things to think about

today i am thinking about: SEXUAL GEOGRAPHY
May 27, 2009, 10:26 pm
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click to explore, click an icon to see the story. beds mean no sex, !s mean sex.

today i am thinking about: CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
May 26, 2009, 2:52 pm
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I am lucky that the most intimate part of my criminal justice experience is hours and hours curled up with my laptop watching Law & Order. This makes me like a lot of lucky people, largely middle class, largely white. I get to watch the fake police in action — a great way to lose even more trust in the real police, I tell you what — and I learn truisms about criminals. The creepy guy in act 1 is always the guy who did it in act 3. Telling a wife her husband was cheating on her is a great way to get the wife to testify. And the difference between a hardened criminal and a novice is that the hardened criminal will always, always lawyer up.

Thanks to a 1986 ruling, Michigan v. Jackson (SCOTUS, Wikipedia), police are not allowed to interrogate a suspect without a lawyer present. All you have to do is say “I want a lawyer” — to lawyer up — and you are not required to answer any other questions. Further, and most importantly, this means that things you say to the cops without a lawyer present are not admissable as evidence in court. No lawyer, no deal.

This ruling reverses that. It now states that police can interrogate prisoners without a lawyer present. Or, rather, it states that defendants who choose to talk to the police without a lawyer present can do so. Of course, the question is exactly how much can a person, being held by the police, “choose” and be really and fully consenting.

The NY Times summarizes the Justice Department brief thusly:

The Justice Department […] said the 1986 decision ”serves no real purpose” and offers only ”meager benefits.” The government said defendants who don’t wish to talk to police don’t have to and that officers must respect that decision. But it said there is no reason a defendant who wants to should not be able to respond to officers’ questions.

Officers must respect that decision. So now, instead of having the law require a lawyer — by saying that anything said in an interrogation room without a lawyer present doesn’t count — the law now requires the police to respect the suspect’s decision not to talk. Just like they should respect the suspect’s right to reach for ID. (RIP Amadou Diallo.) Or to not be raped by officers walking you home. Or cooperate with the police while trying to calm other people down. (RIP Oscar Grant.) Or any of 100 other tiny and miserable acts of corruption that have even been shown to be outside the control of individual officers but are certainly proof of a system that is not to be allowed to run unchecked.

Sure, there are a lot of respectful cops. But if I understand this right, this means the burden has shifted off the police. For anything coming out of an interrogation room without a lawyer present, it will now be assumed that that information was gathered in a respectful way. It will be on the suspect to prove any misconduct, mistreatment while incarcerated is an incredibly hard thing to prove. (Here’s Human Rights Watch’s category of articles. Knock yourself out.)

There are a lot of people I know pissed off about some other human rights issues happening today. I am sure a lot of them will be marching and waving signs. I am sure a lot of them will be writing angry letters to their congressman. Maybe some of those protestors will be arrested because the police decide that they’re trying to go somewhere they shouldn’t, or someone who looks like them smashes a window, or even because they trip and fall after the police decide to clear an area. Maybe none of those people arrested will get charged with a crime, but maybe one of them will. And maybe the police will decide to interrogate that arrested person, and bring them into an interrogation room, and shut the door. And maybe that police officer will respect that arrested person’s right to an attorney, and wait until one gets there. But let’s say that police officer is homophobic. Or tired and not going home until they close the case. Or getting pressure from their boss to get a confession — just like we’ve all seen on Law & Order. Wouldn’t it suck if the attorney got caught in traffic?

today i am thinking about: PERSONAL MASCULINITY
May 19, 2009, 7:09 pm
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I am not sure this kind of writing is interestinginteresting appropriate. There is a normal interestinginteresting post coming tomorrow or the next day, and it’s related, but I feel like posts about queer masculinity don’t exist very much in the blogosphere. So I am answering Sinclair’s call and ruminating a little bit. Part two, the analysis, will be up tomorrow.

I want to be a good man when I grow up. This means I want to be fair, strong, and mean what I say. This means I want to be known for my integrity and good ethics. It means I want to always say what I believe and have the courage to stand up for my convictions. It means I want to take care of the people I know and love and help them when things are hard. I want to be generous. I want to be kind. I want to be tender when needed but also fierce when appropriate. The kind of person you want to have around your kids. The kind of person who doesn’t give too much but always gives enough. In control of my emotions but not afraid of them. A little bit lecherous but in the way that feels good all around, not gross and objectifying. A good man, the kind of guy you ask for advice when you want to hear the hard thing but you want to know it’s said in love. A man of steel and velvet.

