Sunday, December 31, 2006

PSA: What really happened to Molly Saves The Day

There's been quite a bit of consternation re. the sudden demise of a well-known feminist blog this fall. Molly Saves The Day is just...gone. One day she was posting and the next day the blog had been deleted.

Several bloggers have concluded that Molly quit after too many troll attacks (and, perhaps, even threats of violence, as many other feminist bloggers have experienced).

However, there was no such evidence on her blog - no particularly nasty comments or exchanges that would indicate such a thing.

I did a little digging around to find out what exactly had happened, and I was able to track down one blogger (who is welcome to reveal his/her identity) who knew the answer - and it wasn't what anyone thought had happened:
She had blog security problems; a malicious hacker took her blog offline. After that happened Molly decided to take a break from blogging so she can concentrate more on real-world projects (such as moving). Molly is planning to return to blogging, but probably under a different name.

Speaking for lots of us, I look forward to seeing Molly back.

Speaking, perhaps, for just myself - when a blogger stops blogging, she should follow a certain protocol to let us know what happened. There's nothing more frustrating than looking for a favorite blog and finding only this.

So anyway - that's what happened to Molly, apparently, and while the hacker in this case may have been motivated by misogyny, it is at least not a death threat. I suppose, given that such threats are fairly common - that the anonymity of the internet makes it so easy for people to threaten rape, torture, and murder, particularly toward women - we should be grateful that this didn't happen* in Molly's case.

That I should need to feel *grateful* that someone else didn't receive a death threat makes me extremely depressed.

*As far as I know. It's entirely possible that she received threats in the past, even if they didn't motivate her blog's demise.

UPDATE: Another feminist blogger, The Happy Feminist, seems to have disappeared, and after she stopping blogging, she (or, more likely, someone claiming to be her) posted a very weird post in her comments:
I'm still here, just a little depressed and confused. I may delete this blog, as I continue to evolve past what I'm starting to see as a harmful path in life. I'm tired of fighting, or whining, and am not even sure I was on the right side anymore...

Anyhow, regardless, all I can say is get a life, people. Men are not as bad as we think in real life, in fact, I have to admit they are far better than I could ever deserve...

Interestingly, prior to this comment, someone with the name "The Sad Feminist" posted this comment:
I have a confession to make...I've been deluding myself for my whole life. I have to admit that some of these comments here, along with some recent realizations in my own life, have finally started to hit home.

My perception changed at that moment. This is so sick, but I saw him for the first time today as a fellow human being, as my partner. Not as my enemy. To those of you who have been trying and trying to tell me that I saw him as my enemy, you were absolutely, unequivocally, 100% right. Everything we said or did was part of the conflict, the ongoing war that has been the last 18 years. It is truly amazing that we made it this far. I owe that man an apology.

Why am I fighting my own hubby? Why have I been treating him like "the enemy?" Who taught me to hate people based upon their gender? Why do I still hate men, when everyone I've been with has bent over backwards spoiling me like a queen?

Why am I so miserable and never happy?

I think I'm finally starting to figure out why...feminism.

Regular readers have been remarking that these posts - um, to put it mildly - do not sound like The Happy Feminist. So what could cause Happy to abandon her blog and not respond to emails? (One poster claims she knows Happy's secret identity and is certain nothing horrible has happened to her.)

In short: I smell a hacker. Because, really? I know so many feminists, people. I spent 14 years of schooling studying feminism. I teach Women's Studies. I inherited feminism from my mother and my father. And the vast majority of people who really believe that feminists hate men or see them as the enemy? They're not feminists. They're simply people who hate women.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Girls Gone Wild: Raping and abusing women since 1998.

I'm a little late with this, as this expose of Girls Gone Wild and its founder, Joe Francis, came out in October. But I just found it via The Happy Feminist and I'm a little sick to my stomach.

The article documents his practice (and his crew's practice) of not only aggressively targeting young women and pressuring them to do far more than take off their clothes on camera - but of raping them.
Some excerpts:
Joe Francis, the founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" empire, is humiliating me. He has my face pressed against the hood of a car, my arms twisted hard behind my back. He's pushing himself against me, shouting: "This is what they did to me in Panama City!"

It's after 3 a.m. and we're in a parking lot on the outskirts of Chicago. Electronic music is buzzing from the nightclub across the street, mixing easily with the laughter of the guys who are watching this, this me-pinned-and-helpless thing.

Francis isn't laughing.

He has turned on me, and I don't know why. He's going on and on about Panama City Beach, the spring break spot in northern Florida where Bay County sheriff's deputies arrested him three years ago on charges of racketeering, drug trafficking and promoting the sexual performance of a child. As he yells, I wonder if this is a flashback, or if he's punishing me for being the only blond in sight who's not wearing a thong. This much is certain: He's got at least 80 pounds on me and I'm thinking he's about to break my left arm. My eyes start to stream tears.

And that's just how he treated Claire Hoffman, the reporter. Here's what he did to one of the young women he filmed:

Eventually, Szyszka says, Francis told the cameraman to leave and pushed her back on the bed, undid his jeans and climbed on top of her. "I told him it hurt, and he kept doing it. And I keep telling him it hurts. I said, 'No' twice in the beginning, and during I started saying, 'Oh, my god, it hurts.' I kept telling him it hurt, but he kept going, and he said he was sorry but kissed me so I wouldn't keep talking."

Afterward, she says, Francis cleaned them both off with a paper towel and told her to get dressed. Then, she says, he opened the door and told the cameraman to come back, saying, "She's not a virgin anymore."

After you read the article, check out The Happy Feminist's post and links on the subject. Sadly, there is more evidence of rape (in one instance, by a cameraman). It's clear that while Francis is calling the shots, his coworkers are either raping women themselves or facilitating rape. Very disturbing.

If you are on a college campus, share this information with students.

But there are larger questions here. I do not label myself as an anti-porn feminist. Though I do think that porn can hurt women (and men) by normalizing women's sexual objectification and availability, I also think that when women use porn, particularly the production of porn, to validate their own sexualities, it can be empowering. So I have tended to ally myself, in general, more with the sex radicals in this feminist conversation (more on that another time).

However. The anti-porn feminist movement has argued that pornography is basically the same thing as prostitution: sex (bodies, esp. women's bodies) for sale. They have argued that it is also always exploitation of women in general, whether or not the particular women involved are victimized in a given situation. And in the case of Girls Gone Wild, this theory certainly seems to hold true. We have young women who are deliberately encouraged to drink to the point of intoxication (at which point consent cannot be given, as a drunk person cannot legally give consent), young women who are then systematically separated from their friends and taken alone into a bus where they are first pressured and then forced into doing things they do not want to do, including having simulated and real intercourse with dildos (on camera) and crew (off camera). And this is done for some kind of exchange - money, a hat, panties, whatever. The product is then sold in order to make Joe Francis and his cohorts very rich, indeed.

