An Inclusive Litany


In Texas, Euless Junior High School punished two girls for hugging each other. The students said they often hugged each other in friendship, but the administration said it was an inappropriate form of contact that could lead to sexual harassment claims.

After the apparently gridlocked city of Palm Beach, Florida, initiated fines for funerals that take too long, the "bury-in-a-hurry" policy drew protests from many citizens, including many African Americans, who say lengthy services are a tradition.


Beverly Lancaster successfully sued her employer, the city of Birmingham, England, for more than $100,000 after it promoted her to a job she said she didn't want, that she was unqualified for, and that filled her with stress.

The Washington Post, February 26, 2000:
[Maryland] Gov. Parris N. Glendening today lambasted lawmakers who want to divert Maryland's share of the national tobacco settlement from cancer research and education for use on myriad smaller, localized and sometimes "odd" projects....

"There are many voices in the legislature today who have a different idea about how we should spend this money," he said. "There are a few that are odd, like build an additional road or cut taxes."


24-year-old transfer student Jonathan Yegge caused a commotion after presenting his Art Piece No. 1 at the San Francisco Art Institute. A male volunteer signed a liability waiver aggreeing in advance to participate in acts "including and up to a sexual or violent nature." Then Yegge led him out into a public area, and in the presence of an art instructor, a security guard, 20 other students, and random passersby, the pair engaged in mutual oral sex. Yegge tied up the volunteer, leaving him blindfolded and gagged. Yegge gave the volunteer an enema, then defecated and placed the result in the other man's anus, after which the volunteer reciprocated on Yegge. The whole episode was videotaped.

Soon after, the volunteer developed misgivings over the episode, and complained. A friend explained, "He felt he was being violated. He just didn't think this was cool." The volunteer's mother was rumored to be a judge, and it was feared the student might sue. The administration placed Yegge on academic probation, and banned him from engaging in public sex on campus, ostensibly for engaging in unprotected sex without a condom. Officials also had lengthy meetings with Yegge's instructor, Tony Labat, who later called the piece "irresponsible," "bad art," but who did nothing to stop it while it was taking place, and apparently even signed off on Yegge's basic premise prior to its performance. One student was so upset after witnessing the incident, that she enrolled in Labat's class specifically to perform her own piece protesting Yegge's piece.

Yegge explained his intent by saying, "It's about Heidegger, Derrida—all this stuff. It's about pushing the notion of gay sex, pushing the notion of consent, pushing the notion of what's legal. We are living in the era of AIDS. This is about his responsibility, my responsibility. During your tenure in this school you're required to read The Tears of Eros by Georges Bataille, where he discusses pain and the history of erotic art. You jump across time and you jump across eras. You might present this performance art, then the students might read Bataille and it might make sense. Or they might see this performance and then see Bataille." Yeah right.

Yegge quit the Art Institute, on principle. "I'm just shocked and appalled that you can't do certain things in art school," he announced.

[Ed.: The Institute previously awarded Karen Finley an honorary doctorate for the sort of work it punished Yegge for performing.]

In Florida, a 40-year-old left-handed telephone sex operator won a $30,000 worker's compensation settlement after she developed carpal tunnel syndrome from regularly masturbating at her post.


This year, a newly invented holiday, "V-Day," is being celebrated on 154 college campuses. Intended to replace Valentine's Day, the "V" stands for "vagina," or perhaps "violence" or "victory," apparently inspired by Eve Ensler's one-woman show, The Vagina Monologues. "The shape we call a heart," Gloria Steinem explained, "resembles the vulva far more than the organ that shares its name.... It was reduced from power to romance by centuries of male dominance."

[Ed.: Part of The Vagina Monologues features a sympathetic depiction of an adult woman getting a thirteen-year-old girl drunk and having sex with her. Afterwards, the girl says gratefully, "I'll never need to rely on a man." In an unpublished review of a campus production for the Georgetown University Hoya, Robert Swope noted that if a man "had gotten her liquored up and then had sex with her, rational people... would consider that rape." The reason Swope's review was unpublished, by the way, was that he was fired for writing it, and all of his previous articles were deleted from the paper's Web archive as if he had never worked there. Similarly, the Monologues were later modified to remove any reference to the rape, and V-day organizers even threatened legal action against anyone who staged the original version, ostensibly to ensure an accurate rendering of Ensler's work.]

