The suckage of human history, on the eve of 2011.

Over the past week or so, as we’ve approached the second year in the second decade of this century, my Twitter feed and various other corners of the internet have been rife with statements of relief to see 2010 end. The general feeling, out their in cyberville, appears to be that this was a particularly no-good year.

And I wonder: Has it really? Or, rather: Aren’t they all bad, give or take?

Surely other years have been seen bloody wars and diplomatic failures, high unemployment and the further enrichment of the rich. This was not the only year in which a sitting President, beloved by some, lost the midterm elections, and the political class spat rancor and spewed bile. Every year, we see rank xenophobia, catastrophic ignorance, and natural disasters. It’s in the nature of things for things to suck.

Of course, it’s also in the nature of things for us to take steps to decrease the suckage. Some years we’re better at this than others; occasionally, it seems to be entirely out of our hands. But mostly, we slog along and push ahead and grunt and groan and weep and gnash our teeth and try our best and bit by bit, we chip away at the worst of things, and slowly, the world gets better.

This year, we saw it in Health Care Reform and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We saw it in crowds of Americans who stood against hatred and with their Muslim brothers and sisters. We saw it as the entire world held its breath and watched los mineros de Chile! emerge from the depths of what by rights should have been their grave. None of these events were perfect, and none of them promised a happily-ever-after to anyone. All left destruction, of one kind or another, in their wake.

But that’s the way we do. We can only be human. We can only keep trying — fucking up and trying, fucking up and trying.

In thinking about this tonight, I started to wonder what things looked like back when Americans were nearing the second decade of the last century — in part (I admit) because that’s when my house was built and I love wondering about the people who went before me, but mostly because there’s no better way to see how much things have improved, than to consider what life was like in the good old days.

So let’s start here: When my house was built, in the late 19-aughts, life expectancy for the American woman was a little better than 47 years (which is to say – I’d be nearly dead). For men, it was a touch more than 46, unless the men were African Americans, in which case, life expectancy was 33. The fourth leading cause of death was “diarrhea, enteritis, and ulceration of the intestine.”

The average worker put in nearly 60 hours a week, and much of the industrial revolution was being implemented by children. In 1909, the Cherry Mine Disaster saw 259 men and boys killed (more than half the mine’s workforce) when a massive fire trapped them underground; twelve would-be rescuers also died.

Only 97 Americans were killed in car accidents in that decade (there were only 8,000 cars), but 115 were lynched. In 1908, race riots erupted in Springfield, Illinois, stemming in part from a false accusation of rape (the accuser later admitted to lying to cover up an affair). The black business district was methodically destroyed, forty black homes burned, two black men lynched, and four whites died in days of melee — but then, “anti-black race riots in northern cities were nothing new in the first decade of the twentieth century.” After all, PBS tells us, “race [was] invoked to explain everything: individual character, the cause of criminality, and the natural superiority of ‘higher’ races.” Schools and baseball were segregated, and it goes without saying that Barack Obama would not have been able to vote, nor, indeed, allowed through the front door of the White House.

Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been allowed to vote, either, and had she attended the first suffrage parade, in 1910, she would have likely be wearing an organ-crushing corset to define her waist. Higher education was almost unheard of for the women of the time — in 1900, 2.8% of American women attended college; twenty years later, that number had risen to 7.6%. And of course, for every 1,000 live births, six to nine women died in childbirth; about 100 of the babies would die before their first birthday.

All this, and Americans still hadn’t faced the First World War, the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, or the Second World War.

Do you know how long 100 years is? Zip. It’s the potential life-expectancy of a baby born today (and given that infant mortality rates have dropped more than 90% in the last century, those babies are already starting out with a better shot).

So, yeah: 2010 sucked.

It sucked, and we may decide ten years from now, or a hundred, that 2010 was more than sucky, it was abysmal. But then, 2020 and 2110 will likely suck, too.

Human history suggests, however, that as terrible as things always are, the suckage grows less over time — because we put our minds to making things better.

