Archive for the political animal Category

world aids day 2009

Posted in BC (beloved child the elder), BS (beloved spouse), CVID, FAMILY, health, jools (also a beloved child), miracles of science, political animal on December 1, 2009 by wrekehavoc

(no awful ’80s earworms today. promise.)

today is world AIDS day, a day started in 1988 to bring awareness and education to the plight of those living with HIV and AIDS. years ago, when i worked at the US Dept of Education, i had the privilege of putting together two years’ worth of WORLD AIDS Day commemorations plus helping to develop training materials for fellow employees so that they would understand how to deal with employees who were HIV+/AIDS patients. (in short: treat them as you would want to be treated. you won’t catch the disease from working with people.) i was proud to volunteer the Department’s building to house part of the AIDS Quilt, which was at the time laid out on the National Mall for all to see.  while sadly, the quilt has gotten larger, we seem to be learning more about slowing the disease and helping those afflicted live longer.

i know people who have died of complications from AIDS. i also know people who are living with HIV/AIDS.

yesterday, i was talking with my kids about AIDS, which is not easy to do when the kids are 10 and 6. i explained that it stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. BC looked at me a little scared. don’t you have immunodeficiency, mom?

in fact, when i was first diagnosed with CVID, some people thought i had AIDS. i do, honey, i replied, but that’s different from AIDS. the A in AIDS means “acquired” which means doing something to get the virus. i didn’t do anything to get this immunodeficiency; i just was born with these particular genes. and you can’t catch it from me unless you have the same genes, too.

hellboy wasn’t getting this, really, but girlfriend was. and she continued. so what do you have to do to get AIDS? she asked.

well, basically, you can get it from other people’s body fluids.

she crushed up her nose. you mean, like pee?

once again, i am the one with the fun topical conversations, not BS.   well, things like blood, for example. before they knew more about HIV, they didn’t know much about the blood supply, so people who were hemophiliacs who got transfusions sadly ended up dying of AIDS.

what are hemophiliacs?

people whose blood doesn’t have the stuff in it to help them stop bleeding. a little cut could kill a hemophiliac if not treated properly.

girlfriend was connecting dots again. you mean, like when you had no platelets and were bruising? she looked sad.

that’s a different problem, and i’m better now. but sort of. (time to divert the attention in order to get her away from the thought of my demise.) anyway, people who share needles when they shoot up their drugs can give it to each other. so don’t do drugs and that’s one problem solved.

ewww! who would do that!!!! she exclaimed.

not anyone with any sense, i said. anyway, another way of getting HIV is… i looked over at the boy, who was probably busy thinking about star wars and continued cautiously…through sex.

girlfriend’s eyes now got HUGE.

we can talk about that part away from your brother right now since i don’t think he understands this the way you do. but know that there are things you can do to keep yourself as healthy as you can be.

girlfriend seemed satisfied with that answer, only stopping to note: mommy, isn’t that guy on EastEnders a guy with AIDS? (we’re so far behind in our episodes here in the US that Mark Fowler is still alive.)

yes, honey. and he still is living like everyone else on the show.

i got a nod from her, and then we moved on.

it’s never easy talking with your kids about AIDS, but i figure if i start early at ages when they can understand and in words that they can comprehend, maybe i’ll help them out somewhere down the road.

then again, maybe somewhere down the road, there will be a cure for this scourge and moms won’t have to have these sorts of conversations.


egregious ’80’s songs: i want your sex (george michael)

Posted in egregious '80s music, music, political animal on November 25, 2009 by wrekehavoc

wham! bam! no thank you, ma’am!

after splitting from wham! partner andrew ridgeley (a duo which created the much covered, wretch-worthy careless whisper), george michael put out a solo album in 1987, faith, which simply became HUGE. a big part of that hugeness was caused by the controversial song i want your sex. despite the fact that michael kept towing the proverbial party line about the song being about monogamy (a particularly important and interesting message during the seemingly and sadly uncontrollable early days of AIDs), there was a lot of discomfort with the song’s content. MTV would only play if after hours. american top 40‘s casey casem couldn’t even bear to utter the song’s title. apparently, there’s something very naughty about a man writing explore monogamy on a woman’s back in lipstick. who knew?

