Book Review: A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir, Daisy Hernández (2015)

Friday, October 9th, 2015

The Personal is Political – and Also Poetic in Hernández’s Deft Hands

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. Trigger warning for child abuse.)

Journalism: A fancy word to say that I spent days with my hands in other people’s stories, asking and telling, because nothing happens in isolation, especially when it has to do with language. Nothing is more vulnerable than the words in our mouths, because nothing has more power.

It will take years to understand that writing makes everything else possible. Writing is how I learn to love my father and where I come from. Writing is how I leave him and also how I take him with me.

It is a story as old as time, that we always find what we needed was right at home.

But, therein is the riddle: a child has to leave to return. My mother had to. She says it often. She only appreciated her mother, only understood her mother, after she had left home.

I had to leave, too. It was me, not my mother, who needed English, who needed the stories and feminist theories. Without them, I might never have come back to her.

Daisy Hernández is the coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism, and a former editor of ColorLines magazine. A queer (she identifies as bisexual), second-generation Latina (her mother and father immigrated from Colombia and Cuba, respectively), she speaks and writes about feminism, race, and the media. Her memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, began way way in 2000, when she was hired to pen a regular column in Ms. Magazine at the tender age of twenty-five.

A Cup of Water Under My Bed features eleven essays (which often have the feel of stories, so lyrical is Hernández’s writing) organized not by chronology, but loosely by topic: assimilation and language; sexual identity; and work and money. Whether she’s calling out the state of New Jersey for its switch to an automated telephone system to manage unemployment benefits in the ’90s (ostensibly for the convenience of its recipients, but really to hide the scope of the problems created by NAFTA), or writing about her aunties’ reactions to her romantic partners (rarely favorable, save for Alejandro – the trans man they all assumed was cisgender, on account of he was built like a linebacker), Hernández writes deftly and with both insight and wry humor.

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Book Review: The Weight of Feathers, Anna-Marie McLemore (2015)

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

A magical retelling of Romeo & Juliet – and with a much more satisfying ending, at that!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for violence, including domestic abuse, as well as rape.)

The rain on her dress and his shirt would stick them to each other, dissolve the skin between them, until their veins tangled like roots, and they breathed together, one scaled and dark-feathered thing.

Lace’s first encounter with Cluck is in the parking lot of a convenience store located on the outskirts of Almendro, California, a sleepy little town. Three of her cousins are attacking Cluck, pummeling him with their fists and feet, for no reason other than his perceived difference. Well-versed in the art of taking a beating – thanks to his older brother Dax – Cluck just lies there, taking it, hoping that his lack of participation will sap some of the fun out of their “game.” Lace chases his attackers away, and then offers Cluck ice cubes wrapped in her scarf to sooth his cuts and bruises. Both mistake the other for a local – when, in fact, they are members of two rival families of traveling performers.

The Palomas and Corbeaus travel all across North America, but always cross paths in Almendro; the crowd drawn there by the annual Blackberry Festival is just too good to pass up. For years, they were simply rivals, showpeople competing over the same sets of eyeballs. But one flooded lake and two dead performers – one from each family – turned them to enemies. Each blames the other for the “natural disaster,” with the stories and superstitions becoming more outlandish year after year. Each family can agree on one thing, however: the only acceptable way to touch a Paloma (or Corbeau) is in the pursuit of violence.

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Book Review: Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon (2015)

Friday, September 4th, 2015

This Impossible Life

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for domestic violence and child abuse.)

Sometimes I reread my favorite books from back to front. I start with the last chapter and read backwards until I get to the beginning. When you read this way, characters go from hope to despair, from self-knowledge to doubt. In love stories, couples start out as lovers and end as strangers. Coming-of-age books become stories of losing your way. Your favorite characters come back to life.

If my life were a book and you read it backward, nothing would change. Today is the same as yesterday. Tomorrow will be the same as today. In the Book of Maddy, all the chapters are the same.

Until Olly.

According to the Big Bang theory, the universe came into being in one single moment – a cosmic cataclysm that gave birth to black holes, brown dwarfs, matter and dark matter, energy and dark energy. It gave birth to galaxies and stars and moons and suns and planets and oceans. It’s a hard concept to hold on to – the idea that there was a time before us. A time before time.

In the beginning there was nothing. And then there was everything.

Eighteen-year-old Madeline Whittier has no memories of her father and older brother, who died in a tragic car accident when she was just a few months old. Nor does she remember life on the Outside: the feel of the sun’s rays shining directly on her skin; of warm, wet sand squishing between her toes; or of a salty ocean breeze tickling her face and tousling her hair. Maddy was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) shortly after the accident, and has spent the past fifteen years confined to her home, with only her mom Pauline and full-time nurse Carla for company.

