Friday, June 29, 2012

Miss Holocaust Beauty Pageant

the title says it all.  i would say 'only in america,' but this pageant was held recently in Israel, and sponsored by a holocaust-remembrance group. there are pix in the newspaper article of the women strutting in their gowns, being made-up, etc.  presumably they didn't have a talent contest, but maybe surviving was considered a talent: each one told her story.  even seeing this in a still photo, i had the sense i was on an acid trip watching the old "Queen for a Day' show.  how do you judge the best holocaust story? 'well, miss haifa's story is very moving--watching her parents die of typhus....but is it as good as miss tel aviv's memory of being gang raped in front of the gas chamber?... but you gotta admit she looks great for an 85-year-old who went through all that! and how gracefully she walks!' okay, i made up the quotes. but i can get by with it--nothing i could possibly say could match the tastelessness and vulgarity and trivializing of the whole concept.  'springtime for hitler' was meant to be funny. this wasn't.  maybe instead of the conga line they all danced to, they should have done the chorus dance to that song, shaping themselves into a swastica.

beauty contests themselves are horribly demeaning events, even if the winner plays vivaldi on a banjo while knitting a flag.  to combine it with the holocaust....shit, what else can i say?  sickening.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Insanities of Language

'shit' is worse than 'damn.'
'fuck' is worse than both of them.

so sex is worse than defecation, and both are worse than eternal hellfire.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

news from the Great Aunt

brief trip to ny to meet the baby finally. she's perfect.  played 'catch' with the 3 year old, who is wonderful but wearing.  favorite quote, "i'm mad at aunt karen."
'why are you mad at me?'
'because i love you!'

figure that one out!  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

book recommendation: not quite 'summer reading', but terrific reading

i'm a big fan of well-done historical fiction.  my usual era is medieval/early Renaissance, but my most recent read is patricia o'brien's 2008 harriet and isabella, about the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin,  Harriet Beecher Stowe, and her suffragist sister Isabella, as well as the rest of the Beecher siblings around the time of the huge scandal around their famous preacher brother Henry Ward Beecher and his probable affair with his best friend's wife.  Fascinating piece of US history, and I like the fact that I got to meet Isabella: when you think of Harriet's sister, you almost always think of Catherine, writer of domestic books for housewives---and she does appear quite a bit in the novel.  But I never knew about Isabella, certainly my kind of woman!  During the scandal  she was the only sibling to believe in Henry's "guilt," and urged him to admit it, explain it, repudiate, and get on with his life and work.  He didn't and Isabella was banished from the family circle.  In that sense, she comes across as the Beecher who loves her brother best, since she believes in his guilt and never ceases to love and admire him.  (She was also among the few of the major suffragists who accepted Victoria Woodhull for who she was, and remained loyal to her as well--the only one who visited woodhull in prison.)  Beautifully written, and with the crucial ability to take these people on their own terms in their own era (which she captures with great detail.]

If this appeals to you, I'd also recommend Marge Piercy's  The Sex Wars.  It's a larger book, both in subject and length, whose major characters include Woodhull, Anthony Comstock (of the  infamous Comstock Law), Elizabeth Cady Stanton, etc.  And of course the Beecher clan figures into it, as does one fictional character, a working class woman (few of whom are documented enough to find specific info on--but Piercy is able to reconstruct the life of such a woman from contemporary documents.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bristol Palin Sounds Like Something You Take for an Upset Stomach

shouldn't be posting now--late, up early the next few mornings, with all the stuff i'm suddenly doing, no time to think profound blog thoughts.  so here's one that's brief and not awfully profound.  was watching 'drop dead diva,'  and it went to commercials.  i was about to hit the mute button when i saw that lifetime channel was starting to pump its upcoming reality series 'bristol palen: life's a tripp.' and there she is with her poor little toddler, tripp.

i have never cared much about celebrities' lives, unless they're doing something interesting or challenging or if they really have anything intelligent to say.  i've heard bristol enough [that being about 5 minutes altogether] to know the unlikelihood of any of those alternatives.  at the same time, trashing someone b/c they're family of a hateful politician seems wrong.  bristol, after all, didn't pick her mother.  she did pick her boyfriend and it seems like that was a bad choice.  but shit, i've made worse romantic choices than that;  most people have.  so here is a teenage girl who has sex with her boyfriend and doesn't use birthcontrol so she gets pregnant. no reason she should hide any of that--she chose not to abort or to give the kid up for adoption when it became a kid and not just an embryo. and with family help, she's gonna raise him. lots of women make that choice, and most don't have the resources young palin has.  in a way it's really nice that we're so far past the days when a girl like bristol would have been sent out of town to visit an aunt and return a couple of months later looking happy and healthy and thin and everyone saying how great it was  for her just to de-stress with good old auntie mustache.

