Thursday, November 30, 2006

MySpace Connections: My First Love

I know I've railed on in the past about how I despise MySpace. I dunno, I think it's just too popular. I have this aversion to change and I think that I make all sorts of lame excuses in order to avoid having to explore anything new. However, I buckled down and created a barebones page Monday. I didn't plan on developing it that much because the format seems really unwieldy. The only thing I wanted to do to it immediately was create a link to this blog.

My cousin's wife was the one who suggested to me that I create a MySpace page and she told me about how several of her high school friends had gotten back in touch with her through it. After I registered with the site and created my page, I decided to start looking up the names of some of my old friends. To get straight to the point, the first name I searched for was that of an old boyfriend.

There were a few people with his name that had MySpace profiles but after I'd checked out the first four or five guys with that name, I found his page. I just felt numb looking at his picture. He looked just the same even though it's been years since I last saw him. VanGoghGirl was a toddler then. I don't think I could put that day in the proper context without first explaining our history. In keeping with my usual policy about real names, I guess I'll just call him The CanadianBoy.

Well, first of all he isn't just an old boyfriend; He was the first boy I ever loved. Before I knew The German, CaliGuy, VanGoghGirl's bio-dad and even Spoogie, I had known and loved this guy. In fact, I'd only had two boyfriends before him. My first boyfriend was the cousin of my best friend and, since I was only about twelve years old at the time, we only spoke on the phone two times before we lost interest in each other and went back to being little kids. My second boyfriend was this really sweet Hapa boy that was in the Gifted program with me during middle school. We both liked cyberpunk novels and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy series. I was the first girl he ever kissed. Those first two boyfriends were really initial experiences where I was basically just trying out the whole transition from thinking boys all had cooties to trying to understand what that little flutter was that I felt when I talked to some of them. But things were different between me and The CanadianBoy.

I tried my first cigarette in the summer between eighth and ninth grade. I never really liked the way it made me feel but it did help me to fit in with the stoner crowd that I hung out with. I was already a drinker at that age, thanks to my paternal family. It's sort of a family tradition to teach the kids to be able to handle their liquor from a young age. Eh, maybe it's unfair of me to say that my family's philosophy is the reason why I began abusing alcohol. I can't really group everyone in my dad's family together.

My grandmother always kept a well-stocked liquor cabinet and she let us try any kind of alcohol that we asked for. She'd sit us down at the table and pour us a drink and let us see how it tasted. I have never seen her abuse alcohol or encourage others to abuse it. She didn't allow us to get tipsy at her house until we were teenagers. We never even considered asking for enough alcohol to get us totally drunk as kids. We knew better than to believe she'd allow that. On the other hand, we had other family members that were more than happy to help us get drunk. The first time I ever got totally pissy-drunk was at my dad's cousin's house when I was around 12 years old. We (my brothers, my cousins and I) asked one of my great uncles for some alcohol and he went and got us a big cooler full of beer and told us to enjoy ourselves. If my mother had been there, that never would have happened but my parents were divorced and we were with our dad that weekend. Anyway, that was just the first of many, many times I had too much to drink before I was legally old enough to be drinking at all.

By the time I was solidly in my teens, I could drink like a fish and I often did. I'm Irish and my best friend was Italian and we used every occasion that came along as an opportunity to try and test out our theories about which ethnic group can drink the most alcohol and still function well enough for it not to be detected by our parents or teachers. Yeah, that's right. I can't even count how many times we got drunk while at school.

During that first year of high school, I also started smoking marijuana. After marijuana became boring to me, I worked my way up to a few other drugs. I don't want to skim over that as if it's not a big deal but it's just a part of the bigger overall picture. I think that a lot of my experimentation with drugs was an attempt to self-medicate. My parent's divorce when I was ten marked the end of the only period of happiness I experienced as a child. I was my father's favorite child and when he left, I was devastated and that's when the depression started. I've also discussed a little bit about what I went through during those long years of my life before I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus. Clinical depression is one symptom of the disease and, if that weren't enough, I was also depressed because I knew that something was wrong with me even though no one else believed it back then. I had also been sexually abused by several different people before I even entered my teen years and felt very little self-worth as a result. I took the drugs hoping they'd make me feel better but they never did. That still didn't make me stop; I simply added even more self-destructive behaviors on top of it all. I really was hoping to die because I didn't see any reason to believe that my life would ever get any better. I felt like it was inevitable that I was going to crash and burn one way or another and I didn't much care if that time came very soon.

My poor mother can't be blamed for not being aware of every single thing I was going through and doing to myself back then. She was a single parent of four kids and worked like slave just to provide for us without anyone else's help. She wasn't on public assistance and she only received child support sporadically. She really deserved to have a better daughter than I was to her. When she got a call from the local mall to come and pick me up because I'd been caught shoplifting, she was really shocked. It was suddenly apparent to her that she'd been underestimating the extent of my problems. A few days after that, she had me put into a psychiatric hospital.

That's where I met The CanadianBoy. He was two years older than me and absolutely gorgeous. We were assigned to different units (floors) but there were some interactions between the two groups. I first mentioned my crush to one of the other residents and it turned out that she knew him so I made her tell me all about him. Like the rest of us kids in that hospital, his life had been hell too, but nothing about him made me like him any less. Getting closer to him was actually easier than making friends in the outside world because I didn't have to pretend as if my life was just picture perfect. He didn't mind that I was so flawed; We were both really damaged people.

According to the hospital rules, residents weren't supposed to get involved with each other but that didn't stop us. We were only allowed to make and receive calls during certain hours of the day. When it was phone time I used to sneak and call him when the staff wasn't nearby because we weren't supposed to call the other floors.

I was madly in love with him. I used to spend half the time anticipating our weekly Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous sessions because they were on his floor and I'd get to see him. I was really shy then and it was hard for me to believe that he liked me. Hell, even I didn't like me. One night when I was in the hospital, I took a plastic knife from the dinner utensils and I carved the word "HATE" in large letters on my left thigh. That got me locked in the solitary confinement room that they used to keep an eye on suicidal patients.

I used to feel so self-conscious anytime he was around. It was almost summer time and the hospital had a big pool out back that we were allowed to use every once in awhile. He would look out the window on his floor and watch me swimming with the other kids in my unit. I used to wish that I wasn't so skinny so that I could look as pretty and curvy in my bikini as the other girls did in theirs but he never seemed to care about that.

It was a really nice psychiatric hospital--trust me, I've been to several and this place was like being in the Ritz-Carleton compared to a few of them. The doctors and therapists were really kind and did their best to help the residents deal with their issues. However, I think that having someone in my life, someone who wanted me and accepted me just as I was, helped me more than anything else.

I got out of the hospital before he did. My mother pulled me from the hospital after one of my doctors suggested to her that I be put on anti-depressants. She was more than willing to believe that I was absolutely nuts but the idea that I might be given medication to help me seemed like coddling, in her eyes. I was really upset about her taking me out of the hospital because I knew that I still had a lot of progress that I needed to make. We hadn't even dealt with my sexual abuse issues yet.

Leaving the hospital also meant that I wasn't able to see the CanadianBoy anymore. My mother had this view that crazy people shouldn't be allowed to spend too much time around other crazy people, so she was totally against the idea of me keeping in touch with him. That didn't stop me from calling him though. She sent me to go and stay with a friend of our family who she thought would be able to keep a closer eye on me until she was able to deal with having me around the house again. Fortunately, the person she sent me to stay with wasn't nearly as perceptive as she wanted to believe she was. She had a daughter my age who was actually even wilder than I was. The girl also had a knack for making her mother believe that she was more innocent than the virgin Mary which made it a lot easier for us to sneak around and do whatever we wanted to do without getting caught. That included me calling the CanadianBoy every chance I got.

I was very worried that since I was no longer there, he'd fall for some other girl at the hospital. I really wanted to keep him as mine forever. So many people that I'd loved in the past had left me in one way or another. My grandmother had died. My father had skipped out. Lots of people that I should have been able to trust had violated me and abused me. I felt like if he dumped me, then I'd completely lose it for real, just slide back into all of the self-destructive behavior that I was trying so hard to keep away from. I don't know if words can really describe how I felt about him. It was the sort of love that can truly drive a person mad. I was really afraid of him finding out how much I was in love with him because I was sure that it would be the straw that broke the camel's back and scare him off altogether.

After awhile we found out that he was being released from the hospital and would be returning home to Canada. Before he left, he gave me one of his favorite shirts so that I could put it on and wear to bed whenever I was missing him. Since his favorite color was blue, I gave him one of my earrings that contained my birthstone which is also blue. I cried and cried when he left New Orleans because I was sure he'd forget about me but he didn't.