After nine months, New York City abandoned its workfare policy of recruiting welfare recipients to take jobs as telephone psychics. In addition to ridicule from the press, the policy met with protests from experienced, professional psychics.

[Ed.: A psychic hotline service later signed a consent order, assuring Florida's attorney general it would not hire any employees who hadn't sworn in writing they had psychic powers.]

A $3,000 promotional drawing among account holders at the Zimbabwe Banking Corporation was won by none other than Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.


From "Gay Friendly France," a travel brochure produced by the French tourist bureau:
Outstripping all the other countries in Europe for just the right mix of fun and sophistication, France is a gay-friendly destination par excellence. Whether you want to watch a can-can—or even be in one—or take in the monumentally moving sights of grand Gothic cathedrals, royal castles in the Loire Valley, or unsurpassed art collections, France is the in place to be out.

At the heart of Paris is a liquid valley, the Seine River. In warm weather the river's walkways attract sunbathers, and all year round the banks are lined with booksellers' stalls, lovers ambling hand in hand, silent contemplative wanderers, a fiery group of tango dancers here, an impromptu gathering of musicians there, and always the quiet fishermen with their long thin poles bobbing at the waves. At the west, the iconic Eiffel Tower, erect in all its iron glory, dominates the Seine, and as you travel farther east, there's the Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre, and wonderful apartment buildings that will make you ache with envy.

Are you among those who've always suspected that in a past life you were "to the manor born"? France's châteaux present hundreds of opportunities the bring out the king, or queen, in you, and to satisfy whatever appetites you may have.

Champagne, the most celebratory wine of France, is, of course, that bubbly concoction that renders you even more giddy. It is credited to a certain Dom Pérignon, a monk living with his brothers at the Hautvillers abbey around 1700, who is said to have proclaimed when he tried it, "I am tasting stars!" If you, too, would like a heavenly mouthful, then head to Champagne, the province east of Paris.

The biggest contribution to spirits in the southwest is Armagnac, one of the most distinguished brandies in the world. The town of Condom has and Armagnac Museum and plans to open another museum dedicated to the love sheath that shares the town's name.

Who could resist sending a postcard: "In Condom. Wish you were here"?

A celebrity tidbit reported in the Boston Globe, February 18, 2000:
John Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, will be having a "quiet birth" when she delivers her second child, due next month, the (N.Y.) Daily News reports. According to the teaching of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, the delivery room will be hushed "so there's nothing in the child's mind that shouldn't be there while there's pain going on," said Travolta. Preston, however, will be allowed to moan in pain. "The sounds are not as detrimental," her husband said. "Any people saying any kind of negative verbiage may adversely affect the baby later on."


In Highland Village, Texas, city officials told Lee Holtzman that the tree house he and his three sons built would have to be moved from the side of the house to the back. When asked, officials were unable to produce any ordinance with such a specification.


The American Sociological Association met in Washington, D.C., to discuss the "vital issues that animate our society and sociology as a field." Those issues would be "Oppression, Domination & Liberation: Challenges for the 21st Century," with "special plenary sessions" on "Sexism and Feminism" and "Racism and Anti-Racism Struggles."

A catalog description of Susan Talburt's Subject to Identity: Knowledge, Sexuality, and Academic Practices in Higher Education, to be published by the State University of New York Press in May, 2000.
This interpretive ethnography explores the academic practices of three lesbian faculty members at Liberal U., a public research university. Drawing on poststructural theories, the text takes readers beyond constructions of lesbian faculty that rely on identity, voices, and visibility to consider the construction and shifting meanings of academic research, teaching, and collegial relations in practice. Talburt depicts the complicated relations of knowledge, identity, and sexuality as interrelated terms whose meanings are constructed as contingent possibilities. This book challenges us to rethink policy and practice, identity and difference, and knowledge and ignorance as lived and created in constantly shifting networks of relation.

[Ed.: Talburt is also co-editing a volume entitled, Thinking Queer: Sexuality, Culture, and Education.]

From the Republican presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, January 26, 2000, an exchange concerning candidate Alan Keyes's impromptu acceptance of a dare, by professional annoyance Michael Moore, to body-surf a crowd.