anyway, i had a few issues with the song myself, but none of them involved prudery.  for starters, there’s something so crude and dull about a chorus where michaels just sort of drops the words i want your sex… i mean, who the hell talks like that? i would expect that sort of stilted conversational style from those wild and crazy czech brothers, but that sort of line in real life would probably just earn you a smack for being so forward.

secondly, by 1987, did ANYONE think that george michael was heterosexual? SERIOUSLY? well, i certainly didn’t; and i have a serious problem with people who masquerade as something they are not. i recognize that coming out has got to be one of the hardest things to do for a GLBT person; much of society has yet to just get over it and live and let live. we still don’t recognize gay marriage in most of these united states, so i get the whole stigma — everyone from your family to your nation has an issue with your sex life.  i don’t even think i can understand this sort of pressure, having never experienced it; but i can only imagine it as being horrifically, horrifically challenging for some. lord knows it leads to suicide for so many. even so — it is one thing to live closeted. it is another thing to try and portray this wildly hetero (and wildly false) image. and that’s what george is trying to do with this song.

in short, that infuriates me.

years later, i have read the stories of his drug use; of his arrests as he cruises around for anonymous sex. i know he’s out now, but i feel sorry for him.  i just don’t think he’ll ever be comfortable just being who he is.

and that saddens me.

egregious ’80’s music: what about love (heart)

Posted in egregious '80s music, music, political animal on November 7, 2009 by wrekehavoc

what about your career?

i heart heart. as a girl in the 1970s, i loved to hear ann and nancy wilson kicking ass musically. they wrote amazing songs, they intrepidly covered zeppelin, and they showed that ladies could rock as hard as any guy out there. they were utter inspiration to me and to millions of girls. when i was 13, i thought you could do a lot worse than be ann wilson.

but times changed. they needed a hit in the ’80s, something slick and refined that would garner airplay and MTV play. and on the video front, record company management supposedly didn’t like the fact that ann fought with her weight — apparently, you need to be skinny and hot to be a major rock star. (go ahead. watch the videos for this or anything else they did in the 1980s. you’ll see plenty of shots of blonde nancy and her svelteness. you’ll get tighter shots of ann from the chest up. it’s unreal.) so ann and nancy made some schlocky records and kept the lens focusing away from ann, a giant slap in the face of a rock queen.

the schlockiest of the schlock, what about love, makes me cry to see how the mighty had fallen.

there are few words to share how much i loathe this song. they sound like they’re shouting the chorus, sort of  like barking dogs. between this song and never, i pretty much shut them out for the rest of the decade, hiding myself in their old records. we can’t go on running away they sang, but i was willing to try to run as fast and as far as i could from their newfangled image until it stopped.

blog action day: like the weather

Posted in CVID, FAMILY, health, ms. malaprop, political animal on October 15, 2009 by wrekehavoc

every year, i participate in blog action day.  i like to tilt at windmills as much as the next grrl, and they always pick topics about which i tend to care.

this year, the topic: climate change.

as a mom and as a somewhat crunchy being, i tend to worry about polar bears and glaciers and all sorts of seemingly unnatural alterations to our present time-space continuum. i often wonder when the day will come when kansas develops coastal waterfront property. i ponder whether my kids — and, G-d-willing, their kids — will inherit a world that continues to turn and continues to exist as we know it. and, being one whose own health is a somewhat fragile topic, i also do imagine the potential health issues that happen when climates go awry.

greater heatwaves hit people, especially those poor folks who don’t have air conditioning or who choose (insert tongue firmly in cheek as that word is said) to live al fresco.  (well, that’s what my conservative friends tell me. homelessness, apparently, is a life choice. and apparently, climate change is a complete farce. next, they’ll be telling me that i should trust in big business and the free market. but i digress. per usual.) and when it gets very, very hot, all sorts of diseases can become even more of a problem before. for example, mosquitoes would dig climate change, if they had brains bigger than an atom, because it increases their ability to find a date and dinner, which of course can lead to all sorts of happiness for mosquitoes but also a whole world of trouble for us two-legged buffet tables.

and when it’s cold, well, in short, people freeze to death.

i suspect there are potential long-term problems in the offing. agriculture can suffer, which could mean people could go hungry, people might have to move.  while in the midwest recently, i saw a news segment about a farm that had a bumper crop of pumpkins thanks to the hotter, wetter summer. however, every other crop of theirs — tomatoes, etc — went straight to hell thanks to rot. i’m not especially a fan of pumpkin pie, and i don’t want to face a future where i have to eat any sort of squash in order to maintain my existence.

