Saturday, July 28, 2012

History

Week of July 23


THE ARTICLE:
“Chick-fil-A Thrust Back Into Spotlight on Gay Rights”
Published: July 25, 2012

THE GIST:
Chick-fil-A has become the latest stage for the gay marriage debate after its President stated that the company supports “the biblical definition of the family unit” and has been giving millions of dollars to organizations that are against same-sex marriage.  In response, supporters of gay marriage plan to stage a same-sex-kiss-in at Chick-fil-A chains across the country on August 3, and the Jim Henson Company has pulled the plug on providing muppets for the chain’s kids meals.  Opponents of same-sex marriage have espoused their support for Chick fil-A, with Mike Huckabee declaring August 1st Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, and anti-gay politician Rick Santorum publicizing his support for Chick-fil-A on Twitter.  More information on Mike Huckabee’s event can be found here.



THE POEM:
History

I’ve seen this before:

The hate
Then the change
Then their embarrassment

The arc of it is
hopelessly
predictable

After all

They said I was only
three fifths of a man

Couldn’t sit there
Couldn’t drink that
Watch your back or
you’ll get lynched
but we overcame
inch by inch

So I know how this all plays out:

They said it’s not Adam and Steve
You can’t have kids
Can’t walk down the aisle
Better flip that switch
or I’ll shoot off your smile
But they’ll overcome
and they’ll do it in style

They’ll do it without eating more chikin
Do it while being violently picked on
They’ll do it state by state and sea to sea
They’ll do it manifest-destinaly

You can spend your millions
trying to stop it
But they’ll do it eventually
What’s repeating is history

And you’ll be so embarrassed
You’ll be so ashamed
You’ll carry straight guilt and you’ll say
Some of my best friends are gay

You’ll shake your head in disbelief
that not too long ago
we treated Them so unfairly
so very un-Constitutionally

Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Santorum
you’re entitled to your point of view
but all the chikin in the whole wide world
cannot make me share it with you

A Broken Brain

Week of July 23

THE ARTICLE:
"Gray Matter: Did Your Brain Make You Do It?"
By JOHN MONTEROSSO and BARRY SCHWARTZ
July 27, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/neuroscience-and-moral-responsibility.html

THE GIST:
Cam Floyd
According to the study "Explaining Away Responsibility" from the journal of Ethics & Behavior, people are more likely to shield a criminal from blame if he has a brain abnormality than if he has a traumatic psychological history.  For instance, a killer whose brain is proven to have a deficiency that motivates his violent behavior is more likely to be perceived as not responsible for the crime than a killer raised by killer, abusive parents without a brain abnormality.  This is referred to as “naïve dualism.” In one instance, we don’t blame someone whose “brain made him do it,” but in the other, we still blame someone whose experiences have been traumatic, but is ultimately responsible for his actions.  In the wake of the Batman shooting, the authors of this study urge people to understand that all actions are both biological and psychological.  When trying to assign blame, especially in a legal context, the authors suggest you consider:

“How strong was the relation between the cause (whatever it happened to be) and the effect? If, hypothetically, only 1 percent of people with a brain malfunction (or a history of being abused) commit violence, ordinary considerations about blame would still seem relevant. But if 99 percent of them do, you might start to wonder how responsible they really are.”


THE POEM:
A Broken Brain

The physics of it all
makes scientific sense:

Hand/trigger
Bullet/dead
Actions and reactions
make and break bodies
every single day

The psychology of it all
is still up in the air:

Childhood abuse
Question mark
Social neglect
Who knows
Connecting the dots
wouldn’t make our hearts sway

But the neuroscience of it all
would make hard edges soft:

His brain made him do it
by sending the wrong signals
It was an unintentional mess
His insides were hijacked
and we don’t blame a host
for its parasite

I ask the wrong questions
to make sense of my life
Put stock in the naïve dualism
that makes things easier to digest:

The bipolar boss whose attacks still sting
was just a victim of herself

The bulimic boyfriend who
chewed me up
and spit me out
wasn’t just purging me

The man who replaced me with
a twenty year-old
had bigger problems than
being a sleaze

But the one whose grey matter
was the right shade of grey
whose childhood
gave no reason to clam up

I can’t blame his brain

I prayed for a diagnosis
Hoped for a missing chromosome
or a shrunken amygdala

A Broken brain
would have made it easier for 
my broken bones
to come back together

