Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Still Want to Quit?

Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. 

He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon, and he made his web gear himself. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is'; he knows either he wins, or he dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00; he is home.

He knows only: The Cause."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Follow-up on the State of Men in America

In one of my local papers, a gentlemen wrote a letter of thanks to two young women.  The author had been hiking in some nearby woods and noted the two youths carrying out bags of trash that they had collected.  He thought at first that they were part of some "community effort" or other volunteer or work crew


he refrained from asking their names, nay, from speaking to them at all; why?

Out of fear.

Fear that "such a question might be inappropriate."

So instead, he wrote a letter to the paper, praising these young people in a way that might never reach them.  He went on to praise them for enhancing his day, for exemplifying values eschewed by many young folks, and for being good leaders.  His noted fear was mentioned, most sadly, only in passing.

This is where we stand in America: that a man fears unnamed retribution for praise or a compliment (or simply for speaking) is not even worth reflection or deliberation is a sad, sad state (or State, as it were) .  Thanks, Brownshirts; great job!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Curmudgeon: When I Was a Windy Boy

I was reading this here article, waiting to say "yeah, yeah" (yes, sometimes I tire, or get nervous when the first topic is "racial discrimination"), but instead the hairs on my arms began rising...

What follows are excerpts:

"When I was a boy, America was a freer society than it is today.

"When I was a 7-year-old boy, I flew alone from New York to my aunt and uncle in Miami and did the same thing coming back to New York. I boarded the plane on my own and got off the plane on my own. No papers for my parents to fill out... Had I run away or been kidnapped, no one would have sued the airline.

"When I was a boy, I ran after girls during recess, played dodgeball, climbed monkey bars and sat on seesaws. Today, more and more schools have no recess; have canceled dodgeball lest someone feel bad about being removed from the game; and call the police in to interrogate, even sometimes arrest, elementary school boys who playfully touch a girl. And monkey bars and seesaws are largely gone, for fear of lawsuits should a child be injured.

[Ed. note: it was at this point that I began to get really... scared?]

"When I was boy, I was surrounded by adult men. Today, most American boys (and girls, of course) come into contact with no adult man all day every school day. Their teachers and school principals are all likely to be women. And if, as is often the case, there is no father at home (not solely because of divorce but because "family" courts have allowed many divorced mothers to remove fathers from their children's lives), boys almost never come into contact with the most important group of people in a boy's life -- adult men. The contemporary absence of men in boys' lives is not only unprecedented in American history; it is probably unprecedented in recorded history.

[Ed. note: True dat.  More and more men are simply...suspect, not to be trusted, nay, to be feared and avoided.  Weird, weird world, and dangerous precedent.]

"When I was a boy, we had in our lives adults who took pride in being adults. [Ed. note: I have been thinking about this a lot lately...] To distinguish them from our peers, we called these adults "Mr.," "Mrs." and "Miss," or by their titles, "Doctor," "Pastor," "Rabbi," "Father." It was good for us, and we liked it. Having adults proud of their adulthood, and not acting like they were still kids, gave us security (as well as something to look forward to in growing up). Today, kids are surrounded by peers twice, three, four times their age.

"When I was a boy, the purpose of American history textbooks was to teach American history... [W]e were not raised by educators or parents who believed that "teenagers will have sex no matter what." 

And, to sum it all up:

"We were, in short, allowed to be relatively innocent." 

I am, quite literally, fighting back the tears.  

True enough, true enough, true enough that.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thoughts on Obama's Presumptive Nomination

"Some may mistake me as implying that it would be okay to stop talking about racism. But that interpretation is incorrect: I am stating that it would be okay to stop talking about racism. We need to be talking about serious activism focused on results. Those who suppose that the main meal in the aforementioned is to decry racism are not helping people."

 John McWhorter in a thoughtful article.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Old Grey Mare

Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must;
just never give up!
~Dean Karnazes

Do it.

Just. Do it.

C'mon: Get. Up.

Get up, get out, get going. Cannot. get. going.

Been injured for a while--longer than ever before. Doc says "Well, when you buy a car you don't expect THAT to stay new forever, do you? You're just getting older!"


So, I am more or less healed. But fat. Fat as a pig. Blubberous, really. And tired. All the time, tired.

Is this how most Americans live? Winded all the time? Tight clothes?

Alarm goes off and I hit the snooze. And again. And again. Restarting my running motor is proving difficult. Is this it? Finally? Is this "the change of metabolism" my family has so long wished upon me?

