Thursday, November 27, 2008

Four Generations, Bad Music and Good Food

cross-posted from The Huffington Post

On Thanksgiving Day, four generations of my family will gather at my parents' home to consume a meal largely beige in color, and devoid of anything green (save for the peas that come, frozen, in a bag with the little white onions).

"I was going to put out celery and olives," my mother said, "but then I always wind up with a year-old jar of olives takin' up space in the refrigerator. So, I figured, let's just skip it this year and see if anybody notices."

It's unlikely that anybody will. We'll all be too busy jockeying for position in the house we call Stanadu, looking to make the funniest joke, take the longest solo during the annual Making of Bad Music Cooperative that takes place in Mom and Dad's living room and trying to keep kids, grand-kids and great-grandkids from maiming themselves and/or each other. There will be disputes over how strong to make the coffee, and did you really have to bring something that needs to be cooked right now? Anyone who tries to direct traffic in the kitchen will be ignored and likely resented. Chaos is an imperative.

We'll annoy each other, laugh with each other, sing with each other, secretly cry for each others' difficulties, fret over who might next leave the planet, maybe have an argument or two, and have one hell of a good time.

Our American family, like many, was born of a thousand tragedies in the far corners of the earth. The 19th-century Irish potato blight, Mao's 20th-century cultural revolution, the 18th-century persecution of minorities in Eastern Europe, the 17th-century persecution of religious minorities in Britain, the centuries-long poverty of peasants in a handful of feudal societies, and the endless string of pathologies wrought by tragedy -- they're all part of our story. We're not particularly enlightened types; we didn't wind up being a biracial amalgam of cultural identities because of some angelic absence of prejudice, but, rather, because the combination of sexual attraction and a strong sense of curiosity led people to unexpected unions.

It's been a long time since every one of us in the greater nuclear-family constellation has been together in the same place; babies have been born since last this happened. My newest grand-niece, Julianna, arrived on Earth in the swelter of summer, during the heat of the presidential primary season. How lovely, then, that her first Thanksgiving should take place just as we, the unenlightened amalgam that is America, are about to welcome into the White House our first truly 21st-century president, himself the product of many unexpected unions -- beginning with his parents', and continuing with that of the disparate elements of the U.S. electorate who checked the same box on the ballot sheet.

On election day, my parents found themselves minding two of my nephews, 11-year-old Clark, and 8-year-old Dillon, who are half Chinese, a quarter Irish, and the rest a mix of Eastern European and some South/Central Asian mystery blend. They each took one grandson into their respective voting booths to mark the ballot for a man whose presence in the White House seems entirely normal to these children, who have no memory of freedom riders, who have yet to understand our nation's insanity regarding issues of race. (I pray that when they do come to understand, the understanding comes not harshly.)

Tomorrow, after we've not missed the missing olives and noshed on wine-swirled cheese food from a jar, after we're stuffed with turkey and Asian fruit salad and chocolate creme pie made from Jell-O pudding, after having consumed Mom's pumpkin pie and massive quantities of several varieties of tubers mashed with butter, we will begin making the bad music. There will be an Irish drum, a Chinese fiddle, a Romanian mandolin, a German-made ukulele, a dulcimer my dad assembled from a kit, and a bunch of guitars manufactured in Japan.

We'll perform our standards: "Teach Your Children", "This Little Light of Mine", "Rocky Raccoon", "Ripple", "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," "Your Cheatin' Heart." Our raucous chorus will be as American as the apple pie that got passed over for the pudding tart.