Not long after he got back to Canada, he sent me a letter. We wrote each other every week and made phone calls whenever we could. My mother wasn't thrilled about the idea of me writing to him but she never tried to stop me. It's a good thing she didn't because I'd have done it anyway. To tell the truth, I'd have done anything he'd asked me to do just to be with him. I wanted so badly to leave all of my life in New Orleans behind and be with him but we were just too young to really be able to take care of ourselves yet.

Our relationship lasted for almost a year and then he stopped writing to me. I'd get occasional phone calls and I'd want so badly to ask him why he'd lost interest in me. One of the final times we talked I could hear the voices of other kids in the background and they were all laughing and having a good time. Some of the voices were female. I was devastated. At that point, I knew we were through even though he never did formally break it off with me.

I spent the next few years drinking my life away off and on but still managing to coast through school with good grades. I tried to commit suicide a few times, went through a few bad relationships with guys and even managed to get pregnant and have VanGoghGirl. Then one day The CanadianBoy showed up at my parent's house while I was away from home.

He was working as a truckdriver and one of his trips had brought him near New Orleans. We went and had lunch together and talked a little bit. I wanted to ask him why things had gone the way they did but, as usual, I didn't dare do it. It's not that he was hard to talk to. I just always felt like he didn't take me seriously, like I was really just a big joke in his eyes.

I was so happy to see him again and be near him again. He's always had this very infectious sort of passion encompassing everything about him. I began to remember all of the reasons why I loved him. Kissing him made me want to believe it when he said he'd keep in touch this time. I'm glad that it didn't go any further than just that though because, just like before, he disappeared from life again after that. That was the last time I saw or heard anything about him until this past Monday.

I sent him a short message via MySpace and it just so happened that he was online at the time and wrote back to me in a matter of minutes. That shocked me because I honestly didn't think that he'd remember me or even care enough to respond if he did know who I was. In his response he seemed really happy to hear from me. Since then we've been talking a little bit and sending each other messages. He filled me in on what happened to some of the kids who were in the hospital with us. A few are doing okay. One guy committed suicide not long after the last time The CanadianBoy saw him.

It seems that the CanadianBoy's life has improved a whole lot. He's married now and has three kids--two with one of his ex's and one with his current wife. We've been catching up on what directions our lives took us after we last saw each other. I still haven't really processed it all in my head yet. I think that may take some time. Meanwhile, I have to admit that it feels good in so many ways just to be able to talk to him and laugh with him again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It Happened Again Last Night

I had another rape dream. This time, in the dream, I was on a date with a guy (who used to be one of my high school classmates) and he hit me in the back of my head with something. Immediately after that, I was in some place I'd never been before lying in front of a school leaning up against a tree. Children were looking at me from inside of the school building. I stood up and I realized I was only wearing a shirt; The rest of my clothes had been pulled off of me before the guy dumped me out of the car. I was about to start walking to look for someone to help me when I saw this dandelion. It wasn't a normal-sized plant though. It was almost the size of a bush. I stopped and blew on the dandelion and watched the seeds fly off into the wind and then I began walking again.

I was proceeding down the street when I saw a police officer riding past me in a squad car. I yelled to get her attention and she stopped and picked me up. Instead of taking me to the police station, she brought me to her house. When we got there, I ran inside and huddled down into the corner of the room. The officer gave me clothes to put on and then we got in her car again and she drove me down the street. At that point she put me out of her car and drove off.

I started walking again and I eventually came to a fast food restaurant and I went in to try and get some help except for some reason, I was naked again--completely naked this time. It was really crowded and I was waiting for the line to clear so that I could ask the employees if I could use the phone to try and call home. While I was waiting, people from my old congregation started coming into the restaurant. They were in this strange city for the weekend because it was apparently the place where they were holding one of their annual regional conventions. Eventually, even my mother and my brothers came in too. My bio-dad showed up as well after a while.

In the dream, my mother starts telling me that I deserve what happened to me and laughing about it with the other people she knew who were also there to get lunch. I got into this big confrontation with her and with the other people she'd talked to because they kept coming over and looking at me and pointing and whispering to each other. Even my bio-dad was making jokes about me. I tried to shut them all up but it really didn't work.

Eventually, I just left the restaurant and went on to look for help somewhere else. As I was walking, it got dark outside so I had to start looking for somewhere I could sleep outside until morning came again. At that point, I woke up from my dream.

I wish I knew what it all meant. Why have I started having these dreams? Why won't they stop? I believe that sometimes dreams have meanings but I can't really understand what to make of this one any more than the others like it. I just don't know what to make of all this.

Friday, November 24, 2006

For Those With Warm and Fuzzy Feelings About Thanksgiving

With your turkey leftovers safely tucked away in the refrigerator and the alcohol almost gone from your system, perhaps you may have some interest in those people that Americans love to caricature this time of year. Here's some light reading you might enjoy. Feel free to comment if you actually take the time to read any of these webpages.

Redskin: A Hate Word Defined
If you are a Native American or if you have the blood of Native people within you, understand you are the survivor of a holocaust.
You have had your family and your dignity stolen from you and in its place is a deeply perverse set of hate messages swim before your eyes. If you can shut out the hate and the lies, you will find a profound emptiness. You family tried to protect you. That is why you know so little of your heritage, so little of the ways of living which are not approved by the self proclaimed "master of the beasts". That is why so much of the religions, histories, and stories of the RED HOLOCAUST remain a secret today.

Decal It! Direct Action, Label Racism in Your Community
While November has been recognized as Native American Heritage Month, true honor and recognition can not be fulfilled until ALL forms of public and government endorsed bigotry and racism against Native people cease.
In the pathological dynamic of genocidal histories, the perpetrator culture invariably turns its gaze to the horrors registered in the archives and accounts of the "other guys." This is why Holocaust studies in the United States focus almost exclusively on the atrocity of Auschwitz, not of Wounded Knee or Sand Creek. Norman Finkelstein, in his discussion of the way images of the Holocaust have been manufactured to reap moral and economic benefits for members of the Jewish elite, states that the presence of the Holocaust Museum in Washington is "particularly incongruous in the absence of a museum commemorating crimes in the course of American history" and makes specific reference to the slave trade and genocide against the American Indians. Peter Novik suggests that the Holocaust has become a sort of "civil religion" for American Jews who have lost touch with their own ethnic and religious identity, and asserts that "in the United States the Holocaust is explicitly used for the purpose of national self-congratulation: the Americanization of the Holocaust has involved using it to demonstrate the difference between the Old World and the New, and to celebrate, by showing its negation, the American way of life."

Spiritual and Cultural Genocide
It is not surprising, then, how few really know about how Custer treated, resolved the "Indian problem"...
How few people of the world really know that he and his troops mercilessly massacred entire villages, raping and killing the women, brutally executing every one without exception; the grandmothers and grandfathers, the men and women, the teenagers - and the children and babies?

Views and voices of non-Natives:

Teaching Thanksgiving from a different perspective
Teacher Bill Morgan walks into his third-grade class wearing a black Pilgrim hat made of construction paper and begins snatching up pencils, backpacks and glue sticks from his pupils. He tells them the items now belong to him because he "discovered" them.
The reaction is exactly what Morgan expects: The kids get angry and want their things back.

American Indian Stereotypes: 500 Years of Hate Crimes
A population decrease of ninety-five percent over four hundred years does not just happen. Do genocide and holocaust suddenly sound apropos?

Teaching About Thanksgiving
This rigid fundamentalism was transmitted to America by the Plymouth colonists, and it sheds a very different light on the "Pilgrim" image we have of them. This is best illustrated in the written text of the Thanksgiving sermon delivered at Plymouth in 1623 by "Mather the Elder." In it, Mather the Elder gave special thanks to God for the devastating plague of smallpox which wiped out the majority of the Wampanoag Indians who had been their benefactors. He praised God for destroying "chiefly young men and children, the very seeds of increase, thus clearing the forests to make way for a better growth", i.e., the Pilgrims.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: In Support Of The National Day of Mourning Today

Thirteen Reasons Why I will NOT Celebrate Thanksgiving

1. Because the Pilgrims, those idealized representatives of America's past, were actually MURDERERS who turned around and slaughtered the Wampanoag Native Americans who fed them and taught them how to survive in the "New World".

2. Because the Pilgrims never had any intention of making this "New World" a place of religious freedom. They simply wanted to be the shotcallers of their own area, where they could be the ones dictating what beliefs were acceptable. They even referred to themselves as the "Chosen Elect".

3. Because the bastards brought smallpox to this country and purposely infected the Native Americans with it by giving them "gifts" of blankets that had been rubbed against the skin of those with the disease--the first use of biological weapons in this "New World".

