Tag Archives: World At Large

I actually wasn’t named after the shoot-em-up neighborhood in L.A.

I don’t usually gush over the human interest stories on CNN.com. Living in Virginia, I can’t often relate to being dismembered by alligators or to worshiping seven-legged babies as gods. But today I’m all over the headlining CNN story of “The Homicide Report,” an L.A. Times blog that chronicles the names, faces, and circumstances of murder victims in Los Angeles.

Because two to three people are murdered in L.A. every day, bloggers Jill Leovy and Ruben Vives work a lot harder than your average Gawker employee. They drive through the most violent, forgotten neighborhoods of the city to find their stories. They interview grieving families. They take note of spray-painted eulogies and impromptu memorials on urban street corners. They publish the races and ages of the victims, who are predominately young black and Latino men. And the bloggers keep the comments open so the public can post messages about the murders.

These bloggers are doing their city a great service. Not only are they trying to ensure that people don’t die anonymously, but the blog reads like an anthropological study that might prove useful in preventing future murders. In fact, the blog entries remind me of Jared Diamond’s “Annals of Anthropology” article in this week’s New Yorker (abstract).

Diamond writes about vengeance killings in New Guinea. In a society without formal state government, New Guinea clan members take justice into their own hands. In the Highlands, murder (interpersonal warfare) is an accepted strategy of social checks and balances. Murder seems to maintain order.

The same anthropological phenomenon appears to be taking place in L.A. In neighborhoods like Watts, populated by many impoverished, disenfranchised people (I’ve never been there but I watch a lot of movies from the comfort of my couch), it’s probably hard to feel like your life is actively honored and protected by the government. You might feel like the government at large is absent or even against you. And so, as a gang member especially, your Wild West society is regulated by another set of rules, where drive-by shootings seem far more functional than the court system.

In my own culture, The New Yorker and NPR tell me how to behave. But if I were born in South-Central L.A., I don’t know what rules I’d follow. I am a pretty good shot with a BB gun, so if someone wronged me, I can’t promise that I wouldn’t take it to the streets. But around these parts I am limited to blogging my vengeance on the Virginia Quarterly Review website. My lifestyle is basically Boyz in the Hood, but with hyperlinks and pretentious diction instead of guns and ammo.

Funny hoo-ha

I realize that anybody who is anybody on the internet has already blogged today about the “Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?Vanity Fair article, itself a response to the VF article “Why Women Aren’t Funny” by Christopher Hitchens. [Full disclosure: Christopher Hitchens will always be a god to me because he devoted an entire book to putting down Mother Teresa. Who else would have the audacity to do that?] Nevertheless, I want to weigh in on this important debate contrived to sell magazines. Are women funny?

Let me start by saying that all those SNL hotties were ugly in high school. I lack the evidence to back up that statement, but I feel in my gut that it’s true. They were ugly and that’s why they cultivated their personalities. And I have to put that out there because a large portion of the latest Vanity Fair article, supposedly extolling the comedic talents of the fairer sex, is about how pretty these funny ladies are. Alessandra Stanley writes:

It used to be that women were not funny. Then they couldn’t be funny if they were pretty. Now a female comedian has to be pretty—even sexy—to get a laugh.

At least, that’s one way to view the trajectory from Phyllis Diller and Carol Burnett to Tina Fey. Some say it’s the natural evolution of the women’s movement; others argue it’s a devolution. But the funniest women on television are youthful, good-looking, and even, in a few cases, close to beautiful—the kind of women who in past decades might have been the butt of a stand-up comic’s jokes.

Of course female comedians are beautiful. Vanity Fair loves to take pictures of beautiful people. Vanity Fair gets to pick and choose who to put on its cover. Vanity Fair gets to slather the funny women in makeup and dress them in revealing “costumes” and Photoshop them into oblivion and then slap rubber chickens in their hands and pretend that their sexuality is not being exploited.

Read More →

Dubai is like a spoiled rich girl whose 16th birthday is coming up


Underwater hotels, artificial islands, amusement parks twice the size of Disney World, the world’s tallest buildings, indoor ski resorts, and a mall with “9,000 square feet of shopping.” Is this really what we’re doing with all our money? Is this really wise? Aren’t we earthlings just getting closer to becoming an alien super civilization? These pictures are going to give me nightmares. But the TutzTutz post was still worth reading because of the user comment “These people play Sim City WAY too much!!!”



Dubai in 1990



Dubai in 2007

An island made of trash

You know how there are dirty islands of non-biodegradable plastic floating in our oceans? Well a former carpenter made his own tropical island buoyed by empty plastic bottles, and it looks like paradise. Spiral Island currently lives off the coast of Mexico but Richie Sowa plans to float it around the world. You have to watch the Ripley’s Believe It or Not video on the Ecoble site. It is awesome. And the English narrator manages to dodge both t’s in the word bottle.

Stole the link from Snarfd, a website that has officially taken the last hour of my life.