Maddy doesn’t live in a bubble per se, but close to it: her house is specially outfitted with industrial air filters, which keep out anything over .3 microns and recycles the air completely every four hours. An airlock separates the front entrance from the rest of the house, and all visitors must undergo an exhaustive physical exam, background check, and thorough decontamination before entering.

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Book Review: In Wilderness: A Novel, Diane Thomas (2015)

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

A Twisted Anti-Romance Set Against an Unspoiled Forest Wilderness

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. Trigger warning for rape, suicide, and racist and sexist language. This review contains clearly marked spoilers.)

Dr. Third Opinion sighs. He leans back in his creaky chair, stares past her into some middle distance to her left. “A hundred, hundred-twenty years ago, we used to tell patients like you, patients we had no hope of curing, to go west, move to the country, take the Grand Tour of Europe. Anything. A change of scene. After all this time, we can’t do any better.”

“Were they healed? The ones who went away?” Hates her voice’s horrid, hopeful whine.

He shrugs. “Who knows? I doubt most of their physicians ever heard from them again.”

Katherine Clopton had a blessed life: A loving husband, a nice house in Atlanta, a much-loved baby on the way, and a lucrative job at an advertising agency (even if she was forced to pass her creative work off as Tim’s. This was the “good ole days” of Mad Men, after all.) And then she lost it seemingly overnight. As quickly as a city pesticide truck could sweep through her neighborhood, Kate’s health took a nosedive; she suffered a miscarriage; and Tim up and left her.

Almost four years have passed, yet Kate’s not over any of it: her health problems least of all. What started out as migraines – crippling but not fatal – has snowballed into a mysterious constellation of symptoms: nausea, weakness, non-localized pain, lethargy, and forgetfulness. Her body is failing to assimilate food, her doctors say; she’s slowly starving. Given just six months to live, Kate impulsively purchases a rustic cabin in the Atlanta wilderness, sight unseen. Within weeks she’s sold her share in the ad agency, vacated her suburban home, and headed into the woods to die.

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Book Review: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Fredrik Backman (2015)

Friday, June 26th, 2015

For Children Aged Zero to One Hundred and Twenty-Three

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review on NetGalley. Trigger warning for violence, including domestic violence and war.)

Miamas is Granny and Elsa’s favorite kingdom, because there storytelling is considered the noblest profession of all. The currency there is imagination; instead of buying something with coins, you buy it with a good story. Libraries aren’t known as libraries but as “banks,” and every fairy tale is worth a fortune. Granny spends millions every night: tales full of dragons and trolls and kings and queens and witches. And shadows. Because all imaginary worlds have to have terrible enemies, and in the Land-of-Almost-Awake the enemies are the shadows, because the shadows want to kill the imagination.

And when the morning light seeps into the hospital room, Elsa wakes up in Granny’s arms. But Granny is still in Miamas.

The mightiest power of death is not that it can make people die, but that it can make the people left behind want to stop living.

Almost-eight-year-old Elsa is what many adults call “smart for her age.” She may only be seven, but Elsa knows a backhanded compliment when she hears one. A precocious kid, Elsa isn’t terribly popular, with children or adults. And most certainly not among shopkeepers, whose grammatically incorrect signage she doesn’t hesitate to correct with her handy, ever-present felt-tipped pen: her all-time favorite gift from her font-obsessed father.

Elsa’s best friend – her only friend, in point o’ facts – is her seventy-seven-year-old grandmother. Luckily, Granny lives in Elsa’s apartment building – right next door! People say that Granny’s “crazy,” and that may be true … but only to an extent. Mostly Granny doesn’t give a flying fuck what others think of her. It kind of comes with the territory: Granny was a medical student, and then an accomplished doctor (a surgeon, no less), before these fields had opened up to women. Heck, during Granny’s first few years on this earth, it was even illegal for Swedish women to vote!

So that’s one part of Granny’s “madness” – the radical notion that women are people and can do the same things as their male peers. Even if that involves traveling the globe, visiting the sites of natural disasters and man-made catastrophes while everyone else flees, rescuing people and rebuilding lives the best way she knows how.

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Mini-Review: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (2012)

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Couldn’t put it down!

five out of five stars

(Caution: minor spoilers in the second paragraph.)

