Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005: Good Night and Good Riddance

Well, tonight is the night. The beginning of the New Year, when a goodly portion of the people attempt to find something fun to do in order to wipe away the old and bring in the new. Personally, I can't wait for 2005 to turn into 2006. I want it over and done. Good Night and Good Riddance 2005. Hello and Howdy-doo 2006!

Don't get me wrong, 2005 was personally a great year for me except for my kitty's illness. Hell, I managed to visit New Orleans exactly one week before Hurricane Katrina. That's about as good as anyone can have it this year, as far as I'm concerned. But like politics, which is all local, life is local, too. Though my local life was primarily good, for the rest of the world, well, it was one thing after another.

If you need to have a catalog of things that went crazy this year, well, you've just not been paying attention and need to get on the ball. No need to recap the bad shit. I hope that your own personal good things were very good, and if you suffered personally, I truly hope the new year brings better things for you.

So, here's to the New Year, which may hold hell and highwater for many of us. Here's hoping, however, that there is lot less hell and certainly a lot less highwater for all of us.


Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

White People This, Black People That

If there's one thing about coming home to Detroit that I can always count on, it's that the issue of race will more than likely rear its head up sooner rather than later. I believe it took about a day for the first inkling to be heard, and by Christmas Day, it was white people this, white people that. It gets to be so tiring to hear it, but I have to ask myself, is it perception or is it truth? And does one person's perception of the truth make it invalid or not? Is it real or not? I just don't know anymore.

Let's start off first by saying that if you get a chance to read Bob Herbert's New York Times op-ed from today ("A New Civil Rights Movement"), he brings up some interesting points. (Hopefully Truthout will pick up the op-ed and rescue it from the behind the New York Times selectwall.)

Herbert starts off his op-ed thusly:

One of the cruelest aspects of slavery was the way it wrenched apart black families, separating husbands from wives and children from their parents.

It is ironic, to say the least, that now, nearly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, much of the most devastating damage to black families, and especially black children, is self-inflicted.

You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to know that some of the most serious problems facing blacks in the United States - from poverty to incarceration rates to death at an early age - are linked in varying degrees to behavioral issues and the corrosion of black family life, especially the absence of fathers.

Another devastating aspect of slavery was the numbing ignorance that often resulted from the prohibition against the education of slaves. It was against the law in most instances for slaves to even learn to read. Now, with education widely (though imperfectly) available, we have entire legions of black youngsters turning their backs on school, choosing instead to wallow in a self-imposed ignorance that in the long run is as destructive as a bullet to the brain.
Herbert essentially says that many of the plights of blacks today are self-inflicted wounds, particularly "behavioral issues and the corrosion of black family life," and choosing to "wallow in a self-imposed ignorance," when it comes to the issue of education.

OK, Bob, you've hit on some very raw, vibrant and essential points. And luckily, Herbert acknowledges that a large portion of the black population is not poor and are leading productive lives. At the same time, he goes on to say that millions are being left "out in the cold, caught in a cycle of poverty, ignorance, illness and violence that is taking a horrendous toll."

Yep. I see it in Detroit. I see abandoned houses, boarded up, on many city streets. I see the signs of poverty everywhere, mixed in here and there with middle and upper-class affluence. I see my adopted sisters and brothers trying to grab the golden educational ring, but are struggling to make it academically. Not necessarily because they are 'wallowing in a self-destructive pattern' regarding education, but mostly because they weren't given the proper tools to survive academically in the first place. Partly that's a matter of were they came from, and how tough it is to play catch up by the time they got to my parent's house. You stop trying after a while when it becomes too tough, especially if you're a teenager dealing with those precious hormones.

Anyway, Herbert goes on to sound the clarion call, that there's a crisis in the black community, and though racism is still rampant, he believes that...much of the suffering in black America could be alleviated by changes in behavior. What's more, those behavioral changes would empower the community in ways that would make it easier to successfully confront opponents in government and push the society in a more equitable direction.

I'm not quite sure about this last point. I really want to believe that one could empower the community from the inside and therefore force the outside community to work in a more equitable fashion, but I think part of the problem is that there are too many black folks who believe that nothing, not one thing in the system is going to give them a break in order to rise up and stand on their own two feet. And I believe that there are too many white people who are tired of trying to mollify and understand the black community anymore. Either side is just about fed up with each other. (Of course, this is just probably because I've been beaten down this week with issues of white and black... it always happens when I come home.)