I have written before one of the differences past a certain point: that one CAN train hard enough to improve, but the pain required is no longer interesting. (And the bed remains warm and comfy.)

But there is, apparently, another factor: things fall apart. Joints begin to wear--not catastrophically, but...enough. And recuperation ain't what it used to be.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good quote

Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.

- John le Carre

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bill Cosby on The Importance of Being, and Being a Father

In Detroit’s St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Bill Cosby related the story of a black girl who’d risen to become valedictorian of his old high school, despite having been abandoned by her father.

“She spoke to the graduating class and her speech started like this,” Cosby said. “‘I was 5 years old. It was Saturday and I stood looking out the window, waiting for him.’ She never said what helped turn her around. She never mentioned her mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother.”

“Understand me,” Cosby said, his face contorted and clenched like a fist. “Men? Men? Men! Where are you, men?”

Audience: “Right here!”

Friday, April 18, 2008


[Ed. note 4/23: I had to remove the photo; I could not bear to look at it.]

Art requires skill and imagination. Skill without imagination is 'craftsmanship', and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.

Tom Stoppard
"Artist Descending a Staircase" (one of my all-time favorite plays)

One wonders what Mr. Stoppard might have to say regarding Ms. Shvarts.

Food for thought for the coming Passover; fodder for the Seder table.

Update 4/21: I cannot even look at this entirely legal picture; please remember, a woman's right to choose is absolute; freedom of choice, no apologies.

[For the record: I generally support a woman's legal right to choose but, then again, I support the death penalty, the war in Iraq, and market-incented sterilizations...]

So, This is What You Want?

Administration issues statement calling senior’s ‘abortion-as-art’ a ‘fiction’; student sticks to her story

“She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,” Klasky said. “Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.”

But in an interview later Thursday afternoon, Shvarts defended her work and called the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.” She reiterated that she engaged in the nine-month process she publicized on Wednesday in a press release that was first reported in the News: repeatedly using a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself, then taking abortifacient herbs at the end of her menstrual cycle to induce bleeding. Thursday evening, in a tour of her art studio, she shared with the News video footage she claimed depicted her attempts at self-induced miscarriages.

“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, adding that she does not know whether she was ever pregnant. “The nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”

Shvarts explains her ‘repeated self-induced miscarriages’

Aliza Shvarts
Guest Columnist
Published Friday, April 18, 2008
For the past year, I performed repeated self-induced miscarriages. I created a group of fabricators from volunteers who submitted to periodic STD screenings and agreed to their complete and permanent anonymity. From the 9th to the 15th day of my menstrual cycle, the fabricators would provide me with sperm samples, which I used to privately self-inseminate. Using a needleless syringe, I would inject the sperm near my cervix within 30 minutes of its collection, so as to insure the possibility of fertilization. On the 28th day of my cycle, I would ingest an abortifacient, after which I would experience cramps and heavy bleeding.

[This piece] creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership. The first [goal of this piece] is to assert that often, normative understandings of biological function are a mythology imposed on form...that creates the sexist, racist, ableist, nationalist and homophobic perspective, distinguishing what body parts are “meant” to do from their physical capability. The myth that a certain set of functions are “natural” (while all the other potential functions are “unnatural”) undermines that sense of capability, confining lifestyle choices to the bounds of normatively defined narratives...

When considering my own bodily form, I recognize its potential as extending beyond its ability to participate in a normative function. While my [reproductive] organs are capable of engaging with the narrative of reproduction — the time-based linkage of discrete events from conception to birth — the realm of capability extends beyond the bounds of that specific narrative chain. These organs can do other things, can have other purposes, and it is the prerogative of every individual to acknowledge and explore this wide realm of capability.

Aliza Shvarts is a senior in Davenport College.

[S]everal students, including members of the Yale Women’s Center staff, defended Shvarts’ work as an appropriate exercise of her right to free expression.

“The Yale Women’s Center stands strongly behind the fact that a woman’s body is her own,”
the[ir] statement read. “Whether it is a question of reproductive rights or of artistic expression,
Aliza Shvarts’ body is an instrument over which she should be free to exercise full discretion.”

[S]ome students said they did not consider Shvarts’ art offensive. Kate McDermott ’11 said the artist was simply exercising her right to expression. “If you appreciate the idea that art is intrinsically related to politics, then it is perfectly acceptable,” McDermott said.
Anthony LeCounte supports the "artist" here:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Abortions for Art at Yale

Let us hope that, as supposed here:
that this is, indeed, a hoax.

