Editor’s Letter

Monday, 3 August 2015 07:00 pm
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Posted by Tavi

"Her Widening Gyre," 2011, Njideka Akunyili Crosby

“Her Widening Gyre” by Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

Hey, Rooks. August’s theme is Give and Take, particularly as it pertains to friendships, familyships, and relationships of all kinds. A few notes on the romantic kind, with no real answers.


1. I find it odd to characterize romantic relationships as “more than friends.” It seems friendship ought to be the prized jewel; connection through the haze of sex and romance and newness; “more than” boyfriends/girlfriends/partners.

2. I have a history of failure in actually living by this philosophy. This can be illustrated with my and S.’s conversation at the dining room table in the winter, when I was looking over the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s “Style.”

ME: What the fuck!
HIM: What?
ME: I always thought that in the bridge, she was saying “Take me out,” but it’s actually “Take me home,” just over and over!
ME: That’s like…so sad? But so real!
HIM: How?
ME: Like, throughout the whole song she has these hesitations about partaking in such a casual romance, but she always comes back to being like, “You’re cute, I’m cute; we’re young; I can handle it!” And then she’s just gonna plop in this extremely dark plea to be taken home? Like, turn the car around, I am not wired for this kind of relationship!?
HIM: But wouldn’t it be “take me home” as in, like, “Take me home with you”?
ME: …Ohhh.
HIM: No?
ME: No. Yeah. Yeah, that makes way more sense. Oh my god, obviously! Right, like, that’d be so weird if in the middle of this song that’s just about like, a rowdy fling, she’d be like, “Wait, what are we?” Wow. I can’t believe I—so dumb. OK. Well. Nevermind, then.

3. I cut my hair because I would rather become a new person than remain the ghost of a past one. It is the haircut which allegedly prompted Frank Sinatra to divorce Mia Farrow. It is the haircut I got when I was 13 and saw romance as a distraction from newfound interests in fashion and art. It spins counter-clockwise but accelerates the passing of time; memories of this relationship, if we can call it that, feel as though they happened to a different body.

I was photographed before and after. To my own disappointment in myself, the emotional transformation was not so visible in the “after” shots—if anything, I look more self-conscious, threatened by the bareness of the studio, already missing the comfort of femininity. Unfortunately I have struggled to find a version of femininity that is not synonymous with the kind of self-consciousness that can slowly desaturate a person, perhaps because it’s been defined by men, or by my own assumptions of what men must want. I loathe to discuss having a “type,” but all evidence suggests that mine is someone who strikes such a particular balance of handsome and boring that I assign complexity to his silence, confuse that silence for disapproval, and believe that that disapproval is indicative of my failure to meet standards I held for myself long before he entered my sphere.

4. There’s the Fiona Apple lyric: “And it’s dangerous work trying to get to you too, and I think if I didn’t have to kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill myself doing it, maybe I wouldn’t think so much of you.” There’s what L. said when we discussed writing to a former partner in search of answers and apologies: “I knew what I was in for. I probably wouldn’t have sent that email if there’d been any chance of him understanding me.”

I have written and talked at length about a philosophy that the projection inherent in fandom can be applied in human interaction, thinking it was empowering to view one’s affection for another person as a reflection of oneself. I worry now that I am doomed to be a fangirl forever; that my heart can recognize only unrequited desire as love.

5. There’s the scene in The Flick where Sam tells Rose he loves her and Rose retorts that he is in love, instead, with an idea of her. “That’s not how I wanted it to seem. Be. That’s not how I wanted it to be,” Sam says, facing the movie theater screen, with his back to her.

ROSE: So turn around and look at me.
SAM: (tears starting to brim in his eyes) Do you like me back?
ROSE: Oh my god.
ROSE: Would you please just turn around?
Sam shakes his head no.
ROSE: Sam.
He shakes his head no again.
ROSE: You’re seriously not going to turn around and look at me?
He does not turn around.
ROSE: You don’t know me.

6. My eighth-grade class took a field trip to a 1920s-themed restaurant, and while we were getting rounded up in the morning, I sat in the back of the social studies classroom and stared in the dark at the boy I had a crush on. He was in front of the projector and facing me, but silhouetted against the yellow screen so that I could not discern if his eyes stared back at mine. It was lovely to pine for the answer. I’d dressed up as Daisy Buchanan, but was thrilled for him to be my green light.

