An Inclusive Litany


Members of Seattle Area Fat Feminist Inspiration and Rage (SAFFIR) staged a demonstration in favor of fat acceptance at a fashion show that featured Barbie dolls, fake blood, and a toilet bowl. Seattle Times correspondent Wylie Wong reported: "Barbie dolls were everywhere. Nude Barbie dolls with nooses around their necks. Clothed Barbie dolls in coffins. A toilet bowl filled with empty food cartons and diet books—and a nude Barbie doll—sat on the sidewalk." During the demonstration, SAFFIR member Diana Mackin paraded along the street "with a pink set of scales chained around her ankle. Fake blood oozed out of her stomach and thighs to show where women sometimes undergo surgery to get rid of fat."


An expelled medical student who successfully sued the New York University Medical School as a handicapped individual had, at various times in her life, overdosed on sleeping pills, injected herself with a powerful cancer drug, plunged a kitchen knife into her stomach, cut into her arteries and veins numerous times, and taken cyanide. In addition to self-abuse, she also didn't get along with doctors, on several occasions biting them, scratching them with her fingernails, or lunging at them with scissors. She was diagnosed with "Borderline Personality Disorder."

Michigan state Rep. William Bryant's new book, Quantum Politics, urges politicians to use force-field analysis and soul travel to help solve the nation's problems. Republican Bryant raised eyebrows a few years ago when he claimed to be part mountain lion.

Barkeepers in a Chicago suburb asked for a zoning change which would keep the Christ Community Church from moving into their neighborhood. Johnny Vasas, owner of a local bar, insists that the street chosen by the church has always been a "business street," and this is how the local bar owners want to keep it. The bar owners insist that putting a church on the same street as "fine establishments" such as the Grapevine Lounge and the Little Brown Jug would "destroy the ambience of the area."


As reported by the New York Times, William Kunstler of the Center for Constitutional Rights argues that if New York's St. Patrick's Day parade is not religious in nature, it is subject to New York's anti-discrimination laws and cannot exclude gays and lesbians. If it is religious, it is a violation of church and state since it requires police and other cooperation from the city. "Asked if his position would forbid any religious event in a public place, Mr. Kunstler said, 'I guess I am saying that.' "

The South Dakota state Supreme Court has ruled that a drunk found sleeping behind the wheel of a car may be convicted of drunk driving, even if the car isn't running and the person has the ignition key in his pocket.

Judge Robert Collins of Louisiana, serving the second year of a 6 1/2-year sentence for taking a bribe from a drug smuggler, is still pulling down a $133,600-a-year salary.

Representative Charles Canady (R-FL) has initiated the impeachment process in the House, and Representative George Sangmeister (D-IL) has introduced a bill that would automatically suspend the salary of any judge convicted of a felony. Impeachment proceedings are notoriously long and difficult, however, and the Constitution prohibits slashing the pay of sitting federal judges.

Although taxpayers pay for his room and board while in prison, he still got the $4,100 cost-of-living salary increase given to all judges recently. And if Canady and Sangmeister don't manage to get Collins off the rolls by his 65th birthday, he will get a lifetime pension at full pay.

A Department of Energy audit of the proposed Superconducting Super Collider project concluded that there had already been $216 million in "unreasonable or excessive" expenses. The audit highlighted $764,000 in "extravagant expenses," including $35,000 for a holiday party at a Dallas hotel for more than 1,000 people; $56,000 for decorative potted plants; $16,000 for a Christmas party; $14,450 for a reception at a Texas ranch; and $2,425 for liquor.


At the University of Pennsylvania, an Orthodox Jewish freshman named Eden Jacobowitz was accused of racial harassment when he shouted "Shut up, you water buffalo" to a group of black women making a lot of noise late one night outside his dormitory. In his defense, Jacobowitz claimed that he had unconsciously translated a common Hebrew chastisement. Nonetheless, the Judicial Inquiry Office pursued the charges for the entire semester, until the university was barraged with negative publicity.

A California woman wrote to the Ojai Valley News, complaining of sexual harassment against her cat. A neighborhood tomcat tried to "rape" her queen, and left the kitty "terrified and afraid."

Consumer Action warns that some 900 numbers are defrauding their customers: "Despite highly suggestive titles and pictures of half-naked women in many ads, the services provide only tame, nonsexual conversation."

The Pennsylvania auditor general reported that the state's Office of Minority and Women Business Enterprise has awarded many contracts to companies that may have faked minority ownership, and were instead fronts for others. Spokesman Steve Schell commented, "We believe in the program's objectives, but without proper controls we don't know if it's reaching its goals."

