Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Cut Above

Mikaela blogs live from the Insomnia Lounge at the Hyatt (party alert!):
For those waiting anxiously at home for the big news going out in the Duke City tonight, a new palm has been greased.

Under My Skin won for best picture at this year's Duke City Shootout, written and directed by one of our own.

48-Hour Film Project winner Stare Down went up against the 7 Shootout films and stood in good staid, taking home an award for best actress to the uptight church-freak starer.

Crowd favorite was Talk Me to Death, starring Sina Soul and others in a very funny movie about how cell phones have infiltrated the holiest of holy places and times. Hold on, let me get this...

Movies were pretty great, sometimes a bit slow, but the record crowd was lively, so the mood was jovial and energized. It's by far the best Shootout, and everyone can feel it.

Great to be a part of it, but I'm done talking to people! (Hence the solitary blogging with you all. Oh, to be a social being...)

The best part of the night so far is taking off the stupid derby bowler, string tie, and arm band I had to wear as an usher. Ugh.

The Mayor sent word through the ranks that last year's ushers didn't look happy, so we were all instructed to smile and look like we were having fun so that everyone else could take cues from us. Ushering in a whole new kind of fake-happy in the Q. That's our Mayor! Smile for the camera, people!

The Mayor made some inane comment about the first party in the festival being broken up by the Corrales police. Marty suggested maybe it should have taken place in Albuquerque, instead. I didn't get the quote, but the next thing he said was something about how ABQ cops didn't do that, or it would have been safer here or something. Unbelievable! The crowd actually booed, and for a moment, there was that buzz signaling a glich in the Matrix. Oops, draw the curtain, Wizard. Your ass is showing, and it looks a lot like our esteemed Mayor.

Still, it wasn't enough to dampen the spirits overall, so here's to another amazing event born and bred right here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

War on Women

Mikaela says:
Yesterday, clergy and helpful family members and friends were the collateral damage in the latest attack on women and women's autonomy to make choices in their own lives.

The Senate passed S.403, making it a federal crime to help a minor receive an abortion by crossing state lines. Somehow we're to believe this makes their lives better.

Twelve-year-old girls raped by their fathers now have to get permission from their parents before going to get an abortion in the next state over, as if the decision wasn't scary and traumatic enough. Hurray! Let's just have all little girls pay for the rest of their lives for what happens to them in childhood. Much better to have these girls carry a baby to term and give it up for adoption, to Angelina Jolie or something.

You want the parents to know, and you want to help minors? Then add a provision for a body guard for this little parental notification, and then an escort to state lines. And then counseling and free condoms and birth control until she reaches 18. For the parents, too. Especially if she chooses NOT to have an abortion, in which case the federal government should also offer her living assistance and job training (or daycare at her school). Oh, and the same for her baby daddy (whose wages should be docked if he doesn't pay up).

In a weird twist, Senators accepted an amendment to punish the offenders in incest cases (um, I'm not sure how this is helpful, as it already seems to be illegal) but REJECTED a proposal to kick in some money for teen pregnancy prevention. (see NYT) Cause that would be SOOOO much more expensive than just paying for the fall-out later (see above). Thanks a lot, Senators.

What can be clearer? This is about punishing bad girls, including innocent victims of rape. Of course they're bad girls, what more proof do you need? They wouldn't be in this predicament if they weren't. There are the saved, and then there are the ... well ... screwed. Here's to kicking a girl, her family, and her friends when she's down. Sounds like a celebration of life if I ever heard one.

Oh, and let's keep cutting welfare, while we're at it, while Bush does an end run around us by cutting jobs in the IRS for those little-needed inspectors who audit rich people's giving in the estate tax. We all know they're dinosaurs anyway on their way to extinction. Guess what, fellas, we're not raising the minimum wage, either.

This bill passed 65-34 with one abstaining (Dianne Feinstein in California - D).

Fourteen Democrats voted FOR the bill.

That's right, had all Democratic Senators voted against, the bill would have stood 50-50. Interesting, no? Think they diivied up the votes? Didn't they just need a couple to jump ship to save all their hides?

Guess what? Save one, they're all MEN. Shocking, right?

Here they are:

Bayh IN male
Byrd WV male
Carper DE male
Conrad ND male
Dorgan ND male
Inouye HI male
Johnson SD male
Kohl WI male
Landrieu LA female
Nelson FL male
Nelson NE male
Pryor AR male
Reid NV male
Salazar CO male

Here are the Republicans who voted AGAINST the bill, bless them:

Chafee (R-RI) male
Collins (R-ME) female
Snowe (R-ME) female
Specter (R-PA) male

And Jeffords (I-VT) male

Who needs to overturn Roe v. Wade? Let's just start at the bottom with the most innocent victims and work our way to a victory for life. Sounds like a winning strategy to me. For male senators, anyway.