7. Is it so criminal, though, to try to keep your heart protected before allowing anyone the opportunity to treat it like a whoopie cushion? To need to know that this person likes you back before you turn around and grant them permission to inflate the space inside your chest before crushing it out with some crude fart sound? Who is responsible for the first gesture? I am told each sentiment unfolds in small ways, in turn. I know now that the reckless, hair-flippy “Style” method of relationship-ing leaves little room for such care (for me, anyways).

8. This morning, D. sent me a quotation from Maggie Nelson’s Bluets:

For to wish to forget how much you loved someone – and then, to actually forget – can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart.

I thought immediately of my April diary entry in which I tried to accept that getting older means killing your idols, seeing their flaws, lowering them off their pedestals. Worried I would lose my religion if the movies and books and music that had so often saved me were now tainted, I scrawled:

when we celebrate one’s art we are not celebrating their character — we are celebrating the cosmic aptitude of this (art)ifact of natural history — a bird’s nest.

This idea was borrowed from David Wilson, founder of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, when I interviewed him junior year:

There’s no real distinction between what’s man-made and what’s natural, because humankind is pretty natural as far as I can tell. [...] Essentially it goes back to a 17th-century or even earlier designation of artificialia and naturalia—what is artificial and what’s natural. It’s kind of an act of hubris or pride, I think, that things that are made by humankind are in some way out of the natural order. We’re certainly, absolutely, profoundly part of the great glittering chain of being. I mean, look at birds’ nests—are they artificilia or are they naturalia? A bird makes this gorgeous nest, and that’s considered a natural artifact—so why is that different for humans?

I saw M. last night and she asked me to walk her through the breakup. I delivered my same S.-blaming script of the past three months. I found myself believing it less.

This is not to say that no one is ever responsible for their own actions—just that I’d like to know what happens between friendship and “more than friends” that exchanges my own generally realistic lens for a kaleidoscope. This month is all about that, in the greater interest of being as genuinely loving as possible, to partners of all kinds. If you have answers, or similar questions you love exploring, send them in, as always! For visual art: We’re looking for anything resembling an optical illusion.

Thank you, love you,

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Posted by Fred Clark

• Here’s an example of what I was trying to say in my recent post rambling about the language of souls. For all the Platonic, Augustinian, revivalist baggage of body-soul dualism and all the many ways that misleads and confuses us, soul-talk is still important, I think, because we need to be able to talk about that thing that Dr. William J. Lewinski sold and now lacks.

Danny Coleman: “By far the most pernicious piece of baggage collected from my decades as a religious fundamentalist was a form of cynicism that saw everything in exclusionary terms. Anything new or unfamiliar was to be distrusted.”

It’s the word “cynicism” that leaps out at me there. I hadn’t applied that term to the fundie “worldview” before, but Coleman’s right — that’s exactly what it is. And now I need to think on that a bit.

• Here’s an example of fundamentalist cynicism in action: “Evangelical college cancels student health insurance plan over birth control misinformation.”

Wheaton College used to provide health insurance that included contraception coverage. Then the Affordable Care Act set standards for minimal coverage that included contraception as a requirement, at which point Wheaton decided that continuing to do so was morally unacceptable because baby-killing sluts can never be trusted. (Call this Exhibit D.)

So now Wheaton is screwing over its students to grandstand over an explicitly dishonest anti-contraception, anti-healthcare political lie. Yeah, that’s pretty cynical. And deeply, perversely immoral.

At issue, mainly, is coverage of IUDs and morning-after pills, which some religious groups view as a form of abortion — and which, by the way, are not. Two years ago, George Washington University health policy professor Susan Wood made it clear when speaking to NPR, “It is not only factually incorrect, it is downright misleading. These products are not abortifacients. And their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one.”

For just $32,950 a year, you can study biology at Wheaton College. That’s a lot of money to study biology at a school that trumpets its rejection of the science of biology.

Studying biology at Wheaton makes about as much sense as studying medicine with the Catholic bishops of Kenya.

Samantha Field has a spiffy new website, which everyone should be bookmarking or subscribing to or doing whatever it is that people do nowadays with the blogs they follow.

We are not alone. UFO enthusiasts and Peretti-literalist “spiritual warfare” Christians agree on that much. But the latter group thinks this photo shows demon toys from Hell.


