Amazon Books staff has compiled 2014 list of 100 must-reads into a list of “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime,”

Leyton Public Library, Leytonstone, London, UK 1944 WC
Leyton Public Library, Leytonstone, London, UK (1944, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and warmer, 68 degrees.

I have Olivia today, so no time for a real post. I know I’ve been absent. What can I say?

Life . . .

                   

Click here to read the full article from CNN

Amazon released its newly curated list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime on Tuesday.

Books on the list include Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” (1925) and Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life” (2013).

The list spans 200 years of literature, along with a wide range of genres and intended audiences; authors include David Sedaris, Salman Rushdie, J.D. Salinger, Michael Pollan and Shel Silverstein.

Sara Nelson, editorial director of print and Kindle books at Amazon.com, said the list was created through taxing months of deliberation among her team, though no mathematical algorithms were used.

“One of our tasks was to have books that don’t feel like homework: ‘eat your vegetables’ books,” Nelson said. “There was nothing in there except ‘I loved this book when I was 12 for this reason.’ We lobbied each other.”

The books are not ranked but rather are listed alphabetically to represent that “no book is more important than another,” she added.

(To see the Goodreads Readers’ Picks, click here.)

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  4. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  7. Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  9. All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  10. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  11. Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  12. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  13. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  14. Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  15. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  18. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  19. Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  20. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  21. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
  22. Dune by Frank Herbert
  23. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  24. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
  25. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  26. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  27. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  28. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
  29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  30. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  31. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  33. Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  34. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  35. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  36. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  38. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  39. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  40. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  41. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  42. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  43. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  44. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  45. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  46. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  47. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  48. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  49. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  50. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  51. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  52. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  53. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  54. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  55. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  56. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  57. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  58. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  59. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  60. The Color of Water by James McBride
  61. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  62. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  63. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  64. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  65. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  66. The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  67. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  69. The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  70. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  71. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  72. The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  73. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  74. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  75. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  76. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
  77. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  78. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
  79. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  80. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  81. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  82. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
  83. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  84. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  85. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  86. The Shining by Stephen King
  87. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  88. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  89. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  90. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  91. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  92. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
  93. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  94. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  95. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  96. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  97. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  98. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  99. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  100. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
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I read the news today, oh boy . . .

Sometimes, more likely, most times, I am my own worst enemy. I was reading more news about the fallout from Steubenville and CNN when I decided to click through on some links. The road I went down was not yellow-brick or rainbow-hued or lined with daisies. It was dark and dirty and left me feeling literally sick to my stomach.

This is what I have deduced from just a quick perusal:

  • Girls/women who are raped are fair game for name-callers, haters, and anyone else interested in further harming them emotionally thanks to easy access to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Children are not safe anywhere, not in school, not in church, not in their counselors’ offices, not even in the dental chair.
  • Our society has become emotionally numb to this news because it is so damned pervasive.
  • I also read a blurb about this phenomenon that occurs mostly with Japanese male youth in which they decided never to leave their bedrooms. I can truly appreciate this and wonder why it is not more widespread.
  • It’s kind of hard to decide which social travesty is breaking my heart more these days: the ways in which rape is treated so cavalierly, especially among our youth, or the prevalence of pervs in every single facet of our society.
  • In case you think that I’m overreacting, feast your eyes on the following:
    • In Ohio: Two teenage girls were arrested and accused of using social media to threaten the young victim in the Steubenville Rape Case.
    • In Indiana: A woman is charged with trying to sell her one-year-old daughter for child porn.
    • In Florida: A man has been charged with using his neighbor’s wi-fi to download child pornography.
    • In Pennsylvania: A man admits to paying a 10-year-old neighbor for sex.
    • In Iowa: A 48-year-old male daycare provider has been accused of sexually abusing a number of children from as young as four-years-old.
    • In California: A 14-year-old boy has been charged with molesting two children who attended the day school run by the boy’s mother.
    • In California: A dental hygienist has been accused of sexually molesting a teenaged girl; there may be more victims who have yet to be identified.
    • In New York: A rabbi has been found guilty on 59 counts of child sex abuse.
    • In California: A former teacher is facing allegations of molesting 12 children; principal had been warned about questionable behavior three years prior.
    • In Arkansas: A church volunteer who was a member of the youth ministry has been charged with possession of child pornography.