So, the real questions:
Why is Girls Gone Wild not considered prostitution?

Why is Girls Gone Wild not considered sexual assault and/or rape, given coercion and lack of consent?

Another holiday post.

She was a long-legged thing, seductively pretty, with an elfin smirk and a knowing look. Beneath her short green skirt she wore red and white striped tights that ended in little green turned-up shoes. She was sexy; I wasn't entirely sure she was appropriate for our Christmas tree, but I bought her anyway because she was so beguiling I couldn't help it. And when I lifted the bag she was in out of the car and lost my grip on it, I heard her fall with a "thwack" against the garage floor and knew without a doubt that she had shattered.

I went out last night to buy more ornaments for the Christmas tree, which we decorated on Thursday. Yes, you read that correctly. I've complained here before about the end of the semester and what that means for an academic, and as both of the grown-ups in this house are academics, that means that during November and December, we can't afford to spend too much time on holiday preparation.

Have I mentioned that we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas?

It helps if you have special glasses.

So anyway, we've got our hands full. And that's why this year I've decided that, from now on, Chranukah (or Hanumas - take your pick) will be a holiday that will be celebrated well into the New Year. I don't plan to take down my decorations until the end of January. In fact, I still have lights to put up.

So last night, I headed out to a few stores to see if they still had any ornaments in stock. They had very few, but I was able to find some that I liked: a pair of dance shoes, because I love to dance; two little animals for Bean, which caused him to have a tantrummy fit when he found out he wouldn't be allowed to play with them; a sort of pretty, sort of garish metal thing with glass beads, two of which fell out and need to be glued (it was in the bag with the aforementioned broken elf); several candy ornaments, including some Hershey's Kisses; and a couple of others. Not a bad haul, especially considering how picked-over the store was and how long it took me to find these among the really crappy ornaments (Santa in Hawaiian shirt riding a dolphin; bottle of beer with sign, "if you're not serving beer, I'm not doing the time" (I have no idea what that means); big clangy metal disks reading "Gurl."

To "top" it all off, in an effort to better blend our holidays, and in response to Bean's insistence that we have a star atop the tree - which we never did growing up because we always associated the star with a religious significance, which Christmas didn't have in our home (though, oddly, we had an angel, and we kids never questioned that) - I also spent about twenty minutes trying to draw and then cut out a Star of David that was not leaning to one side. I failed. Interestingly, the second effort, the one for which I enlisted the help of a ruler, is just as lopsided as the first effort, the one I eyeballed. I am not sure what that means. I will be covering one of the stars with alumninum foil and hoping that the overall effect is not to bring down the relative classiness of our tree.

Happy Chranukah.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Since no one ever tags me, I'm going to take this blogger at her word and tag myself.

Here's the deal:
1. Go to the nearest book in your reach and turn to page 123.
2. Go to the fifth sentence of the book.
3. Copy the next three sentences, then tag someone else.

The nearest book, not journal, in my reach is Miriam Katin's graphic novel, We Are on Our Own: A Memoir.

But there is no page 123 of this book. Page 124 is not in English. Page 125 has only three sentences.

So, from page 126:

"My parents took care not to burden me with history at a young age. The war was mentioned only in gently shrouded ways. I enjoyed my childhood."

So now I'll tag some others, including some who don't have blogs. Drek, SallySunshine, Kelsey, Sally Pepper, and Black Sweatpants - want to play? You can leave a comment here or on your own blog, if you have one.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

On the road with Warrant.

So we got in at like 2am this morning from our trip back east. And on the last flight with us was Warrant.

I noticed a couple of these guys in the airport, ironically because they looked kind of hip. (This is ironic because, if you've checked out the link above, you'll notice that "hip" is about the last thing they look. They should consider giving up the stage look and just going with their regular look - except for '80s bad perm guy, who should consider another look entirely.) I have no idea who any of these guys are - I have only ever heard the name "Warrant" accompanied by snickers and derisive laughter, the sort of noises you make when you hear that Ratt is making a "come-back" tour.

I didn't realize this last night, but I've actually heard a Warrant song: "Cherry Pie." And the reason - which will be important in a minute - that I've heard this song is because we used to have a "club" in town that was famous for it's bad music. Every single time I ever went there, the "club" would play "Cherry Pie." Few people ever danced to the song - because it's not exactly a dance song, now, is it? - and yet, the bozos who ran the club insisted on playing it every single Friday and Saturday night. It was a regular in their line-up of un-danceable songs, right up there with Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me." Which, to be fair, is a fine song it its own right, but it is not a dance song. And that would be ok if it weren't a dance "club" with an empty dance floor, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, that "club" has since changed names and - rumor has it - ownership. I wish I could say that this was because the clientele rose up against the management and demanded decent music, but unfortunately it was because - rumor, again - the clientele rose up against each other and there were several violent incidents. Closing and then reopening under a different name was apparently an attempt to change the whole ambience to something a little more classy, or something.

Or something, indeed. The "club" still likes its "Cherry Pie." Guess where Warrant is playing tonight?

What makes this all even funnier is that, when I saw their gear at baggage claim, I figured that the band was playing the Arena, or at least the Ramkota (which is an exhibit hall that regularly features respectable bands, from Rob Zombie to Modest Mouse). But no. They are an '80s hair band, and they are playing at the Lava Lounge Bar and Grill. Oh, the agony of defeat.

And yes, I'm enjoying every minute of it, because 1) I have little tolerance for bad "music," and 2) how can I not make fun of Warrant?!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Here's what I've been doing today:


Eating. More eating. Still more eating.


Knitting. (The Panda Blue Jay. It will be a blanket for Bean. I gave my mom the blanket that almost killed me and now I'm ready to begin another one. This one, however, is easy.)


And, of course, all of the above is happening in the company of loved ones. Hope you are doing some variation of the same.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cookies. Kicking my ass.

So, I'm basically sitting here in rural New England, eating cookies, getting fat, occasionally dragging my cookie-laden ass to the gym, watching movies with Craig Ferguson (well, OK, ONE movie with Craig Ferguson, but it was a good one: Saving Grace, which is probably the basis for Weeds), wrapping presents, and just generally enjoying myself, hanging out with loved ones and knitting.

No, I have not finished grading, nor have I finished prepping for the next term. It's coming.

Meanwhile: Happy Holidays to you and yours.

More updates to follow, I promise.

Monday, December 18, 2006

It's only over if you're a student.

