Sunday, July 08, 2007

Summertime (and the Living is Uneasy)

Summer always holds the promise of leisurely swims in the moonlight and tall, cool drinks sipped from Tiki mugs. There’s been little of that this summer. I don’t know how each year I manage to forget that - for parents - summer means the kids are home and you have to entertain them. I refuse to let the child rearing be done by the computer, PlayStation or the TV and that means I have to step up. Whiny as I may sound about having to put aside my personal projects for a few months, parenting does have its rewards. This summer we’ve managed to sew dolls and teddy bears and their respective accoutrements; we’ve learned to knit and crochet and even knitted squares for Knitty Gritty’s "A Square - Show You Care" drive which takes contributed squares and assembles them into blankets for the needy. It's a good thing they only asked for a square because that is about the extent of our knitting skills for now. We’ve created some stylish hats using the book Saturday Night Hat.

Aside from crafting, we’ve enjoyed reading aloud a wonderful trilogy called His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

It’s an older series but full of subversive, anti-authoritarian messages and well worth reading. Although there is a movie version coming out this year, I would highly recommend reading the books because it appears that New Line Cinema has bowed to fear of a religious backlash by toning down or eliminating any references to God or the Church. It seems that the book's message of courage in spite of overwhelming odds was lost on the producers. How ironic.

Movie Version of Controversial Novel Being Toned Down
Fans of the Philip Pullman novel His Dark Materials have expressed outrage over news that director-screenwriter Chris Weitz has removed references to God and the Catholic church in the movie. New Line Cinema, the company producing the film, has "expressed worry about the possibility of perceived anti-religiosity." The studio had told him that if the references remained, the project would become "unviable financially." He remarked that he had discussed the matter with Pullman, who had told him that the role of the Authority (God) in his book, could be transformed into "any arbitrary establishment that curtails the freedom of the individual." The religious villains in the film, he said, "may appear in more subtle guises." He added: "you will probably not hear of the 'Church.'" One fan posted a message on the website calling the changes a "blatant cop-out to the Bible Belt of America."

Aside from mommy duties there are other friends and family that need care and attention. We went out to California to visit the in-laws for Father’s Day. Imagine my father-in-law’s surprise when he picked up his L.A.Times on Sunday morning to find his daughter-in-law scantily clad in an article about the very talented Jenny Lens. I wonder if he thought "my poor son married a strumpet," or "my clever son married a strumpet."

August 1977, photo by Jenny Lens.
Alice Bag, Dottie Danger (Belinda Carlisle), Hellin Killer and Pleasant Puss Gehman.

For the 4th of July we did the patriotic thing and went to see Sicko. It made me want to move to Canada, but only for a minute. I felt better after I went online and sent an email to Senator John McCain using this link. It was bad enough thinking that people all over the world disliked us for being greedy and ethnocentric, but now I realize that they’re laughing at us for allowing our government to rip us off. As one woman in the movie put it (I’m paraphrasing here) "You Americans are afraid of your government; here (France) the government is afraid of the people." She’s right - when I was in France recently during their elections, the government was hurriedly putting up barricades because they were worried about how the people might react if they were displeased with the results of the elections. We need to make our government more afraid of us than of losing their corporate perks. Michael Moore is preaching to the choir here; I’ve been a proponent of socialized medicine forever. The movie was really good and if you haven’t seen it, you should. Be prepared to be pissed off.

And speaking of getting pissed off, I received a letter from a friend on MySpace telling me about a place I’d never heard about before called the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. The place houses the children of people who are awaiting trial for violating immigration laws. The children are housed in prison-like conditions, with limited access to medical services and education. As a parent it made me sick to hear that these children are being torn away from their parents, relatives and friends to be housed as inmates in a detention center. As a former teacher, it made me angry to hear that these children are being deprived of an education. But as an American it made me wonder where the fuck our humanity has gone. What part of us has died that would make it ok to treat little children like criminals?

Mini doc on Hutto by the ACLU.

Just when things start to seem really bleak, something comes along to restore my faith. On 7/7/07, live concerts and gatherings were held around the world to raise consciousness about the issue of global warming and demand that our politicians take action now. Even though Live Earth didn't feature my favorite bands (except for Spinal Tap!!!) I could appreciate the message and was inspired to make some changes in my own life to help save our planet. Summertime is here and it's about time for things to really heat up.


Anonymous said...

Yes, France is afraid of its people.

In fact, in 2005, 9,000 vehicles were burned in Paris in a three week period of rioting because three boys were electrocuted when they illegally climbed a fence into a power substation.

Is that a healthy sign?

Anonymous said...

“The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles” - Mahatma Gandhi

Anonymous said...

Funny, I'm also reading "His Dark Materials", and was wondering if the film would cop-out on the anti-religion theme.

