Friday, March 31, 2006

Mitt Romney in Outbreak: The Containment

Today Massachusetts's Supreme Court ruled that couples who live in states that prohibit gay marriage cannot travel to Massachusetts to be legally wed unless they plan to move there. What is Mitt Romney, some Mormon angling for the White House, doing governing this bluest of the blue states? How did this happen?

From the the Times:

The ruling, supported by six of the court's seven justices, upheld a 1913 law that says that no out-of-state resident can marry in Massachusetts if the marriage would be void in the person's home state, unless the person intends to live in Massachusetts.

The lawsuit began after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts in May 2004 and Gov. Mitt Romney, an opponent of it, invoked the 1913 statute, which had been originally adopted in part to block interracial marriages. Mr. Romney refused to record out-of-state marriages, saying, "Massachusetts should not become the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage."

Well, whyever not? And a question: Shouldn't it seem just a bit unseemly to these people to be making 2006 law out of a 1913 law that was racist? Guess not.

Then there's this:

Governor Romney, in an interview Thursday, said, "This is an important victory for traditional marriage and for the right of each state to be sovereign as it defines marriage. It's very important to contain a bad initial decision on same-sex marriage by this court and not impose it on the other 49 states."

Impose it on the other 49 states. Contain a bad initial decision. As if people will spread their libertine, debased germs to corruptible...who? All the thirteen-year-old kids, black and white, rich and poor, who've been mainlining hip-hop and its attendant fucked-up gender politics?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Siskins, Bramblings, Feral Pigeons.

Ok, that last post was cheap. Here are the results from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' Big Garden Birdwatch. Blackbirds were up 24%, jackdaws down by 12.6%. In the spring, male wrens build several nests for the female to choose from.

Sparrow, Wren.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Big City Navel-Gazing--Uh, Living.

Life seems to have ground to a halt over here, after quite a few weeknights of excellent, heartening socializing. Am watching Sex and the City religiously, trying to stave off the feeling that no new word can be said about female existence at the dawn of the new millenium because this thing has body bagged and tagged nearly every experience and thought any girl might have ever had, whether she lives in a city or not. I almost set a cheeseburger from Wendy's on fire in my toaster oven last night--I guess I should have taken it off the foil it came wrapped in before I tried to heat it up. Hmm. Smoking embers flew all over the place and I went to bed hoping that there weren't any lurking about waiting to burn the house down. That makes three cheeseburgers from two different dollar menus in five days. I tried to order some expensivo shirts from J.Crew today so as to show up for my freelance job looking smartly dressed and like I leave the house more than once a week, but they told me they were out of them for the forseeable future. Do I have to pick up the phone and spend money I don't have the minute I get their catalog, as if I was telecommuting to a sample sale, elbowing imaginary Conde Nast types out of the way as I speed dial? Bleh. I received a communique from this morning with the heading "Alice Walker Alert." No, thanks. Apparently they alerted me because I'd ordered an Alice Walker book before. Huh? I've never ever read a novel of hers. Or was that in my other life, when I inked SLUT on my midriff regularly and went without lowercase letters, just like bell hooks.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The...

birthmark on Gorbachev's head, even though those in my evangelical milieu would conjecture that it was the mark of the beast and a sign of the end.

On March 10, 1985, twenty-six years ago this week, your humble narrator began to breathe easy, having spent most of her childhood and preadolescence--just like many of us who grew up in the waning though incredibly tense days of the Cold War--scared to death that Reagan would finally push the button and induce the Second Coming, with Jesus coming to earth shrouded in a billowing, rolling mushroom cloud. On that day Konstantin Chernenko died and Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, and would soon start engineering a thaw between the Soviet Union and the U.S. If I could attach sound files, I'd cue a little "99 Luftballons" by Nena or "Russians" by Sting (Oh, Sting, you pretentious rotter, padding your peacenik dirge with Prokofiev. And I fell for it!) Accept this artifact above as substitute, won't you?

But What Do Your Constituents Really Think?

Just noticed an AP poll that attempted to take our pulse on abortion. It seems that 52% of those polled (just over 1,000 were polled) said abortion should be legal in most cases.

More numbers here.

Come Back, Justice O'Connor, Come Back!

This week on Morning Edition Nina Totenberg (whose recounting of Supreme Court proceedings have the breathless drama of, say, an All My Children update) reported on an amazing speech that Sandra Day O'Connor just gave at Georgetown. O'Connor barred recording of her speech, but Totenberg gave us the gist, which is that O'Connor blasted Republicans for trying to use the courts to advance their agenda. It seems that O'Connor used the word "dictatorship" while discussing this phenomenon.

You can listen to the story here.

A Philadelphia Daily News blog--don't take it any less seriously because of the gigantic cheesesteak that is its Jolly Roger--recounts the Totenberg report here.