I've had to listen to my dad this week say numerous times that he doesn't understand why Detroit is ranked the poorest city in the country, when everywhere you look people have new cars. He actually said that it might be a conspiracy because white folks are always trying to keep black folks down. I don't know. I look around and see a poor city. He looks around at the city he's been in for fifty years and sees great things, every where.

Yet my niece is home from college, and she believes that she almost failed a class (after getting good grades from every other teacher, and good grades from this class as well) because of possible racism. Her school is pass/fail and her teacher thought of failing her because she mistakenly placed a period outside of a parentheses in a final term paper. I don't know, I wasn't there, but the school is in Milwaukee, and I've heard time and again how segregated and racist that city can be. Was it racism? I have no idea.

I have a friend I went to high school with who can't stand the Mayor of Detroit. And yet my father thinks he's great. Both are black, with different viewpoints of what would make a good Mayor of Detroit. My dad, bless his heart, basically said that only the white folks were for the current Mayor's former opponent, so I guess, if you voted for the opponent and you were black, you were actually white.

Or something like that.

I can't say much about any of this. Truthfully, I'm a bit too lightskinned to really get involved. Does that sound crazy? You bet it does; you bet it is... but once you've been accused of being a honky, an oreo, a white girl, a sell-out, a whatever, believe me, you just don't want to be called those names again. My views are basically that everyone sucks and needs to step back and stop the bullshit and start all over again. I'm tired of blacks crying racism and I'm tired of whites being racist. Chicken or egg, which comes first? Plus, I like alternative rock too much.


Bob Herbert ends his op-ed by proposing a new civil rights movement summit. (God, please let it be with different leaders... uh... did I say that...? well Bob sorta says the same thing...):

The problems facing black people today are comparable in magnitude to those of the Jim Crow era of the 20th century. There were leaders in those days who were equal to the challenge. I believe that nothing short of a new movement, comparable in scope and dedication to that of the civil rights era, is required to bring about the changes in values and behavior needed to halt the self-destruction that is consuming so many black lives. The crucial question is whether the leadership exists to mount such an effort.

A good first step would be a summit meeting of wise and dedicated men and women willing to think about creative new ways to approach such problems as crime and violence, out-of-wedlock births, drug and alcohol abuse, irresponsible sexual behavior, misogyny, and so on.

Addressing issues of values and behavior within the black community should not in any way imply a lessening of the pressure on the broader society to meet its legal and ethical obligations. It should be seen as an essential counterpoint to that pressure. (emphasis added)

Most important, it should be seen as a crucial component of the obligation that black adults have to create a broadly nurturing environment in which succeeding generations of black children can survive and thrive.

Despite the sometimes valiant efforts of individuals and organizations across the country, we are not meeting that obligation now.
And that's because there's a vacuum where our leadership should be.

Oohhh... you go, Bob. You know you gonna catch some flack for that...

I was just speaking with my mother and my nephew, and my ma brought up a good point. The world can throw you a lot of curveballs, a lot of hassles, a lot of turmoil, but mostly it's how you deal with all those curveballs, hassles, and turmoil that separates you from those who make it, and those who don't. If you don't have the will inside of you to better yourself, there is no amount of work that anyone can do to make you push yourself. If whatever forum Mr. Herbert is talking about can address the essential problem of self-motivation and will to power, then that's a good place to start. Though how you teach and instill motivation and will without sounding hokey or authoritative, I just don't know.

And how you teach these things with the generation of leaders we have now, I just don't know either. It is time for something new. The leadership vacuum is immense and it's not going to be filled by some Baptist Republican with a "you are all sinners" speech. Nor is it going to be fulfilled by black Democratic Mayors who are either so firmly ensconced in the monied community (black or white) or so firmly ensconced in a self-perpetuating mythos of the "white man this, the black man that" sensibility as to be locked into a neverending cycle of recrimination.

Who is going to fill the void... well, I just don't know that either.

And that's the problem. I just don't know. Do you?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Ah, Windsor. Some people hate you. Others realize that you aren't the mighty town they thought during their youth. I feel bad for the donut shop that blew up over the holidays. It was on the television news in Detroit, but I can't find a story about it on the web, or in the Windsor Star. I guess Americans just love to hear about things exploding. Especially if they aren't exploding in Detroit.