For all these things, I offer thanks to the One who gives us breath.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Newt's back, and I'm a facist

...and maybe you are, too. Did you oppose Proposition 8, the onerous California ballot measure that put an end to same-sex marriage in that state? Are you gay? Do you believe in the separation of church and state? Well, then, you just may be part of "a gay, secular fascism," according to our thrice-married former speaker. Now, why would the disgraced leader of a momentary revolution choose to hang his hat in this issue? Your blogstress explains over at The Guardian America:

When Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss found himself facing a runoff, his campaign called in the big guns, including Gingrich and John McCain, ABC News reported, to campaign for him. It is said that Jim Martin, the Democratic challenger to Chambliss, cannot win without strong support in his runoff battle from African-Americans. Gingrich and his compatriots have apparently taken note of two facts. First, in California, exit polls showed that African-Americans voted overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage. Second, Jim Martin is a friend to Georgia's gay community – named a "key gay ally", in fact, by the Southern Voice, Atlanta's LGBT newspaper.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sarah Palin on the "Today" show: workin' it

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

There a lot of things one can say about Sarah Palin, but this one cannot be disputed: by one measure, at least, she is true to her word. Sarah Palin is not going anywhere.

That, you'll recall, is what the Alaska governor and former vice presidential candidate told ABC's Elizabeth Vargas on the day before Halloween, "I think that if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that -- that would bring this whole -- I'm -- I'm not doing this for naught."

When her remarks were widely interpreted as indication of a likely 2012 presidential, she artfully dialed back. The day after the Vargas interview, she told me, "I'll be campaigning for John McCain's re-election in 2012."

That commitment now wiped off the slate by reality's eraser, Palin has set off on a charm offensive that will serve her well should she choose to toss her hat back into the ring of national politics. In this morning's Today show interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, Palin came off as endearingly combative, calling the unnamed leakers quoted in Newsweek "cowards", and cooking a halibut and salmon casserole for Lauer -- while being interviewed.

For the sit-down portion of the interview, which took place in the governor's office, she wore a jacket more reminiscent -- in color, if not cut -- of those she began the campaign with. Her hair was pulled up in a relaxed manner that suggested she did it herself. She denied all the talk about her alleged extravagance in the purchase of her campaign wardrobe, telling Lauer that her campaign duds were being purchased by the Republican National Committee before she ever even arrived in St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. Of Neiman Marcus, the high-end retailer that an unnamed McCain adviser claimed had been "looted" by "Wasilla hillbillies," Palin said, "I've never even been in those stores..."

Far more interesting than her denials, however, was her failure to deny Lauer's suggestion that it was the decision of McCain's people to keep her from the press, and her assertion that she would have liked to talk more to the media (which she once famously derided). "You can't just assume that the voters are going to be able to guess what's going on," she said, and that means talking to the media.

Which she's doing with a vengeance. Literally. Just ask those "cowards" who leaked the allegation about Palin not knowing that Africa is a continent, or that she greeted male campaign staffers while wearing nothing but a towel.

More important, though, than Palin's own self-redemption crusade is the national media's continued interest in her. And who can blame them? Like Barack Obama, Palin is a bundle of contradictions and seeming non sequiturs -- a bundle that represents the tensions in play in the lives of many Americans. In Obama, the tensions of race, culture and the structure of the modern, blended family were all brought into play. In Palin, as Katha Pollitt has sagely written, is the irony of the ambitious and talented woman who embraces a conservative, truly right-wing, worldview. As Lauer interviewed her in her Wasilla kitchen, it may have been the governor herself who made the casserole, but her hunky, blue-collar husband held the baby with utter comfort, patting him nonchalantly as if this is something he does every day (because it is).

I've heard liberals say that Palin's the one they want their president to face in 2012. And given her performance with Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson, I can understand why.

But Sarah Palin is not stupid. She's no Barack Obama, but she's not dumb. Needs a little schooling, but I suspect she's a quick study. And who knows what the president-elect will face in the next four years? Absent a credible ideology on the real problems facing America -- the economy, international relations, health care -- the Republicans have little left to run on but the culture wars. While that may seem so yesterday, the passage of anti-gay ballot measures in a handful of states on Tuesday proves the wars have not yet ended. And Sarah Palin could prove to be a great warrior icon -- Alaska's own Brigid, goddess of hearth and war.