4. Because Thanksgiving is a perversion of a Native American religious ceremony in which this was simply one of several days that they observed throughout the year giving thanks to the Creator.

5. Because Columbus was a racist killer who literally used Native Americans as food for his dogs and captured Native American women and turned them over to his men to have sex with rape.

6. Because Adolph Hitler was inspired to create concentration camps after reading about how effective these were in bringing about the American genocide of Native Americans.

7. Because the American government has broken over 350 treaties signed with the Native Americans.

8. Because that racist bastard "Teddy" Roosevelt's face is still carved on the side of a mountain that is sacred to the people that he advocated killing.

9. Because the pseudo-religious propaganda of Manifest Destiny was a bastardization of the true message preached by the Christian messiah Jesus of Nazareth.

10. Because the invasion and theft of Native American land emboldened Europeans to go on to invade and steal innumerable citizens of African nations resulting in the deaths of over THIRTY MILLION deaths during the Maafa.

11. Because, under the laughable guise of showing respect, Wasi'chu make millions of dollars every year from openly selling merchandise featuring racial slurs like "Redskins" and using racist stereotypical depictions of Native Americans.

12. Because the only time Native Americans get mentioned in most schools is when it's in the context of them playing some subservient or inferior role in comparison to European explorers exploiters.

13. Because on December 29th 1976 I was born into this world as a Native American woman and on that same date in 1890, less than a hundred years before, 350 unarmed Native American men, women and children were ruthlessly slaughtered by drunken United States soldiers who were later issued medals of honor for their deed.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

You Gotta Start Early With The Kids, I Guess

I was on EBay today and I came across a listing for this Barbie and Ken doll set:

The description for the item read:

**Barbie and Ken ARMY Desert Storm (Camouflage) GIFTSET! **
WONDERFUL !! From the Barbie Collectibles site: "This deluxe giftset features Barbie® and Ken® dolls in authentic desert battle uniforms of camouflage material. Both dolls wear matching camouflage jackets, pants, and vest, green over-the-shoulder bags, and maroon berets. 1993.

I don't even know what to say about this. Why in the world would you give your child something like this? What effect must it have on people if they learn to associate war with beauty and happiness instead of violence and death?

Friday, November 17, 2006

PlayStation 3 Heaven

I was so excited about today that I could hardly sleep last night. Most of the time, I'm so stiff and sore in the mornings that it's hard to get going but not today! We dropped VanGoghGirl off at school and then went to Wal-Mart to buy some video games because it's cheaper to get them from Wal-Mart than from other places. After that, we headed over to EBGames. The people that we met when we camped out in front of the store the morning that they were going to start taking pre-orders were already there waiting for them to open up. I swear, I felt as happy as a kid in the candy factory.

When the employee came to the let us in, he locked the door behind us. Everything was quiet out here but there have been some really nasty incidents in other parts of the country, so they weren't taking any chances. Some of the stores, like Best Buy and Target, were going to have units for sale today so people have been camping out for days (weeks in some places) in order to be close enough in the line to be able to definitely get a unit on the launch date.

The game store where we got ours from only got enough units shipped to them to cover the pre-ordered ones. Really, we just lucked out because about four days ago Sony announced that it wasn't going to be able to fill all of the orders. That meant that some stores that were expecting to get 16 might only get five and some stores wouldn't get any at all. There's really nothing you can do in that case because, when you pre-order, they don't guarantee that they'll have a unit in by launch day; They do guarantee that you will have your unit by Christmas, though. We were very worried that the location where we'd ordered ours might not get as many as expected and since they were only slated to get seven units max, that might mean we'd only get one unit. We were pretty sure that if they got any in, we'd probably make the cut because we were number 3 and 4 in line.

In one city, some people who were camped out in front of a store on one of the nights before they went on sale a guy came up, pulled a gun on them, and robbed them. You know, I think it was pretty poor thinking to be carrying that much cash on you at one time. If I were them, I'd have brought a debit card or check and if I didn't have either of those, I'd have gotten a friend to come and bring me my money on the morning when the store was going to open. In some places there were small riots when the stores didn't plan well ahead of time and people tried to rush the store in order to skip in front of those who were already lined up outside. If you really want to see something crazy, check out the line at one store in Osaka, Japan:

This is the line at one of the stores in Tokyo:

That's pretty crazy, isn't it? My sister is in Japan right now and we were telling her that we each want a PS3 for Christmas and we asked her if she'd mind standing in line to get them for us. Of course, she refused. I can't say I blame her.

I guess I should get back to talking about our own morning.

The German and I had separate reserve receipts because they didn't allow people to pre-order more than one. I paid for mine and then he bought his and we got into our car as quickly as possible. Man, those PlayStation boxes turned out to be a lot heavier than I thought they'd be when I first tried to lift it. They are much heavier than the PlayStation 2 units. The German told me that each one weighs 12 pounds. With my arthritis and back pain it felt more like 20 pounds to me. Anyway, we went straight home and brought them inside. Here's one of the pictures he took of me sitting with our two lovely units, still in the box:

I know what you're probably thinking when you see this: Only a real geek would be smiling that hard while taking a picture of herself sitting with a couple of video game units. Well, you're right! I am an absolutely devoted PlayStation fangirl. In fact, I was pretty upset this morning because I wanted to wear my PlayStation "Live in your world, Play in ours" t-shirt today. Wouldn't you know it? The one day when I really want to wear it, I couldn't figure out where in the world it could have gone to. I bet that as soon as I wake up tomorrow, I'm going to find it stuffed under some place where I thought I looked. Oh well, at least I have my PlayStation 3 to console me. Get it? "Console" me. Okay, you probably won't get it unless you're as nerdy as me. If you are, and you don't already have one of these, let me tell you that it is well worth every buck.

Alas! This will probably be one of my last opportunities to take a picture with both of the units. We've already posted one on E-Bay to sell in order to take advantage of the extreme shortage and high demand for them. They cost a bit over $650 if you were lucky enough to buy one at a store. The average going rate is a little over $2,000 right now. All we care about is making enough from the one we're selling to pay for the one we're keeping. I may be a fangirl but there was no way we were going to buy a game system for close to $700. However, not everyone feels like I do.

We were watching on the news and out in Baton Rouge, a guy sold his place in line for $400. That's just crazy!! That means, basically, the person who bought his spot is going to be spending over a thousand dollars just to get a unit. There are enough hard-core PlayStation fiends that a few people have even managed to sell their unit for over $3,000. You know, I think that some folks just have too much money on their hands. I don't care if I was a millionaire. It's just obscene to pay that much for a game system.

UPDATE: The unit we put for sale was only up for four hours before someone bought it. Yeah!!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Borat Can Go To Hell With Gasoline Drawers On

Do you want to know why I say that? Well check this out on my friend MrSauerkraut's Sour Blog:

Come on Borat, you can do better than this!!

I'm not too keen on ethnic stereotyping but I'm not totally without a sense of humor. I have enjoyed seeing Sacha Cohen interview public figures on the Ali G show several times. The time when he was asking questions to this homophobic preacher was just hilarious. However, after reading about this, I'm just really glad that I didn't go and see this movie. You know, if you're going to do this sort of thing, I just can't laugh about it.

Some People Will Eat ANYTHING!

The German just showed me an article he found on The Advocate (an online newspaper out of Baton Rouge). You seriously HAVE to read this for yourself.

There were more than a few cries of amazement Tuesday evening as the servers and chef at Sullivan’s Steakhouse wheeled a 22-pound lobster — a soon-to-be $500 entrée — to the table in the center of the room.
Chelsea, as the estimated 110-year-old lobster had lovingly become known in its last few hours of life, got a star’s treatment at the restaurant, complete with an entry behind servers waving flashing sparklers while it sat atop a rolling cart decorated with a black tablecloth, cilantro, lemons and peppers.
Here's a picture of "Chelsea":

Okay, first let's get some self-disclosure out of the way. I am a practicing omnivore. There are many good arguments for vegetarianism and veganism. I totally respect those who choose their diet based on what they believe is good for the Earth or simply based on their religious tenents. Several years ago, I tried to go vegetarian with the intentions of eventually going vegan. I ended up very, very sick. It turns out that because of my myriad health problems, there really isn't a vegetarian diet that can work for me. The fact that soy has been shown to be really bad for people with my kind of cancer worked against my vegetarian endeavor big time.

Because of my own situation, I am well aware of the fact that there are some very good reasons for eating meat. There are certain kinds of nutrients that you're only going to get from animal-based foods. In terms of physiology, our bodies are quite capable of digesting many kinds of meat. As a matter of practicality, there are plenty of places on this small planet where people really can't afford to stop eating meat; When you're living in a place where any food is hard to come by and/or the plant-based foods are too expensive for you to try and sustain yourself without what you can catch, hunt, or fish, I don't think there are any moral arguments to be made against eating meat.

