Nov 29th, 2015
The following is a letter I wrote to Sirius XM and the Underground Garage. "Last night I was listening to the Underground Garage channel on SiriusXM. It's my favorite. Chris Carter's British Invasion was on and he made some disparaging comments about Barbra Streisand being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He began by saying that the award had been won previously by military men, and that giving it to Ms. Streisand was an insult. While it has been awarded to members of the military, it is primarily a civilian award. Indeed, it is the highest civilian award given by the United States. From wikipedia: The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with the comparable Congressional Gold Medal, bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award of the United States. It recognizes those individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors". The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform. But that is neither here nor there to my letter. What offended me was not his objection to her being given the medal, but that his dismissal of her was an off-hand misogyny based upon her perceived fuckability or lack thereof. His exact comment was that the only thing she had ever done for freedom was inspire the invention of the burqua. Harsh, and also the sort of insult that I would expect from the likes of Don Imus or Howard Stern, but certainly never by a person broadcasting under the imprimatur of Little Steven. All the more ironic was that it came mere moments after the Coolest Song in the World, "Girl Band" by the Dahlmanns. Well, this is a free country, you say, and I am free to turn the show off. I did. Then I took the time to write this letter, and to post an essay on my blog about careless misogyny, and to link to it from Facebook. Maybe a dozen people will read it, but that isn't the point, either. The point is that I expect better from the Little Steven brand." Careless misogyny. The unspoken acceptance that anybody can be reduced in worth to whether or not they inspire desire or mere lust in a viewer. Well, anybody female, that is. Last week I almost allowed myself to get into an on-line pissing match over "Baby, It's Cold Outside". I referred to it as our collective Christmas rape anthem, and was soundly disabused of that belief by a post-modern feminist who assured me that she is in fact a historian and I am in fact mistakenly reading too much into one line (Hey, what's in this drink). Clearly, she said, the woman is saying no, but she really wants to stay. She is using all sorts of excuses, but they are all based what others might think of her, and not what she herself wants, and so she is using alcohol as an excuse to remain overnight. It's a song about plausible deniability, not about really saying no. Um, and OK, but in my dottage, I seem to remember that no means no, and it doesn't matter what reason one gives for saying it. If you say no -- to anything-- does that mean that any person who thinks you should say yes is more in tune with your mind and can force you to, say, take cream in your tea? Or maybe you would like to have a little white sugar in your coffee. Is it the right of someone else to tell you that you really don't want that? And to prevent you by force, if need be, from getting it? Is it not the same thing? Self-determination is self-determination. I chose not to continue the fight with my feminist historian because a stupid song is not worth getting exercised over. But I see a thread here, and I have to tug at it. It's OK to dismiss someone for not being pretty. It's OK to sing a song about forcing someone to stay the night because the imaginary girl really wants it. It's OK to shoot up a Planned Parenthood clinic because those people shouldn't be there, shouldn't be pregnant, shouldn't be poor, shouldn't be doing something a white man with a gun thinks they shouldn't be doing. What was it someone said: evil is not just the actions of the few, but the silence of the many.
Oct 29th, 2015
If, as they say in most every mystic tradition, being the seventh son of a seventh son is a big deal, then what is there to say about me? I am the only daughter of an only daughter of an only daughter. Our line ends here. Is there nothing mystically inherent in that? One of my cousins asked me...well, actually, she asked me many questions and among them were these: Why are we still in communication with each other when there is enough of an age difference that we don't know each other very well? She was grown and out of the house by the time I was aware of her, but I adored her mother, who was my great-aunt. My mother adored both of them. So why wouldn't I want to be in touch with her? She is a link in a very tiny chain. Which brought the next question: Why am I so obsessed with finding Lillian Rube and the rest of my long-lost family? That I cannot answer. I can only say that I am called to her. Or she calls to me. I have her face. I took care of her child, my mother, at the end of her life when she was little more than the infant Lillian left behind ninety-odd years before. I have a piece of her handwork, an embroidered sampler which reads "The Last Rose of Summer." It was unfinished at the time of her death and is unfinished still, almost 100 years later. I can't finish it. I have considered framing it, but who would care about it after I am gone? My mother was the only daughter of her mother, indeed, the only child. Her mother was the only child (I think) of her father, but one of many sisters born to the same mother. So there I am: the only daughter of the only daughter of the only daughter. Who were these women? Are they the reason I work with my hands? Are they why I cook? Do I have their hands, their hips, their impossibly curly hair? Who were their mothers? Why is it so hard to trace the matrilineal line in genealogy?
