Good stuff.

Life and work and a phenominally non-functioning headspace have all conspired to make it very hard for me to post today. And so, unless I have a brain wave later, I’ll just leave you with these, some of my favorite moments by Eddie Izzard – the single.funniest.person.alive.on.earth. (Most of the time, people on the intertubez give it up for his Dress to Kill show — for that reason, I shan’t! Except for the last one, because really, I must post “Cake or Death.” How could I not?)

Note: It would perhaps behoove me to mention that part of what is slowing me down today is that I am trying, valiantly, to figure out that piece of blogging second only to “posting” in importance: Drawing in readers! So, hopefully next week I’ll have some fancy stuff added to the site (maybe even pictures! Oooh!) to aid me with this, but in the meantime, if you’re enjoying the random wandering through my head, from Eddie Izzard to fetid water (!), please do tell your friends and loved ones! Enemies, too, what do I care?

(By the way: I’m listening to the “Machines That Lie” clip as I write this, cracking up even as I type! And believe you me, I have seen it a time or two or twelve…! Enjoy!)

Holy land/fetid water.

I often say that life in the 21st century is better, is most measurable ways, than it has ever been — at least for the kind of people who have regular access to the internet and are likely to read a blog. We live longer, healthier lives, have begun to understand and unpack our various human and social foibles, have easier access to good coffee. For the most part, people who hark back to the good old days weren’t paying enough attention in history class.

But as with all maxims, the foregoing has its limits. “Most measurable ways,” sure — but not all. The state of the very planet on which we conduct our lives being perhaps the prime exception to the rule.

We now know that while the human race has been getting steadily healthier, the Earth has been getting steadily sicker. As we have taken leaps and bounds toward new frontiers, we have left (are leaving) a dizzying swath of destruction that we have only just begun to understand. And in our destruction, nothing has been sacred.

Which brings us to the Jordan River, a stretch of water sacred to millions upon millions of people, and central to the story of humanity, whatever your faith or creed — a river which was once (as the hymn has it) mighty, deep, and wide, but which has not been so for some time.

In fact, the Jordan’s flow has been reduced by more than 90% in the past six decades, and about half of what is left is run-off from farms, re-directed saline water, and raw sewage — shit, in other words. As my friend Gidon Bromberg points out, if you were to get baptized in the stretch of river traditionally considered the spot where the Spirit of the Lord descended on Jesus as he rose from the waters under John the Baptist’s hands — “you’re likely to come out with a rash on your head.”

Gidon is the Israel director of the tri-national (Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli) non-profit Friends of the Earth- Middle East, which has as its organizing principle the notion that, hey, look at that, if we all live this close to each other — our environment is shared! Only they put it much more eloquently than that: “Our primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region.” They are a fantastic organization, doing what I believe to be God’s own work — trying to not only save us from ourselves, but to save the very land so many claim to love more than life itself, and yet don’t seem to value for its own sake.

I’ve written several times about the devastation of the lower Jordan River and Jordan River Valley (and even got the chance to address the topic once at the Chicago Humanities Festival), so I’m going to indulge myself here, and quote one of my own articles: “The reasons for the precipitous deterioration of the river’s health are myriad and interconnected, and are inevitably shaped by the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel diverts some 60 percent of the fresh water heading downriver from the Sea of Galilee for its farms and kitchens. Jordan maintains a major canal that diverts water from the Yarmouk, upstream from which Syria has built more than 40 dams. Jordanian septic tanks allow untreated sewage to seep into the water basin, while Israeli municipalities and kibbutzim release their own sewage directly into the river. On both banks, most of the valley is a closed military zone, its misery hidden from view because of Israel’s and Jordan’s military demands.”

One of the results of this inexcuseable state of affairs is that the Dead Sea, which forms the terminus of the Jordan River, is shrinking — at the almost-visible-to-the-naked-eye rate of about three feet a year – and close to 2,000 sinkholes have opened up (some quite suddenly) around the sea, where once there was water and now there is none. The damage to the Dead Sea might in fact be irreversible at this point, with the only hope being to contain it. (In a mind-boggling act of Missing the Point, the Israeli government has apparently been registering the land that has emerged on the northern edge of the sea, located on the West Bank, as “state land,” in order to keep Palestinians from snapping it up).