I'm enjoying the book, but Pullman is kind of a dick in real life. I thought all of his public whining about C.S. Lewis in the British press last year was completely hypocritical considering his books are like Narnia for atheists.

Anonymous said...

I was just going to give the link for this article but it was so good I decided to post the whole thing. Sorry for taking up all the space!

Sicko Spurs Audiences Into Action
By Josh Tyler: 2007-07-01 17:15:27

Long time readers of this site no doubt know that I live in Texas. As everyone knows there’s no more conservative state in the Union than here. And I don’t just live in Texas; I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Dallas isn’t some pocket of hippy-dippy behavior. This isn’t Austin. Dallas is the sort of place where guys in cowboy hats still drive around in giant SUV’s with “W” stickers on the back windshield, global warming and Iraq be damned. It’s probably the only spot left in America where you stand a good chance of getting the crap kicked out of you for badmouthing the president.

So when I went to see Sicko for a second time this afternoon, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the audience. I wasn’t watching it downtown, where the city’s few elitist liberals congregate and drink expensive lattes. I went to a random mall in the mid-cities, where folks were likely to be just folks. As I sat down, right behind me entered an obligatory, cowboy hat wearing redneck in his 50s. He announced his presence by shouting across the theater in a thick Texas drawl to his already seated wife “you owe me fer seein this!”

Sicko started; the stereotypical Texas guy sat down behind me and never stopped talking. He talked through the entire movie… and I listened. The first ten to twenty minutes of the film he spent badmouthing Moore to his wife and snorting in disgust whenever MM went into one of his trademark monologues. But as the movie wore on his protestations became quieter, less enthusiastic. Somewhere along the way, maybe at the half way point, right before my ears, Sicko changed this man’s mind. By the forty-five minute mark, he, along with the rest of the audience were breaking into spontaneous applause. He stopped pooh-poohing the movie and started shouting out “hell yeah!” at the screen. It was as if the whole world had been flipped upside down. This is Texas, where people support the president and voting democratic is something only done by the terrorists. Michael Moore should be public enemy number one.

By the time the movie was over, public enemy number one had become George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy all rolled together. When the credits rolled the audience filed out and into the bathrooms. At the urinals, my redneck friend couldn’t stop talking about the film, and I kept listening. He struck up a conversation with a random black man in his 40s standing next to him, and soon everyone was peeing and talking about just how fucked everything is.

I kept my distance, as we all finished and exited at the same time. Outside the restroom doors… the theater was in chaos. The entire Sicko audience had somehow formed an impromptu town hall meeting in front of the ladies room. I’ve never seen anything like it. This is Texas goddammit, not France or some liberal college campus. But here these people were, complete strangers from every walk of life talking excitedly about the movie. It was as if they simply couldn’t go home without doing something drastic about what they’d just seen. My redneck compadre and his new friend found their wives at the center of the group, while I lingered in the background waiting for my spouse to emerge.

The talk gradually centered around a core of 10 or 12 strangers in a cluster while the rest of us stood around them listening intently to this thing that seemed to be happening out of nowhere. The black gentleman engaged by my redneck in the restroom shouted for everyone’s attention. The conversation stopped instantly as all eyes in this group of 30 or 40 people were now on him. “If we just see this and do nothing about it,” he said, “then what’s the point? Something has to change.” There was silence, then the redneck’s wife started calling for email addresses. Suddenly everyone was scribbling down everyone else’s email, promising to get together and do something… though no one seemed to know quite what. It was as if I’d just stepped into the world’s most bizarre protest rally, except instead of hippies the group was comprised of men and women of every age, skin color, income, and walk of life coming together on something that had shaken them deeply, and to the core.

In all my thirty years on this earth, I have never ever seen any movie have this kind of unifying effect on people. It was like I was standing there, at the birth of a new political movement. Even after 9/11, there was never a reaction like this, at least not in Texas. If Sicko truly has this sort of power, then Michael Moore has done something beyond amazing. If it can change people, affect people like this in the conservative hotbed of Texas, then Sicko isn’t just a great movie, seeing it may be one of the most important things you do all year.

Evelyn said...

I just want to commend you for being such a great, involved parent: refusing to allow your child to be raised by the TV; doing sewing projects together, reading (aloud for chrissakes!!); I'm assuming you took your child to see Sicko and discussed it afterwards. You are anything BUT a "Bad Housewife." Thanks for allowing me to share.

Jenny Lens said...

Alice: I can only say thank you for being kind enough to post my photo and the link. LA Times, like NY Times, are free to read for a couple of weeks or so, then require a fee for archived stories.