By taking advantage of different USDA programs, farmers are now able to use federally subsidized water to irrigate "surplus" crops they are paid by the government not to grow.

When radioactive waste was spilled onto a yard in Linden, New Jersey, the state's Department of Environmental Protection and Energy sprang into action to safeguard area residents.

Linden police and Union County emergency personnel were called to the scene while contaminated grass and soil were removed. A cleanup crew, properly equipped with masks and gloves, removed the offending material. Everything was done to the letter of New Jersey's strict environmental regulations regarding radioactive spills.

The radioactive "spill" occurred when a Linden resident, who had an upset stomach following lunch, vomited after being given a radioactive iodine pill to treat a thyroid condition. Worried that he had lost his medicine along with his lunch, he notified a hospital. It in turn notified the state, as required by regulation, thus launching the cleanup operation.

Actress Butterfly McQueen, who appeared in the classic film Gone with the Wind, has sued her talent agent and his agency for $960,000 because he patted her on the shoulder in 1990—evoking memories, she claims, of child abuse.


Time reporter Margaret Carlson in Vanity Fair, June 1993:
She's ecumenical but prefers Italian and Mexican. The President fixes her eggs with jalapeño peppers on the weekends. One Christmas she served black beans and chili as part of a buffet. She carries Tabasco sauce wherever she goes.... Valentine's Day at the Red Sage restaurant. Even at a romantic outing, the President can be the date from hell, talking to everyone but the girl he brung.... Finally alone, they have painted soup and the lamb baked in herbed bread. They exchange gifts and touch each other more in two hours than the Bushes did in four years.

Vaguely worded federal regulations allow the Defense Department to pick up costs relating to employee morale among its contractors. Among the bills found in an audit were $14,000 for Boston Red Sox tickets (including parking), $5800 for running shoes to improve employee's health, $12,000 for cable TV for retired workers, $62,000 to maintain a 46-foot sport-fishing boat, $24,000 for liquor, and $383,000 for management conferences in Bermuda, the Grand Cayman islands, Hawaii and Mexico.

Selections from the pre-taped "Acoustiguide," supplied to museumgoers who attended the 1993 Whitney Biennial, consisting of unplanned responses by Whitney's director and staff of curators to questions from performance artist Andrea Frazier:
"We live in a divided nation of, uh, class, and in terms of, uh, racial disharmony."

"I think for our audience this work is difficult, because it does deal with voices that have not previously really been heard in the Whitney Museum."

"I think of myself sometimes as an average museumgoer. I think I'm not average but I—I do try to put myself in different positions."

"You know, I mean, on one level I would say this piece depends on a certain level of theoretical knowledge, obviously, but then, I think on some days maybe it doesn't demand all that, you know? Maybe... it's really hard for me to say, really, what things people need, you know? I guess I know what I need."

"That's what I love about art. There's no right and there's no wrong, in a sense."

[From chief curator Elizabeth Sussman:] "If I... if I were able to write my imaginary text to the introduction of this Biennial, it would probably be somewhat be, um, somewhat... I would try... I don't know how I would do it. I could never do that. Let's say I love, or I loved, um, I don't know who. I don't know."

[Assistant curator Thelma Goldin, on one piece that consisted of over 200 rectangular panels, each painted to match the skin tone of a different subject:] "It's beautiful, I mean, and, it's, it's, you know, it's almost very sappy, I feel very sappy about it sometimes, but I feel like bursting out and singing, like, 'We are the world.' It's, like, really, like, gorgeous."

Following a series of public relations gaffes in which Sinead O'Connor refused to allow the national anthem to precede her performance in New Jersey, boycotted the Grammy Awards because she disagreed with its "values," and ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on "Saturday Night Live," she published a 106-line poem in several Irish newspapers that declared, "My name is Sinead O'Connor, I am learning to love myself." She then asserts, "I know I've been angry, but I am full of love really." The composition goes on to insist that O'Connor does not deserve "to be treated like dirt... I deserve to be listened to. I am a member of the human race." Her biggest problem, we learn, is low self-esteem: "If only I can love myself, if only I can fight off the voices of my parents and gather a sense of self-esteem," then she could become the apple of the public's eye. "Here's how you could help," she says. "Stop hurting me, please, saying mean things about me."

O'Connor commented on the Pope-picture controversy: "If I were a young man and I was on TV saying these things, I would not be as brutalized."

