Thursday, May 29, 2008


I was watching an episode of "The L Word" this week during dinner, in which one of the characters begins taking testosterone in the lead-up to a sex-change operation. Pat, ever the bearer of random trivia, casually says, "I read the other day that a sex-change operation for a man to become a woman costs about $3000, but for a woman to become a man costs about $15, 000." I stopped mid-bite, feeling that dark ooze of disparity drip over me, and said, "Great. Not only do women pay more for dry-cleaning than men, and get paid less, we also have to pay more for a sex-change operation."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Live Aid for humanity

This post is at least a week overdue. I haven't known what to say about it, and I confess I'm still at a loss to articulate the impact of that event on me.

On May 10 2008 I attended a gathering of the first Pangea Day. Pangea Day is the dream-child of Jehane Noujaim, who wrote and directed "Control Room," a movie about how news coverage shaped perception during the lead-up to and directly following the attack on Baghdad, focusing on Al-Jazeera and Cent-Com (US Central Command and their propaganda machine). Noujaim won a prize in 2006 from TED for "Control Room" and was asked to name her dream, and awarded $100,000 dollars to help make it a reality. She wished for a day when the world would come together to share their common humanity through film. High-profile presenters, speakers and entertainers stood on stages in six different locations -- Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro -- and broadcast to anyone with an internet connection, in short, millions of people sharing the planet.

With one intent, to help us see the world through each other's eyes, to lower the barriers caused by otherness by letting us see how similar we all are, presenters shared their visions. "Human universals," as they are called by anthropologist Donald Brown, such as love, fear, happiness and anger, were used as launching boards for 22 filmakers to illustrate how our humanity binds us together. Gilberto Gil sang in French from Rio. Christiane Amanpour mediated a conversation between a Christian and a Muslim from Lebanon who talked about their initial hatred of each other based on misunderstanding, and their eventual reconciliation and efforts to spread their words of peace to their countrymen. A Jewish mother whose lost son was killed by a Palestinian fighter and a Palestinian man whose brother was killed by an Israeli soldier walked onto the stage holding hands, illustrating how forgiveness is a weapon against violence. Dr. Padan Kataria, founder of Laughter clubs throughout India, led us in the first global laugh. It was infectious, of course, and forcing a laugh made us laugh harder, for real.

One of the speakers was a man who created a website that harvests feelings from blogs. The website has captured several million feelings since 2005, such as "I feel confident again and had a super fun time," and "I feel inexplicably sad tonight." One film showed an on-going "walleyball" game, a cross-cultural form of beach volleyball, which uses the US-Mexico border wall as a net.

There were so many loving and thoughtful ideas that were revolutionary in their simplicity. My friend Cat, who organized the event I attended in Minneapolis and who is an enlightened and compassionate soul, had to release a long-held assumption that Middle-eastern women are entirely repressed, including in their relationships. That realization came earlier via one film that merely presented a Moroccan couple speaking about their relationship, how whenever there's a misunderstanding they have to stop whatever they are doing and sit down and get to the root of the misunderstanding. That film was presented by the Pangea Day creator herself.

The four-hour event ended in a global drum circle, in which the millions of us participating across the globe beat drums and shouted and clapped in celebration of our shared humanity. What a day.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Made for walking

I'm intrigued by how many variations there are in the way people walk, their gait, how much weight is placed on the hip, whether the feet flatten or not before they push off. Some walk slowly and lazily, some lean fully on each leg as it pushes off, others clip along with hips barely in use.

I can't understand the persistence of the dress style of wearing one's pants pushed down over the hips, crotch hanging near the knees, underwear exposed. The person wearing his pants this way has to waddle to keep the pants from falling down. It's a very distinct walking style that requires them to lead a little with the hips, holding the legs a little wider than would otherwise be necessary. I wonder if there's any long-term damage done to the hips -- or the back -- from this style of walking.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A really good decision

Elation abounds among gays and lesbians, civil rights advocates and liberals after the California supreme court affirmed yesterday the right of marriage to same-sex couples. Sadly, there was a more tempered response from the presidential candidates, wh0 may want to join in the celebration but don't want to alienate independents with more socially conservative views. This is from the LA Times:

"Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had sketched out a more centrist path than the court's. The decision could encourage Democratic interest groups to press candidates to extend their support for civil unions to same-sex marriage itself.

All three offered finessed responses Thursday, saying that defining marriage is best left to individual states."