That said, there are some things that I just don't think should be eaten unless you are actually without any other options. This was a lobster that had managed to survive the entire 20th century. The majority of humans don't even live to see 100 years old. But some idiot gets a notion that they want to eat a 20 pound lobster at a second-rate chain restaurant and so this animal's life has to come to an end. I don't understand it. It just looks like conspicuous consumption to me.

At best, the lobster tastes just like any other lobster you can normally find in a restaurant. At worst, you're eating a creature that has been sucking up and ingesting all of the crap that people have been putting into the water supply for the past hundred years. If you think that the environment has suffered in the years that George Bush's appointees have been allowing industrial corporations to get away with practically anything they want to do, just imagine what sort of sludge people were dumping into the harbors, lakes, and streams back in 1896. For that reason alone you couldn't pay me to eat that lobster.

Besides that, I mean, I'm not exactly a sentimental kind of girl but even I would feel really bad about eating anything that was born before even my grandmother was alive. Good grief!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Johns Hopkins University Still Needs To Learn A Lot

Nubian is always on top of things before I even know what's going on. Her "It Happened Again" post is about the latest campus-related incident where somebody thought that parties make for excellent excuses when you want to show how much of a bigot you are but you're such a coward that you need to be able to present it as a joke in order to dare do it. A bunch of fraternity members decided to host a "hood"-themed party a with racist, ablist, and sexist invitation to go along with it.

After reading about it on Blackademic (I never pass up an opportunity to provide a link to her site), I skipped around the net to see what other sources had to say about it. Alas, A Blog mentions it in "Step Away From The Damned Blackface, Already" and you can take a look at the actual message from the invitation to the party here. I also found an editorial on Johns Hopkins University's student-run newspaper's website entitled "Sigma Chi's Long Night". I don't think that it will be a big surprise for anyone to hear that their editorial downplayed the significance of this incident and attempted to blame the Black Student Union for getting folks all stirred up about it. Goodness graciousness, why can't people ever stop resuscitating the tired old "You guys aren't being good Negroes" routine. I wrote a comment on the editorial and I hope others will too. Here's what I have to say about the newspaper's assessment:

Racism: hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Contrary to what this editorial suggests, racism is not in the eyes of the beholder. If making light of a disease that is responsible for the deaths of millions of Black people every year can be considered hateful or intolerant, then how can there be any doubt about whether this was racism? If calling the the (predominantly-black) city of Baltimore an "HIV-pit" is a hateful and intolerant act, then what word is there in English language that better describes what occurred?

If this editorial board thinks that these references were probably meant as a joke, then I'd certainly be interested in knowing what they think the "probable" punchline was for it. I'm sure that, whatever it is, the rest of the world would die laughing upon hearing it, at least those who aren't too busying just dying.

Let's think this through, shall we? Turning demanded that they cancel the offensive party. However, the members of Sigma Chi chose to ignore the faculty advisor and proceed with it anyway. Given the fact that they knew it was offensive before the party even began, how is it probable that anything about this incident is just a joke gone awry? Those who claim to want to find a resolution to this incident need to know that this can not take place unless people are willing to at least be clear about what actually occurred.

As is too often the case, those who are not members of the group that was being caricatured can afford to focus on "intentions". However, those of us who do know what it's like to be on the receiving end of racism (both personal and institutionalized forms of it) are not any less harmed because someone may not have acted with bigotry as their explicit goal. In fact, institutionalized racism is what makes incidents like the Sigma Chi party possible because it means that when certain classes of people engage in racist behavior, they can usually do so with relative impunity.
To ask whether or not this was "Racism or Stupidity" is to create a false dichotomy. Is there some reason why it could only be one or the other? I'm going to go out on a limb here and introduce what might seem like a really far-fetched notion to some. Could it be that it was racist stupidity? I know it's anecdotal but, in my experience, racism and stupidity are not exactly strange bedfellows. That is why I am a bit disappointed to see their actions described as "taking stabs at the sensibilities of students". Is that what engaging in racist behavior is now? Is that what sexism is now? We shouldn't forget that Blacks and people living with HIV weren't the only ones mentioned in this minor faux pas. In the spirit of true equal-opportunity bigotry, they also managed to give everyone else a pretty good idea of where they stand when it comes to women too.

The editorial board seems to think that the apology given by some Sigma Chi members merits applause. I disagree. Every year members of the Johns Hopkins University's famed research programs engage in applause-worthy behavior. Given the current long line of truly amazing researchers at JHU who have yet to receive the accolades they deserve, I don't think anyone needs to resort to praising someone just because they might not be quite as odious as the others they surround themselves with.

I am also a bit puzzled by the editorial board's mention that an "evenhanded approach" is what's needed to heal the rifts in the student community. In order for this to be a situation worthy of evenhandedness, there must be at least two sets of actions of equal weight. Have the people who are offended by Sigma Chi's actions engaged in any reaction that equaled the sort of detestable behavior involved in that party?

I certainly hope that the editorial board did not mean to be as condescending as they were when they came to the conclusion that the resolution that some seek would not do them any good. How is it that, despite being very clear about what it would take in order for them to consider this matter to be justly resolved, the editorial board came to believe that it could know what these individuals want better than they can?

This editorial explained that the board has some misgivings but are those the result of the fact that more than a formal apology from Sigma Chi might be needed in order to resolve this? No. Instead it chose to focus on the fact that the Black Student Union(BSU) decided to bring this matter to the attention of those outside of the Johns Hopkins community. Perhaps if the board members were familiar the history of racism in this country they would be aware of why the BSU was inclined to present this to the media. The very fact that this board believes that they can decide what must be done in order for the BSU's actions to be justified makes it even more understandable for the BSU to have determined that more voices should be factored in to the discussion on race that needs to go on right now.

If the editorial board had taken the time to study the historic role of racism in this country, perhaps it would have been less likely to have formed the impression that the BSU's role should be to educate and foster dialogue. Instead, those who don't want the city of Baltimore and the rest of the country to believe that Sigma Chi's actions are merely a reflection of the overall attitude at JHU need to be the ones who seek to foster dialogue with the BSU.

If anyone on the board is principled or truly concerned enough to do that, they should know that getting started doesn't require a lot of work. Just go meet with some BSU members and ask how you too can be an ally to Black anti-racists on campus. It's that easy.

Instead of waiting for the BSU (which has more than enough to deal with now, thanks to the brothers of Sigma Chi) to address the wall hangings at Nolan's, why not do it yourself? Imagine how far it would go towards healing the community if those outside of the BSU took a stand against racism when they saw it. Can Mahatma Gandhi's words ever be repeated enough? To the editorial board I say: Be the change that you want to see in the world!

The Sigma Chi party was more than "an unfortunate occasion" and we should not mistakenly believe that racism can ever be a "force for good". If you're looking for such a force, why not start engaging in a little introspection to examine whether there may be something more that you can do to make sure that the rest of the world sees JHU will not excuse, will not minimize and certainly will not tolerate this sort of bigotry ever again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Depression Poetry or What Happens When Things Go Wrong In Wonderland

To Answer Your Question

This is my heart
spilling into the cracks in the floorboard.
These are my thoughts
evaporating into the clouds.
This is my love
blowing away on the winds.
This is every remembrance of me
washing away with the tide.

The Pain of Chance

Never smart enough for him
Never holy enough for her
Never compliant enough for them
But perhaps you'd have been different

Maybe you'd have been pretty
Maybe you would have smiled more
Maybe you'd have been happy
But I'll never be any of those things

Now I am barren
Now I am broken
Now I am without options
But I wish the choice had really been mine to make

Sunday, November 12, 2006

We Turned Out Better Than Fine

Okay, this is a comment that I left on someone else's blog dealing with homeschooling and the supposedly-flakey reasons why some don't choose it. The other commenters had some pretty "interesting" responses, so I addressed them too. If anyone else has any views on this, feel free to leave a comment here. I'd love to hear what others have gone through or think about homeschooling and/or public schooling. Frankly, I'm pretty fed up with the elitist attitude that some home-school advocates hold. I tend to suspect that if your argument has to rely on straw-man arguments and scare tactics, then it must not have much real merit.

Hmmm. Many of the reasons you came up with seem to be straw-man arguments and not representative of why the parents I associate with choose to send their children to public school. To the argument that some give where they say that they went to public schools but turned out fine, Kim C said "define fine". Well, here's my very own example of what "fine" can be:

My oldest brother was in the Gifted program while in public school and then went on to become a teacher in a school for underprivileged children because he recognized how many of them have to grow up with no father figure in their lives. Because of the wonderfully capable wife he has, they do just fine on one income so that she can stay home with their two young kids. They are in the process of buying their first home right now.