     

No more. I had to stop myself. This is precisely why I stopped watching the news on television and also why I limit how much and what I read on the interwebs. I’m not made of strong enough stuff for this.

More later.

“There is nothing more provocative than minding your own business.” ~ William S. Burroughs

CNN, you used to be about news. What happened to you?

I’m so glad that Mallory Ortberg skewered the CNN coverage of the Steubenville Rapists. “Such promising futures . . .” Blah, blah, blah. Let us not forget that they raped an unconscious girl and then posted pictures of the acts on social media. To me, that does not bespeak intelligence or promise, rather blatant stupidity and a clear lack of character.

The full article follows:

CNN Reports On The ‘Promising Future’ of the Steubenville Rapists, Who Are ‘Very Good Students’

One way to report on the outcome of a rape trial is to discuss the legal ramifications of the decision or the effect the proceedings may have on the life of the victim. Another angle reporters can take is to publicly worry about the “promising future” of the convicted rapists, now less promising as a direct result of their choice to rape someone.

Reporters at CNN today chose the latter technique. General correspondent Poppy Harlow, speaking to anchor Candy Crowley, had this to say about the verdict:

“Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart…when that sentence came down, [Ma’lik] collapsed in the arms of his attorney…He said to him, ‘My life is over. No one is going to want me now.’ Very serious crime here, both found guilty of raping the sixteen-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August.”

CNN also played footage of both convicted rapists tearfully apologizing in court. Harlow went on to describe in detail an emotional exchange between Ma’lik Richmond, one of the defendants, and his estranged father.

Candy asked Paul Callan, a legal expert, to elaborate on the future of the two young men, stressing their youth and emotional vulnerability.

“Sixteen-year-olds just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like sixteen-year-olds…what’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?”

“The most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law…That will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Employers, when looking up their background, will see that they’re registered sex offenders. When they move into a new neighborhood and somebody goes on the Internet, where these things are posted, neighbors will know that they are registered sex offenders.”

Yes, that is how the sex offender registry works. People who commit acts of sexual violence (rape, for example) and are convicted in a court of law are required to register with the national sex offender public registry, so that future employers and neighbors might do things like check said registry.

For readers interested in learning more about how not to be labeled as registered sex offenders, a good first step is not to rape unconscious women, no matter how good your grades are. Regardless of the strength of your GPA (weighted or unweighted), if you commit rape, there is a possibility you may someday be convicted of a sex crime. This is because of your decision to commit a sex crime instead of going for a walk, or reading a book by Cormac McCarthy. Your ability to perform calculus or play football is generally not taken into consideration in a court of law. Should you prefer to be known as “Good student and excellent football player Trent Mays” rather than “Convicted sex offender Trent Mays,” try stressing the studying and tackling and giving the sex crimes a miss altogether.

It’s perfectly understandable, when reporting on a rape trial, to discuss the length and severity of the sentence; it is less understandable to discuss the end of two convicted rapists’ future athletic and academic careers as if it were somehow divorced from the laws of cause and effect. Their dreams and hopes were not crushed by an impersonal, inexorable legal system; Mays and Richmond raped a girl and have been sentenced accordingly. Had they not raped her, they would not be spending at least one year each in a juvenile detention facility.

It is unlikely that Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow are committed rape apologists; more likely they simply wanted a showy, emotional angle at the close of a messy and sensationalized trial. Since the identity of the victim is protected, and the rapists obliged the camera crews by memorably breaking down and crying in court, they found an angle to match: extremely gifted young men were brought tragically low by… mumblemumblesomething.

That isn’t how rape trials ought to be discussed by professional journalists.

Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond are not the “stars” of the Steubenville rape trial. They aren’t the only characters in a drama playing out in eastern Ohio. And yet a CNN viewer learning about the Steubenville rape verdict is presented with dynamic, sympathetic, complicated male figures, and a nonentity of an anonymous victim, the “lasting effects” of whose graphic, public sexual assault are ignored. Small wonder, then, that anyone would find themselves on the side of these men—these poor young men, who were very good at taking tests and playing sports when they were not raping their classmates.

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles, and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” ~ Lao-tzu

 
“Commonly, people believe that defeat is characterized by a general bustle and a feverish rush. Bustle and rush are the signs of victory, not of defeat. Victory is a thing of action. It is a house in the act of being built. Every participant in victory sweats and puffs, carrying the stones for the building of the house. But defeat is a thing of weariness, of incoherence, of boredom. And above all of futility.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    

 I just could not decide what image to use for this first section. I was looking for the perfect political cartoon. Then I came across this one on Comics I Don’t Understand, and I thought to myself, “Eureka, self. That’s it.”

    

I’ve been waiting for the mud to settle, but it’s taking quite awhile. Yesterday I was more than half-way through a post when my computer locked up on me. Consequently, I lost everything. To say that I was a tad annoyed is a vast understatement. 

As a result I stopped everything that I was doing and set about performing a thorough scan and cleaning of my hard drive, and then I defragged. Things seem to be running a bit smoother today, but I’m not going to chance anything major. 

Today I came back to my blog, ready to do a smaller recap of yesterday’s post, and what did I find but a draft of the post that disappeared yesterday. Now I am certain of it: My computer is in on the conspiracy of inanimate objects (using the term loosely) to try to further deplete me of the little sanity I have remaining. 

It’s working . . . 

“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society.  If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”  ~ P.J. O’Rourke
"I smell dorkfish somewhere nearby."

Moving along . . . In other offensive and absolutely take-my-breath-away-with-your-hypocrisy news, a Tea Bagger leader has referred to Allah as “monkey-god” and to Muslims as “the animals of Allah.” Mark Williams, the conservative talk radio host who is listed as chairman of the Tea Party Express and acts as a frequent spokesman for the group, wrote on his blog: “The longest, most heavily researched and footnoted chapter in my book is about the fruit baskets and nut wads that gravitate to Islam and why it attracts such mental cases . . . ” Williams also posted an image of the prophet Muhammad with a swastika on top of his head. 

Nice. Ecumenical. Loving. Spread those Christian arms wide in your embrace of other faiths and cultures. Or maybe not so much. 

Loony Tune Williams is well-known for opening his big mouth and letting bile spew forth. In February Williams referred to “our half white, racist president” in an email to colleagues. 

“To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of ignorance.” ~ A. Bronson Alcott
"My dorkfish is this big."

Meanwhile, another politician who talks the talk but doesn’t quite walk the walk, Republican Representative Mark Souder of Indiana is resigning. Awww. 

According to Souder, “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff.” Then he added the punch line: “In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon and twisted for political gain. I am resigning rather than put my family through a painful drawn out process.”  

That’s right. The “poisonous environment of Washington, D.C.” made you have an affair with the same woman who interviewed you about abstinence. 

According to an article in the Washington Post, the self-described conservative Christian  “focused on three areas since entering Congress: in his words, ‘how to keep the economy strong; how do we improve our education system; and how do we change the cultural and moral direction of this country.'” 

Souder, a staunch opponent of gay rights and AIDS prevention through condom distribution, is also a big proponent of family values. He has been quoted as saying, “I believe that Congress must fight to uphold the traditional values that undergird the strength of our nation . . . The family plays a fundamental role in our society . . . I am committed to fighting the assault on American values.” 

