An Inclusive Litany


While Los Angeles was ravaged by riots that ultimately left more than 50 people dead, over 2,000 injured, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, Pia Zadora threw what she called a "riot party" on the roof of her Hollywood home.

In October 1990, Miriam Swann was arrested and convicted for negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident after her car struck a bicycle cart driven by Mary Ramos, killing her three small children.

Since Swann had minimal insurance and assets, Ramos's lawyer Wayne Kikena relied upon Hawaii's Joint and Several Liability Law, under which a secondary party found to be even 1 percent liable for damages can be forced to pay 100 percent of a judgement.

Going after that 1 percent, Kikena has brought a suit against Winchester Originals, Inc. and Everett Manufacturing Co., manufacturers of the bicycle cart and seat, alleging that they were defective products and that the companies had failed to warn the public of the danger. According to Kikena, the tan-colored seat and the tan and pale yellow cart "blended" into the surroundings, and it was therefore the fault of the manufacturers that Swann failed to see the cart. Kikena argues that the colors should have been bright instead of "earth tones."

Inconveniently for Kikena's case, Swann had earlier testified that she fell asleep at the wheel. Kikena, however, says he believes that more brightly colored bicycle equipment might have kept her awake.

During a speech, Jack Kevorkian, the retired Michigan pathologist known as "Doctor Death" for assisting several people to commit suicide, explained why his patients take their lives in places such as public parks. "I can't do it in my apartment... I'd be thrown out. It's in the lease."

Ostensibly launched as a scientific project to create a complex, self-sustaining ecosystem under a sealed dome in the Arizona desert, Biosphere 2 has received much derision from scientists since it was revealed that supplies were secretly imported and air pumped in after the Biosphereans were "sealed" inside. Commenting on the plummeting levels of oxygen inside the structure, which have caused some Biosphereans to reach for pure oxygen at night, Scott McMullen of Space Biosphere Ventures deflected charges that the experiment failed conceptually and instead reached more sweeping conclusions. McMullen cited a scientist who says that the Earth is losing 13 parts of oxygen per million a year: "It may be that Biosphere 2 is experiencing the same problem as the planet is."

Under California's 8.25 percent snack tax, doughnuts are not counted as a snack, but doughnut holes are subject to the surcharge.


A brief exchange between Bill Moyers and Sarah Lawrence College professor Joseph Campbell on the six-hour-long public broadcasting taffee pull, "The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers":
Campbell: To see through the fragments of time to the full power of original being—that is the function of art.

Moyers: Beauty is an expression of that rapture of being alive.

Campbell: Every moment should be such an experience.

Moyers: And what we are going to become tomorrow is not important as compared to this experience.

Campbell: This is a great moment, Bill.

[Ed.: During a periodic fundraiser in the spring of 1997, one Boston-area PBS station featured an infomercial-style lecture by Dr. Deepak Chopra on the subject of your "Inner Wizard" (i.e., Merlyn). Chopra's lecture was supplemented by dramatic readings of his texts by the actors Martin Sheen and Robert ("Benson") Guillaume, and was attended by a rapt studio audience. At the same time, the other PBS station featured a documentary on Dr. Andrew Weil, an "herbal practitioner." As a result, my own television viewing that day vacillated between "Baywatch" and "American Kickboxer." Typical fundraisers also feature special musical performances by John Tesh, The Moody Blues, Yanni, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.]

A pair of academicians released a report that concluded that "The Cosby Show," in its favorable portrayal of middle-class African-American family life, had desensitized whites to the problems of most blacks. Said one, the show sends "a message that black people can make it if they try." The study was funded by none other than Bill Cosby himself.

As a way of grappling with the deeply ingrained Western ideal of female passivity, "Paula," a member of the Mohawk Nation who serves as an "anti-bias training facilitator," made use of dog and teddy bear surrogate puppets for the far more assertive and unwelcome task of directing foot traffic at the 1992 National Women's Studies Association Conference in Austin, Texas. "Teddy and his friend say it's time to go back inside," one attendee quoted her as saying.

