January 17, 2004

Don't write home without it

An editor's editor, Sol Stein has provided advice to writing giants. Wouldn't hurt us bloggers to incorporate some of it either.

I like what Stein advises here:

Stein's formula, 1+1=1/2, designed to remind writers that conveying the same matter more than once in different words diminishes the effect of what is said. If the same matter is said in two different ways, either alone has a stronger effect.

I liked this advice.



The lowest common denominator

Dean Landsman has a dilemma, along with a case of whiplash of the heart I'm familiar with. Dean has had a long-time business relationship with a particular business partner, who, in the midst of a heated argument with Dean a few days ago, resorted to racial slurs. Dean, thankfully, spares us what the guy called him or told him, but gives a good description of how it feels to find out that someone you've known a long time thinks about you in a way you never thought they would. In other words, the insult is all the worse because you like the person, or you thought you did:

From a source so surprising. A friend, or so I thought. A colleague, someone I?ve known for years. Done business with him, shared war stories, considered a friend, an associate, a colleague. Always had a sense of trust, of him being a person of substance, of honor, all those worthy things. Respectable. A decent guy.

It's a betrayal of a special kind. It has happened to me, has happened to George more overtly. It is a particular form of racism that I think is more prevalent in the north, especially the northeast, than in the south, where they call a spade a spade, so to speak.

Dean is looking for feedback, because, as misfortune or fortune would have it, his livelihood at this moment is entwined with this one-time friend.

I have to think about this myself. I hate remembering this kind of bullshit. It enrages me.

Get Your War on Mars

Saturday morning humor-reality break. BLAHAHAHA!

The only reason I haven't written about this latest insanity of the current dadministration is that I thought my head might explode. They ought to just put me in charge of the national budget. What's the diff? I don't know where zero is either.

January 16, 2004

My old neighborhood

I was thinking about my old neighborhood tonight. Not "old" as in the last place we lived, but old as in when I was a kid. After my father died, my mother had to sell our farm in Penfield, New York, and we moved to a modest surburban house in Irondequoit. Actually, right here. Wow. There it is. Star marks the spot.

I lived there from age 6-16, my growing up period. Tonight I'm thinking about some of my friends in the neighborhood. My elementary school on Briarwood. Riding my bike up to the plaza on Titus Ave.

They're really close tonight, these remembrances. I wonder why.

Me and Heather

Heather and I met when we were in second grade. By fourth grade we were smoking at the school playground anytime we could sneak there. She was my best friend. I haven't seen her in 25 years, but I remember her from the platform sandles to the bone-straight hair. I remember when she permed it--I thought that was so cool. I remember when her acne went insane, and years later when she got skin treatments that made it go away, I remember our clothes, her cotton shirt, I remember teaming up to take packs of cigarettes from the grocery store, I remember the way she walked--that kind of walk some teenage girls have where they swing their arms like they're bowling with both hands.

I hope she's doing okay. I miss ya Heather.

The day I got David Hartman in Trouble

We were in fourth grade. I had gotten creative the night before, borrowed my mother's driver's license, and made such a presice replica--even pasted a little photo of me on it--that when I showed it to David Hartman in Mrs. Bush's class, he screeched. Out loud. In the middle of class.

"She has a license, Mrs. Bush! She can drive!!!! Look! Look! (turning to me) show it to her!"

I stuffed it in my pocket and looked innocent.

David got yelled at and I was glad I had my license.

Run around Sue

She was bigger than me in fifth grade and could punch harder. She was the only one who could make me wince from a punch in the arm. Buckle at the knees even. Sue. The only kid I was ever afraid of. She was a born leader. I wasn't easily persuaded as a kid unless it was to do something I wanted to get in trouble for anyhow. But when Sue said "this is what we're doing," then that is what we did.

We were more mature physically than our classmates. We both had our period in fifth grade. She showed me what tampons were and told me how to use them instead of cumbersome pads and belts. Yes, young ones, they didn't have stickum on the bottom 'back in the day.')

I lost touch with Sue once we moved to Virginia when I was 16. We moved back to Rochester a year or two later. I called her on the phone once, but we didn't have much in common anymore. Sue was still bossing people around and looking for trouble. I never ended up getting together with her.

I wonder where she is now. She was a born leader. Probably in some consulting firm someplace getting there early and staying late.

Maybe she's blogging.

Life is strange.

No, it didn't stick

remember earlier when I was all swoony over the sleep I got this morning? Yah, well, it turned out to feel more like a nap after all. I found my dark place after all.