George W. Bush:
What's it like to be in a mosh pit?
Alan Keyes:
It's a lot of fun, actually. I enjoyed it...
Bernard Shaw:
Mr. Bauer, for Mr. Keyes....
Gary Bauer:
Al, let me read a quote from you. You said that one of the most important things is the dignity of the presidency. In fact, you said that it's important that those of us that aspire to be president act not like guests on "The Jerry Springer Show," which is incompatible with the dignity of politics.... [N]obody made you jump in the mosh pit. Do you think that's consistent with...
Oh, that's very true.
Bauer: you think that's consistent with the dignity of the presidency?
Well, I would leave that to the judgement of the American people. I do know that, when I got down, one of the folks who was there with one of the news crews looked at me and he said, "You know, you're the only person I've ever seen dive into a mosh pit and come out with his tie straight." And I think that—you know, the real test of dignity, the real test of dignity is how you carry it through hard times. I think I learned that from my people. We went through slavery when we didn't have the outward signs of what others would call dignity. Because we understood that dignity comes from within, and that whatever circumstance you are going through, you can carry that dignity with you and no one can take it away. So, I think you may have a misunderstanding of dignity. It doesn't come from what you do in a mosh pit. It comes from what you do as a result of the convictions of your heart. And I'll leave it to the American people to judge the convictions of my heart.

[Ed.: Keyes lost every election in which he participated.]

In the face of unexpected protest, the Federal Communications Commission rescinded a rule that would made educational broadcast licenses contingent on the willingness of stations to purge from their programming any "religious exhortation, proselytizing, or statements of personally held religious views or beliefs."


Officials in Virginia's fast-growing Loudoun County approved a plan to pay property owners not to build houses on their land.


Soon after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration promulgated an often ill-defined set of ergonomic standards designed to prevent workplace disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, the Washington Post reported that the agency's various policies also extended to cover employees working out of their home.

[Ed.: OSHA went into full retreat as soon as the story broke, issuing a "clarification" meant to dispel "confusion" about its policy. In fact, the material the Post drew upon was posted at the agency's website under a heading titled, unambiguously enough, "OSHA policies concerning employees working at home," and signed by Richard Fairfax, director of compliance programs. Drawn up in response to a request for guidance from a Houston businessman, the policy directive explicitly states that employers may have to conduct on-site safety inspections to ensure compliance.

Martha Kent, director of OSHA's safety standards program and head of the ergonomics initiative, later told a trade publication that issuing a regulation "is a thrill; its a high.... I love it; I absolutely love it. I was born to regulate. I don't know why, but that's very true. So as long as I'm regulating, I'm happy."]

The Federal Aviation Administration ruled that children under 2 years old would have to sit in child safety seats rather than their parents' lap when flying. Critics estimate the measure would likely increase child fatalities, since parents may opt to drive rather than purchase an extra airline ticket.


Letter to the editor, the Hartford Courant, November 25, 1999. Twelve Texas A&M students were killed when the bonfire tower they were building collapsed.
In all the coverage of the terrible bonfire tragedy in Texas, few people have mentioned the other tragedy [news story, Nov. 21, "Funerals Begin In A&M Bonfire Tragedy"].

I look at all those trees that were cut down just to be burned and I'm horrified. What about the waste of our natural resources?

And this has been going on how many years?

An appeals court ruled that a statue of Jesus Christ standing on a patch of privately owned land within a city park in Marshfield, Wisconsin, violates the First Amendment because people could mistakenly assume the city government endorses religion. A group of citizens paid $21,726 to buy the small piece of the park land under the statue after an atheist group sued the city in 1998.

The National Geographic, November, 1999:
In its short life of only about a hundred years, the Inca Empire came to stretch 2,500 miles—roughly the distance from New York City and Los Angeles. By the Spanish conquest in 1532 the Inca, a small ethnic group based in Cuzco, Peru, ruled more than 12 million subjects, of 100 different cultures, speaking at least 20 languages. The Inca were not the brutal conquerors the Spaniards were. They used gifts as well as spears to demonstrate power to potential subjects. Inca textiles, for example, inspired awe among villagers. Once in charge, the Inca assimilated new peoples with remarkable effectiveness....

Child sacrifices were part of this approach. The Inca obtained children from throughout the empire and rewarded their families with positions or goods. Sacrifices were unifying events; children often were taken to Cuzco for celebrations before processions bore them on long journeys and up massive mountains to sacrifice sites.