From the African-American Baseline Essays, a set of six essays, published by the Portland school board in 1987, that provide resource materials and references on the contributions of Africans and African-Americans for various school systems nationwide. One of the goals of this essay, by Hunter Havelin Adams, an industrial hygiene technician at the Argonne National Laboratory and high school graduate, is "mastering the basic concepts of mathematics and science." To that elusive end, Adams outlines the astronomical knowledge of the Dogon people of Mali:
They knew the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter, the spiral structure of the Milky Way, where our star system lies. They claimed that billions of stars spiral in space like the circulation of blood in the human body.... Perhaps the most remarkable facet of their knowledge is their knowing intricate details of the Sirius star system, which presently can only be detected with powerful telescopes. The Dogon knew of the white dwarf companion star of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. They knew its approximate mass ("it is composed of 'sagala,' an extremely heavy, dense metal such that all the earthly beings combined cannot lift it") its orbital period (50 years) and its axial rotation period (one year). Furthermore, they knew of a third star that orbits Sirius and its planet [sic]. The X-ray telescope aboard the Einstein Orbiting Observatory recently confirmed the existence of the third star. The Dogon with no apparent instrument at their disposal appear to have known these facts for at least 500 years.
Adams offers no evidence for this claim. It should also be noted that Sirius B is rather dim, and cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is easy to miss even with the aid of a telescope.

In the same essay, Adams dwells on misunderstandings that surround Ancient Egyptians' mastery of " 'magic' (psi), precognition, psychokinesics, remote viewing and other undeveloped human capabilities":

[W]e must first know the extremely significant distinction between (non-science) "magic" and (science) psychoenergetics.... Psychoenergetics (also known in the scientific community as parapsychology and psychotronics) is the multidisciplinary study of the interface and interaction of human consciousness with energy and matter.... Psi, as a true scientific discipline, is being seriously investigated at prestigious universities all over the world (e.g., Princeton and Duke). We are concerned here only with psi in Egypt, not "magic" ... its efficacy depended on a precise sequence of actions, performed at specific times and under controlled environmental conditions, facilitated by the "hekau" (the Egyptian term for professional psi engineers).... Today in a similar manner, psi is researched and demonstrated in controlled laboratory and field experiments.
According to the essay, Egyptians diagnosed and treated "transmaterial disturbances" of the primordial life-energy known as "za" with a "therapeutic touch" procedure that is considered controversial and readily dismissed by Western scientists. For this material, Adams cites one of his own lectures.

Adams also notes that Egyptians developed a theory of species evolution at least 2000 years before Charles Darwin, and offers as evidence a quote from "The Book of Knowing and Evolutions (the becomings) of Ra (the creator sun god)":

The words of Neb-er-ter who speaks concerning his coming into existence: "I am he who evolved himself under the form of the god Khepra (scarab beetle), that was evolved at the "first time." I the evolver of evolutions, evolved myself from the primordial matter which I had made ... which has evolved multitudes of evolutions at their "first time."
The essay also claims that ancient Egyptians anticipated many of the philosophical aspects of quantum theory, that they understood the wave/particle nature of light, that they could electroplate gold, that they were able to predict pregnancy by urinating on barley seeds, and that "enclosed with the Great Pyramid are the value of pi, the principle of the golden section, the number of days in the tropical year, the relative diameters of the earth at the equator and the poles, and ratiometric distances of the planets from the sun, the approximate mean length of the earth's orbit around the sun, the 26,000-year cycle of the equinoxes, and the acceleration of gravity." A section on aeronautics claims that Egyptians produced a model of a perfectly aerodynamic glider that was then sequestered for thousands of years in a tomb near Saquara. True enough, since the "model" was a statue of a bird.

