Good stuff: On the relative fortitude of the various reproductive organs.

Ahem.

Because I love you.

Although I do hasten to add that the following (while so funny that it may cause you to literally weep with laughter) IS NSFW. Not safe for work, not safe for parents-in-law, not safe for small children (depending on the rules about language in your house), probably not safe for watching on a handheld device on public transport. But that’s up to you.

You’re welcome.

PS I <3 Hal Sparks. That is all.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Things I do of which I am ashamed.

I’m a feminist.

I’m 46 years old, and I have never known myself to be anything but a feminist, in word and in deed. I marched for the ERA as a young high schooler, had a copy of Our Bodies Ouselves when it was still thin, and knew even before I’d started dating that I would keep my own name if I got married. As for work? Well — of course. In whatever field I wanted. And if a man didn’t respect me or these ideas? He had no place in my life. Period.

I was raised by strong women: Two grandmothers who were among that less than 10% of American women who attended college in the 1920s, and a single mother, widowed when I was a baby, who worked hard and had a tool box with her name on it, so that we would remember to put the tools back if we used them.

None of these women ever took guff from anyone, none ever felt (or demonstrated to me, at any rate) that they should shrink themselves or their opinions to fit the world around them. I grew up knowing of Grandma Hauser’s bitterness that she’d been called home from college to tend to a sick mother when there were three healthy brothers at home, and that Grandma #2, known to us as Queenie, had been a flapper at a time that her sister was busy learning to keep house. The subtext to it all was always: You have every right to be who you are, and when the world tries to tell you different? Push the hell back.

I was lucky.

And yet, I am still a product of much more than that. I still move in the world as-it-is, not the world as-I-dream-it, and much as I am the first to say that the world used to be worse, I will also freely admit that we have a long way to go. I have a long way to go.

I’m a feminist. And there are things that I do, regularly, that I think feminists probably shouldn’t do.

  1. I don’t leave the house without make-up. This one isn’t that bad, I figure. It’s decorative, and I actually mostly enjoy it. Make-up is fun, bottom line. But I know (because I have access to the deepest recesses of my brain, even if sometimes I wish I didn’t) that even on days that it’s not fun, even on days when it’ll make me late to take the five minutes I need to apply the layers — I’m going to take those five minutes, because I worry what the world with think of me otherwise. The look I achieve is minimalist, entirely natural (people often express visible shock when they hear that I wear make-up at all), but that just further proves the point that I’m using it as camouflage, not artistic expression.
  2. I shave my legs and underarms. I have none of the above-suggested ambivalence about this one. I’m pretty confident that this is moronic. I know feminists have a variety of opinions on this (as on all things), but I can only be the feminist that I am, and this feminist firmly believes that the removal of the hair that serves as a secondary sexual characteristic, indicating that I have gotten through puberty, is a concession to the patriarchy, pure and simple. It’s about the assumption that straight men like their women to look like little girls. Which, you know, I’m kind of opposed to that sort of thing. And yet, I find my hairy legs and pits truly, deeply unattractive. That part of my mind is throughly colonized. So I carry on. But when my daughter watches me shave — as little girls will — she not infrequently gets a wee lecture in which I tell her that if she decides to never do this crazy thing, I’ll think that’s kind of cool.
  3. I feel guilty about eating. I know I shouldn’t. I talk and write about how women have to heal their relationship with food. I don’t participate in those conversations that women seem to be forever having in which they beat themselves up for having a damn piece of cake, and I try to frame the damn cake in a positive way when I can. And I never, ever express this guilt out loud to anyone but my husband, in private. I do not need to add to the ambient noise, to the very problem from which I suffer. Most importantly, my son and daughter will never hear it from me, because I want them to shake this illness that plagues our society. Instead, I encourage them (with the assistance of their most excellent father) to listen to their bodies, to eat for enjoyment as well as health, and to love the bodies (tall, broad, and strapping) that the good Lord gave them. But the guilt? I feel it. It’s there, and I hate it.
  4. I look in the mirror and love my body only grudingly. Like 90% of people, my body doesn’t correspond to the ideal with which we are inundated, and to which we are constantly compared. The ideal with which we as a society shame each other and ourselves. My bra size has only grown with pregnancies and my middle years, and my middle bits are a combination of scarred (two emergency C-sections + one major surgery to remove an enormous tumor — you can read all about it here, if you’d like!) and mushy, and there are days when all the kind words that I share with others, the things I say out loud to my daughter and son, and the unabashed lust of my husband — the best, most honest man I have ever met — matter not in the least. I wish my body were… different. I love it, sure, but kind of like you love the lame dog who does her best and is really sweet, so you forgive her for being so damn slow on walks.