Click on that link and take a look. It’s a book written by Dr. Andelin, the husband of Helen Andelin of Fascinating Womanhood fame. It’s a book about how men are the strong pillars of granite around which women flit like butterflies. It espouses the exact same things I want to be. A provider. Efficient. Capable. Trustworthy. Strong. Dependable. I want to use my power to support everyone else’s own personhood. I want to be a good man. And yet I don’t have a model for what that looks like, not enough of one. I say these things and I feel like Dr. Andelin, some jerk reiterating the same sexist stereotypes. I don’t cook but I let people cook for me. I don’t care about tchotchkes but I appreciate other people’s. I talk about “girls” as my desire objects and I do mean objects and I do it in reductive ways. I like to be pandered to in this gendered way, quietly, although I’d never say it out loud. I want points for not being a douche, the kind of dude points dudes get when they manage to not be total assholes. I do not trust my own lack of misgyny. I do not trust my own ethics in this regard.

Because what makes that being a man? What makes that mean I want to be a man? Why do I locate this outside of femininity, outside of womanhood? Women are strong, and competent, and ethical, and providers, and in control, and all of these things that I am listing out. Why do I suddenly list myself outside of this category? Why does it feel so weird to be called a woman? Why do I say I want to be a man? Isn’t it better to fight against these stereotypes, to hold the space that I have been placed into by virtue of my vagina?

It wasn’t always like this. I was femme for a long time, back in Seattle. I wanted to dress up like someone’s doll and be taken care of. I wanted someone to treat me like a treasure, and I read these books, Stone Butch Blues, everything Leslea Newman ever wrote, these book about this brave dangerous love with femmes who tended and butches strong like pillars. I was a teenager who had to be an adult so soon and the idea that there might be a strong butch to take care of me, put her arms around me and treat me like a prize, that was porn for my crotch and porn for my heart. I wanted it so badly and it never happened. Did I just give up? Did I just grow up? Do I have some stone wall around me now? How do I honor that person I was and still be the person I am?

Because I like who I am. I am loud, I am strong, I am learning to take up space, and for once I don’t feel I am doing it wrong. I think I am doing it just right. I feel hot, I dress the way I want to dress, and I feel coherent. I feel sturdy. I feel like this is the person I am supposed to be, this competent person who gets it together, who says what she believes, who wears a tie to dress up. Who knows how to tie a tie, what kind of tie to wear when, and who is always dressed correctly. I feel more correct in this role at this time than I have previously in other roles at other times. I think I am being the person I want to become.

I don’t mean I want to be a man in a trans way. I don’t want to take testosterone, get surgery, change pronouns, change names. I am who I am and I like who I am and how I am in the world. I don’t want to be a boi — I want to be a man. An adult. A success. And I can’t help but feel that that is some lack of imagination on my part, that if I was more flexible or queer and less invested in rigidity that I would be able to create some kind of identity that wasn’t so bound up in oppressive gender norms and normativity and heterosexism and all of these fucked up things I am trying to create.

Because what about butch, right? That is a word with a history and an honor behind it. But there is something about the word butch that I find incredibly challenging. Do I want to be a butch? A butch woman? Someone’s butch? The answer is no, or maybe not right now, and I don’t know why. Every answer I have is fucked up, has to do with my own biases. My mom, when I was younger: I don’t care if you’re gay, just don’t be the butch one. The rigidity of a certain kind of masculinity that I don’t feel applies. I don’t feel like that history is my history. In so many ways it applies, but I just can’t do it and I figure it has to do with my own anti-butch biases. I pay attention to the masculinity I wear, I am light in my loafers, I tie my tie with a different knot depending on the situation. None of these things disqualify me from being butch, none of these things have anything to do with butch or not butch, some of the butchest people I know do these things. Here I am being an asshole — I AM BEING AN ASSHOLE, INTERNET — and coming back to these things again and again as reasons I cannot possibly be butch. I still want to be a peacock — not a peahen, a peacock. (Look at the difference!) And I don’t want people to look at the girl I am seeing — who is femme — and wonder if she’s satisfied with what I give her. I don’t want to challenge people’s beliefs about what is or isn’t possible. I am not interested in being an outlaw. It just seems to work out that I qualify, and I admit it: it makes me uncomfortable.