UPDATED: Events & Trivia -- Win Free Tickets! (Show your love & brainy nerdiness, you know we go for that!)

Mikaela says (ignoring for the moment her despondancy at the global news):

Lots happening in this fair Dukedom of ours this week:


§ 48-Hour Film Project just wrapped up last night. (See m-pyrical for full coverage)


§ Insomnia Lounge opens tonight (Ditto).

§ Simon Ortiz speaks at Zimmerman at 6:30.

§ The ABQ Slam Poetry Team is holding a little art auction fundraiser tonight at the Harwood at 7. (Please go! Please buy art! Cheer on your home team before they take off for this year's National Poetry Slam in Austin.)


§ Pandemonium, fun salsa, etc. band, is playing at the Zoo at 7 pm for $7


§ The Cell has seven 10-minute plays at 7 pm

§ Ralph Bakshi, innovator in animation, receives an award at the NHCC as part of the Duke City Shootout at 7 pm


§ ABQ Slam Team wakes people up at Insomnia Lounge from 3-4 pm

§ Duke City Shootout concludes with an Awards Gala at the Kiva 7 pm, winner to receive the coveted Palm de Grease for best film

§ Sina Soul and Beat Hive soothe Insomniacs from 12 am – 2 am at the Hyatt

We at m-pyre support community events. And we support you. And as organizers, we like to put those two things together.

In that spirit, we’re offering you a chance to compete for 2 tickets, one to attend the Bakshi commemoration on Friday night ($13 value), the other to see the Shootout finale Saturday ($20 value).

Here’s how our little game will work. The first person to answer ALL THREE of the following questions correctly will win the ticket in each category. (Hint: answers can be found on the internet.) Ready?

For the Bakshi ticket Friday:

  1. What was the original name of the Duke City Shootout?
  2. What are the home states of each of the Ms?
  3. What’s the last event in ABQ that had the Ms’ panties all up in a twist?

For the Shootout Gala Saturday: (SORRY, SLOW-POKES -- TICKET WON ALREADY)

  1. Who won the first Palm de Grease for best film? ("Plugged")
  2. How did the Ms meet? (UNM's CRP Program as students)
  3. What now-missing local bar was the Ms favorite hangout? (Pearl's Dive, sniff sniff, R.I.P.)
Respond only in the Comments, please!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dehumanizing war for children

marjorie says...

Certain Israeli parents need to re-evalute their parenting skills...when these photos are considered. This epitomizes the dehumanizing affects of war.

Both are AP photos taken by Sebastian Scheiner with this caption: Israeli girls write messages on a shell at a heavy artillery position near Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel, next to the Lebanese border, Monday, July 17, 2006.

Wild flails in space

Maggie says:

This is what I get for not liking science enough. One day I'm tuning out all NASA-related news and trying to forget those horrible science fairs from grade school, and the next I'm left completely in the dark about what is apparently a widely held sexual fantasy!

According to MSNBC, Outer-space sex carries complications. Why is this a problem, you ask? Well for practical reasons, easy copulation would make it easier for humans to move to space, reproduce there, and take it over (which let's face it, is what we like to do). But more importantly, "having sex in the weightlessness of outer space is the stuff of urban legends and romantic fantasy," according to the article.

Really? So that's what all those lovable science nerds were so into their books for!

NASA physician Jim Logan has lots to say about why outer-space sex would be, in his words, "a little underwhelming." The hilarious scientific reasons why include:
  • Sex in space would likely be "hotter and wetter" than on Earth, Bonta said, because in zero-G there is no natural convection to carry away body heat. Also, scientists have found that people tend to perspire more in microgravity. The moisture associated with sexual congress could pool as floating droplets.
  • The physics of zero-G make the mechanics of sex more complicated. Bonta said it was challenging even to kiss her husband during a zero-G simulation flight they took recently. "You actually have to struggle to connect and stay connected," she recalled. Partners would have to be anchored to the wall and/or to each other. To address that need, Bonta has come up with her own design for garments equipped with strategically placed Velcro strips and zippers.
  • Although zero-G could be a boon for saggy body parts, Bonta said males might notice a "slight decrease" in penis size due to the lower blood pressure that humans experience in microgravity.
  • Romantics will also need to guard against the type of motion sickness that space travelers often encounter, especially if they get too adventurous right off. "Save the acrobatics for post-play vs. foreplay," Bonta advised.