I am a better feminist than I once was, and I think that — as a direct result of how they are being raised — my son and daughter will be better feminists than their father and mother are.

But it’s not easy. And there are days when it’s damn hard.

Crossposted to Angry Black Lady Chronicles and Feministe.

Life in America sucks. It used to suck more. Discuss.

This is essentially a re-up, a slight re-working of something I wrote a little while back — but given how morose I’ve felt about the world these past few weeks, it was kind of a balm to my soul when I re-discovered it yesterday. Perhaps you, too, could use a balm.

Like many, I am often overcome by the sheer suckage in the world at large, and America in particular, in recent times.

It can sometimes be too painful to even turn on the news, knowing that I’ll hear that more people have lost their jobs, and more people are hungry, and more women have been placed in untenable positions, all while our elected officials continue to fight like whiny babies over who’s going to cut how much of the safety net for the poor so that the wealthy can gather yet more wealth (yesterday I learned from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on NPR that the top 1% of American earners now control 25% of the national income; from one of the commenters at Feministe and Vanity Fair, I’ve learned that same 1% controls 40% of the national wealth), and meantime — oh! that’s right! — Gitmo is still open. Honestly, the only people providing a steady stream of good news these days are the American LGBTQ community (yay, death of DADT! Yay, marriage in New York!) — and frankly, that’s just because they have so far to come toward full equality, that every step forward feels huge. So.

It’s at moments like this that I like to time travel a little and remember: The world has always sucked. All the years, all the Administrations, all the social and cultural circumstances. SUUUCKED. Rank xenophobia, catastrophic ignorance, natural disasters — it’s kind of the way things are.

Of course, it’s also the way of things for humans to take steps to decrease the suckage. Sometimes humanity is better at this, sometimes worse; 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.

We’ve seen it in (the admittedly flawed) Health Care Reform and the (admittedly too slow) repeal of DADT. We’ve seen it in crowds of Americans who have stood with their Muslim brothers and sisters, against the (admittedly still frightening) crowds of violent bigots. None of these examples are perfect, none promise a happily-ever-after to anyone.

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.

The best way to get a good bead on this is to really go back in time. I like to go back about 100 years, because it’s a good round number, and 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: 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 American, 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 — which, you know: oy). 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% (my mother likes to remind me that both of my grandmothers are represented by that statistic). 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: A whole lot sucks in America — and frankly, it sucks a lot more for people in other places around the globe. Yesterday’s post about “breast ironing,”  the horrifying tales of starvation out of East Africa (not to mention Israel/Palestine) are all powerful reminders that no matter how much better things get here, there is still much to worry us elsewhere.

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. As a woman who spends a lot of time advocating for causes that appear to be demonstrably lost, it does my heart good to remember that, sometimes.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles and Feministe.

You there – stop having breasts!

I'm going to think about this part of Cameroon for awhile.

I can’t even. What the fuck.

No, I mean it: What.The.Fuck.

Breast ironing sparks anger in Cameroon

Every morning before school, 9-year-old Terisia Techu would undergo a painful procedure. Her mother would take a burning hot pestle straight out of a fire and use it to press her breasts.

With tears in her eyes as she recalls what it was like, Terisia tells CNN that one day the pestle was so hot, it burned her, leaving a mark. Now 18, she is still traumatized.

Her mother, Grace, denies the incident. But she proudly demonstrates the method she used on her daughter for several weeks, saying the goal was to make her less desirable to boys — and stave off pregnancy.

A study found that one in four girls in Cameroon have been affected by the practice.

The U.S. State Department, in its 2010 human rights report on Cameroon, cited news reports and said breast ironing “victimized numerous girls in the country” and in some cases “resulted in burns, deformities, and psychological problems.”

There are more than 200 ethnic groups in Cameroon with different norms and customs. Breast ironing is practiced by all of them.

“To stave off pregnancy”… Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about the ways in which the world tries to own and control female bodies, you get slapped upside the head with something new.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles and Feministe.

