An Inclusive Litany


When students at Arizona State University decided to draw attention to the homeless by spending a chilly night on the lawn near ASU's main library, they were joined by several non-students who called themselves "addressless." One of them was a middle-aged man, wearing a sneaker on one foot and a sandal on the other, who claimed that he was a member of royalty and was also a presidential candidate who had donated $250,000 to the university. He said he wasn't homeless but "sleeps among the homeless once in a while."

Andy Hall, who heads the ASU urban studies center, said of the students: "It's wonderful that the homeless came to them.... Often the best learning comes through relaxed conversation."

Discussing his inability to buy a TV network, Ted Turner said, "I feel like those Jewish people in Germany in 1942."

The Oakland Tribune reports that the city pays about $9,500 a year for cellular phones for its five council members. The phones were supposed to be used only for emergencies, but the members often used them for personal calls, including long-distance chats with relatives. Although Oaklanders became upset at the expense, council member Nate Miley pointed out that there is no official policy against using the phones for personal calls: "until there's a policy, there can't be an abuse."

The New York Times reported that paleontologists skeptical of the theory that dinosaurs' extinction was caused by a catastrophic meteor strike were being called "militarists" by their colleagues and felt their careers threatened. The reason was the theory had been used to support the idea that a nuclear war would throw up enormous quantities of dust that would block sunlight and cause a "nuclear winter" that would result in the extinction of the human race.

The Washington Post, December 1, 1995:
A secret Defense Intelligence Agency program that posed tough military questions to a handful of full-time, salaried psychics was kept alive for years at the insistence of a few senators and a congressional staff aide despite opposition from senior military intelligence officials....

[C. Richard] D'Amato, who was assigned to the committee staff by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), a former Appropriations Committee chairman, confirmed in an interview yesterday that he kept the program alive because four to six senators had expressed unusual and sustained interest in its potential, and because similar psychic research was being pursued by the Soviet Union, China and "some of our European allies."

[Ed.: A CIA analysis of the $20 million project concluded that the psychics were accurate about 15 percent of the time. Among their tasks were to track down Moammar Gadhafi so that he could be hit in the 1986 bombing of Libya and to locate plutonium stashed away in North Korea.]

From "Tonya's Bad Boot," an essay by Robyn Wiegman and Linda Zwinger in Women on Ice: Feminist Responses to the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan Spectacle, edited by Cynthia Baughman and published by Routledge:
Punctuated by what became ubiquitous sound bites—Tonya dashing after the tow truck, Nancy sailing the ice with one leg reaching for heaven—this melodrama parsed the transgressive hybridity of un-narrativized representative bodies back into recognizable heterovisual codes.

Bob Glaser charged the city of San Diego with violating his constitutional rights by preventing him from going to the bathroom. Ten months earlier, Glaser attended an Elton John/Billy Joel concert at Jack Murphy Stadium. During the concert, Glaser went to the men's room, where he found women using the facilities because of long lines at the ladies' room. Their presence embarrassed him so badly he was unable to fulfill his mission. He sued the city for not outfitting the stadium with enough women's restrooms to satisfy local laws, or to satisfy his own bathroom needs.

52-year-old typist Arlene Kurtz challenged a North Miami law disallowing applications for city jobs from anyone who had smoked in the past year. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the law, declaring that it was rational for North Miami to discriminate against her, because smokers get sick more often than non-smokers.

[Ed.: Imagine the uproar if the same logic were used to screen out AIDS sufferers.]

When Denise Katzman of New York City discovered that a friend had received a Victoria's Secret mail-order lingerie catalog containing a $25 discount offer while she only received one with a $10 discount, she talked to that friend, a lawyer named Howard Gotbetter, and they decided to sue the company on the basis of sexual discrimination. When Gotbetter discovered a few days later that the company offered more generous discounts to previous customers (including himself) and not on the basis of sex, he argued instead that Victoria's Secret had violated federal racketeering laws by offering varying discounts in general, and that the company's policy discriminated more broadly against "various demographic groups." Katzman and Gotbetter demanded $15, an apology, reimbursement to everyone who had bought merchandise under the smaller discount, and millions of dollars in damages. Katzman commented that Gotbetter helped motivate her to pursue the suit, because "He believes in the little people."