Tumbleweed Farm

A Midwestern woman wanted to teach herself web design so she created a joke website that sold tumbleweeds – The Prairie Tumbleweed Farm. Now she makes $40,000+ a year selling tumbleweeds to organizations like NASA and Hollywood.

Wow, judging from her website, it looks like she never got around to learning that web design.

Alice Proujansky

In 2006 New York photographer Alice Proujansky went to the Dominican Republic to document the lives born and the lives lost in a dismally-funded maternity ward. Here are some of the affecting images she captured on film.

I ate burritos with the Governor

Let me preface this story by saying that Barack Obama gives a killer stump speech. If I go to a political rally in the cold, I expect a lot of high falutin’ promises, righteous anger at George W. Bush’s administration, and humorous yet telling anecdotes that will inspire me to clap my hands and hence raise my core body temperature. Last night my fingertips remained numb, but I liked the candidate, and he liked me. At least, I feel that he has faith in people in general (and yes, my emotions will determine the next President). I think that genuine faith in oneself leads to faith in other people which leads to honesty and transparency in the White House.

Obama reminds me of the great college professor who listens carefully to the stupid question you just barely articulated/blurted out in class, then uses his superior wisdom and vocabulary to ask it back to you (“Do you mean ___?” “Yes, sir/ma’am.”), then leads the whole room in a lively and enlightening discussion of the possible answers to the question you actually didn’t ask but in an ideal world where you are smarter and have an extra hour to think in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber before class, you might have. And he gives you credit for the whole thing. Good guy, that Obama. I like his wife too.

After the rally, we went out for Mexican food (thanks Dad). To their credit, the employees of Guadalajara were not overly star struck when I walked into the restaurant, nor when Virginia Governor Tim Kaine walked in moments later with a small entourage. Before Governor Kaine had a chance to sit down and order a beverage, we leapt up to shake his hand. This was sort of a blur. I think I said something like “wonderful job” and then slapped him hard on his heavily trench-coated shoulder. Then I quickly sat down and ordered a beer. He was a swell guy though. I enjoyed his introduction of Senator Obama at the rally. At dinner I kept wanting to stand up and make a speech for Kaine’s benefit, like “This is what America is all about! Eating Mexican food and laughing with my family! I’m fired up!” He stopped at our table and said a nice goodbye before he used the Guad restroom. This made Darren wonder if the Secret Service encouraged him to climb out bathroom windows into waiting limos after he dined in public, but actually he used the restroom like a normal person and probably only said goodbye to us beforehand because he had to walk by our table to get to the facilities and we were all staring at him. Then (of course) we joked about sticking sexy notes or men’s shoes under the door while he was in there. But we didn’t because we were too busy talking about reality TV.

Governor Tim Kaine, please don’t hate me for publicizing your lack of restroom exploits. You do good work and my dad was right – last night Guadalajara missed out on a great opportunity to start a “Wall of Fame.” They totally could have photographed us together.

Homecoming weekend in Williamsburg

I am going to my five-year college Homecoming, but ONLY so I can blog about it. Also it is rainy, dreary, and I am hungry for pancakes. This is the existential recipe for Williamsburg, Virginia.

I have two friends who are also going to Homecoming, but they’re not appearing until tonight and tomorrow, respectively, so this afternoon I am going to a religion lecture at the University Center and then I will either wander alone from bar to bar, trying to look pretty in case I am spotted by ex-boyfriends, or I will go back to my hotel room and watch cable TV. I am half-tempted to crash the football game tomorrow with my friend Diana, because she is from Armenia and has never seen a game of football. Especially a game of William & Mary’s caliber. My mother tells me she has “a friend” on the team that I should support, however this is a source of filial concern, not school spirit.

Last night I made business cards so I can do some networking during Homecoming. I think they turned out really well considering they are DIY and I don’t actually have a business.

Overheard at the beauty salon

While Bunny was falling asleep under the head lamp, I heard the stylists talking about the wildfires in California:

“The fires were started by Middle Eastern terrorists. They are trying to bankrupt the country because they know we are already in debt from Iraqis and Mexicans.”

I am afraid a Homeland Security guy in a dark suit might replace Smoky the Bear. His face will be on posters all over the nation’s forests. He will be holding a handgun and a deportation form, saying “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Irena Sendler

I wish there was an appropriate segue here between my post about the vagina clown car and this post about a 97-year-old Polish woman who saved thousands of Jewish children from the concentration camps during World War II. But there’s not and there never will be, and that’s just how life is.

Mrs. Sendler, code name “Jolanta,” smuggled 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during the last three months before its liquidation. She found a home for each child. Each was given a new name and a new identity as a Christian. Others were saving Jewish children, too, but many of those children were saved only in body; tragically, they disappeared from the Jewish people. Irena did all she could to ensure that “her children” would have a future as part of their own people.

Incidentally, Mrs. Sendler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, but lost out to Al Gore. I would hate to be on the prize selection committee and have to make those tough choices, but it would probably make me feel a lot better about humanity to read all those outstanding CVs.