But Logan - a scientist after my own liberal-arts heart - sees room for hope:
"I can well imagine how compelling, inspiring, and quite frankly stimulating choreographed sex in zero-G might be in the hands of a skilled and talented cinematographer with appropriate lighting and music."

When the crowd tittered, Logan added, "I'm not kidding: Sex in zero-G is going to have to be more or less choreographed. Otherwise it's just going to be a wild flail."

In other words: Dream on, science nerds. The future is yours. And me? I'll stop ranking on science so much, I promise.

Monday morning politics

Maggie says:
Lots to feel hopeful about in politics right now...

Nationally, Lieberman continues to fall behind Lamont in the Connecticut Senate primary. Last week I bitched about national coverage of this race, but then gushed in comments about the poll showing Lamont pulling ahead narrowly. Today, I heard of a newer poll that shows Lamont winning the overall race even with Lieberman running as an Independent. Woo-hoo!!! This one is so exciting to watch, and getting more so by the day. Today's Clinton visit only adds to the drama.

Locally, the Patricia Madrid campaign is on fire, with money and growing support. The opening of the South Valley office this weekend was a huge hit, according to friends and a favorite local blogger, who notes:

...I gotta hand it to the Madrid campaign for understanding the South Valley enough to know it NEEDS a "South Valley Office".
We're a quirky (no, not Querque as in "offbeat" name for Albuquerque) bunch down here. Of the 100 or so folks I saw in attendance for the Madrid shindig, a serious half to three-quarters of us did not look "normal". To be honest, the crowd at the event looked like it would have been just as comfortable at a UFO convention and/or Apostolic Church meeting. And, having lived here for six years now I can say that description fits well over half of the entire SV population.
And Patsy is gonna need well over half of the SV vote if she's gonna win in November and force me to fork over several six-packs to my more optimistic friends. It's a wager I'd love to lose, and having a "South Valley Office" makes it just a little bit more possible that I'll have to pay up come early November.

Isleta Boulevard is near and dear to my heart, and I couldn't agree more that a South Valley office is a step in the right direction for this campaign.

For more on the Madrid/Wilson race, keep tags on the Madrid Campaign Blog, Democracy for New Mexico, and New Mexico FBIHOP.

Fall is coming upon us quickly, folks. Campaign season in New Mexico - with roasting green chile in the air - is about as good as it gets.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Local fury on stem cell bill

Maggie says:
Wow. I was just floored by local Trib columnist Joline Gutierrez Krueger's gut-wrenching response to Bush's veto of a stem cell research bill this week. Read Mr. Bush, meet my David, the kid your veto hurts. It's a powerhouse attack of emotion and steely anger aimed at a figurehead who doesn't get it, at politics that are empty to the core. Great stuff.

Good karma in ABQ

Maggie says:
Yesterday, in a car full of friends en route to eat Salvadoran food in the South Valley, my cell phone rang. It was a number I didn't recognize, so I let it go to voicemail. Turns out it was a guy parked on Lomas and 5th who'd found my wallet lying in the middle of the street. I looked in my purse - sure enough, no wallet. Oops.

I have this bright avocado-green wallet perfect for being noticed if it was lying in the middle of the road. And it was, apparently, because the guy pulled over, went out in the street to retrieve it, somehow found my phone number, and called me. Then he waited as we navigated our way through street closings downtown to backtrack to Lomas, where he was parked near a pawn shop.

I have no idea how my wallet escaped not just my purse, but also my car, and landed into his hands. One friend guessed I'd placed it on top of my car when I was getting gas. I was on the phone with him then, flustered because I thought I'd be late to meet everyone for dinner. Maybe that's the case. And if it is, I like to think of the infinite possibilities symbolized by my bright green wallet bouncing around on top of my white car as I drove all the way down Lomas from San Pedro, when it finally decided to fall off around 5th Street.

How funny that it fell off in that spot. How funny that he found it. And all before I knew it was even gone...

He couldn't have been nicer. A total tough guy at first glance, but full of my kind of talk when he opened his mouth.

"I lost my bag last week," he explained to me. "I spent two days not being able to sleep, worrying about everything in that bag. And then someone called me when they found it. When I saw your wallet, I wanted to call you."

"You know... good karma and all."

Oh, I know. My friend who figured I left my wallet on top of the car at the gas station fully understands how careless I can be. After all, he's known me for just about ten years and has seen me leave my wallet at countless restaurants, bookstore shelves, and just about everywhere... and without much consequence beyond nuisance ever happening as a result.

"You always have the best luck," he smiled, shaking his head at me.

Good luck plus a karmic good soul in Albuquerque... now that's a pretty heart-warming combination.

Or at least, a wallet back in my purse today.

