31 October 2006

My Cat is an Oppressor.

The weather got very cold here last night, down to the mid-20s. What was our cat doing? Sitting in her toasty warm (yay wood-pellet stove!) living room window, licking her paws and staring out at one of the neighborhood strays sitting on the front porch. Our next-door neighbor feeds the strays, but a lot of them love to sleep in our yard, and this one, known as "Big Boy," is huge and loud and chatty and affectionate. So he's sitting on the porch morosely, staring straight inside, directly at Paola who is sitting on the couch looking down on him like Marie Antoinette. If a cat could smirk, she would have been. This stare-off of cruelty went on for about ten minutes before we removed Paola and tried to give her some empathy by taking her outside for a few minutes. It didn't do much. Seriously, how do you train a spoiled housecat to not completely throw her good luck in the face of the less fortunate? I think cats might just be fascist by nature. I'm not sure if that makes dogs communist or not.

Anyway, Happy Halloween, y'all!

30 October 2006

Just Scary, Not Cute

The Thirteen Scariest People in America. I find the judge and the academic to be particularly scary, for obvious reasons (Kevin MacDonald seems to be a good argument against tenure).

Class rant ahead: I have a theory about Halloween that's been percolating for a few weeks now. Halloween is the holiday of the poor and disfranchised and dispossessed in the U.S. This is aside from all its Saturnalia connotations or pagan elements. It's the time when we actually acknowledge that the world is a scary, fucked-up place full of monsters under the bed and capitalists in the closet and warmongers and acts of violence and cruelty committed for their own sake. Compare this to Christmas*, when we are expected to spend frantically in order to prove some notion of universal love and peace and brotherhood -- nothing's scary, everything's beautiful and pure! Classic bourgeois denial mechanism and an annual chance to make yourself feel better (yearly visit to the shelter or church collection plate), along with providing a "much-needed boost to our economy." Halloween on the other hand is cheap and easy -- it's a fun holiday in the trailer park or housing project because most people with access to 99 cents for candy and a needle and thread for costumes can afford to participate in some way (and food stamps work for pumpkins -- later they become pie!). Again, compare this to Christmas (or Thanksgiving -- both falling unfortunately at the end of the month) when those without money or feasts or presents for their kids invariably feel like crap in comparison to the highly commercialized, shiny, sparkly, non-scary lives they're supposed to have. And bags of donated food or old clothes do not make that feeling go away. Goblins of the world, unite! (I also have a theory that working-class folks are more likely to dress up in scary, as opposed to cutesy, costumes -- admittedly based solely on my series of Halloween parties this weekend, but that's another story.)

*Disclaimer: For all my trash talk now, I will totally be rhapsodizing about Christmas and decorating like crazy in approximately a month, because I am a contradictory person and because I have a huge overcompensation thing going on for my own years of donated food Christmases. Plus I am a sucker for pretty things and Christmas is all about the pretty. But I also know that my experience of a pretty Christmas now comes at the price of all those who live in a scary world 365 days a year. So Halloween still feels a lot more real.

29 October 2006

The Cute and the Scary

Yesterday was a day of much festivity and fun. We spent the bulk of the day making crafts and cupcakes, then attempted to run a gauntlet of three separate Halloween parties.

I think the kitty is my favorite.

We ran out of vanilla with the white frosting, so we used (apparently copious amounts of) rum. A dab on your finger was kind of like taking a shot. Let's face it, Martha would totally approve.

What I made yesterday pre-cupcakes: I don't understand how I can wield kitchen shears and wire cutters on the above candy and bead concoctions and never manage to hurt myself but tomatoes foil me. I think it's psychological. I secretly hate tomatoes! We also watched The Neverending Story while I made these. My next animal is named Atreyu.

This boy got hit on by a weird old man at party #2. It's the blond curls. Very Cindy Brady, if she were a Eugene barista from Maine who hadn't shaved in a while.