That’s a Roswell, New Mexico, gift shop. The photo by Jordan Teicher is from Arielle Milkman’s terrific TPM piece, “Jesus vs. Aliens: The Culture War Raging in the UFO Capital of the World.” Milkman discusses:

… the identity crisis besieging Roswell almost seven decades after its famous UFO sighting. It’s a microcosmic culture war in which competing believers — of extraterrestrial identity, of Christian theology, of the holy church of the American dollar — proselytize their own mutually exclusive notions of reality.

Roswell is a place where a city council member says grace even to open the annual UFO festival,” she writes, introducing us to a host of fascinating characters — true believers of every sort, including Guy Malone, a kind of born-again Max Fenig.

Malone might find a kindred spirit in Timothy Dailey, author of The Paranormal Conspiracy: The Truth About Ghosts, Aliens and Mysterious Beings. Spoiler alert: It’s all Satan, Dailey says.

James McGrath reviews Dailey’s book and is unpersuaded:

… the existence of demons and their involvement in these phenomena is not something that Dailey demonstrates, but merely something that he assumes. And there is no need to read an approximately 200-page book in order to learn that someone asserts that these things have a demonic origin.

It takes a very particular kind of faith to be able to write a book about ghosts, aliens and mysterious beings that turns out to be boring.

• “He played a bad guy, but he was a good guy.” RIP Rowdy Roddy Piper, legendary pro-wrestling heel and star of They Live. If you haven’t seen They Live, go watch it. You’ll thank me later.

A Nobody Going Against a Somebody

Monday, 3 August 2015 02:00 pm
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Posted by Ellen Bravo

Screen shot 2015-07-10 at 3.52.37 PMIn the novel Again and Again, author Ellen Bravo tells the story of Deborah Borenstein, a legislator who 30 years earlier saw her friend and roommate, Liddie Golmboch, raped at a fraternity party. The excerpt below is set in 1980s Upstate New York at Danforth University; Liddie’s assault has only recently taken place and the two women are preparing for a hearing before the school’s judicial administrator. Again and Again is available from She Writes Press on August 11.

Deborah had hoped for a hearing room that resembled the Harvard Law School Library—mahogany-paneled, with roomy leather chairs, green-shaded lamps, oversize portraits of men with formidable eyebrows. Not that she could distinguish mahogany from maple, and not that she’d ever seen the Harvard Law School Library other than as a backdrop in The Paper Chase. Still, a setting with that kind of grandeur made justice seem a more likely outcome.

But yesterday, less than twenty-four hours before the hearing, Liddie had been notified by phone that the proceedings were being shifted from Ogden Hall, home of the judicial administrator’s office, to an antiseptic classroom in Goodman Parrish. Deborah made noises about needing to buy some of her favorite pens and went off to the arts quad to get a peek. Nothing but a few rows of student desk chairs with metal seats. Not a single item on the walls. The desks looked onto a chalkboard with lines of Greek in the right-hand corner, cited below in English as a passage from Aristophanes’ The Frogs.

“The JA just wants to keep it low-key,” Dean Biddle assured Deborah when she insisted he see her. “Avoid attention. Make sure the thing doesn’t turn into a circus.” That’s why the hearing had been set for the Thursday before classes began.

Dean Biddle seemed much more concerned with the impact of the “thing” on the university’s image than he did with Liddie’s well-being. Deborah was dying to ask why the dean of students was in the loop about a neutral hearing being handled by a supposedly autonomous branch of the university. But he’d held tight to his office door while answering her question and never invited her in. Clearly, nothing she said was going to change the venue; the last thing she wanted was to delay things. Deborah thanked him for his time and hurried back to the dorm to check on her roommate.

Liddie’s chin and cheekbones were dagger-sharp when her dad dropped her off the day before. “Take care of this gal,” he told Deborah, his hand gently steering his daughter into the dorm room before he drove straight back to Saukville. “Don’t let her blow away.” Deborah was not surprised to learn that Liddie stuck with the flu story while she was home—she needed some explanation for the weight loss and lack of appetite, not to mention the incompletes. Like Deborah’s parents, Liddie’s waited each semester for the arrival of the letter containing grades, but the spectacle in each of the two households was entirely different. Deborah’s mother wanted to make sure she wasn’t goofing off—“especially now that you’re a single girl again,” she told her over the holidays. Liddie’s parents, on the other hand, were absolutely certain that their daughter would “do them proud” and couldn’t wait to see the evidence.

