We Haz National Health Cayuh? As I write, Bart Stupak (pictured at right with a Finnish comedy troupe from Michigan's Upper Peninsula) and his merry band of anti-choice Democrats have been reassured that the Hyde Amendment will be defended by an executive order. It looks like the Health Care legislation will pass now that these gentlemen are all aboard. Of course, in order to get national health care for everyone, we threw women overboard. Again, Barack. So almost everyone will almost get almost all the care they need. Ho-kay.
I have actually listened to the debate off and on, being as I am a political historian. We in the Radical household are amusing ourselves by quoting arcane points of parliamentary procedure and asking each other to yield time in increments of less than a minute. John L. Lewis was a stunner, as usual, and I felt lucky to have tuned in at the moment he spoke. Charles Rangel made it up to the podium for a hot minute to explain that the only reason he had stepped down as chair of Ways and Means was to not distract from this very important piece of legislation (what rent controlled apartments?); and numerous Republicans stumbled through 15 to 60 seconds of outrage and horror about our country's slide towards socialism. I don't mind the occasional reference to Marx, but a few of these folks were genuinely delusional. One Distinguished Member predicted the return of totalitarian dictatorships all over the globe as a result of this bill, another that socialized medicine would be personally enforced by IRS thugs kicking down our doors. The idea that thousands of American citizens voted for people who would say such things is positively mind-numbing. And then there was the constant repetition of the notion that the bill was being "rammed down our throats," which for those of us in queer studies -- well, all I can say is, don't ask, don't tell, Rep. Boehner.
In Case You Think You Are Done With The Memoir Genre: Even if you have sworn off overpriced hardbacks about alcoholic mothers, crazy mothers, people who have battled back from depression, anorexia, poverty, a bad immigration status, homelessness or schizophrenia to get an agent and write their story of triumph and heartbreak, there is one more memoir you have to read: Patti Smith's Just Kids. As much about her lover and friend photographer Robert Mapplethorpe as it is about Smith, it's a terrific portrait of the evolution of two artists, and of downtown life in the 1970s. Warhol was fading, punk was arriving, and New York was still cheap enough that all kinds of kids flocked there to do theater, music, visual art and whatever struck them as important. Sometimes, Village Voice reviewer Roy Edroso writes, "Just Kids is just arch, with the usual defects of long prose written by poets. But Smith pulls you in—like with her clarinet experiments, not so much because the thing is well-played, but by the force of its devotional fervor." There are certain memories that you wish Smith had kept to herself, like her suggestion that she nicknamed Janis Joplin "Pearl" (even if it's true it is one of the few uncool moments in the book.) But as a story about ambition, love and what it means to devote yourself to art it is a winner. For an excerpt, click here.
And Last But Not Least:
Department of Lessons On Discretion and Civilized Disputation: No comment.