Of course, the issue isn't resolved just yet, as opponents of same-sex marriage will try to ban gay marriage by amending their state constitution, which Gov. Schwarzenegger has promised he will oppose.

"I respect the court's decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling," Schwarzenegger said. "Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the Constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."

My friend Lori has a story that illustrates the stupidity of restricting marriage to anyone because of their gender. Lori works as an on-call banquet bartender. She was working a wedding at the History Center, I believe. After the cocktail hour, the wedding party settled into their seats for dinner and the toasts began. The usual jokes and stories were shared, then the groom stood up and thanked the bride's family for being so loving and accepting of him after all they had gone through since his sex-change operation.

What is ridiculous is that when he was a she, this couple wasn't allowed to marry, according the the state of Minnesota. But now that he was a man, the marriage could be legal. Same person, different hormones and genitalia. Defies logic.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I've just watched this very educational tutorial on Australian rules football.
With Pat and I heading off to Oz in less than three weeks, we are hard at the work of preparations, studying the lingo, past times and traditions of the biggest island in the world. Aussie rules football, if I were to compare it to games I'm familiar with in states, would be an amalgamation of football, soccer and basketball, with some hockey thuggery thrown in for emphasis. Matt and Marlys got tickets to a footy match, one of many activities that will occupy practically every minute of our four days in Melbourne.

I bought us a new Nikon digital camera (my first digital, not my first Nikon -- this one can do panoramas); I'm saving up New Yorkers and storing pod casts for the plane ride; I sent away for a Sydney guidebook (M & M will be our guides in Melbourne) and laminated street map, which we've been pouring over; I'm re-reading "In a Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson, a hilarious accounting of Australia's history, present and past, with lists and descriptions of deadly beasts and wonderous sights; I'm watching Australian movies and practicing my Aussie accent; I'm scouring web pages with information on Aussie culture and language so I can be sure to use the phrase "fair dinkum" properly, and not sound like a Yank when I use the term of endearment, "mate" (I'm kidding, I probably won't say it even once); I've created an account on the travel website travellerspoint, to blog/share the experience with other wanderers (entries will also appear here); I bought new luggage -- my first matching set, black with white polka dots; I bought an electrical adaptor (Australia uses 3 tilted prongs); I've been amassing stuff that Marlys wants us to bring her, like candy bars for co-workers and the complete George Clooney DVD collection.

I just finished reading a bunch of comments by Aussies about what they think of Americans and America. Mostly they think we're alright in our own country but they don't always like having us in theirs. I'm not at all concerned about this. The last time I was in France I met an organic beef farmer in ahe small seaside village in Calais who despised Americans. He had been saying to his friend and my cousin all day that he didn't care whether I was family or not, he hates Americans, period. He had made up his mind he wasnt' going to like me. I recently looked at pictures from that trip and in most of them there's that short, balding beef farmer lapping after me like a puppy. He couldn't get enough of me, much to the chagrin of his wife, who gave me the stink eye all night.

I'm so excited to go to Australia! I've wanted to see the sunburnt country for a very long time. And planning is so much fun, I've already started thinking about my next trip!!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Thomas Edison was afraid of the dark.

An apropo fun fact during this time when I've been thinking about some common themes that recur in my dreams. Dreams reflect your subconscious, which harbors yours soul's needs and desires and powers your life. If your dreams reflect fears, that's an indication that whatever is holding you back in your waking life probably has something to do with those fears. Recognizing the hinderance can mean moving beyond it, and maybe inventing the light bulb.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Dear Senator Obama

On this May Day I write to remind you about the most critical challenge we face: global climate change.

While you (correctly) oppose suspending the gas tax over the summer, you have not explained why it would be counterproductive, nor tied your view to the need for the US to become more energy-efficient and oil-independent.

Programs and articles abound on TV and other media about alternative fuel such as biomass and ethanol, and renewable energy production. Yet congress and the president – and all of you in the current presidential race – seem to have become mute on the subject. People are dismayed that our representatives are not making headway in bringing these technologies into the mainstream. The country is ready to hear this message and get behind it!

McCain and Clinton are not addressing in their campaign stops the need for fuel-efficient cars and increasing subsidies and incentives for alternative energy technologies, such as wind and solar.

Now that your campaign is in a bit of a slump, this would a good time for you to take this issue and run with it!

Please find enclosed an article by Thomas Friedman, with whom I do not often agree, adding his to the cacophony of voices from all fronts crying out for leadership on this issue.