I agree: A lot about this year was nothing to write home about. I know I’m not the only blogger who failed to post now and then simply because the world was too ugly to look at.

But here’s to making 2011 better.

Peace out, and may you and yours have a very happy new year. May the good dreams come true, the bad dreams be buried, and friends and family hold fast and true!

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

The assistants I need.

When I was growing up, my widowed mother would occasionally announce (as she juggled far too many arrangements, schedules, and shopping trips) that she needed a wife. Occasionally, she would map out a new dating life, predicated on whatever our greatest need was at the moment (busted car? “I need a boyfriend who’s a mechanic!”).

I, however, am married. Dude isn’t dead, so bringing a wife in would just complicate matters, and dating strikes me as a solution ill-fit to our lives at this stage. I’m just going to have to start hiring people.

First: Someone who knows where all the clothes go. I don’t love doing the laundry, but you know: Ok. The husband brings it down, I sort, put it through the machines, bring it up, he folds, and then the boy brings the piles to their appropriate rooms, putting his own in drawers. The husband is equally speedy with his own pile. I, however, take days to entirely put away the piles I’m responsible for, which amount to three, with three sub-piles: Mine, the girl’s, and the linens — subpiled thusly: Towels, sheets, table linens. Days, I’m telling you, days, at which point, I may well have started the newest round of washing.

Second: Someone who knows where all the food goes and will also impart to my brain telepathically what they’ve done with it. This one is particularly tricky, because about, oh, I don’t know, 43% of the time, the husband actually puts away the groceries in my stead, and that’s very nice indeed. I don’t know why, but I really hate putting away the groceries, so when he just walks into the kitchen and takes over, I am quite genuinely delighted.

BUT:

  1. He occasionally puts things in the wrong places, aka, the places I would never think to put them, and
  2. If I don’t do the putting away, I often forget that I’ve done the buying (not, you know, the entire trip to the store — just one or two particular items. So I’ll be all “Oh, damn, I can’t make that thing that is one of the five things that everyone in my family will eat because we don’t have the stuff!” Only to find the stuff later that night).

Which leads me to – Third: Someone who knows the five things that everyone in my family will eat and will come to my house to make those things. I was never a gourmet, or a foodie, or whatever, but I was a pretty fair cook, who more than occasionally enjoyed the process. I would even seek out and try new recipes! I know!

And then I had children. (Who, it should be noted, I love more than life itself).

The-having-of-children led to at least three things that get in the way of my sorta-foodie status: Lack of time, lack of energy, and lack of options. Oh, oh! And a fourth thing: You never get to choose not to.

These dang kids, they need to eat, actual meals, three times a day! And if we don’t manage to arrange that, they get ornery! I have this crazy notion that we should all eat more or less the same thing for supper (and supper only!), but, hemmed in by my first-born’s neo-phobia (yes, it’s a thing, and while he’s mostly over it now, you can catch up with the rest of the class here) — I quickly found myself with a very short list of dinners that work for everyone. That list has expanded a bit, but I’ll tell you what: I do get sick of it. I keep trying to institute a rule that once a week I get to make whatever I actually want to eat, but this always falls apart when I consider that, no matter what, I will still have to feed the damn children.

Fourth: Someone who will read my newspapers and will also impart to my brain telepathically what they say. I am a newsprint gal. I love the feel of newspapers, the rattle of the pages, the smell of the ink. When I was 11 years old, I delivered the Chicago Daily News, and when that venerable institution folded, the Chicago Tribune (come to think of it, perhaps I should have taken that as a sign). I went on to write for a number of papers, off and on, for many years, and I will subscribe to the Chicago Tribune until Zell’s antics + the death of print result in its inevitable burial.

It’s just that lately I never actually read it.

I don’t know why (why does one particular thing become that thing you never find the time for?), but the papers stay in their plastic sleeves for days and days until I finally open five or ten of them at a time (really), and go through them randomly, often concentrating almost exclusively on the comics.

But I refuse to drop the subscription, so it would be really, really helpful if someone could do the reading for me.