I remember when the end of the semester used to be a happy thing. I would finish the paper at 4 or 5 am and either find someone to slide it under the prof's office door for me at 7am when the building opened, or else crash for a few hours until it was time for class, turn it in myself, and hope I could stay awake for the period.

But then, I was free! I'd start doing laundry, sorting through piles of books and mail and all the other things that had accumulated during the last couple of weeks of hell, and go out to dinner with my friends. I'd start my Christmas shopping - and it would still be early enough to find, wrap, and mail some nice gifts. And then I'd pack to go home. It was always hard to go home, since my life was pretty much at college at that point, but it was always nice, too, to go back to see my family and high school friends, to spend the break catching up on episodes of "Thirty-Something" and "L.A. Law." I had nothing to do over the winter break - it was too short to get a job, and all my classwork was done. I was completely free! So I went to movies and parties, I went shopping, I hung out. I visited relatives. I had five blissful weeks to do what I wanted.

After college, I came back to the real world with a bang. In the real world, there are no 5-week winter breaks. In my first job, I was lucky to get Christmas off at all. That year, my grandmother's 90th birthday (she was a Christmas baby), I got on a train on Christmas day and rode from Pittsburgh, PA, to Hartford, CT. I got in at midnight, and showed up for work the next morning.

When I went back to grad school, it seemed that I was back to a carefree lifestyle. Except...I found that I frequently had papers to finish once classes were over. Our work was due roughly at the end of the semester, not always with final deadlines, and so we often turned papers in late, in time for our profs to grade them after grades were due but before the grades were sent to the registrar (obviously, this was before online grading). And very quickly, I found that the work I had to do was not simply work for my classes, as it had been in college, but work that was building upon itself, work that was coming together into something larger, and therefore, work that needed to be continued and did not have an ending point.

This put a damper on my breaks, which became shorter. My trips home, too, no longer lasted 5 weeks, as there were also papers to grade and classes to plan in addition to qualifying exams to study for and theses to research and write.

And, while finally finishing the dissertation and graduating brought an end to at least the majority of the panic and depression and general malaise that accompanies dissertations, it still didn't clear my schedule for winter break.

These days, the ending of classes is the time to, first, grade all the papers that the students have left under my door or handed in during class. This frequently means carrying all these papers on a plane and then spending the first few days of my "break" grading in a coffee shop somewhere where my family isn't. Second, break is the time to prep for the next term's courses. If the course is a new course, that means several days hunting for the appropriate readings, films, and guest speakers, and then trying to order books at the last minute. It also means reading like crazy in order to be ready to teach the material.

So tomorrow, while I'm on the plane, I'll be reading for next month's class. On Wednesday and Thursday, I'll be grading. And then I'll be reading again, for much of the remainder of the trip. (And not fun, happy stuff, either. It's a course on genocide.)

Meanwhile, it's probably worth noting that the tree is not decorated (nor are there lights on it. The closest I've come is the "Happy Hanukkah" banner wrapped around it (at some point, I'll have to do a post on blended holidays). On the table are two boxes of lights and two boughs that I bought with the intention of putting them up over the windows, but I only got to two out of four of the windows this year. We never made potato latkes or gingerbread men. And I never did buy and string the outside lights I've been wanting to put up since last year.

I am grateful that my parents will have a tree at their house so that Bean can help to trim it. Perhaps this will happen at some point when I'm home (and not when I'm out grading).

I'm sure it will be a welcome relief from reading about genocide.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

More holiday giving ideas: Blog gifts!! Feminist t-shirts!!

How could I forget to include, in my last two posts on holiday giving, my blogging and my feminist sisters? Here's a great way to support bloggers and feminist organizations whose work you like - buy their products.

Heather Armstrong at Dooce offers, not only t-shirts (made by American Apparel, a horribly sexist company featuring near-pornographic ads, but one that is also sweatshop free, so we can choose which oppression we want to support) but also calendars. I just bought a t-shirt, and I'm glad I knew which size I needed in AA because when I saw the large featured on rail-thin Heather, I was pretty sure I'd be in trouble. (When someone as thin as she is wears a large, there's no hope for the rest of us. Which means, for better or worse, that my XL will be boobalicious.)

I don't know if Subservient Worker at Wide Lawns is a feminist or not. I'm guessing, yes. Anyway, read her blog about scary rich people, and then take a look at her t-shirts at Cafe Press. (I'd buy one, only I rarely buy white t-shirts. I'm more of a black t-shirt gal.)

Want some clearly feminist shirts? Check out NOW's t-shirts. And also take a look at California NOW's shop, as they have the cool "feminist" hoodie that people always stop me and ask about when I'm wearing it. Also, look at the Feminist Majority t-shirts (of which I own several).

And then there's Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, a great magazine that analyzes pop culture from a feminist perspective. They also have neat shirts for sale.

OK, that's it - I'm off to the mall to buy some shoes and a last-minute bath gift for my kind neighbor who just brought over a tin of cookies. Happy shopping!

Friday, December 15, 2006

What does it mean?

So, the Duke lacrosse team is off the hook.

It's hard to know what to make of this.

I am prepared to believe that they didn't do it. But I'm also prepared to believe that she was raped at that party - perhaps not by the three men in question, but by others. I don't know.

Here's the thing: when a woman says she's been raped, I believe her. Why? Well, first because the FBI stats on rape tell us that only 2% of reported rapes are fraudulent.* And second, because I've known enough women and men who have been raped to know that they have little to gain by making up such a story.

And as Tobes writes in the above link, this case brought "to light...the difficulty in proving rape and the underlining dangerous misogyny in many male 'team-think' situations." As evidence, she quotes the Duke lacrosse team member who sent an email in which he joked about skinning women "while cumming in my duke issue spandex."

Should we take the position that all are innocent until proven guilty? Of course. But this does not mean that we do not take seriously charges of rape or that we assume that the person who is bringing the charges is lying because the men in question are good boys or white boys or smart boys or because they have their whole futures ahead of them. It does not mean that it is ever appropriate to make demeaning comments about the person making the accusation of rape.

(And, for what it's worth, any man who jokes about murdering and skinning women needs to be on medication and under observation. I'm just saying. I would certainly not attend any of his parties.)

Meanwhile, the Duke lacrosse team was a popular Halloween costume among college students this year, among both men and women. What does that tell us about how college students perceive rape? (And whatever can we take away from this pic and caption?)

Those are both rhetorical questions, obviously.

And if it turns out that the woman in question was not raped, if she made this story up, then what she has done will mean that college women will be even less likely to come forward when they are raped because they know they will be even less likely to be believed.