George Luther King

George talks about MLK in a post that MLK would probably like.


I was talking to a friend yesterday who has baby number one on the way. Four more weeks. I remembered what that time was like, and he confirmed what I remembered:

what on earth will we do with a baby?
like right here--it will be right here with us, all the time.
right now I'm getting the cream out of the refrigerator--but pretty soon a baby will be here too. what? how does that work?
what if i screw up. what if i screw up bad?
what if i never sleep again?

Of all the things I worried about, sleep is the only one that's turned out to be the bear I thought it would. Sleep. Restful sleep. Sleeping in. Not being woken up, but waking up.

That goes away, unless you have a night nurse or nanny or something. I didn't. Just a baby, now a child, who doesn't like to go to sleep and doesn't like much to stay asleep, unless, I have now discovered, it's a school day.

Today after I dropped Jenna off at 8:00, I did something I haven't done in years. I came home, went back to sleep, and slept til noon. Now here's the thing. I could have stayed asleep all day. My skin, my brain, my muscles, my breathing--so relaxed, so happy for numbing-nothing-soft-movies-playing-in-my-brain daytime sleep. It was wonderous. It felt like a Bills-game Sunday from my pre-mom, pre-hussle-and-bussle Atlanta life. All that was missing was a tray of nachos in the bed.

Don't get me wrong, I've taken an afternoon nap or two in my day, but I'm a very poor napper. I usually wake up suicidal. I don't know why--it has always been that way. Sleeping in = good feelings. Napping = hurl-self-off-building feelings.

This morning was all good feelings.

Nice. Soft. Pillowlicious sleep. Covers and pillows and comforters. Cotton and flannel. Quiet. Shh. Move in and out of dreams as I wish, twist dreams from sad to sweet, then wake up slowly, a little at a time, think about it, tease myself awake, no jolts, just peaceful waking.

Now I'm ready for anything.

But what I want is to go back to sleep.

Parental Reality Check

You all know by now of my frustration with Jenna's school and the kindergarten class and teacher. They've made me so angry over the last several months that is difficult for me to view incidents through a fair and balanced lens--like I would if the school didn't suck, for example. But it does suck. Anyway, let me run this by you.

The last two days the students in Jenna's kindergarten have been talking about Dr. Martin Luther King. [[my bias voice--yah, the teachers are all excited about it because they get monday off]]. I would estimate that discussions about Dr. King have totaled a maximum of 20 minutes--10 each day--and that's being generous.

Yesterday when I picked Jenna up and we were driving home, she asked me about Dr. King. Told me how he wanted everything to be fair, for brown people and peach people to respect each other, and that they put him in jail for his good ideas. She began sobbing, weeping.

"Mommy--did you know that a man shot him with a gun and killed him? He's dead because a man shot him. Oh mommy, when the teacher told us that I wanted to cry, i wanted to cry all day but I couldn't because no one else was sad, and a few minutes after the teacher laughed, but I still felt soooo sad. Why? Why did that happen?"

Sob, cry.

I comforted her, told her it was okay to be sad and to cry about it. I told her how his ideas are still with us and about how his family lives right here in Atlanta (a detail the teacher didn't provide) and that the King Center is here--how if she wanted to learn more we could go sometime, and stuff like that.

She stopped for a while, and then started asking about the man who killed him, and why did he do that, and what happened to him, and did I ever meet Dr. King or the man who shot him?

Bottom line, she was in tears on and off during the evening when she'd start thinking about what she learned. I didn't make a big deal about it, was just careful to walk the line between "it's okay to let it out" and distrating her with other things to do.

SO, my question is, am I insane or are there a WHOLE LOT of things you could teach in 15-20 minutes on MLK besides how he died. I mean, maybe you MENTION to kindergarteners that he died but his ideas live on. But do you REALLY need to tell 5-6 year olds--especially my idea-filled kid--that he was killed because of his ideas? Could we save that, maybe, for second grade? Do you NEED to tell them about the gun and being shot? Could you not spend what little time you have to teach it on what peace means, draw what a peaceful world looks like, talk about love, talk about equality, talk about other heroes of the civil rights movement?


Or am I the one with crazy ideas?

January 13, 2004

The World Will End in 23.6 Seconds

That's all I can figure. In reading and thinking today, I decided that the Deanies' rhetoric, phrasing, and tactics feel more like a high control group or cult than a campaign, I searched for Dean and Cult and found this article in the weekly standard (lower case on purpose).

I agree with it.

My life is a wash.

Shelley is right--the noise is too loud.