Fifth: Someone who will intuit when I need to get my car looked at, and will do it for me. I am always nervous that something’s wrong, have no faith in my ability to determine if that something is worthy of a look-see, and am forever confident that the guy in the shop is either missing the real problem, or ripping me off.

If only my mom had started dating that mechanic — they would be married by now, and I would be totally set! Why do mothers never consider the needs of their children?

Damn it.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

In which my utter lack of power sucks. Again. (Gulliver’s Travels edition).

Alas, many are the times that I wish I had more power.  Whenever I write about Israel/Palestine for instance, or demand greater responsibility from the folks in Washington.

Or today, when I’m confronting the bad reviews that greeted Jack Black’s latest offering,Gulliver’s Travels.

You heard me.

A couple of weeks ago, the girl announced that she wanted to see Gulliver’s Travels on Christmas, and I thought, well, huh. Ok. My spidey sense had picked up on some bad buzz — and I confess to thinking it unlikely that the movie had very much to do with the source material — but, well: Jack Black. And: The kids! So, sure. Gulliver’s Travels. Whatever. It’s all about the kids! And Jack Black!

And guess what, dear reader? I laughed.

Out loud.

A lot.

And emerged declaring the film (and I believe this is an exact quote): “AWEsome!”

Beyond vague thumbs-up/thumbs-down indicators, I almost never read reviews of movies beforehand, and if I’ve enjoyed something that I know critics didn’t, I tend not to read the reviews at all — for far too often, this has led to me feeling like a rube, and retroactively having a bad time (I’ve never meant to suggest that the space In My Head is anything other than messy).

But this time (absolutely confident in how much fun I’d had), I thought I’d find out just how bad the buzz was, and oh my goodness. 21% at Rotten Tomatoes is bad, right? Yeah. That’s really bad.

BUT HERE’S THE THING.

The vast majority of the reviewers who didn’t like the movie made snippy comments about how little it had to do with the source material, and I’m sorry (no wait. I’m not) — if you thought that a Jack Black movie geared toward children and released on Christmas weekend was going to be a painstaking adaptation of early 18th century political satire:

  1. You’re a moron and
  2. You’re a moron.

First of all, I have a very distinct memory of actively disliking Jonathan Swift’s masterpiece, finding it as witty and subtle as a sledgehammer. Of course, I’m not very clever, but maybe it’s just possible that political satire — being a genre wedded and welded to the time in which it is written — doesn’t hold up over the course of some three centuries.

Second of all: Jack Black. Honestly? You went to a movie starring Jack Black (School of Rock, Kung Fu Panda, Tenacious D ?) and expected Swift? What on earth is wrong with you?

The basic idea — regular sized person caught by very, very little persons on a beach — was lifted from Swift’s work, and then made into something else. In my suburb, we call that “repurposing.” It happens in movies all the fucking time, and no one seems to notice or mind.

Moreover, from start to finish, the movie was laugh-out-loud, cover-your-mouth-with-your-hand, don’t-want-to-embarrass-the-children funny. (Plus which, that thing with the princess at the end? Awesome!) It was (hold on to your hats kids, ’cause I’mma sound fancy) absurd.

The humor in Gulliver’s Travels hits that very, very small sweet spot between slapstick and absurdist. Often the former looks like the latter, but isn’t. Frequently the latter is mistaken for the former and is unfairly written off.

But the folks who made this movie managed to create a kind of gentle absurdist humor that appealed to everyone in my family. The characters — absurd as they were — appeared to genuinely care for each other, the women were (get this!) believable (take that, Judd Apatow!), and both the main character and the villain were (dare I say it?) complex.

Gulliver is a good guy, a sweet guy — but he is, also, undeniably, a liar, who is used to compensating for his own low self-esteem with ridiculous (absurd!) lies. The bad guy, General Edward, is a tightly wound prick who thinks only of himself — but he is also, undeniably, right when he tries to warn Lilliput against trusting Gulliver too much.

Horrors! Humor that doesn’t always make sense, and heroes and villains with a smidgen of complexity! And it doesn’t look very much like a 300 year old book that shares its name! Let me just clutch my movie reviewer pearls!

