An Inclusive Litany


The Park School of Brookline, Massachusetts, has eliminated departmental awards and replaced them with a "Day of Accomplishment" in which students celebrate a personal achievement of their own choosing. A tie-dyed T-shirt and a model of Mount Everest are among the items students "enjoy and take pride in," according to the school's bulletin. School Headmaster Robert Hurlbut commented on the elimination of departmental awards: "In the past during this time for praise, some students went away with a sense of sadness or disappointment."

The cover of Esquire's February, 1992, issue featured the words "WHITE PEOPLE" in giant block letters. Below it, "The Trouble with America" was printed in small type.


Three animal rights groups have named a dolphin as a plaintiff in their lawsuit against Boston's New England Aquarium.

In Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho, seventy-year-old Rose Christman was the subject of an undercover sting operation. She was selling lipstick and cosmetics in her own home, a violation of a zoning law that prohibited commercial activity on her side of the street. Christman started selling her Avon wares at home when she began suffering from arthritis and allergies. Paul Telebar, who is in charge of zoning enforcement, responded that he has "no intention of putting her out of business. Our intention is simply to conform to the zoning regulations in her neighborhood. Laws are laws."

At the University of Iowa, fifty students enrolled for a class called "American Popular Arts: Elvis as Anthology." The class, led by Professor Peter Nazareth, will "concentrate on the music and singers Elvis Presley was influenced by, copied, mimicked, paid tribute to or reworked... The purpose of listening to the music... is to see that there was a whole lotta signifyin' going on," according to the syllabus.

Nazareth says he "imagines Elvis as a book that you open up, and you find so many people in the book." Or, according to the syllabus, that Elvis "contained a series of doors that opened inward into America, breaking down racial barriers at a time when the struggle for racial equality was taking place. In doing so, the doors opened out into the whole wide world." The course will establish connections between Elvis's style and the styles of Mahalia Jackson, Little Richard, Mario Lanza, Bing Crosby and Nat "King" Cole. Nazareth wants to explore the "multicultural Elvis."


When the Communist Party USA held its convention in Cleveland, the city council passed a "resolution of welcome" noting the party's good works. It read, in part, "Whereas, the Communist Party, USA, has a proud history of contributions in the defense of the rights of working people in the United States, and also has a proud history of contributions in the defense of democracy, civil rights, and peace..." The resolution, which was passed at the party's request, did not concern City Council President Jay Westbrook; he dismissed it as "run-of-the-mill"---a standard welcome for conventioneers.


After bystanders were wounded during a gang shootout in Las Palmas Park in San Fernando, California, gang members were banned from the park. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the ban as a violation of the constitutional right to free assembly. The measure requires police to make lists of gang members and inform them that they are banned from the park; former gang members would be allowed to re-enter the park only after formally renouncing membership.


In Seattle, Customs inspectors applied a chainsaw to an imported cigar store wooden Indian to check for narcotics. The Customs Service does not compensate property owners for damage it does during inspections, nor is it obliged to. In another case, Customs inspectors who were searching for drugs disassembled an entire airplane, and the owner had to put it back together again.

Five female employees of Stroh's brewery have sued the company for sexual harassment. They claim that the "Swedish Bikini Team" commercials that Stroh's uses for its Old Milwaukee brand foster a hostile work environment.

In an unusual wife-battering case, Mr. Kao Khae Saeo-han, 26, of Sacramento, California, became hysterical and repeatedly struck his wife with a frozen squirrel.

In some of Boston's public schools, children are required to pass through metal detectors before being allowed inside. Despite the heavy precautions and the conspicuous presence of guards on the school grounds, the students still heavily outgun the police. Any time a student becomes the victim of a stabbing or a shooting, both parents and students are called in to attend counseling sessions. What degree of psychological relief this counseling offers is difficult to gauge.

Soon after the defeat of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election, in which he ran on a platform that emphasized ethics in government, it was discovered that state welfare administrators had been secretly supplying illegal aliens with fraudulent Social Security numbers so that they could receive welfare benefits. It is illegal for agencies other than the Social Security Administration to supply Social Security numbers, and it is also illegal for government agents to fail to report known illegal aliens.

The city of Omaha, Nebraska, announced that its $10,000 gun amnesty program would pay $50 for every real gun turned in and $1 for every toy gun. "Guns, real and toy, are a danger to our community when they are used in the wrong way," Mayor P.J. Morgan said. "With the toy-gun amnesty, we are trying to instill a knowledge that guns and violence have no place in our community."

A training manual distributed as Swarthmore College includes "inappropriate innuendo" within the "spectrum of incidents and behaviors" encompassed by the term "acquaintance rape."

