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12 posts from August 2008

My Soul Looks Back and Wonders

Sometimes, you just can't be cynical. Sometimes – even though you know that we still have a long way to go, that the work of achieving a racially just society is far from over, even though you don't subscribe to the messianic fervor that sometimes surrounds talk of about this presidential campaign – sometimes you just have to stop for a moment, and acknowledge the extraordinariness of this moment in American history. Read more →

“Dirty” Porn: The Flip Side of Puritanism

A fundamental negativity—Puritanical guilt and anger—underlies what is most objectionable in porn: humiliation and torture. In a lot of porn, both Internet and DVD, we see a male need to dominate and manipulate, often with an element—a tinge, at least—of humiliation. But on some websites, the humiliation and physical abuse are extreme and real—that is, there is no element of fantasy or consensual play. Women are badly injured physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Bones are broken. And, very likely, minds and spirits as well. Read more →

Nancy Mairs: How I Became a Treasure

I am most commonly asked, when I speak with writing students, "How do I get published?" and the only answer I can come up with is, "Beats me." I'm not being facetious with this less than helpful response. But when I look back, I see my writing life as a series of (mostly happy) accidents. I was 40 when my first full-length book was published, and that was by happenstance. The Western States Book Award had just been founded, and Jim Hepworth, the director of what became Confluence Press, asked if he could enter a collection of my essays. I wasn't yet thinking in terms of a book, but I'd written ten essays by this time, which I happily gave to Jim and, since there wasn't any entry fee, I asked whether he would submit a manuscript of my poetry as well. Politely, though unenthusiastically, he agreed. Read more →

Michael Phelps Just Said “No” to ADHD Drugs

Michael Phelps didn't need drugs to 'fly into Olympic history. And at the tender age of 11 he decided he didn't need them to negotiate his way through school. Growing up in what by several accounts was an authoritarian household—his father was a state trooper and in an interview in the New York Times his mother describes herself as "stern"—Michael was diagnosed ADHD at age 9. His parents' on- again, off-again relationship had finally ended in divorce two years earlier, and his teachers had been complaining since kindergarten that he was restless, talkative, and easily distracted in class. These, of course, are all classic "symptoms" of a supposedly genetic neurochemical imbalance in the brain, and so a pediatrician suggested to Michael's mom that she put him on Ritalin. Read more →

Quotable Link Roundup: Obama, Reverse Graffiti, Climate Change

"To understand military sexual assault, let alone know how to stop it, we must focus on the perpetrators." Helen Benedict on why soldiers rape. "To us sofa slouchers, these teen Olympians are heroes. But they have the nation's pediatricians on... Read more →

Transsexuals Are Not “Human Monsters”

East German shot putter Heidi Krieger thought she was taking vitamins, but later discovered, as her body began to masculinize, that she was being given the anabolic steroid Oral-Turinabol, a drug that, according to the article, "changed a woman into a man." As Krieger continued on the steroids, she noted changes not only in her physical appearance, but also in her feelings. Read more →

Crossing Borders, Expanding Equality, and Seeking Justice

Equality is a core value in Massachusetts. More than two weeks have passed since our Massachusetts borders fell to the further expansion of equality. When Governor Deval Patrick signed the repeal of the 1913 law that prohibited out-of-state same-sex couples from coming to our state to marry, our state borders became more permeable and we are glad of it. At the July 31, 2008, signing ceremony, Patrick said, "the repeal will confirm a simple truth: that is, in Massachusetts, equal means equal." Read more →

Link Roundup: Christian Patriarchy, Climate Change, Fiction for a Better World

Beacon Broadside will be on vacation next week, which is to say that the editor of Beacon Broadside will be on vacation. While I will miss you all, I'll leave you with some reading to keep you busy. This Week's... Read more →

Not that long ago, I spent some time in the principal's office – about 45 minutes in a hardback chair, if I recall correctly. I've been thinking about that visit and about the principal of Windsor Mill Middle School outside Baltimore, Debbie Phelps. Debbie will be in Beijing for the next two weeks for the Summer Olympics, which begin Friday. Her 23-year-old son, Michael, will be there too. Michael is the iconic American swimmer of whom much is expected by U.S. sports fans. He will be the favorite in every race he enters during the Summer Games. A record eight gold medals is a possibility. Fewer than six for Phelps would be a stinging disappointment. It's a good thing Michael Phelps has the broadest shoulders on the planet. He'll need them to carry those outsized expectations. Read more →

Digging the Dig

In spite of skyrocketing budget overruns, delayed construction, floods, ceiling collapses, and all the other ills that big construction projects are prone to, the Big Dig is far better than what used to be there. A short walk along the Rose Kennedy Greenway on a weekend after noon in summer is a case in point -- families picnicking, flowers blooming, grass growing, and children sporting under the classical Italianate water spouts. Read more →

Redefining the Pill: Bush Administration Calls Contraception “Abortion”

Fans of Jewish folklore are familiar with tales from the town of Chelm, the legendary center of foolishness. Chelm's citizens unfailingly choose actions guaranteed to achieve the opposite of what was desired. The children need more milk? Buy a billy goat! The synagogue needs a new roof? Build a new floor! There has been much about the eight long years of the George W. Bush presidency that has made one think s/he was living in Chelm (remember how we were told the U.S. invasion of Iraq would be greeted by Iraqis bearing flowers and sweets?). Now, in the waning days of this presidency comes a move that would no doubt earn special respect from the people of Chelm because of its tortured logic. Draft regulations now circulating in the Department of Health and Human Services would redefine many forms of contraception (including most birth control pills) as "abortions." Read more →