Interestingly enough, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun Times) and Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune) gave the movie two of its few decent reviews (though, it should be noted, these were not as glowing as mine is. “Awesome” isn’t mentioned once, by either man, if memory serves) — maybe it’s a Midwest thing.

Or maybe, they, too watched The Monkees when they were little and learned to recognize gentle absurdist humor when they see it.

But alas. No one gives a shit what I think, and Gulliver’s will go down in history as a failure.

Goddamnit, why don’t I have more power?

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Bloggy holiday gifts.

Well, it may not be my holiday, but I didn’t feel any more like working today than you did! So I’ll throw up a few nice links and leave it at that:

  1. Russ King’s “Meditation on keeping Christ in Christmas” – the best, more Christian reply I’ve seen to the War on Christmas warriors yet.
  2. Nefarious Newt on Christmas, reminding us that “where people do not have, where people feel want, it is because we have shirked our human duty” – “Messenger.”
  3. Easily one of the most beautiful stories you’ll read today, a testament to the many kinds of love there are in the world: A teenager’s simple act elevates all. (Nothing to do with Christmas, actually, except, in a way, everything to do with Christmas).
  4. The funniest spoken word piece about Christmas that you will ever hear: “Six to Eight Black Men,” David Sedaris.
  5. The funniest Christmas-related comic that you will ever read: “The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas,” Hyperbole and a Half.
  6. Me being cranky about Christmas: “It’s gone up to 11 long enough.” — but, to make up for it…
  7. Me being very much less cranky about Christmas, and all our holidays: “The season.” Because after all, it really is all just about trying to bring a bit more light into our world’s dark corners.

Merry Christmas to those who will be making merry, and to all my Jews: Shabbat Shalom!

A white woman writes about black women’s hair.

(Update: A few hours later, I came back to this and inserted a more direct reference to the inherent racism playing out here as well.)

I’ll start with this: This is not my business. Not.My.Business. I know that, and if any African-American readers want to tell me as much, I won’t be able to argue.

But last night, I watched Chris Rock’s documentary about black women and black women’s hair, called (very pointedly) Good Hair. And when I find something that profoundly disturbing, that’s usually a sign that I need to write about it, and so here I am.

I’ve known for years that the concept of “good hair” exists in the black community, and that it translates to “not nappy,” or (as I understand it) “as close as possible to white hair as black hair can get.” I have always understood “good hair” to be a statement of deep, internalized criticism, one that teaches little black girls (and little black boys) that there is something essentially not-good — or, in other words, bad — about black hair. About having black hair. About being black.

Why I had this awareness, I’m not sure. I spent some of my growing up in the home of my aunt and uncle, where I have two white cousins and one black one, but we were all very young, and they were working hard to let their boy-who-happened-to-be-black know that, in fact, being black was a very good thing. There were black dolls, books with black characters, subscriptions to Ebony, and Ebony Jr.

The awareness may have seeped in from there, or from the occasional comment by black figures in pop culture. I remember Whoopie Goldberg doing a bit about putting her slip on her head as a little girl, pretending it was long, blonde hair that would blow in the breeze. I can still see her, grown woman channeling the little girl, slip on her head, grinning, waving her head back and forth, back and forth.

I came into adulthood in a foreign land, but one dominated by American pop culture. I would see the ladies of En Vogue flipping their long, long, long hair, or Beyonce, or Naomi Campbell, or Tyra Banks, and honestly wince as I thought of what this was telling little black girls — about beauty, about self-worth. About their bodies. About their skin.

And then I moved back to America, and came to see another side to it: Sure, I rarely see a black woman whose hair is not relaxed — forced to “goodness” — but I also came to see how much creativity black women express with their hair. The wigs, the weaves, the veritable sculptures that some create with potions and props and sheer will. There’s an art there, one a white woman really can’t access or, likely, understand.