The day I agree with a two-page article in a conservative rag like the weekly standard is obviously the day I should start watching the sky for the grand finale.

It's okay. I'm ready.

Are you?

In the event that the world does not end in 23.6 seconds, and that Dean loses in November, trust me, there will be Nikes and Kool-Aid. I am ready to start a poll now on the number of building jumpers.

Proof to you that I've gotten very ill from all of this.

Talk about a double bind: dean or bush, dean or bush, battery acid or death by fire. There is officially no answer. Except to move. Far. Away.

If I live to see the 24th second after this post, I am going to go spend a good deal of online time here in Georgia's virtual library. With free books and free databases that reconnect me with the minds and words and voices of individuals. I took Jenna back to the realworld library tonight and came home with a tote bag of books. I'm so excited. There is something comforting these days about the static page. At least to me.

I'll see you in the stacks.

When the comment spammers are more of a community than we are

Shelley's back, sounding justifiably frustrated by threads and cords that are winding together on the net in a way that is choking the written voice of the individual.

I can't disagree with a word. While I haven't been plagued by the comment spammers who seem to have found their new killer ap in MT's comment system, I understand what Shelley is saying about seeing in them something we can envy -- their twisted spin on an ability we as bloggers used to have.

They watch, they interpret, and then they do their dirty deed. They're paying attention.

Shelley is right about the current state of weblogging, where the roar of the blog collective is drowning out our individual voices. Just as we numbed out after decades of bombardment by mass media (and so we came here), so too the blogworld goes bigtime. It's not good enough to simply read and write and resonate. We've come to look for the next sensation, thrill, influencer, conference, must-do, must-attend, gotta meet.

Yes, I do think a divide is emerging within a medium that attracted us initially by its flatness--no one really weilding any more power than another except through the quality of their writing and ideas and the strength and power of their individual voice.

You see, there was nothing to gain through blogging in the early days. It was my voice informing her voice informing his voice: our whole was greater, but our parts were pretty cool too. There was nothing to lose, specifically, or to benefit from. There weren't as many pundits and VCs and CEOs and politicians and top dogs playing. WE were all top dogs by virtue of being someplace those types weren't.

Now bloggers fly hither and yon for conferences, for meetings, to campaign for the latest answer to humanity's (that's US humanity, of course) ills. And the physically connected bloggers create this new hyper/physical space where they talk and move and network and exchange money--and where does that leave our online space and those of us who choose not to ride the blog train?

I have met two bloggers and one lovely blog-spouse: Halley and AKMA and Margaret. I wouldn't trade meeting them for the world. They are unique and individual and wonderful. There are also bloggers I talk to by phone, some regularly and some once in a while.

Equally as important to me, there are some webloggers whose voices I've never heard but who are in my thoughts frequently, some who I may never meet. And yet I know them the way I always have, and I like something about the constant of those relationships--the lack of expectation that they ever be anything else. In this world, that is nice.

Part of my recent voicing of my distate for Howard Dean, I confess, has everything to do with electing him as President of the webloggers association, and my fears over what it will do to blogging if he wins. I can already hear the weekend political shows, the nightly news, and their spin on how the Internet, a weblog particularly, elected our next President. Instead of a partnership among human beings who also happen to have professions, we will become a "target market." What do bloggers like to drink? Try Mountain Dew for Bloggers!

What do you think that will do to our neighborhood? Mainstream media and advertising will be parking on our lawns, running over our pets and kids, and creating mainstream mayhem out of what used to be a beautiful path through a secret forest.

Neither Shelley or I can change the things we wish we could. Not saying we'd change the same things, but in our inability to even make a dent in what is becoming the "establishment" of weblogging rests a common frustration. I recognize my frustration when I read of hers.

It can make a broad grumpy.

So, Shelley, I hope you'll stay for a while and keep writing and saying what you think. You always make me think a little deeper. I just wish it didn't make me so sad sometimes.

January 12, 2004

tidying up the net--a blogspot amnesty program?

I was thinking today as I put the dishes in the dishwasher--have I mentioned our garbage disposal has been broken for a month or so? the perils of life in suburbia--anyway, I was thinking about how long it will be before we have to clean up after all the abandoned blogs on the net. Confess--even you've started blogs you don't post to anymore. Right?

I must have about a dozen. I mean to clean them up. I think about deleting them sometimes, but I'm attached to some of them. I like the names of some of them: humansfirst.blogspot.com, hyperlinkedmom, instapoet, webeyes. I like the templates I fiddled with on some of them. But there are at least five of them that I know I won't post to again. I don't need them. But I don't delete them either.