Either way, I wonder whether her parents are...proud.

Also, with regard to abortion rights (you know: "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!"); is THIS what is meant?

For Yale senior, abortion a medium for art, political discourse

My reaction to the article and to the comments:

I am at a loss for the proper adjective.
Saddened? Deeply.
Horrified? Yes, and at some fundamental level.

Let me state: I do not care for some of the issues noted by others: I do not care about what this technically adult person does to her own body; I do not care about her risk of STDs; I do not care about fallout on the pro-abortion movement.

I do not care about the reaction of G-d or Any Powers That Be (although, if there is some Judeo-Christian god, he is going to be very, very upset).

And I am not sure I can explain my gut reaction--and gut reactions are often the outcome of both Nature and nurture.

And my gut says--this is wrong.

Fundamentally wrong.

Indeed, a crime against humanity. And I mean that.

This is offensive to all that is human--even at the secular level.

Saddam Hussein's sons were similarly self-indulgent, although their crimes also included fully matured humans and not just embryonic potentialities. Theirs were crimes against humanity--and so are Shvarts'.

And more sadly--she will likely perceive the coming outrage as "good debate" (as if genocide against the Kurds--or the Jews--was simply fodder for the chattering classes).

For all those that cry out "slippery slope argument!" whenever Conservatives wish to preserve what decency is left humanity, well, now you have proof that such slopes exist.

I will cut/paste the full article below, because my gut tells me it is not going to be on there for long.

For senior, abortion a medium for art, political discourse

Staff Reporter
Published Thursday, April 17, 2008

Art major Aliza Shvarts ’08 wants to make a statement.

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts’ project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock — saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.

But Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for “shock value.”

“I hope it inspires some sort of discourse,” Shvarts said. “Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it’s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone.”

The “fabricators,” or donors, of the sperm were not paid for their services, but Shvarts required them to periodically take tests for sexually transmitted diseases. She said she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages.

Shvarts declined to specify the number of sperm donors she used, as well as the number of times she inseminated herself.

Art major Juan Castillo ’08 said that although he was intrigued by the creativity and beauty of her senior project, not everyone was as thrilled as he was by the concept and the means by which she attained the result.

“I really loved the idea of this project, but a lot other people didn’t,” Castillo said. “I think that most people were very resistant to thinking about what the project was really about. [The senior-art-project forum] stopped being a conversation on the work itself.”

Although Shvarts said she does not remember the class being quite as hostile as Castillo described, she said she believes it is the nature of her piece to “provoke inquiry.”

“I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity,” Shvarts said. “I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be.”

The display of Schvarts’ project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Schvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Schvarts’ self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting.

Schvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said. Similar videos will be projected onto the walls of the room.

School of Art lecturer Pia Lindman, Schvarts’ senior-project advisor, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Few people outside of Yale’s undergraduate art department have heard about Shvarts’ exhibition. Members of two campus abortion-activist groups — Choose Life at Yale, a pro-life group, and the Reproductive Rights Action League of Yale, a pro-choice group — said they were not previously aware of Schvarts’ project.

Alice Buttrick ’10, an officer of RALY, said the group was in no way involved with the art exhibition and had no official opinion on the matter.

Sara Rahman ’09 said, in her opinion, Shvarts is abusing her constitutional right to do what she chooses with her body.

“[Shvarts’ exhibit] turns what is a serious decision for women into an absurdism,” Rahman said. “It discounts the gravity of the situation that is abortion.”

CLAY member Jonathan Serrato ’09 said he does not think CLAY has an official response to Schvarts’ exhibition. But personally, Serrato said he found the concept of the senior art project “surprising” and unethical.

“I feel that she’s manipulating life for the benefit of her art, and I definitely don’t support it,” Serrato said. “I think it’s morally wrong.”

Shvarts emphasized that she is not ashamed of her exhibition, and she has become increasingly comfortable discussing her miscarriage experiences with her peers.

“It was a private and personal endeavor, but also a transparent one for the most part,” Shvarts said. “This isn’t something I’ve been hiding.”

The official reception for the Undergraduate Senior Art Show will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 25. The exhibition will be on public display from April 22 to May 1. The art exhibition is set to premiere alongside the projects of other art seniors this Tuesday, April 22 at the gallery of Holcombe T. Green Jr. Hall on Chapel Street.