In the Wasilla segment of Lauer's interview, the adorable grade-schooler, Piper Palin, was asked how she would feel if, when she's 11 years old in 2012, her mom came to her and said, we're going run again. (Lauer was not specific as to which office.) Piper turned up her palms and said, with a little laugh, "I don't know."

Her mom didn't miss a beat. "Would you want to do it again, sister?" asked Sarah Palin as she stirred the casserole.

Piper suddenly knew the right answer. "Yeah," she replied.

After all, she hadn't done it for naught.

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Mama Africa has passed on to the next world

In 2000, I had the great honor and pleasure of profiling Miriam Makeba, the great anti-apartheid activist, for Salon. She was at all times purely herself, cantankerous, generous and embracing life. May she rest in peace.


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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Night Live Blog

Here's a transcript of my Election-Night liveblog for The Huffington Post. I've cleaned it up a bit. Your blogstress so hates to learn that her slip is showing.

Adele Stan: Election Results Liveblog (11/04/2008)

3:26 p.m.

Adele Stan: The religious right, it seems, is already looking past today's election, looking to rally the base once more around the culture wars. Tonight the Family Research Council will host its first-ever election-night Webcast, following not just the presidential and congressional-level races, but paying special attention to those all-important ballot measures -- like California's Proposition 8, the passage of which will end the right to same-sex marriage that California's people won via a court decision several months ago. The issues touted in the teaser video sent around via e-mail by FRC's Tony Perkins include "abortion, gambling, man-woman marriage and stem-cell research."

Below find the code for doing your own opposition research. Get a little bored watching MSNBC and CNN? Check out Tony Perkins advising his foot soldiers on the their post-election battles, click here.

3:40 p.m.

Adele Stan: Called the McCain campaign office, located in northern Virginia, and got nowhere fast in answer to the question of where their local watch party will take place. Not having one, it seems, and not real clear on where any unofficial gatherings will take place. The Republican National Committee will have a party, I was told.

Meanwhile, over at a local Washington, D.C., office for the Obama campaign, a volunteer named Ruth told me that while the campaign isn't doing anything official, there are parties at two big night spots: the 9:30 Club and Busboys & Poets.

Now, where would you rather be?

3:49 p.m.

Adele Stan: Speaking of the religious right, you'll be hearing lots of talk after tonight about the future of the Repubican party. I'm among those who see a potential split -- the question is, will the right wing hold onto the party machinery, or will it march itself out with its grassroots ground game -- perhaps to a venue like Howard Phillips' Constitution Party? Here's my take on that potentiality, at Mother Jones.

4:44 p.m.

Adele Stan: The Huffington Post is reporting that Sarah Palin declined to tell reporters who she voted for in the presidential election. I'm thinking, Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party. After all, Todd Palin belonged, for seven years to the Constitution Party's state affiliate, the secessionist Alaska Independent Party. And CP Chairman Howard Phillips told me he would be interested in having Palin run as the party's presidential nominee next time out.

5:01 p.m.

Adele Stan: I spend a lot of time in D.C.'s jazz community, which is an extraordinary place to be, really. Among jazz musicians, as you might imagine, there's no shortage of opinions, particularly on things political. Though few people realize it today, jazz was once a very political music -- a form of expression that was anti-establishment by its very nature. At times, it went overt with its politics -- think Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit", or the civil rights era music made by Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln. However, because of our nation's less-than-benign neglect of our nation's great indiginous art form, jazz has been left to be the soundtrack for department stores, corporate coffeehouse chains and rich people's cocktail parties. Well, check this out: From Will Galison and his Orchestra comes a ditty worthy of tonight: "Takin' it Back With Barack"" Hat tip to my reader, Rico, who got this from (she posts the lyrics), who got it from Jimmy Heath, who got it from James Moody. Now, there's some provenance for yas.

7:39 p.m.