Let me see if I understand this correctly because I have been accused of not really understanding conservative speak. . . Souder is pro family, pro values, pro abstinence. Does that mean that going to state parks with your staffer for trysts is part of those values that you have fought so hard to impose on the American people? I mean, I’m a bit confused. I thought that there was this whole proscription against sex outside of marriage, you know? Adultery? Did I miss something, or did Souder just find the same loophole that so many of his ilk seem to find (e.g., see Family Research Council co-founder George Reker and his rent boy below). 

“I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” ~ Thomas Carlyle
George Rekers Pushing Luggage Cart for his Luggage Handler aka Lucien

Oh, Dr. George (as he refers to himself), you have been a bad, bad boy. You say you just needed someone to help with your luggage? Then why were you pushing the luggage cart at Miami Airport? Why did your contract with rentboy Lucien specify personal massages? Why were you naked during those massages? 

Dr. George. Thou doth protest too much. All of that work with The National Association of Research & Therapy of Homosexuality? Hmm? That co-founding of the anti-gay lobbying group The Family Research Council? Oh? They don’t remember you? Well how about that dodgy group, the American College of Pediatricians? You know, the ones who make up their data and call it scientific proof?

My, my, my. You were so busy trying to “cure” all of those poor people of their homosexuality that you forgot to work your voodoo on you know who . . . Perhaps it was because you were perusing the pages of rentboy.com—the only place on the web (prior to this scandal breaking) where interested parties could find lad Lucien’s very personal profile.

To get a better perspective on the whole Reker rent boy debacle, I’ll just include this story from CNN, which covers the key issues pretty thoroughly. 

Vodpod videos no longer available. 
more about “Male escort and Baptist minister “, posted with vodpod

It has been a busy news week. More later. Peace.

Father Mukada (the wonderful B. D. Wong) on “OZ” singing “Leather”

“The 700 Club and The Weather Channel”

 gay-marriage-sticker1

Stephen Colbert Takes on the National Organization for Marriage

National Organization of Fear-Mongering

gathering-storm-slide-cropped
Image from "Gathering Storm": Woman on Left represents physician; woman on right is "afraid"

On April 8, 2009, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) released a $1.5 million ad (using this term very loosely) called “The Gathering Storm” to be played in certain market sectors of the U.S. The ad was set to run on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. The ad is set to air eight times per day in New York (which is considering lifting the ban on gay marriage), Connecticutt, Rhode Island, and California (which banned gay marriages with Proposition #8).

In this ad, a seemingly diverse group of people talk about a “coming storm.” That storm is . . . wait for it . . . Gay Marriage. Quick, hide the children and the dogs (ToTo, too) before they get ideas in their heads.

These seemingly everyday people are standing around hither and yon, with body posture akin to the people in The Invasion,with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, you know the ones, the ones who have been vomited into, hence causing a psuedo-catatonic state of well-being.

One woman purports to be “afraid” by saying, and I quote: “I’m afraid.” Another woman says that she is a doctor who must choose between her religion and her job;another woman is a parent who must stand idly by while her children are brainwashed in public schools about alternate lifestyles. Ultimately, the message is that straight people will lose their rights if this rampant gay storm thingy isn’t stopped.

Teeth gnashing and hair pulling from the viewing audience. “What are we to do? Oh no. They are among us.”

They being the LGBT community.

Now, I’m not trying to make light of an offensive commercial that tries to scare people into opposing same-sex unions. Okay, well maybe I am, but only because the video is so terribly preposterous. The video doesn’t even really tackle the issue of same-sex marriages, instead focusing on issues of how homosexuality affects people of faith.

wicked-witch-of-the-west
Wicked Witch of the West . . . and flying monkey!

A “storm” coming? (Insert Wicked Witch of the West music here.) What happened to the North Koreans and Iran and nuclear weapons? Aren’t those bigger storms that would affect everyone? How about the man-made economic disaster facing the globe? I don’t remember seeing any trance-inducing videos taking on that really large problem.

Or Mt. Hood? Now that was a real storm coming: an ash storm. My god. Think of the innocent plants that suffered in that layer of sooty sludge.