Saturday, July 21, 2012

one-woman militia

Week of July 16 

THE ARTICLES:

"Gunman Kills 12 in Colorado, Reviving Gun Debate"
by DAN FROSCH and KIRK JOHNSON
July 20, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/21/us/shooting-at-colorado-theater-showing-batman-movie.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

"Live Updates on Movie Theater Shooting in Colorado"
By J. DAVID GOODMAN, JENNIFER PRESTON and MARC SANTORA
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/live-updates-on-movie-theater-shooting-in-colorado/ 

"Op-Ed Contributor: We’ve Seen This Movie Before"
By ROGER EBERT
July 20, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/21/opinion/weve-seen-this-movie-before.html
 
For parents or educators:
"
Addressing the Colorado Shootings With Students"
by KATHERINE SCHULTEN
http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/addressing-the-colorado-shootings-with-students/?ref=us
THE GIST:
At a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, a gunman opened fire, killing 12 and wounding 58. The shooter, 24-year old James Holmes, entered the theater from the emergency exit in the front and threw two exploding canisters into the audience before opening fire, all while appearing calm and saying nothing, according to witnesses. Holmes' police record consists of just one speeding ticket, and he graduated with honors from the University of California, Riverside.  Most recently, he dropped out of a Ph.D program at the University of Colorado.  Holmes legally purchased four guns and over 6,000 rounds of ammunition in the
James Holmes
last 60 days. The event evoked haunting familiarity in its victims and witnesses--the movie theater was just 20 miles from Columbine High School, where 2 students opened fire and killed a dozen people and themselves in 1999.  President Obama and Mitt Romney issued statements of sympathy and reflection following the massacre, but drew criticism from New York's Mayor Bloomberg, who urged both candidates to move away from broad, safe statements and offer specific, transparent solutions for gun violence.  In Roger Ebert's editorial "We've Seen This Movie Before," he says that while pro-gun lobbyists insist that Americans need guns to protect themselves, "not a single person at the...theater shot back," arguing that the self-defense theory is weak but consistently absent from the reality of shootings.  According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 45% of Americans have a gun in their home.  When asked "What do you think are the one or two most important things that could be done to prevent mass shootings from occurring in the United States?" the most popular open-ended response was "stricter gun control laws" at 24%, followed by "better mental health screening/Better mental health support" at 15%.  Just 4% answered, "Allow people to carry guns for their own protection," supporting Ebert's argument.  Holmes is in custody, and information about a motive or his mental health has yet to be made public. 

Excerpt from a 2011 Gallup poll


New York City Mayor Bloomberg on gun laws and what the Presidential nominees should do about them


THE POEM: 
one-woman militia

the signal in the sky
above the multiplex
feels familiar

we've seen this before
twelve bodies on the floor
in Colorado

the baby screams
in his father's arms
is this a dream
within a dream
within a dream
or the vengeance of James
unexplained

I cradle the gun I keep in the closet
like my neighbor and her neighbor do

I hold it quietly

feel the weight of
who it could save
by who it could kill

I tell myself:

I am a one-woman militia
bearing arms in the arms
of evaporating bones that
feel strong when they point
an assault rifle

I kick myself because:

it was in the closet
and I was dreaming
while he was screaming
toward the parking lot

I pray:

for the day I can throw it away
and just doze off

I realize:

they're both 24
another year and their brains will be done
but they've done so much
for people
to people
already

I wonder:

if Bruce Wayne's mother
could ever sleep

I wikipedia:

Oh, she was murdered

I kick
I scream
I pray

I am too close to think

Let this be a dream
within a dream
within a dream

private / public

Week of July 16

THE ARTICLE:

"Boy Scouts to Continue Excluding Gay People"
by ERIK ECKHOLM
July 17, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/us/boy-scouts-reaffirm-ban-on-gay-members.html

See also:"Letters: Protests Against the Boy Scouts’ Exclusion of Gays"
July 19, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/opinion/protests-against-the-boy-scouts-exclusion-of-gays.html?ref=boyscouts

THE GIST:
The Boy Scouts of America has re-affirmed its ban on gay members and leaders following the results of a 2010 investigation into whether or not changing the ban would be in the BSA's best interest.  In 2000, the Supreme Court defended the BSA's right to exclude gay people because it is a private organization with the right to implement its preferred values. On its website, the Boy Scouts labels itself as "a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness."  Opponents to the BSA's decision to uphold its ban on gays argue that this type of discrimination leads to bullying, which has had deadly consequences in recent years.

THE POEM:
private / public

if you didn't have to be closeted to be a scout
maybe Tyler wouldn't have checked out

if the pinewood derby allowed gays to participate
maybe Jayme wouldn't have chosen to dissipate

if a lesbian leader hadn't been told to get gone
maybe Kyle wouldn't have been peed on

Hitler and Voldemort weren't pure
and Mister Baden-Powell enjoyed another man's lure

the irony continues when
boys that want to get their uniforms dirty
will turn 18 and join the military

the opportunity cost of the status quo
are the beaten loved ones of every hetero

a ruling of five to four
says it's their right to exclude
but if then maybe / if then perhaps
a private world breeds public mishaps

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rape.0

Week of July 9

MAKING AN EXCEPTION:
Although The New York Times did not have coverage this week of the Daniel Tosh rape joke incident, I've decided to include this event on this blog because one of my main motivations as a writer is to use my work to increase the power and respect of women. Here in the United States, about 1 in 6 women experience sexual assault, and among college women, that ratio jumps to 1 in 4.  Comedy clubs are filled with audiences that include women who have been raped or sexually assaulted and men whose wives, friends, or girlfriends have been sexually assaulted.  I have not been raped, but I know too many women who have been.  If you don't think you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, you are probably wrong.  This incident asks us to examine the role of rape in comedy, TV, film, and our culture, and what we as consumers are willing to put up with.   

THE ARTICLES:
The original Tumblr post: "So A Girl Walks Into a Comedy Club..."
http://breakfastcookie.tumblr.com/post/26879625651/so-a-girl-walks-into-a-comedy-club

"Daniel Tosh's rape joke controversy: Club owner speaks out"

http://www.boston.com/ae/tv/blog/2012/07/daniel_tosh_apo.htm

 

"Daniel Tosh Apologizes For Rape Joke Aimed At Female Audience Member At Laugh Factory" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/daniel-tosh-rape-joke-laugh-factory_n_1662882.html

Reactions of Note:
"Male comics: Stop enabling rape culture" by Molly Knefel 

http://www.salon.com/2012/07/13/male_comics_stop_enabling_rape_culture//

"How to Make a Rape Joke" by Lindy West

http://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke

"
The best response we've heard to Daniel Tosh's 'misquoted' rape jokes" by Curtis Luciani
http://austin.culturemap.com/newsdetail/07-12-12-14-37-the-best-response-weve-heard-to-daniel toshs-misquoted-rape-jokes/


Past New York Times coverage to check out:
 
"Female Comedians, Breaking the Taste-Taboo Ceiling" by Jason Zinoman
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/16/arts/television/female-comedians-are-confidently-breaking-taste-taboos.html?pagewanted=all

"A Night Out With Daniel Tosh: Ducking in and Out" by Linda Lee 

Comedian Daniel Tosh, host of Comedy Central's Tosh.0

THE GIST:
Comedian Daniel Tosh found himself in hot water this week after he allegedly made a rape joke directed at a female audience member.  According to the woman's original post on Tumblr, after she called out that "rape jokes are never funny," Tosh countered, "Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like five guys? Like right now?"  The club manager's account is different, saying that after Tosh asked the audience what they wanted to talk about, someone suggested rape, at which point the woman in question called out that rape jokes are not funny, and Tosh said something such as "That girl probably got raped by like five guys."  Tosh issued an apology on Twitter.  No video footage is available, but regardless of the exact interaction, the event has prompted nationwide discussion about rape's place in comedy and the relationship between comedians and their audiences.

THE POEM:
Rape.0

we share a bottle of Pinot at
the Comedy Cellar

I catch his eye at the gay jokes
he catches mine at the rape jokes

there are plenty of both:

"Back door!" says the gay man on the bus

A black woman uses the n-word during sex
(nooooooo)

we laugh
we groan

little man with his big microphone
asks me where I'm from
but then wants me to shut the hell up

he's got the floor
he's got the whole damn room
this is ART motherfuckers
and it's his motherfucking JOB
to push the envelope
because somebody's got to
(right?)

with 'gang rape is hilarious'
he crosses the line
that nobody's seen
but everybody knows is there
and it's as if he's taken it
and wrapped it around my throat
so i can't breathe
like that one time i couldn't

maybe his girlfriend has never been raped but
somebody here has

but i don't interrupt because
nobody likes a heckler
they get called out for calling out
beaten down for standing up

and i'm not in the mood to be called an ugly cunt/bitch/whore/feminazi

so i won't break that sacred contract between comedian and audience

i'll wait for the punchline
'it was only statutory!'
and i won't laugh
that'll show him

he doesn't want me to talk now
but i bet he'd fuck me later

bet he'd like it if i screamed his name
while he asserts his place
on top

he'll say he likes dirty talk
but only during foreplay
once he gets going
no interruptions
he's gotta focus
if he's gonna kill

so i'll keep my mouth shut
won''t tell him
he didn't make me cum

because i don't want to
hurt his feelings

i'm considerate

Mute

Week of July 9

THE ARTICLE:
"Abuse Scandal Inquiry Damns Paterno and Penn State"
By KEN BELSON
July 12, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/sports/ncaafootball/13pennstate.html

THE GIST:
After 7 months of investigation and over 400 interviews, a  report issued by Louis J. Freeh concludes that Penn State's highest ranking officials knew about, failed to punish, and helped conceal Jerry Sandusky's sex crimes. Officials that knew of the 1998 investigations into Sandusky's sexual abuse of 2 boys included the late Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, head of campus police Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Tim Curley.  Although Sandusky retired in 1999, he continued to use Penn State's football facilities, where witnesses have testified he committed sex crimes against children over a 15-year period.  Joe Paterno's family released a statement saying, "The idea that any sane, responsible adult would knowingly cover up for a child predator is impossible to accept. The far more realistic conclusion is that many people didn’t fully understand what was happening and underestimated or misinterpreted events.”  Gary Schultz and Tim Curley face criminal trials for failing to report Sandusky and committing perjury when testifying about their knowledge of his crimes in the past.  Sandusky maintains his innocence, but was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse including rape and sodomy on June 22.  He will be sentenced no later than September 22.

 Below, Sandusky is interviewed by NBC and the New York Times.





      Jerry Sandusky
Assistant Football Coach of Penn State
THE POEM 
Mute

a janitor at the right place and the right time
at the bottom with his mop
fears the culture at the top

a coach in his office down the hall
decides to look the other way
while an old man takes his prey

the men in charge 
purse their lips and stay quiet
their brand wouldn't survive this riot

a locker room shower
carelessly unlocked
stores Pandora's box

some men just like them young
some men just like to
hold their tongues
the convenient ease
of silence
tastes like money

bless him father for he has sinned
like the others you trusted in
and the mute men in
the shambles of it all
prepare to fall

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Blade Runner

Week of July 2

THE ARTICLE:
"In First for Olympics, Amputee Will Run"
By TIM ROHAN
July 4, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/05/sports/olympics/pistorius-will-be-on-south-africas-olympic-team.html?ref=todayspaper

THE GIST:


Oscar Pistorius, the 25-year-old double-amputee from South Africa, will become the first amputee to compete in track at the Olympics when
he runs the 400 and 4x400 relay at the 2012 London Games.  Cleared to compete against able-bodied runners in 2008 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, some still argue that Pistorius' J-shaped carbon-fiber prosthetic blades give him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners, arguing that the light weight prosthetics allow him to reposition his legs unnaturally fast, and that their "bouncing" movement demands less oxygen and energy compared to able-bodied athletes.


THE POEM:
 
The Blade Runner

two J's below my knees
make me bounce make me fly
in forty-five second circles

the world watches
the fastest man on no legs
and argues is my loss
my gain

I learned to crawl
on fibula-less legs
until they were
taken from me

I said my footprints look different
as I made a trail of holes in the sand
but my mother said they
looked better

she said put on your shoes
to my brother
put on your legs
to me

in eight lanes
eight pairs of lungs all gasp the same
eight sets of pores all sweat the same

desire lives in the pits of our stomachs
it can never be severed
from the rest of our able bodies

The Man and His Men, Taxman 2.0

Week of June 25

THE ARTICLES:

"Supreme Court Lets Health Law Largely Stand, in Victory for Obama"
By ADAM LIPTAK and JOHN H. CUSHMAN Jr.
June 28, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/us/supreme-court-lets-health-law-largely-stand.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fnational%2Findex.jsonp