Bush Watch: The Big Fade

Mikaela reposts:
Courtesy Wall Street Journal (click on it for larger view):

The Bootstrap-but-no-Boots Dilemma

Mikaela says:
Great article today in Washington Post criticizing the latest "Get to Work!" tour by Bill Cosby. Stop whining about racism, he says, and get a job, send your kids to school, and stay out of jail.

Author Michael Dyson points out clearly that this sentiment is good advice but fails to acknowledge the structural injustice that ensures unequal rewards for the same effort by black and non-black people.

By convincing poor blacks that their lot in life is purely of their own making, Cosby draws on harsh conservative ideas that overlook the big social factors that continue to reinforce poverty: dramatic shifts in the economy, low wages, chronic underemployment, job and capital flight, downsizing and outsourcing, and crumbling inner-city schools.

None of these can be overcome by the good behavior of poor blacks. As historian Robin D.G. Kelley argues, "All the self-help in the world will not eliminate poverty or create the number of good jobs needed to employ the African American community."


Personal responsibility is a necessary but insufficient condition for poor blacks to do better. We also need social justice to give them real opportunity to exercise that personal responsibility. That's why Martin Luther King Jr. didn't lead a behave-in to correct black morality, but a sit-in to protest racial injustice. (To be sure, King believed that for blacks to achieve "first-class citizenship," we must "assume the primary responsibility for making it so," even as we continue to "resist all forms of racial injustice.") Even conservative cleric T.D. Jakes argues that personal responsibility is "one-half of the solution" and that the "greater solution" is to combat "the lingering attitudes and bias that continue to fuel injustice."

"To tell a man to 'pull himself up by his bootstraps' when he doesn't have boots is not compassionate. To tell a man to 'pull himself up by his bootstraps' when one hand is tied behind his back is not equality." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tonight: Poetry for Dems

Maggie says:
Ooooh, political poets. Does it get any better? Check it out tonight!

Via Democracy for New Mexico:

Dem State Chair Hosts ABQ Poetry Slam

From the Democratic Party of New Mexico, which invites you join our march towards victory:

Thursday, July 20th, 2006, 5:30 to 7:30 PM
OPM Nightclub, 211 Gold Ave SW
Food by Tucanos

$40.00 at the door includes 2006 DPNM Membership (bumper sticker, newsletters, discounted admission to events)

$10.00 for Current 2006 DPNM Contributing Members,

$20 for students with ID

For more information and to RSVP call 830-3650 or email

Click here to become a contributing 2006 member for just $35.00. As an annual member, you will receive a bumper sticker, a newsletter in July and October informing you of DPNM activities, and discounted admission to DPNM fundraisers. Not only will you be donating to your DPNM, but also your county party – county parties will receive 20% of membership contributions.

Contributions are not tax deductible and for federal income tax purposes. Your contribution will be used in connection with federal elections and is subject to the limitations and prohibitions of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year.

Paid for by the Democratic Party of New Mexico,, and not authorized by any federal candidate or candidate’s committee.

Volunteers Needed: Duke City Shootout

Mikaela says:
Remember how fun the National Poetry Slam was? All that energy and chaos and craziness and creativity?

If you're jonesing for a little of that adrenaline rush, why not volunteer a little time to the Duke City Shootout? They're hurting for helping hands.

You can help at cool VIP parties and festivities, witness the hottest multimedia technology, and generally just get caught up in something bigger than the average Albuquerque summer week.

Check out the schedule of events at the official Duke City Shootout webpage (see also Volunteer page). Or, if you're convinced and ready to sign up, send a quick note to or just stop by the DCS headquarters, just north of downtown on 3rd street between Lomas and Granite.

If you sign-up to volunteer at 5 separate things, you get a free ticket to the Gala Event July 29. If not, you just have a great experience and can feel good about helping to make a really cool Albuquerque event even better. I'm thinking: win-win!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Postmodern Self(blog)-Reflection

Mikaela reflects:
So not only did m-pyre hit 30,000 (!!!) viewers this week, our zoom cloud snapshot in time is the best yet. Notice for the first time Albuquerque is the biggest cloud (and hence the most used word in our posts lately). Woo-hoo! m-pyre goes local!

The others are pretty great, too.

Lest they have changed by the time someone reads this, here they are (sorry for repetition):

Look how little "White House" is. Take that, all you "stop talking about the President, already" critics!

And yes, I see that "Pearl" is still rather large, which still gets to those of you out there who did NOT share our preternatural attachment to Pearl's Dive and just wanted us to "get over it already."

Even New Mexico's in there. Feminist & friends. Community and corporations and congress (of course). Women, toys, and the world cup, too!