Here's to you, Windsor.

Oh, and that's the normal winter color of the sky over Detroit and Windsor.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Live Free

Well, 'tis the night before Christmas, and my mother and I are watching "It's a Wonderful Life." Mind you, I have boycotted "It's a Wonderful Life" for the past eight years at least. I don't know, you get to a certain point and you just can't buy into George Bailey's yearly salvation by an angel... since life don't really work that way. It's actually quite refreshing to watch it after all these years.

There's a commercial right now. A very long commercial.

Anyway, last month, I blogged about the segment I saw on CurrentTV regarding the Freedom Quit Smoking Laser Therapy, and how I would love to do it if I had the $399 fee... and I mentioned how great a franchise it would be to own. Well, in full disclosure, I got an email out of the blue from the owner, Craig Nabat, saying that if I would still like to try the treatment, I could do it for 1/2 price. (Gosh, the blogging life... incredible!)

So, even though I was a bit strapped for cash due to the impending possible surgery of my cat, I know I also need to quit smoking once and for all. And if this works, well, the better for me. I've tried a million things, cold turkey, patches, anti-depressants, yada yada yada. I tried the laser therapy yesterday, and truthfully, I haven't desired a cigarette since. Well, maybe twice, but one snap of the little "Freedom Wrist Band" that hurt like hell, and I promptly remembered that I just spent $200 on a final-ditch effort to stop smoking once and for all.

I'll blog about the process more in the coming days, but suffice it to say, so far, so good.

And thanks, Mr. Nabat!

I'll explain Live Free later also.

Have a Merry Christmas folks.

Back to It's a Wonderful Life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sweet Jeebus, tis the Season

Well, another holiday season has arrived. Yeehaw.

Sorry to sound so depressing, but this year's holiday season is not one filled with cheer for me. It's actually been a great year, full of good things like a new job, opportunities to meet fellow bloggers from the Al Franken Show blog, trips to Martha's Vineyard for relaxing times, a conference trip to New Orleans exactly one week prior to Hurricane Katrina. I published a major paper in the Journal of Genocide Research, and this past weekend, had a fabulous time as Shopper X in the Billionaire for Bush Follies show, "Dick Cheney's Christmas Spectacular." And tomorrow, I head home to see my family. All in all, a good, solid year.

The season, though, brings such sadness as I've gotten a new diganoses on my lovely little kitty, Zanzibar. I thought she had a fatal heart disease, as was diagnosed by my original vet. It was fatal, but with the right medications, she could live longer than expected with the disease. Now I have found out that she actually has a tumor on her adrenal gland, a little bitty gland that rests above the kidney and squeaks out adrenaline and hurts like hell when it's impacted with a tumor.

She needs surgery to correct this, if the tumor hasn't metastisized and spread throughout her little body. The surgery is risky, and after having spoken with the prospective surgeon, it's not impossible to carve it out if it hasn't moved into a major artery between the gland and kidney. The kicker is, though, I don't have the $2500 needed for the surgery, so I have to make a choice: scramble to get the money to pay for a risky surgery that she not make it through, or leave it alone and let her live out her life, however that may be.

I hate this choice. I hate that it comes at the holiday times. I hate that I don't make enough money to pay for it easily. I hate that I live in New York at the moment, a most expensive place for everything. I hate it all, and the holidays just aren't helping with the overwhelming feeling of helplessness about my best friend, my companion, my heart.

I know it sounds corny, but for those of you with friends, I know you know what I'm feeling. It sucks. Badly.

I've been thinking of ways to scramble the money together, and I think I can do it, mostly, with maybe some help from friends. I haven't made up my mind one way or the other about the surgery, I have to wait and see if it's spread to her lungs first.

So, there's my sucky holiday season. Tis the Season. Ho Ho Ho.

I hope everyone has a great holiday. I will still have a great holiday. But I will be thinking and crying and working out a way to come to a decision about this. I've had her since she was born. It would be hard to lose her because I'm unable to pay for it. It would hard to lose her because the surgery is risky or the tumor has spread. It would be hard to lose her after the surgery is done, and complictions set in. In short, it will be hard to lose her.