* I read this on an academic listserv within the past year, but I can't find the source. However, I did find this very interesting post on the matter, which challenges my claim of 2%. As I have not done the research myself, and as I have also not checked out the research on Alas, I'm simply going to allow that I may be wrong and direct you there for further information. I would add, though, that even 6-8% - the stat of false accusations according to the FBI, as per Ampersand's post - is quite small when you consider how that would work: it would mean that fewer than 1 in 10 women are making false accusations.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bah, humbug.

Writing in the Telegraph, editor-at-large Jeff Randall -- who describes himself as "somewhere between an agnostic and a mild believer" -- announces that any Christmas card he receives that doesn't at least mention the word "Christmas" goes straight into the trash. "Jettisoning Christmas-less cards is my tiny, almost certainly futile, gesture against the dark forces of political correctness," he writes. "It's a swipe at those who would prefer to abolish Christmas altogether, in case it offends 'minorities.' Someone should tell them that, with only one in 15 Britons going to church on Sundays, Christians are a minority."

Excuse me?

Mr. Randall, you'll have to forgive me for cutting you from my holiday card list this year. Yes, that's right, I said "holiday card." People on my card list celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, perhaps Kwanzaa, and the Winter Solstice. So I have four choices: don't send cards at all; send everyone a Christmas card even though I know that they don't all celebrate Christmas because I can't be bothered to be thoughtful and respectful; design or buy cards celebrating all the holidays and then sort through my list, sending the appropriate cards to the appropriate people; or design or buy a non-holiday-specific card that I can send to everyone.

Most of the time, I opt for the latter. It should be a no-brainer as to why.

I thought Christmas cards were supposed to be about sharing greetings with those we care about, especially those we may see only rarely. I didn't realize that by sending non-Christmas-specific cards I might be offending people. I had somehow missed that, probably because I was focusing on wanting to reach out and let people know that I was thinking about them. For better or for worse, Christmas has become an excuse for keeping our far-flung family of blood and friendship apprised of our doings. We send cards with pictures of our kids and letters with lists of our achievements and losses. We do this because we long to keep in touch, and because this is the yearly opportunity for doing so. Friends who have long since lost touch still send cards to each other at Christmas time. It is a small gesture of love, of hope that friends will meet again, of faith that the bonds of love are lasting.

Throwing out, or even complaining about, a card that doesn't give the greeting you think is appropriate, is akin to criticizing a gift because it isn't expensive enough. It's boorish, crass, and rude. As with gifts, it is the thought that counts. And as with gifts, if you complain to the giver, you may find that you are no longer the giftee.

And meanwhile, I'm growing rather tired of all of the whining from those Christians who feel that they are somehow being oppressed because they don't have 100% compliance from the population. Listen: the day that all the public schools are open on Christmas and closed for Rosh Hashanah is the day that I'll consider such a claim. Until then, you know what? Christians don't own the government or the school system - or even Christmas. Jesus wasn't born in December; it's a pagan holiday, people! Fundamentalist Christians don't even like Santa Claus!

No, Jeff Randall isn't a hardcore Christian. But when I picture him grimly opening his December mail over the kitchen garbage can, remorselessly dropping in heartfelt notes, letters, and the occasional photo, he sure seems like a Scrooge.

John's obituary.

John C. Mohawk, UB American Studies Professor, 61
Release Date


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- John C. Mohawk, Ph.D., of Buffalo and the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, Gowanda, died Sunday (Dec. 10, 2006) in his home in Buffalo. He was 61.

Mohawk was a beloved and highly respected associate professor of American studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo and a distinguished author, editor, conflict negotiator and champion of the rights of indigenous peoples.

A member of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Mohawk was widely recognized as a leading scholar of Seneca culture and history. He also was an expert in Native American economic development and cultural survival who emphasized the relationship between the treatment of indigenous groups and the state of the earth's environment.

A member of the UB faculty since 1987, he was co-director of the Native American Studies Program in the UB Center for the Americas from 1999 to 2002. The center evolved back into the Department of American Studies, which he chaired from 2002-03.

Colleagues praised Mohawk as "a truly remarkable man," and say he will be sorely missed, not only for his scholarship and teaching, but for his legendary optimistic demeanor and the consideration and kindness he demonstrated toward others.

Among Mohawk's 20 books are "Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations and the U.S. Constitution," co-authored with Oren Lyons; "The Red Buffalo," and most recently, "Utopian Legacies: A History of Conquest & Oppression in the Western World." He was contributing editor for "A Basic Call to Consciousness," which in 1978 was taken by the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy to a Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in an effort to establish international law standards for the rights of indigenous peoples.

He also introduced the use of computer technology, images and music into the telling of the history of indigenous peoples through a multimedia CD-ROM project on American Indian history, "Treacherous Conquests: Chronicles of Race Conflicts in Modernity."

A graduate of Hartwick College, Mohawk received a master's degree in American studies in 1989 and doctorate in 1994, both from UB. He received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Hartwick in 1992.

He was a founding board member of the Seventh Generation Fund and the Indian Law Resource Center, and in 1981 served as a negotiator from the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy) in helping resolve the Mohawk Nation's explosive Oka crisis at Racquette Point in southern Quebec. He also represented the Haudenosaunee in negotiations to end conflicts in Colombia and Iran.

Mohawk also was an active member of the Seneca Nation's Salamanca Lease Committee and helped to negotiate the settlement that became the 1988 Salamanca Settlement Act. Mohawk served on the Seneca Nation Planning Commission and its investment committee, and was member of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy Grand Council.

From 1967-83, Mohawk served as editor of Akwesasne Notes: a Journal for Native and Natural Peoples, known for the past 26 years as "the voice of indigenous peoples." The work of Akwesasne Notes during his editorial tenure was of signal importance to the movement of Indian people seeking human and civil rights. Mohawk's intellectual leadership, grounded in a strong traditional Longhouse base, provided the native discussion with clear parameters on which to build.

From 1987-95 Mohawk served as founding editor of Daybreak, a national magazine that focuses on Native American and indigenous topics.

In more recent years, he turned his attention to the worldwide environmental crisis, as well as to the health issues of Native Americans.

He wrote and lectured widely on these subjects and contributed essays to many books and journals on Native American culture, including The Native Americas Journal. For decades -- long before the genesis of the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Association it spawned – he spoke out on the crisis of globalization and against the homogenization of indigenous cultures and maximum commodity accumulation.

Mohawk also became a proponent of the international "slow-foods" movement, which promotes the reintroduction of slowly digested, often ancient, foods as a means of fighting heart and circulatory disease, tooth decay, obesity and especially diabetes, which is rampant in many native communities.

To this end, he founded and directed the Iroquois White Corn Project (IWCP) and the Pinewoods Cafe, located on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Irving. IWCP and the Pinewoods Cafe are projects that promote and sell Iroquois white corn products and foods to revitalize indigenous agriculture and to reintroduce the traditional Iroquois diet and to support contemporary indigenous farmers.

