It's almost Shabbat and I only have a second but if you're hanging around the web this weekend don't miss this. It's the newest Jib Jab video and will tell you all you need to know about why I went from TV to the web. Happy Passover!
When you first hear the term "cyberstalking" you think it's a joke. Well guess what. It's not. Read this. It's the post of a prominent blogger who has canceled speaking engagements and remains frightened and close to agoraphobic because of vicious and threatening online attacks, both verbal and visual. I started to post one of the photos, but just couldn't do it. So instead you see how I felt upon reading Kathy Siera's post.
Death threats, violently edited photos of bloggers as well as violent, vicious prose, are a grave threat not only to women blogers (it appears that women are particularly targeted) but to the wonder that is the blog universe. Those who oppose such behavior have to take a stand - we're the activist types anyway or we wouldn't be writing so publicly. SO.
Here, from the wonderful, generous Andy Carvin (left) and other sites, are some things we can do:
Check out BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone's Hating Hate Speech, in which she discusses this issue and offers the BlogHer community guidelines.
Think of something else, do it and post the idea on Stop Cyberbullying. OH and remember to tag anything you write about this with thestopcyberbullying tag so it will show up in searches. Let's not be silent in the face of this threat to our community. Thanks, Andy, for giving us a tool to make noise!
OK, those folks who run TypePad and YouTube haven't found a way to add this blog host to automatic video posting so I'm hooking a link in right here so you can watch this. I can't decide what I think - it's funny and clever and a perfect definition of a mashup but it's also mean and off-mark. While many, including many feminists, have issues with Senator Clinton - this 1984/Apple Commercial version isn't representative of most of them. Accusations of opportunism and flabbiness on the war are not the same as totalitarianism. True, she voted for the Patriot Act, but so did all but two Senators - and one of them didn't vote at all!
Now, I remind myself - we still remember who voted against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (Senators Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska) and that was in 1964 so maybe this vote will last too. Anyway, I don't know where I'll land politically this year - I'm really just thinking about the power of the kinds of media manipulation (in the technical sense) that are possible today. How will we ever help newer voters figure out how to determine the truth? Are they so much more evolved than we are in a media sense that we needn't worry, or is the dismal lack of critical thinking work in current No Child Left Behind education going to affect how people think in the voting booth as well as our educational standing in the world?
One of the great gifts of an observant Jewish life is the lighting of Sabbath candles. At a prescribed time each Friday, 18 minutes before sundown, it is the obligation of the Jewish woman to light candles as a symbolic acceptance of the Sabbath upon herself. The prayer is said AFTER you light the candles because once they're lit, the Sabbath rules - ignite no fire, do no work etc. preclude the lighting of a match.
Here's how it works: you light the candles, move your hands above the candles three times to bring their warmth toward you, then cover your eyes and say a simple blessing. It's in Hebrew, but it means ."Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us with his commandments, and enjoins us to light the candles of Shabbat." Yes,the words of the prayer are plain; women say them in every corner of the earth - educated or not, every week and have been doing so for thousands of years. Many of us add prayers of our own, for those we love, for peace, for the lifting of burdens, for a better world.
I always take a very deep breath -- the kind they taught us when I was quitting smoking -- and exhale very slowly, releasing a lot of the stress of the week before I begin. One of my friends told me that when she was in medical school and having babies at the same time, she'd weep, every week, as she felt the burdens fall from her in the glow of the flame.
Makes sense to me. Something about this ritual is transporting. I also love the idea that this is a woman's privilege. Much has been written about what observant Jewish women are NOT permitted to do - and much of it is true. That's another conversation. But the impact of this particular duty is profound, beautiful and serene and I am grateful for it. So, as we move toward the close of this day and toward what I have found to be the true peace of the sabbath - I send to you, whatever your faith - a peaceful wish -- Shabbat Shalom.
Monday night Patti Smith was among those inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As I've written in the past, I've attended a few inductions and they are high on the list of great experiences and remind us (as if we needed it) of the power of the music -- a topic I've been discussing recently.
This remarkable poet, who wrote Peaceable Kingdom - a mournful memory of her husband, who died of heart disease way too soon, and the anthem People Have the Power, can move us, then generate anger and provoke action. Listen to these - these are iTunes links: Peaceable Kingdom and People Have the Power. As different as they can be and each inspiring, moving and unforgettable.
Smith wrote in the New York Times that she had been ambivalent about the award - this independent spirit wasn't certain she wanted to treat her art in this way. I'm including the whole piece here because it will soon go behind the Times "wall." Just see what sort of person has just been honored - and join me in my high respect and affection for this remarkable artist.