Adele Stan: I'm hanging out for the moment at the Mother Jones Washington bureau, where the betting long ago left the realm of point spreads and electoral vote counts to what time the networks will call the election (presumably for Obama). The fellas are thinkin' somewhere between 10:45 and 11:16 EST.

I'm about to head over to a Presbyterian church in the Southwest section of DC, where an interesting mix of African-American jazz-lovers, and white gay and lesbian folks all find themselves under the same roof, on account of a jazz ministry and an "open and affirming" congregation. They've opened the church for folks to come watch election results together.

So here's a post that I tried to put up at around the 9:00 hour, I imagine. For some reason, I couldn't get program to load on my laptop from where I was working:

9:00 p.m. (estimated)

Adele Stan: Here in Southwest Washington, DC, I've arrived at Westminster Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1964 on the ruins of of the razed neighborhoods wrought by a policy known as "urban renewal" that involved destroying the village, ostensibly in order to save it (move it into faceless housing projects).

Westminster's co-pastors, Ruth and Brian Hamilton, made it their business to serve the neighborhood's historic denizens and its new arrivals, housing a non-profit community development corporation that promotes a nourishing jazz and blues ministry, as well as a significant AIDS-prevention program. Westminster is home to a thriving LGBTQ contingent in its congregation.

Tonight, all elements of the Westminster community are represented, as the sanctuary is tranformed into a theater of sorts, with MSNBC projected onto a screen just to the left of the cross, all run through a laptop run by Rev. Brian. Occasionally the screen freezes, but nobody seems to mind. This is a church without pews; the chairs are portable and tonight set at tables, where people chat as the results come in.

In addition to the regulars in the Westminster community here tonight is a table of Austrian graduate students. Nobody really seems to know how they wound up here, including the Austrians, who are all majors in political communications from Danube University in the town of Krems. Apparently, they asked their embassy for a list of election-watch parties, and Westminster wound up on the list. (I suspect the jazz connection for that one.)

I talked to a couple of the students, both of whom are journalists in their home countries. Hannes Gaisch marvelled at our electoral college system. "It's very complicated," he said. Katharina Seidl, a young woman with a chic, bobbed haircut and leather jacket added, "We all favor Obama." Indeed, the woman sitting next to her was wearing an Obama t-shirt.

9:15 p.m. (estimated)

Adele Stan: Back in TV land, somewhere around the same time, there was a weird exchange between Tom DeLay and Chris Matthews on MSNBC. At the time, I wrote it up this way:

Wait -- did Chris Matthews just tell Tom DeLay that he loved the way "you hate"?

Did he really just say, "We always know where you stand, buddy?"

Did DeLay just say very meekly, before being diappeared from the screen, "I don't hate." Wow!

9:58 p.m.

Adele Stan:
If you were going to invent a Christian church the represented the new paradigm, it just might be Westminster Presbyterian Church. Take Rita, who staffs the door on Blue Mondays, when the church hosts its weekly blues concerts. An African-American woman in her late 40s, Rita is a scientist and technician who runs her own business. She was raised, she says, in the AME church, a traditionally African-American denomination that is rather formal in character, but was drawn to Westminister for both its music and the diversity of its congregants.

"You have the mix of people, the mix of sexual orientations and a progressive community," she said. She pointed to a tall, cylindrical sculpture made of stained glass -- a modern rendering of the burning bush that was made in the church's own glass shop. "This flame was [part of] a welfare-to-work program," she said.

On my way out of the church, I was stopped by a white woman in her 40s, wearing a gold t-shirt that said "Firefighters for Obama/Biden." Her husband sat with her, wearing a matching shirt. She grabbed me to say that she reads The Huffington Post every day. The t-shirt she really wanted to wear, she couldn't find, she explained. That would have been "Military Families for Obama/Biden." Her son is in the Army, now stateside, but has been on two deployments -- one to Kuwait, and one to Afghanistan. "I figured with a President Obama, he'd likely get to stay where he is, and with a President McCain, he'd probably see a third deployment."