I was also in the Gifted program and I had my first research paper published in a peer-reviewed Science journal while I was still an undergraduate (a rarity in any field and almost unheard of in biochemistry) and received invitations for PhD programs from five top-tier research universities.

My younger brother who suffered from a severe brain injury as a child has gone on to become a wonderful husband with a stay at home wife and two gorgeous baby girls.

My youngest brother first started playing the saxophone in (public) elementary and middle school. From the music education he received there, he was accepted into a very prestigious high school for the arts. His music has taken him all across the globe and allowed him to play with musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Donald Harrison, and Nicholas Payton and singers like Les Nubiennes and Nina Simone. He was a member of a grammy-nominated Jazz band but now has a band of his own with a CD due out next year.

My own daughter (who went to a university-based pre-school) is both Gifted and Talented and has had her art displayed at the Louisiana State Archives three years in a row. She now attends a school exclusively for middle school-aged Gifted and Talented children. I suppose I should also mention that this is a public school which shows that the range of what public schools can offer is not confined to mediocre academics and crowded classrooms. Contrary to what silvermine stated, the schools here are rated on how much they teach the gifted students. The gifted student's standardized test scores are determined and issued so that parents here can examine how well (or how poorly) a particular school is performing for children in several different categories (e.g. economically under-privileged, gifted and talented, disabled).

By the way, my daughter is also classified as having "Attention Deficit Disorder" which is considered a plus by her teachers because it is a sign that a child can think in non-conventional ways and has been shown to be positively-correlated with increased creativity. When my daughter was diagnosed with ADD in elementary school, it was her teacher who was the first person (even before our family pediatrician) to give us information about the side effects of the commonly-prescribed medications. She sent us a wonderful letter telling us how much she hoped we understood that she didn't feel my daughter needed any chemical alterations in order for her to learn anything.

If home-school works well for some families, then I am happy for them but the blanket assumption (made by some) that public schools can't provide excellent education is just ridiculous. The fact that some parents do abdicate their responsibilities (and their children's academic success reflects that) does not mean that public schools are bad. It simply means that those parents aren't addressing their children's needs. Other parents are perfectly capable of instilling values and remaining their children's primary teachers even while sending their children to public school. If some parents don't know how to do that, then they can be taught.

My awesome Christian mother did it with the four of us despite being a single parent for the majority of our childhood. When she remarried and it became a family of twelve kids total, she continued to do it even then. I manage to do it while living with more "chronic illnesses" than almost any mother I know.

Being in public school isn't why some children don't reach their full academic potential. It is, however, often an excuse that some people use to explain why their children are doing poorly. If you are able to figure out how to be your child's primary teacher when you're homeschooling, then you could use those same skills to do it with your child in public school. Over and over again, I see these pro-homeschooling arguments that are meant to show that a parent doesn't need to have an entire day's worth of hours available in order to homeschool and how their lessons only take a few hours each day to complete. I don't think they realize it but that fact eliminates the idea that homeschooling was a necessity in order for these students to obtain high academic achievement. If these same parents took a couple of hours out of their day after school, then the child receives the academic benefits of both public and home schooling.

It was a bit surprising to read the question that Dana says she'd like to ask some people: "So why did you have kids, then?" I had to chuckle when I read that because the same question could be asked to those who say they homeschool because they are afraid of all the (supposedly) thuggish or ill-mannered children they'd have to be around in public school. If you really don't want your child to have to deal with the world we live in, then why did you have kids then? If you weren't willing to show your children how to deal with the issues they'll face in school, then what will you do when it comes to those issues that are much more difficult to deal with than simply what to do when your clothes don't align with the latest fad or when some kid keeps poking you in the lunch line?

I know that not everyone believes in the Bible but since so many homeschooling parents say they are motivated by religious reasons, I can't help but think about what the Bible says at 2 Timothy 3:15-17. This was one of the first verses my mother taught us as children.

The principles we were taught enabled my siblings and I to deal with every single issue we faced in school. If a religious person is considering homeschooling because they are worried about the pressures their child would face in public school, perhaps it is a sign that deep in their heart they know that they haven't been giving the child the sort of education (i.e. values) that would enable their child to do what millions of other children have done in the past and continue doing today--living a principled life regardless of what those around them do.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thursday Thirteen Edition Two

My Thirteen Favorite New Orleans Restaurants
by bint alshamsa

1. Pampy's Creole Kitchen
I have visited some of the swankiest spots in the city but this place is still my absolute favorite restaurant. Fortunately for us locals, it's located outside of the tourist trap that the Vieux Carre is turning into. If you go there, you'll still see plenty of out-of-towners but I think that most of them are folks who are in-the-know instead of random half-drunken folks wandering in from the French Quarter ready to eat at the first place they saw. Their Raspberry-Walnut Vinaigrette is so wonderful that I wish I could just get a permanent IV flow of the stuff directly into my veins. Unfortunately, poor Austin Leslie died a month after the hurricane. It's hard to imagine the restaurant ever re-opening without him as the head chef. The last time I visited Pampy's he sat down at the table with us and told us stories about life in New Orleans when he was a young man. I keep wondering if all of those old stories went with him when he died. Unfortunately, Pampy's got over three feet of water during the hurricane and will have to be rebuilt completely. Still, I can't help but talk about the restaurant as if it is still there. I just can't imagine going down North Broad and not seeing that restaurant still sitting on the corner.

2. Mulate's
We went here for my dad and his twin's last birthday. My uncle and I both ordered the stuffed crab and my dad and The German each had steaks. What can I say? The stuffed crab was crisp on the outside, moist on the inside and perfectly seasoned all throughout.

3. Dicky Brennan's Steak House
The first time I visited, the occasion was my ex-boyfriend's graduation from Xavier University. I fell in love with their Tuna Steak. I don't normally try Shrimp Remoulade when I see it on a menu because I've had some bad experiences with it but I'm glad that I took a chance and ordered it because it was excellent, not too vinegary as a lot of places mistakenly make it.

4. Deanie's Seafood
The only reason I ever make it out to Bucktown is to visit this restaurant. Well, I should take that back now because one of my pregnant cousins and her husband moved from a nice apartment right next to the governor's mansion out in Baton Rouge into a tiny flat in a beat down complex that's right down the street from Deanie's. None of us can understand why the heck they moved out to a fishing community and away from the city near several really good hospitals where she could have her baby but maybe she just wanted to be closer to the source of all the local seafood. And believe me, you will get the authentic Bucktown experience (all-pervasive seafood smell included free of charge) if you visit the neighborhood surrounding Deanie's. It's not a bad place but it just lacks all of the fancy-schmancy architecture and je ne sais quoi of New Orleans. The shrimpers are really proud folks, though, and they have good reason to be because without them there would be no New Orleans since they are the ones that harvest the catfish, shrimp, crawfish, and crabs that make up practically every signature Creole dish we eat. If there is a community hub in that area (outside of the much-loved churches), I'd say that it's Deanie's. You can't go wrong with anything on their menu. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be their Barbeque Shrimp. They serve it with french bread to sop up all of that heavenly seasoned melted butter. I should warn you though, if you are squeamish about seeing your food in it's natural form, you might want to get the Barbeque Shrimp pasta because if you just order the Barbeque Shrimp, you'll see that it comes with the head and tail still attached to them ready for you to peel off. I can't eat them, but my brother is crazy about their raw oysters. I don't think that people in other parts of the country eat that but it's pretty dern popular here. They scoop out the insides of the oyster and clean it up really good and then put them back on the half shell. You put a dash of Tabasco sauce on it and swallow it down whole.

5. Cafe Maspero
When I'm in the French Quarter and I just have to have a good sandwich, this is where I go. Evidently, I'm not the only one who feels like this because if you come during the day, be ready to stand in line. And by line, I'm not just talking about a cute little one inside of the restaurant. You will have to stand there with everyone else in a line that goes outside and in front of the building. You might think that's crazy but I've stood in that line plenty of times and I'll do it again if the Lord says the same and the tide don't rise. My personal favorite is the Hot Roast Beef sandwich with gravy. This is wonderful "poor man's food". I'll be a monkey's uncle if I haven't gone in there with just ten dollars in my pocket and come out with a full belly and leftovers for the next day.