The Arab-American Antidiscrimination Committee protested the lyrics to the opening song in Disney's movie "Aladdin" because one line talks about how the Arabs will "cut off your ear if they don't like your face." Disney has thus decided to modify the lyrics to instead refer to the desert climate; however, because the last line still reads "it's barbaric, but hey, it's home," the Arab-American Antidiscrimination Committee is still upset.

Wearing a stocking over his head, Timothy Anderson walked into a Milwaukee McDonald's and pulled a gun on the restaurant's manager. As Anderson helped himself to the contents of the cash register, John Hobson, a security guard, ordered him to drop his gun. Anderson turned to point his gun at Hobson and the guard fired, wounding him seriously in the leg. Anderson made it to his car, where he was found a short time later, unconscious behind the wheel.

After being convicted, Anderson sued Hobson for unspecified monetary damages, saying excessive force was used against him. Anderson's attorney, Scott Anderson (who is no relation) explained, "The mere fact that you're holding up a McDonald's with a gun doesn't mean you give up your right to be protected from somebody who wants to shoot you."

Defense attorney Russell Goldstein, who doesn't think much of Anderson's case, joked wryly that because Anderson's wound cost him the use of his right leg, "he may be making a claim for earnings lost because he hasn't been able to hold up anyone."

Actually, that turned out not to be the case. After Anderson was released from the hospital and prior to his conviction, Anderson was charged in another case. He had allegedly robbed a man who was making a call from a pay phone, taking $50. With his crutches in the back seat, he drove up beside the man, pointed a gun at him and demanded money. Anderson pleaded not guilty in that case.

Ego Brown, a black Washington shoeshine entrepreneur who besides shining shoes himself, also provided homeless people with clean clothes and training in the Ego Shine method, was shut down when the city decided to enforce an 80-year-old Jim Crow law forbidding shoe shining on the street. Barry Goldstein of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, commenting on the group's unwillingness to champion his cause, said the freedom to shine shoes reflected "the 19th century, not the future."

Concerned that he did not recognize an explicit right to privacy in the Constitution, opponents of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork managed to obtain records of his video rentals in an effort to discredit his character. All the movies he viewed turned out to be rated either G or PG.


After having received several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in the past, The Hudson Review, one of the nation's leading literary quarterlies, was denied a grant in 1993. According to a letter from the NEA, the grant was denied because "writers of color were significantly under-represented in the Hudson Review," and because it had published an article in its summer 1992 issue about novelist Richard Wright that NEA panelists judged to be "isolating and condescending ... This concern was exacerbated... when this essay was compared with the fulsome essay on [Emile] Zola in the same issue."

In Afrocentricity, Molefi Kete Asante argues that by responding "French," "Russian," or "Italian," to the question "What kind of salad dressing do you prefer?" African-Americans are "participating subconsciously in the drama of Europe."

A letter to the Boston Globe, April 29, 1993:
In fact, Globe coverage minimally touched on the array of weekend-long events, both somber and celebratory, surrounding Sunday's march—dances, religious services, rallies such as the Saturday night Dyke March, the largest women-only march in Washington for lesbian lives. This demonstration culminated at the Washington Monument, where activists from the group Lesbian Avengers ate fire amid thousands of women who chanted, "The fire will not consume us; we'll use it to better our lives."
[Ed.: The world's tallest freestanding masonry structure, the Washington Monument is also one of the most conspicuous phallic symbols ever erected.]

Among the conclusions of a $789,000 study of racial and ethnic balance among New York City employees: the city's Law Department should have six Native American managers. Department of Personnel spokesman Bill Chong says the study is not promoting quotas, but is an attempt to identify minority under-representation. He says the study was prompted by recent court decisions and that quotas are not necessarily needed. An alternative remedy, he says, is better recruitment.

The 1993 Whitney Biennial art exhibit highlighted works that in the words of the exhibit literature, renounced "success and power" in favor of the "degraded and dysfunctional." "We encounter a wasteland of America, a bleak not-site of enervation... Anomie, anger, confusion, poverty, frustration, and abjection: a dead zone, a no-man's land." According to the exhibition's catalog, the emerging generation of artists had deliberately rejected "originality" on the grounds that it is one of the "emblems" of what the predominantly white, male, heterosexual art world deems "successful art." "To the highminded," the catalog pointed out, these new works might appear "defeatist or inept. But that is the point."