12:43 a.m.

Adele Stan: Well, folks, it's been a night of great beauty -- but technical glitches. So please forgive the late entries. In fact, lemme work my way a bit backwards, if I may -- or at least skip to THE BIG MOMENT.

I left my multiculti church friends in DC's Southwest quadrant, running a bit behind, having crossed my fingers for a fast enough wireless connection in the church for longer than I should have.

I hoped to make it to my next destination in time to catch the moment when the map gave it to Obama. Instead, I found myself sitting at a subway stop -- and the only white person, as far as I could see -- when the voice of the station supervisor came over the public address system, saying, "Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. Three African-American women, all friends, sitting on the same bench as me, jumped up, shouting and hugging each other. We were all moist in the eyes. Then they noticed me. And embraced me. Little old grey-eyed, spikey-haired me. Then we were all standing in puddles.

When we all stepped on the train, the passengers looked at us, and yelled, "He won?!!" And the whole subway car erupted -- in joy.

2:05 a.m.

Adele Stan:
On that subway train I found Henry Miller, a dark-skinned man, over 50, I'd guess, who is part of a superb a capella quartet called "After the Storm," whom Washingtonians know by their occasional and impromptu concerts at the Metro Center subway stop. Miller was among the riders who were receiving the news of Obama's election by the tears on my compatriots' faces, and he was all but beside himself. But taking note of the youth of the young ladies who had gotten on the train at the same time as me -- the strangers who had hugged me at the subway stop -- he felt the need to explain the cost of tonight's victory.

"A lot of people actually lost their lives so that we would have the right to vote," he said. "People were hung, they were lynched, they were tarred and feathered, and all other sorts of things that were happening. They were dragged on the back of pick-up trucks. And a lot of things took place with our people so that we could have the right to choose who we wanted to have run this country."

He was on his way home he said, to the same neighborhood where he was born and raised: Columbia Heights. A mix of gentrification and immigration has given the population a different mix than was there in Miller's younger days, but it's still home to him.

2:06 a.m.

Adele Stan: I collected some swell audio from my travels tonight, but I can't figure out how to get the file format right for upload. Maybe I'll figure it out before you wake up tomorrow.

2:27 a.m.

Adele Stan: As I sit in an all but vacant office building in downtown Washington, the occasional sounds of revelry and hoopla punctuate the silence.

But nothing could have prepared me for what I found on 14th Street, NW, in the block between U & V -- in fact, in the whole U Street corridor, where people spilled out of night clubs and into the streets, dancing and hugging. The cops gave up trying to move traffic and just cordoned off the area for an improptu street party.

Most of the people were young, but the astonishing thing was the mix of people -- really every color. I went to the great nightspot, Busboys & Poets, where the crowd ran the gamut of age and race. I sat next to a man in his 30s of South Asian descent who spoke with a British accent. People were literally dancing on the tables. Atop one table, a slender black man with long locks, dancing with a dark-haired young white woman. Atop another, three young men -- two white, one brown. At the table by the window? Three white women in their late 50s or early 60s. It was crowded, people were drinking, but no one shoved or groped. Had that lightness of being I last experienced (I think) at a Grateful Dead concert.

Meanwhile, across the street in front of the Frank Reeves Civic center was a scene that would have made Mickey Hart proud. A gaggle of drummers had gathered under a canopy -- again, a rainbow mix, including my good friend J. Scales, the self-styled "high priestess of homo-hop".

Yeah, I think not only are we the ones we've been waiting for -- we really are everything that scares Sarah Palin's "real" Americans. We need to start finding ways to make them less scared of us.

There was lots to love about Obama's acceptance speech, but the part I loved the most may not have been the most lyrical. It was the part were he told the people that had not voted for him that he would need their help. And that he would be their president.

Now we need to learn how to be their artists and writers and adorably wacky creative types, too.

2:35 a.m.