6. Bennachin Restaurant
After the first big break-up that CaliGuy and I had, I started spending a lot of time with one of my childhood friends and her male roommate, Diallo. He was a sensitive guy with shoulder-length dreadlocks who was pursuing his master's degree as a graduate student over at Xavier University. We used have these little love-in sleepovers where Diallo and I would read our poetry and my childhood friend would perform bits and pieces from the operas she starred in. It was an extremely eclectic mix of rationalists and existentialists, an atheist sculptor who paid his bills working as an auto mechanic, a couple of poets like me and Diallo (he was really liberal and I was conservative), two opera singers (one was a very religious Catholic girl who only dated married men and the other was a former Jehovah's Witness), a couple of toddlers (VanGoghGirl included) and occasional curious interlopers. The great thing was that the entire group of us were people of color which made it a wonderful safe space to discuss what it was like being privileged, artistic and brown in a city like New Orleans. After the sleepovers we'd go out as a group to have lunch the next day at this wonderful African restaurant over on Royal Street. It's really tiny and if you're looking for a posh setting you won't find it here but they have the best West African cuisine you can get in this city. Their Red Beans with Garlic Sauce over Coconut Rice is magnificent. The sticky-sweet Fried Plantains make for a great dessert that's worth making room for even after lunch. They also offer a lot of vegetarian dishes which is very rare down here in the south where almost every dish comes with a slab of flesh in it somewhere. It's a great place to go if you don't want your vegetarian friends to have to settle for a salad while everyone else has lots of dishes to choose from.

7. Juan's Flying Burrito
They do have two locations but I've only been to the one on Magazine Street. I think it's the only one open post-Katrina but I'm not sure. When I want a real burrito and not the Tex-Mex garbage that's supposed to be "authentic", then this is where I go. As a freshman, me and my friends would make a quick lunch run to Juan's between classes. Back then, the Chicken Burritos full of steaming hot rice and wrapped in a Spinach Tortilla was my favorite because I could take it to-go and eat it in the car so we'd make it back in time for class but now I think the Quesadillas are my first choice. The nice thing is that they are made with Creole-seasoned chicken which makes for an interesting twist.

8. We Never Close Seafood
Look, I'm not going to lie to you, this place can be rather dirty. Sometimes we jokingly refer to the place as "We Never Clean". They really don't seem to care just how dusty and strewn with straw wrappers the floor gets. If you are the kind of person who needs to believe that your food has never been in a less-than-sterile environment before touching your lips, then you might want to go somewhere else. However, if you want the most to-die-for Shrimp Po-Boys, then you have to go here. For those who don't know what a "po-boy" is, it's a sandwich piled high (no skimping allowed) with fried catfish, shrimp, oysters, or hot roast beef topped with shredded lettuce, and tomato slices and served between two halves of crusty french bread that has been slathered with a thin layer of butter (or mayonnaise). You can sit there and eat but most folks take their food to go. That might be because it is in a pretty bad spot. I've known two different people who've been shot within a block of that restaurant. If you go through the drive-in, on the side of the building you'll see some pock marks in the brick. You guessed it. Those are bullet holes. The German was at work when one of his co-workers had to leave because his brother was the guy who happened to be in the car that those bullets were aiming for in an attempted robbery. If you don't mind playing Russian Roulette with our life, then you can go and have one hell of a meal. My daughter is crazy about their hamburgers but that's only because her crazy bio-dad lives down the street from the restaurant and when she was a little kid and he had her over for the weekends, he'd bring her down there to get lunch for the both of them instead of just taking the time to cook the girl something himself, so she was practically raised on the stuff. Anyway, the good thing is that it's sort of a market too and you can also buy some Hubig's pies while you're there. If you've never had a Hubig's pie, then you might as well curl up and die right now because your life isn't worth continuing.

9. Trolley Stop Cafe
This is the definitive place to go to when I'm craving breakfast for dinner. Because it's open twenty-four hours a day, it's one of my favorite after-party haunts. I'm telling you, there are few things I enjoy more than coming from a late-night Jazz shindig at the Spotted Cat or the Funky Butt and then heading out to the Trolley Stop to get a giant omelet full of ham and cheese and green onions at two o'clock in the morning. You can scarf down half of it there and then take the rest with you to eat at noon the next day when you wake up.

10. Chinese Kitchen
This is another one of those hole in the wall joints where you won't find any tourists. The food isn't exactly Chinese. In fact, it's like the Asian equivalent of Tex-Mex food but as far as such meals go it's the best of what I like to call "Asian-Cajun cuisine". The Sweet and Sour Chicken is worth the lunch-time wait which really isn't all that bad if you have fifteen to twenty minutes to spare.

11. Mona's Cafe
I remember when Mona's opened up a new location on the edge of the French Quarter. I was pleased as punch and tried to convince everyone I know to go there with me. I also remember when, post September 11th, some hateful bastard(s) burned their Banks Street location down to the ground. This restaurant epitomized the sort of success that a lot of other Palestinians who come here hope to obtain. I felt this burning anger inside of me when we woke up that morning and heard about what happened. We got in the car and drove past the restaurant hoping that the damage wasn't as bad as some were saying. For all of the problems we have here--and there are quite a few--it's still the most tolerant and accepting place I've ever lived. The folks who own and work at Mona's are New Orleanians; They aren't just people who moved here and set up shop. They became a part of the city. That's why we weren't the only ones who took it really personal when Mona's suffered that setback. Lots of people don't know it but we have a thriving Lebanese and Palestinian community in this city. They don't all tend to live in a particular area like the Vietnamese do (Incidentally, I've spent most of my life living in or next to the two main ones in the city which also feature their own cafes and restaurants), so you might not notice it. When I first started learning Arabic, I got so much encouragement from the folks over at Mona's every time I stopped by. They were unfailingly patient with me as I attempted to speak and order my food in Arabic. Their Hummus is great; It's not too lemony or dry but it isn't runny either. The Chicken Shish Kebobs are tender and spicy and the feta cheese in the Greek salads is top-notch. The fact that I can eat all of that while listening to Amr Diab CDs playing in the background makes for a very enjoyable experience.

12. Port Of Call
They have what has got to be the best hamburgers on the planet. Okay, so I haven't eaten at every restaurant on the planet but I've eaten at quite a few and this is still my favorite local hamburger source. I'm not referring to that semi-edible plasticine-looking stuff you get from the chain stores. I mean this is a REAL hamburger. Do you want to know what their burgers are like? Hey, if I could grab an angel out of the sky, grind him up and cook him on a grill, I imagine that this is what he'd taste like. ;o) Oh yeah, I can't fail to mention the Hurricanes. No, I'm not talking about that so-and-so Katrina that came through and destroyed most of my city. These Hurricanes are the famed daiquiris that have sparked many a sin-laden night in this city. The one time in my entire life that I have ever seen my good Christian mother tipsy was the time when she drank one of these.

13. Ralph & Kacoo's
I've eaten here more times than I can name. Their French Quarter location was the preferred spot for celebrating minor special events in my family. My favorite combo from there is the Popcorn Shrimp for starters followed by the Stuffed Shrimp as my main entree. One of the things that I like about their Stuffed Shrimp is that it's wrapped in some sort of bacon or panchetta before it's cooked and that gives it a different twist from the versions that I've tasted at other restaurants.

Well folks, that's my list. It took me all day to finally decide which restaurants I wanted to include. For every one that I named, there are literally dozens of others where I'd gladly gorge my gullet on any day of the week. The wonderful thing about New Orleans is that you can eat here your entire life and never feel like you have to resort to engaging in culinary-sacrilege (i.e. eating at some national chain or--Heaven Forbid--a fast food joint).

A few years ago, The German and I had this little project where we planned to visit as many restaurants as possible in the span of one summer. The problem is, you can never win a game like that living in New Orleans because there are just too many places that you want to go back to after visiting once. The politicians may all be crooked and the whole place smells like mold but, it's like I still enjoy telling people:

I'm American by birth and Southern by the grace of God.

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Embryos, the Death Penalty, Religion, Science & the Pursuit of Truth

Today I was clicking around the internet reading some of the post-election articles about the South Dakota abortion ban referendum and I stumbled upon a web post by anti-reproductive justice activist Jill Stanek entitled "Embryonic stem cells = hair follicles". The title refers to an e-mail exchange between Stanek and one very astute thinker by the name of Megan Papesh. The exchange began when Papesh commented on an earlier post by Stanek which was titled--I kid you not--"Michael J. Fox is a Cannibal". If this were just a tongue-in-cheek statement meant to draw readers in to read what is essentially the same arguments made by many of the other anti-choice people on the web, then I'd say Stanek deserves a thumbs-up for creativity. Unfortunately, Stanek is dead serious.