Or flying monkeys, perhaps?

Okay. I’ll stop being silly.

“Pursuing a mission on behalf of a conjugal conception of marriage” . . . Excuse me, as opposed to a non-conjugal conception of marriage?

NOM was co-founded in 2007 by Princeton professor Robert George and Maggie Gallagher, both formerly of  The Institute for American Values. According to Gallagher, who says that she is “personally very proud” of the ad, NOM “pursues its mission mainly by public education and advocacy on behalf of the conjugal conception of marriage as the permanent and exclusive union of husband and wife” (from an interview with the Prince in September 2008). 

The video includes the following statements made by the 14 individuals (actors) who are supposed to represent everyday, albeit straight, citizens:

“There’s a storm gathering. The clouds are dark. And the winds are strong. And I am afraid. Some who advocate for same-sex marriage have taken the issue far beyond same-sex couples. They want to bring the issue into my life. My freedom will be taken away.”

“But some who advocate for same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish,” the ad continues. “Those who advocate want to change the way I live. I will have no choice. The storm is coming.”

equal-rights-for-all-american-buttonThis video has caused such a stir that spoofs of it went viral on YouTube almost immediately. Personally, I like the one by Stephen Colbert, which I have provided for your viewing enjoyment. This spoof is not a supposed anti-gay attack as I read on one site. Rather, it’s a very clear case of satire.

You know, satire? That rhetorical device that employs irony and sarcasm to hold up for inspection some kind of human folly, or lampooning, my favorite form of satire, which is specifically political in nature and takes no prisoners in revealing, usually through broad humor, weaknesses in opponents—something at which Stephen Colbert is particularly adept.

After airing the original NOM video, Colbert declared “I love that ad. It is like watching The 700 Club and The Weather Channel at the same time.” He then presented his own take:

 

 

“I’m a homophobe and I’m okay.” Now everybody sing . . .

But let’s look at some facts, shall we? The video uses actors to send this message of bigotry and terror. What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Instead of paying people to look wooden in a badly-written segment, if you truly believe in something, why not use real people who share your views. We saw from the recent presidential campaign just how well that tactic worked. Who can forget Joe the Plumber sticking his nose in front of the camera at every opportunity in support of the GOP’s ticket?

Or what about delusional lady who McCain had to take the microphone from because she was on a toot about Obama being an Arab? Now these were people you could believe in. They were real. They hadn’t been paid to say the things that they were saying (well, maybe Joe was, but who really cares because he was such a good source for liberals to heap outrage upon).

All of that being said (in my roundabout way), I still contend that given the ad’s purpose and message, real people should have been used, you know, real homophobes. For example, if the female actor was representing a real doctor who was upset about choosing her profession or her religion—and we know that she was because I’ll give you the case in just a sec—why not let the real doctor speak out on the subject? Is NOM protecting her (the doctor’s) right to privacy by insisting that gay marriage is not private?

After all, this physician chose not to give treatment to a patient because of that patient’s sexual orientation. If this doctor is such a staunch believer in her faith, give her the forum to allow her speak for herself. I say, stand up for your homophobic rights. Put up or shut up, as the old saying goes.

(According to the Human Rights Campaign, the video character of the female physician refers to the Benitez decision in California, determining that a doctor cannot violate California anti-discrimination law by refusing to treat a lesbian based on religious belief. http://www.hrc.org/12470.htm. And then there’s little thing called the Hippocratic Oath, but that’s probably just a technicality now.)

LIFE GAYSBut my real point is—and I do have one—the message in “Gathering Storm” isn’t just about gay marriage; it’s also about the imposition of  gay rights’ issues against people of faith. It’s a tried and true political tactic: scare people with misinformation, and for good measure, threaten their faith.

My freedom will be taken away.” Which freedom, specifically? And how will that freedom be taken away, specifically?  These generalizations do nothing but cause anxiety among people who fall prey to fear-mongering, accepting as facts statements that are opinions, and not in an humorous, ‘we’re being silly’ kind of way.

