the connection between reproductive rights and civil rights, sundown watchers, literature is neurotic because it is written by humans

There is a trick to writing like this, putting an enormous amount of content and meaning into relatively few words. Over the last few weeks others have noted that the argument over whether insurance companies and by proxy, employers should provide a full range of health care services to their employees, is a civil rights issue. One can easily imagine the national uproar if employers decided they would deduct portions of your compensation ( insurance is part of your pay) for everything they heard you bought that they did not approve of. We’ll take off a few dollars this week because we saw you at the store buying video games and condoms. The next week they take off a few dollars because they saw you reading 1984 or riding in a hybrid car – real Americans drive gas guzzlers and only read Bible verses. Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding

“What a spectacle,” Pamela exclaimed, “Virginia, the birthplace of the slave breeding industry in America, is debating state-sanctioned rape. Imagine the woman who says No to this as a prerequisite for abortion. Will she be strapped down, her ankles shackled to stir-ups?”

“I suspect,” said I, “that partisans would say, ‘If she doesn’t agree, she is free to leave.’?”

“Right, which means she is coerced into childbearing or coerced into taking other measures to terminate her pregnancy, which may or may not be safe. Or she relents and says Yes, and that’s by coercion, too.”

“Scratch at modern life and there’s a little slave era just below the surface, so we’re right back to your argument.”

Pamela Bridgewater’s argument, expressed over the past several years in articles and forums, and at the heart of a book in final revision called Breeding a Nation: Reproductive Slavery and the Pursuit of Freedom, presents the most compelling conceptual and constitutional frame I know for considering women’s bodily integrity and defending it from the right.

[  ]….We don’t commonly recognize that American slaveholders supported closing the trans-Atlantic slave trade; that they did so to protect the domestic market, boosting their own nascent breeding operation. Women were the primary focus: their bodies, their “stock,” their reproductive capacity, their issue. Planters advertised for them in the same way as they did for breeding cows or mares, in farm magazines and catalogs. They shared tips with one another on how to get maximum value out of their breeders. They sold or lent enslaved men as studs and were known to lock teenage boys and girls together to mate in a kind of bullpen.They propagated new slaves themselves, and allowed their sons to, and had their physicians exploit female anatomy while working to suppress African midwives’ practice in areas of fertility, contraception and abortion.Reproduction and its control became the planters’ prerogative and profit source. Women could try to escape, ingest toxins or jump out a window—abortion by suicide, except it was hardly a sure thing.

 

snuset, orange yellow, landscape

 

watching sundown wallpaper

In long reads – Great American Losers

Put aside for a moment the blatant condescension of that last bit, and you can see an amazingly frank expression of anxiety about female readers. No one wants to be called a penis with a thesaurus. For an English-language novelist, raised and educated and self-consciously steeped in the tradition of the Anglo-American novel, in which female characters, female writers, and female readers have had a huge part, the prospect of not being able to write for female readers is a crisis. What kind of novelist are you if women aren’t reading your books? This is a crisis that the GMNs (“Great Male Narcissists”)themselves did not face (their own female contemporaries read their books avidly). Wallace is identifying a sea change in the next generation of female readers. These women are not only children of divorce, but children of a feminist movement that had an especially profound influence on cultural criticism.

[  ]…If there is something disingenuous about the American loser, it’s that in telling his story the writers substitute a kind of burlesque of total humiliation for a more measured sense of the character’s humility. Which is to say that the new generation of characters is, in its own way, also self-absorbed. How else to describe their loving scrutiny of all their faults? While their self-absorption is sharply criticized by author and fellow characters, it is reinforced by the very structure of the novels (with the exception of Franzen’s). Female characters get to remind the hero that he’s a navel-gazing jerk, but most of the good lines, and certainly the brilliant social and psychological observations, still go to the hero. The problem is not that he doesn’t share the spotlight, per se, but the subtle sense that a transaction is taking place: the hero is entitled to the spotlight because he has been appropriately self-critical—it’s his novel, bought and paid for with all those jokes at his own expense. The male novelists performing elaborate genuflections toward female readers are perhaps not exactly bargaining so much as trying to draw us into a new contract: I, the author, promise always to acknowledge my characters’ narcissism, and you, in return, will continue to take an interest in it. Okay? Agreed? Sign on the dotted line please, Ms., and I will countersign my book for you.

Male writers from post WW II to present take quite a beating and I have to agree that most of it is deserved – especially in the case of Mailer and even more so for Updike. Though all of them said some things, made some observations worth reading – insights that blurred the universal and the personal. To save some time on Updike just read Rabbit Redux – his best novel. There is a problem though. What could male writers write about – especially when they write about men – that would make a serious female reader happy. I don’t know which gender has more crap bumping around inside their minds. For either gender to reveal what is really there, whether in gloomy seriousness or tragic-comedy or satire is to shine a spotlight on some thoughts that do not reflect well on the human species. Much of it certainly is not profound. It is some obsessive sexual thoughts, a  mix of love and neurosis about their parents – and that’s if they were lucky and did not grow up in some little tribe of poppy growers in Afghanistan. Luckily some of the thoughts banging off the sides of our skulls are not all that bad – we generally like puppies, we’re thirsty, we’re tired, that was funny, I hope my spouse gets that rise. The rest of it is stuff we keep hidden. Some of it in a lock box that we go to our graves never revealing. If good writing is shaping those thoughts into interesting prose most of it will not met anyone’s criteria for cultural correctness because that is not an accurate picture of human nature.

pink flamingo mailbox or pictures that I find disturbing.

Who Pays the Bill for Wall Street’s Mess? or Paul Ryan (R-WI) Has a Disturbing Plan for The Middle-Class.