State representative Doug Teper introduced legislation that would require the Georgia laws against fornication, adultery, and sodomy to be posted in hotel rooms. The bill also required that the warnings be in Braille and "international symbols" that describe these activities. Southern Voice magazine started a contest for the best design for these universal symbols, promising to publish the winning entry.

The city of Portland, Oregon developed an Afrocentric curriculum revolving around the African-American Baseline Essays, which was later used as a basic resource document by the cities of Atlanta, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and by Prince Georges County, Maryland. After claiming that ancient Egyptians were black and that much of subsequent Western civilization derived or was otherwise stolen from them, the outline evaded a rather touchy issue by describing ancient Hebrews as wanderers who entered Egypt to escape famine and who stayed on voluntarily as guest workers.

In Orlando, Florida, police spotted nearly a hundred people fleeing from the Club Space Fish Cafe, where the punk-rock group GG and the Murder Junkies were performing their act, which included urination, defecation, self-mutilation, nudity, eating their own excrement, and hurling it into the crowd. The music was only so-so.

After engaging in oral sex in a first-class compartment aboard a train from Margate, England, to London, a couple moved to a packed second-class compartment and, according to authorities, performed "full sexual intercourse." Other passengers ignored them—until they had finished and lit cigarettes. Several annoyed passengers complained to the conductor that the compartment was designated non-smoking. The couple was fined $142 for violating smoking regulations.

Ted Kennedy, Jr. wrote to the Boston Globe to complain about an article on "treatment techniques" for birthmarks, when actually, he pointed out, "our attitude is the problem, and that can never be corrected surgically."

Vanity Fair, November 1991:
Koons's current work was inspired by Ilona Staller's pornographica—both her photographic work and her performances in which she sings and dances naked. "Ilona uses her body in the way another artist uses a paintbrush or a chisel," Koons told me. His manner is puppyish, urgent: his eyes have an earnest glow. He speaks with the soft monotone of a theological seminarian. "She uses her genitalia. And she communicates a very precise language with her genitalia."

Just what do Ilona's genitalia say?

Marina, the interpreter, a fine-boned Venetian with an expression at once alert and baffled, gave a nervous giggle.

"The vocabulary tells you that you can find a lot of beauty in life. You must embrace life. And there's no reason not to have confidence. Life can be really beautiful!"

On behalf of a teenage girl who had shot and killed another girl in a fight over a coat, her defense lawyer announced that she might use a defense of "cultural psychosis," which came as a result of the generalized trauma of inner-city life.

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, an independent federal agency whose members are appointed by the president, decreed that all bank automated teller machines, which cost banks $3.1 billion, must be made accessible to the visually impaired to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The order included drive-up ATMs.

The Department of Labor has determined that Job Corps trainees are "employed" if they have had a job interview and counts trainees as "permanently employed" if they have spent one day on the job.

Novelist James Michener in Parade, November 26, 1991:
The best money I have spent in my life was not that used to make me either happier or more comfortable, but the taxes I have paid to the various governments under which I have lived. In general, governments have spent their share of my money more wisely and with better results than I have spent my own funds, and one aspect of my life about which I am most ashamed is that I spent most of a decade living in three states that had no state income tax—Texas, Florida, and Alaska—and the deficiencies that the first two suffered because of that lack were evident daily. I like states like New York, Massachusetts, and California, which do tax and spend their income wisely.

Phoenix, Arizona, enacted a zoning regulation that new homes use Spanish tile roofs—an ornate touch that adds up to $6,000 to new home prices. Coral Gables, Florida, requires Spanish tile roofs on any children's playhouses in families' backyards. Local governments have even invoked zoning codes to require builders of apartment buildings to install whirlpool tubs and special electric ranges (in one case identified by brand name).

The biggest piece of federal legislation in 1986 was the tax reform bill. The biggest piece of legislation in 1987 was a bill correcting mistakes in the tax reform. The revised 1987 bill consisted of 1,489 pages, along with another 1,124 pages to explain how it worked. In addition, the Senate was required by its own rules to reprint the original bill as passed by the House of Representatives, with all the words they disagreed with crossed out. Since the Senate rewrote the bill from scratch, the result was that they printed 4,500 copies of a 452-page document in which every single word was crossed out. The document is available for $17, and it's called HR 3838 As Reported in the Senate, Part I. So far it has sold 1,800 copies.

The following statement is provided by the State of New York to people taking its real estate license test:
Your examination application slip will be marked either PASSED or FAILED and returned to you by mail. Numerical scores are not given to prevent possible discriminatory employment practices based on achievement levels.

NBC's John Chancellor analyzes the problems faced by citizens of the crumbling Soviet Union, August 21, 1991:
It's short of soap, so there are lice in hospitals. It's short of pantyhose, so women's legs go bare. It's short snowsuits, so babies stay home in winter.... The problem isn't communism; nobody even talked about communism this week. The problem is shortages.