Because of his involvement in this movement, he was invited in 2002 to present the keynote talk at the 34th annual commencement of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and School of Medicine

Mohawk was the husband of the late Yvonne Dion-Buffalo, Ph.D.., and is survived by his children, Taronwe Mohawk of Freen Bay, Wis.; Forrest; Charlene Brooks; and Lisa Marie Spivak.

Friends may call Thursday from 7-9 p.m. and Friday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at the Wentland Funeral Home, 10634 Main St. (Route 62), North Collins. Funeral services will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home and at 10 a.m. at the Long House, Cattaraugus Indian Reservation.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A passing.

I've just received word that John Mohawk, author, activist, and teacher, died yesterday in his home.

John was a professor of mine. I didn't work closely with him, and I didn't know him well. What I remember most about him is the way that he would sit in class or in meetings and listen with his eyes closed for a very long time, and just when I thought that perhaps he had fallen asleep, he'd make a brilliant, intuitive comment that would have me scrambling to write it down. And that I very rarely saw him get really angry, no matter how demonically the University administration behaved (and the administration's behavior, let me tell you, could fuel a whole 'nother blog). He would always manage to laugh - perhaps not joyfully, but I believe with genuine mirth at its various plots that he could see right through. I think he enjoyed the irony - there was always irony.

I will be posting more information when I have it, but for now, I'd refer you to this page to learn more about him and his work.

And I would also recommend two of his works to you. A Basic Call to Consciousness is a powerful text that can also serve as a primer for those interested in sovereignty of indigenous peoples (and why that's important!). This book is probably what educated me best and transformed my thinking most about these issues. Here's a link to excerpts.

An aside: John was on my oral exam committee, and the book was on my exam list. However, I didn't know he'd written it, as he is not credited (it wasn't safe for him to have his name on it during that time as the FBI was watching Indian activists closely). So, during my exam, another of my committee members turned to John and asked him a question about this book he'd authored, the one I'd been talking about unaware that I was sitting next to its author.

After I picked my jaw back up from the floor, I did a quick, mental recap of everything I'd said previously, to make sure that I hadn't said anything stupid about it. (It's a good thing that I liked the book.)

More recently, John wrote Utopian Legacies: A History of Conquest and Oppression in the Western World. This was a huge undertaking, as the title suggests - which is not surprising, given that John was one of the smartest men I've ever met.

His death is a tragic loss, not only for the University, but for all who knew him.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Knitting Etiquette, Part 2

Yesterday's knitting post prompted some interesting comments. Here are some highlights:

Kelsey said...
I'd say any church service (wedding/funeral, etc.) is off limits. Lectures or adult concerts are okay in my book (expecially if you can look up while you knit). Kids concerts are a different because I assume kids and their parents are a little more sensative about people paying attention. Other than that, I think it's okay to knit just about anywhere.

mgmonklewis said...
I have to agree with azknitter's post about knitting being off-limits whenever one's full attention is expected. It doesn't matter whether one *feels* that one is still paying attention while knitting; there is a social contract being broken.

Lara said...
Like you, I have to be doing something to really pay attention, or I drift off into fantasy, speculation or writing.
I do make a point of hardly ever looking at my knitting, trying to knit as quietly as possible, and, for good measure, I'm often doing a charity project, so if anyone asks, they get to feel a little good will for not complaining about the hat I'm making for the homeless.

Linda said...
I can talk, look around, pay attention, etc while I knit. If I'm just listening to someone, I tend to get sleepy. Which is more rude - watching my head jerk as I struggle not to fall asleep, or seeing my hands move while I look up and make eye contact with a presenter? If they're so insecure about what people who are listening to them do, perhaps they need to find a new line of work?

Sean said...
I think I would get very upset if someone was knitting during live theatre. A movie, okay, but since there are live people there on stage, it is very rude.

ken* said...
I have heard it said, and I fall into this category, that knitters are actually paying really close attention to what is going on. I know of people who knit at faculty meetings and will be very quiet and then say something brilliant.

So I thought about all of these responses, and then I posted this:
It strikes me, too, that we could make many of the same arguments about breastfeeding (for or against). Does this discussion in any way have to do with what is perceived as women's work?

I'd love to know what y'all think about this - to what extent should the focus on preserving the illusion of attention overrule the actual ability to pay attention (e.g., knitting and staying awake v. falling asleep without knitting, or nursing the baby v. having to leave and go somewhere else in order to nurse the baby)? To what extent is the social contract around paying attention a gendered one? (Of course, I hasten to add that men knit. But it is nevertheless generally perceived as a female activity.)

Are there other activities that are considered more appropriate in group settings? The only one I can come up with is smoking, which is less socially acceptable now, but not for the reasons we've been discussing. There is also sketching - this is something I often see people doing in many of the situations we've discussed. Is this rude? Is it ok because we are more willing to see it as art than we are knitting?

And for more on the social location of knitting, check out the newest issue of Bitch, which has a piece that looks at the way knitting has been constructed - er, interpreted - by some to be a sign that women have rejected feminism in order to devote their lives to the domestic arts. The author argues against this, defending both the domestic arts and feminism. It's an interesting read. (If I can find the actual article online, I'll post it.)

* Ken actually said this later on, after my response, but it makes more sense if I put it here in this post.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Knitting Etiquette

A question was raised on a board I read as to whether or not it was appropriate to knit during a concert. So I got to thinking about it...and now, I'd like to know: when is knitting in public acceptable, and when - if ever - is it rude?

So I did what any woman of the 21st century does - I googled "rude to knit." Here's what I found:

Knit Together...Wonderfully Made asks, is it rude to knit while hanging out and visiting with the family? I think, no. The commenters on Knit Together noted, though, that people who don't knit may feel that the knitter isn't listening to them, so knitters should stop knitting if there are any serious discussions taking place. Knitting during more informal chit-chat would be ok, however.

Then there was this thorough response to the question:
Originally posted by azknitter

I think it's inappropriate to knit anyplace where your undivided attention is required or requested.


If I had worked for years to become a musician and was giving a concert and looked out into an audeience where one or more people were knitting, I'd find it disconcerting (pun intended).

If I were a minister delivering a message to the congregation after hours of study and preparation so that I might give the best sermon possible, I'd hope my congregation had the courtesy and respect to give me their undivided attention for that one little hour.

I've heard people proclaim they knit WHILE they drive and at stoplights while waiting. I hope to God I'm never hit by anyone doing that because I'll sue their ass off.

Funerals? No way! How self-centered do you have to be to even consider such a thing...unless, as previously stated, the deceased was a knitter and even then, I don't think I would unless it was a request of the deceased.