What am I waiting for?

I'm waiting for the blogspot amnesty program, like those gun amnesty programs when folks with spare firearms hanging around can turn them in, no questions asked, and get ten bucks or a certificate for a free pizza.

What say, google? When will you be ready to make it worth our while to tidy up your servers, the web, by turning in dead and abandoned weblogs? What if we narc on a friend--do we get two free toppings on our pizzas? Hey, I wouldn't complain.

Either that, or I'm waiting for ICANN to ad a .blog extension for domain names. I mean really, we have .TV for crying out loud. How bout a .blog?

Or might that be redundant in five years? Will every site be a weblog? Or will every weblog be a site?

Whatever happens, I'm hanging on to my dead blogs for now. I'm holding out for extra cheese, mushrooms, onions, and banana peppers.


Something I've been stewing about (without writing about it) regarding Howard Dean made a showing today, (see here too) and doesn't it color me red to see Al Sharpton take the words right out of my mouth on Dean not having clue one about America's other half.

Really, it was this article on Africana.com done the day before Dean appologized for the confederate-flag-waving-redneck-in-a-pickup-truck comment that made me say: This dude sounds like a New Englander who's never been anyplace else.

In the Africana.com interview, Dean was asked about his redneck comment this way: "To a lot of people your comments about being the candidate for the guys with Confederate flags on their trucks seemed to be about catering to white southerners at the expense of black democratic voters."

[[Here, let me tell you what Dean might have said if he hadn't been trying to sound like Dean being "way cool" on the race issue: "What the hell are you talking about? Are you implying that blacks in the south are equal to rednecks, and that somehow I've elevated rednecks over blacks because I said I'm the man every redneck should vote for? Are you insane? What I was SAYING was that I'm the guy who can BRING conservative gun-toting rednecks and the blacks they despise together to vote for me, because I have a weblog."]]

The fact is that Dean has no clue about the southern half of the U.S., as evidenced in his confederate flag comment, and in his case the south means anything located geographically below Massachusetts. He ran a state that is 98-percent white, and had no diversity on his cabinet, and thinks it counts that he had a lone member of one minority group or another sitting somewhere on the fifth floor during his administration.

OH BUT WAIT! He wants to take America back. (That's not black, that's b-a-c-k.) I forgot.


What Dean did say is this:

That's mostly people twisting around my words. I gave a speech last February where I said it's time for white guys from the South who drive pick up trucks to vote with us because their kids don't have healthcare either.

Okay folks. Let me run that by you again. Ready?

I gave a speech last February where I said it's time for white guys from the South who drive pick up trucks to vote with us because their kids don't have healthcare either.


You mean because all blacks in the south are uneducated, unemployed, and are without health insurance Howard?

Holy! Only a Vermonter can get away with saying that. Okay, let's move on:

What I'm trying to do is rebuild the alliance that Franklin Roosevelt put together of working class white southerners and working class African Americans in the South, because all the progress that we've made in this country had to do with when black voters, white voters and brown voters vote together.

Typical deanspeak, which when translated means: "What I'm trying to do is get elected. I'm trying to get elected."

For white voters in the South to be voting for a president who gave $26,000 in tax cuts to the top 1% when they don't even make $26,000 is abysmal. The Democrats have got to bring in white working class voters. I think the biggest misconception is that that this will be at the expense of African American voters. I think that's completely false."

Exactly who's conception is this? Does anyone think that 1) conservative working class whites in the south are the ones driving pickup trucks with confederate flags in them? Please tell me only Howard Dean thinks this. Please tell me you don't think this. and 2) That southern blacks would run screaming from the polls if they saw confederate-loving white boys voting for howard dean?

African American voters have supported this party to the tune of 92, 96%. Nobody in my administration is ever going to turn their back on African American voters, but we have to broaden this base if we're going to start winning in the South and there's no reason not to win in the South.

Deanslation again: "I'm trying to get elected here. I would never turn my back on any constituencey that votes democratic 92-96% of the time. But blacks and browns alone aren't enough to get me elected. I need poor whites too. Asian? What's an Asian?

Another question--check this out: George W. Bush filed an amicus brief in the University of Michigan case regarding affirmative action ? how would you respond to attempts to end race as a factor in educational and hiring decisions?