Palestine, the UN, Israel, the Oslo Accords – &, me on Russian TV.

So yesterday, something of a stink was made about the fact that Israel is talking about “cancelling” the Oslo Accords if the Palestinians insist on going to the UN in September to ask for recognition as a state.

Only it doesn’t really seem that Israel is necessarily considering such a move with any seriousness — they’re just kicking around a few reeaally stupid, self-defeatist, panicky ideas. You know, like they do.

Anyhoo, after appearing on Russia Today (the English-language Russian news channel) in May, I was asked back today to talk about that mess! And so, of course, I said yes. (Last time, I was worried I looked like a moron; this time, I’m more worried about looking like a cadaver. [LIGHTING! MAKEUP!] Whatevs. I manged to slip in the word “Jedi,” in a totally appropriate context, so I’m good).

Following is the clip (in which, I’m certain, you’ll notice that my focus and attention were really rather impressive, given all the stuff going on around me), and after the clip, a little compendium of links to the articles I was scouring last night and this morning to make sure I sounded smart this afternoon. Very little of it came into play in my 4+ minutes — for instance, I didn’t get a chance to mention that just this past Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, and I quote, “Our first, second and third choice is to return to negotiations [over going to the UN]” — but hey! It’s all good. Smarter is better.

  1. Palestine’s White September: An Historic Opportunity – an excellent, brief starting point, by author, journalist and Tel Aviv University professor Carlo Strenger, spelling out the Palestinian bid, and its risks and possible benefits for Palestinians, Israelis, and the Obama Administration.
  2. Who is “delegitimizing” whom? – also excellent, also brief. By director for the Council on Foreign Relations U.S./Middle East Project (and former executive director of the American Jewish Congress) Henry Siegman, explaining why, exactly, the Palestinian bid is, by and large, the exact opposite of everything Israel is trying to tell you it is.
  3. Palestine, Israel, the UN and America’s attempted Quartet sophistry – rather more “thorough” than “brief,” but really good at dispelling a bunch of myths and giving more detail to all the possible outcomes, by Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation and a former member of the Israeli negotiating team.
  4. September Song – by law professor and former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team Omar Dajani, a much-needed Palestinian take on the Palestinian decision to turn to the UN, with some great legal and political analysis.
  5. No choice but the UN for the Palestinians –  Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, briefly explains just why the Palestinians really are left with no other choice.
  6. “Former [Israeli] diplomats: Recognize Palestine” – Ynet news. Three former diplomats (one of whom, Robbie Seibel, is the dad of my late friend Danny, and a really lovely man!) who think Israel’s approach is doing more harm than good.
  7. Israel looking into revoking Oslo Accords in response to Palestinian UN bid – HaAretz. The wishy-washy “maybe they will, but they’re not really sold on it” report that got the world talking.
  8. FM: Israel would not dare to cancel Oslo deal – Maan News Agency. The Palestinian Authority responds to the reports.
  9. Peres: Oslo Accords still hold – JTA. Peres thinks the whole thing isn’t even real to begin with. (Also, please note that his description of the behavior of Syrian protestors for which he has such deep admiration could apply equally well to Palestinian protestors, and of course, he is entirely unaware. I’m sure he would say that the Israeli government is no Assad, and in that he would be right, but dude: Every single word he says here could be applied to the very people his government has been occupying for 44 years…! The willed and willful ignorance sometimes just makes me want to weep).

Busy busy busy.

This is actually pretty much what I look like.

Oookay. I have a lot to catch up on. Not least that I appeared on Russian teevee again today…! But first, all the other catching up:

  1. My first real post at Feministe — which was pretty well received! — was a slightly re-worked version of my post about the use of the word “nude” in the fashion, so I won’t crosspost the whole thing. But it starts like this:

    Dear Fashion Industry,

    I’ve been meaning to write ever since that big wedding that took place in London this past spring, and then as various bits and bobs of fashion flotsam and jetsam have wandered across my heat-blurred summer vision, but, well, events overcame me. Life, and your whatnot. But finally, here we are, tete-a-tete. Did you miss me, Fashion Industry? I hope so!

  2. My second real post — which is getting chewed up and spat out as we speak! — was a slightly re-worked version of my post on Beyonce. Again, no real point to crossposting the whole thing, but it starts like this:

    Whenever I slip into Starbucks for a little iced Joe these days, there she is: Beyonce.