on the other hand, that doesn't qualify her to go around the country giving speeches about how to avoid teen pregnancy.  if she were a leftie, a radical feminist, or just a free spirit, it might be interesting.  look how happy a single mom can be with her kid.  it really could help girls of fewer means deal with a decision they need to make.  but we all know that ain't bristol.  somehow, dragging the poor kid with her, she's gonna be telling other girls not to do what she did.

isn't there some sort of child-protection agency that can get tripp away from her?  he's gonna be spending a significant part of his impressionable youth hearing mommy telling people she did something bad and that's why tripp exists.  embrace abstinence, my sisters, and this won't happen to you!  that's the message that has to come out, even as she cuddles the boy and tells us and him how much she loves him. he was born of Sin--or at least of lousy luck.  so now we'll have a new paradigm for the poor little rich boy.

and by the way, on the promo, as she walks away into semi-shadows in her tight shirt and pants, she looks awfully seductive.  shall we expect her to meet a nice young fellow on the show, and be friends, and soon have another example of the wages of sin?

if she wants fame, why doesn't she get on 'animal planet' and go shark hunting? i'd feel bad for the shark, but everything worthwhile comes with inconveniences. and maybe tripp could be adopted by some nice married opposite-sexed fundies who've always wanted a son. comfortable obscurity away from his wacko family might give him a chance of growing up human.  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Some Only Semi-coherent Thoughts on Old Pop Music

not much posting these days; working on this 'homemade' women in media textbook seems to be taking up my writing energy--especially now when i'm working on the subject i know least about and don't like--women in pop music--which really means women in rock. i do this course and my tv in american life class historically, but since pop music has been around forever, i'm starting with the 1950s, when the roots of the stuff they listen to today began.  it's funny with that; when i was a kid i hated rock.  well, as an aging woman, i still do--but the rock i hated in the 50s is stuff i like now, at least in small doses. the girl groups, but also jerry lee lewis....roy orbson... orbson still feels, to my prejudiced ear, like a brilliant voice in a banal medium. felt the same, maybe even more, about patsy cline.  can't take c&w seriously, but her, i certainly can.

 in the 60s i liked rock, except motown.  i never liked shrieking sounds.  but i did come to like the beatles, at least through the sergeant pepper album, and even the early stones, though their contempt for women was already pretty clear, and mick jagger always looked like a humorless don knots.  the mamas and the poppas, donova;, blood, sweat and tears. never joplin, though i was sad for her death; never, still, aretha franklin.

  i liked the folk stuff more. i don't think any '60s leftie could fail to love phil ochs.  dylan i've always preferred when someone else was singing his songs.  but what songs!  until he decided to be a c&w singer, or what i called the gene autry album.  lay lady lay indeed!  joni mitchell, always a category of her own.  still think of 'last time i saw richard' when i'm feeling sad and sorry for myself--those dark cafe days....baez, even after her ghastly ''girls say yes to boys who say no to the draft'' speech--when i heard it, the women's movement hadn't started, and my objection wasn't the insult to women so much as a familiarity with the anti-war movement, and a gut feeling that while i would proudly support any draft dodger, i knew enough of them who were simply unattractive, and i had no intention of becoming a peacenik camp follower.  listening to her now, i can hear the quality of the voice, and also its limits.  a thin voice, but she chose music suited to it.  and i loved her pre-feminist politics.  anyway, we all had to learn the implications of the new word but old phenomenon, sexism.  odetta--amazing, deep, like a contralto, and carrying in it every emotion the song spoke to  when she sang the old spirituals that had been updated with the civil rights movement, you heard all sorrow and anger of the past and present simultaneously,  shaking the illusion that the past no longer existed.   and the older songs--'if i had a ribbon bow',  and the sometimes bluesy stuff.  powerful, with no loss of beauty in the voice. buffy saint marie--''now that the buffalo's gone,' 'codine,'  but also the bouncy 'cripple creek.'

nice to be revisiting some of those singers now.  and at least when i read and write about joplin and franklin, i only have to think about them--not listen to them. i still like when pbs does one of its endless  rock retrospectives, to watch tina turner with the mute button pushed.  an incredible presence: when you watched her, the powerful and stunning body moving with such defiant confidence, you thought if a bulldozer ran into her the bulldozer would break and she wouldn't miss a move.

well, there it is--i'm almost done with the first draft of the '70s.  and then only 3 decades to go...