I came to see, also, that there’s a class issue, wrapped up in all the other issues. I once asked a black woman online about the effort involved in creating the almost cantilevered styles I see in the Chicago neighborhood six blocks west of my house, and she said, with an almost-audible sniff, “Oh, you mean the parade floats?” And I suddenly saw: Black women of a certain stripe do this, black women of another stripe do that, and if you’re a lawyer or want to be one? You’d better choose hair that no one would call a parade float.

And (once again thanks to some complicated series of internet links) I stumbled across this video (for the longer — and very powerful — cut, click here, and to read more about it, click here) in which a black high school student recreated a 50-year old experiment with young black children, asking them to choose between a black or a white doll — “which is the nice doll?” — and, straight up, it made me cry. It broke my heart. Breaks my heart. No child should be walking around with such a powerful sense of being less. No one. No one.

So over the course of about the last three years, I’ve learned that whatever I thought I knew about black women and their hair — I really had no idea. I really wanted to see Good Hair when it came out in 2009, but missed it, so when the husband saw that it was available on On Demand, he immediately recorded it for me. And last night, I watched.

And I really had no idea.

(more…)

Couple things.

  1. Sooo. Remember that whole “I don’t comment in my own comments section” thingie? I think I’m going to stop that. I was worried that a lot of folks would be coming here to yell n’ scream, and I didn’t want the fights. It has since occurred to me, however, that I do not, in fact, need to engage, if that happens, and that furthermore, it doesn’t appear that it will happen much. Also, too, I was worried that I would feel pressure (self-generated, as so much of the pressure I feel is) to respond to every single comment all the time, and it has since occurred to me that I don’t have to. So, I believe I will institute the Ta-Nehisi Coates school of comment replies: sometimes yes, sometimes no, depending on mood, available time, and, no doubt, whimsy. Sheer whimsy!
  2. FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T FORGET TO SHOP IN THE MARKETPLACE! (There’s even an update in the “Reading material” section!) Year-end bonus or Visa giftcard burning a hole in your pocket? Come drop some dosh on those you cyberknow and cyberlove! They’re clever and talented, and fun, to boot! Click here!

DADT repeal: And yet.

I am over the moon that DADT has been repealed. Over the moon!

Every once and awhile, we get the privilege of getting to actually watch the arc of the universe bend toward justice, and this week, we have had that privilege. In case you haven’t seen the President’s speech yet, I’ve embedded it below, because — as he so often does — POTUS made me cry, he touched on the truth so well and so truly (update: I can’t get it to embed! If you want to watch it, click here). I’ll be writing a few thank you letters over the next few days, starting with Representative Patrick Murphy who was so out front on this issue.

Furthermore, I can’t help but think how important the struggle itself was. The very fact that so many people have been out there, on our TVs, our radios, our internet, our newspapers, and in our private gatherings, at home, at work, wheresoever, talking about the civil rights of the LGBT community, about the bravery and patriotism of those who serve in our military — this fact is where the bend is really happening. Our country is a different place than it was two years ago, and the LGBT community has been moved immeasurably closer to the full recognition of their full humanity. This is a good and wonderful thing.

And yet.

Now that it’s happened, I will give voice to the one frustration that I have had: Why, oh why, must we fight for people’s right to kill other people?

Why is this where justice must start?

I don’t want to honor the Tuskegee Airmen — I want to fight for peace. I don’t want to fight for women’s right to combat roles — I want to fight for peace. I don’t want to fight for the rights of gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and the transgendered to serve openly in the military — I want to fight for peace. I don’t want to struggle for the rights of all and any to pick up a gun, cross an ocean and kill folks they’ve never met — I want to fight for peace.

I do not question the need for a military. I am not a pacifist. When a country is genuinely threatened, or when the lives of others are genuinely threatened, sometimes armed conflict is all that we have at our disposal. I understand that, and I do, in fact, honor the Tuskegee Airmen, think that women should be able to serve in combat roles and, as I just said above, am over the moon about DADT.

But frankly, this is the best we can do until we figure out how to do it better.