I can knit at home, I can knit in yarn stores, parks, friend's homes, sitting in the car waiting for someone who's shopping or whatever, in the hospital waiting room, doctor's office, lunch hour, picnics, etc....

I'm not so selfish or obsessed that I can't pay attention for a few minutes or even an hour when someone else has gone to special lengths to do something for me.

It's knitting, you won't die if you put it down for a little while.


The idea that we shouldn't knit in situations in which our undivided attention is required is a good point, granted. However, I'm not sure that I buy the notion that someone who is just sitting and looking is going to be paying better attention. I am the queen of not being able to pay attention to someone who is giving a talk. I frequently write essays and journal during conference presentations. I'm pretty sure that's rude, so I generally look up at the speaker from time to time, nod my head a lot, and try to look like I'm thinking hard about what s/he is saying as I jot it down. Heh. If I were knitting, I wouldn't be writing my next article, would I?

St. Scobie's Mock Whiskey maintains that knitting at a PTA meeting is ok. But other questions were raised: at a church meeting? (Alianne Knits) at a wedding? (A woman obsessed) How about during a therapy session (that one's mine)?

Weigh in, would you? I'm curious. And let us know if you're a knitter or non-knitter.

(BTW - check out the new addition to the blogroll: Pseudostoops.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The muzzle.

Three really big and interesting things happened to me this week, and I can't write about any of them. One involves a sort of scandal. One involves gossip. And one involves a lawyer.

I should add here that my behavior in all cases was impeccable. In case you were wondering.

But these are the times when I think, "what's the point of being a writer if I'm not allowed to write about the good stuff?!"

And then I remember: not all of my writing must be done on my blog. And writing done in other mediums does not so quickly cause doocing.

One thing I *can* tell you - though it's not nearly so interesting - I am about to go out and grade papers late on this Saturday night (early Sunday morning). I can only comfort myself with the thought that last week at this time I was learning to salsa.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Plainsfeminist Guide to Holiday Giving, Part 2.

Continuing the thread below...

3) Photo gifts. For relatives, photo items are often appropriate. Sadly, I don't think the industry has come up with many great items. Consider t-shirts, for example. Maybe when I'm a 65 year old grandma, a t-shirt of my grandkid will seem like a good idea. But in general, I think those kinds of t-shirts are just embarrassing.

Mugs, on the other hand - calendars - mouse pads - those work. (And who couldn't use a new mouse pad, after all?) Or even just a classic photo gift: a framed snapshot or portrait. I think this last is under-utilized, myself.

4) Handmade gifts - a caution.
The problem with handmade gifts is that many people think that just because it's handmade, it will automatically be a great gift. I think this is true when the maker is a child. In this case, the gifts have sentimental value (assuming the child is one you have an association with). For example, I once had stationery made from a couple of Bean's finger paintings that were unusually pretty. These made a great grandma gift. The notecards were actually nice enough that I could have given them to random friends who weren't especially interested in having something that Bean had made, but they were better as a gift specifically for those who were.

But there are some things that I think are less useful. For example - and I could be wrong - but I just don't know about nicely packaged, homemade cocoa mix. Or chocolate spoons. I have both received these and given them (I never really understood the point of the spoons, and when I used them I was mostly disappointed), but I just don't think this is a gift that most people are excited to get (I am willing to be wrong about that).

I have also made scarves for people and not been really sure if that's something they want. Knitted gifts can be touch and go, as so much depends on a person's particular style, but usually a pretty, warm scarf is welcome in the winter. Handcrafted jewelry, too, can be a winner provided you get the giftee's taste right.

The key to making handcrafted gifts work is to either get the taste or the need right. Just one of these will make it a nice gift. Both together make it a winner (as is the handmade knitting-related gift I got for my birthday this year from this friend).

5) Edibles. When all else fails - or even when it doesn't - chocolate. Russell Stover or Whitman chocolates are an affordable gift for neighbors, teachers, or just about anyone. But if you want to give something special, try Godiva. As my aunt says, "I like all kinds of chocolate, but it's true, Godiva is really better." She will be getting this for Christmas. (No, she doesn't read this blog.) You don't have to break the bank, either - I usually get her something like this, along with a couple of books, but she's still drinking last year's, so I figured I'd just focus on the chocolate this year.

Also, even a small box of fancy truffles from a local chocolatier makes a nice hostess, neighbor, or even teacher gift, and that way you can support a small business in your own community.

Coffee is also a good consumable, especially if it's fairly traded.

I'm also a big fan of the basket o'meat and cheese. I think, though, that these are often nicer and more affordable if you select the items individually and package them yourself. You also get more for your money that way. Combine a couple of varieties of olives, hard cheeses, and salami/summer sausage with crackers, or do one each of the olives, cheese, and meat and add a small bottle of wine. Theme baskets can be nice, too. For example, how about a jar of fancy marmalade, one of fancy preserves, a set of holiday spreaders, and popover (or muffin, or beignet) mix?

(Man, I shouldn't write these things when I'm hungry. I'm drooling on the keyboard.)

OK, now, my silent readers, it's your turn: what are your smart gift ideas?

Friday, December 08, 2006

All together now...

When I was in college, we used to have a primal scream at the end of the semester. There'd be signs around campus inviting students to shake off the stress by indulging in a good, gut-busting yell.

I feel like this semester has been an endless conveyor belt of student papers and job applications. And I can't remember the last time I got more than 5 or 6 hours' sleep in a night (although tonight it's because I was wrapping presents* while finally watching that Pirate movie with Johnny Depp (Part 2), so I can't really blame that on my hectic schedule).

I'm just thinking how much I could use a good primal scream about now.

(Plus, my butt hurts from my dance class last night. That has little to do with the need for a primal scream, but it needed to be said.)

*Please don't think I'm organized. I just have to mail so much shit to the other side of the country that I have to do it a little bit at a time.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Plainsfeminist Guide to Holiday Giving, Part I

I wrestle every year with what to buy for my relatives. I have some who I don't really know all that well. I have some who already have everything money can buy. I have some who don't have hobbies or interests. And while I generally do believe that it's the thought that counts, I really like to be able to give people things they will like and can use.

With that in mind, here are a couple of ideas for people who are hard to shop for.

1) Charitable donations.
I have to say first that these are tricky because not everyone will be pleased at the idea that you are spending money on someone else as their Christmas present. In fact, I suggested this to a relative last year and she nearly disowned me. So choose this option at your own peril! However, if you decide to go through with it, here are my suggestions.

Darfur. I posted about this over Thanksgiving, so see that post for more information about why this is so terribly important.

