Mixed Media

Racism as Ghost Story

| Tue May 5, 2009 10:13 AM EDT

Ta-Nehisi Coates has some interesting thoughts on how racism cosmetically updates itself to accomodate modernity but remains the same at its core. He's riffing on the whole tea party phenomenon; here's the (longish) setup for the thought I found most interesting:

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No Progress? No Nookie!

| Tue May 5, 2009 10:05 AM EDT

Now there's a slogan!

The women of Kenya have gone Lysistrata on their do-nothing political husbands. Spurred on by Kenya's Federation of Women Lawyers, the Kenyan leaders' wives are being encouraged to cut their husbands off until a weeks-long political stalemate gets resolved:  "The boycott has been sparked by a feud between Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the prime minister, over who runs the government agenda in parliament."

So far, the Prime Minister's wife has joined the boycott. No word yet on whether Mrs. Kibaki will develop a blinding headache, but here's hoping.

Whatever works, right?

Bad as all the talk is of Michelle Obama's clothes, hair and arms, at least we don't have to deal with this.

Pete Seeger at 90: Surviving--and Winning--the Political Culture War

| Mon May 4, 2009 9:54 AM EDT

After watching Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger lead Barack Obama and hundreds of thousands of others in singing "This Land Is Your Land" at the pre-inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial, I noted that the concert "was a moment of victory in the political cultural war that has gripped the United States since the tumultuous days of the 1960s":

Nancy Grace Makes Her Own Gravy

| Sun May 3, 2009 11:34 AM EDT

Though my girl Amy Poehler did her justice, there's really no need to parody Nancy Grace; nothing's worse than the reality. Except Grace's cluelessness as to her own need for a severe beating. Just watch her here, ripping David Smith's heart out.

He is, of course, the ex-husband of that Susan Smith (she drowned their kids and blamed, of course, a black man). I couldn't make myself watch it twice, but she's determined to know exactly how it felt thinking about his kids strapped into their seat belts so they could drown as lengthily as possible.

What a...witch. And a narcissistic one at that; if she wants to talk about it, then the topic couldn't possibly be a tad inappropriate.

Too bad I have a scruple or two. Otherwise, I'd be helming "Debra Dickerson: Beast From Hell" (whose own crew knows it).

Is Obama's Silence on Race Golden?

| Sat May 2, 2009 11:57 AM EDT

Gary Kamiya, at Salon, thinks so and I agree. Obama has said virtually nothing about race in his first 100 days and I, for one, am glad he both chose not to and wasn't forced to by events. The simple existence of that magical family in the White House, with all our sappiness about Michelle's clothes and the new puppy, has given us all a chance to exhale. It's given us all a chance to be hopeful that we really are on the path, however potholed, to color blindness.

New poll data show that:

"two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July... ."

Big, big improvement. Follow up interviews make it plain that Obama is the reason Americans have gone all kumbayah. But Kamiya gets it right when he muses that:

...it also seems to me that a big part of the reason that Americans are feeling better about race is because of how Obama has handled the subject -- or rather, not handled it. Obama has assiduously avoided the subject of race. His silence has allowed his actions and character to take center stage, rather than the color of his skin. We are a country used to talking endlessly about race but not doing anything about it. Obama is doing exactly the opposite. He is not talking about race, but that very fact, combined with his high popularity, has advanced racial harmony more than any utterance could do. His silence sends exactly the right message, the message preached by Jesus, Martin Luther King and every other apostle of human equality: The accidents of race, ethnicity gender and class do not define us.

It's maddening that minorities are still forced to go on reassuring whites that, once in power, we don't immediately don dashikis and commence to getting even. It's also necessary. No doubt Obama will smack headfirst into race before much longer. Here's hoping his instincts remain as finely honed when he does.

(And when he is ready 'to go there,' I vote for this symbolic act.)

Destination Recession: Put Your Vacation Where Your Money Is

| Fri May 1, 2009 7:15 PM EDT

Just because you're unemployed and facing a retirement in gut-wrenching poverty doesn't mean you don't deserve a vacation. Pack the Igloo with bologna sandwiches and take the kids to learn more about how we got ourselves into this mess.

1. The Museum of American Finance, New York—The nation's only museum dedicated to "celebrating the spirit of entrepreneurship and the democratic free market." Admission includes willing suspension of disbelief.  Please check explosives at the door. And for $37, buy "Look Out Wall Street! The Stock Market Board Game," probably the safest way to play the market these days.

2. The Hobo Museum, Britt, Iowa—Visitors learn the difference between a hobo and a bum, along with tips on evading railroad police and building a bindle. The annual Hobo Convention is held the second weekend in August.  Be careful riding the rails to town, or you'll end up in the Hobo Cemetery.

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We Are All Christopher Hitchens Now

| Fri May 1, 2009 12:01 PM EDT

According to PEW, via CNN, the more religious you are, the more you dig torture:

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey...More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

Itals definitely mine!

Let's hear it for us godless ones!

The Only Birth Control Method Conservatives Like

| Thu Apr. 30, 2009 1:00 PM EDT

Courtesy Harvard Medical LibraryCourtesy Harvard Medical LibraryAn exhibit at the Center for the History of Medicine doesn't sound like a good date night, but this piece in Harvard Magazine turned me on to one Dr. John C. Rock, the longtime Harvard Medical School gynecologist who pioneered hormonal birth control in the early 1950s and pushed for the FDA to approve the Pill in 1960—a development that did make for some good date nights.

Prior to that, the article notes, Rock would have given patients at his Rhythm Clinic the "scientific prediction dial" or, later, the Rythmeter (above). Back then, the rhythm method was the only legal form of contraception in Massachusetts. (Feb. 2012 update: Now, apparently, it's the only method religious conservatives want your health insurance to cover.)

Mainly, I just liked this gizmo. Probably required a Ph.D. to use the damn thing.

You Gonna Jump or Jerk Off?

| Wed Apr. 29, 2009 9:15 PM EDT

If you're like me, you think the Patrick Swayze-Keanu Reeves vehicle Point Break is one of the better things to happen to 1991. And if you're like me, you have a suspicion that the production could somehow be even better were it performed live by young, yelly guys who never, ever put shirts on and a totally unpracticed Johnny Utah lead who is chosen from the audience and reads his lines off cue cards. Well, you're right on both accounts.

Point Break Live! debuted in Seattle in 2003, but two cities in California are lucky enough to be hosting its current runs. The LA show opened for what was supposed to be a couple of months in 2007 and is still going due to popular demand; San Francisco has brought the show back after a successful go last year. It's been to New York and Minneapolis and Las Vegas, and according to coproducer Thomas Blake, Nightline is soon to run a segment about how PBL! could change the face of theater. Let's hope that's true. Take, for example, this conversation I had with one of the actors after the show: 

I Would Like to Introduce Our Federal Government to Photoshop

| Wed Apr. 29, 2009 5:42 PM EDT

By now, the profound idiocy of the White House Military Office's decision to stage a terrifying photo op for an Air Force One jet over New York City on Monday has been widely, and rightly, condemned. However, I haven't heard anyone offer any proactive, money-saving solutions... until now! Esteemed employees of our federal government, please allow me, your comically named Mother Jones contributor, to acquaint you with a magical, spell-casting piece of computer wizardry called Photoshop. With Photoshop, anything can be anywhere, at any time! Skeptical? Well, just take a look at some examples after the jump!