The former president of Duke University appointed a committee to search out "disrespectful facial expressions" aimed at disadvantaged students.

In a move to protect the public from fraudulent operators, The city of Arlington, Massachusetts now requires a license to become a storefront psychic.

A public notice—Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, August 9, 1991:
... The application of Deborah Anne Ziegler for change of name(s) having been filed in court, and it appearing from said application that Deborah Anne Ziegler has filed an application proposing that her name(s) be changed to Euphrasia Lavette Alzena Guri Scientia Ventura Ikiru Alvera Ganbatte Gelasia Curvilinearjsky ...

On Mother's Day, 1991, the New York Times editorially endorsed, in opposition to the hierarchical and patriarchal religion of the Bible, worship of the goddess Gaia.

Spike Lee was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying that blacks should skip school or work to watch his new movie about Malcolm X, due to open up in November. Lee told the Times, "we're telling them that they've got to turn out to support this film and support Malcolm X. It's not Hollywood, this ain't Walt Disney. This is about the state of race relations in the world."

Lee added, "skipping school for the opening is okay because the film presents the American history that students are not getting in school. If they go see the film and write a report about what they've seen, the teachers can't hold that against them."

Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X's daughter, responded, "I do not request nor do I think my father would want you to play hooky... Stay in school and learn. Stay at your job and feed your family."

[Ed.: Mr. Lee later admitted he converted to Islam while filming the movie in order to get film footage in Mecca, the sacred city open only to Muslims.]

The IRS has issued rules that require the solving of quadratic equations, which yields more than one valid answer.

The city of Chicago issued a cease-and-desist order in 1984 to a couple using two personal computers in their home to write software and magazine articles.

In Highland Park, New Jersey, a rabbi was fined for having a photocopying machine, a filing cabinet, a typewriter, and miscellaneous business documents in his home, which violated a local ban on home offices.

The New York Observer, a weekly newspaper in Manhattan, fired columnist Sidney Zion because a female superior decreed that the paper "should begin getting rid of these middle-aged white men."

The city of Hollywood, Florida, found itself facing a $3.8 million bill for a computer system that city officials have no idea how to program. An auditor's report explained that even if the city could figure out how to program the computer, it would probably be obsolete by then.

Richard Redd, 46, the lawyer for the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police department, was charged with malfeasance in office for asking exotic dancers and professional escorts to bare their breasts when they applied to him for the $25 licenses the city required for people in their line of work.

Self-proclaimed witch Karlyn Straganana of Antioch, California, demanded that the Mount Diablo School District ban the fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel" because it teaches children that it is acceptable to kill witches. Straganana's complaint followed a mock trial by fifth-graders at a West Pittsburg school that found the children in the Grimm Brothers story acted in self-defense when they killed the witch. Noting that the tale depicts witches as child-eating monsters, Straganana said that the school "would not use a story that would put any other religion in a light like this."

Tom Hayden, from his autobiography, Reunion, in a passage that concerns his then future wife, Jane Fonda:
Jane was starting to cry. I kept flipping slides of grotesque young Saigon women, talking about the breasts and eye operations performed to turn them into round-eyed, round-bodied Westernized women... Suddenly I understood why she was weeping: I was talking about the image of superficial sexiness she once promoted and was now trying to shake. I looked at her in a new way. Maybe I could love someone like this.

From the liner notes to "Get Yer Jujus Out," an album by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey and his Inter-Reformers Band:
Late one night in 1985 Ebenezer Obey was playing to a packed house at S.O.B.s, Manhattan's third world watering hole. It was his first appearance since Island's promotional push for Sunny Ade', when suddenly there were people who knew that juju wasn't that multi-colored candy ground into floors at movie theaters, or some stuttering take on religion. The place was sizzling. The obligatory parade of Nigerian chiefs climbed to the stage in massive white robes to dash dollar bills onto Obey's sweat-soaked brow in an honored salute of respect. Club-goers bounced to the Chief Commander's miraculous, polyrhythmic juju—white and black, Wall-Street bedecked or downtown-garbed, it mattered little. It wasn't every day a band of 17 members locked into a transcendental groove graced such a tiny stage.

But my glance kept wandering back over my shoulder to a middle-aged gentleman with a broad, still-boyish face and spreading paunch who was cutting up the dance floor. Obey himself was staring too, flabbergasted. "Ladies and gentlemen," he beamed between songs, "I am so honored by our most esteemed guest." As well he would be. The Kennedys held something of the same spell over English-speaking Africa as they did in the U.S.—And there was big Ted getting down to the Inter-Reformers Band. "We welcome you." But Ted wouldn't look up and hardly acknowledged—he'd checked his dubious celebrity at the door. The Senator was there to boogie.