War is not honorable. War is not good. War is what we do because we’re still too emotionally and mentally stunted to behave with honor, to do good things — to truly value life over anything else.

As we limp our way through humanity’s toddler years — the years in which we respond to not getting our way by throwing fits and breaking shit, often with a genuine blindness as to what the fit costs — we are better off limping as a group. Each injustice set right, each human seen as fully human, leads us ever closer to the day when state-sanctioned violence will truly be used sparingly, and as a last resort.

I honor those who have gone to Afghanistan and Iraq; I hold in my hearts the families of those who have lost sons and daughters, fathers and mothers; I cheer for a President and a Congress wise enough to nudge our national policies along to a point where they are more closely aligned with our values.

And I pray for the day when my grandchildren’s grandchildren will look back on all this and see it for the barbarity that it is, and feel relief to have escaped our self-destructive foolishness.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

And then I got sick.

I woke up this morning really pretty miserable with a cold, so I declared a sick day.

One of the beautiful things about being self-employed (though, strictly speaking, since I haven’t made a dime since November 17, I’m currently self-unemployed. Not that I’m counting) is that you don’t even have to call anyone. You just get under a blanket with a book, et voila! Sick day!

This one turned out to be a particularly nice one, though. It’s Winter Break for the girl and boy, but the girl was at her grandmother’s, the boy home with me. He and I sat on our massive sectional couch (never mock a sectional. NEVER. That thing is like the beating heart of our family. I love it more than I love our house), he under the blue blanket, me under the green, and we read. And occasionally chatted. I ordered him a pizza and me a sandwich; we ate lunch, reading and occasionally chatting. I picked up a little around the house (creating that very necessary I-wasn’t-a-complete-loser-today feeling), he was on his laptop some (yes, my 11 year old has his own laptop. Don’t you judge me!), he got me water when I asked him to, and brought my coffee cup back to the kitchen, and at one point looked at from his book and/or computer, smiled at me and said “This is fun!”

If I’ve ever heard more beautiful words, I don’t know what they might have been.

As the afternoon wore on, he asked to go to a friend’s house but said he wanted to be back in time to watch a movie with me before the husband/dad brought his sister home, so he did and we did. And then I discovered huge holes in the bottoms of his socks, so we ripped them to pieces while they were still on his feet. And he ran giggling to his dad in the kitchen: “Dad! Check out my new leg-warmers!”

I am crazy about my family. We have so much fun together, all four of us together as well as in our various duos and trios, and I can’t believe how lucky I am. Our plans for New Year’s Eve involve the four of us going out together, and I have to admit, I kind of feel like, well, why on earth would I plan a celebration without the kids? What fun would that be?

And yet, these days will pass. I mean, I know — I think I know — that we’ll always have fun together. Sure, there are bound to be a few rough years (starting any minute now, frankly), but I think we enjoy each other so genuinely that that fun will always carry through. If there are rough years, it’ll wait for us on the other side.

But it will be different. There will boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, and there will greater distance, more push, more pull. Our time will grow increasingly limited, and it will increasingly involve additional people. Our foursome — our magical, miraculous foursome, the unit that laughs itself silly over dinner, singing songs and telling jokes, the unit that can travel the world and have fun even in the face of travel disaster — our foursome will become something else.

And for a little while today, that knowledge made me sad.

But then I remembered, as my generous, kind-spirited pre-teen brought my cup to the kitchen, that he had once been a different boy, several different boys, all boys I didn’t want to lose. All boys I loved and wanted to hold on to (even during a couple of pretty rough toddler years) and never let go of.

But now he is this boy, and I suddenly realized, as he settled back in: I don’t know what boys, what men my son will become — but they will be awesome. It will be something different, something wonderful in its own way, something that I cannot see now, but which will be delightful, because they will be him.

Same-same, it goes without saying, for the girl.

So I guess we’ll be ok. I suppose the years of our spending New Year’s Eve together may be numbered, but whatever child I lose each time a birthday rolls around, so far, the child I have gained has been a new kind of terrific — each age with its blessings and its curses, each an adventure and a joy. Even the bad times. It’ll be ok.