ON a cold morning in 1955, walking to Sunday school, I was drawn to the voice of Little Richard wailing “Tutti Frutti” from the interior of a local boy’s makeshift clubhouse. So powerful was the connection that I let go of my mother’s hand.
Rock ’n’ roll. It drew me from my path to a sea of possibilities. It sheltered and shattered me, from the end of childhood through a painful adolescence. I had my first altercation with my father when the Rolling Stones made their debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Rock ’n’ roll was mine to defend. It strengthened my hand and gave me a sense of tribe as I boarded a bus from South Jersey to freedom in 1967.
Rock ’n’ roll, at that time, was a fusion of intimacies. Repression bloomed into rapture like raging weeds shooting through cracks in the cement. Our music provided a sense of communal activism. Our artists provoked our ascension into awareness as we ran amok in a frenzied state of grace.
My late husband, Fred Sonic Smith, then of Detroit’s MC5, was a part of the brotherhood instrumental in forging a revolution: seeking to save the world with love and the electric guitar. He created aural autonomy yet did not have the constitution to survive all the complexities of existence.
Before he died, in the winter of 1994, he counseled me to continue working. He believed that one day I would be recognized for my efforts and though I protested, he quietly asked me to accept what was bestowed — gracefully — in his name.
Today I will join R.E.M., the Ronettes, Van Halen and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the eve of this event I asked myself many questions. Should an artist working within the revolutionary landscape of rock accept laurels from an institution? Should laurels be offered? Am I a worthy recipient?
I have wrestled with these questions and my conscience leads me back to Fred and those like him — the maverick souls who may never be afforded such honors. Thus in his name I will accept with gratitude. Fred Sonic Smith was of the people, and I am none but him: one who has loved rock ’n’ roll and crawled from the ranks to the stage, to salute history and plant seeds for the erratic magic landscape of the new guard.
Because its members will be the guardians of our cultural voice. The Internet is their CBGB. Their territory is global. They will dictate how they want to create and disseminate their work. They will, in time, make breathless changes in our political process. They have the technology to unite and create a new party, to be vigilant in their choice of candidates, unfettered by corporate pressure. Their potential power to form and reform is unprecedented.
Human history abounds with idealistic movements that rise, then fall in disarray. The children of light. The journey to the East. The summer of love. The season of grunge. But just as we seem to repeat our follies, we also abide.
Rock ’n’ roll drew me from my mother’s hand and led me to experience. In the end it was my neighbors who put everything in perspective. An approving nod from the old Italian woman who sells me pasta. A high five from the postman. An embrace from the notary and his wife. And a shout from the sanitation man driving down my street: “Hey, Patti, Hall of Fame. One for us.”
Here I am, working in my office with the TV on for company. It's behind me on a filing cabinet so mostly I'm really listening. And I hear "Christmas, Christmas time is here, time for joy and time for cheer..." It's Alvin and the Chipmunks - the sped-up voices singing every December since I was in junior high - and they're singing now because they accompany the opening credits of ALMOST FAMOUS -- Cameron Crowe's wonderful film about an aspiring rock journalist who wrote for ROLLING STONE, and it has emerged on TBS.
Immediately I'm transported back to the "community room" of Thomas Jefferson High School on Route 51, 6 miles south of Pittsburgh. Sock hops. Standing along the wall waiting for someone to ask you to dance. Crying in the girls' room when they didn't. Driving around for hours in Barbara Morton's dad's convertible listening to our "Daddio of the Raddio" Porky Chedwick.
Beyond it all, the transporting power of the music. It's actually kind of weird; this week I was in a Torah class studying ancient rules about when men are, or are not, permitted to listen to a woman's voice. The rules are very different for the singing voice than for the speaking voice. Yeah - both of them are a bit peculiar but it is fascinating that as long as people (mostly men) have been thinking about these things. they've been aware of the power of music to distract, seduce, inspire and arouse.
However disturbing it may be to learn that our long-ago sisters, in all cultures, not just Jewish ones, were isolated because of the perceived dangers of what might arise between women and men if relationships were allowed to emerge, they weren't wrong about the underlying power of the music.
The theory -- at least one -- was that listening to a woman's voice, asking how she is, even, could lead to dangerous interactions. I'm not here right now to discuss this topic, but to observe that as long as man has been making music it has been seen as dangerous and seductive.
Nothing too profound, but it's Saturday night. What do you want?
March 8 is Blog Against Sexism Day - and as I began thinking about what to write, this is what came out:
Once I met Betty Friedan - actually more than once - but the first time was at the 1967 National Student Association convention. It was obviously a turbulent time: the Vietnam War was everyone's obsession - at the conference and in the world outside; the Civil Rights movement was moving toward racial separation, Ramparts Magazine had just revealed that the CIA had been funding NSA and lots of other student activities.