As Gallagher states: “[Gay marriage] is not a private act . . .You change the legal definition of marriage, you change the meaning for everyone, not just the gay couple down the block.” Gallagher’s statement directly mirrors the information on NOM’s website, which contends that “gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, [but] they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

I’m not really sure what Gallagher and NOM mean by that. Not in my neighborhood?  Not down my block? Or probably something more insidious, like, ‘they have a right to live as they choose, but we don’t really want to let them choose.

But there I go again, making assumptions. More later. Peace.

“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

whooper-swan

“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” ~ Stephen Covey

 “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

statue-of-venus-de-milo
The Epitome of Beauty: The Venus de Milo

How many times have you looked at someone you do not know and made assumptions about that person based on the way that he or she looks? How often do you see a woman in ill-fitting clothes or with a bad hairstyle and think to yourself that she should take better care of herself? Have you ever been in line at the grocery store and noticed that the person in front of you is wearing out-of-date clothes and shoes and is a little overweight? Did you make assumptions about this person, or perhaps, increase the space between yourself and the other person?

If I am going to ask you these questions, then it is only fitting that I answer them. Yes, I have made assumptions about people based upon their physical appearance. Yes, I have thought to myself, “why doesn’t she do something with her hair?” or “she would be more attractive if she lost some weight.”

But then I will catch myself and think, “who am I to judge?” I could stand to lose some extra pounds myself. I’ve run out of the house in sweatpants and an old t-shirt, my hair in a pony tail. I’ve gone into stores feeling very self-conscious because I know that I don’t look particularly great, but I needed a gallon of milk. 

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~ Alan Alda

marilyn-monroe2
One of The Great Beauties, Marilyn Monroe, incredibly self-conscious and suffered from low self-esteem

Harsh though it may be, scientific studies have proven that physical appearance makes a difference in the amount of money you earn, how you are treated by physicians, how educators react to you, and even whether or not you make partner.

According to a CNN article by Kate Lorenz, “Do Pretty People Earn More?” the facts show that attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts.”*

So what does this mean to individuals in society who do not resemble Daniel Craig or Angelina Jolie? Dr. Gordon Patzer has made it his life’s work to study attractiveness and its role in human behavior. According to Patzer,

“Human beings are hard-wired to respond more favorably to attractive people . . . Good-looking men and women are generally judged to be more talented, kind, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts . . . People go out of their way to help attractive people—of the same and opposite sex—because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

This societal preference for attractiveness is called the halo effect, due to the association with the perfection of angels. The halo effect occurs when an individual is influenced by a person’s strengths, weaknesses, physical appearance, behavior, or any other single factor.

Whether or not it is fair, research shows that attractive people also have more occupational success and more dating experience than their unattractive counterparts. Attractive people tend to be more intelligent, better adjusted, and more popular—probably because they have received better treatment from their teachers, their peers, and their bosses.

*(http://www.cnn.com/2005//US/Careers/07/08/looks/)

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” ~ Angelique Arnauld

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Academy-Award Winning Director Peter Jackson

But let us pause for a moment. How many persons of note in history actually do not fall into the beautiful people category? Albert Einstein certainly wasn’t an attractive man, with his bushy eyebrows and unruly hair. Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest and most generous men in the world is what most people would describe as ordinary. Peter Jackson, a genius in the film world, resembled a hobbit when he made Lord of the Rings; but even he felt compelled to lose weight.

Is physical beauty truly necessary to be successful, to be considered extraordinary? I don’t believe so. Think about it. What about intelligence? Does anyone ever say, “Oh, her brain is so beautiful”? No. But shouldn’t they if they are really going to look at a woman or a man and judge her/him? 

“When a woman isn’t beautiful, people tell her: You have lovely eyes, you have lovely hair.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Why am I pondering this point? I was reading an article about a Scottish woman who appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent,” the UK’s version of “America’s Got Talent.” The judges for this program are the ever-snarky Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan (who also judges on the U.S. version), and Amanda Holden, an English actress who is mostly recognized for her television appearances.