Oct 5th, 2015
1. It's been so long since I wrote code (and enjoyed it) that I have done everything in my power today to avoid sitting down and banging out code. Which is exactly the task I have set myself for this week. Because I need to create a new web site. For the new brand. Which brings me to point 2. Tante Leah's Handmades started with custom tallit, and I love making them, but a line of bespoke prayer shawls is not going to be my golden ticket to fame and fortune...or even a brass ticket to 15 minutes and a buck two eighty...unless Bernie wins the White House and I can somehow finagle my way into becoming the official Tallis Maker to the POTUS...which would be a first for sure and thereby ensure fame..but that is never gonna happen, so I need to broaden my market. Which leads us to Plan B Plan B is this. Tante Leah's Handmades is dead. Long live Ma Groover's Artisan and Vintage Goods. Except that can't happen until I hit publish on the new Ma Groover site. And THAT can't happen until I sit my ass in this chair, chain myself to the fucking keyboard and painfully write enough code to launch a new Expression Engine site. Expression Engine: The choice of geeks everywhere who are too cool to use a simple program like GoLive or DreamWeaver or WordPress. Expression Engine, where there are no templates or plug and play options. Expression Engine, the impossibly undocumented bad boy to which I hitched my code-writing wagon and I am so long out of the day to day of web work that this hurts me.
May 25th, 2015
Here's the thing: I never really watched Mad Men. I kept up with it by reading many and various recaps: Tom and Lorenzo, of course, but also recaps that came from advertising that reality checked the ad references, and others that reality checked the cultural touch stones. The reason I didn't really watch (aside from not having pay tv) was that they lost me in the first season, when there was a casual reference to Jews in Boca Raton. It was 1960, and trust this native Floridian Jew, there wouldn't have been any. They were in West Palm Beach and in Miami. The rich WASPS depicted as vacationing there would have been on Miami Beach or in Palm Beach, or even gambling in Havana. They were not visiting Boca. So I observed Mad Men from a distance. Now that it has ended, and the ur-feminist story arc has been picked apart, I find that this has made me uncomfortable in many ways. The loudest voice in my head is that the sexist behavior depicted on the show still exists, that the fights about equal wages, access to health care, self-government of the female body.... those are all on the news every night. Every day in Washington, and in state capitols around the United States, women are getting the rights that were won in my lifetime taken away again. Some of these recaps I read talk about Sally Draper, and what she might have become. Personally, I thought that she would become this girl. Or maybe this one. Then I realized that I am the same age as the fictional Sally, so why not look at what happened to me? In 1971, even though I was (arguably) the smartest kid in the Marine Science class in my high school (this was long before magnet schools, before AP classes, before multiple tries at the SAT), my science teacher told me that I could never do research, only teach because I was a girl. I quit science on the spot and became an art student, because nobody there told me I couldn't be an artist. No, that happened in college. At the University of Miami, where it was de rigeur for the (male) chairpersons to sleep with the female graduate students (sometimes they even married them), it was a given that females artists would always be conflicted between creating and procreating. Even my choice of graphic design rather than painting as a major was derided: I'd make money, but not art. Yeah, fuck them. I did make money. Once I was out of school, I moved to New York City. I arrived on the Chinese New Year, 1976. I got a job at a post-production company that had three partners, one of whom was a woman. I had to join the Animators Union, and this prompted a conversation about how many women were in the union. Would I be the first? No, but you could count them on one hand. My boss's name was Jean (not Joan) and she had a chatelaine, not a pen on a chain around her neck. The other two partners were men. One of them hit on me constantly. He'd ask me out. He would ask how old the oldest man I'd ever dated was. He would leer at me and tell me he had a son my age and wouldn't it be something if I started dating him (not the son, you understand). He would not leave me alone. One morning, I was nursing a hangover and running late. He and I were the only two in the elevator. He hit on me again. I said "Steve, if you are so hot for some young ass, go fuck your son and leave me alone." Yeah, I know. That was pretty rough. The only reason I wasn't fired was Jean. She told