I put this very squarely on myself and my own rigidity. Part of being this adult I want to be, this man, is learning how to be flexible. I have not accepted that there are some basic ways I like to hold my space that run counter to the way America expects me to run my life. Presenting like this scares the shit out of me — I keep waiting for someone to walk up to me and declare me a failed woman, someone who couldn’t get it together, too hairy, too stocky, too strong, too loud, too all these same damn things that misogyny tells me I shouldn’t be. I worry THAT is why I want to be a good man when I grow up, secretly, under all the other reasons — because no one in mainstream America will look at me, as a woman, and judge me a success.

So much for radical new gender norms.

today, briefly, i am thinking about: BARGAINING.
May 14, 2009, 12:40 am
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On the one hand, bargaining is a sign of consumer savvy. It is a skill I aspire to. It is a sign you know what is going on. You know yr prices and you aren’t a sucker. I come from a people very proud of bargaining prowess – the jews – a people who argue from the beginning. I use the phrase “jewing you down” with a not uncomplicated pride.

On the other hand that pride is hard to foster when you are afraid of appearing poor. Like you can’t pay. In a consumer culture where being able to buy what you want – being able to afford things – is synonymous with worth, it’s hard to bargain like you have to.

On the other hand, bargaining culture exists in most of the world. Even in nyc it exists, albeit not usually (is my perception) in english. Certainly not in my clear English, accented from nowhere that will mark me as broke, as new, as fresh off the boat. To bargain you know Yiddish or Chinese or Spanish or Russian. Me, I should pay retail.

On the other hand, I hate getting pegged a sucker. I obsessively comparison shop. I know good and bad prices for things.

On the other hand, I still feel strange that I don’t have to bargain after all. My friend said “oh, let me put you on the list” for a show a few weeks ago. “I can pay,” I said, “it’s nice to be able to pay.”

On the other hand, is that the pride of growing up or the pride of being a good consumer? What does it mean that the two are intertwined?

My people busted their ass so that I might not learn how to bargain for a meal or a thing. They succeeded. I feel challenged by that; I need these skills to get a good deal, to fight back against mindless and dependent consumption, and to get a good deal. Would Gramma Becky, who came all this way, really want her great-granddaughters to be patsies? I can’t imagine so.

today i am thinking about: LOLHASHEM
May 11, 2009, 12:17 pm
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credit to me + pn fruchter

today i am thinking about: AUNTIE MAME
May 9, 2009, 10:37 pm
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I am a bad movie watcher if you mean sitting down and watching through. I am a great movie watcher if you mean stopping and thinking and discussing. If you for some reason are sensitive about spoilers, this is not the post for you, although this movie was made in 1958 and really now.auntiemameposter

Here is a quick summary. Mame Dennis is a lovely lady who loves life. Her son passes away and leaves his son, Patrick, in her care. She tends to Patrick, who over the course of the movie grows older. Mame loses everything in the stock crash, but has the good fortune to fall in love with and marry Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, an oil millionaire, who dies on their multi-year around-the-world honeymoon. Patrick grows up and turns into a real square, and wants to marry Gloria Upson, who is a WASP to the hilt. Mame meets her WASPy parents, the Upsons, and decides this marriage is a horrible idea. So she interferes and the marriage does not happen. And they all live happily ever after.