Heifer International. What's neat about this is that instead of merely making a random donation, you have an idea of what your money is going toward. $500 will give a family a cow to provide them with milk and other dairy products - not to mention calves - for sale, barter, and their own nourishment. $20 can buy a flock of chicks: eggs, meat, and the money from the sale of same. If you're a vegetarian, $30 will pay for honeybees. If you're vegan, $60 will pay for a gift of trees ($10 will pay for a share of seedlings). The idea is to give families in poverty-stricken countries a way to be continually provided with food and a way to make a living (or, in the case of trees, to protect their environment).

Amnesty International. Thank God for Amnesty International. They are the ones we can count on to keep us informed about human rights violations, not just abroad, but in the U.S., as well (and, sadly, the U.S. has kept Amnesty busy lately). These are the people who defend the disappeared, the tortured, and the illegally detained.

The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins. This one's kind of personal. A little over a year ago, ALS really wasn't on my radar screen. And then I learned that one of my friends with whom I had lost touch had been diagnosed with it some time earlier. She died last December. Then, a few months ago, the mother of a friend was diagnosed. At about the same time, the sister of a colleague was diagnosed, as well. So suddenly, ALS seems very present in my life. The good news is that there is a lot of new research that is helping to discover treatments - and perhaps, a cure. But they need our help to do it.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). If the person you are buying for is an animal lover, then PETA is an excellent choice, if a controversial one. I'm not a vegetarian and I do sometimes buy (though I try really hard not to) products that were tested on animals. Yet, I support their work. They have done a lot to safeguard the treatment of animals in all kinds of areas, from circuses to labs to pet stores to KFC's chicken plants. And they're anti-fur. Check 'em out.

2) Responsible purchases.
If you want to give something that is tangible but still socially responsible, I have two favorites.

The first is Marketplace: Handwork of India. I used to buy a lot of their clothes when I was a poor graduate student, but unfortunately for me, they quickly realized that these fashions held particular appeal for upscale American women, and they raised the prices accordingly. Now, I mostly just look at the catalog pictures (though their sale prices are quite good). But it's still a good cause, and I still like the fashions. Marketplace offers work to Indian artisans, teaching them the craft of making and designing clothes and giving women money and prestige in their communities. The catalogs contain letters from and information about the women who make the clothes, and they very often speak of being treated with more respect now that they are contributing to the family income.

Another is Ten Thousand Villages. TTV sells fairly-traded items. I don't know if this is true everywhere, but here, the store is staffed by volunteers. The money from the art, clothing, and jewelry is sent back to artisans. This allows them to be fairly paid for their work, but it also means that one can purchase beautiful, hand-made gifts at a fraction of what they would cost elsewhere. Definitely worth a look.

Part 2 to follow, and please add your own ideas in the comments section!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Feisties. At it again.

To be fair, I actually got this email last spring, but it languished while I figured out what to do with it. However, I think the topic is as timely as ever, so I'm posting this now.

Here's an email I received from an Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship person at my alma mater. (I don't know why they're still emailing me.)

Dear Christian Fellowship (CF) Alums:

As you may know, CF is going to Mississippi during the first week of spring break to help with rebuilding houses in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. We are working with a Christian ministry there. Their goal is to rebuild 200 houses in hurricane-affected areas.

[So far, so good.]

We had an unexpectedly large number of students who have registered for the trip. About half of the attendees are CF members and half are not. This is an excellent opportunity for CF students to engage their friends in spiritual conversations, and for non-Christians or non-involved students to experience a Christian community and be introduced to the person of Jesus. (In the evenings, we have "community time" which includes discussions of Jesus’ teachings about poverty, faith, and service.)


I would like to ask for your support in two specific ways:

1. Prayer: here are some specific prayer requests--

- safety in travel and while in Mississippi

- for effective organization of such a large group so that it remains cohesive and our work is effective and helpful

- for meaningful friendships to be built among Christians and non Christians

- for Christian students to be challenged to live out their faith by serving others and seeking justice

- for non Christian students to be drawn to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord through this trip

- for financial provision for this trip

2. Financial assistance.

We offer a discounted price to non-CF students so as to enable as many students as possible to come on this trip. Also, many students (including several international students and others on full financial aid) have requested partial scholarships for the trip. Because of the unexpectedly large number of students signed up and requesting scholarships, and because some of our former funding sources are not available to us this year, we are in need of approximately $4,000 to cover the expenses of this trip. Thanks very much for your consideration.

In Christ,

So, in case you missed that, this trip was only marginally to be about helping the good citizens of NOLA to rebuild after a devastating loss. It is not even about CF members building ties with the people of New Orleans or learning about how Christians there are responding to the disaster. It is about enticing "non Christians" into going on the trip in the first place, and then, once there, subjecting them to constant haranguing about Jesus.

I wonder if the "non Christians" knew what they were in for.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"I think other women would want to be like us." - promo

Whenever I watch a few minutes - normally, I don't make it through an entire episode - of Housewives of Orange County, I feel a mix of emotions. Sick and angry generally top this list.

For a while, I wasn't sure exactly why. I can watch Real World and just laugh at how predictable it is. (Typical "confessional" monologue: "I just think I'm really growing up a lot right now. I really really love B, but I need to have my freedom, too. I need to see what else is out there for me so that I can be sure that B is the right person for me." Read: "I want B to still be around when I'm done shooting this show, but right now I want to hook up with my housemates and maybe that really hot guy/girl I met last night when we were all drunk in the hot tub. Gosh, I hope I sound intelligent and mature.") I watch Top Chef and Project Runway and get annoyed at the entitled, egotistical, or assholish contestants. But none of this makes me angry or sick.

I think what it is about Housewives is that I really mostly feel sorry for them. In the ten minutes that I could stomach the other morning, two of the blond women were getting Botox. The one who looks like she is a good deal older than the others and in very poor health - when I first saw the show last season, I thought at first that she was seriously ill and maybe had disastrous plastic surgery because her face and neck were so grotesque, but I came to realize that that's just what she looks like - anyway, this one said, "I'll never look older than 32." And I sat there for a few minutes trying to figure out if she was maybe talking about dog years or something, because she looks a hell of a lot older than 32. And not just old - old would be fine. There is something really sexy and feisty about women of a certain age, you know what I mean? But this wasn't it. She looked used. And like her skin had completely given up.

And then the other one, finished with her injections, asked how she looked. "Twenty years younger," the Botox injector said. "Do I look like my [teenaged] daughter?" the Housewife asked. Um, no. She looked like she was her daughter's mother - in that sense, she looked like her daughter. And she actually looked fairly normal, considering. But Botox ain't gonna make her look like a teenager.