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

This is a story about two shitty people, trapped in a shitty marriage, and their mostly shitty parents and occasionally shitty friends. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the dearth of likable characters and the absence of a clear hero to root for, Gone Girl is a remarkably enjoyable read: witty, darkly humorous, wickedly fun. Even though I knew that there would be a major plot twist – and had a good guess as to its nature – Flynn still managed to surprise me, with multiple smaller twists beyond the first biggie. The overall structure of the book (Boy Loses Girl; Boy Meets Girl; Boy Gets Girl Back) serves the story well, and Flynn’s writing style is both entertaining and trenchant, and keeps the plot moving forward at a steady pace. GONE GIRL is a longish novel that feels lengthy – but in the best way possible. There’s so much action and observation crammed into these 400+ pages that I never got bored with it.

Gone Girl is ripe for deeper analysis: of the dynamics of interpersonal violence; rape culture; media sensationalism; the recession and erosion of the American middle class; sexism and misogyny; and gender roles and shifting expectations (Amy’s infamous “Cool Girl” rant comes to mind). For example, Amy’s false rape accusations are deeply troubling and play into rape apologist talking points (women lie about rape for their own benefit). Then again, she’s a sociopath! She hides jars of her own vomit inside frozen Brussels sprouts bags, and steals her pregnant neighbor’s urine. None of her actions really translate to an IRL setting. Which is why I (mostly) powered my thinking cap down for this one, and enjoyed it for what it was: crazy, crazy fun.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

 

Comments (May contain spoilers!)

Diversity: Not much. Betsy Bolt – defense attorney Tanner Bolt’s wife – is a 6′ tall, stunningly beautiful (and highly intelligent) black woman, which catches Nick off guard – he expected a WASP like her husband.

 

Book Review: The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan, Jenny Nordberg (2014)

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Engaging, Informative, Interrogative; Intersectional Gender Studies At Its Best

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program.)

The bacha posh […] is a human phenomenon, and exists throughout our history, in vastly different places, with different religions and in many languages. Posing as someone, or something, else is the story of every woman and every man who has experienced repression and made a bid for freedom. It is the story of a gay U.S. Marine who had to pretend he was straight. It is the story of a Jewish family in Nazi Germany posing as Protestants. It is the story of a black South African who tried to make his skin lighter under apartheid. Disguising oneself as a member of the recognized and approved group is at the same time a subversive act of infiltration and a concession to an impossible racist, sexist, or otherwise segregating system.

Investigative journalist Jenny Nordberg was researching a larger story about Afghan women when she stumbled upon the practice of bacha posh (“dressed up like a boy” in Dari). During a visit with Azita Rafaat, one of the few women* to be elected to Afghanistan’s newly formed Parliament, one of Azita’s four children let the family’s loosely guarded secret slip: “Our brother is really a girl.” And so begins The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan.

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Book Review: The Shadow Year, Hannah Richell (2014)

Friday, June 6th, 2014

A Tense Psychological Drama

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program. Trigger warning for rape and violence. The second half of the review contains spoilers, which are clearly marked as such.)

The Peak District cottage couldn’t have dropped into Lila’s lap at a better time. Still mourning the death of her five-day-old infant Milly – and haunted by the accident that sent Lila into labor two months prematurely, the details of which still elude her – Lila needs a change of a scenery, a project to keep her busy, and (perhaps most of all) some time away from her husband Tom. Long since abandoned and falling steadily into disrepair, the remote, diamond-in-the-rough cabin certainly fits the bill.

Adding to the cottage’s air of mystery is its unknown origins: this was an anonymous gift. Lila’s father, recently struck down by a heart attack, is the most likely benefactor; but the lawyers are holding fast to their client’s wishes, leaving Lila to speculate about the cabin’s original owner and his intentions in gifting this beautiful and seemingly untouched piece of land to her.

This is in July. For the next twelve months – “The Shadow Year” – Lila’s story alternates, month-by-month, with the events that transpired in the cabin in the summer of 1980 through 1981. The beginning of the flashback story sees five college friends – Kat, Carla, Ben, Mac, and Simon – visit the lake one lazy summer afternoon. Newly graduated and facing the daunting prospect of finding employment in the face of a recession, the friends decide to claim the seemingly abandoned cottage as their own. Instead of jumping on the treadmill to adulthood, they embark upon a one-year project to see if they can rough it on their own.

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Book Review: The One I Was, Eliza Graham (2014)

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

All the world’s a stage.

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaways program.)

Germany, December 1938. Only weeks after Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass,” an orgy of organized violence against Jews in Germany and Austria), eleven-year-old Benjamin Goldman boards a Kindertransport train for England. Carrying just his school satchel and his cherished leather football, Benny is traveling light; with his father long since imprisoned by the Nazis, and a mother who lay dying of diphtheria, Benny has no one to see him off, and is eager to put his life in Germany behind him.

Once in England, Benny is “adopted” by Lord Sidney Dorner and his young wife Harriet. The wealthy couple pledged to sponsor twenty Jewish refugees; the best and brightest six boys are to stay at their Fairfleet estate, where they’ll receive a top-notch education from university professor Dr. Dawes. For the next six and a half years, Benny tries his best to assimilate into his new, adopted country. Having always felt an outsider, he’s determined to shed his German roots and become a “proper” Englishman. From day one at Fairfleet, Benny struggles to speak in English rather than German, even outside of the classroom. He excels in his studies and forms tentative friendships with his dorm mates.

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Book Review: The First Days: As the World Dies, Rhiannon Frater (2011)

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Don’t Mess With — BRAAAAAAAAINS!!!

three out of five stars

The Zombocalypse has arrived, and survival is as much a matter of dumb luck as it is skill and cunning – a fact quickly established in the first few pages of The First Days. Texas prosecutor Katie is on her way to work when the traffic procession in which she’s stuck is swarmed by a group of the undead. Katie barely manages to escape with her life, thanks to an older gent in a pickup who sacrifices his meat suit for hers. Katie races home, only to find her beloved wife Lydia eviscerating the mailman. She takes off in confused horror, and serendipitously crosses paths with Jenni, a long-suffering housewife whose abusive husband Lloyd has just made a meal of their children. In a very Thelma & Louise moment, the two women embark on a road trip, traversing the rural Texas countryside in search of Jenni’s surviving stepson, Jason, and a safe place to call home.

The First Days: As the World Dies is a solid enough zombie story that, for whatever reason, stopped just short of sucking me in. The story – a kind of cross between The Walking Dead, The Zombie Survival Guide, and every Romero movie ever made – primarily focuses on the tenuous task of rebuilding while swarms of zombies continue to beat down your door. The logistical planning – of which there’s more than a little – didn’t interest me so much, but I loved the many pop culture references. Frater’s obviously a huge fan of the genre. Originally self-published, the Tor reprint maintains some of that indie feel (and not in a bad way). Puzzling, though, are the many punctuation errors that managed to make it into the new version: missing periods, spaces both before and after periods, etc.

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Book Review: Escape from Berlin, Irene N. Watts (2013)

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

“For those who do not look away”

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

In the nine months before the outbreak of World War II, and thanks to the efforts of Jewish and Quaker delegates from Germany and Austria, some 10,000 children were ferried to safety in Great Britain. Most of the children rescued through Kindertransport were Jewish, living in Nazi Germany and neighboring Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, and thus in danger of persecution; others were orphans in need of more permanent care during wartime. The children were transported to England, where they were placed in foster homes, hostels, schools, and farms. (Among those rescued? None other than noted American sex therapist – and former Israeli scout and sniper – Dr. Ruth Westheimer. The Wiki entry on Kindertransport makes for interesting reading, and also provides a list of memoirs and historical novels written about this oft-forgot piece of WWII history.)

Author and playwright Irene N. Watts arrived in England via Kindertransport on December 10, 1938. She was just seven years old (the same age as protagonist Sophie) and traveled alone. While the events in Escape from Berlin are not autobiographical, the story is no doubt heavily influenced by the experiences of Watts and children like her. December 1, 2013, marks the 75th anniversary of the first Kindertransport; Good-Bye Marianne, Remember Me, and Finding Sophie are published together here for the first time in honor of the occasion.

Marianne Kohn has spent all of her eleven years in living Berlin with her mother and father. The growing air of anti-Semitism, while sometimes puzzling, is part of Marianne’s daily landscape: she’s used to signs barring admittance to “Jews and dogs,” and public park benches (or entire parks) which are reserved for Aryans only. In the days leading up to World War II, however, life grows increasingly perilous for her family. Marianne is expelled from school when the government passes a new law preventing Jews from attending public schools; similarly, the Nazis prohibit Jews from owning businesses, thus forcing her father to sell his beloved book shop. Even this doesn’t save him from scrutiny, however; the new owner finds some banned books in stock and promptly reports him to the authorities. (“Berlin was full of eyes,” Marianne recalls.) Though he’s ultimately released by the Gestapo, Vati goes into hiding. Faced with dwindling options, Mrs. Kohn decides to do the unthinkable: send Marianne away to England, where she’ll be safe from persecution. Thanks to her volunteer work at an orphanage, Mutti is able to secure a place for Marianne aboard the very first Kindertransport run. The adults wait with bated breath: will the Nazis honor their agreement and allow the train to leave undisturbed? What will become of their children? Is this goodbye their last?