I wrote about this on the Ms. website when Betty died, so I'll just repeat it here: She spoke about inequities in pay, power and sense of self between women and men. I was irritated. Didn't she know there was a war going on? Didn't she know how many kids went to bed hungry? Didn't she know about racial injustice?
During Q and A I asked her "How can women worry about themselves when there is so much more abject misery in the world? " I asked. She drew herself up as only she could, looked me square in the eye and said "My dear, don't hide behind the poor."
She was right, of course. Over the years -- I just realized that it's 40 this year -- we've struggled and grown. The consciousness raising groups of the 70s were just that: they genuinely raised our awareness of the vast disparity in pay, rights and attitude between women and men. The world today is unimaginably different. But not finished.
There's a sad split between old school feminists like me and younger, equally committed women. I don't feel it personally but see it as a real political loss - we should be working together and for many younger women the groups of my generation seem staid, old and disinterested in their younger sisters. If we're fighting sexism we shouldn't be fighting each other!
Beyond that, pay equity is closer but not all the way there; many major businesses and executive jobs still sport major glass ceilings, working mothers at all levels still have real problems - more in the hourly kinds of work than white collar. Divorce, domestic abuse, child custody and support -- all of these issues are still without resolution. And in many areas, like abortion and federal protection of rights, we've slid badly under the current administration.
What gives me hope though is to think of my sons and the sons of my friends, and of the young people who share our lives in our community. These men wouldn't dream of assuming certain tasks belong to women; wouldn't dream of treating a female colleague or employee with less than appropriate dignity and can't imagine another way to live. Systemically we still have a lot to do, but I do think that as we move forward these sons of feminists, raised with respect to respect their moms and sisters, classmates and friends, will not only de-fang sexism but also provide shining examples of how much better life is without it. Amen.
In A Coney Island of the Mind, San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote of a search for a rebirth of wonder.* It's out there - that wonder -- sometimes in the strangest places.
Here is what I know: Some things in life surprise us -- not with shock but with wonder. Today we flew to Boston for Rick's dad's funeral. It was a beautiful day - sunny and almost as warm as spring. With Rick and me traveled not only our remarkable rabbi, but also two of Rick's dearest friends. Despite the mid-week madness of Washington, they had chosen to leave their work and fly north to support us. In addition, the sisters of two friends unable to come arrived as their surrogates. That was the first wondrous thing.
An Orthodox funeral is deceptively simple. The coffin is a plain pine box held together with pegs. As it leaves the hearse it is borne by the mourners to its place over the grave. On the way, Psalm 91 is recited and the procession stops seven times. Once the coffin - reverently referred to as the "aron" is in place, the service proceeds.
With our rabbi leading the service, each step along the way was accompanied by warm and loving exposition: Why do we do this? -- How should we participate? -- What is the blessing of bearing the aron and seeing to its burial? As he led the prayers and answered these questions, it was with such love and individuality that participation became a privilege and a comfort. That is the second wondrous thing.
As the service moved toward conclusion the rabbi explained the final act. We, not the cemetery employees, would bury the coffin - my husband's father. One by one, we took up the shovels and poured earth into the grave. Not until the grave was full and the coffin covered did we leave... and then, all those in attendance formed a double line so that Rick and his brother could pass through, moving from the funeral to the initial mourning period, or Shiva.
This last, loving duty is perhaps the most remarkable of what an Orthodox Jewish funeral offers mourners. At the funerals of each of my parents, way before we moved into this new life, the cemetery distributed little envelopes of "dirt from Israel" which attendees dropped on the coffin. We all left then, and the cemetery employees finished the job.
I told my sister about the custom that mourners fill the grave, thinking that she, who is not thrilled with our decision to live a more observant life, would be appalled. Instead, she said "That's so great - leaving them covered and at peace. I felt so badly leaving Daddy there so exposed...." That's probably the most critical. Imagine the difference, at the close of such a painful day, filled with loss and grief, if you knew you'd bid a farewell that leaves your loved one cared for and at peace. Imagine, too, that those you love - beloved friends and family members - have all left a part of themselves there in the grave; that the final resting place includes their loving labor. That's the final wondrous thing.
We're nowhere near the Age of Wonder, that's for sure. But we are occasionally given a peek. Today the window opened and a bit emerged -- not quite a rebirth but present nonetheless -- just enough to help us see what's possible. If that's not wonder, I don't know what is.
*I Am Waiting I am waiting for my case to come up and I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder and I am waiting for someone to really discover America and wail and I am waiting for the discovery of a new symbolic western frontier and I am waiting for the American Eagle to really spread its wings and straighten up and fly right and I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety to drop dead and I am waiting for the war to be fought which will make the world safe for anarchy and I am waiting for the final withering away of all governments and I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder