An Inclusive Litany


Deborah Birdwell, a 360-pound woman, has sued the Carmike movie theater chain. After attempting to see the film Jurassic Park, she discovered that she couldn't fit into any of the seats at the theater. In her suit, she seeks to force the theater chain to install special seats for obese patrons. She also wants $1.5 million.

After their NEA grants were cancelled due to the offending nature of their material, then reinstated after a somewhat tortuous and hand-wringing political process that would eventually contribute to NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer losing his job, artists Holly Hughes, Karen Finley, John Fleck, and Tim Miller were offered compensatory grants that represented increases over the original amounts offered.

When previously denied his grant, Fleck appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," where he said he "was made to feel like a disgusting pervert leeching on the taxpayers' money. After that, I flew home in a fetal position."

In Revolution from Within, Gloria Steinem relates that "in this country alone... about 150,000 females die of anorexia each year," more than three times the annual fatality rate from automobile accidents for the entire population. Steinem cites Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth as a source, where Wolf asks, "When confronted with a vast number of emaciated bodies starved not by nature but by men, one must notice a certain resemblance." Wolf, in turn, cites Joan Brumberg's Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa, which asserts that women who study eating problems "seek to demonstrate that these disorders are an inevitable consequence of a misogynistic society that demeans women... by objectifying their bodies." Brumberg, in turn, cites the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association, whose president, Dr. Diane Mickley, says "We were misquoted." In a 1985 newsletter the association referred to 150,000 to 200,000 sufferers (not fatalities) of anorexia nervosa, broadly defined. The actual morbidity rate has been estimated to be up to 100 by the National Center for Health Statistics.

During the early 1990s, several newspapers and magazines reported that domestic violence against pregnant women was now responsible for more birth defects than all other causes combined, according to a March of Dimes report. What the March of Dimes actually concluded was that more women are screened for birth defects than are ever screened for domestic battery.

At a news conference prior to the 1993 Super Bowl organized by a coalition of women's groups, reporters were informed that Super Bowl Sunday is "the biggest day of the year for violence against women," on which forty percent more women would be battered. A large media mailing by Dobisky Associates warned at-risk women, "Don't remain at home with him during the game." Lenore Walker, a Denver psychologist and author of The Battered Woman, appeared on "Good Morning America" claiming to have compiled a ten-year record showing a sharp increase in violent incidents against women on Super Bowl Sundays. The Boston Globe repeated the claim, and Robert Lipsyte of the New York Times even referred to the "Abuse Bowl." But when sociology and criminal justice professor Janet Katz, one of the principal authors of the underlying study, was contacted directly, she said, "That's not what we found at all." Instead, they had found that an increase in emergency-room admissions "was not associated with the occurrence of football games in general." Later, when other reporters pressed Lenore Walker to detail her findings, she said they were not available. "We don't use them for public consumption," she explained, "we use them to guide us in advocacy projects." After being thoroughly exposed and retracted in several periodicals, the factoid still appears in such books as How to Make the World a Better Place for Women in Five Minutes a Day.

[Ed.: Naomi Wolf, a purported Rhodes scholar, also cited statistics claiming that 44 percent of San Francisco women have "suffered rape or attempted rape," that "date rape" is "more common than left-handedness, alcoholism and heart attacks," and that "100 million young girls worldwide are being raped by adult men—usually their fathers—often day after day, week after week, year in, year out." Studies also conclusively show that 85 percent of all statistics are made up.]

In Camden, New Jersey, a teenager turned in a sawed-off shotgun at a weapon buy-back program for $50 and used the money to buy a handgun nearby, which he later used in a homicide.

A New Jersey man turned in eighteen guns, some of which couldn't even be fired, to a weapons buy-back program and collected $1,350 in certificates for food, clothing, and furniture. "Had this guy sold the stuff to a gun dealer, he would have gotten maybe $75 for the lot," a police officer said.

A Texas state law aimed at labs making illegal drugs has turned the unauthorized possession of beakers and test tubes into a felony.


The government of Malaysia has banned the film Schindler's List, claiming, "The story reflects the privilege and virtues of a certain race only. It seems the illustration is propaganda with the purpose of asking sympathy as well as to tarnish the other race."

Several Islamic countries have already banned the film due to its nudity.

Beijing police raided a performance art show that consisted of the artist Ma Liuming, naked, cooking potatoes in a pot along with a watch and an earring, and then burying the potatoes. Liuming and ten audience members were detained by the authorities.

A controversy that has developed over how to translate the Bible into Klingon, an artificial language for a fictitious warlike alien race that was developed for the "Star Trek" science fiction series, will result in not one, but two translations of the scriptures.

Citing deep philosophical differences with fellow scholars, Glen Proechel, a language instructor at the University of Minnesota, has resigned from a group that has been developing a literal translation. "It's not going to make any sense," Proechel said of the literal approach, "It will be describing things that don't exist in their culture." Dr. Lawrence Schoen, a linguist overseeing the literal translation, disagrees. "You don't mess around with the Bible."

The following line from Mark exemplifies the differing approaches to translation: "We have five loaves and two fishes." Since Klingon has no words for loaves or fish, literalists use generalized words for "grain food" and "water animal." The paraphrased version, however, uses concepts that Klingons would be familiar with: "We have only five blood pies and two serpent worms." Also, since there are plenty of lambs in the Bible but reportedly none on the Klingon world, Proechel substitutes the word "targh"—a vicious, ugly, piglike animal.

The translation itself appears much like the following passage from John 3:16, which no doubt loses some of the beauty of the language:

"toH qo' muSHa'qu'mo joH'a', wa' puqloDDaj nobpu' ghaH 'wj ghaH Harchugh vay', vaj not Hegh ghaH, 'ach yIn jub ghajbej ghaH."

The New York Times, January 4, 1994:
Rio de Janeiro, Jan. 3—Joao Alves would like you to believe that he is the world's luckiest man. To explain how he came to deposit $51 million in his bank accounts since 1989, the Congressman, whose annual salary is $84,000, told investigators recently that the answer was simple. He had won 24,000 lotteries.

Letter to the editor, the New York Times, March 24, 1994:
"In a City of Graffiti, Gangs Turn to Violence to Protect Their Art" (news article, March 13) captures the exuberance young men experience as graffiti writers, or taggers, as those you describe in Los Angeles call themselves. Rather than identify and guide this energy, adults see graffiti only as a vandalism issue.

I have been a teen-age counselor for six years, mainly in New York City. I discovered that graffiti writers around the world are highly organized: they hold conventions, publish magazines and establish international reputations. For many, family, school and work are irrelevant, if not downright miserable, and don't come close to the brotherhood of graffiti in providing, believe it or not, a sense of respect and accomplishment.

Furthermore, writing graffiti is a better choice of activities than pure violence. Los Angeles has had a violent gang subculture for years; it's no surprise that graffiti writers carry weapons. By contrast, New York's graffiti subculture began from an urge to compete through art.

A question in the writing section of the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS) asked: "Think about Einstein as a person and a scientist. In the split 'profile' and below it, use symbols, images, drawings, and/or words [!] to give your ideas about Einstein the person and Einstein the scientist." Students worked with two pictures of Einstein's head in profile, one labeled "the scientist," the other "the person," with space left blank to fill in their ideas, much like a drawing in a coloring book.

One eighth grader described Einstein the scientist as "smart, hopful [sic], commonsents [sic], and easy going," and Einstein the person as "sad, lonely, happy, postive [sic], loving." Another student who described Einstein as "smart" next to a picture of a light bulb was awarded five out of a possible six points. Another student drew pictures to illustrate Einstein the scientist as "trapped" and "blind." Another picture, intended to represent a sheet of music, illustrated "a masterpiece such as a syphony [sic]." The student also described the scientist as "determined." Einstein the person was depicted as "peaceful," along with a hand-drawn peace sign; "open-minded," illustrated by open windows; "beautiful inside," pictured as a butterfly; "conscious-alive," along with a picture of an electrocardiogram; and "a grain of sand," pictured as a dot.

Despite the misspellings and the absence of any reference to Einstein's pioneering scientific insights or his role in the nuclear age, the latter student was awarded a perfect score of six on this question.

When Toni Blake discussed proper timing of condom application while using a banana as a prop in the human sexuality class she taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she remarked that men, like basketball players, sometimes "dribble before they shoot." One of Blake's male students immediately pressed sexual harassment charges against her, accusing her of "objectifying his penis" and thus creating a "hostile academic environment for him as a man." Blake was pulled from teaching the human sexuality class while the case was pending.


After Jeremy Rifkin admitted to murdering seventeen women, mostly prostitutes, his lawyer identified the reason: he was rejected by his biological mother. Rifkin apparently believed that his biological mother, who gave him up for adoption as an infant, may have been a prostitute, explaining why "he sought refuge in the world of prostitutes." The reason he killed them, alas, was that "He strangled women to ease his suffering."

Dr. David Kirshner, who testified on Rifkin's behalf, identified the following symptoms common to sufferers of "adopted child syndrome": "pathological lying, learning problems, running away, sexual promiscuity, an absence of normal guilt and anxiety, and extreme antisocial behavior."

[Ed.: Rifkin is not related to the noted environmentalist and beef critic.]

At a production of the play "Faith Healer" at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, an actress playing a chain-smoking character was interrupted in the middle of her monologue by a member of the audience who hectored her about cancer and declared that the theater was a non-smoking venue. Management later placed signs in the lobby warning that actors smoke onstage, though the playwright and the director changed the play to make the offending character smoke less.

Nevada prison inmate Kenny Parker filed suit against state officials for "cruel and unusual punishment" after they gave him a jar of creamy peanut butter when he had explicitly ordered chunky. One of Parker's jailmates—convicted first-degree murderer David Bean—sued the state because the jeans he was given were too tight, "causing rashes and epileptic seizures." Florida's Robert Procup sued when he got just one bread roll on his dinner plate, and sued again when prison officials failed to provide him a salad at lunch.

Under Cincinnati's new human-rights ordinance, discrimination against "Appalachian Americans" is forbidden.

From a list of special designations for June, in Chase's Annual Events 1994 a directory of holidays, commemorations, festivals, historical anniversaries, and other notable dates in 1994, published by Contemporary Books, in Chicago:

American Rivers Month
To focus attention on the outstanding scenic, recreational, and aesthetic benefits offered by our rivers and streams. Sponsored by American Rivers, Inc.

Cancer in the Sun Month
To promote education and awareness of the dangers of skin cancer from too much exposure to the sun. Sponsored by the Pharmacy Council of Dermatology.

June is Turkey Lover's Month
To promote awareness and increase turkey consumption at a non-holiday time. Sponsored by the National Turkey Federation.

National Accordion Awareness Month
To increase awareness of this multicultural instrument and its influence on today's music. Sponsored by Those Darn Accordions!

National Dreamwork Month
To encourage us to tune into the symbolic language of dreams, keep a dream journal, and recognize the empowerment of the subtle messages sent by the subconscious to the conscious mind. Sponsored by Jean Benedict Raffa.

National Frozen Yogurt Month
To inform the public of the benefits and colorful history of frozen yogurt. Sponsored by TCBY.

National Papaya Month
To celebrate the peak of Hawaiian Papaya season and to encourage customers to enjoy Hawaiian papaya for its taste and nutritious value. Sponsored by the Papaya Administrative Committee.

National Pest-Control Month
To recognize the fine work of the professional pest-control operators who do so much to give us clean and safe homes, workplaces, hospitals, restaurants, and recreational areas. Sponsored by Orkin Pest Control.


At the University of California at Santa Cruz, a large-scale multicultural brouhaha erupted over a routine decision about a college dinner menu. By the time it was all over, it had widened to accommodate professional vendettas and caused several besieged and demoralized administrators to resign.

Two colleges, Crown and Merrill, share the same dining facilities. Weeks ahead of the incident, Merrill had chosen an Asian theme for the dinner menu, but a Crown assistant Kyoko Freeman, a Japanese-American alumna, noticed that the dinner happened to fall on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. She brought this information to Crown staff members, who, mindful of the memories that day evoked, decided that there would be better times to celebrate Asian-American relations and chose a non-ethnic theme for the night.

Merrill had recently redefined the meal as Filipino, but this failed to materialize because Filipino students failed to supply the food manager with recipes. Some Merrill students started to pass a rumor through the dining hall that the staff at Crown (which has more Asian students than any other UCSC college) had refused to serve Filipino food because they blamed Filipinos and all Asians for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Late that evening Crown's Provost Peggy Musgrave was roused out of bed by a phone call from City-on-a-Hill Press, the student newspaper. The reporter demanded to know why Crown had refused to follow Merrill's choice of menu. Having just heard about the issue for the first time at the dinner itself, Musgrave reiterated the reasons the college staff had given her concerning Pearl Harbor Day, which she thought sensible. The newspaper mangled the Provost's statement beyond recognition: "Musgrave implied that for one day each year, Asians should not express their 'unpatriotic' culture, but instead eat all-American to denounce that shameful aspect of their history." The article also linked the events at Crown to the Japanese internment in U.S. concentration camps during World War II.

Over the next few days, fliers blanketed the campus that denounced the Crown administration as "racist." Crown staff members were besieged by angry student delegations and phone calls, including death threats. One observer later testified that "half the staff was in tears on a regular basis—the place was like a morgue."

Reuters, June 12, 1994:
A giant flying condom took to the air over Brussels Sunday to celebrate the first Europe-wide campaign against AIDS.

The 100-foot-long kite billowed out over the city's Cinquantenaire park, near the European Union's main offices, as the "Europe against AIDS" drive began. Twenty countries in western and eastern Europe will hand out packs of condoms to tourists and young people this summer.


National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" (June 11, 1994) inquired into why there were absolutely no clocks to be found in the new Pittsburgh airport. The airport's aviation manager said that they decided not to install clocks because they might be sued if someone missed a flight because the clocks showed the wrong time.

The Federal Communications Commission plans to have ten cars cruising the streets of America, each loaded with $75,000 worth of equipment to detect unlicensed radio signals and signals causing interference. Each car contains two computers, a mobile phone, a color printer, and a satellite receiver in the trunk. The FCC plans one day to have a total of seventy such cars, two for each of its thirty-five field offices. The agency said that it usually detects two or three pirate radio signals each month.


Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska complained on the Senate floor that a lobbying reform bill would ruin his social life by ending lobbyist-sponsored parties and free tickets to the opera, and would also prevent lobbyists from picking up the tab after an expensive dinner. Lest he be accused of selfishness, he also voiced concern on behalf of the local economy, stating that "ninety percent" of restaurants in Washington would go out of business and that the Kennedy Center for the Arts would turn into a ghost hall.

At a speech at the University of Toledo, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told the audience that whites facilitate black-on-black violence to cull body parts from the carnage. "If a white person needs a kidney or a heart, they say, 'Get us a nigger,' " Farrakhan said. "When you're killing each other, they can't wait for you to die. You've become good for parts."

After the state of Florida, presumably interested in developing new sources of revenue, levied a 50 percent tax on income derived from drug deals, the state supreme court ruled that the tax is unconstitutional because it violates guarantees against self-incrimination by requiring drug dealers to sign a document detailing their illegal activities.

Carol Kleiman from her "Women at Work" column in the Chicago Tribune, March 24, 1994:
Sociologist Mary Frances Stuck of the State University of New York at Oswego has found that women "tend to think of computers as productivity tools," to be used only to get the job done.

Women reportedly believe that using networking systems at work may be a waste of valuable time; at home, women often are too tired or too busy with household responsibilities to enjoy the luxury of "playing" with the computer.

Men, on the other hand, "tend to look at computers as things to be explored... as toys," Stuck says. They see computers as a challenge to be conquered.

There's another problem, too. Some women report being sexually harassed on mainstream on-line systems. That's why, I believe, 90 percent of the 700 subscribers to Women's Wire of San Francisco are female—and unharassed.

Overall, despite the fact that twice as many women as men work at desktop computers, men are much more active on-line users.

Stuck doesn't mention another factor that makes women reject computer services: Much of the terminology of computer technology was invented by men to appeal to men.