Papesh took issue with many of Stanek's claims and eventually pointed out that if all one needs to do in order to establish the personhood of a zygote is to prove is that the clump of cells were produced by the human body, then those cells that constitute a human hair follicle are also people. In other words, if abortions are murder because zygotes are living human cells, then pulling out a strand of hair is also murder because that hair follicle is also living human cells. I don't think that Stanek was able to grasp this because when she attempted to re-state this assertion, she claimed that Papesh was saying that embryos are hair follicles. I was able understand what Papesh was saying but I suspect that Papesh may have assumed that, since Stanek is a former nurse, she'd be educated on these issues to the extent that it wasn't necessary to write out her argument in "long-hand". If so, I can see why it didn't work. Unfortunately, in this country you can become a nurse without ever receiving as much biology education as a person with an undergraduate degree in the biological sciences from any half-way decent university.

However, even if Papesh had fleshed out her argument (which was perfectly logical, by the way) a bit more, I doubt that it would have made much of a difference with Stanek. From looking at her writings, Stanek mentions science when she thinks it can bolster what are essentially religious views. In one of her comments under the stem cell post, she states that her goal is to follow God's agenda "as much as possible". That means even if every single science text on the planet disagreed with her, she'd still be against the idea of allowing other women to choose what to do with their bodes. And make no mistake, her argument really is about whether other women should have this sort of choice because she certainly doesn't seem to think that the world should be able to dictate what she must do with her body. In her case, it seems that she believes that God should be the one who decides; I guess the rest of us are meant to ignore God and make her the arbiter of right and wrong.

In my comment, I decided to address Stanek's religious arguments since this is what is at the heart of her claims. I think that the science aspects should probably be discussed separately because it only confuses some people when they try to talk about both of these topics simultaneously.

I wish we lived in a world where people like Stanek could be ignored but as the British logician Bertrand Russell once stated, "The biggest cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid people are so sure about things and the intelligent folks are so full of doubts." As a result, when people like Stanek present their arguments to policy makers and voters, some who don't do their own research can take it for granted that science and religion actually support these assertions. Those who are distrustful of science already seem to be even more prone to take it for granted when religious authority figures make claims. This is especially sad because almost all of the major religions--including and especially the Abrahamic Trio--have well-established principles commanding adherents to personally engage in the pursuit of knowledge and Truth. But having a religious affiliation does not mean that one is any less likely to be lazy and inclined to skip the part about ascertaining the facts before believing what others say.

My favorite admonition for Christians comes in the book of Acts chapter 17: 11. It is written that the Muslim prophet Muhammad said that "seeking knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim man and woman" and that God "cannot be worshipped except with knowledge" and that we are to "seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave" and "Allah makes the way to Paradise easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge". I am quite sure that Judaism has just as many if not more references to the importance of education as well (Steven, if you happen to read this, if you don't mind, please point me to any particular ones you can think of off hand). At certain points in the past, much of the world's scientific research took place in religious institutes and/or were carried out by those who had followed devout callings. I wish that more people (those who buy into the politically expedient distrust for science that some wish to foster) would keep this in mind before they follow others blindly.

Well, I've gotten completely off-topic but I've just been thinking about this a lot as a result of all the election-time political bickering. Below you can read my comment to Stanek. Even if you're not especially religious, I think this is an important subject because, like it or not, if you're living in this world, then you will have to deal with the repercussions that come with being surrounded by people who do base their decisions around their religious views.

Hello Jill,

I just stumbled onto this site from another one on a related topic. Having read this thread, it seems that your arguments are still problematic at best. For instance, you discussed how the passage in the Bible that is commonly translated as "thou shalt not kill" should (disputedly) be rendered "you shall not murder". Well, let's say that's correct--which I believe it to be, by the way. That still wouldn't show that abortion is wrong in the eyes of God. The definition of the word "murder" is illegal killing. Therefore, unless abortion is illegal, it is not murder. "Murder" is a judicial term.

We could also look to the past when these commandments were given. Did the people (that these commandments were issued to) have any laws prohibiting abortion? This is a rather complicated issue but, in short, the answer is no. There are some restrictions on it but none of them applied to non-Jews even under the law code.

Then there's the subject of capital punishment you mentioned. Notice the quote you provided reads, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed". It does not say that God approved of this further act of bloodshed. To get an idea of how God feels about it, we can simply look at what proceeds it: "And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man." Notice it does not mention any exemption or condonation for those who kill for some particular reason that they believe to be justified. In other words, the those who kill in the name of the law will face the same judgment as those who perpetrate illegal killings. The Bible clearly states that GOD is the one who will do the accounting for the lives of man. It does not say that man is authorized to play God by deciding what punishment they think the person deserves. Doing this is playing God and does not reflect an understanding of our proper role in relation to our Creator. God is perfectly capable of giving people there just deserts. Unless one believes that God is unjust or that God really didn't mean it when He had those folks write these passages we read in our Bibles. This also spills over into the topic of wars.

Even if you believe that God condones humans killing those who have killed others, then you still have no scriptural grounds for supporting this war. In fact, if one believes that the killing of those who are not murderers is wrong in the eyes of God, then you can not support any war where it has not been established that every single person that will be killed is a murderer.

Now, let's look at what goes on in modern wars. The majority of weapons used do not and could not distinguish between murderers and those who have never killed a single person. I'm sure you are smart enough to see that this makes it nearly impossible for one to support any modern-day war. Well, you can support war but doing so put you in direct conflict with what you say God dictates.

I went back and took a look at Colossians 1:16 and this is what the NIV said:

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

It doesn't say what you claimed. Were you referring to some other verse?

Romans 13: 1-7 is a very relevant passage for one who wants to understand what position those who follow God should take in regards to government. Verse one is especially important. Notice it says that we should submit ourselves to the governing authorities. However, it does not say that we should support these governing authorities. If we had some obligation to support whatever government we live under, then this would mean that those who believe in the Bible would be obligated to fight and kill other Bible-believers whenever their governments decided they wanted to go to war with each other even if we didn't agree with the reasons for it. Can anyone truly believe that God would want that?

The last thing I want to address is your second to last sentence. The truth is it is always possible to follow God's agenda. If someone thinks that it's a-okay to support some kinds of killing, it's just hypocritical if you claim to be any different from all the other people who find killing people justifiable. Of course, God gives us free will and that means that people are free to be hypocritical if they just want to make themselves feel better about themselves while ignoring the "plank in their own eye" (Matt 7:3-5).

I forgot to ask one other question.

If you think that Michael J. Fox is a cannibal, then do you also see all those who have organ transplants as cannibals? After all, those organs are human too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The South Dakota Referendum

The German made a comment last night that I just had to share it here. The humor and cynicism of it might not translate that well to this media but I'm posting it anyway.

He and I were discussing the elections last night after dinner. When it comes to his views, I'd say he's basically a "southern Democrat" or a "moderate Republican". It all boils down to him being a fairly conservative guy. Anyway, we were both making our predictions about each of the states in question and we eventually started discussing the South Dakota abortion ban referendum. We both wanted the abortion ban to be defeated but I was a bit worried that it might actually stand. I've been keeping up with this issue out there and it really had a lot more support than I'd like to believe was possible in this day and age.

Late last night the results came in and MSNBC announced that the ban had indeed been defeated. The German turns to me and says, "See! I told you it would be defeated. There's probably no more than five black men living in South Dakota but as long as there's a chance that one of them might actually impregnate one of their sweet little white girls, you'd better believe they'll keep abortion legal." At first I opened my mouth to tell him how terrible it was for him to say that but then I thought about this story that happened a couple of months ago. As much as I wish it weren't the truth, I think he may have a very good point.

Even though he and I have very different political views, there are certain times when both of us just shake our heads over the crap that goes on in this country. In the future, I think I'll write more posts on what it's like to live with someone whose views are so different from your own.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Not Sleeping Well

I don't think I've ever talked about it here but those who are close to me know that I am a sexual abuse survivor. To be honest, I really prefer not to talk about it most of the time. Part of the reason for that is that I know it makes my mother very uncomfortable. She did everything that a mother should do to try and protect me from this sort of thing but even her best efforts were not able to prevent it all. Sadly, there are just too many pedophiles in the world for even good parents to be able to shield their children from at all times. I was never sexually abused by anyone in my family but I'm not sure if that really makes a difference in how I feel about what happened to me.

The reason why I'm writing about this here and now is because it's starting to be a real problem for me. A couple of months ago, I started having really awful dreams. At the time I thought it might be because I was starting on a new medicine and my body was reacting to the new mix of chemicals in my body. In my dreams, I am being abused by different people from my past. The hard part is that they aren't even the people who did violate me; It's just all sorts of people I've known and cared about. I don't understand why that is. If I was just re-living some of the incidents from my past, then that would make sense to me but this just doesn't.