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The Not-So-Curious Case of the Absent Referent

Monday, July 13th, 2009

As much as I’d like to write a post today – I have two book reviews and two sex/meat type posts on the back burner – I’m afraid I’m utterly exhausted after a day spent vacuuming, scrubbing, washing and dusting. Ozzy’s room alone took me a few hours to clean; I don’t give it a thorough scrubdown very often, and so it was starting to resemble a giant, slimy hairball, no lie. And oh, the litter!

Luckily, though, I have a new guest post up at Change.org. My original title was “The Not-So-Curious Case of the Absent Referent,” but Stephanie and I agreed that it was a little too academic, so we came up with “Women, Cows, Speed Bags, and Steaks: One of These Things Is Not Like the Others” instead. Check it out here, and leave a comment if you’re so inclined.

Before you head over there, though, take a stab at the riddle: which of those things is not like the others, and why?

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Hunting "Tail" on Dollhouse

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

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Caution: Major spoiler warning below the jump!

I’ve been a Joss Whedon fan since his Firefly days, so when I heard that he was working on a new project, Dollhouse, I immediately got all giddy like a schoolgirl. That is, until I hear that Eliza Dushku would be starring. Ugh.

Even before the hunting flap, I disliked Dushku. Perhaps it’s because she came off like an entitled snot in a very early episode of Punk’d; even before she was faux “arrested” for “shoplifting” in a local retail boutique, she copped a huge ‘tude over all the free swag she was obviously owed for being a celebrity. That, and Tru Calling looked absolutely dreadful. Well, and I’m also weird like that; Dushku isn’t the only celebrity I have an irrational, knee-jerk dislike for. Take Ben Affleck, for example: clearly, he’s a funny, charming, altruistic guy, but there’s just something about him that I want to hate. He’s smarmy, but not. Did I also mention that I have a crazy aversion to feet? So maybe it’s just me, after all.

Anyway, the aforementioned hunting flap gave me a reason to dislike her – a good one, actually. In an August appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Show, Dushku discussed her love of hunting – you know, that sadistic leisure activity which involves murdering innocent animals for “fun”:

Here’s the gist of the interview (via ecorazzi), in case you don’t want to sit through the whole video:

A couple night ago on Jimmy Kimmel Live Dushku revealed that she loves to hunt elk and deer. Not only did she brag about it, but she also showed off her bow and arrow skills and boasted about killing a deer in Oklahoma last Christmas. WTF, Eliza? Why are you such a jerk?

Even the studio audience turned on Dushku forcing her to joke, “My mother called me herself and said, ‘You’re a liberal from New England, what the ‘f’ are you doing in Oklahoma shooting things.” Backpeddling later she said, “When you’re in a relationship with somebody you have to, like, experience things that they do. A lot of people eat meat… and I eat what I kill.”

Dushku’s hunting isn’t so much the point, though, as it is a set-up for the rest of this post. Despite my ambivalence, I started watching Dollhouse on my DVR last week. It’s alright, certainly no Firefly, but also not the complete stinker I was afraid it’d be. The second episode, “The Target,” is of particular interest from an animal rights standpoint.

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Fishermen as happy sadists: A new meme?

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Last month, I blogged about a series of ads for Hobie Kayaks, aimed at fishermen (“people,” I should say, except all the ads seem to depict men). The gist of the marketing concept is that the kayaks are so quiet that fishermen can stalk and overtake their prey with serial killer-like coldness and precision. Fittingly, shadowy fishermen in fedoras and trench coats are shown choking, knifing and shooting three very terrified fish. Fishermen as stone-cold killers, indeed.

As shocking as I initially found the ads, now I’m starting to wonder whether this is the beginning of a meme.

Take, for example, this ad series from Bass Pro Shops. The general concept actually isn’t all that objectionable; the three print ads are touting Bass Pro Shop’s camp sale with the slogan “Get the family ready. Bass Pro Shops camp sale.” (C’mon, who doesn’t love camping!?)