A brief lesson for those of you who do not follow the show: Contestants apply from all over the country to be finalists on the show. In the initial rounds, the three judges watch the one-minute performances and then vote yes or no on whether or not the individual is talented enough to go to the next round. Once the contestants are reduced to 24, then there is a round for the semi-finals. In the finals, the viewing audience votes on who should stay and who should go. The winner is decided by audience votes.

“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself.” ~ Kevyn Aucion

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Contestant Susan Boyle Singing "I Dreamed A Dream"

Now picture this: an older woman (by older I mean not in her 20’s, not old for god’s sake) with bushy eyebrows and a very unfashionable dress and hairstyle walks out onto the stage. It only takes seconds before Simon Cowell begins his attack dog shtick, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the crossed arms. All of it. A pan of the audience shows that almost to a person no one is liking this woman: sneers, crossed arms, negative body language abounds.

Already, the judges and the audience have formed an opinion on this contestant based solely on her physical appearance, and that opinion is not positive.

How fair is this? Not at all fair. Has the woman had a chance to perform yet? No. Does the audience even know what she plans to do for her talent before they cross their arms? No.

The woman declares to the judges and the audience that she wants to sing, that she has always wanted to sing. You can hear the snickers from the audience. After all, how can this unfashionable, frumpy woman sing, let alone sing well enough to be on the show?

“There comes a moment when you realize that virtually anything is possible—that nothing is too good to be true.” ~ Kobi Yamoda

What happens next is positively enchanting. Susan Boyle opens her mouth, and pure beauty emanates from it. The audience jumps to its feet. Simon Cowell raises his eyebrows, and this time, it’s not in a malicious way. Piers Morgan is stupefied.

Boyle sings “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables, an incredibly difficult song to sing because of the range. As I watched the video of her performance, I got chills, and I began to tear up.

I wanted to reach through the screen and hug Susan Boyle for her performance, and I wanted to slap Simon Cowell for his disbelief that a woman who looked like Boyle could have such an angelic voice.

“Women notice details that most men don’t . . . They notice all the details, then make assumptions about every other area of your life based on these details.” ~ David DeAngelo

But it wasn’t just Cowell, was it? It was everyone. When the opening refrain of the song played, Morgan appeared to be totally uninterested, Holden had her hands over her head as if she were trying to stifle a yawn. No one was truly interested in the woman on the stage.

However, as compared to males, we females can be absolutely merciless in our criticisms of the women who are in our office, the women our friends date, the women who do our hair, or our nails. But we can be especially venomous when it comes to total strangers. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about: only saintly women or women who are completely self-confident do not beat down other women. And how many of those do you know?

“It matters more what’s in a woman’s face than what’s on it.” ~ Claudette Colbert

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Pursuit of Beauty Gone Horribly Wrong: Jocelyn Wildenstein

This is the very problem with assumptions. We make assumptions about people all of the time, every day, based on their looks, on what they are wearing, on how their hair looks, how scuffed their shoes are, what kind of purse they are carrying, how old their suit is, even what kind of car they are driving. And admittedly, women are worse when it comes to judging other women.

In my own experience, I have found that many beautiful women lack in self-confidence, while those who are not considered beautiful, abound in self-confidence. It’s as if they know that the world doesn’t believe in them, but they don’t care. They believe in themselves. How wonderful that is to believe in yourself, truly believe in your talent, or your goodness, or your abilities. And how pitiable it is when women abuse themselves by repeated plastic surgery in attempts to be more beautiful, look more youthful, more perfect, not stopping until they resemble caricatures of themselves.

“Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld.” ~ Martha Beck

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The Ugly Duckling Is Not Always What It Seems

Now what I did not mention is that when Sarah Boyle came out on stage, she was obviously prepared for Cowell’s sour disposition, but it didn’t seem to affect her at all. She answered all of his questions with a smile on her face. It was as if she were challenging him: “I know that you are assuming that I have no talent, but you just wait. You’ll see.”