Look how into world politics we seem to be lately! Iraq, Iran, the Geneva Convention. So global, these girls...

Yes, I'm tooting my own horn, here. I believe in women tooting their own horns all they want (wait, is this a separate discussion???). And it's not even my OWN horn I'm tooting; this is a threesome toot. Hot stuff, that. It's all mental, baby. We'll get to you, too.

Simon Ortiz Speaks at Zimmerman

Mikaela admits:
Confirming this information is correct, but if it is...

Simon Ortiz, poet, Native, veteran, and activist, is speaking next Wednesday, July 26, 6:30 pm at the University of New Mexico as part of the Summer Sunset Lecture Series. I thought this was originally scheduled for June and was really upset I'd missed it. Here's hoping I don't miss it again, and you shouldn't, either (for the first time)!

His poems are hard to find on-line (what's fair use for poetry these days?), but I've (probably illegally) posted two here and here.

Here's another one someone else posted illegally, with importance as we contemplate escalating conflict around the world:

Simon J. Ortiz
(Acoma Pueblo)

Edited by Geary Hobson
University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque NM, 1979


            I happen to be a veteran
            but you can't tell in how many ways
            unless I tell you.

            A cold morning waking up on concrete;
            I never knew that feeling before,
            calling for significance,
            and no one answered.

            Let me explain it this way
            so that you may not go away
            without knowing a part of me:

            that I am a veteran of at least 30,000 years
            when I travelled with the monumental yearning
            of glaciers, relieving myself by them,
            growing, my children seeking shelter
            by the roots of pines and mountains.

            When it was that time to build,
            my grandfather said, "We cut stone and mixed mud
            and ate beans and squash and sang
            while we moved ourselves. That's what we did."
            And I believe him.

            And then later on in the ancient and deep story
            of all our nights, we contemplated,
            contemplated not the completion of our age,
            but the continuance of the universe,
            the travelling, not the progress,
            but the humility of our being there.

            Caught now, in the midst of wars
            against foreign disease, missionaries,
            canned food, Dick & Jane textbooks, IBM cards,
            Western philosophies, General Electric,
            I am talking about how we have been able
            to survive insignificance.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Kinky makes it all better

Maggie says:
Today sucks. For lots of small, annoying reasons that may or may not include paying both a mechanic and a locksmith, it's just been one of those days.

So thank goodness for this Washington Post article that despite my general sourness, managed to make me crack up laughing at least once on every page:

But Seriously, Folks
Heard the One About Kinky Freidman Running for Texas Governor?

Now if you've been out of the weird-politics loop, you have a lot of catching up to do on Kinky. Check out his campaign website here. (While you're there, you just might be tempted to contribute. As Kinky's great graphics suggest: "Contribute! Why the hell not?") You might also be charmed by the Kinky Talking Action Figure who suggests, among other things, "I can't screw things up any worse than they already have."

But don't let the self-deprecating cynicism fool you. Kinky's also one of the hardest-working campaigners out there, as the Post article documents and Newsweek confirms. And as the Post notes, the Texas race for governor is now "The Weirdest Race for Governor of All Time." Mostly because while still placing second in the polls behind "Governor Great Hair" Rick Perry, Kinky's presence in the race will undoubtedly affect its outcome. Not bad for someone who knows how to rhyme "Aristotle Onassis" with "ethnocentric racist."

Room for hope, if he's your style:

Kinky's campaign manager, Dean Barkley, the architect of Jesse Ventura's successful 1998 race for governor of Minnesota, is more optimistic. "If 40 percent of registered voters turn out," Barkley says, "Kinky will win."

Quotes to brighten your afternoon:

Kinky serious
: "We can make Texas number one in renewable fuels -- which is a helluva lot better than being number one in executions, toll roads, property taxes and dropouts!"

Kinky so-true-it-hurts: Campaigning among Hispanics is especially great because "their food is better."

Kinky hilarious: "Houston Comets basketball -- it's not just for lesbians anymore!" And later... "If those [bleeps] don't see that as the perfect slogan for them, they're crazy."

Kinky tried-and-true (meaning he uses this one constantly): "I'm 61 years old, which is too young for Medicare but too old for women to care."

Whatever your politics, a man with one-liners this great on a day like today makes me want to go out for a beer despite myself. Or at least put "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore" on for a good listen.

Signing off the Kinky way: "May the God of your choice bless you, folks."

Can't Resist a Well-reasoned Bush Bash

Mikaela says:
Two little Bush treats today.

One from Dan Froomkin, who links to transcripts of Bush's off-line discussion with G8 leaders inadvertently captured on his microphone.