In the first ad, someone (Dad, presumably) has put some greenery around the toilet, in order to get the family ready to do their biz in the bushes:

Bass Pro Shops Camp Sale - Toilet

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"Rodeo Cowboy Criminals": A SHARK Documentary Series

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Zeb Lanham, a “bull rider” who pled guilty to felony domestic violence for beating his pregnant girlfriend last November. Among other injuries, he left her with a broken cheekbone, which was placing pressure on her brain. I also highlighted 16 additional cases of interpersonal violence and/or animal abuse (above and beyond the cruelty-as-entertainment regularly found in rodeos), committed by those involved in the rodeo and associated businesses, which I pulled from SHARK’s website. Criminal acts perpetrated by “cowboys” are so common that SHARK has even devoted a section of their website to detailing these cases: CowboyCriminals.com

SHARK has begun collecting these stories in a series of short video documentaries, “Rodeo Cowboy Criminals”. They expect to produce at least a dozen such installments, linking the cruelty committed in the ring with the violence these career animal abusers carry into their personal lives. Such interpersonal violence includes assault, domestic abuse, child abuse, rape and murder. And animal abuse and environmental injustices, naturally.

Here’s Part 1, along with a description of the video from their latest newsletter. (The video runs 7 1/2 minutes and includes some images of animal cruelty.)

SHARK has posted the first of a long series of videos that will expose a deeper, darker corner of the Rodeo Mafia than ever before. The video is “Rodeo Cowboy Criminals, Part 1.”

Based on the records of rodeo connected criminals already in our possession, the series is likely to run a dozen or more video exposes’. The crimes range from animal abuse to child abuse, to racial crimes to rape and murder. This is a grisly job, but someone has to do it.

Perhaps the most disgusting aspect of these Cowboy Criminals is that many of them are still involved in and embraced by the rodeo industry.

“Rodeo Cowboy Criminals, Part 1” looks at three dastardly criminals. Zeb Lanham we reported on in our last update. Lanham beat his pregnant girlfriend so badly that she had to be airlifted to adequate medical care. Larry Lancaster is a child sexual predator, which is of course sickening and repulsive all by itself. Worse yet, Lancaster ran a rodeo school and was a sponsor of high school rodeo! Jimmy David Brazile is also a child predator. This sixty year old predator repeatedly had sex with a sixteen year-old girl, and then had the incredible nerve to tell the girl’s father that he had sex with the girl to show her that it wasn’t a big deal!

SHARK’s “Rodeo Cowboy Criminals” series will show the link between those who abuse animals and human abuse. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look at this important new effort to expose the cruelty of rodeo.

I’m thrilled that SHARK is making the connections – between interpersonal violence and animal abuse, between the oppression of humans and that of non-human animals, and between misogyny, racism and speciesism. These are not isolated incidents of hate and violence; rather, they’re all part of the same fabric of oppression, privilege and othering. We need to keep connecting these dots.

You can follow SHARK’s progress on their You Tube channel, and send them an appreciative email (or support their work with a donation) here.

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Cowboys & Criminals

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Update, 5/11/09:

As reported by SHARK, on April 16, Zeb Lanham pled guilty to felony domestic battery and

was sentenced to a 10-year unified prison term with the first five years fixed and the second five indeterminate. However, included in the plea agreement was the stipulation the judge retain jurisdiction of the case, allowing Lanham to complete a rehabilitation and education program. So Lanham was remanded to North Idaho Correctional Institution situated at Cottonwood for 180 days, in which he will complete the rider program, and attend the treatment classes set for him.

“What they actually do is, in part, determined by the charges they were convicted on,” Lee said of the rider treatment program.

After those 180 days, Lanham will return to the court and, based on the recommendation from the Idaho Department of Corrections on how Lanham did in his program, the judge will likely either order Lanham to serve the remainder of his sentence or waive prison time in favor of probation on the condition he cannot break any of the terms set.

So he could serve as little as 180 days for beating his partner, who was pregnant (and thus especially vulnerable) at the time. Just goes to show how little the patriarchy values women and non-human animals (remember, he also earns a living by abusing sentient creatures).

———

In their current newsletter, SHARK highlights the arrest of “Bull Rider” Zeb Lanham – for felony domestic violence. Lanham was charged with beating his 22-year-old pregnant girlfriend, and subsequently pled guilty.

Man charged in violent beating episode of girlfriend
By Jessica Keller
Argus Observer
Friday, November 14, 2008 10:51 AM PST

FRUITLAND — A Sweet, Idaho, man and professional bull rider was arrested and charged with felony domestic violence following an incident that occurred Nov. 3 in Fruitland.

Zeb Lanham, 24, was arrested Nov 3 following an incident at the residence of Kimberly Butler, 22, his girlfriend and the woman with whom shares a child.

“A warrant was issued for his arrest, and he turned himself in on Nov. 4,” Payette County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Lee said Wednesday. “He is still in custody last I know. The court set a $200,000 bond in this case.”