I'm a strong supporter of affirmative action. I say in my speeches that I think it's important for white politicians to talk to white audiences about race and I do that in a way that nobody else does. I understand that's a controversial comment, but I stick by it. What I talk about is the unconscious bias that everybody has toward hiring people like themselves. I talk about the Wall Street Journal study that showed that a white person with a drug conviction is more likely to be called back for a job interview than a black person with a clean record. As long as that kind of behavior goes on, we need to have an open dialogue on race in this country and it needs to be led by white politicians because it's often white people who are unaware of their own biases ? as everybody has ? I mean, black people have unconscious biases too, but since white people do most of the hiring we need to have a nation-wide dialogue including everybody about the unconscious biases that we have. Since there's a disproportionate number of white folks doing the hiring, it results in institutional, if unintended, racism.

Again, one more time with feeling:

I mean, black people have unconscious biases too, but since white people do most of the hiring we need to have a nation-wide dialogue including everybody about the unconscious biases that we have. Since there's a disproportionate number of white folks doing the hiring, it results in institutional, if unintended, racism.

Did he just say that having more blacks in HR would solve joblessness among blacks? Does this guy live in America? And has this guy worked--I mean, like, in a job? I guess since he's a doctor, maybe not. Because, you see, he thinks that because white people do most of the human resources work in American corporations, if we can just make White HR Managers more sensitive to their biases, that might help blacks get jobs?

Does he know how many minorities work in HR? Does he know that, um, HR isn't making the hiring decisions in most organizations? That their job is to get folks in for interviews with people who do make hiring decisions--you know, the ones who don't want to hire blacks? Does he have any idea of the depth of these issues aside from what they mean to his campaign?

Come on!

And the worst part--and I do mean the worst part--is that the interviewer didn't ONCE challenge him, make him back up, make him explain. That's when Dean gets in trouble. When he has to explain what he means.

Look, I don't have time to go through this point by point. But you blacksfordean and africanamericansfordean need to have a talk with your man, maybe take him around the south for a while before he gets here. Something. ANYTHING.

Otherwise you'll never get those whiteguysinpickupsfordean where you want them.

(BTW, did blacksfordean and africanamericansfordean move up to featured sites on blogforamerica today, in light of the Sharpton comments, or have they been up there all along--I don't remember. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. Or is it.)

Others weigh in here and here. But it gets way better over here.

poem 1

as yet untitled

Talk, would you?
Mahogany legs
thick, sculpted
and just enough
of an edge
at the base
to slice a finger or
passing toe.

At six, seven, eight
nothing seemed wrong
with breaking off
the aging ivory tops
from the keys,
a square chip here
a triangle there,
amazed at the
I could make,
each one
its own way
of reminding me
which note
to play,
my own song
where shape
and sound converge.

At the end
of my afternoon lessons
I'd close the top
around the keyboard
so no one could see
the damage I'd done,
how many keys
I'd deformed this day
by picking off
the pieces.

That need I had
to snap
just one more edge
of white.
High C
shouldn't have been
that hard to

The imprint
of my father's fingers
etched into the
end of every key,
where they yellowed
and tapered
to a thousand points
like teeth
or the serrated edge
of a knife.

Once ignited
the compulsion was
its own fuel.
Just one more
to even things out.

The notes I never learned,
but something more:
To take what his hands
had touched,
take it for my own.
And another:
the beauty of
smooth things made rough
and then smooth again -
the beauty of a solution, a cure.

It was after all
a kind of surgery.

I kept the broken tips
in a small box
like pieces of a puzzle
that would never

In this way
a child makes sense
of her world.

Hey, hello, happy new year, how've you been?

That's how an indie networks. Yes, yes. These are the first weeks of the year, and it's slow as molassass around these parts, so Jeneane's puttin' on her networking shoes and saying hidey-ho to all the folks she ignored while she was so busy she couldn't see straight except to be crabby at night and fall fast asleep once her little girl was tucked in. Or blogging. Whichever.

There's nothing like checking in with the folks from whence you came to kick the new year into gear. And there's nothing funnier and more predictable than phone check-in's among the one-time laid off.

If you heard one end of the conversation, you'd hear something like this:

HELLO YOU! How are you? Happy frigging New Year! THANKS! Oh they're fine. Hanging in there. Too damn cold. What have you been up to? Oh it was busy--slow now. Yah, no kidding. Mmmhmm. Feels like August was. February's gonna suck. What do you have coming in? Daaaaag. I know. Heard from anyone at Ketchum? Is there anyone left? Ha ha ha! Oh shit. I know. Yep. Me too. Oh, no WAY! Yep. You too? Did you hear Drobis retired? Yah, well... That's for sure!!! He did what? She said what?! BLAHAHAHA!!!

Good for the soul.