And, as might be surmised from all of the above, people are simply running out of water. Israel, for the most part, manages to supply its own needs — but does so in part by denying Palestinians free access. NPR recently ran two excellent pieces on these issues, and I highly recommend that you give both a listen, or read the transcripts.

As much as I fear for the future of the Israeli and Palestinian people, I confess, I fear even more for the land on which they live — as goes the Jordan River, so go the lands that border it. In our efforts to shove each other out of our homes, we’ve managed to entirely ignore the land’s own needs, and are, in a word, destroying it, from the water table on up.

It seems a very shabby way to express national sentiment.

****************

Note: I will post my Chicago Humanities Festival lecture on a separate page, complete with a partial list of sources, and will post an update here when its up.

Cracking me up.

I didn’t know that this was a WordPress feature before I started blogging, but it turns out that WordPress tells you what search terms led people to your blog (if they were led by a search engine!). Most of these, so far, have been pretty unsuprising, like my name, or “in my head,” but a few have been their own kind of awesome! So I’m going to share. Ahem:

  1. “emily the lost years”
  2. “things I love about people”
  3. “history of rock n roll: my backyard”
  4. “r-rated patriotism we can all believe in” (really!)
  5. “why america is crap”
    and my personal favorite, from today:
  6. “hauser snapped”

Indeed, she has. And on more than one occasion!

Threat level: pink.

My daughter turned 6 last week, and I’ve found myself thinking about the following essay, written just after she turned 4, finally published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune the day before she turned 5 (ah, the joys of freelancing!). I suspect that some do not see political ramifications in the fantasies we offer our daughters (and the colors in which we offer them), but when I consider the many social ills faced by fully half of society (from professional limitation, to culturally engendered body-loathing, to sexual assault), I believe these fantasies have deep significance on many levels. They are personal, yes, but they are also political.

**************

Isn’t she pretty in pink?

The color symbolizes the princess culture with which we surround our little girls. But what exactly are we teaching them?

July 22, 2008

By EMILY L. HAUSER

My daughter Maya recently turned 4, and Sweet Baby Moses, I thought I’d drown in the pink.

Her party netted her puzzles, markers, books — and a mother lode of “girl” items: a pair of Cinderella mules, a Disney Princess purse (complete with sunglasses and faux camera, which emits such phrases as “you’re pretty as a picture!”), a “lipstick,” brush and mirror set, not one but two fairy dresses, and three arts-n-crafts sets that are, it goes without saying, pink. The tissue paper? Pink. The gift bags? You know it.

It’s not that I begrudge the child her girly things. Her wardrobe is full of flowers and butterflies, and she lives for her dolls. Indeed, we were made aware very early that she could make a “baby” out of anything — down to and including rocks — and we’ve been happy to provide her with any number of cuddly creatures, humanoid and other.

It’s just that, for four years, her father and I have held at bay the combined forces of the Disney juggernaut and the relentless American effort to turn little girls into mini-women, and pink has come to symbolize it all for me.

And so, bags and bags of gifts and hand-me-downs have been hand-me-downed further because they were tainted with pink. The girl’s poor grandmothers are now afraid to give her anything that falls anywhere on the rose-to-blush continuum — “but it’s coral!” my sainted mother once protested when I announced (ill-naturedly) that her gift would be returned.

As we sat among the rosy/bubble-gum-y leavings of the present-opening, I asked my 8-year-old son: What does a princess do? Understandably, he was a bit bemused, so after a moment I said, “Pretty much just sit there, right?”

To which he replied: “And look beautiful. I guess.”

There’s the rub.

For all that my girl likes skirts, playing mommy and putting her dolls to bed, she also likes building bookshelves, playing firefighter and giving soccer balls a good, hard kick. She is, in the parlance of literary analysis, a fully rounded character.

And what a character! We took early to calling her Maya Warrior Princess, because she commanded respect from the earliest age. Ask her what a princess does, and you’ll get a very different answer.

“Help the animals get back to their homes,” she told me one day, “like in the jungle.” She paused. “And fight witches.”