One videotape showed people casually spitting up blood. Many works prominently featured men's and women's genitals, and showed both transvestites and lesbians having sex. An enormous splash of imitation vomit lay at the center of one room in a section devoted to bulimia, along with another work that consisted of a pile of chewed lard. A 45-foot toy Tonka truck demonstrated "the confusion of sexualities that reside in the most commonplace early childhood environments." A huge mural-sized photograph of several black youths had the words, "What You Lookn At?" spray-painted on it. A central feature of the show was a 10-minute videotape of the Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police officers. In one video, a young man flaunts his hatred of "fags" to the camera, but implies a certain satisfaction in having sex with them. He then spits blood and explodes, and his innards drop from his body. Giant letters running across one room said: "In the rich man's house the only place to spit is in his face." One exhibit showed three grotesque casts of a larynx and tongue as if taken from the remains of murdered women, accompanied by the sounds of women's laughs and cries. The body parts were made out of lipstick to represent "the silencing of women through the use of a specifically gendered material—lipstick."

All who attended were required to wear small badges that included disconnected fragments of the phrase, "I Can't Imagine Ever Wanting To Be White," prompting wags to produce their own slogan that read, "I can't imagine ever wanting to be in the Whitney Biennial." Wall Street Journal critic Deborah Soloman, whose own tag contained the fragment of text that read "Ever Wanting," observed that this was an accurate description of the works she saw.

Two new shows that have been scheduled at the Whitney are "The Subject of Rape," and "Abject Art," which promise to feature such abject materials as dirt, hair, excrement, dead animals, menstrual blood, rotting food, and beeswax.


Michael Kelly in the New York Times Magazine, May 23, 1993:
The Western World, [Hillary Clinton] said, needed to be made anew. America suffered from a "sleeping sickness of the soul," a "sense that somehow economic growth and prosperity, political democracy and freedom are not enough—that we lack at some core level meaning in our individual lives and meaning collectively, the sense that our lives are part of some greater effort, that we are connected to one another, that community means that we have a place where we belong no matter who we are."

She spoke of ... a nation crippled by "alienation and despair and hopelessness," a nation that was in the throes of a "crisis of meaning."

North Carolina's 12th Congressional District features a narrow filament of land 160 miles long connecting two areas in which African Americans are concentrated. In a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court invalidated such blatant racial gerrymandering practices, which the court had already banned when they are designed to harm rather than help minority interests. The New York Times editorial board characterized the decision as "a full-scale assault on the Voting Rights Act."

[Ed.: In another slim vote years later in 2001, the Supreme Court accepted the validity of such strangely drawn congressional districts if racial representation was arguably not their primary determining factor—similar reasoning used to defend affirmative action in university admissions. Ironically, the Congressional Black Caucus has not been the biggest beneficiary of racial gerrymandering; that distinction goes to Republicans, who have recently enjoyed dramatic new popularity among southern voters. By herding African Americans into a single congressional district, which would undoubtedly result in a Democratic representative, Republicans had more chance or being elected in surrounding districts that had been relatively cleansed of African Americans.]

From "Reframing Postmodernisms," by Mark C. Taylor, in Shadow of the Spirit: Postmodernism and Religion, edited by Philippa Berry and Andrew Wernick:
Why is L.A., why are the deserts so fascinating? It is because you are delivered from all depth there—a brilliant, mobile superficial neutrality, a challenge to meaning and profundity, a challenge to nature and culture, an outer hyperspace, with no origin, no reference points... The fascination of the desert: immobility without desire. Of Los Angeles: insane circulation without desire. The end of aesthetics.
(Jean Baudrillard)

I have come from the desert as one comes from beyond memory.
(Edmond Jabes)

Frames: Desert, Dessert. One word that is at least two—one spelling, two pronunciations: two spellings, one pronunciation. Desert. Des(s)ert. After dinner desserts—just or otherwise. Neither dinner nor not dinner, but a supplement. Something like a frame that repeats, while inverting, the hors d'oeurve. No longer before but after the repas. Le repas: what is a pas that is a re-pas? Does the doubling of the k/not bind or rebind—ligare or religare? Desert... Des(s)ert... Des(s)erts. What is des(s)erted in the desert? Desert(s), site or non-site of wandering, erring—Vegas... vagus. Delivery from all depth... lights, pure light, absence of shadow? Or delivery to a certain re-pas that is beyond... le pas au-dela, where the absence of shadow is the shadow of spirit.

"Postmodernism" is, of course, a notoriously problematic term...