments that seem to associate Mr. Vick's activities with his race. According to many posters, Mr. Vick is typical of violent black men. One poster keeps repeatedly adding his comment, "Send the Darky home." I'm not clear as to where home is. Mr. Vick was born in this country; he is home. In my home state of North Carolina, generally the sad looking individuals paraded on the evening news who have been arrested for dog fighting are white men and a few white women. I have never concluded that they somehow represent a predilection for violence in white people.

Over the years, I have rarely witnessed this much excitement about cruelty to human beings. The young black woman who was recently held and tortured in Tennessee by the rejects from "The Hills Have Eyes," hasn't garnered as much media attention or outpouring of caring as the abused dogs in Vick's case. Her story has barely caused a ripple in the media although she was held for more than a week by six people who repeatedly tortured, raped, and humiliated her. It happens that the six people were white and three of them were women, but it has never crossed my mind to conclude that white men and women are sadists based on the actions of these six people.

Even when we are convinced that someone's actions have resulted in a loss of life, society doesn't always extract the same penalty. The facts and circumstances are weighed along with the intent of the perpetrator and the  severity of the act. The woman who alleges that she forgot that her two year old was in her car for eight hours will not be charged with a crime in the child's death. The prosecutor says that the act was clearly an accident and doesn't rise to any level of criminal negligence on the part of the mother. The minister's wife who shot her husband in the back while he was in bed, received a three year sentence and served a total of seven months. My point is not to suggest that she deserved a longer sentence but merely to point out that even in murder cases, there may be reasons for the judicial system to show leniency.   People kill, torture, rape and otherwise abuse other people, and receive far less public condemnation than Michael Vick, and far lighter prison sentences than what he is facing.  I can't help but wonder what motivates us to maintain such fervor about Vick's bad behavior but placidly ignore so many other transgressions that surround us on a daily basis.

Now they have decided to save all of the fighting dogs except one. Quite frankly, I wouldn't want one of these dogs for a pet or even living in my neighborhood. However, saving the dogs makes people feel good about how caring and humane we all are. It's so much easier than taking care of the homeless, feeding the hungry , providing aid and support to victims of domestic violence and child abuse, making our prisons into places for rehabilitation, or just plain giving a damn.

Thanks to two journal land friends who in writing about this topic inspired me to examine my own thoughts on the matter, Barry and Spencer. Click their names to read their thoughts on this subject matter.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Obscure Artsy Word List

Leave it to me to procrastinate writing an entry for September's Artsy Essay Contest. Frankly, I was a bit intimidated by Judith's clever creative prompt. She presents a list of 50+ words that she labels "obscure artsy word list." Please visit her site to see the complete list. The challenge or inspiration was to utilize as many or as few of the words that you want in creating an original work. I've been playing with the word list for days, waiting for inspiration to strike. I found my inspiration tonight in an early 17th century painting by Georges de La Tour, called Mary Magdalene. The rules require that I identify in some way which words I have used from the list. My selections are underlined.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Magdalene of the Shadows

The thing about shadows is this--

darkness swallows them whole,

without light they do not exist.

The great masters understood

this juxtaposition of light and shade,

the sublimation of bright to dark.

So Monsieur de La Tour paints Mary by candlelight,

a woman in chiaroscuro,

the other Mary,

the whore,

remembered for her skills in foot washing,

her sweet perfumes.

What secrets does she hide in the dark hues that embrace her?

The gaze intent on the white heat of the flame,

a skull resting so casually in her lap,

what darkness wraps around her soul,

bowing her head with such despair?


The link for the contest:

Tags: , , , ,

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket