Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Cha cha cha

Last night I was very brave. I attended a Salsa Workout class at the Y. I've never really tried to learn how to salsa, except for the four lessons I took when I was studying Spanish in Guatemala. For one week, I showed up every afternoon at four to doggedly practice with one of the Spanish teachers until I could passably follow the first step, but when I tried to try out my new skills on the dance floor in a real live club, I was completely unable to keep up with the music, completely unable to follow my partner, and completely miserable. There are many things that I believe I would not be inclined to do well. Studying chemistry, windsailing, being a journalist would all probably fall on this list. But theoretically, if I really had my heart set on them and I really applied myself, generally one would think I would be able to do them at least adequately. I studied voice in college and achieved such an with an unremarkable but perfectly nice voice recital.

Dancing, on the other hand, is one of those things I am pretty sure I can't do, no matter how hard I try. This summer I was the subject of great ridicule when I tried to learn a traditional Catalan dance in a village in France. My feet don't go in the places where everyone else's feet go, I get focused on following the steps and completely fail to move the rest of my body with any form or posture. Don't get me wrong, I like dancing. People have at times commented favorably on my performance at night clubs, (particulary those with early eighties theme,) but anything that involved steps borders on torturous for me.

But it seems like salsa would be a good thing to know how to do. Invariably, there is some social event where it seems to come in handy. And the salsa workout class at the Y is the least intimidating venue I could identify to tackle this. I don't have to worry about a partner or wearing dressy shoes or how hair or makeup looks. I am surrounded by other women and men in sweatpants and tennis shoes, all with varying degrees of comfort with the material. Plus the ostensible purpose is to work out, so there isn't even the pressure of actually learning how to dance. Its all about working up a sweat.

I'd like to say it went well, but it didn't. I could get the basic step in the demonstration, but when we put it to music it all went to hell. When she added hand motions, it became even more of an embarassment. I looked like a nine-year old fudging an elaborate dance routine for appreciative parents and grandparents at a family gathering. But the teacher was lovely, very friendly, and didn't show the tiniest bit of exasperation with me, which is the reaction I fear the most. It was not a strenuous workout, but I figure what I didn't achieve in heart rate elevation, I made up for in enterprise.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Back to the Grind

Thanksgiving in North Carolina went off with out a hitch. There was food and general merriment. Tempers were lost, but political arguments were avoided. Thanks were given. I did regress into a teenager on a couple occasions, but managed to keep the damage to a minimum.

For some interesting info on the bird of the hour, visit Apostropher.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Protestants Defending Marriage

New Donkey makes an interesting point about Prostestants and marriage:
"Defending marriage" is far down the list of concerns, historically, of the Reformation tradition, and indeed, that tradition has done far more to loosen the bonds of matrimony, for good or for ill, and to "de-sanctify" the institution, than all the gays and lesbians who have ever lived."

More shout outs

I once got called into the principle's office and asked to tone down an editorial I wrote about racism in my high school. I complied a bit too readily and changed a few sentences to soften the tone of what I was saying. Since then have often wished I had been a bit more like Brad Mathewson who was sent home from school for wearing a t-shirt that "bore a pink triangle and said 'Make a Difference!" Brad was quoted here talking about how he sees anti-gay stickers and slogans on his classmates' notebooks and shirts. NYT reports he is keeping up the good fight though:

"A week later, Mr. Mathewson was again admonished for wearing a gay pride T-shirt, this one featuring a rainbow and the inscription "I'm gay and I'm proud." Told once more to turn the shirt instead out or leave, he chose to go home and was eventually ordered not to return to school wearing clothing supporting gay rights."

Fortunately, the ACLU has taken up his case with a law suit against the Missouri High School. Also, he appears to have his mom in his corner. The article continues:

"In a telephone interview, Ms. Mathewson said: "All he wants is to wear his T-shirts. He's a typical teenager, so he's angry that they're trying to tell him what he can and can't do. We had a meeting at the school to talk about it, but we didn't get anywhere with them. They talked, I listened, and I got more and more mad. At the end I just took him home with me."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Cure for the Monday Night Blues

Yesterday, my reward for going to the gym was a trip to the movies on a school night. I saw La Mala Educación by Almodóvar which I liked, albeit with reservations. My main objection is that it left me a little bit cold emotionally. Its structure is quite ingenious, there is a story, within a movie, within the actual movie made by Almodovar, and within each the actors are playing each other. Also, as usual with Almodovar, there are all these formal references to other filmmakers that have gone before, in this case most prominently Hitchcock, although I am sure there are others that I don't recognize. On the down side, the romance that opens the door to the primary Hitchcockian evil-doing was somewhat unconvincing to me, and at the end I found myself much more pleased with the formal mechanisms that the film uses than the human emotions depicted therein. This is sort of the opposite of All About my Mother and Talk to Her, where I you get overwhelmed by the portrayal of grief, rage, love, lust, and friendship.

Still, its a gorgeous film, there is one particularly nice scene where two scheming characters have a conversation in front of these gorgeous and spooky painted figures. Plus, its been noted before, but Gael Garcia Bernal is really hot both in as a boy and as a drag queen.

Monday, November 22, 2004


I went to another church on Sunday and I was encouraged and moved by the service and the mission of the congregation. It's a Lutheran church on the Upper West Side, situated in one of those odd New York junctures between what must certainly be high priced housing on one side of the street and housing projects on the other. The congregation advertises on its website that it welcomes all people, including gay, lesbian and bisexuals and in the past couple years has called a minister who is leading the congregation what appears to be a very explicit mission of community outreach and social change. During the week, by coincidence, on the internet, I had run across the a book that the minister wrote about her twenty years in a congregation in the South Bronx.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Rainy Day Blues

It's a rainy Saturday here in New York City and the staff of Newyorquina has repaired to her office to write a budget for her job and to blog occasionally. There is new and ominous violence in Baghdad, not to mention a special Saturday session of congress of which I am sure very little good will come, but I'll limit my fretting to something more mundane and self absorbed:

Claritin-D was for years my very good friend, keeping me breathing and generally more pleasant to be around on the day the dustmites and the ragweed were heavy in the air. Of late though, Claritin-D has not been treating me well. It gives me dry mouth and makes me feel that same sort of keyed-up distraction that one gets before coming down with a nasty flu. So I am sitting at my desk feeling kind of high. It's pretty irritating.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Not a good week for the checks and balances

First I there was this. (Via Talking Points Memo)

"Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives changed their rules so that Majority Leader Tom DeLay could stay in power if he's indicted by a Texas grand jury. The rules change is designed to protect DeLay after three of his political associates were indicted in Texas on charges related to fund-raising for state political campaigns. DeLay, a Republican from Texas, denied any wrongdoing. "

Oh yeah and the other day this! (Discussed with great aplomb by The Poor Man.)
"Speaking on condition of anonymity, former officials described intense friction within the agency with Goss now in charge. And some say there are concerns that more officers at the CIA's counterterrorist center and elsewhere may be asked to resign or told that they no longer have a future at the agency."

And today there was this!

Senator Arlen Specter:

"I have assured the president that I would give his nominees quick committee hearings and early committee votes."

So this pretty much means that Arlen Spector is the GOP's bitch, right?

Forgive me. I'm going to hell.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Message from United for Peace with Justice

DEMAND AN INVESTIGATION INTO WHAT HAPPENED IN FALLUJA United for Peace with Justice urges you to call the White House (202-456-1111) and your Congressional representatives (Congressional switchboard: 202-225-3121) to demand an investigation into the civilian casualties and humanitarian crisis in Falluja, and to insist that the Red Cross and Red Crescent be allowed to bring relief supplies into the devastated city. For regular updates on the situation in Iraq, they encourage you to sign up for the email bulletins of the Occupation Watch Center at http://www.occupationwatch.org

Monday, November 15, 2004

Newyorquina Salutes

There is a good article about Bunnatine Greenhouse in today's New York Times. She has been responsible for breaking up the ole boys network in the Army Corps of Engineers and recently brought scrutiny to the military no-bid longterm contracts with Halliburton. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently trying to remove her from her post in which she oversees all contracting.
"I pass colleagues in the hall who say, 'We're proud of you,' and 'You go get 'em Bunny,' " she said. "But they say this while keeping their heads straight ahead."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Oral History

I don't know quite how to explain why I think this is so cool. Its called StoryCorps and its an initiative to support people in doing oral history with their friends and family. You just go to their booth in Grand Central Station in New York City and conduct an interview with someone who you believe has an important story to tell. They are going to be setting up other booths across the country and you can also conduct the interview at home and send them the tape. They send you a cd with the interview and then include the interview in the StoryCorps Archive at the Library of Congress. They charge ten bucks for it, which seems to be well worth it as they assist with facilitating the interviews and provide broadcast quality equipment.

For anyone who has ever spent any time reading primary source historical material, or books that rely on it, you know how oral history serves to validate, challenge, and enrich our understanding of what has gone before us. The idea that anyone can make a contribution to the resources available to historians and social scienctists for years to come is very exciting.

Blogroll in the Works

Oh my gosh, I am so proud of myself! I just now copied my first HTML code from someone elses source code and added my very first link to the blogroll. This is a proud moment for Newyorquina and I would especially like to thank my boyfriend, who is my only regular reader that I am aware of, and my friend Jessica who told me how to do this last Tuesday on the phone. Thanks guys. I would never have been able to come this far without your support. This one is for you.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Doesn't Every Guy Try To Do This At Least Once?

Michael Crowley in Slate discuss the political development of James Dobson from Focus on the Family, who had a definite impact on that election, having told his 7 million radio listeners that it was a sin for them not to vote.
It was the gay-marriage debate that finally hurled Dobson into politics wholeheartedly. The subject of homosexuality seems to exert a special power over him, and he has devoted much idiosyncratic thought to it. When discussing gays he spares no detail, no matter how prurient. In Bringing Up Boys, he gleefully reprints a letter he received from a 13-year-old boy who describes wiggling his naked body in front of the mirror to "make my genitals bounce up and down" and admits to having "tried more than once to suck my own penis (to be frank)." Dobson believes that such adolescents suffer from what he calls "pre-homosexuality," a formative stage which results from having a weak father figure. Dobson further contends that homosexuality, especially in such an early stage, can be "cured." His ministry runs a program called Love Won Out that seeks to convert "ex-gays" to heterosexuality. (Alas, the program's director, a self-proclaimed "ex-gay" himself, was spotted at a gay bar in 2000, an episode Dobson downplayed as "a momentary setback.")

Via Talking Points Memo

Commentary on Arafat's Death

Juan Cole has a guest editorial from Mark Levine on Israel and Palestine.
In the weeks leading up to Palestinian President Yassir Arafat’s death American politicians and pundits have repeatedly called on the Palestinian people to use the opportunity of his passing to transform the intifada from a violent uprising into a non-violent, democratic and pragmatic program for achieving independence. This is very good advice, needless to say, except for one small problem: Palestinians have been trying to build such a movement for the last two decades, and the Israeli Government, IDF and American policy-makers have done everything possible to make sure it could not be heeded.

Rock and Roll

Yeah, I know he is supposed to be a big dick and I know it got panned mercilessly by the critics but Ryan Adams' Rock and Roll is really good music for the office. It's my taking-care-of-business/getting-things-done cd.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

One Week Out

Well, I didn't post much of anything before the election, mainly because I was much too busy keeping an eye on what everyone else was saying. The night before and the entire day of election day I worked at a phone bank organized by the AFL-CIO and called people from Florida. At six pm when we were getting second wave poll numbers that were favoring Kerry in Pennsylvania and we were given new lists and told to start calling Iowa. So, Florida and Iowa, nice. My efforts pretty much went for naught in those two days, but it made the waiting a bit easier for me. And the nice union people seemed to appreciate me spending ten hours in their phone bank.

But, everyone knows what happened, and since then there has been the forboding and the grieving, and the silver lining talk, and now everyone seems to be on to the critique and what-did-we-do-wrong talk. The first couple days after, I felt dreadful, full of dread. By later in the week, I started to take comfort in the possibility of doing things differently in response to the election. This race was all about dividing us from people who are different from us, all about the Republicans using our differences to gain political control and power for their own malevolent ends. I started thinking about I could do things to counteract that and be supportive of the groundswell of activity this election has engendered. Here is a sampling of measures taken or under consideration
1) I joined the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and made a contribution to the Kensington Welfare Rights Union. Just like Joshua Micah Marshall said I should.

2) All we have been hearing about is the Christian Right, but next time I want to hear the pundits talk about the Christian Left. Thus, I am going to start going to a church. This idea that a particulary subsegment of Christianity has a monopoly of moral values and political engagement makes me crazy. Obviously on the left side of the fence there is no corollary to the Christian right, but I think I can't complain about the absence of religious activism for social justice when I am not supporting and engaging in some faith community. One reason I didn't really go to church was that I wasn't too keen on the contradictions inherent in being active in a church and public about homosexuality. When I think about that now, I really have to admit to myself that this is somethinge of a rationalization. New York is brimming with leftie, progressive, and open-minded congregations who would love to have nice bisexual lady. I think the truth is that I never pursued a congregation or a spiritual home because I really simply never felt compelled to make it a priority. But now I do. Plus, I am going to be praying more, during these next four years. So the search for a congregation is on.

3) Also, I think I am going to do some volunteer work in my neighborhood. I was sort of offended by a frontline community activist type I met with a few weeks ago who told me that I didn't really live in Washington Heights, because it was the white, gentrifying part of Washington Heights. (She said it more nicely that this.) See the thing I said about the race being all about dividing people who are different from us. So, I'd like to do something to help some organization or program out up here close to where I live.