Obama vs. Romney Tax Plans in a Very Tall Graph. The legend goes that it is the first million that is the most difficult to make. The vast majority of Americans will never have that much in liquid assets their entire lives. If you start of with quite a bit, like the Romneys and Koch brothers, you have to be a brain dead moron not to be able t use that to make more. The Romney plan rewards those that glue their ass to a leather chair and spread sheet to figure out ways to make even more money from the labor of others. In other times this would be called monarchical government or fascism-lite, nowadays we call it conservatism.

Bob Dylan – What Was It You Wanted

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some history and observations on world water day

Title: A woman dropping her tea-cup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water revealing the impurity of London drinking water

This 1828 caricature shows a woman looking into a microscope to observe the monsters swimming in a drop of London water. In the 1820s, much of London’s drinking water came from the Thames River, which was heavily polluted by the city sewers that emptied into it. A Commission on the London Water Supply that was appointed to investigate this situation issued a report in 1828, which resulted in various improvements. The five water companies that served the north bank of the river upgraded the quality of their water by building reservoirs and taking other measures. However, the people of Southwark (on the south bank of the river) continued to receive contaminated water. The problems were not solved until the 1860s, when London’s present sewerage system was installed by the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) and its engineer, Joseph Bazalgette. Between the appearance of this caricature and the completion of the MBW sewers, London suffered two cholera epidemics: in 1832 (part of the world pandemic of cholera) and in 1854. Looking at a drop of water though a microscope was a popular entertainment offered by travelling showmen who carried the microscopes around in cases on their backs. In this caricature, the showman figure in the extreme lower left corner raises his hat to a water pump and says: “Glad to see you, hope to meet you in every parish through London.” The lettering at the top reads: “Microcosm. Dedicated to the London Water Companies 1 – Brought forth all monstrous, all prodigious things, 2 – Hydras and gorgons, and chimeras dire. Vide Milton.” The latter is a reference to Milton’s Paradise Lost. (Illustrator,  Heath, William (1795-1840)

Today is World Water Day. When one talks about public water one is also talking about sewerage. As it is it is difficult to garner much enthusiasms or concern ( in the U.S. anyway) about the supply of water or its cleanliness. Renaming  WWD World Sewerage day would probably not do much to remedy the situation. If some dystopian future awaits us the first thing people will become acutely aware of is water. That camo suit might help you hide in the woods and there always seems to be plenty of canned goods left on store shelves in the movie version. Suddenly clean water for drinking and relatively clean water for bathing might even surpass those thoughts we all supposedly have about sex every few minutes.

One of the first major water, thus sewer projects in the U.S. was that of New York City. Among the materials used in the first generation attempt were pine staves used in power plant built in 1850. Amazingly they were still in pretty good shape when they were dug up for a renewal project in 1913 and replaced, wait for it…with Douglas fir. Lots of interesting photos and a sewer map here.

llustration showing construction of a large sewer using new tunnelling methods in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1880s.

Source: “The Knickerbocker Avenue Extension Sewer, Brooklyn, N.Y.,” Scientific American, Volume LIII, No. 24 (12 December 1885), cover. Collection of Jon C. Schladweiler, Pima County Wastewater Management Department.

In some more recent news, A Fix for America’s Silent Sewer Scourge

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 40 million Americans living in 770 communities, mostly in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and Pacific Northwest, still rely on combined sewers.

Why is this a problem? These Victorian-era water management systems collect sewage and stormwater runoff in the same network of pipes. During heavy storms, overwhelmed systems flood streets and basements and discharge a variety of bacteria and toxic chemicals.

In 1994, the EPA required these municipalities to make improvements to reduce overflows and health concerns. Six years later, Congress required municipalities to comply as part of the Clean Water Act. Many major cities have since begun planning for hundred-million-dollar fixes, addressing failing pipes and networks as well as system overflows.

In an effort to develop more affordable and effective methods of compliance, one Midwestern group thinks it has a superior solution: EmNet’s Combined Sewer Overflow Network relies on wireless sensors installed on the underside of manhole covers to monitor water levels at various points across a city. The sensors broadcast data via simple radio waves to a central monitoring facility, and can send messages telling smart valves to open or shut during times of peak water flow.

If it hits the ground – old motor oil, cooking grease, animal waste – it ends up either in the sewer system or a body of water – oceans, lakes, rivers. No city can function for long without a properly functioning water and sewer system. Anyone who wants to do anything from the time they get up until the time they go to sleep needs some clean water and someplace for the water they did not use and the water they dirtied, to go. This requirement does not discriminate on the basis of color, religion, gender or national origin. It does not discriminate between rich and poor though the wealthy tend to use more, directly and indirectly. The basic need for clean water and sewerage has no respect for wealth or poverty. It does not have feelings about those states of being one way or the other. barely made it through school, which you thought was like dude, a total waste of your time fu*k this sh*t education. Water does not care. Lack of it will kill you as quickly as a Princeton PhD. Not having that education, not paying attention, not reading, not caring, not making an effort. You will not know, thus not care much about water issues. All you know is you turn on a valve, the water comes out. It’s not as good as beer or Pepsi, but it’ll do the day before payday. Think you’re an island of independence, smart, educated, a rugged individualist that don’t need no stink’n gov’mint. Maybe you could reg up your own personal water and sewer system. How about all the people you depend on to buy your products or services so you can have the latest and greatest in lifestyle enhancement. Deep down, you hate to admit it, but YOU NEED some help. You need something so basic, so elementary as a water and sewer system not just for your grand rugged individual self, but you need it for …oh the irony…the sake of others. Because as even George Constanza once noted, we live in a society.