But women pay a price for being turned off by terms such as "hardware" and "software" or by systems described as being "up" or "down."


On New Year's morning of 1989, Paul Cox broke into the bedroom of a married couple, both medical doctors, and slashed them to death. The murder remained unsolved until Cox confessed his crime to several fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Cox's defense consisted at various times of the following propositions:

  1. He thought the couple were his parents, because they were sleeping in the bedroom of the home in which he and his parents used to live.

  2. A psychologist once told him that he had "patricidal and matricidal tendencies."

  3. He was in a "drunken stupor."

  4. He was "temporarily insane" and "really snapped."

  5. He had to confess to his fellow AA members because he was "obligated" to follow the rules of AA in order to recover.
Adele Walker, a lawyer who specializes in legal claims of confidentiality, argued that since AA goes so much good, confessions of a fellow recovering alcoholic—like confessions to a priest or a psychiatrist—should not be admissible at a trial. "It doesn't seem right. It's like he's being punished for recovering."

The McMinnville, Oregon, News-Register, June 5, 1994:
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality expressed concern that Yamhill County Public Works employees may eat contaminated dirt... [Public Works Director Bill] Gille will inform the DEQ that employees have been put on notice that the contaminated dirt is not edible.

The University of Maine at Augusta is now offering courses such as "Swedish Massage," "Past Life Regressions," "Introduction to Polarity Therapy," and "At the Hand of the Goddess."

According to the Postal Service, Chicago has the lowest customer-satisfaction rating of any major city. In February 1994, 40,000 pieces of undelivered mail—some more than two months old—were found in a driver's truck. A few weeks later a quarter-ton of undelivered mail, some of it nearly 20 years old, was found in one Chicago-area post office. And just a few hours earlier, police had found more than 100 pounds of mail burning under a viaduct.

In May 1994, Chicago firefighters found 5,670 pieces of flat mail and 364 pounds of bulk mail in the attic of postal carrier Robert K. Beverly. And in October, firefighters in Washington, D.C. discovered four truckloads of mail in the apartment of postal carrier Robert W. Boggs. Local residents say they saw carriers throwing mail into garbage cans or dumpsters.


The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., featured a show on "minimalism," in which sometimes quite ordinary objects are offered as art. Included, for example, was a wrapped package, in brown paper and string, entitled "Package," by Christo. According to the Washington Post, when gallery technician Glenn Perry was installing some of the exhibits with the aid of his tool cart, "several patrons and critics" gathered around the cart and studied it, as if it were an exhibit, before Perry finished his work and rolled the cart away.

[Ed.: Christo is famous for "wrapping" large structures such as buildings with fabric, and for constructing gigantic umbrellas in the California desert. A Japanese tourist was killed when one of these umbrellas broke free during a period of high winds, offering yet another reason to stay away from modern art.]


In Chicago, Postal Service executive Celestine Green spent more than $200,000 to build herself a four-room office suite, complete with a $4,000 toilet, a whirlpool bath, and a full kitchen with an automatic dishwasher, in a building that was scheduled to be vacated in a year and a half. Rather than lose her job when the expense was discovered, Ms. Green was transferred with full pay and benefits to Columbia, South Carolina.

In 1986, Gaston and Monique Roberge, a couple in their seventies, had a contract to sell their retirement nest egg, a 2.8-acre vacant lot. But the Army Corps of Engineers claimed that the lot included wetland and unapproved fill. The fill predated the Clean Water Act under which the Corps claims to regulate wetlands, and wetland preservation is never mentioned in that Act. But the Corps harassed the Roberges for years, denying permits and demanding dirt removal costing $100,000—as much as the land was worth. In 1991 the Roberges got help from the Maryland-based Fairness to Landowners Committee, which turned up a July 1987 memo from Army Corps officer Jay Clement that stated: "Roberge would be a good one to squash and set an example." Clement signed himself "Maytag Repairman," suggesting he was underworked and bored. Faced with this evidence, the federal government provided $338,000 to the Roberges in settlement of a lawsuit they brought against the Army Corps of Engineers. It is worth remembering that the activities of the Army Corps of Engineers and the compensation of the Roberges both came from taxpayer funds.