Bush's anything but nuanced analysis of the Lebanon-Israel crisis:

See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over.
And when talking to Chinese President, here's the sum of his wisdom:
Russia's a big country and you're a big country.

On that note, the other tidbit comes from LA Times columnist Jonathan Chait looking again at Bush-detractors' assertions from the very beginning that Bush was "too dumb to be President." Instead of just being about a cultural difference between book learners and common sense wisdom, Chait points out that Bush's decisions from the gut based on his assessment of the personalities of those he's talking to has led to disaster after disaster, from Katrina to Iraq. Chait relies heavily for his analysis on Ron Suskind's book "The One Percent Doctrine," which was also featured on Democracy Now last Friday.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Dissing the kiss

Maggie says:
So I first read this over the weekend, got all pissed off, then decided it probably wasn't quite as one-sided as I'd remembered. But I just reread the thing and and it's still just beyond me. I'm talking about this NYTimes piece on poor, poor Joe Lieberman:

Lieberman Hopes His Fate Isn't Sealed With a Kiss

Lieberman owes someone at the Times big after this puff piece that practically begs readers to vote for 'ol Joe out of sympathy.

Friends say his predicament has left Mr. Lieberman nervous, dispirited and angry, a portrait of a politician stunned to face opponents as passionate in their loathing of his principles as he is proud of them….Mr. Lieberman’s allies discuss him these days with a tinge of sadness, as if mourning a kindly gentleman who has wandered into a bad neighborhood.

Oh, and plus he's a victim of a crazy left-wing nutcase blogger conspiracy. Please.

What's left now - 20 days or so? All eyes on Ned Lamont to pull this thing off...

(Notice that I'm not mentioning Lieberman's decision to run as an Independent if he loses. That's because I need to go to sleep soon and a riled-up me does not make for happy me tomorrow morning.)

And for fun (click to enlarge), Mr. Tom Tomorrow. He kills me every time. But what do I know? I'm just an "out of state meddler." :-)

Policing changing values

Maggie says:
You know a story's finally catching on when in the space of a few days, all three major print media outlets in town - the Journal, the Trib, and the Alibi - not only cover the same issue, but do a good job of it at that. The current police state of our downtown and beyond is the hot topic around town, and for good reason. The Journal did a nice job handling the downtown bar owner angle this morning (kudos to Dan McKay's balanced approach and the blogging that seemed to start it all) and the Alibi's been tackling this all week. I'll firmly admit my bias when I say that it was pal Gene Grant's Thursday column that I think did the best job of getting to the heart of this issue. Gene understood right away that overly aggressive cops aren't the whole story; we're really talking about the changing pulse of Albuquerque, of the values residents hold versus the ones that are being policed.

What's fascinating about Albuquerque today is that it's a city experiencing massive change and transition, and we can literally see competing values battle for control in our shared spaces, both public and private. When communities are in flux, it's amazing to watch the struggles for place and identity that rise to the surface. I saw that a couple of months ago during the Spring Crawl, where hordes of undercover cops burst out of lines in front of bars to tackle - literally tackle - a group of teenage guys running down Central. We saw that on the streets last summer during the National Poetry Slam, when young people bursting with passion made our streets more alive just by being here. On May Day this year, I sat in a bar full of trendy beer-drinkers watching our city's youth bursting with pride and waving white flags out their windows; some of us grinned along with them, some folks were appalled, but everyone was touched. And of course, look no further for true cultural juxtaposition than the overpriced loft overlooking the homeless man on the sidewalk or the subsidized company opening its doors on an empty mesa now powered with new infrastructure.

As places change and become something else, most of us act with nuance to the transitions around us. Sometimes change happens so quickly we might not even notice, say, a newly renovated building until we're sitting down somewhere eating and take the time to realize it's there. Sometimes we can't see the whole past its many and varied parts. Sometimes we don't realize how far our authority figures overstep until it becomes a pattern.

And of course, some of us notice these patterns faster than others.

Albuquerque's police state - especially downtown - has been a problem for some time. You know this if you drive east on Tijeras as it's getting dark and witness the critical mass of force gathering there to begin their shifts a couple of blocks away. You see it when harmless kids who are running down Central become the equivalent of terrorists to the protectors of our "safety." You see it when you're at a party and this city's biggest buzz-killer - The Party Patrol - ends up not just ending the night early, but doing so with explicitly political intent. You surely see it if you're a gay man at a space that feels safe and comfortable and are faced with a full-on assault of cops in riot gear who seem to enjoy taking pictures of you naked just as much as making whatever dubious arrest they can drum up.