[Ed.: Wasn't there supposed to be some sort of prohibition on teaching religion as science in public schools?]

Disagreement over California's policy of trapping and killing foxes in the Ballona Wetlands has been heated. Local environmental groups claim that the swiftly reproducing foxes, which were accidentally introduced into the area by man, are decimating endangered species of birds. Animal-rights activists strongly object to the killing of the foxes, and have been leaving death threats on the answering machines of local environmentalists who support the program.

The most harmful game that children could play is musical chairs, according to Mary Ann Tobert, Ph.D. at Temple University in Philadelphia and director of the Leonard Gordon Institute for Human Development Through Play. Tobert claims the game of musical chairs appeared innocuous but is actually quite harmful to developing children. "Musical chairs is a lousy game," according to Tobert. "In the game the child who is unable to find a chair is out. They're learning that they're losers. They're also learning that if they want to stay in there, they have to knock everyone else out of the way. It's very 'me-centered.' "


Jeantz Martin, Specialist Assistant/Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), criticizes the following terms when referring to people with disabilities: "Afflicted With—connotes pain and suffering. Most people with disabilities are not in pain, nor do they suffer. Confined to a Wheelchair—A wheelchair doesn't confine; it frees someone. Deaf and Dumb—People who are deaf have healthy vocal cords. If they do not speak, it is because they have never heard the pronunciation of words. Invalid—This word means literally 'not valid.' Everybody is valid."

At the John Jay dorm at Columbia University, Residence Advisers organized a series of group sessions for Alcohol Awareness Week. While the RAs arranged separate groups for blacks, women, gays, and lesbians, white male heterosexuals were not included in the alcoholism counseling.

Like most federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency maintains a fleet of cars for official use. And like most agencies, the EPA is partial to luxury cars—Lincoln Town Cars and Crown Victorias, in particular. In fact, the EPA fleet averages only 6.3 miles per gallon, less than 25 percent of federal fuel-efficiency standards.

In an effort to attract tourists, North Korea is offering a honeymoon travel package that includes visits to a maternity hospital and an irrigation dam.

An examination of the Resolution Trust Corporation found expense records such as $3,098 for thirty-six coffee mugs and twelve T-shirts ($64.50 per item) and $1,800 for two breast pumps.

Explaining California's new snack tax, State Board of Equalization chairman Brad Sherman noted: "Our staff has reflected Solomonic wisdom in determining that regular matzo, your full-size bread of affliction as mentioned in the Torah, is not a cracker, which is taxable. However, matzo miniatures have been determined to be crackers since there's no evidence when the people of Israel left the land of Egypt that they were popping bite-size matzos into their mouths."

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 criminalizes the sale of "Indian" art by non-Indians (Native Americans, that is). Under the law, European-inspired art created by an Indian is considered Indian art, and an impeccably woven Navajo blanket by a non-Indian is not. The law is overseen by the Interior Department's Indian Arts and Crafts Board, and it imposes a fine of $250,000 and five years in prison for first offenders. As a result, art festivals have dropped the word "Indian" from their titles, and Indians whose ancestors were not eager at the turn of the century to register with the Dawes Commission, which signed up Indians as a first step towards land allocation, have had to go to tribal councils seeking certification as "Indians" before selling their wares. Bert Seabourn, a famous painter of Cherokee descent whose work hangs in the Vatican, has been unable to obtain certification from the Cherokee tribe.

Prior to his 1992 presidential run, Pat Buchanan wrote a column in which he considered the possibility of annexing parts of Anglophone Canada. As Buchanan sees it, "There is nothing wrong with Americans dreaming of a nation which, by the year 2000, encompasses the maritime and Western provinces of Canada, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, all the way to the Pole, and contains the world's largest island, Greenland, purchased from Denmark, giving the Republic a land mass rivalling that of the U.S.S.R."