Happy freaking Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bound for Glory: The Depression Era in Color

Vicinity of Natchitoches, Louisiana, August 1940
Reproduction from color slide

When I think of the Depression Era, I first think of my parents, who are Depression babies. I know from them that it was an incredibly difficult time in our nation's history, and I'm not quite sure how our citizens now would deal with such a crappy economic downfall. Let's hope it never gets to that point again.

I was watching CNN today (home sick from work today, and also have to get ready for my performance in tonight's "Dick Cheney Holiday Spectacular"), and saw a piece about a fascinating new online-only exhibit at the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress (LOC) of the United States is an amazing place. They are the nation's repository of its own history (along with the National Archives and Records Administration or NARA), and have such a vast collection of books that I hear tales of books piled high on the floors because they can't keep up with the decades-old backlog of books that are deposited at the LOC.

They have a fascinating 'new' collection of materials, a set of over 1600 color slides, "Bound for Glory: America in Color, 1939-1943."

Here's what their front page says:

Bound for Glory: America in Color is the first major exhibition of the little known color images taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI). Comprised of seventy digital prints made from color transparencies taken between 1939 and 1943, this exhibition reveals a surprisingly vibrant world that has typically been viewed only through black-and-white images. These vivid scenes and portraits capture the effects of the Depression on America's rural and small town populations, the nation's subsequent economic recovery and industrial growth, and the country's great mobilization for World War II.

The photographs in Bound for Glory, many by famed photographers such as John Vachon, Jack Delano, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott, document not only the subjects in the pictures, but also the dawn of a new era -- the Kodachrome era. These colorful images mark a historic divide in visual presentation between the monochrome world of the pre-modern age and the brilliant hues of the present. They change the way we look -- and think about -- our past.

Take a look. I love black and white photographs, but these color photos of an era that we only know of through the brown dust of the prairie and from stories told by our parents or grandparents, really open the eyes to a time gone by... and a time one hopes will never return...

Brockton, Massachusetts, December 1940
Reproduction from color slide

And by the way, my mother was born and raised in Putnam County, Georgia... her family sharecropped... this is what it might have looked like:

White Plains, Greene County, Georgia, June 1941

Thursday, December 15, 2005

War on Christmas: Summed Up

Watch Rep. John Dingell Recite the poem >>>

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House

No bills were passed ‘bout which Fox News could grouse;

Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,

So vacations in St. Barts soon would be near;

Katrina kids were nestled all snug in motel beds,

While visions of school and home danced in their heads;

In Iraq our soldiers needed supplies and a plan,

Plus nuclear weapons were being built in Iran;

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell;

Americans feared we were on a fast track to…well…

Wait--- we need a distraction--- something divisive and wily;

A fabrication straight from the mouth of O’Reilly

We can pretend that Christmas is under attack

Hold a vote to save it--- then pat ourselves on the back;

Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger

Wake up Congress, they’re in no danger!

This time of year we see Christmas every where we go,

From churches, to homes, to schools, and yes…even Costco;

What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy,

When this is the season to unite us with joy

At Christmas time we’re taught to unite,

We don’t need a made-up reason to fight

So on O’Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, and those right wing


You should just sit back, relax…have a few egg nogs!

‘Tis the holiday season: enjoy it a pinch

With all our real problems, do we honestly need another


So to my friends and my colleagues I say with delight,

A merry Christmas to all,

and to Bill O’Reilly…Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Word of the Year: Integrity

Just in case you were wondering, the word of the year is integrity.

Every year, the online dictionary version of Merriam-Webster produces a list of the top-ten most searched for words, and when a word spikes, M-W attempts to find a correlation to word interest. (2004's word, during an election year, was incumbent.)

According to M-W Online, by way of a Yahoo article by way of the AP:
The noun, formally defined as a "firm adherence to a code" and "incorruptibility," has always been a popular one on the Springfield-based company's Web site, said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. But this year, the true meaning of integrity seemed to be of extraordinary concern. About 200,000 people sought its definition online.
Hmmm... integrity. Maybe it's what people are looking for these days? Is possible.

Other words that made the top ten list include refugee, contempt, filibuster, insipid, tsunami, pandemic, conclave, levee, and rounding out the list, inept.

