Wednesday, January 31, 2007

IN MEMORIAM: Don't Stop to Mourn--Organize!

Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

Damn, we lost another kickass Texas woman.

Some quotations from Molly Ivins:

I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth.

The Founders were right all along, but the results are a lot funnier than they intended.

Once you realize they're lying to you about race, everything else follows.

What you need is sustained outrage...there's far too much unthinking respect given to authority.

I used to go on college campuses 25 years ago and announce I was a feminist, and people thought it meant I believed in free love and was available for a quick hop in the sack. ... Now I go on college campuses and say I'm a feminist, and half of them think it means I'm a lesbian. How'd we get from there to here without passing "Go"?

It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.

What stuns me most about contemporary politics is not even that the system has been so badly corrupted by money. It is that so few people get the connection between their lives and what the bozos do in Washington and our state capitols.

So here are all the liberals going into a giant snit just because George W. Bush appointed a veterinarian to head the women’s health section of the Food and Drug Administration. For Pete’s sake, you whiners, the only reason he chose the vet is because Michael Brown wasn’t available.

To take another notorious Texas law, if you own six or more dildos in this state, you are a felon, presumed to have intent to distribute. Whereas if you have five or fewer, you are merely a hobbyist.

There is no inverse relationship between freedom and security. Less of one does not lead to more of the other. People with no rights are not safe from terrorist attack.

I personally hope the photo of me sitting on [Dubya's] lap at a Christmas party with him dressed as Santa has disappeared for all time.

It is not necessary to hate George W. Bush to think he’s a bad President. Grownups can do that, you know. You can decide someone’s policies are a miserable failure without lying awake at night consumed with hatred.

One function of the income gap is that the people at the top of the heap have a hard time even seeing those at the bottom. They practically need a telescope. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt probably didn't waste a lot of time thinking about the people who built their pyramids, either. OK, so it's not that bad yet -- but it's getting that bad.

I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

So now what we're looking at is one of those underwater struggles among various bureaucratic behemoths involved in some hideous internecine conflict of which we can see nothing except roiled water, as though several Loch Ness monsters were going at it deep out of sight.

The United States of America is still run by its citizens. The government works for us. Rank imperialism and warmongering are not American traditions or values. We do not need to dominate the world. We want and need to work with other nations. We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood.

The problem with those who choose received Authority over fact and logic is how they choose which part of Authority to obey. The Bible famously contradicts itself at many points (I have never understood why any Christian would choose the Old Testament over the New), and the Koran can be read as a wonderfully compassionate and humanistic document. Which suggests that the problem of fundamentalism lies not with authority, but with ourselves.

Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that.

I am one of those people who are out of touch with their emotions. I tend to treat my emotions like unpleasant relatives—a long-distance call once or twice or year is more than enough. If I got in touch with them, they might come to stay.

from her final column, January 11, 2007: We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there.
An Open Letter

Dear Bunnicat,

You do not live here.

I say this to you every time I see you—usually at least once a day, when you’re inside my kitchen eating Gabriel’s food. The other night when you came strolling into the bedroom was the outside of enough. Gabriel thought so too. At least you took the hint when she started hissing.

You’re a big, soft, furry lump of feline. You don’t seem neglected or hungry. You smell like an intact Tom or a slightly diluted skunk. With your Himalayan markings and deep, plush fur, you’re probably someone’s pampered pet, just out to snag a little extra kibble. Your bobtail looks astonishingly like a rabbit’s tail; I can’t tell if you lost some of it in an accident or were born with a fluffy three-inch stub.

If you insist on using the cat door to visit my apartment, I expect you to follow protocol.

1. Leave Gabriel alone.
2. Do not spray in here or use the litterbox. Do your business outside.
3. Don’t eat more than half the food. Yes, I’m putting out extra. I’m a big old softy.
4. Remember that my lease is restrictive: I am not allowed to have more than one cat.
5. If you show up late for dinner, do not stand in the kitchen and howl in agony. Learn to shake the dry-food dispenser as Gabriel does or show up early enough to get canned food.
6. No fleas. I mean it.
7. Stay in the kitchen. Venturing into the carpeted areas is tacky, especially since (A) you shed like a snowstorm, and (B) you won’t let me touch you.
8. Go home occasionally. As I have said, you do not live here.

Oh, and you might stay still long enough for me to get a picture.

Thank you,
The Management

PS to Humans: Is it possible to have a cat door for my cat and still keep out bold neighborhood felines? How?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

REVIEW: "Monday Night in Westerbork"

Sixty-two years ago, on January 27, 1945, Russian troops entered Auschwitz-Birkenau. This year, I commemorated the liberation of the surviving Jewish prisoners by attending S. Bear Bergman’s one-person show, “Monday Night in Westerbork.”

Westerbork was a transit camp where the Nazis gathered Jews, homosexuals, dissidents, and other undesirables; every Tuesday that week’s chosen victims boarded a train for the death camps. For a few years, it was also the site of the finest cabaret in Europe—a sparkling Scheherezade of a cabaret where Jewish actors and performers sang, danced, and joked to keep death away for one more night, one more week.

Now, as Bear ruefully notes, the Holocaust is a downer—not the world’s easiest choice for an evening’s entertainment. Holocaust stories can become syrupy paeans to inhumanly perfect martyrs, shallow mockeries (like Hogan’s Heroes), or bleak and painful sources of nightmares. (At least the last option is truthful.)

Bergman avoids these pitfalls by balancing the tragedy with humor. The storytelling is all the more poignant for being restrained and salted with wry humor. The humor, as much as the tragedy, reinforces the humanity of those who went to their deaths in cattle cars more than sixty years ago. The hilarity—and “Monday night in Westerbork” is astonishingly funny—never trivializes the sufferings of the 11 million who were murdered by the Nazis.

Bear moves easily between the character of Max Ehrlich, one of the founders of the cabaret, and the present, where zie comments on growing up as a queer Jew, listening to stories of the Holocaust from those who had survived it, and on incidents that occurred on zir research trip to Europe. By weaving in the need for queer acceptance, Bergman has limited the market for the work, but made it infinitely more powerful for those willing to listen. Moreover, by speaking up for the queer and transgendered community, Bergman is doing the work of the righteous in reminding everyone of the humanity of those society pushes away, condemns, ignores, despises.

“Monday Night in Westerbork” is an astonishing play and an astonishing performance. It has heart, it has humor, it has genuine power—and it is ultimately an affirmation of life and joy. Go see it. Take your teenagers, and then talk to them about what it means to be different.