The German has been really great about this, as usual. Only a few people in my family know that he's been sleeping on an air mattress in the living room for the past few months while I'm going through this. Occasionally I've felt comfortable with him sleeping in our room but most nights I have my daughter sleep in the bed with me instead.

For someone with the sort of issues I have, a person could have no better partner than The German but this situation just isn't tenable. It's absolutely unfair to him. Because he's so tall, he can't even fit on my daughter's wicker day bed so he's stuck on the mattress. This is really terrible because he has a severe problem with his back from when a couple of discs in his back were basically disintegrated in an attack by a dog while he was at work. He's never complained about things but I can see how he's really saddened/hurt that things are like this. If he was being a jerk about my issues then I think I wouldn't feel so bad about him being relegated to sleeping on the floor but his uncomplaining compliance only increases the guilt that I'm feeling right now.

Last night was the worst night so far. My daughter had fallen asleep in the living room so The German was attempting to sleep in her room on her bed which leaves him with two choices--either let his feet hang off the bed or try to contort to an angle where he can at least have his entire body on the mattress. Anyway, I was sleeping in our room in the bed by myself. I heard the bed creaking every time he moved, so eventually I told him that he could come and sleep in the bed by me.

I'm really glad he was there because the nightmares were terrifying. Every time I fell asleep and started to dream, it would be some situation where I was attacked and raped by someone I know. In my dream I'd be screaming and trying to get away until I eventually woke up crying out and damned near jumping out of my skin. Needless to say, this woke up The German even though he is a really heavy sleeper. He reassured me and rubbed my back until I fell asleep and started a new round of dreams. Then I'd wake up and he'd have to do it all over again. This went on until almost five o'clock in the morning.

I got up around ten o'clock feeling like I'd just been in a fight. The German was knocked out and I was hurting all over because of all the thrashing I'd done the whole night. Once again, he didn't complain about it at all and it's driving me crazy. How can I be so screwed up?!! I pride myself on being a survivor. I've survived the cancer and lupus. I've survived hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I've survived the two decades of cultish indoctrination by my old denomination. I've even survived sexual abuse at the hands of several different individuals. It's killing me that I'm not able to just deal with this on my own right now.

I believe in keeping things normal around the home because I am determined that my daughter will get the sort of functional home life that I wished I'd had. But this is ripping things apart. It's only a matter of time before she figures out that The German isn't just sleeping in the living room because he likes to watch his big screen television at night instead of the smaller one in our room. Also I know it isn't fair to her that I'm so paranoid about every single thing she does. At some point, you aren't just being a vigilant parent; You're being a clinging nut who's considering switching to homeschooling just to keep a better eye on the child. Yes, I'm at that point. If it weren't for The German reminding me of how VanGoghGirl's special needs as a Gifted and Talented child really couldn't be met at home, then I'd have pulled her out of school months ago despite how great it is and how hard it is to even get a child into it.

I am going to call the three therapists that one of my doctors have recommended to me. I really need to find a way for this to go back to just being something in my past. I am NOT going to waste the rest of my life being so preoccupied with the past that I can't enjoy the present.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My First Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Fun Things To Do When You Have Incurable Cancer by Bint Alshamsa

1. If you're planning on getting married before you croak, you can always ask the florist for a discount by promising her repeat business in the form of exclusive rights to your up-coming funeral display.

2. Telling a mechanic that you need to get your car repaired so that you can drive to MD Anderson for a last ditch experimental treatment attempt for your incurable cancer is a good way to get him to finish with yours before he even starts on the dozen cars that were there before you.

3. If no one knows that the oncologist says you're in remission, you can get really good presents from your friends by telling them that this might be the last birthday/Eid/Christmas that you'll ever get the opportunity to celebrate and they'll want to make it a really good one for you.

4. You can eat whatever the hell you want. I mean it's not like you have to worry about having clogged arteries fifty years from now.

5. You can get your partner to "secretly" tell everyone at the family reunion that all of the medications you're taking are making you a bit delerious. After that you can go around throughout the day telling everyone who has ever pissed you off exactly what you've thought of them all these years. (Be sure to include a few jibberish statements every now and then to make it more believable.)

6. During chemotherapy, you can sleep for an extra thirty minutes every morning because you don't have to worry about fixing your hair before work.

7. You can surprise all of the radiation technicians by coming to your treatment wearing a bikini and telling them that you're ready for your tanning appointment.

8. When you're in the hospital hooked up to a bunch of tubes and machines, you can have a good laugh at your sibling's expense by telling all of your young neices and nephews that you got like that from eating too many vegetables as a child.

9. You can sleep in on election day. After all, who cares what candidate wins? It's not like you're going to have to live with them for the next couple of years. Or better yet, do go out and vote and tell everyone in line that you've been a life long(name of whatever political party you hate the most) voter but you're using the final election day of your life to vote for the other party because you've finally seen the light and decided to do the right thing for the first time before you die.

10. Having a few cancerous ribs removed from your chest will make it a lot easier to fit into those too-small clothes you've been saving in your closet.

11. You can tell people who don't know about your cancer that you got all of those scars from saving a small child from being mauled by mountain lions because everybody loves a hero.

12. When you go to the grocery store, always wear something that shows your radiation burns and leave your wig at home. Then when you get in the long line, you can ask people if they'd be so kind as to let you go ahead of them because you have to hurry up and get back home to your wife/husband/partner who is even more contagious than you are. I have it on very good authority that this one works great.

13. Make random strangers angry in crowded parking lot by parking in the handicapped spot and then using your cane as your partner as you do the Merengue all the way to the entrance of the building.

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1. Thirteen I Nevers

2. 13 Things I'm Looking Forward to This November>

3. 13 Potential Names For Our New Daughter

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

PERIOD underscore PERIOD

Okay, maybe someone can explain this small mystery to me. Why is it when my period comes, my flow is the lightest on the first two days and then heavier on the third? Then when the fourth day comes, it disappears and doesn't come back until the next day which is also a heavy day. I mean it--no joke. It literally ceases to be on day four almost every single month. Every once in awhile I have a three day period where it simply doesn't come back after the M.I.A. fourth day. Are the aliens breaking into my bedroom and stealing the contents of my vagina after the third day of each month's period? Hey, it's as good a theory as any, I figure.

I've been considering ordering the DivaCup. I'd heard of latex models of the same sort a long time ago but as I am a bit allergic to latex, it was never anything I could make use of. A few days ago, I came across information about the DivaCup which is made of silicon instead. There wasn't time to get it before this period but hopefully I'll be able to find an authorized retailer near here soon. I'm a bit leery about ordering one online. If anyone out there has used the Keeper or the DivaCup, I'd be especially grateful if you'd drop a comment in my box and let me know about any pros and cons you've experienced. I'm really allergic to most brands of maxi-pads and I'm only able to use the two brands I currently buy with the use of liberal amounts of diaper rash ointment as a barrier between my skin and whatever chemical concoction they make commercial maxipads from. Still, my body has taught me that sometimes it's best to leave well-enough alone. Any info, suggestions or warnings would be great. After all, what the manufacturers have to say is not exactly objective.

Boil The Water and Break Out The Confetti

I haven't been posting much in the past couple of weeks because it's been awfully hectic around here and it still is. Up until two weeks ago, we had five babies on the way in our family. My brother's wife gave birth to their second daughter and now there are four more babies left with three of them due to come within the next five weeks. I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off just trying to get everything together.

Two weeks ago, I went to the baby shower for one of my cousins. It's her first baby and it's going to be a girl. Seeing her reminds me of when I was a child. I remember when her mother was pregnant. While she has never looked like her mother to me, now that she's pregnant, that's changed. She is carrying her baby just as her mother did. You know how some women just get a little pot-bellied with all of the weight gain showing on their abdomen while their legs and arms stay spindly. Then there are those women who look like their entire body is pregnant; Their arms and legs become really full and fluffy-looking. The latter is the case with my cousin. Her mother was exactly the same way with all of her pregnancies. My mother has a photo of my aunt that looks exactly like my cousin right now. I'm trying to get my hands on it so that I can post a pictures of them on The Way We Were (my photo blog).

Last weekend I was the hostess for another one of my cousin's babyshowers. She didn't have a baby shower with her first child because PetitSouris was so premature. I was really nervous about hosting it because I was worried that it might not be as nice as she'd have hoped for. The German made shrimp roban and I bought the cake from a really great bakery out here. VanGoghGirl helped me organize the games and decide which ones to use. Anyways, it turned out rather well, I think. PetitSouris' mother called me a couple of days afterwards to tell me how much she enjoyed it.

I am still recovering from all of this exertion. I plan to write more later, maybe this evening.