While most of the words are apparent as to why Merriam-Webster users looked them up (uproar over Katrina evacuees, the Senate uproar over the filibuster rule, the Asian tsumani, "Oh my God, we're gonna die from bird flu," the election of a new Pope, and exactly what an "embankment for preventing flooding; a continuous dike or ridge (as of earth) for confining the irrigation areas of land to be flooded" is), one might wonder why the words "insipid" and "inept" round out the list. Inept spiked in lookup around the time that President Bush "delivered a live prime time news conference that came to an awkward end when some television networks cut him off to return to their regularly scheduled programs." And insipid? We have to thank Brit native Simon Cowell from an episode of "American Idol" when he introduced new wordsmiths to the word while basically calling an aspiring singer "lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate or challenge: dull, flat," or in other words, insipid.

Now, I find this all very fascinating how the Internet can introduce people to new words and information at their fingertips. Fascinating indeed. However, I'm very surprised that the following word from Merriam-Webster's new Open Dictionary didn't make the 2005 list:
muff bunnies (noun) : The small gatherings of curly hairs that accumulate in the corners of the bathroom and at the shower drain.
"Be sure you sweep up all the muff bunnies before company comes."
Submitted by: Roy Davis from Kentucky Dec. 10, 2005 23:20
Maybe it's just too new. 2006, anyone?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Foot. Mouth. Disease. Ahmadinejad.

The motormouth of Iran has managed to do it again. The "Death to Israel Crowd" is awfully tiresome. The "Relocate Israel to Europe Crowd" is a pretty funny bunch. Unfortunately, not funny ha-ha, but funny, that's a stupid freaking idea.

Last month, I blogged about Iran's new President Ahmadinejad's comments regarding Israel. He went off about Israel, and I noted some comments from the website This month, he's at it again, aiming his comments back at the country, and making the even more ludicrous statement that the Holocaust never happened. Ok, right, sure, whatever.

Where is this Iranian game heading? God only knows. Is Iran trying to bolster Palestine, trying to save their own face, or truthfully, trying to start the Great War against the Great Satan (is that the U.S. or Israel these days)?

If Iran wants to start something, wants to elevate the rhetoric between the U.S., Israel and Iran, or wants to put its European allies and Russia into a even bigger endgame bind then they already are... well, they are certainly heading in the right direction. Foot in mouth disease is hard to cure. Let's hope that Ahmadinejad can get over his disease pretty soon. And let's hope there's a breakthrough between Israel, Europe, the U.S., Palestine (yes, Palestine), and Iran soon. God willing.

I'm not optimistic.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Week Ahead

I've been trying to figure out something to blog about. There's so much in the world to talk about, that it's hard to know where to start sometimes. And my week coming up is going to be as busy as hell. A lot of things might get swept under the carpet if I don't pay enough attention, so I'm going to write a little list of things I should be paying attention to, if I have the time. So here goes:

The War on Christmas

Apparently, there's a war on Christmas going on, and I suppose it's something I should remember. However, when I walked out of work on Friday, I literally heard Christmas music being pumped out of loud speakers in the Bronx neighborhood where I work. Apparently, someone is winning the war on Christmas, but I should keep my eye out, just in case the Christmas terrorists (whoever the hell they are) launch a sneak attack on... on... on, well on whatever the hell this whole thing is about.

Governor Blanco's Response to Congress
Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco released about 100,000 pages of emails regarding the fiasco that was New Orleans, Louisiana, FEMA, Michael Brown, and President Bush during the week of Hurricane Katrina back in August and September. I forsee that in the coming week, we're going to be hearing at least a few words about New Orleans again as the emails get filtered through the news media and the spin machines rev back up. Then again, I could be wrong, as mostly it's now seemingly, "Katrina... who?" these days. Ultimately, it's going to take the people of New Orleans to rise up and get the work of politicians, who are really just out for themselves and their political careers, done for themselves. I wish them all well.

UN to (Finally) Go to Darfur?
Well, the UN is contemplating a military operation factfinding mission from December 10-20, to figure out how they can actually stop the killing there. However, they might not be able to round up a troop coalition of African, European, and other countries until September of 2006, just when the African people of Sudan might no longer need them because they'll all be dead.

Go write a letter, will ya?

There's a bunch of other stuff going on, of course, Iraq, Alito, Jack Murtha, Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, the Canadian elections, we're still not prepared for threats to our domestic homeland, Ayad Allawi is going to scream about an assassination attempt instead of a mass shoe-throwing incident in Najaf, and a bunch of other stuff, but there's only so much one can think about in a world gone bonkers.

Have a great week, everyone.