Little Miss Sunshine, complete with cotton batting barrel-chest, and a cat. Sadly, people mostly could not guess this one at all (and most of them hadn't seen the movie -- I ask you, what are they doing with their time that they are not seeing this movie?). At party #2, someone thought these might just be her normal clothes and tried to politely compliment her on her glasses. Others thought perhaps she was an aerobics instructor.

Olive attacks a pumpkin at party #1.

Pumpkin guts. We managed to spill the bucket of seeds on the floor a moment later. People love it when we come over.

The second "Hell House" variation spotted on the drive to the last of the festivities. There was an ambulance parked out in front -- we were trying to decide if it was for the folks that fainted after seeing the horrors that await sinners, or whether it was part of some reenactment of What Happens When You Drink. Or Dance. Or Smoke. Or Laugh. Laughter is of the devil!

As is the photographer's way, I totally forgot to get a picture of my costume. Picture a cross between Annie Oakley and Jessie (because of the braids) from Toy Story and you've got it about right.

OK -- I need to do some non-crafting work today, like on my slavery syllabus. Sometimes I would like to be sponsored to make crafts and cook and decorate all the time. And that, I know, is where I've completely bought into the domesticity script. I don't deny it. Just because gender is performed doesn't make it less powerful. I'm sure there's a special room in Hell House for feminists.

28 October 2006

Terror in the Corn!

Hit the corn maze last night with some of the history folk. Misty, foggy, ten-foot-high corn stalks, screaming tweens, and the occasionally well-timed chainsaw toting madman jumping out of the corn as we wandered in circles getting lost (and eventually finding the way out) make for some authentic Halloween fun. More pictures on E.'s blog.

Two things:

1. I make a yummy tofu pot pie and red lentil moroccan soup. And I in no way dropped a pie on the floor after taking it out of the oven. That would be ridiculous. But if I had, hey, at least I would know myself well enough to make two, just in case. The second one had a kitty on it! Luckily, since my friends are grad students, they can't be too picky over what they eat and are more than happy to consume food off the floor.

2. I also totally did not trip over a corn stalk and fall on my face in the maze. But if I had, at least it was not because my shoes were on the wrong feet. It was the corn! And my special powers of instant karma were intact, since F. fell as well about ten seconds after laughing hysterically at me. Take that, corn demon!

27 October 2006

Yay for Gluttony!

OK, the good thoughts or dark rituals or whatever you all did paid off. As of last night and this morning, Paola has eaten all her food within about ten seconds flat of it being placed in her bowl, and is back to acting aloof and distant, just like the cat we all know and love. That snuggly, quiet, affectionate behavior when she was sick was deeply freaky, y'all. I can now go back to pretending she will outlive me. Which, given her New York street kitty survival skills and my prediliction for slicing open veins while chopping carrots (again today! -- I blame the inventor of knives), seems more than likely.

26 October 2006

Beware of Redhead

I assumed my bad mood (see below) would persist throughout the day and was fully prepared to launch a ruthless assault on the 60-odd midterms I just received as well as terrifying some hapless LSAT students later tonight. Then I realized after leaving the house this morning that my boots were on the wrong feet. Sadly, this is the third time this has happened with these boots -- they're tall and high-heeled (of course) and vaguely cowboyish, which can make it confusing, but still, one should be able to tell which shoe to put on which foot after the age of 3. They're not uncomfortable when on backwards (though my roommate has told me that the words "not uncomfortable" have no meaning when coming from me in relation to footwear).

