Sunday, August 23, 2009

belle and sebastian: look, there is animation, mayka

paul weller

So yeah years later than everyone else I've started using I typed in The Style Council, and let me tell you, there's a lot of Brit Pop... and at the same time, there is not. Paul Weller is everywhere. This is really good. And then there is this:

health care (I)

I have been planning to write something about health care reform, and about the differences in health care systems between the US and Sweden. But I haven't gotten anywhere because every time I think about it I get angry. I can't handle the 'Obama is Hitler' arguments, and I can't handle the misconceptions in America about what nationalized health care really is, and how it works. A decent society takes care of its citizens, that's how I feel. And anyone who doesn't understand that... See, this is where I get mad. HOW can anyone not understand that?

So, I was really happy when I found this article in by an American who lived in London for 12 years. Thanks, Stephen Amidon, for being cooler than I.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

hydrangea bulb


morning glory


boycott whole foods

This is why the Whole Foods boycott is interesting: Whole Foods' customers are educated people with time and money on their hands. That's why they shop at the stores to begin with; they make choices. They are more likely to bother with finding alternatives than someone who is pressed for time and money.

I'm invested in health care reform. The words "pre-existing condition" carry more weight when they apply to you, I can assure you that.

I will not spend my money at a store whose CEO is out to make it harder for the bill to pass. In his Wall Street Journal piece he says,

While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

I happen to think that food and shelter are rights too, in a decent society. But, then again, I don't make my money selling one or the other.

Friday, August 14, 2009


leningrad cowboys

I just remembered this band... and half an hour of youtubing later, I found another gem. Watch it.

In my mind Leningrad Cowboys are linked to this song by Sting. I hate it. Of course Russians love their children. I can't handle Sting, and I can't handle Bono. Sorry.

"the funeral parlor of the gods"

Very funny story in Vanity Fair about Larry King as 'America's grief counselor'.

sorry whole foods, I'll get my organic milk elsewhere

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., quotes Margaret Thatcher and speaks out against Obama's health care reform. Here is his op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. And here is an LA Times write-up. And one from The Huffington Post that's pretty funny. And mad.

Of course there is a Facebook group: Boycott Whole Foods. I've joined.

There are discussion forums on the Whole Foods site. One person writes: I'm a long time customer who has been shopping at your original Austin store since the '80s.
From this day forward I'll take my business elsewhere. Suck it Mr. Mackey.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I just figured out that you have to be a talker before you can be a writer. Thanks, 10 years of teaching.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

eunice kennedy shriver

The legacy of a sister to the president. Doesn't it cross your mind how the world might have been different had we had gender equality?

Monday, August 10, 2009

what took me so long?

Yesterday we ground up some green cardamom pods with the coffee beans and put in the low-tech espresso maker. Wow.


I know someone who is trapped in his own body in a horrific and heartbreaking way. This is his favorite song:


Here it is, Julia Child cooking in "Oslo":

Saturday, August 08, 2009

hybrid culture

So, yeah, Julie & Julia is lovely. Meryl Streep is fantastic as Julia Child, and Stanley Tucci is great as her husband Paul Child.

Paul Child was a foreign-service officer, stationed in Paris, where Julia took up cooking. Later they leave Paris for a post in Marseille, and some time after that they move on to Oslo.

The scenes from Oslo jumped out at me. In case you're wondering, 'Oslo' in an American movie is white painted wood panels in a kitchen, a light wood coffee table, and a wooden bowl. And it was funny to me that even though it's supposed to be Norway, the first thing I see is something Swedish (a print on the wall that I recognize from my grandparent's kitchen).

It doesn't matter, unless we decide that details do matter. (The Norwegian traditional painting style rosemaling is different from the Swedish kurbits.)

But, to speak semiotics, it's not Norway. It's signs for Norway.

Or, as Dan pointed out, it looked like IKEA.

twitteresque tease

Loved Julie & Julia. More to follow.

Friday, August 07, 2009


In several classes that I have taught there have been moments when students have shocked, offended, and disrespected each other. A male student used the n-word (yeah, the actual word) sitting opposite an African American young woman this past spring. A female student called a Chinese immigrant young woman "ranting and raving" when she expressed understandable frustration with dominant culture. I could give more examples, but the pattern is always the same: Strong emotions, a heated discussion, and, usually, apologies made, and apologies accepted. True learning moments - I bet the students remember them.

One time a student said something that made me react with the same kind of fierce emotion. I had asked a class, all sitting in a big circle, to identify their cultural belongings: white, black, Mexican-American, Chinese, Vietnamese, however they wanted to label themselves. It so happened that a few students in a row identified as 'white'. Upon hearing that, the next student, before he spoke, raised his fist and said jokingly, "White power!".

To me that wasn't a joke. I heard those words, and I went cold. A couple of the students jerked. A couple of the students who were not white really jerked. A black guy looked scared.

When you are the teacher you cannot start yelling at a student in the middle of class, so I didn't do that. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I pointed out that what he had said was inappropriate, and I think we moved on.

Before meeting the class again I spoke with a few colleagues. I needed help tempering my emotions, and guidance in how to handle the situation.