see, one can only eat so much zucchini before one contemplates something drastic.

now some people think that global warming is a crock of shit.  but i find that a lot of the commentary on global warming tends to be from people who cherrypick their data. i will freely admit that as someone who doesn’t study the topic 24/7, i try to comprehend the information that bombards me. but i cannot understand people who shut down the discussion. i have plenty of friends who think the whole idea of global warming is bunk, and they pull my tail at all turns (and they will likely pull it in the comments section as well. go for it, kids.) even if you believe global warming is bunk, can you not fathom the idea that perhaps looking toward some better practices could only improve health on the planet? is it so wrong to try to develop and use new technologies to use fewer amounts of non-renewable natural resources and possibly, just possibly, make the air cleaner and easier to breathe? is it wrong to try and work on agricultural solutions that don’t employ so damn many chemicals, some of which are polluting not only the earth but ourselves, thanks to the toxicity of these antibiotics and other supposedly-safe substances on our systems?

i get very tired of the naysayers who don’t want to explore solutions and who only want to piss on the progress parade.

so all right. who knows whether the ice age is coming. who knows whether we’ll all evaporate into vapor. who knows whether animals as we know it will die out.  we could all be drinking beer with jimi hendrix in heaven tomorrow for all we know. but i believe that  it is our responsibility as people on the planet to encourage anything to help us all live healthier lives, and that includes voting on policies that encourage safer and environmentally-friendly industrial practices. who knows: there may be an economic stimulus in there somewhere that will help us get out of this global financial rut we’re in as well.

it could be a win-win on the health front: our health, and the health of our world.

flashback: safe and sound

Posted in BC (beloved child the elder), BS (beloved spouse), political animal on September 11, 2009 by wrekehavoc

because i’ll never forget 9/11.

and i suspect you won’t, either.

guilty pleasure monday: millworker (james taylor)

Posted in guilty pleasure monday!, music, political animal on September 7, 2009 by wrekehavoc

perfect for labor day.

when i was about 17 or so, i remember one afternoon, putzing around, watching TV. we had recently gotten cable, so i was happily clicking the giant buttons on the big brown cable box (years and years before a little remote would enter my life.) lo and behold, i landed on PBS, which was showing a musical, working, based on the book by the brilliant author studs terkel. i was transfixed; it was one of those moments where i realized that other people were fascinated by the exploration of the lives of people, whether thrilling or mundane. different composers wrote songs for the musical; james taylor contributed three.

but the song that stopped me in my tracks was millworker. in the song, a woman explores her life as a millworker, noting the path that her life took to bring her to that awful boring job. it’s moving in its simplicity, it’s anger, and its poetry. she knows she’s a cog in a tiny corporate machine; she’s resigned to the fact that this is her apparent destiny.

So may I work your mills just as long as I am able
And never meet the man whose name is on the label

(it’s still)me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
And the rest of the afternoon (and on and on and on…)
for the rest of my life

i think it may be the most beautiful song james taylor has ever written.

on this labor day, i am thinking of my friends who have lost their jobs in the past year or so. i am thinking about the difficulties they face; i am thinking of the courage they have been displaying.  i have known so many of these people while i was that TV-watching teen; it pains me to see them struggling, as i feel like they are family to me.

americans let it happen; it was all about the almighty dollar. first, the trend was to take jobs away from more expensive company people — you had to pay them benefits, you know — and then contract those jobs out to others who required no benefits from the company. then, the trend seemed to take the jobs away from those contractors and move the work overseas, where labor is cheaper. eventually, greed sold a lot of people down the river in this country, and it has imploded on itself.

anyone who inherited the mess of the past nine years was bound to hit an uphill struggle. it’s a pity that the President is making efforts to improve the plight of people, and he is being fought every single step of the way. sure, question authority — but this is a time when things are bad and getting worse. these are times when we all need to pull together as a team. while people are wasting time on non-issues (the President’s birth certificate, the President’s ethnicity, etc.), we lose time and traction on trying to improve things. sure, it isn’t nirvana — but some people don’t have the luxury at present to sit and pontificate over bullshit. they need a home; they need food; they need health care.

and they need jobs.

and i’ll leave you with this particularly fine cover of the song by none other than my beloved bruce who, i believe, really makes the song speak for working people everywhere.