me that Steve was not going to be allowed to harass me, but that if I ever said another word to him, I was gone. Eventually, I left New York and went back to Miami. In 1988, I went back to the University of Miami for a master's degree. I got thrown out for telling one professor that he was full of shit for saying that as a woman, I could never be a real artist, since I would always be conflicted between creating and procreating and for telling another that my private life was none of his fucking business, that my husband was not paying for my tuition and it wasn't up to my parents to do so either. During the subsequent divorce, in 1991, that same husband was allowed to cancel my credit cards because he was my husband. Without my knowledge or permission, and they were in my name. He wasn't even associated with the accounts. By the same token, I couldn't get insurance for my car without putting him on my policy because the state did not recognize separation as a legal state. I was married, and he had to be on my insurance. In 1992, in Clovis, New Mexico, I was told variously that people didn't "like your type" (depending on who said it, my type was either an aggressive —read intelligent— woman or a Yankee) and that women didn't belong in the work place. I also had someone ask me to my face if mine was "a Jew name"? In 2008, I was threatened with firing because I was knitting in a meeting, keeping my hands busy and my mind focused. What I learned from that is that doodling, texting, surfing Facebook on one's phone are all acceptable ways of attending a meeting, but that "women's work" is not. And here it is 2015. The color-blind golden future that enabled Barrack Obama to be elected president is the same one that greeted his entry onto social media with "Hello Nigger". Oh, yeah. America is a color blind country all right. This is what Sally Draper would have faced, people. More of the same stupid shit she grew up with, and I suspect that like me, Sally Draper would be looking at an America where we are still fighting anti-semitism, anti-feminism, gender discrimination, women's rights to self-determination, equal pay and oh,fuck, just the basic right to exist as a woman who can wear what ever the fuck she wants in public with a reasonable expectation of being able to walk down the street safe from rape and verbal harassment and she would be saying "What the ever loving fuck? Didn't we take care of that shit in the 70s?" Which begs this next question: How is it even possible for that mindset to still exist? Who are the people perpetuating the same old thing? The average age of a Tea Party Republican congressman, is 50-60 years old. That means Sally's brothers and friends: Gene, Bobby and Glen. Except clearly not Glen, because he served (and presumably died) in Viet Nam. Worse, people like Paul Ryan are almost young enough to be our children, so where did my generation go so very, very wrong?
May 24th, 2015
Well, happy birthday, Bob Dylan. Once again, the invitation to dinner at my house has been ignored. I understand, I really do. One can only assume you are at your mom's house, where she has made your favorite rice pudding (baked, not creamy, and studded with golden raisins and a crust of cinnamon sugar). In fact, The Star of As The Yacht Comes About called me today to commiserate over this annual no-show of yours. She assumes that you are in a rumpled linen shirt, wearing a Panama hat under the tiki hut on the beach behind Sir Richard Branson's home on his island in the Caribbean.
That was when we realized what type of holy day this is in the Church of Rock and Roll. Where Festivus has an annual airing of grievances and feats of strength, and other church days require penance or reflection, this is the day we must air our assumptions. After all, we all know that when one assumes, one makes an ass of you and me. And who in the C of R&R has had more assumptions made on his behalf, than The Bob? Clearly, this is the day we must let someone know what we assume of them.
I just did that: I blurted out to her how painful watching one particular episode of Grace and Frankie was for me and I hoped she could forgive me. I could hear her eyes goggle over the phone. Not a clue as to what incident I referred. Thank Bob. But I did make an ass of myself doing it. It was a perfect celebration of the Feast of Bob. Now go forth and assume: What do you assume Bob Dylan does on his birthday?
Apr 15th, 2015
Geez. It's been so long since I updated this blog that I seem to have forgotten how to use the system. Which is a bad thing, since I came in to the office today to build a new web site. Remember the brief life of "Mild Burning Symptoms"? the site I built to sell off our extra crap? No? I don't wonder. Well, anyway, we've decided to try again. The new site is Ma Groover's Vintage. Or it will be. If I can remember how to use Expression Engine. Ah well, let's code!