Gotbetter also previously filed a $50,000 lawsuit on behalf of a religious woman he also knew who, having been part of a crowd of people watching the filming of an HBO documentary about nude models, later found that a few seconds of footage with her in the crowd was included in the film, ruining her reputation and violating her civil rights. Another woman, who had been accused of shoving over a magazine stand and who was held for an hour by police, sued five New York agencies and officials as well as the newsstand company for $3 million and attorney's fees. Gotbetter also sued on behalf of his third ex-wife, who was "humiliated and embarrassed" when told by a bank security guard not to drink a complementary cup of coffee intended for customers; he didn't realize she was a customer. Mr. Gotbetter also filed a libel suit against the bank and the National Law Journal, which reported on the coffee case, on the basis that they had created the "false impression that [he] had filed a frivolous lawsuit."


Course description for English 350-247, "Vampires, Sexuality, and AIDS," offered at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee:
...from the sexually voracious lesbian vampire to the "willfully murderous" bisexual spreader of AIDS, both the vampire myth and contemporary discourse of AIDS have expressed and mobilized a wide range of fears about (In)Human Sexuality. Whether it be the fear of women's desire, of homosexuality, impotence, castration, disease, contagion, or simply death, the creation of myths about both vampires and AIDS frequently expresses a widespread phobia about those beings and practices which seem to threaten the security of nation, family, or sexual identity.

Course description for English 243, "Feminism and Humor: What's So Funny?"

In this course, we will address the ways in which humor serves as both a productive and revolutionary form of feminist critique.... We'll read a variety of contemporary feminist novels to examine how humor is used by some feminist writers as a way of addressing social and political issues.

New York State has made it official policy to teach students the ahistorical notion that the United States Constitution was heavily influenced by the political arrangements of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Under asset forfeiture law, the Justice Department confiscated the home of an elderly Cuban-American couple in Miami. The husband had been convicted for playing host to a weekly card game for family and friends.

Cook Michael Maxon became known for creating bizarre hamburgers using such ingredients as eggplant and hummus. The burgers were so popular he started his own restaurant called the Crazy Burger Cafe. He is now under fire from advocates for the mentally ill, who want him to change the name of his restaurant and get rid of items such as the Neurotic Burger, the Loco Burger, and the Just Plain Nuts Burger.

One day, Alfred Zeien, chairman of Gillette Co., received a letter objecting to his company's research methods: "Let this be a warning to you. If you hurt another animal, if I find out, one month from [when] this letter arrives to you, I'll bomb your company. P.S. Watch your back."

It turns out the letter came from a sixth-grader at the James Martin School in Philadelphia, whose teacher had given an assignment to write letters to companies about animal testing based on educational materials distributed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

When Howard University refused to host Nation of Islam Minister Khallid Muhammad the night before the Million Man March in Washington, the evening's organizer's renamed it "Coward Jewniversity."

Letter to the editor, the Santa Barbara News-Press, October 22, 1995:
For those of us who love nature, and her creation, trails are and can be a source of travel and a hope when lost. I've come to the conclusion that this also applies to our furred brothers and sisters who try to live 24 hours a day in what was once their natural habitat. The bad news for them is, man has by his lack of understanding and/or concern blocked their rights of passage. In the past few days, I've noticed several dead animals, at the side of the road and on the freeway.

It occurred to me that this high frequency may be the result, in large measure, of the center concrete divider. These barriers make it impossible for animals to traverse the highway, which for them is a means of egress. I'm saddened by the sight of death under any circumstances for all creatures. However, what really disturbs me is the fact that many of us don't seem to care. I base this conclusion upon four factors:

  1. Excess speeds on all our highways and roads.

  2. Man-made systems which do not take into account our four-legged friends.

  3. The notion, among some, that it doesn't matter.

  4. A general ignorance of our symbiotic relationship vis-a-vis all creation.
One of my personal heroes is Gandhi...

—Richard S. Gralewski
Santa Barbara

Billie Jean Matay, 52, a longtime fan of Mickey Mouse and a former mousketeer in her younger years, took her daughter and three grandchildren out for a day at the theme park, but they were robbed in the parking lot. She sued Walt Disney Co. because, she claims, park security officers were rude and inefficient. But apparently the most traumatizing part of the incident had little to do with the crime; Matay also claims emotional distress because when taken to the security office following the crime, she and her grandchildren saw Disney characters out of costume and had to face "the reality that the Disney characters were, in fact, make-believe."

The Associated Press reports that in 1990 Disney had to settle out of court with an Idaho couple who claimed to have been traumatized after seeing Disney characters carrying their heads around.