american girl

Posted in FAMILY, ms. malaprop, political animal on July 8, 2009 by wrekehavoc

oy gevult! there’s a new american girl.

and she’s a nice jewish goil, to boot.

at least the book illustrations make her look a little jewish. or italian.

at least the book illustrations make her look a little jewish. or italian.

recently, an american girl catalog made it’s way into my mailbox. for those of you who do not have a girl between the ages of 7-10 in your home, let me school you.

american girl is the wildly-successful doll/book franchise now owned by mattel. they sell you a doll from a specific period in american history for about $100. then, you’re free to buy the ultra-expensive accessories as well as books that tell the story of said doll. if you’re REALLY insane fanatical up for spoiling your child beyond the realm of what is okay excited by the series, you can take your child to have a special tea at one of the american girl doll stores, located in a few major US cities. to the tune of several hundred dollars. (that must be one hell of a cup of tea.) for the record, we’ve never bought any of the dolls, but we have read plenty of the books thanks to our local public library. we couldn’t get through the hispanic girl’s saga, but we especially enjoyed spunky kit kittredge‘s tale as well as that of the revolutionary war era doll, felicity merriman.

while rebecca rubin, the newest addition to the american girl family is not actually the first jewish girl doll offered (there was once, for a split second, a jewish girl doll offered as part of some sort of calendar doll thingy about 20 years ago), she is the first here-to-stay jewish girl doll, with a full backstory and tons of expensive props.  (i can’t wait to hear about little cornfed midwestern girls begging their moms and dads (and santa) to bring them rebecca’s sideboard and sabbath set, complete with challah and candlesticks. does it come complete with brachot (blessings/prayers for the non-tribal set)?)

anyway, in truth, i have a warm spot in my heart for this little doll and for this effort already. rebecca lives in new york city in 1914, the child of jewish immigrants from russia. i haven’t read the stories (yet), but i suspect they involve the pull jewish immigrants of the time felt between staying true to their cultural roots while immersing themselves in their new american identities.  my grandmothers, also NYC dwellers back in that day, would have either been a trifle bit older or a trifle bit younger than rebecca, so i can smile to myself a bit, thinking about what their lives must have been like back then.

i know their families worked their tails off, that’s for sure.

i wonder, in fact, whether there’s any mention of things such as the horrible working conditions these immigrants (and their italian, polish, irish, and other internationally-born brethren) endured back then — i suspect a mention of the triangle shirtwaist factory fire would be something i would want to talk about with my kids. if there is, i’m sure it’s like a whisper that won’t be noticed except by parents like me, who will pounce on it as a teachable moment.


mattel took several years to get this one right. and while the actual face of the doll is exactly like every other american girl doll (let’s all join hands and sing we are the world. we all look alike, you know! seriously, don’t you think people would have shrieked if they gave the jewish girl a beak to remember? so i guess i understand that move.), there’s something kind of wonderful to finally be recognized, even in this small way, as american. my ancestors wanted so much to be accepted as american. they were sometimes greeted with signs like this:


even when it seemed that jews were a bit more accepted in american society, there are still holdouts, people who think we can’t be americans if we also have a warm spot in our hearts for israel. i still remember when i, a high school rising senior, was being interviewed as a candidate for new jersey girls’ state. the craggy-faced american legion men asked me a question that infuriates me to this day:

if america went to war with israel, whose side would you be on?

no one asked any of the other interviewees whether they would side with america or ireland, or america or italy, or america or england.  people seem to think that you can’t be an american and a jew, which is an idea that is unfathomable to me.

my grandparents and their parents worked incredibly hard to experience the american dream. they had their struggles, and then, my parents probably had their own challenges growing up jewish in america. jews are not the only people who struggle here; but because it is our ethnicity as well as our religious and cultural background, it has been harder to gain acceptance. you can be irish or italian or polish, but you can still share a sausage and a smile. for us, it’s a little more of a difficult proposition. not insurmountable, though.

i am an american jew. being jewish infuses everything there is about my americanism. and being american pervades  every aspect of my judaism.

and when i see mattel bringing forth an american girl doll like rebecca rubin, i know that the struggles of my ancestors to be american have not been in vain.

somewhere, my grandmas are kvelling*.

*Kvell: (Yiddish) to take great pride and pleasure; a peculiarly Jewish joy most often associated with the accomplishments of one’s family members