Boyle stood her ground, even doing a bit of a jig in her sheer delight at just being invited to the party. And when she finished, she knew that she had won the battle. She walked off the stage with her shoulders back, a broad smile on her face, and joy in her eyes.

All three judges were effusive in their praise. But the best part is this: With her talent, her incredible voice, Susan Boyle has a real shot at winning “Britain’s Got Talent.” Wouldn’t that be something? And about time, too.

But just a closing thought: Why were we so surprised that Susan Boyle could sing? That is probably the heart of the matter, and a question that we should be asking ourselves even as this incredibly talented, sincere, selfless woman stands before the world and graces us with a voice from the gods.

 And on that note, I present Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed A Dream”

Embedding has been disabled. To see the video of Susan Boyle’s performance, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

More later. Peace.

Time Out for Incredulous Indignance

The New York Post Shows Its True Colors Again

When I saw the editorial cartoon, I will admit that my first response was incredulity: No one in 2009 could possibly be this obtuse. But wait, it’s Rupert Murdoch’s gang at The New York Post, so immediately, I regroup and realize that yes indeed, there are people who can be and are this blockheaded, this blatantly over the top, this far to the right that they no longer can see the horizon.

What am I ranting about? If you don’t know, please, let me share with you this delightful bit of editorial humor:

2009-02-18-cartoon

The drawing, from cartoonist Sean Delonas, is at best, tasteless, at worst blatantly racist.  And no, I am not over-reacting here.

No one can deny the fact that for years, African Americans have historically been likened to monkeys. The author of the Stimulus Bill is our nation’s first president of color, Barack Obama. Need I draw a line from point A to point B? Or is the implication that the Stimulus Bill is so bad that a chimpanzee could have written it? Either way, it’s an insult to the President.

Not to mention how insensitive the cartoon is to the poor woman in Connecticut whose face was mauled. The cartoon is based on the horrific event of the woman in Connecticut being attacked by a friend’s pet chimpanzee, resulting in the chimp being shot to death by police officers. In that case, the officers had no choice as the woman who was attacked was severely hurt, and the chimpanzee began to attack an officer. However, I am finding it very hard to connect that horrible event to the Stimulus Bill, no matter how much I work to draw incongruous connections.

Delanos told CNN that racism allegations were  “absolutely frigging ridiculous.” But he is not content to stop there. He continues: “It’s about the economic stimulus bill. If you’re going to make that about anybody, it would be [House Speaker] Pelosi, which it’s not.”  

Let me see if I understand: the dead chimpanzee is Nancy Pelosi, and that’s supposed to be better somehow?

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No matter how you turn this thing around, spin it, move it, try to justify it, it just doesn’t work. The heart of the matter is that the drawing and its publication are rude. No matter how it is interpreted, it is morally objectionable and in bad taste.

Delanos is known for his insensitive editorial cartoons, in particular his collection of gay-bashing cartoons, so the fact that he sees nothing wrong with this latest piece of questionable editorializing—questionable as editorializing and questionable as having crossed that unspoken line that the really great editorial cartoonists never needed to cross in order to slice and dice their targets—is hardly surprising.

In the end, The Post is being picketed; rumors are that Rupert is not happy, and even insiders at the paper are writing not me e-mails to gain distance from this disgrace.

It just makes me tired all over when people still fail to realize that the election of 2008 was about more than Obama and McCain. It was about people being really tired of things as they were, tired of people being treated as outsiders because of otherness, tired of war, tired of poverty, tired of the U.S. ranking among third world countries for infant mortality. Tired of all of these things. And I think that their tolerance for intolerance is probably reaching its limits.

Perhaps people like Delanos might want to take that into consideration. But more likely than not, he will continue to be hebetudinous when it comes to an awareness of others.

More later. Peace.