An excerpt:

I, said O’ Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and formerly Communist countries, where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

I saw the above picture in the Times I suppose in the late summer or early fall. The photographer is David Hume Kennerly. Caption: Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice, sitting in the twilight of the era in which women were thought to be men's equal, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg emit rays of wisdom, steely resolve, compassion--and just a little human frailty.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I Turn The Work In On Time, And I Mean It.

Phew. That last post was supersizedly humorless. Let's let some air in the room. It's freezing, but the sun is out with a vengeance, and for some reason birds are chirping like four dozen thirteen-year-old girls on a Skittles high outside my apartment, I'm hearing only birds--no sirens, no homeless guys searching for glass bottles in our trash, no truck rumblings, no bus wheezings. This astounds me. And so does this quote, heard on NPR this morning from Mark Morris, one of my favorite people making Art.

My Mac won't let me listen to the piece again, but I'm pretty sure
the quote is more or less verbatim, though I might have left out two or three nouns. It came right after the reporter described his work ethic and renaissance-man approach:

"I'm a dancer, choreographer, conductor, a bon vivant, I turn the work in on time, and I mean it."

I love that this is a guy making what most people would agree is Art, as in everything he does is one for the ages, and this is how he describes his M.O. No nonsense, no mystification, no apologies, with a little self-love and self-irony thrown in at the bon vivant part. I can think of quite a few writers and musicians and filmmakers who wouldn't dare cut the crap this way. Anyway, I think I want this on my tombstone: She Turned The Work In On Time, and She Meant It.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Afterschool Special Installment

Facts that the Family Research Council, et al., will conveniently ignore, in the Times today. Apparently forcing young women to tell their parents they want an abortion does not reduce abortion rates.

Some excerpts:

Abortion rates have been dropping nationwide since the mid-1980's, most precipitously for teenagers. But in three states — Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee — the percentage of pregnant minors who had abortions rose slightly after the consent laws went into effect....

Of the remaining decline in teenage abortion rates in the Times study, Dr. Joyce said that some of it might be attributed to minors going out of state for abortions. The health departments in these states do not track data on such abortions, but in three previous studies of states where such data were available, completed before 1991, two found that any drop in minors' abortions was matched by an increase in minors getting abortions out of state....

But providers interviewed in 10 states with parental involvement laws all said that of the minors who came into their clinics, parents were more often the ones pushing for an abortion, even against the wishes of their daughters.

The point being, abortions will be had no matter how the pro-life movement tries to prevent it. Perhaps those in the pro-life movement are--wildly?--out of touch with the hearts and minds, as they might put it, of those who choose abortion. But those in the pro-life movement would probably describe the above as "facts," the better to keep selling their sex-panicked hysteria as "arguments".

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur

They both had birthdays yesterday; Lowell was born in 1917, and Wilbur in 1920.

Here's a Richard Wilbur poem, his most famous. People like Robert Bly thought he was an uptight, form-focused old fogey, but people like Robert Bly are partly responsible for the nineties mania for drum circles.

Love Calls Us To The Things Of This World

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded
Hangs for a moment bodiless and
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with

Some are in bed-sheets, some are
in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there
they are.
Now they are rising together in calm
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they
With the deep joy of their impersonal

Now they are flying in place,
The terrible speed of their
omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now
of a sudden
They swoon down in so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every
blessed day,
And cries,
"Oh, let there be nothing on
earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising
And clear dances done in the sight of

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks
and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns
and rises,

"Bring them down from their ruddy
Let there be clean linen for the backs
of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult

A couple months ago I asked a former professor friend what else I should look into of Robert Lowell's besides Life Studies and The Union Dead--should I read Lord Weary's Castle, which won him a Pulitzer? "Lord, no. It's not even written in English!" he said, laughing. So I didn't. And that, my friends, partly explains why I'm not a Yale grad. Then he added, because my professor friend loves poems and loves stories, "But you might want to look up those poems he wrote about Caroline Blackwood and Elizabeth Hardwick." On it! I also recently learned that Flannery O'Connor fell hard for Lowell during a period in which he was aflame with Catholic feeling--courtesy of Paul Elie's The Life You Save May Be Your Own. The thought amused me--no-nonsense, bespectacled, plainspeaking O'Connor, the torrential raving of Lowell, weighted by his brain and breeding. What must that have been like?

Here's a poem from For the Union Dead, in honor of New York and slush.

Middle Age

Now the midwinter grind
is on me, New York
drills through my nerves,
as I walk
the chewed-up streets.

At forty-five,
what next, what next?
At every corner,
I meet my Father,
my age, still alive.

Father forgive me
my injuries,
as I forgive
those I
have injured!

You never climbed
Mount Sion, yet left
death-steps on the crust,
where I must walk.