In fiscal year 1994, a Stone Mountain, Georgia, psychiatrist billed Medicaid for $6.6 million—as if he had provided therapy to patients for at least 488 hours each and every week. The next year he billed another $6 million, and the State of Georgia paid every penny. Through July 1995, James E. McClendon, 46, was the most richly reimbursed physician in Georgia.

The state pays almost $26 an hour per patient for group-therapy claims. Many of the services are provided in after-school programs that enroll hundreds of poor children, often illegally recruited through door-to-door solicitation and flyers, according to state officials.

Medicaid rules require psychiatrists to provide nearly all services in person, but McClendon was paid for overseeing the work of others, including college students. Says Marjorie P. Smith, Georgia's Medicaid administrator, "It's not uncommon for us to discover during an investigation that, well, they've outsmarted us again." A federal grand jury is investigating bills submitted by McClendon.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed a small metal-forming shop in Chicago hired too many Hispanic and Polish-American workers and no blacks. The EEOC forced the company to run ads inviting blacks to file claims for compensation. One hundred and twenty-seven were given payouts, even if they had never applied for a job at the company.

Prior to the United Nations Women's Conference in Beijing, organizers spent an unusual amount of time arguing over terms. International diplomats formed a "contact group" to nail down a definition of the term "gender" in which the discussion revolved around five categorizations: male heterosexual, female heterosexual, male homosexual, female homosexual, and bisexual. The group came out of its meeting with no recorded minutes and no clear resolution.

State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Melinda Kimble offered this explanation for the unsuccessful meeting: "I would like to say that one of the problems was that we were working in six languages; at least three U.N. languages have only one translation in their language for the term gender, and that is sex. So, when the document says 'gender' in English, it says 'sex' in Arabic, for example."

Richard Leviton in Earth Star, a periodical freely distributed in the Boston area, December/January 1995-1996:
If you were an angel, how would you write your name on the Earth so people could read it? I mean, if you were an angel for whom a name is an energy, a sound, a power, and an assignment, how would you write a living letter to men and women who spend their days in worry and doubt?

For you, a thought is a reality, an intention is an act, an idea is a creation, and you have all the thoughts, intentions, and ideas of the world at your command. Let's say you have an alphabet of symbols and pictograms at your fingertips, like so many neon signs floating numinously in the ethers where you live. And let's say you wanted to impart the gentlest angelic kiss upon the face of Nature by swirling a field of ripe grain into one of your many signs but without breaking a single stalk. With your breath you will sculpt the seeds of life itself into a beautiful pattern, an invocation.

You know well that your heavenly beauty carries a little jolt of terror for us. Angels bring terror and beauty, said the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. "For beauty is only the beginning of a terror we can just barely endure"—the recognition of a "stronger presence." But you are so finely subtle. Your terror is really the beauty of awakening, the jolt of pure reality, and you say, making circles instantaneously in the grain, "Look, how close we are."

These thoughts came to me the other morning as I sat on my porch looking at pictures of the crop circle phenomena in England....

The Sex Pistols' 1996 reunion tour was delayed for a month so the band members could "rehearse." According to a Virgin Records spokesman, the members have become such accomplished musicians in the twenty years since the band broke up that they needed practice to be able to reproduce their old, unpolished sound.


The Supreme Court rejected the appeal of an Arizona drug user who claimed he did not receive a fair trial because there were no fat people on the jury.

At California's Chico State University, Professor Harriet Spiegel objected to an ad for a new faculty position in philosophy that called for applicants who are "dynamic teachers." Spiegel alerted affirmative action director Zaida Giraldo, who concurred that the word would discriminate against women, "particularly 'lady-like' women," and also against minority groups who "are not associated with this style." Giraldo ordered the word stricken from the ad.

A textbook writer warned teachers to be skeptical of scientific accounts of how humans first arrived in North America because the science reflects "logic" instead of Indian myths.

Excerpts from Louis Farrakhan's momentous speech at the Million Man March:
In the background is the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial. Each one of these is 19 feet high. [sic] Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president, Thomas Jefferson, the third president, and 16 and 3 make 19 again. What is so deep about this number 19? Why are we standing on the Capitol steps today? That number 19, when you have a 9, you have a womb that is pregnant, and when you have a 1 standing by the 9, it means that there's something secret that has to be unfolded....

There in the middle of this mall is the Washington Monument, 555 feet high. But if we put a 1 in front of that 555 feet, we get 1555, the year that our first fathers landed on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, as slaves. [The year was actually 1619.]...

[Concerning atonement] A tone means sound.... So what is the A tone? In music, A equals 440 vibrations. And how long have we been in America? Four hundred and forty years. [376 years] ...