    For the moment, I won’t get into the outfit she sports on the cover of her latest work, nor the disturbing fact that it seems every album Beyonce puts out is adorned with an ever-lighter version of her genuinely lovely self.

    No, I want to talk about her music, but there’s still one more caveat: As a 46 year old suburban mother who likes loud rock n’ roll, I am not nor have I ever been Beyonce’s target audience.

  3. I’ve posted my regular book recommendation at Americans for Peace Now (though at this point, it might be more honest to call it “semi-regular” — it’s supposed to go up on Fridays, and for two weeks running, it’s gone up the following Tuesday. Sigh). Here’s the top of that; for the rest, please click here; for an archive of all earlier recommendations, click here (a perma-link to the archive can be found under Pages, on your right).

    When the first intifada hit Israel with the shock of a tidal wave, I was living in Tel Aviv.

    Many of my male friends – including the young man with whom I was in love and living at the time – found themselves called to endless rounds of reserve duty to face off against stone-throwing youth.

    It was during that time, as I followed the news with a consuming obsession and watched my previously unflappable boyfriend writhe in his sleep from nightmares, that I went from a vague “we should all find a way to get along, gosh it’s so sad that the Arabs don’t want to” kind of politics, to understanding that Israel had two ways to resolve the problem of the occupied territories: Massive ethnic cleansing, or two-states-for-two-peoples.

    As I couldn’t get behind the first option, and had begun to understand that the stone throwers had a point in demanding their rights, I became an active supporter of the two-state solution.

    And yet I can say with all honesty that it wasn’t until I read Mary Elizabeth King’s 2007 A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance that I understood that those stone throwers could have responded with arms and ammunition, but that their grassroots leaders chose not to. That, indeed, the entire intifada was rooted in notions of nonviolence.

  4. I’ve added a couple things to the blog rolls, and as always, I most heartily urge you to… check them! Both!

    First, under Smart People (because I had no idea where else to put it) you will find the truly awesome and very informative (if occasionally somewhat smoothing-off-a-few-too-many-rough-edges-for-sake-of-brevity) What the Fuck Has Obama Done So Far?

    And second, under The Funny Papers, you will find Gabby’s Playhouse, a webcomic which I first came to know through this comic, which had me (I think not suprisingly!) assuming that said “Gabby” was of the lady persuasion. Turns out I should have been tipped off by that comic’s title: “In which we betray our gender.” Gabby’s a man. A very, very talented man. Don’t believe me? Click here!

I’ll be back later with the TV stuff, pinky swear!

My on-going domination of all the internets.

Ok, so a funny thing happened on my way to obscurity.

This blog was found by the good folks at Feministe, and two weeks and one day after I wrote that woe-is-me-I’m-not-sure-if-I-can-stand-writing-anymore post, they emailed to ask if I would like to guest blog this summer…!

And so, not being a complete idiot, I said yes. And with great pleasure!

The gig begins today. I’ll be crossposting everything I write for Feministe here and at Angry Black Lady Chronicles, as per yooz, but I encourage you to go over there as well. The writers at Feministe are passionate, come from wildly varied backgrounds, and always leave their readers with new ideas to chew over. You’ll find a link over to your right, on the Smart People blog roll, or you can click right here. Either way, I urge you to check it!

My first post is an introductory thing, much of which is information that any regular reader of In My Head already knows, but if you can stand being introduced to me again, here ye be:

Lovely to meet you.

Hi Feministe!

:: waves ::

So, I’m one of the summer guests! And I’m very honored, not to say a little surprised to be here. My own blog is a teeny-tiny affair, and because I have roughly as little tech knowledge as one could reasonably have and still run a blog, I never have any real sense of how broadly anything gets read or by whom – but the internets, man, you never know where you’ll wind up! So here I am, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

But who the hell (you ask yourselves, and quite reasonably too) are you?

I’m a professional freelance writer. I wrote for many years in big newspapers and smaller magazines, doing news, op/eds, features, and book reviews and/or serving as a foreign correspondents’ assistant at a few really-big newspapers (Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post).

All of which means that since the bottom fell out on print media in 2008, followed closely by the bottom falling out on the world of finances, my byline has barely appeared anywhere. So it goes. I still do book reviews! And write a lot for leftie/progessive PR firms and leftie/progessive nonprofits.