If only all my sick days could be this good.

Good stuff: A land called Paradise.

I had plans to post this evening, and honestly? I’m not entirely sure I can tell you where the evening went!

Dinner at my mom’s, the slow drive home through the snow, talking with the boy about what he thinks about the idea of strip clubs (… thank you, KISS FM!), planning our New Year’s Eve with the kids (it’s going to be EPIC!)…. And here we are. Or rather, here I am, too bone tired to think.

But I did find this fabulous video clip today, and thought I would share it with you in the meantime! It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s moving, and I think it’s ultimately very American. I’ve never heard country singer Kareem Salama’s voice before — it’s really lovely. And, frankly, not what you might expect from a person named Kareem Salama! (Listen for how he pronounces “angels” — dude’s country, dude!)

Watch and enjoy!

“We the people means all of us” – indeed.

Sunday (not terribly) brief: Don’t forget!

Last week I encouraged folks to list the various wares they make and sell for fun n’ profit, for the perusal of whomsoever might want to peruse. You can check out that post (“Holiday Marketplace“) in its entirety (and post queries to the various makers/writers/photographers/etc-er-ers in the comments), or you can use this here as a window shopping gateway:

Reading material:

  1. Paul Wartenberg, commenter at both Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog and Balloon Juice, has a book out: Last of the Grapefruit Wars, about which he sez: “The book is a collection of short stories I wrote between my college years (1990) to 2003. The genres bounce from character pieces, to science fiction, action thriller, coming of age, and pure dialogues. Levied throughout are tidbits of witticisms, some of the stories full-bore attempts at humor. Includes Author’s Notes to justify how bad the grammar gets in some of the tales;-)” To check out the analog version on Amazon, click here; to consider the e-book, click here.
  2. Russell King, who writes a killer political (but-not-always-political) blog, Russ’ Filtered News, has a book out: A Hint of Frost — Essays on the Earth, about which he sez:  “Back in the 80s and 90s, I wrote a newspaper column for several small newspapers around Wisconsin. It started out being your typical camping/hiking/fishing ‘outdoor’ column, but quickly evolved into a weekly musing on the Earth, the kids and whatever else I was pontificating on in those days. It sells for $16 on Amazon. I’ll send you a copy for just $7.50. Heck, I’ll even autograph it (thereby driving its value down to $3.50!) . Drop me note and I’ll tell you where to send the check: russell_k_king (at) mac.com” (You might also want to check out his “Meditation on keeping Christ in Christmas [a would-be viral email],” the best, most Christian response I’ve ever seen to the “War on Christmas” nonsense).
  3. pdfreedman (who I’m pretty sure I know from Balloon Juice, but honestly, I sometimes get my intertrons confused, it might be TNC!), blogs here, and edits, lays out, and occasionally writes for a music-n-more magazine called Burning Ambulance, about which he sez: “The new one features articles on saxophonists Anthony Braxton and Jon Irabagon, trumpeter David Weiss, an electronic music group called the Moritz von Oswald Trio, an essay on 1960s Hollywood and studios’ attempts to court the ‘youth audience,’ an excerpt from a book on progressive heavy metal, and a piece on composing for orchestra by an actual composer. The magazine is $10 for a print copy (paperback, no ads, 104 pages) or $5 for a download.” Click here to purchase (and if you go to the blog, there’s a discount code available!)
  4. Peter Cashwell, commenter at TNC’s place, has a book out: The Verb ‘To Bird’, about which he sez: “A couple of years ago I wrote a book about birding. (It’s also about non-lending libraries, venomous insects, sports marketing, and animated Christmas specials.) Barnes & Noble made it a Discover! pick. The Independent Booksellers Association made it a BookSense 76 pick. And for some reason, Martha Stewart liked it and let me plug it on her TV show. Makes a great Christmas gift! Never needs winding! Removes embarrassing stains from contour sheets!” To check out Peter Cashwell’s book on Amazon, click here.
  5. 12/21/10 update: Cassandra2, over at TNC, has thrown her writer’s hat in the ring! Click here for a list of her writings (poetry, fiction) and/or to listen to her latest poem.