So this had already put me in a bad mood, and it had only been a few minutes of watching. But what really made me ill was when the one with the long dark hair and the scary boyfriend was talking to said scary boyfriend about how bored she was being at home all the time. The deal is that scary boyfriend wants her to stay home and take care of him, his house, and his kids. He does not want her to work. He makes lots of money, he'll buy her anything she wants, so why, he figures, should she work? Doesn't he deserve a girlfriend who will stay home? (Readers, I just have to step in here to note that I watched most of the last season of this show and I have yet to see anything redeeming about this guy, except for his money. And even so, if I were his girlfriend, the money would make me feel like a prostitute, because there is nothing she is getting out of this deal other than the money. OK? He's a total jackass, sexist, ignorant loser.)

So she told him she was happy but also bored. And he just looked sorrowfully at her and like he was disappointed in her, and he didn't say much, so of course she tried to backtrack to make him feel better and to make him not be angry at her. And then he got excited when she told him she had played tennis that day and liked it, and he said that "A lot of people around here take tennis very seriously," and "I'll buy you a tennis skirt and you can wear it around the house" (this last inflected with heavy innuendo), and you could just see the cogs and gears turning and his thought balloon saying, "Wow! The neighbors will finally be impressed because I'll have a hot girlfriend who can PLAY TENNIS! And she can wear that short skirt around for my enjoyment, too! I have SO got it made!"

Here's the episode of Housewives I want to see:
The housewives' kids, recognizing how disgusting their fathers / mothers' boyfriends are, get together and send their moms on a field trip to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (the moms think they are going to a spa). Once there, the housewives realize that everyone is having a great time without men, and they stop worrying about getting wrinkles or needing new boobs and just have fun being outdoors with their friends and listening to the music. (They also meet some foine lesbians and have really good sex on their own terms.) They decide men are ok but they certainly don't need to have one to be happy, stop worrying about what other people will think about their appearance, eat whatever they want to, find interesting and challenging jobs, set up a communal household, and are happy ever after. The End.

Monday, December 04, 2006

And another reason to hate MySpace...

...I logged on just now only to find an ad featuring Paris Hilton in a bikini. I mean, WTF? This is the sort of thing I try very hard to avoid. No one should have to encounter random Paris Hilton sightings, and certainly not without due warning.

(NOTE: This sounds like a slam on Paris because I think she's unattractive. When female celebs are trashed, it is their appearance and their intelligence that we target. So I want to explain that this is not what I am doing in the above comment. I do, in fact, find Paris unattractive, but I suspect that this is largely because I am irritated by her constant presence and popularity despite never having done anything useful. Her fame is derived largely from having money and having made a point of being visible. So it wasn't that she was in a bikini that I found distasteful, it was simply that she was there at all.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Benefactors of the Arts

One of my job tales I haven't yet shared on this blog involved working for a private school. The clientele - er, students - were, let's say, a certain class of people. Just for example:

We were setting up the gym for the annual fundraiser - an auction. There were TONS of items arranged in the gym, many of them expensive and breakable. And into this came four or five rampaging middle-school girls. I told them they couldn't run around and touch and look at the stuff, and that they'd have to leave. One of them looked me right in the eye, cocked her head, put her hand on her hip, and said, "Do you know who my mother is?"

Her mother was president of the board. And, in point of fact, her mother did not seem like the kind of a mother who would allow her daughter to speak that way - but this kind of gives you an idea of the feeling of entitlement that pervaded that school.

The kids would routinely try to outdo each other by hosting elaborate birthday parties. I remember one was a lavish dinner cruise - for a thirteenth birthday! (As my mother would say, "if you're going to have the dinner cruise on your thirteenth birthday, what's left for the wedding?") Some of these middle school parties were also well-stocked with things like, oh, I don't know, cocaine. I found this out because one parent was brave enough to come forward, though the school swept it under the rug - I know, because I was the one who reported it to school officials - and she was likely ostracized for it.

Anyway. So this was a place where money talked (and they talked about money, which is, by the way, the sign of the Nouveau Riche (Old Money doesn't talk about money, ever) and everyone felt entitled and I got to witness a lot of ignorance and arrogance that folks tried to hide under their money.

Perhaps these attempts to hide ignorance and arrogance under money are most evident when it comes to art. Case in point: One of the auction items that someone had donated was a limited edition print by Magritte.

The piece was "le viol" (the rape):

Now - my boss, who talked about money a lot and was somewhat obsessed with having the "right" shoes, bag, show tickets, whatever - thought this was obscene, and so - god, it's painful even to write it - she ROLLED IT UP and PUT SOME RUBBER BANDS AROUND IT and STUCK IT ON A SHELF. You know, the way you did with your old Duran Duran posters when you left for college. God knows what this was worth before she put all kinds of dents into the print. Or, more to my point, it was something of artistic value, and she crumpled it.

The piece didn't go in the auction and the owner was not informed, as far as I know. My boss seemed to think she could sell it privately, but I don't know what collector would buy a crapped up limited edition print. This incident seems to me, in some way, to be a perfect metaphor for the school and for the way it tried to present itself: it was the right place to be to look as though one had experienced art and culture, but the administrators and parents didn't know art and culture when it looked them in the eye. (The teachers, though, were pretty good - it must be said.)

All of this ran through my mind when I saw this story. At first, I thought, oh, too bad. But then I started to think a bit more about the people involved in this story. And there are two things that really bug me. First, there's Nora Ephron's take, which is fine. It's funny. It's typical Ephron. But I couldn't help but notice her mention of Joe's Stone Crab. I immediately remembered this post. And I realized that Nora was hanging with a guy who owned a painting that he could sell for over 100 million dollars, and then I realized that Nora wasn't one of us, but one of them. So I was annoyed, thinking about these rich people bumbling around and destroying fine art.

But second, there was this piece in The New Yorker, which somehow made it worse. Because now, crapping up art has somehow become a witty little story to be shared at dinner parties among the very rich.

I suppose I should be grateful that, at least, very rich people like Nora Ephron and her friends recognize the value of art when they see it. In contrast, I have also worked a couple of "art" auctions, auctions featuring (often poorly-done) work by overpriced and kitsch artists. At these auctions, people who know nothing about art itself - though they may know of a few artists who are currently "hot" - shop for art that will match the living room couch. I wish I could say I was kidding. I heard repeatedly "but it doesn't GO with anything" and "where would I PUT that?!"

These are appropriate comments for discussing the choice of wallpaper. Art is not wallpaper. And that brings me to the point of this rant, which is simply this: Art is not, or should not be, a conversation piece or decoration or a way to bring together the colors in a room's interior design. It is ART. Its point is to enlighten, move, challenge - to speak something real that will affect us. If it doesn't do that for you, then don't buy it.

And frequently, though not always, the "benefactors of the arts" are the most ignorant of all.