  2. Auntie Mame is Very Fabulous.
    • She lives at 3 Beekman Place in New York, a neighborhood far to the east between 49th and 51st street.
    • She is very rich; her dress, she says at one point, cost $500.
      • $500 in 1928 is $6,219.56 in 2009.
      • If Mame were buying off the rack, she could (according to the Bergdorf Goodman website) buy almost any cocktail dress in stock.
      • So Mame is something like Lily Van der Woodsen Bass, only more fun. Maybe more of an Eleanor Waldorf Rose?
        • Why doesn’t Gossip Girl have more boozy old ladies? Gramma Van der Woodsen is not nearly enough. An Auntie Mame would do a lot of good.
    • But you might remember what happened in 1928. Rich people like Auntie Mame lost everything. And when Auntie Mame goes to work we quickly learn how intensely unsuited she is for any life of labor. This is something I think about a lot — how lots of capital (not even just class privilege) means that you get to be unsuited for a life of labor. If you don’t have a lot of cash access, well, that sucks and you better figure out how to make it work. You have to be intensely, opulently, lavishly rich to really never have to worry about learning how to make change. It makes me wonder about this now, the greatest depression. Is there a generation rich enough they are only just now figuring out how to make change or run a multi-line phone? It is hard for me to even imagine those people exist any more, but they must.
    • Mame runs an incredibly rich house — at the beginning of the show she redecorates and we first meet her throwing a lavish party, ordering bootleg gin by the bathtub. Once she loses everything, her house is empty, stark white — she can’t pay her staff, who stick with her anyways, and she can only buy one tiny present for each of them. Her staff, in fact, dip into their own savings to pay her grocery and butcher bill. The look on Roz Russell’s face when she realizes this is what makes her a great actress.
    • Luckily there are MEN for her. In comes Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, literally saving her at her job at Macy’s, marrying her, and then off they go to travel around the world. Mame has her diamond cigarette holder back and life is beautiful. In what world is this how it works? Does this model of marriage still exist? I am inclined to say no. At any rate, his money is in oil, and as he says “The oil keeps coming up, stock market crash or none.” Later he falls off a mountain trying to take a photograph — yes really — and he dies. Mame’s awfully sad — they really are in love, it’s clear — and she is also awfully set for the rest of her life.
      • I think this is probably a warning about the dangers of that digital photography thing where everyone’s too busy taking pictures to look around them.
      • Like texting while walking, right?
    • Once Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside bites it, Mame of course manages to continue looking fabulous even in her mourning. She also has the most impeccably placed grey streaks. I love the version of aging characters in movies from this time: add three dignified streaks of grey and call it good.
    • One of the plot lines I hate the most is the plot line surrounding Brian O’Bannon. He is a tortured asshole “poet” who has been hired to help Mame with her book. He drinks, he sits around, and — in one of the most disturbing scenes of the time — he tries to have his way with Mame. She only gets away because Patrick comes in…and completely believes Mame wanted it. Agnes Gooch, Mame’s secretary, goes out with him, he roughs her up, gets her pregnant, and leaves. He comes back at the end to claim his part of the royalties of the book — and everyone’s so glad, because it turns out he married Agnes when she was so drunk she didn’t remember it. Hoorah! At least she’s not an unwed mother!
        Unwed women: a primer

      • It sucks to be you. You will horrify your benefactress’ nephew’s stupid relatives.
      • Better to have an asshole husband who abandons you than no husband at all!
      • Part of the overall thread of Mame’s permissiveness is that she has taken Agnes in without batting an eye. Her acceptance of Agnes’ “condition” without question is part of what I see as her sympathetic character. Sympathetic for real? You decide.
    • The most miraculous part of this whole movie by far is Mame’s visit to the Upsons in Connecticut. They are petit bourgeois small-minded WASPs played to the teeth by Lee Patrick and Willlard Waterman. Right now I am thinking about going home to Seattle and how once you’re in New York everywhere else feels strange. Mame is a creature only of New York; where else would she get to be herself? But she is also worldly, and cultured, compared to the Upsons, who are bigoted and awkward.
      • Gloria Upson is played as some kind of stereotype I don’t know much about. Joanna Barnes plays the role through her teeth and it’s imPOSsible. I assume this is a WASP thing but I can’t quite place her voice — it’s a very particular accent. Glory is an Upper Richmond Girls’ School girl. “Mums and Daddums and I went down to our place in Ft. Lauderdale.” Here is a clip of her telling a story and even though it’s late in the movie, if you’ve gotten this far I’ve spoiled it all for you anyways so ENJOY.
      • The Upsons are anti-Jewish, make bad canapés, worse cocktails, and leave running from Mame’s generous life. This is a picture of them at their house, Upson Downs, in Darien, CT (Aryans from Darien!). Such scorn was never directed at a garden gnome.
    • Auntie Mame lives in New York of 1928.
    • Auntie Mame’s world is very, very lush and forward thinking.
    • People of color in this movie:
      1. Mame’s Asian butler, Ito. Command of English: comical, fey, and shrill. Heart: of gold. Helps pay Mame’s grocery bill. Lays out her dresses. From my 21st century eyes, definitely the precursor of the Wise Gay Asian Best Friend. Ito is played by Yuki Shimoda, who played many roles and who is one of those great actors whose whole career was defined by the inability of any actor of color to get a decent part in a Hollywood movie. You should click on his name and read about him. He did some commercial work, did some good films, and probably had to mince and shriek way more than he would have liked.
      2. Article about Asian stereotypes in Hollywood, darling?
      3. Black horse helpers. Command of English: irrelevant. They don’t have lines. They just hold horses. Turner Classic Movie’s series about black roles in Hollywood, darling?
      4. Here’s a tough one: Irish nanny. Command of English: lilting. Heart: also of gold. She’s white but also clearly an ethnic stereotype. This movie was made in 1958, and set in 1928, when the Irish were definitely not “white,” even if they were white skinned. I’m leaving this in, but putting it at the bottom, because to a 2009 audience Irish people are much more definitively white than anything else.
      5. And if the nanny goes in, of course the Irish writer O’Bannion does too. Only he is upper class — at least, he’s played that way — or at any rate his stereotype isn’t “lusty Irish” as much as “tortured artist asshole.”
    • And finally, this movie as a play was turned into a musical — Mame! — that ran for 4 years on Broadway. Roz Russell did not come back to the show. Mame! was made into a movie in 1974, with Lucille Ball playing Mame in a performance that everyone says was just great but not amazing. And look who plays Mame’s friend Vera, a bit part made into a serious role in the musical.