As I mentioned, I also blog, posting at my own place (Emily L. Hauser In My Head) and crossposting at Angry Black Lady Chronicles. I started my internet life as an active commenter at Jezebel (where I was known as ellaesther), but went out in a blaze of Midwestern polite disagreement over their new commenting policies like, two years ago or something, so it’s entirely possible that the policies have changed again and are currently really quite human and lovely, but I wouldn’t know.

Other than that: I’m a straight white lady married to a straight white dude, living in the suburbs of Chicago with our two white kids (sexuality yet to be determined, as far as I know). I drive a station wagon, and volunteer at my kids’ schools.

I’m a feminist who actually managed to march (as a high school freshman) for the ERA before it was killed. I spent a good few years as a rape crisis counselor. And I’ve written in several national newspapers about the fact that I’ve had an abortion. I’m to the left of Obama and to the right of Kucinich. I volunteered in the 2008 Obama campaign & intend to do so again in 2012.

I’m also Jewish, American-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-two-states and a Zionist (meaning I’m often very lonely in my little Venn diagram), and I often write about Israel/Palestine and the conflict — but then again, I also often don’t. Recently, for instance, I’ve written about Marcus Bachmann, a fucking awesome Planet of the Apes-techno mashup, and weird rules that exist in my house (“no biting the table,” for one).

So. Here I am! :: jazz hands ::

My approach to comments is as follows: I’ll wade in there with y’all, but I ask that people remember the humanity and the dignity of everyone. Which is to say, if you disagree with me (and some of you are likely to disagree with me, right? It’s the internet!) or with anyone else in a thread, please express that disagreement in a way that sheds more light than heat.

But enough of my yakkin’! Let’s rock n’ roll!

Or: I’ll be back to rock n’ roll a little later with a real post. But I will stop yakkin’ now.

Amy Winehouse – may her memory be for a blessing.

UPDATE: Please also read Russell Brands’ deeply moving essay about Winehouse, the nature of addiction, and what it’s like to love an addict: “When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call.”

*****

I can’t tell you why, exactly, Amy Winehouse’s downward spiral so grabbed my heart, but I know that it did. I remember reading her 2007 Rolling Stone interview and feeling like – this isn’t rebellion. This isn’t rock-n-roll. This is a fucking death watch, and no one will say it out loud.

Later that summer, though, Winehouse found herself trying rehab for the first time. I wrote the following for the Chicago Tribune, and I remember writing it in a state bordering on fury. Addiction isn’t some sort of glorious debauchery, it isn’t an expression of genius, and it isn’t fucking theater. It’s a terminal illness, and a pretty fucking horrible one at that.

I cried when I learned of Winehouse’s death earlier today — I don’t know that would have cried if it had been Charlie Sheen, or Lindsay Lohan. Something about her touched me, and I am so deeply saddened that she was unable to find her way back to life. I hope that she is now, finally, resting in peace.

יהיה זכרה ברוך – May her memory be for a blessing, and may her family find comfort among the mourners of Zion.

“Severe exhaustion” – Rock n’ roll’s fatal flaw

It’s well known that in rock ‘n’ roll, along with the sex, you’re supposed to do drugs. Or at least hit the bottle good and hard.

Keith Richards’ supposed excesses are regular fodder for insiderish jokes. Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx recalls actually hoping, as a young musician, to become an addict. Singer, hard-partier, and recent Lollapalooza draw Amy Winehouse climbed the charts this summer declaring that she wasn’t gonna go to rehab, no, no, no. Fans and critics appeared oddly satisfied with her unabashed dissolution. That’s rock ‘n’ roll!

But on Wednesday, three days after her turn in Grant Park, Winehouse was briefly hospitalized for “severe exhaustion” — or according to the British tabloids The Sun and Daily Mirror, a possible drug overdose.

“Amy got a massive fright,” the Daily Mirror quotes a “close friend” as saying. “[She] is finally coming round to everybody’s pleading with her to go to rehab.”

Never say never.

Of course we’re all over such reports. We gossip and gape, and assure ourselves that we, at least, aren’t that bad. We relish the fall of the mighty, as we warm to the occasional tale of redemption. Rock ‘n’ roll is a spectacle, and what more grandiose show is there than a raw descent into hell?

As lesser mortals, we also get some satisfaction: All that seedy indulgence may lead to creative genius — but at least the world doesn’t know the results of my latest urine test.