The last few times this has happened I have made it all the way to school before someone else, usually E., noticed. Since I was on the bus when I figured it out and since it requires more than one person to remove my boots (I don't want to talk about it), I couldn't exactly whip them off right there, though I'm certain everyone would have enjoyed my fuzzy red snowflake socks. So I wore my shoes on the wrong feet all over town, around the bus station and on two buses. Along the way I stepped on the dangling strap from some kid's backpack and nearly sent him flying into a group of people. I had to sit in the very back on my second bus, which meant that despite my height my feet were dangling off the ground by a good inch (do they make the back seats for GIANTS? seriously). It was at this point that I concluded that I am way too ridiculous to be copping an attitude. I am a slapstick version of myself. Now, instead of being careful of my bad mood, you should just plain be careful. Watch your step after I eat a banana! Or if there's a meringue pie nearby! Plate glass doors, beware! And as many of you know, I cannot be allowed within two feet of a sharp implement (this includes paper) without likely cutting off or otherwise maiming some part of myself and possibly others. I'm my own version of Calamity Jane, except that everything that comes out of my mouth isn't an unintelligible string of profanities (not everything). I think I might need to start wearing a safety helmet when outdoors and some sort of safety mittens in the house. They would go well with my ability to turn regular shoes into clown shoes.

On another note, after spending an hour and a half staring at a class of midterm-taking, sniffling-in-unison undergrads, attempting to intimidate them into not cheating too blatantly, I have concluded the following: the kids at this school are really weird-looking. Kind of like a bunch of little aliens with colds. I blame inbreeding.

P.S. My apologies to those of you with clown phobia or "coulrophobia." I blame my evil twin.

Shut Up White Jesus!

OK, first things first: Please say a prayer, mantra, chant over a candle flame, light up some rolls of hundred-dollar bills (isn't that what you lawyers do to win a case?), whatever, for P-kitty's health. She went off her food for three or four days a few weeks ago, not eating and laying around like a little black furry pile of lethargy. We took her to the vet and ran a battery of ridiculously expensive tests that were ultimately useless as they all came back fine. Then she started eating again and seemed OK. Now she's been not eating or eating very little for the last several days. I don't know what this is about, but I know this needs to stop. Any of you who know Paola know that this is NOT a cat that goes off her food. And, unlike other animals -- dogs, etc. -- if a cat is acting funny it's probably a big deal because they have a very high pain tolerance (like redheads). She's nine years old -- apparently this qualifies her as a senior cat. I am not having any of this kitty mortality crap, so do whatever you need to do.

Second, white Jesus really needs to back the hell up. Yesterday I read a lo-o-ong article by my white Jesus law professor -- so named because at one point he stood in front of class, spread his arms out wide, lowered his head and said, unjokingly, "I can't leave -- (Elite Ivy League Institution) needs me." Not that he needed that half-million dollar salary, he's just sacrificing his desire to go out there and be a social worker in order to be where he's needed, teaching a bunch of mostly legacies or rich kids how to be even richer. It's rough, but he's just a giver. This goes back to A.'s comment on academic gurus from the other day -- this guy has a huge following as a guru (which I totally admit to being a part of, when I'm not ripping on him as a dilettante). And of course, what annoys me the most is that when he thanked our section -- by number -- in the preface to his article he didn't even remember our name, the name he insisted we take as a sign of rebellion against the institutional numbering. Whatever. Then I got to watch white Jesus on "Lost" get strapped to a table like a grungy, shirtless, naughty saviour and sacrifice himself for others. I can't deal with all this faux-selflessness. It's making me grumpy this morning. I need to see some people openly acknowledging the greed and shallowness and selfishness at the root of their choices and actions. I'm going to go read the Wall Street Journal.

25 October 2006

Stuff I Read Last Night

Books from my comps list? Don't be ridiculous.

1) You Don't Have to Be Pretty. Y., you have excellent taste. Love this post, especially for the "prettiness is not rent you pay for occupying a space marked female" comment. And the comment that not being pretty is not something you owe to feminism. (For S. -- nor is being boring and sexless something you owe to academia -- ignore all statements otherwise, they come from boring and sexless people.)