The burden to be better lies as much with us as it does with our uniformed enforcers. After all, if the rest of us can find the space to be not just tolerant but energized by the electric current of change in the air here in Albuquerque, why can't the police? If we can see gray, why do they see only black and white? If we're all playing a part in shaping the dynamic place Albuquerque continues to become, why are they so insistent on holding it back?

Time for a conscience-check. Not on the part of the cops, because I think we know how that would turn out. It's time for us to hold their force of weapons and stubbornness to the fire of a populace who demands better. After all, if their charge is to enforce our values, shouldn't we let them know what those values are, and more importantly, what they aren't?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Good Things Closer to Home

While the world burns, good things abound here in the Duke City.

  1. Rail Runner Commuter Service (FREE for 3 months)
  2. New FREE downtown bus service
  3. Parking meter machines
Today is a big day for public transportation. The new commuter rail service, much touted and debated, is finally up and running, (eventually) linking Belen and Los Lunas to the south with Albuquerque and the town of Bernalillo to the north. Stations south of downtown are not yet on-line. Starting today, you can travel from downtown ABQ to the Journal Center/Los Ranchos to Sandoval County/550. Belen and Los Lunas will be ready by the end of the summer; others should be ready by the end of the year. Even though not all stops are available yet, I, for one, am interested in taking a trip to the Range via rail. The service seems more interesting for regional tourism than for daily commuters, but here's hoping for the best!

In conjunction, the City has instituted a downtown bus loop to run every 7 minutes, basically between Gold and Lomas, picking up bus and commuter rail passengers from the Alvarado Transportation Center and shuttling them around downtown for free. A great idea, and one that I loved in Seattle.

Lastly, the Journal reported that the City is replacing parking meters with fancy-schmancy machines that take plastic. Woo-hoo! This no-cash-carrying, all-credit-card girl is ecstatic not to live in fear anymore, although the movie buff in me is saddened at the passing of the technology that opens Cool Hand Luke so perfectly.

And now, I'm taking a deep breath to say ... thank you, Mayor Chavez, for your part in supporting efforts toward making Albuquerque more walkable, more urban, more useable, and more fun to live in. See, Marty? It's not that hard. Just focus on what's already here and make it work better! My really huge and unqualified thanks go to the staff at ABQ Ride for helping put the right ideas in front of the Mayor and for the tenacity to follow-through to implementation.

See you on the bus!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Shit hitting multiple fans in Middle East

Let's all take a moment of silence for escalating tensions and death tolls in the Middle East. Israel lies at the center of multiple conflicts -- with Lebanon and Palestine. Iran is fanning those flames. The U.S. continues to heat up the rhetoric against Iran for its purported nuclear program and blames Syria for harboring the terrorists who captured Israeli soldiers. Iraq violence has spiked dramatically in recent days. Bombs on all sides are killing people.

Photo courtesy

Washington Post has an illuminating analysis, although I question the underlying assumption that Iran is the main problem and pivotal solution in all these cases. There's no mention of Israel's acts that have made things much worse, and there's not much history given of Lebanon (see BBC link above for that).

The basic conclusion of the story -- that the U.S. is in a poor place to negotiate any peace in any of the conflicts -- seems right on (and scary). Of course, solutions that involve the U.S. extricating itself as the perpetuator of conflicts due to its unwanted presence are also not mentioned. Still, I found the piece a good and fast outline of a complicated and interconnected danger.

Israel has sent troops into Gaza and Lebanon over three captured soldiers -- one held by Hamas in Gaza and two seized yesterday by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The United States and its allies set a collision course with Iran over its nuclear program. And there is mounting concern that Iraq's sectarian violence is crossing the threshold to a full-blown civil war.

If anyone sees good non-American-centric analysis of these conflicts, please pass on the link. I'm hoping to understand what roles other countries have that might bode well for intervention or leverage to broker negotiations.

The cynical part of me wonders if this isn't the exact situation -- brink of all-out Middle East war -- that Cheney & Cabal have angled for all along. I'm sure the oil execs. have an adrenaline high. "Prices will spike! But can we get the oil out?" Meanwhile, people are dying, and more will die in the days to come.

In these times, I return to T.S. Eliot in the last lines of The Waste Land, which has eerie resonance today, as it was written beween two world wars, when it became clear that the age of reason could still result in world-wide bloodshed (translated for viewing ease):

I sat upon the shore

fishing, with the arid plain behind me.[1]

Shall I at least set my lands in order?

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down

(Then he hid himself in the fire that purifies them.)

When shall I become like the swallow?[2] O swallow swallow

The prince of Aquitainia in the abandoned tower:

These fragments I have shored against my ruins.

Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.[3]

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.[4]

Shantih shantih shantih[5]

Translations courtesy:

Notes below paraphrased.