Here’s the thing, though: The drugs, as The Verve once sang, don’t work.

Thirty years before Amy Winehouse landed in a London hospital, Elvis Presley died, destroyed by a well-documented, mind-boggling addiction to a rainbow of prescription drugs. On Aug. 16, 1977, the once-beautiful body of a man whose voice changed the world finally gave up, and an incomparable talent was lost to us forever.

We’ll never again have the privilege of feeling that voice rocket through our veins and fill our hearts with rough beauty. Nor will we ever know what Janice Joplin might have done if she’d seen her 30th birthday, or Kurt Cobain, if heroin hadn’t ruined him long before that shotgun blast.

Nor, I would argue, will we ever know what other surpassing truths the Beatles might have wrestled out of the air, through their hands and into our ears, if John Lennon hadn’t dropped so much acid, and then become a (temporary) dope fiend, while the rest of the Fab Four did their own little chemical experiments. Substance abuse cuts a pretty wide swath of destruction, even if the abuser doesn’t actually wind up dead. Even, it should be added, if the abuser isn’t famous.

Every interview I’ve read about Amy Winehouse indicates that, in addition to being enormously talented, she’s a young woman stumbling through an excruciatingly troubled life. There’s nothing artistic about it, just as there was nothing genius in Elvis’ final bow.

And what did Lisa Marie Presley lose 30 years ago? Her father.

There’s nothing rock ‘n’ roll about that.

August 13, 2007

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

A lot of bad news out there…

SO, I turn, as I so often do these days, to the one steady supply of good news: America’s LGBTQ community.

DON’T ASK DON’T TELL IS A THING OF THE PAST!

President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., Dec. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama has put his signature to certification of the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which means that the ban on openly gay and lesbian members of the U.S. military officially ends in 60 days, or on Sept. 20.

“Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” the president said today after signing the repeal certification, adding that he had indeed “certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.”

The president continued, “As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. … Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.”

Obama also praised “our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.”

That will make for a lovely birthday present, thank you very much US Congress and President Obama! When I wake up on my birthday on September 21, America will be one nice, big step closer to perfecting our union.

And thank you, LGBTQ community, for continuing to fight for that greater perfection. Your straight brothers and sisters owe you a debt of gratitude — and not just because you’re the only folks who deliver good news anymore.

And I had to walk uphill both ways.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s been hot.

Hot in the Middle West, hot in the South, hot in the East, hot for the Hottentots, no doubt. Only in the Pacific Northwest — where they have, apparently, had 78 minutes of summer so far (according to actual scientists) — has it been anything other than Really Really Hot.

Once upon a time, I lived in a city where this kind of hot was de rigueur at this time of year. Every year. Every day. From June 30 to September 10, give or take (with an inevitable resurgence just in time for Yom Kippur, when those who fast may not have so much as a sip of water) — heat just like this.

It doesn’t cool down on summer evenings in Tel Aviv, and the humidity could fairly easily be cut with a knife. You could make little tofu-like cubes of the humidity, and stir-fry them on the sidewalk, at midnight, is what I’m saying.

And back when I lived there, in the 80s and 90s, nobody but the rich had air-conditioning.

I was not, as you may have surmised by now, counted among the rich.

Here, though, in the gentle exile of American suburbia, I have air-conditioning up the wazoo! And if I keep certain windows shaded morning to night, it doesn’t even have to work all that hard to counteract the blast furnace with which we and the Hottentots must now grapple.

All of which means that I do not have to do any of the following semi-crazy things that I used to do, just to cool down, in Tel Aviv:

  1. Take upwards of three showers a day; allow my hair to drip down my back for as long as possible. Then wet my hair again.
  2. Sleep upside down, so that the fan could be right at my face.
  3. Dampen a sheet, and wrap myself in it at bedtime.
  4. Go to Jerusalem.
  5. Stick my head in the freezer.

Of these five activities, clearly #4 represented the nadir of my misery. Because, dude: Jerusalem is awful.

But for two glorious months of the year, when the sun had set and the breeze had returned, leaving Tel Aviv for the chaotic, dirty capital actually made sense.

One time, I remember, I even had to put on a sweater.

PS Just for the record: I really did used to stick my head in the freezer. You know: Now and then. If I happened to be passing. But I’m kind of short, so it would only last for a few seconds.

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