Excuse me for again taking up so much space, but since you are compared to Marilyn Monroe (I told the writer you were our first Latina punk sex symbol), here's the article:

"Under the Big Black Sun"

L.A. LOOKBACK,1,7069033.story

By Rose Apodaca, June 17, 2007, Los Angeles Times

Still a year away from forming the Go-Gos, and three summers from her singular voice blasting from radios worldwide, Belinda Carlisle already strikes the pose of a rock star, her carmine stockings blazing under the white-hot sun in this scorched North Hollywood back lot.

It was a hazy August [21st] day in 1977, and L.A.'s punks, weaned on the Golden State's indie spirit and Tinseltown's film noir, were consumed with fiercely upholding the sub-cult's do-it-yourself ethos. In this case, it meant splicing together your own look, and least of all leaving the story for outsiders to tell. So four teens, including Carlisle, and their older photographer pal, all of 26 [I just turned 27], got their kicks that day with an impromptu fashion shoot.

Carlisle had only to look to her scene sisters for cues.

Alice Bag, bending forward here like some Latina Marilyn Monroe, would play her first of many a notorious gig as front woman of the Bags within a few weeks.

Then there's Hellin Killer. Head shorn, clad in lingerie long before it was an MTV staple and stretching her tiny figure and oversized persona against the red door, Killer would seal her place in punk legend the next year, when she bashed Sid Vicious with his bass during one of the few Sex Pistols shows in the U.S.

Gun in hand, the ever-cool Pleasant Gehman, already the underground clubworld's "It" girl at 17, sums up the Wild West climate among punks here in those heady, early years.

Freezing the moment with her admittedly defective Minolta SLR-101 was Jenny Lens, nee Jenny Stern. The Valley girl had abandoned her weaving and hippie stance the year before, roused by the Ramones' premiere local show. Soon after, Patti Smith anointed the Cal Arts grad as "the girl with the camera eye." So what if the cheap camera had exposure problems. It only complemented the visual aesthetic they were all aiming for.

"I'd always felt like an outcast. But they let me in, and I gave them photos when I could afford to," remembers Lens, currently compiling her snapshots for "Punk Pioneers," which Rizzoli is publishing next spring. "Punk was fun then. We had fun, cheap, easy, make-it-yourself fun."


OK, I thought the Bags were already performing, so I didn’t say you hadn’t made your debut. And you wore far more than some wear to school, work and at the beach these days, but you did it with such STYLE!

Dear readers, I remember when Alice and Greg asked me for some photos for proof Alice dressed like this before Madonna. Before anyone. Totally her own personal style. So now she complains? Ha, ha, just ribbing our sweet Alice! I love you both, and your lucky daughters, so much!

And every day I thank God we are friends and I have all these photos, no matter what personal heartbreak and hardship. I don’t think I told you the man selling my photos on eBay stole my earnings? As Dorothy Parker infamously said, “What fresh hell is this?”

Guess who I just found selling vintage goods via eBay? Trixie! I’ll tell her to become yet another one of your LA punk women profiles. Someone tracked her down and sent me the link. Got the nicest email from her!

Finally, for those of you who don’t get the “Under the Big Black Sun” reference, it’s the name of an X song and album. But X didn’t make up the phrase. It’s from Harry Crosby (no relation to Bing Crosby). He and his “Always yes, Caress” wife ran a little printing press. They were pals of Anais Nin (I keep surprising peeps when I tell them I have letters from her, wherein she suggested a collaboration with my art, pre-photos, and her text, and I shot her, but that’s another lifetime, pre-punk). That’s when I had time to read Anais, Henry Miller, Hermann Hesse, Mark Twain, Geroge Orwell, Aldouw Huxley, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, the Brontes, Hemingway et al. How I envy you that you make time to read books.

The life I led before punk.

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong
(Edith Piaf)

not yet, still learning . . .

Thank you anonymous for posting Sicko story. Today's news: Rethugs breaking w/Prez re Iraq. Repugs 'fraid they won't get reelected. I pray it spurs bringing home our brave troops. I pray they are defeated anyways (and all the spinless Demoshits who let them get away with this for so long!).

RE Live Earth:
One thing everyone can easily do is stop junk mail! You can find phone numbers on most catalogs, mailers, newspaper freebies, plus write the company online. I give them shit, call/write all the way to the top (only way I could stop Adelphias' big, expensive, weekly mailings). Contact their advertising dept, call/write peeps who advertise, tell them you will never step foot into their grocery/drug store or restaurant. It works! My Earth Day pledge last year.

Energy-efficient light bulbs have become so affordable and give better light.

Most of all, buy locally, at farmer’s markets whenever possible. Make as much from scratch. Stop buying bottled water! Buy in bulk. I only take a small bag of veggie/fruit peelings, seeds out to trash, and little bit of paper now and then. I reuse the bags from the veggies.

Stop drinking soda: rots your teeth and bones (the phosphorous and other chemicals). Stop drinking sugared juices. All those bottles, cans and boxes! Make your own juices from fresh veggies and fruit.