Lee said police are still gathering evidence, so what he can say about the case is limited. According to the police report, however, law enforcement officials were called following an argument between Lanham and Butler. Lanham was reported to have caused “great bodily harm with traumatic injury on Butler’s face,” according to the police report. A Fruitland police officer interviewed Butler, who is also pregnant, at Holy Rosary Medical Center, where she was being treated. She was later transported by LifeFlight Air Ambulance to a Boise-area hospital for treatment of her injuries. Those injuries include a broken cheekbone and swelling that was apparently putting pressure on her brain, according to the police report. According to the police report, Butler entered a neighbor’s house to call 911 after she sustained her injuries. Lanham is scheduled to appear Monday in Payette County Court for his preliminary hearing.

Bullrider pleads guilty at arraignment session
By: JESSICA KELLER
ARGUS OBSERVER
Sunday, December 21, 2008 1:58 AM PST

PAYETTE—A professional bullrider charged with felony domestic violence pleaded guilty following a plea agreement during his arraignment Friday in Payette County District Court. […]

One of the terms of the agreement is that Lanham be sentenced to a 10-year unified prison term with the first five years fixed. The plea agreement also stipulates Lanham pay restitution, although the terms of that have not been decided upon yet. The prison sentence, however, comes with the stipulation at the Feb. 19 sentencing date, the prosecutors will recommend the judge retain jurisdiction of the case, allowing Lanham to complete a rehabilitation and education program, which usually lasts between four to six months, Lee said. Following the completion of the program, depending on the results, the Idaho Department of Corrections could recommend to the judge Lanham serve probation or serve the original sentence, or the judge can go ahead and impose the original sentence anyway.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances of the case, we determined that was an appropriate plea agreement in this matter,” Lee said.

In Idaho, if a person has not been convicted of a prior felony offense, it is unlikely he or she would go to prison for the initial conviction, regardless. Under the current plea agreement, Lanham will have to demonstrate prison is not the best option before a final decision is made.

Lee said, based on his records, Lanham does not have a prior felony conviction. According to Idaho Department of Corrections records, however, Lanham is facing misdemeanor battery charges in Gem County in a case that has been scheduled for jury trial. Lee said, while that case remains unresolved, it is impossible to say whether it will have any impact in Lanham’s sentencing or affect possible probation opportunities if his treatment program is completed successfully.

Of this most recent case, SHARK notes, “Another example of what research has proven, violence to animals is a precursor of violence to humans.”

Indeed, on their website, SHARK documents a number of cases of violent crime among rodeo participants; the target of the violence is often non-human animals, but other victimized groups include women, children and people of color:

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Kinship Circle: Update/Act: No Deal For Cat Killer

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kinship Circle – kinshipcircle [at] accessus.net
Date: Fri, Oct 24, 2008 at 1:26 PM
Subject: Update/Act: No Deal For Cat Killer

KINSHIP CIRCLE PRIMARY, http://www.KinshipCircle.org

PLEASE HELP: http://www.kinshipcircle.org/donation/
DONATE BY MAIL: Kinship Circle / 7380 Kingsbury Blvd. / St. Louis, MO 63130

10/24/08: No Deal For Ruthless Cat Killer
FOR A FORMATTED VERSION OF THIS LETTER (WORD DOC): kinshipcircle [at] accessus.net
Easily modify letter. Copy/paste it into an email or print letter to fax or mail.

=====================

FULL CONTACT INFORMATION. Sample letter follows.

=====================

The Honorable Leila Kermani, Assistant District Attorney
Office of the Manhattan District Attorney
One Hogan Place
NY, NY 10013
ph: 212-335-3630 (or 9400); fax: 212-335-9288
www.manhattanda.org

The Honorable Michael J. Obus
Manhattan Criminal Court
100 Centre Street
NY, NY 10013
ph: 646-386-4500; fax: 212-374-5293

**NO EMAIL ADDRESSES FOUND FOR EITHER CONTACT**

(More below the fold…)

Kinship Circle: ACT/ Demand Retrial For Vicious Cat Killer

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kinship Circle – kinshipcircle [at] accessus.net
Date: Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 10:39 PM
Subject: ACT/ Demand Retrial For Vicious Cat Killer

KINSHIP CIRCLE DISASTER AID NETWORK – PERMISSION TO CROSS-POST

Apologies to dual-list subscribers who receive this alert twice. Kinship Circle Primary alerts are occasionally posted to this disaster aid list too.

COMPANION ANIMAL CAMPAIGNS
10/7/08: Demand Retrial For Vicious Cat Killer
FOR A FORMATTED VERSION OF THIS LETTER (WORD DOC): kinshipcircle [at] accessus.net
Easily modify letter. Copy/paste it into an email or print letter to fax or mail.