"Uncertainty Over Whether States Will Choose to Expand Medicaid"
By ROBERT PEAR
June 28, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/us/uncertainty-over-whether-states-will-choose-to-expand-medicaid.html?_r=1&hp



Justices of the Supreme Court
THE GIST:
On Thursday, June 28, the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) by a vote of 5 to 4.  Two important things stood out in the ruling.  First, the mandate for nearly all individuals to buy insurance or face a penalty was upheld with the argument that it is considered a tax.  This tax will start to be collected by the IRS in 2015.  And second, the Supreme Court ruled that states have the option to expand Medicaid funding as proscribed by the Affordable Care Act.  Traditionally, the federal government funds 57% of each state's Medicaid costs.  Under Obamacare, states are worried that they won't have the funds to pay for the new people who will be covered under the Medicaid expansion.  The federal government will pay for these new insurees in full for 3 years, and then ween down to covering 90% of the cost after 3 years.  The Supreme Court said that the federal government could not withhold its share of Medicaid costs even if a state fails to comply with the Affordable Care Act, a threat it has made before.  States in opposition to the Medicaid expansion worry that shifting more money toward increased Medicaid beneficiaries will take away from other important needs, such as education, law enforcement, and highways. 


President Obama breaks down what the Supreme Court's ruling means for you 


THE POEMS:

The Man and His Men

my brother has planted a tree
he bottles its oxygen
and sells it to mermaids
to afford a new tax
on his perfect health

he's one of those artists
raising chickens in Brooklyn
who buys broccoli with food stamps
and HBO with his credit card

man say he's got to pitch in
for the able state he's in

i see the doctor for ten bucks a visit
get my pills for fifteen a bottle
work part-time under the table
chase my dream at night

i'll be ok until i'm twenty-six
that's the deadline to have my
financial woes fixed

man says he'll take on the deficit
to afford my arrested development

the big man has been baking cash pies
with his cash pie machine
that he'll dole out to the poor

big man says he'll cover most of the cost
but it's only fair to be weened off
he'll bear most of the load
but his trees don't sprout gold

the men cry but the bench tells them not to fret
big man can't do anything with his threats


Taxman 2.0

Let me tell you how it will be
There's insurance for you, insurance for me
'Cause Obamacare lives, yeah, Obamacare lives
Should ninety percent appear too small
Be thankful you won't bear it all
'Cause the fed's got debts, yeah, the fed's got debts

If you talk too much, he'll tax your tongue
If you breathe this air, he'll tax your lungs
If your chest rises, he'll tax your oxygen
If your body is healthy, you can thank Washington

Don't complain of my offenses
313 million pulses are expensive
'Cause nothing's free, yeah, nothing's free

My advice for those who're sick
is which nominee to pick
'Cause laws can change, yeah, laws can change
every four to eight years

 "Taxman" by the Beatles



A Thank You Note to My Father

Week of June 18

THE ARTICLE: 
"India: ‘Disgusted’ by Her Dating, Man Beheads His Daughter, 20"
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 20, 2012 

THE GIST: 
Oghad Singh, a father in a northwestern Indian village, beheaded his 20-year-old daughter because he was 'disgusted' with her relationships with men.  The victim, Manju Kanwar, left her husband from an arranged marriage two years ago, and then became involved with several men, eloping with one two weeks before her death. Singh argued that his daughter's behavior brought dishonor to the family. He decapitated Manju with a sword and surrendered to the police holding her head in one hand and the sword in the other.  He has been charged with murder.

THE POEM: 
A Thank You Note to My Father

thank you for not cutting off my head
when I dated that actor
who spent his afternoons in bed

thank you for not setting me on fire
when I dated that musician
who didn't know how to change a tire

thank you for not hitting me
when I dated that bartender
who wore glasses ironically

thank you for not exercising your rage
when I dated that yoga teacher
who was twice my age

thank you for sparing me a beating
when I dated that dropout
who played online poker for a living

thank you for not playing abuse roulette
when I dated that guy with the motorcycle
who didn't offer me his helmet

thank you for not covering me in your spit
when I dated that druggie
who stole my wallet

thank you for not choking me with string
when I dated that mooch
who made me pay for everything

thank you for not twisting off my limbs
when you learned I'd committed
some pre-marital sins

and thank you for letting me sift through
throngs of suitors until I find one
that measures up to you