We don’t have recycling in Santa Monica (go figure). But we have homeless. So the few times I buy beer or other drinks, I leave the bottles on the side of the trash bins. I know they will recycle them. I don’t drink from plastic bottles.

Simpler, healthier lifestyles. I read something about eating one meal at home saves an incredible amount of energy. The facts will blow people’s minds. A few small steps from every one of us.

Think globally, act locally. So much info online these days!

Jenny Lens said...

Oops, need to clarify something. Why would I say vote out the Rethugs and Demoshits if they start to discuss bringing home the troops? Cos they took so darned long.

It will be many years before they are home, if they ever all all home. I don't know about all of you, but I struggle every day (that's why no time to read). I blame both parties for the out-of-control cost of living for average folks.

Congress should do all it can and as quickly as it can. But we know they drag their feet and give us lip service. Throw the bums out and start over.

Al Gore: where are you? Our country needs you. Don't make us vote for Hillary (ohmygawd, please no!). And a black man will get killed (sorry Obama, we are a racist nation). So who does that leave us?

I am so mad I registered as a Green back in 2000, when the Dems let W steal the election from Gore.

Jenny Lens said...

"If everyone in the US ate just one meal per week based on organic, locally grown ingredients, that would save our country over a million barrels of oil every week. And it really couldn't taste better."

Barbara Kingsolver, co-author (with husband, Steven L. Hopp and daughter Camille Kingsolver) of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," HarperCollins, 2007. Quote from
Delicious Living, June 2007 (free at many co-ops and health food stores) or

Can you believe one organic, locally grown meal per week from all of us saves over a MILLION barrels of oil per week?

I walk everywhere, including the local farmer's market, the Santa Monica Co-Op, Ralph's and Trader Joe's cos I can't afford gas and I love to walk. I must be saving many gallons of oil a week. Think if we all did that!

Being healthy, in body and for mother earth. What a concept!

Anonymous said...

Did you know Canada is getting rid of their current health care system because it doesn't work? I wonder how Moore missed that one? Ever known anyone who had cancer in Canada? They get put on a list. And then they hope and pray they don't die before they get treated. Our health care system may suck, but it IS better than a lot of places, CERTAINLY it's better than CUBA. The fact that Moore tried to insinuate that Cuba was anything other than a sad, depressing country with people so poverty-stricken we can't even comprehend it sure sent up some red flags to me. You should know better than to believe everything someone tells you.

Anonymous said...

If you want to do something to save the planet then stop eating animal flesh and secretions (no meat, no dairy, no eggs). That's the single best thing you can do to make less of an impact on the environment. How odd that Mr. Gore doesn't address that fact.

My god, why does it seem like so many people are so blind???

godoggo said...

"Did you know Canada is getting rid of their current health care system because it doesn't work?"

Cite? I've been seeing a lot of discussion of this and I've never heard that. Any cites for any of those claims?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how to cite talking to Canadian citizens (my customers)that I've spoken to at length after seeing this movie. The general consensus is it's great if you need to go get a presciption for something simple, but if you have anything seriously wrong with you you will very likely have a long wait. I have been told by ever Canadian customer I've asked about it that they are getting rid of their national health care because of problems like that AND abuse of the system - like people going to the doctor for every little sniffle.

My husband's ex-aunt had breast cancer and was told she'd have to wait 6 months before she could get in for chemo. She came to the U.S. and paid for her care and she's still alive.

And has anyone considered that we DO have socialized medicine here in the U.S.? It's called medicare and medicaid. My stepdad has had to look into this:
In a country where even our illegal immigrants get basic medical care, I fail to see where there is this huge medical crisis.

godoggo said...

OK, I'm not an expert on, this, nor do I even have much to offer in the way of anecdotal evidence, but for the moment I'll note that one of the best bloggers on this is Ezra Klein. His many posts on the subject (with links to data from studies comparing U.S. to Canada, France, and other countries) are collected here. The main points to be gained from all this: Canada's system is problematic, but overall, as well cheaper, than the U.S.'s, and that there are other countries such as France and Germany with systems that are much superior than Canada's.

Also I still think this 2006 article by economist Paul Krugman from the New York Review of Books, is about the most thoughtful thing I've seen on the subject.

It's possible that I'll come back later with a point-by-point response, if the mood strikes me, but in any case there are plenty of fine liberal political and economics blogs where people more knowledgeable than me will be happy to get deep into this with you, if you're interested.

godoggo said...

make that "overall, superior to, as well as cheaper than...

godoggo said...

Sorry, I should really look through all the sources instead of posting piecemeal like this, but... I'm thinking that angry bear is actually a better blog for this topic than Ezra's. Links to relevant post are at the top of the left column, under "The U.S. Healthcare System."