2) Black People Love Us. Someone sent this to me a few years ago and I thought it was brilliant then, and then I stumbled across it again last night looking for anti-racism teachable stuff. Still brilliant. I would love to use this as a teaching tool at some point, because I think humor/satire can be a very effective learning mechanism. Look at Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report* or countless other examples. The thing that kills me about it is the comments page, where at least HALF of the comments are from people who seem genuinely convinced it is for real, and are all uncomfortable and freaked-out because "shhh! it's racist to talk about race! how horrifying!" I live in a bubble. No one I know would not get this. I fully respect disagreeing about whether this is the best method to get the particular message across, but the fact that half the readers fully miss the point...

*One of many reasons I currently adore Stephen Colbert: The way he says, on practically a weekly basis with a perfectly straight face that he's "color-blind" and "doesn't see race." Last week on his "Salute to the American Lady" he defended his calling only on men in the audience to explain women's issues by saying that "like race, I don't see gender, I just see Americans." Awesome.

Then we made homemade pizza, and I beaded some jewelry and went to bed. Lalalala, comps list, I can't hear you. OK, this morning I can, so back to the neverending law review article.

For Jess...

Photos of the Black Cat Commune front porch

Scarelady and man-witch

The creepiest part (shudder), mid-decorating -- this reminds me of the "pair of pants with no one inside them!" from Dr. Suess:

24 October 2006

France Loves the U.S.

Apparently, because they want to be just like us, participating in genocidal acts and then refusing to apologize or acknowledge any responsibility. Good to see that the colonizing countries know how to stick together when it counts. If only the left had the same kind of unity.

23 October 2006

I Live To Serve.

Upon request of the lovely Outright B, here are some random ideas for non-slutty (since that'll be covered by approximately 99% of the costumes at any given party), cute, women's halloween get-ups:

-- Rosa Luxembourg (left). A boring outfit (though the hair's kind of cool), but a kickass revolutionary.
-- Patty Hearst. Work the black clothes and the beret.
-- Square Dancer. Wire your braids! Fluff your skirt!
-- Punky Brewster. Who didn't love her?
-- Little Miss Sunshine (stolen from my roommate). Complete with big glasses, jelly bracelets and padding in the middle.
-- Fashion Victim. Wear every mistaken purchase you've made in the last year. I think I could dress twelve of these.
-- Jennifer Aniston's character from Office Space. Striped shirt, suspenders, and many, many badges (flair is not optional!).
-- Velma, of Scooby Doo fame. Giant orange sweater should be at every Goodwill in the country.
-- Janis Joplin. Finally, a use for the feather boa.
-- Dickens orphan. Grubby clothes, and a use for the newsboy cap that isn't ridiculous.
-- Drowned Ophelia, from the John William Waterhouse painting. Yeah, I had some random dried flowers to use as a crown that year. And I got to wear death makeup!
-- Anna Karenina. Russian hat, brooding expression. Extremely cheap and difficult to argue with.

All of these are better than what I'm going as this year, Annie Oakley, but oh well, the thrift store kind of determined my path. The last two are costumes I came up with for myself and my friend A., respectively, in New York years and years ago. We even took photos of her faux-jumping in front of the subway. Yeah, looking back, we were a little too into the suicidal women motif, methinks. The funniest part is, because the Halloween party we went to was thrown by some super-artsy indie-filmmaker types in a burnt out warehouse in Chelsea...everyone totally guessed both costumes accurately. New York bohemians are awesome.

Other ideas?

If It's Monday, It Must Be Time To Suppress Dissent...

How to Suppress Discussions of Racism -- 6 Easy Steps! This is in the tradition of How to Suppress Women's Writing. 95% of my law school class clearly took an extended course in this subject. I looked for something on how to suppress discussion of class inequalities, but couldn't turn up anything, probably because the capitalist monster under my bed ate them all. So I offer my own very abridged version of how to squelch commentary on class, or at least make my head explode during an argument, especially if you're related to me. Feel free to expand on it.

1) Refer to individual responsibility. Just keep referring back to this over and over again, but only (this is KEY) for poor people, people of color, and women.