Following a fatal auto accident in which he played no part, Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Australian student, was surrounded by a crowd of angry blacks in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. As the crowd chanted "Kill the Jew! Kill the Jew!" Rosenbaum, a Hassid, was stabbed and mortally wounded. A police officer arriving at the scene arrested Lemrick Nelson, Jr. Nelson was brought to the dying Rosenbaum, who identified him as his assailant. The bloody murder weapon was found in Nelson's pocket and he confessed to police that he had indeed committed the crime. Nelson was later acquitted by a jury of six blacks, four Hispanics, and two whites.

The Boston Herald, October 11, 1992:
The night of May 13, 1984, David Freeman, a Duxbury firefighter, crept into the room where his wife was sleeping and beat her so severely with a club that her injuries are lifelong. Concern over Freemen's mental stability prompted the Board of Selectmen to remove him from the job.

Last month, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination—noting Freeman was found innocent of assault by reason of temporary insanity—cited the town for "handicap discrimination." The MCAD restored the 52-year-old Freeman to his job and awarded him $200,000 for back pay and emotional distress plus 12 percent interest.

When the National Cristina Foundation sponsored a "Create a New Word" contest to find "a new word or phrase which focuses on the abilities of people with disabilities," B. Freer Freeman came in first place with "people with differing abilities." Other entries included "differently abled," "handi-capable," and "severely euphemized."

Freeman was awarded a prize of $50,000 for his winning entry, an amount some critics within the disability rights movement said would have been better spent assisting people with differing abilities.

1992 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Rigoberta Menchu, from her autobiography, I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala:
If we couldn't use our escape route or any other of our security measures, we should at least have our weapons ready—the weapons of the people: machetes, stones, hot water, chile, salt. We found a use for all these things. We knew how to throw stones, we knew how to throw salt in someone's face—how to do it effectively... We've often used lime. Lime is very fine and you have to aim it in a certain way for it to go in someone's eyes. We learned to do it through practice; we practiced taking aim and watching where the enemy is. You can blind a policeman by throwing lime in his face. And with stones, for instance, you have to throw it at the enemy's head, at his face. If you throw it at his back, it will be effective but not as much as at other parts of the body.

[Ed.: Note that Menchu did not win the literature prize. In 1998 anthropologist Clifford Stoll found that while there had been much brutal violence in Guatemala, many of Menchu's autobiographical accounts were fabricated to suit the ideology of the revolutionary leftist group she later joined. Her brother Nicolas, whom she described as having died of malnutrition, was actually still alive and running a moderately prosperous homestead in a Guatemalan village. She also fabricated her account of how a second brother was burned alive by army troops as her parents were forced to watch. Scenes of her impoverished family being forced off their land by ruthless oligarchs turned out to have their basis in a simple land dispute that pitted Rigoberta's father against his in-laws. Though described as poor and oppressed, her father actually held title to 6,800 acres of land. And though she describes herself as having been illiterate and monolingual as a child because her father refused to send her to school, she attended two elite Catholic boarding schools, whose nuns say she knew Spanish as well as Mayan.

The Nobel committee said that it would not rescind the prize even though her only credential for winning was her life story, as narrated in her autobiography. Many academics insisted they would continue to include the popular multicultural book in their courses. Marjorie Agosin, head of the Spanish department at Wellesley College, said, "Whether her book is true or not, I don't care." Joanne Rappaport, president of the Society of Latin American Anthropology, told a reporter that questions over the book's authenticity were "an attempt to discredit one of the only spokespersons of Guatemala's indigenous movement." John Peeler, political science professor at Bucknell University, says that "the Latin American tradition of the testimonial has never been bound by the strict rules of veracity that we have taken for granted in autobiography."]

White sociologist Andrew Hacker is the latest expert on black authenticity. Participating in a roundtable discussion reported in Essence, Hacker, the author of Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal, explained that General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had to act white to succeed in the military. Hacker said, "He put 99 percent of himself, or his black self, on hold, in the back, because he was ambitious, wanted to get ahead, and did."