today i am thinking about: GIRLS
May 7, 2009, 12:27 am
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  • Here are some nice things about girls:
    1. Soft skin.
    2. Tits.
    3. Cute faces.
    4. Cute everything else.
    5. Flirting.
    6. Dressing up fancy.
    7. Little kisses.
    8. The way they walk
    9. Hearing them talk
    10. Making them smile
  • Here are some things I feel with some girls, and I like it:
    1. Strong.
    2. Competent.
    3. Comprehensible.
    4. Like a teenage boy who just wants to YOU KNOW a lot
    5. The right kind of strong-willed.
  • Here are some problematics with my girl-based paradigm:
    1. Not all girls have these qualities.
    2. Not all the people who have these qualities are girls.
    3. I can be kind of misogynist with a list like that.
    4. Because girls are strong and don’t need me to be competent and all these things I admit, I admit, I can mess up sometimes in my new gender wonderland.
      • Who has two thumbs and worries about being misogynist in overeagerly wanting to delineate arbitrary differences in gender?
      • THIS GUY.
      • What if that misogyny is invited? And you know sometimes it’s fully consensual and hot.
    5. I should be a feminist and not just be that dude objectifying hot girls.
    6. But you know sometimes I have to just recite to myself “eyes on the face, eyes on the face, eyes on the face.
  • Also, mostly I am thinking about one girl in particular. The facts:
    1. Such a compellingly particular aesthetic and sensibility.
    2. The sweetest face.
    3. Such a smile!
    4. Good brain. Up for a challenge, worth thinking about.
    5. I feel a lot of tenderness to this one. I like this thing that is happening.
  • Should a gentleman kiss and tell?
    Pro: Crushes are really compelling, and when it is hot it is hard not to want to tell EVERYONE about it, and who doesn’t like gossiping about hot times and it’s like of course you want to know that cute thing they do, that really cute thing, how could anyone not want to know about it? Con: Some things should be private and I’d hate to embarass the lady in question. Counter-con: Some girls are cute when they blush. It is hard not to want to provoke it.
  • But you know what I mean, right. I mean, you know what I mean. That really full feeling. Where you just want to smile and tell everyone the most minute and embarassing details. When the world is smiling at you back and it’s AWESOME.
  • A few other ideas I think about sometimes:
    1. Hot tall queer: too much rum, lots of kissing, did not go home with them. V. curious.
      • Curiosity killed the cat.
      • But satisfaction brought it back.
    2. Hot girl, short skirt, beach blanket, bruised for weeks.
      • Holy hot, dude. And in a different way.
      • But do I NEED to?
  • Options and thoughts:
    1. Why put any stress on a really good thing?
    2. Getting what you ask for in the context of agreements you have made and are respecting is actually not that stressful.
    3. I cannot be bruised up for weeks again.
  • Non-monogamy in any practice is hard and scary.
  • How do I know what I want?
    1. Betty Everett: it’s in his kiss
    2. Whitney Houston: it’s just a feeling
    3. Anne Sexton: every part of you says yes, including the toes
    4. Whitesnake: my back is against the wall
    5. True love doesn’t wait, it quizzes.
  • Am I going to be unable to move my hands by the time I’m 40?
    • Repetitive stress injuries are often exascerbated by repetitive motion, especially with a lot of force behind it.
    • I am not as compliant with my physical therapy as I’d like.
    • My issue is not carpal tunnel, at my wrist, but cubital tunnel, at my elbow.
    • One other thing I like about girls: they encourage me to do my exercises. In many different ways.