The only person I talked to who really understood how I felt was a black sociologist. He told me that naturally a reference to white power would stir up emotions in someone from northern Europe. I hadn't been able to pinpoint it myself, but he was right. Obviously I had reacted strongly because of my own cultural background.

As a white person I don't use the n-word. I can't feel the pain associated with the word, but I know it's there, so I don't use it.

As a foreigner in the US I don't make jokes about 9/11. I can't feel the pain associated with the events of that day the way an American feels it, but I respect the feelings of others.

I think of this when I see the images where President Obama has been made to resemble Adolf Hitler. I think of it when I hear Rush Limbaugh talk about the Democrats using Nazi symbols. It makes me sick to my stomach. It's mind boggling to me that anyone in a democracy would say something so outrageous, with a straight face. The only explanation I can come up with is that if you say it, that proves that you have no idea what you are saying.

And you also have no sense of what it may mean to others. How is that even possible?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

it never rains in california

I actually never rains where I live between April and October. Except for today. It just started, and when it started the rain pulled with it down across town the cloud of bacon fumes that had been lingering since people fried their breakfasts this morning. I have no other explanation for what just happened: rain, with the smell of bacon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

sage advice from robyn

She is quoting Charlie Brown: Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?" Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I've redesigned my homepage. Use Internet Explorer if you look at it... Firefox makes it look randomly weird. (Hear that, Firefox?)


Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

We laughed at Susan Boyle:

- How old are you?
- I am almost 48.
- Hahahahaha!

Will we laugh at a man turning 48?

we all have our own stories to tell

So I was reading this sordid piece about Ryan O'Neal hitting on his daughter Tatum at Farah Fawcett's funeral. Interviewed about the incident in Vanity Fair he says:

"I had just put the casket in the hearse and I was watching it drive away when a beautiful blonde woman comes up and embraces me. I said to her, 'You have a drink on you? You have a car?' She said, 'Daddy, it's me — Tatum!' I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter. It's so sick."

So, yeah, obviously the word 'Swedish' jumps out at me. That explains a thing or two.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

the president is black (III): you're better than this, america

I taught a course earlier this summer that discussed relationships between media, underrepresented groups, and dominant culture. Knowledge and power were important concepts, as were Michel Foucault's observations about situated knowledge, and truth regimes.

The idea is that in a hierarchical society, the world looks different to you depending on where you are standing. The world is different to you depending on where you are standing.

The term 'situated knowledge' points out that knowledge is produced in local social settings, and that there is no objectivity.

But: The more symbolic power you enjoy (=the closer you are to the top of the hierarchy), the more likely it is that your ideas about "truth" coincide with the official version of the truth that is broadcast and printed in commercial media.

So, we learn that there are parallel truths in the world, but that only certain truths will get elevated to be perceived as truths for an entire society, country, or social setting.

Enter Professor Gates, Sergeant Crowley, and President Obama. And Lucia Whalen, and the Beer Summit for Three. (You do the math.)

The twist is this: Even though Barack Obama is the president of the United States, he is also a black man in the US. He knows what the world looks like from the point of enormous privilege, but he also knows what the world looks like from the perspective of black men. He knows what you can do as a black man, what you can't do, and when you will get questioned because you look out of place.

The majority in the US do not have this first hand experience. The majority live by a different set of truths. They often think that there is no difference between people based on race. (Because in their experience there isn't.) They think that if something happens to you, it's because of something you did, not because of who you are, where you are, or what you look like. (Because in their experience, it is.)

Every time someone voices an experience that is not shared by dominant culture, the majority, that act challenges the status quo.

I've seen it a hundred times in my classes. It takes guts, it makes people uncomfortable, and it makes them mad.

Attorney General Eric Holder did it.

And President Obama did it. People have spent a lot of time this past week saying that he shouldn't have said what he said. He shouldn't have weighed in on the side of Henry Gates. They have said that up until now he has avoided divisiveness in racial matters, he has proven that he is 'beyond race'.

It seems to me he had been waiting for this moment. It seemed to me that he was eloquent, speaking freely without notes, for exactly that reason. He had been preparing for it for a long time. He knew exactly what he wanted to say, what hidden truth he thought needed to be lifted up: Racial profiling exists. The world looks different to a black man than it does to someone who is white.

White people, dominant culture people, often think that talking about race makes it worse. That if we don't talk about differences they don't exist. What they fail to see is that that is their truth. It's true for them that if we don't talk about differences they don't exist because they don't exist in their lives. But that is not true for anyone of color, any LBGTQ person, any woman, or anyone with a disability.

So if we don't talk, the only thing we accomplish is more of the same. We continue to buy into the "truth" that is produced by the dominant group, for their own benefit.

I think it's great that the United States has a president who is willing, and prepared, to challenge that.

No, that's an understatement. It make me teary, that's what it does.

And then it makes me mad that the fact that a black president says that "race remains a factor in society" can cause controversy.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

blame google

I can't help but do this. And this.

dr's orders

Last time I had a concussion I was 13 and fell off a horse. This time I was 48, and bumped my head on a tree.

That was on Thursday. Whenever I tell someone that the doctor told me to take it easy for three weeks they respond the same way, "THREE WEEKS???"

The same doctor recently told someone else, who is not all that overweight, to loose 50 pounds.

I think it's fair to say this physician exaggerates.