Daniel Pelletier, employee at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Merrimack, New Hampshire, injured his back while bowling in a company league in 1988. He missed about nine weeks of work and filed for workman's compensation on the theory that he was "on the job" when the injury occurred. After a successful appeal by Anheuser-Busch, Pelletier's lawyer, Lee Nyquist, argued before the state Supreme Court that because the company sponsored the bowling league by donating $2,000 to its operating costs, "the risk" that led to his client's injury was "created by Anheuser-Busch."


Some of the panels offered at the "1992 English Department Graduate Colloquium: Pedagogy and Values," which was held at the University of Texas:

  • Feminism, Marxism, and Cultural Activism in the University
  • Rethinking Pedagogy in Light of Postmodernism
  • Desire in the Classroom: A Pedagogical Rubric
  • Coming Out Professionally: The Responsibility of Gay and Straight Faculty
  • Gender and Trauma in the Classroom
  • Teaching Writing and the Lesbian Subject
  • Writing, Power, and Homophobia in the Computer-Mediated Classroom
  • Learning Composition and Literature from Women of Color
  • Teaching Reading and Writing as a History of Competition Between Social Discourses
  • The Cultural Trope of Literacy and the Rhetoric of Grammar
  • The Shifting Subject(s) of Literary Study; or, How Do You Spell 'Hegemony'?

In Baltimore, Stephanie Washington-Bey is suing a fast food restaurant for $150,000, claiming that the tea it sold her was a "defective product"—because it was hot. She charges Hardee's with failing to label her cup of tea with a warning that the beverage was scalding hot, and that as a result it burned her lips, causing her to spill it, leaving second-degree burns and permanent scars on her left leg.

Pop singer Sinead O'Connor, while performing a Bob Marley song called "War" on "Saturday Night Live," ripped up a photograph of the pope as a protest against child abuse and in favor of abortion rights, shouting, "You've got to know who the real enemy is. Fight the real enemy!" NBC quickly distanced itself from O'Connor following the incident, saying that her opinions were not those of the network—NBC does not oppose the Pope. What's more, NBC claimed that in rehearsal, O'Connor had only ripped up the photograph of a baby.

Parents of seniors at Washington's Woodrow Wilson High School were informed that seniors at the school would not receive college recommendations from teachers unless their parents write to three city officials (city council member, superintendent, and school board member) protesting the District's low salaries and furlough policy for teachers. To make sure parents complied, teachers required them to send the letters to the teachers along with three addressed and stamped envelopes.

After a law was passed in Florida that required some community colleges to provide free schooling for the homeless, there was an influx of mentally ill enrollees, perhaps attracted by money—up to $4,000 in Pell grants, guaranteed student loans and other financial aid. In one incident, two mentally disturbed students were forced off school grounds by police after they caused a disruption at the student financial aid office. One of them, according to campus security, had a criminal record and lived underneath Interstate 595, while the other had been known to occasionally disrupt his classes with loud, off-key singing. Another man was expelled for exposing himself in the library.

From an interview with Rachel Rosenthal, a Los Angeles performance artist, in the 1991/1992 issue of Mime Journal, published annually by Claremont College, in Claremont, California:
The pieces that I am working on now, after having gone though nuclear power and other things like toxic waste, the animal question, the human brain, are more and more concerned with "the big picture." You have to begin to get a sense of time that goes beyond human time. So I'm working now on a piece that deals with plate tectonics. To me, it's a sexy subject. The piece is called "Pangaean Dreams," Pangaea being the supercontinent that existed 250 million years ago and out of which the continents drifted to form the geography we have today. I performed the first version in Tucson, Arizona, and I was surprised and deeply hurt that a critic who gave me a good review said something like, "Well, it may not seem like a real exciting subject, but the way Rachel plays it, it was." What can be more exciting than plate tectonics?