Adele Stan:

I managed to snag a cab out of U Street -- no mean feat, and I'm sure the product of divine intervention. The cab driver was a handsome young man in his 30s, from Morocco by way of Montreal. His family had left the homeland for Canada when he was 15. Then six years ago, he found his way to DC.

I expressed my marvel at having gotten the taxi. "Not many cabs tonight," he said. The cab drivers had stayed home to watch the election results, he said. Really? When they could be out making money?

"Most cab drivers, they don't have health insurance, " he replied. And they were banking on an Obama victory, he said, to change that for him. (And, no, Ezra Klein, I am really not making this up. This guy is your poster cabbie.)

4:35 a.m.

Adele Stan: After my travels, I arrived back at the Mother Jones bureau to find my colleagues and an a handful of their friends sitting rapt before a a television image of Obama, projected on the wall. The speech -- well, you know -- you cried in front of your own television. And though I'm so happy for myself and the rest of my weary, middle-age cohort in this result -- not to mention the many old folks who never thought they'd live to see the day -- this night was really about young people. They really did win this thing. Even when I spoke to older folks, it was their children and grandchildren whose future moved them to support Obama. The soldier's mother, the cabdriver who confessed he had no healthcare for his babies, the young ladies on the train whom the older man felt the need to remind of the cost of this victory. All the beautiful, joyful young people dancing in the streets. My young journalist colleagues intent on every word uttered by Barack Obama in his acceptance speech. This is their world now. Amen.

7:07 a.m.

Adele Stan: What it sounded like on the corner of 14th & U Street, NW, in Washington, DC, upon word of Obama's victory:

Comments from The Huffington Post

4:10 [Comment From Curt Descant]
Adele, Thanks for this post! I watched the video and enjoyed it. You also mentioned "Strange Fruit" and I found this video on YouTube: which brings both sadness and hope to my heart on this evening.

4:11 [Comment From NormBlon]
I will grieve for the Republican Party tomorrow, not because I would support it but about what the extremists and evangelicals have done to it. My advice to any centrist or small-c conservatives remaining is to let that bile-driven crowd keep the Republican tag, and form a new Conservative Party, principled, secular and intelligent. None of these virtues apply to the party of John McCain and Sarah Palin. History was made once today: history could be made again with a new Conservative party, starting tomorrow.

4:11 [Comment From Mike D.]
Hi Adele, TPM and Huff seem to be showing a lot of election problems in Virginia. I have been watching CNN all morning and they have not said a word about Virginia.

4:11 [Comment From carolb777]
wonder why that wasn't broadcast more,,the part about Palin's husband and the Constitution Party?

4:11 [Comment From Richard]
Adele, I hope I can relax sometime later tonight with a good scotch, and Brubeck's Take Five...if McCain wins, I'll need more scotch.

4:12 [Comment From Phil in CA]
Peeps lets get on the phones and make calls. I am on the Obama site blogs and people are getting reports from the field that the lines in FL, NJ and other places are slowing down. Have received emails from the campaign now asking people to get on the phones. Dont be complacent.

4:12 [Comment From Phil in CA]
Peeps lets get on the phones and make calls. I am on the Obama site blogs and people are getting reports from the field that the lines in FL, NJ and other places are slowing down. Have received emails from the campaign now asking people to get on the phones. Dont be complacent.

4:12 [Comment From comrade]
WIth Obama as president do you think there will be web pages with 1000's of Obamaisms like we did to bush????

4:12 [Comment From comrade]
Will we become communist country now?

4:12 [Comment From Darah]
I had hoped someone live blogging would say something nice about Sarah Palin

4:12 [Comment From DurangoSteve]
Chuck Baldwin... now there's a piece of work. He and the Palins might just be best pals.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Live-blogging the election today

...for The Huffington Post.

Check me out there after lunch sometime. (Well, even a blogstress needs to vote, mes amis.)

Have you done your civic duty?

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