2) If this gets tedious, mix it up with some references to personal accountability. Again, remember, it is impossible for any individual, institution or, God forbid, corporation with any degree of power to be held to a standard of personal accountability. This is only to be applied to homeless people, domestic violence survivors, the mentally ill and the like.

3) Bring in bootstraps. Tell miscellaneous anecdotes of random individuals who have supposedly pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, ignoring any privilege they may have had to compensate for their class positionality, such as race, gender identity, sexuality, lookism, ability, etc.

4) When your opponent is seriously ready to give up in complete irritation, talk about Choice. Choice is ALWAYS capitalized. Everyone has Choice, Choice is always at the same level, and anyone who doesn't admit to having (or to others having) free, unfettered and unconstrained Choice is Lazy and a Whiner.

The Nutria Menace!

OK, I had a really bizarre dream last night, and two hours later, I'm still suffering from nutria-related PTSD flashbacks. I was chased through a house (not mine) along with some other faceless/useless person by a huge nutria. This was "the most vicious, foul-tempered rodent ye've ever laid eyes on!" (tm/Monty Python/) It trapped us in the bathroom, horrifying hairy claws - shudder - pushing open the door that I had to physically hold closed until someone, anyone could come and kill the thing. Yeah, I, the (half-assed, but still) vegan, animal lover -- hell, I thought nutrias were cute and misunderstood and the people around here who kill them were super mean until now -- I was ready and waiting for someone with a gun to show up and blow it away. It was WEIRD.

The only thing I can think of is that this is somehow tied to the syllabus for my summer class I was writing all day yesterday, since I definitely have not had any recent rodent interactions. So, is the faceless person cowering in the bathtub that I felt I had to protect my syllabus? Or is it my yet-to-be-solidified dissertation topic that I feel I have to protect from the Nutria of Naughty Habits and Slacking Off? Hmmm...or maybe it's the repercussions from the leftover rubber cement fumes in my room after a B.C.C. craft evening last night. Or, perhaps, a nutria is just a nutria. I don't know. When in doubt, I'll usually just assume the nutria (bogeyman, whatever) represents capitalism, 'cause you know, evil and dirty and probably stinks.

Anyone else have any weird dreams lately?

22 October 2006


...around town this week:

- A choice between regular, orange and purple organic cauliflower at the Kiva (I went orange, since we did purple last week)
- A lady wearing a pink sweatshirt, khakis and an enormous witches hat strolling nonchalantly around downtown with a man and a little girl
- Three older gents wearing matching red sweatsuits with matching red walking sticks strolling along the river trail (is this some kind of Red Hat Society spinoff? 'Cause I see those ladies everywhere)
- Manic squirrels enjoying the last of the October sunshine
- Tie-dyed non-normative scarecrow family hanging out in the Trader Joe's garden
- Sign outside a church: "Body Piercing Saved my Life -- Thank you Jesus!"
- Sign outside a church: "Tenants of Hell: Sunday 10:30" (along these lines, I imagine)
- Confederate Flag bumper sticker surrounded by the words "I'm Offended That You're Offended"

The first five are reasons I enjoy living here. Last three? Not so much.

And on a completely unrelated note, Trader Joe's frozen samosas have been tested and approved by the Black Cat Commune. They're not to the level of homemade (which take hours, but yum) or Diva-quality (Diva -- sob -- we miss you), but with a little tamarind sauce they will more than satisfy the craving, and all in ten minutes.

Tiny Evil

Do NOT mess with her.

21 October 2006

Gender? That just means lady parts, right?

Academic bitch session approaching: I was in my subaltern studies seminar yesterday, which is a faculty seminar (read: me and seven faculty -- I spend a lot of my time shutting the hell up), and is taught by an insanely smart expert in the field. Here is an example of an exchange at the beginning of class:

Professor: That reminds me of that interchange [theory guy I've heard of] had with [theory guy I've never heard of in my life].
Every Single Other Faculty Person At The Same Damn Time: Oh, yes, THAT interchange! That was simply marvelous! (much chortling and pipe-lighting and rubbing of elbow patches)

We read some articles this week on "women" by several of the big names in the field, Spivak, Guha, etc., but all were from the early volumes of the Subaltern Studies Group in the 80s. So I asked my one, prepared-in-advance, grad-student-trying-not-to-look-totally-stupid-or-mute question about what effect the last few decades of gender theory on relationality, performativity and gender construction have had on the group's treatment of gender in their work. I was trying to ask about work on trans issues, queer theory, sexuality, masculinity, whatever. Gender, in other words. The answer I got was "women...women...women's issues...some women think...women...feminists say...women." I'm not saying Joe Schmoe on the street has to know that I was specifically NOT asking about "women's history" (especially since "women's history" was precisely what the articles we were reading from the 80s were dealing with), but I do feel like it's indicative of a general tendency in academia to know a ton about certain areas and blissfully ignore others. I in no way exempt myself from this. But I feel like I, along with most grad students, at least try to remain aware of how supremely ignorant I am of the current thinking in disability theory, for example -- I know just enough to know I don't know jack about it. And I know there is plenty of work that's been done in the last ten years on gender theory and subaltern studies. The professor, however, seemed totally convinced that he'd answered my question. He might as well have given me a cookie and a pat on the head and told me to keep working on my embroidery, the other ladies would love to have a look at it. Ahhhh....

It also reminds me of what my feminist legal theory professor in law school described as the "ten-year gap" (for ages I thought she said tenure gap and was all worked up about that, but that's a different beast) -- legal theorists and historians, subaltern studies theorists, Marxists, whoever, are for the most part just now digesting what feminist theory was saying ten years ago. So feminist legal theory is just ten years slow. And vice-versa, with regards to feminist theory or historiography, or whatever, comprehending where, say, subaltern theorists or legal theorists or critical race theorists are. I guess it means we need to be having constant conversations (whoa! momentary flashback to my revolutionary days!). But it's also, when you're trying to comprehend how much you still have to read and understand before you ever even need to worry about a tenure gap, just freaking depressing.

20 October 2006

Patriarchy Lives!

Sometimes I get spoiled by the fact that I'm surrounded by a lot of terrific guys, who by and large support the more basic feminist viewpoints.* Then I am reminded of what a hilarious mark of virility rape is. I guess women should feel really lucky that their leaders are taking time out of their busy days to rape them and/or joke about raping them -- who says "women's issues" aren't being addressed?

*With the exception of the crusty old guys who frequent the busses and bus station and who invariably want to forcibly chat with me or comment on my hair/skirt/boots. However, since so many of their comments are centered on my apparel and appearance, I like to think that it's actually just their own displaced gender variant impulses toward cross-dressing coming out. Really, they just want to borrow my shoes and get a nice wig -- one guy even admitted as much when I pushed him on it this week.

Embittered Tsarist Sanitation Worker

All the cool kids seem to have blogs, and I have comps to read for -- clearly it was time. Plus I'm hoping it will encourage others who really need to have a blog (S., I'm looking at you) to start one. Fernando was the one who pushed me over the edge. Naming it was tricky -- I came up with a few random options (see above -- yeah, I have no idea), but in the end I figured stealing from greatness is always the best choice. One of my all-time favorites, by that inimitable Irish bastard W.B. Yeats:

Remorse for Intemperate Speech (1931)

I ranted to the knave and fool,
But outgrew that school,
Would transform the part,
Fit audience found, but cannot rule
My fanatic heart.

I sought my betters: though in each
Fine manners, liberal speech,
Turn hatred into sport,
Nothing said or done can reach
My fanatic heart.

Out of Ireland have we come,
Great hatred, little room,
Maimed us at the start.
I carry from my mother's womb
A fanatic heart.

If you know me at all you know why I love that second stanza. Hating my betters is my sport of choice.