White supremacy caused Napolean to blow the nose off the Sphynx because it reminded you too much of the black man's majesty....

The Democratic Party has for its symbol a donkey. The donkey stands for the unlearned masses of the people. But the Democratic Party can't call the masses no more. You got them all tied up, but you're not using them. The donkey's tied up. But can you get off today? No, I can't get off today, I'm tied up. Somebody on your donkey?

From a column by Sharod Baker in one of the oldest and most respected American student newspapers, the Columbia Spectator, October 12, 1995:
I single Jews out because of their oppression of blacks cannot go unnoticed while they disguise their evilness under the skirts and costumes of the Rabbi. Lift up the yarmulke and what you will find is the blood of billions of Africans weighing on their heads.... How dare any Jewish person ask me why I am obsessed with Jews. I speak of Jews because of those from their race who are always on our backs sucking the blood from the black community then pretending to be our friends.

After Joyce Lehr fell in an icy, unplowed high school parking lot in Lamar, Missouri, she sued the county, alleging damage to virtually every part of her body. According to her petition: "All the bones, organs, muscles, tendons, tissues, nerves, veins, arteries, ligaments ... discs, cartilages, and the joints of her body were fractured, broken, ruptured, punctured, compressed, dislocated, separated, bruised, contused, narrowed, abrased, lacerated, burned, cut, torn, wrenched, swollen, strained, sprained, inflamed, and infected."

[Ed.: As 1996 presidential candidate Lamar Alexander learned to his grief, the word "lamar" is Spanish slang for "to lick."]

From the premier issue of Entertainment Monitor, a monthly "for parents, teachers, and others concerned about the influence of popular culture and other entertainment on children and young adults." The magazine provides summaries of the "story lines and themes" in recently released albums, as well as definitions of "street slang terms" that "parents might find confusing" in current rock, rap, R&B, and country songs. According to an introductory note, the album summaries are offered "without bias. We do not attempt to evaluate the merit or value of artists or their works." The following descriptions are from the list of "Top 40 Rock Albums."

Astro-Creep, White Zombie
Themes: Abstract religious-themed songs about the devil taking over someone's thoughts. Pondering life after the Apocalypse. A song critical of war. Sensory overload of pleasure. A song using Las Vegas gambling metaphors as a way to describe God's power. Proclamation of one's zombie-like state. The stranger one is, the more human one is. A song about having sex, in a violent way, with an "angel," or virgin. Beauty never dies.

Tales from the Punchbowl, Primus
Themes: Contains a song about a make-believe professor who will cure what ails you. Also a song about a teacher and other children who pick on a child, who is driven to murder another child. A woman uses her vagina to tease men sexually. A song chastising those who are unoriginal in their musical pursuits. A man pays to watch women dance and recognizes one dancer as his former lover. A song reminiscing about the past and seeing the irony in the present.

Soup, Blind Melon
Themes: Repeatedly returning to a person or situation that leaves you feeling full of self-doubt and hatred. Talking to yourself. Desire to be more like a woman named Vernie. Making furniture out of human flesh. Questioning one's personal perspective on the world and hoping that God will "be a friend." Living alone and feeling both angry and happy. Trying to see another person's perspective. Excitement about having a child and hoping the birth will bring "new life" to the singer. Lemonade as a metaphor for the sweet and the sour things in life.

Dandelion, Dyslexicon
Themes: Shocking one another sexually. Falling for a girl who lives in a trailer park. Boredom. Receiving reassurance that a relationship will be okay. Feeling like you have nothing left to offer the world as an individual. An ode to Evel Knievel, a famous motorcycle stuntman.

And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid
Themes: Looking for a murderer. Realizing what you've done wrong in life just before you die. Missing Olympia, Washington, while surrounded by strangers in New York City. What one sees when on drugs. A twenty-one-year-old gang member with a Cadillac is a dangerous person. An ode to an artist who lived his life outside the mainstream. Being in a band and finding out what life on the road is like. Feeling overwhelmed by injustices of the city. A list of the negative things in life like death and dying.

The Presidents of the United States of America, The Presidents of the United States of America
Themes: A song about birds playing in a band. A song about a woman named Lump who is possessing the singer's thoughts. A man falls for a woman who works as a stripper in a porn booth. Desire to move to the country and eat peaches. Driving a dune buggy on the beach. Planning to fail as a band. A song about playing rock and roll enthusiastically. Admiring a body. Sitting on the back porch. What it's like to be "naked and famous."