But as she moves further into the world, we fear that the mainstream consensus regarding the central pursuits of a “princess” will flood past us, and she will learn what her culture wants most in its women: Sit there. And be beautiful.

Be beautiful — not in your own curly-headed, twinkly-smile way, but in a grown-up way, a way that says that even grown women are not, in fact, beautiful enough. We worry that the lipstick is only the first step to a life of being told to do something about herself, and the mirror the first step in a life of double-checking her own worth.

Of course, we can’t know what’s going on in that head, and on the day after her party, Maya made an enormous show (in a lavender top and pleated skirt) of demonstrating her muscles and explaining her regimen for staying “so, so, so strong.”

So I do not despair. But I do wish that we could show greater creativity as a society as we try to shape and teach our girls. They bring many more colors to the table than we are encouraging them to show.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living outside of Chicago.

© Minneapolis Star-Tribune 2008

Good stuff – bucking the trend edition.

Every website I have visited today (with the exception of the New York Times) has posted a truly brilliant video of William Shatner cracking on Sarah Palin, merely by reading her own words — to the beat of a bongo. Brilliant I say! (Update: NBC has taken the clip off of YouTube — but Hulu has it…!)

But ok, I surely don’t need to post it myself, if that’s the case! So, instead, I’ll post this: Shatner in a Brad Paisley video, “Online.” The chorus sums up, to my mind, my own existence – to wit: “I’m so much cooler online.”

Enjoy! (Oh, and Brad Paisley? Guitarist of prodigious talent? Huge country star? Recently recommended the book The Mind of God, by theoretical physicist Paul Davies, to the readers of Entertainment Weekly. This, IMHO, is awesome, and makes me want very much to read the book).

PS If you want to watch another Paisley video, one that is funny, sweet, features Andy Griffith, and may or may not have made me weepy, check out Waitin’ on a Woman .

PPS Oh, that’s right. Ta-Nahisis Coates hasn’t posted the Shatner/Palin video, either. (Yet…?)

Of laws, and the need for.

Re: the recent discovery that workers at a south suburban Chicago cemetery had dug up bodies and re-sold the graves, Chicago’s public radio station, WBEZ, just informed me that “Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes and the head of the national Funeral Consumers Alliance told [US House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection] members that cemetery laws are inconsistent and lacking.”

Here’s a consistent law for you: DON’T DIG UP PEOPLE’S GRAVES AND RE-SELL THE PLOTS!

Oyoy. If the laws are, in fact, “inconsistent and lacking,” well then, by all means, that should be cleared up. But honestly? Why does any human being on earth need “don’t dig up people’s graves and re-sell the plots” written into law?

I swear to God, some news items just drain me of all my sunny optimism….

Follow up to “Words II” – a request.

Hey, if you’re represented by Republicans, in either house, would you please drop them a note and ask that they take issue with the birther nonsense? Here’s a place to start: http://www.house.gov/ and http://www.senate.gov/ Allowing such lies to go unchallenged and/or slyly winking at them speaks ill of this country and the Republican party, and is, in my humble opinion, contributing to a dangerous atmosphere. Anyone who cares about this country, and isn’t half-crazy, should be taking a stand (note: NefariousNewt’s comment to my earlier post).

Words II – the Obama edition.

About 14 years ago, on a chilly fall day, I was somewhere in Chicago, counting the days til my wedding.

My fiance and I lived in Israel, but in deference to my American family, had planned our ceremony for my mother’s living room. I was having a knock-around-the-city day, sorry to miss the big peace rally taking place just blocks from my Tel Aviv home, but giddy with love and possibility. We were getting married at the best time in Israeli history, we felt: A time when peace was finally possible.

I called a cab, it took for-freaking-ever to arrive, I finally climbed in, the driver had the radio on, and a handful of minutes later, I don’t remember how many, I was sobbing uncontrollably, weeping almost before my brain had actually taken in the news: My Prime Minister had been assassinated. It was November 5, 1995.