[1] Reference to the Fisher King, who is supposed to bring wisdom and fertility but here is shown defeated.

[2] In Greek myth, Philomela and Procne were sisters. Procne married King Tereus, who raped her sister and cut out her tongue to silence her. Philomela weaved her story into some cloth to tell her sister what happened. Procne fed their son to Tereus as punishment. The sisters fled, with Tereus in pursuit. The gods intervened, changing Philomela into a nightingale, and Procne into a swallow. Full quote: Philomela sings, “We are silent. When will my spring come? When shall I be as the swallow that I may cease to be silent? I have lost the Muse in silence, and Apollo [god of war] regards me not. So did Amyclae through being voiceless, perish by its very silence.” Amyclae was a Greek town that passed a law against circulating rumors of impending attack from Sparta because they were causing so much chaos. When Sparta really did attack, they stayed silent too long and were defeated.

[3] From a poem about Spanish royalty crossing and double crossing each other. One promises the other to help get revenge by pretending to be mad so that he can kill (rather like Hamlet).

[4] Give aid. Have compassion. Practice self-control.

[5] Meditation that means: the peace that passes understanding.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Kill your television

Maggie says:
Yeah, I always secretly coveted that bumper sticker. Secretly because I knew it would be absolutely hypocritical to affix it to any bumper of mine, especially back in the days of cable: CNN, ESPN, HBO, Food Network....

But now that I have a dust-collecting television instead of a cool entertainment box (last night I watched a PBS program on El Salvador gangs... and that was the first non-sports TV I've seen in weeks!), I can happily note that:

CNN: TV has lowest-rated week ever.

Wow. And... cool.

Be still my [feminist] heart!

Maggie gushes:
A new book's out that's tailor-made to warm this red-hot, leftist, feminist heart: Virginity or Death! by Katha Pollitt.

I'm an unabashed Katha Pollitt groupie, she of the right-on Nation columns that sear through me with their wit, bite, and humor. Pollitt can cut to the quick of an issue - particularly when it's gender-related - like no one else. I can't say how many times I've been sitting with something that outrages or depresses me for reasons I can't quite explain coherently, and I open The Nation and there she is, nailing it in every way I wish I could. I connect to Pollitt mostly because despite everything in our world that can be so mind- and heart-numbing, she's an eternal optimist, like me. And she delivers that witty optimism with the most seething critiques I've ever read.

Pollitt's book is a collection of some of her best Nation pieces - many of them about issues close to my heart (read: "issues I've bitched about on m-pyre"): women's health policy, the hypocrisy of the right, male "ownership" of female sexuality, and more.

In this Salon article, Pollitt talks at length about something I've often pined for: a discussion of modern feminism that's less "what's been lost" and more "what we are." Pollitt isn't issuing top-down, dour lectures here; she's telling girls to be all they can while understanding that much of that's possible only because of the women's movement. That said, every choice is not necessarily an "empowering" one. That distinction is crucial. And yeah, I'm talking to you, Miss Thang at Age 15 wearing the "Who needs brains when you have these?" Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt.

There's this huge backlash going on involving women's bodies and appearance, and the immense pressure to be beautiful and thin and complacent and alluring. That's what Linda Hirshman and others call "choice feminism" comes out of. Which is just saying, "I'm a free agent. I'm making my own choices, so we don't have to talk about them. In fact, it's insulting if you want to talk about them. Don't judge me."

So is the real problem that to many young women, feminism just isn't cool anymore? Pollitt calls this the culture of "backlash cliché."
What is this "girls just want to have fun" feminism? It's a very shallow approach to life. And I can't think of another social movement where "strident" is a bad word.

It could be that feminism seems too disconnected from what matters to young women on a daily basis. And then there's the contingent who think they'll always be able to get an abortion if they need one, but won't vote to help ensure that. Too much of today's feminism, according to Pollitt, is "timid and deferential and also Beltway-oriented... it seems to revolve so much around electoral politics and abortion rights - those are the two big deals."
I think that there has been a real retreat from the day-to-day presentation of feminist issues. Think of all the women who won't identify themselves as feminists. Why is that? One reason for that is the word "feminist," but it's also a lot of the concepts around feminism. The basic idea of women being self-directed creatures as opposed to only being there to help some man through life and stay with the children and do the cooking -- that idea has been delegitimized; you just don't hear it that often if you live in much of the country.

This strident feminist is happy as a clam that Pollitt's stuff is all together in a book that I can grab from the shelf when I need inspiration, insight, or a laugh. And - optimist at heart that I am - I want to dedicate it to the women in my life who make each day richer, warmer, and more worth living. You all know who you are, and you know why.

To women: because what we share is ours and ours alone.