Photography:

  1. ajw93, commenter at Ta-Nehisi’s blog, sells her photography on etsy, which she describes very simply as “Landscape, architecture.” Click here to see what she means!
  2. baiskeli writes “I do photography on the side and I do sell my photos online.” Click here to see what manner of photography baiskeli does on the side!

Textiles:

  1. zic, from TNC’s place, designs knitting patterns, and sells them on Ravelry. She writes:  “If you have a knitter you love, take a look. And thank you.” Click here for zic’s patterns (I believe you’ll have to register, but it’s free and from what I hear, it’s worth it to see zic’s stuff!). Update: Not sure what to make of this, as I am not a knitter and thus have no experience with Ravelry, but apparently once you set up an account via the above link, you don’t go straight to zic’s stuff. So, if you’re looking for her patterns, I think some names are “Opposing Views,” “Swirled Striped Hat,” and “Rainbow Collar.” (I’m about to send zic an email to try to see if she can help me figure this out!). Update to the update: zic left a reply on my comment at TNC’s place, in which she sez: “I think you have to register, even though I’ve set the patterns to be visible by anyone…. My user name is the same, zic, and I’m registered as designer Rebecca Zicarelli; both should get you there.”
  2. Persia, from both TNC and Balloon Juice, has a friend with a fiber store on etsy. Persia sez: “My friend Kristen just opened up her fiber shop, with mohair blend yarns and roving. I’ve met her goats and they are delightful, and the yarn is too!” To see Kristen’s wares, click here.
  3. Kiran (from Ta-Nehisi? I think?) has made some tote bags in Harry Potter/Gryffindor colors, about which she sez: “This came about from the copious amount of fabric I had left after making 9 robes for the Goblet of Fire premiere night! They come in two sizes, and several different colour & fabric combinations.” To see the an example on etsy, click here.
  4. Scylfing, a commenter at TNC’s place (and apparently a very good son!) suggests we swing by his mother’s etsy shop, Montana KnitWit, “where she sells her handkitted items, especially legwarmers, hoods/cowls/hats, ponchos and cellphone bags.” To view Scyfling’s mother’s handiwork, click here.
  5. Not a seller, but a recycler of unused yarn, Tata (from BJ? I think? + she blogs here) sez: “if you’re a knitter with yarn left over from old projects or a person with yarn in his/her house for no reason you can recall (everyone has yarn; almost no one knows why), please contact me and send it to me. I knit cat blankets for animal shelters. It takes about two hefty skeins to make a blanket, so don’t throw away your old yarn. Thanks!” However, I just realized that she didn’t leave contact information, and I don’t see contact information on her blog, either! So, if you want to help Tata out with this very worthy project, I would say either leave her a comment on the blog (here’s another link), or shoot me an email at elhauser [at] hotmail [dot] com, and I’ll pass it on to her.

In a class of her own:

Laura W., she of Balloon Juice commenting, does beautiful mixed media and pique assiette mosaics, about which she sez: “Most folks are sorta whacky for my vintage jewelry frames. I’ve sold many to Juicers over the last two years. As a matter of fact, an hour ago I shipped a very special memorial jewelry frame to a Juicer, a tribute to his sister’s beloved cat. Half my work is commissioned, which I adore.” For her etsy shop, click here (and for a 15% discount, use this code: MOSAICCATS22); for her blog (“which has a lot of great photos and a new post with another Christmas commission I just completed for a woman who lives with a black Pug and a brown Dachshund”), click here.

All righty then! Go forth and shop! And if you, too, are a creative type and would like me to add you to this list, just leave a comment, and I’ll update the fore-going.

Once the New Year is behind us, I think I’ll create a designated page for those of you out there in the lands of In My Head, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Balloon Juice, or Angry Black Lady Chronicles who make and sell — it wouldn’t be likely to make anyone rich, but I’d love to help you put another dime or two in your pockets!

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