The warp and weft of history in the wake of Yitzhak Rabin’s murder is full of moments that might have been different if he had been here, but we can’t really know — “if” is a big word. What we can know is what happened in the warp and weft leading up to that bullet penetrating Rabin’s body as he walked toward his car, the lyrics of A Song for Peace tucked into his breast pocket.

Words. What happened was: words. Words, and the lack of words.

When Rabin was shot, he had been vilified by the Israeli far-right in the most ugly of fashions for weeks, months — I don’t rightly know how long, because I wasn’t paying attention because, you know, those people were crazy, and who wants to listen to repulsive lunatics?

The lunacy had reached shrill heights, however. On Yom Kippur that year, a radical West Bank rabbi stood outside Rabin’s home and performed a “pulsa de’nura”  ceremony, cursing him and making plain that Rabin should be killed for negotiating a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians. The vast majority of the country’s right said nothing. The second incident took place the very next day: hard-right polititican (and current Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu attended a rally opposing the peace process where a large sign was held aloft depicting Rabin as a Nazi, and people screamed in a frenzy: “Death to Rabin!”, “Traitor!”, and “Judenrat!”. Warned by a center-left politician that he had better “restrain his people”  or “someone will be murdered here!”, Netanyahu said nothing, taking the stage to thunderous applause.

For months, many reprehensible words were said, and they were not countered by anything responsible. A month after the opposition rally, Rabin was murdered.

Today, in this country, we have a President who is supported by many, democratically tolerated by some, and loathed by a few. Those few believe, quite genuinely, that Obama is leading this country to ruin — either because he’s a closet socialist, or doesn’t love America enough, or, simply, because he’s Black. Or some combination of these and any number of other nonsensical reasons. These few will attack him in any way they can — the canard du jour is that the man was not born in America, and thus is not “really” our President.

On one level, this is funny, because so ridiculous. On another, it is repulsive lunacy, because it takes all of America’s ugliest traits, bundles them up in a neat package, and hurls them — flaming turd-like — at the overwhelmingly elected President of the United States of America. On a third, it is deadly serious and terribly dangerous.

But what is the opposition party doing in the face of these words? Distancing themselves, or saying nothing, or in the case of some worryingly deluded members of Congress, actually lending the gobbledygook credence. Nine Republicans have signed on to Rep. Bill Posey’s (R-FL) bill to amend federal election law in order to require Presidential candidates to provide birth certificates, and last week, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe actually said of the “birther” movement: “They have a point. I don’t discourage it….”

I’m sorry, what was that Senator Inhofe? You.Don’t.Discourage.It?

Ok, he clarified today: “The point that they make is the Constitutional mandate that the U.S. president be a natural born citizen, and the White House has not done a very good job of dispelling the concerns of these citizens.” In other words: “I’m not sayin’! I’m just sayin’!”

The truth is that Americans don’t need to look to Israel, circa 1995, to know that incendiary words act to create an atmosphere in which lunacy can become murderous intent. One need only look to Dr. George Tiller, murdered for performing a legal medical procedure after having been called (for weeks, or months, or years, I wasn’t really paying attention…) a baby-killer. All of two months ago.

I’ll be honest: I grew up in 1970s America, a time and place still reeling from a decade of assassinations. I have feared for President Obama’s life since the day he announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois. But I recognize those fears as knee-jerk.

The whipping up of frenzied crowds, however, with words of hate and sedition, this is real, and it is happening now. If the Republican Party is truly a party of patriots, its leaders need to stand up and say: Enough is enough. We will tolerate no more of these repugnant lies.

I can’t even bring myself to write what I fear will happen, if they don’t. All I can think of is the blood on the song sheet that Rabin carried with him that November night.

Q/A – Jez edition.

Ok, not so much an entire “edition,” per se, as an answer to a single question asked by many people!

How do I get on that Jez board that I’ve heard so much about? – Anyone interested in the Jezebel message board known affectionately as “The Basement,” can email dissolver: dissolver (at) gmail (dot) com. She will set you up!

And may I add that they are lovely people over there? And smart and funny, too (especially that ellaesther – what a hoot!) — which, you know, in my opinion, if you combine lovely + smart + funny, you are on top of the world!

Programming.

No updates on Shabbat, probably none on Sunday, have a great weekend!

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