Kinship Circle - 2008-10-07 - Demand Retrial For Vicious Cat Killer 01

Kinship Circle - 2008-10-07 - Demand Retrial For Vicious Cat Killer 02

Norman, an 8-pound declawed tabby, and his killer, Joseph Petcka.

(More below the fold…)

*jawdrop*

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Yeah, I know it’s the New York Post…and maybe this is their misguided attempt at “satire” (dog, I hope this is supposed to be satirical!)….but still. FELONIOUS BALL OF FUR DESERVED EVERY BLOW – WTF!?

THE stupid cat had it coming.

Forgive me, all you animal- rights nuts, you freaky lovers of things furry, fierce and woefully incontinent. I’ve got something to say to all assorted people who’ve got nothing better to do with their days than stick their noses in another man’s litter box.

The dead cat at the center of a whacked-out catricide trial now eating up precious court time and tax dollars in downtown Manhattan is no innocent wittle victim.

PHOTOS: Man On Trial For Cat Killing

Norman the Cat, who was pummeled to death last year at the age of 8 by an inarguably hot, allegedly drunk, former Met minor leaguer and bit-part actor named Joseph Petcka, had serious issues.

The first of which may have been his name.

Owner Lisa Altobelli testified yesterday that she named Norman after the zhlubby character Norm from “Cheers” – “my favorite show.” Norman Bates sounds more accurate.

No one likes to see a little frisky drowning in a pool of his own blood. Well, not many.

But Petcka had grown tragically fixated on the idea of getting along with the pet pussy that Altobelli called “my little buddy.” He wrote in his diary that he’d made “progress” getting the pea-brained flea bag to allow Petcka to pet him.

Early on March 27, 2007, Altobelli testified, Petcka had too much to drink. She said he chanted, in a weird, sing-songy voice, “Nor-man. Nor-man!”

So Altobelli did what anyone overly attached to a neurotic hairball would do when danger was afoot: She left Petcka alone in her apartment with her beloved cat.

Hours later, Altobelli returned. She found the puss under a table.

“He was cold,” she said, crying crocodile tears and hanging her head petulantly.

Petcka claims the thing sank his teeth into his hand. So he had to violently knock him away.

Innocent victim? Or kitty provocateur?

Why can’t we just ask Petcka to clean a few hundred litter boxes, and end this fiasco?

Petcka, if you couldn’t discern from the dreck above, is currently on trial for killing his girlfriend’s cat Norman – pummeling him to death with his fists. Petcka’s “defense” is that Norman attacked him, thus justifying the beating. Trouble is, Norman’s declawed. And, erm, even if he weren’t – there are other ways to deal with an angry cat. It’s a fucking cat, ferchrissakes, not a cougar.

Petcka is a liar, a psychopath, an animal- and (future) woman-abuser. He allegedly killed Norman in a jealous rage because Altobelli loved the cat more than him. A woman who cared for an innocent, fluffy, unconditionally loving sentient being more than her cold, unfeeling asswipe of a boyfriend – you don’t fucking say!

If you’d like to fire off a complaint to the New York Post, here’s there online form for submitting letters to the editor. Andrea Peyser – the sub-human who wrote this piece – can be reached at andrea.peyser@nypost.com.

Please keep the misogyny and death threats to a minimum, people; instead of calling her a bitch or cunt or suggesting that you send your own C-list actor over to her place so that she, too, can experience the joy of being beaten to a bloody pulp, why not remind her of the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence?

Also, here are a few related petitions you can sign, if so inclined:

NY Post Columnist Says Beaten Cat Deserved to Die!

Celeb. Boyfriend Kills Girlfriends Cat in Jealous Rage

(Crossposted from.)

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Tagged:

Friday Activist Vlogging: Teh wimmins of cuntry (and clams, too!)

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Great feminist-minded country dominated my mp3 player yesterday, so I’m in a hardy candy kind of mood today. Here are three of my favorite country songs (mostly oldies, the newer stuff generally doesn’t do it for me): Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill”, Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA”, and The Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl”. You’ll have to excuse the awful misogynistic video for “The Pill” – ’twas the only listen-able video I could find. Well, not so much “excuse” as “ignore” or “don’t watch, just listen”.

And to round out to selection, NOFX’s “Clams Have Feelings Too”. I think this is one of the songs NOFX initially wrote to mock the concept of animal rights, but the band’s singer did go veg in the late ’80s, and the track is included on PETA’s compilation album, Liberation: Songs to Benefit PETA. And really, I think it’s a relatively animal-friendly song either way.

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