As soon as the squeak of her dad’s work boots was no longer audible in the hall, Liddie began sliding neat stacks of socks and underwear into her dresser drawers, fitting sweaters smelling of lavender in the plastic container under her bed—Deborah could see Mrs. Golmboch stroking each item as she packed them—and spreading new knitting projects over the desk. Liddie had yet to take out her book bag—Deborah doubted she’d cracked a textbook all vacation—and seemed to have made no move to schedule her exams. But that was okay. “It’s perfectly natural for her to put off academic catch-up until after the hearing,” Claire Rawlings, the rape crisis counselor from Rochester, told Deborah when they talked over the break. “One hurdle at a time.”

Deborah had to dodge some hurdles of her own while she was home. She tried to participate in holiday cheer, but most of the time she hunkered down in her room, pretending to get a head start on the new semester or trying to catch up on sleep after those two brutal weeks. “It’s normal to be blue because you don’t have a boyfriend,” her mother said, encouraging Deborah to attend mixers at the temple. Her brother kept offering her pot. On New Year’s Eve, when the rest of the family each shouted out a wish just before midnight, Deborah mumbled something inane about world peace. Her real wish was written on a tiny piece of paper and buried in her pillow: “Victory = L back.”

Deborah began preparations for that victory before leaving for vacation. Step number one: trying to arrange for Claire Rawlings and Professor Margaret Davis to testify as experts in the field. As soon as the JA received Liddie’s complaint, he mailed a form asking for names of witnesses, with lines for contact information plus a large rectangle entitled “Detailed Justification for the Presence of This Individual.” The form arrived in a plain brown envelope. Liddie stared at it for a full five minutes before Deborah grabbed it out of her hands and tore it open.

“I thought maybe, you know . . .” It took Liddie another five minutes to name her fear—that someone had snapped photos of her making out with Will at the fraternity party.

Deborah shuddered at the demons hovering over her roommate. She was also infuriated by the implication that these materials were somehow shameful and had to be disguised. Later that day, she vented for five minutes to Claire on the phone. “Brown paper wrapping—what the fuck! I’m all for confidentiality, but couldn’t they use a university envelope, something generic? This made it look like pornography, for God’s sake.”

In his infinite wisdom, the JA decided only one of the two “interested parties” could make an appearance. “There are no accepted standards for experts in this arena,” JA Peters wrote Liddie in their last communication before she went home. “We can allow one such party to speak. A second testimony would be duplicative. Please be advised that this is simply a preliminary session determining whether or not to pass the complaint to the University Hearing Board.”

Liddie dangled the letter like a piece of rotten fruit in front of Deborah, who was pulling off her boots after returning from the last of her exams. Freshman year they’d started a tradition of celebrating their “final finals” with a party in their room, feasting on corned beef and rye specially packaged by Deborah’s dad, a kringle baked by Liddie’s mom, and a bottle of wine secured by an older friend. When this semester’s packages arrived, Deborah quietly passed them on to a friend.

“You choose,” Liddie said, pointing her chin at the letter and going back to her knitting.

Professor Davis was the one who insisted on Claire as the stronger advocate. “I’m the academic, but there’s no recognition of my work as a field of study,” she said. “Claire knows the research as well as I do; plus, she has several years of practical experience. That’s more likely to get their attention.”

And so, a little before ten o’clock on the day of the hearing, Deborah made her way to Willard Broome Hall to meet Claire, who was driving down from Rochester. The plan was to go to Professor Davis’s office to rehearse for the two o’clock session. Claire was waiting right inside the double doors at the Broome, shivering in a black skirt and panty hose, wearing snow boots but carrying a plastic bag that no doubt contained a pair of pumps. They’d used a quick shorthand about what to wear—“I’ll be in my Sunday go-to-meeting clothes,” Claire had said. No need to explain the importance of not appearing like wild-eyed men-haters. Deborah herself had picked out a pair of camel slacks and matching turtleneck as a Hanukkah gift, along with a preppy navy blazer. Her mother assumed it was for the Christmas afternoon mixer at the temple, which Deborah had gotten out of only by feigning a stomach flu.

Under gloomy skies promising more snow, Deborah and Claire walked the short distance to Professor Davis’s office in Vilas Hall. If Claire had taken on the role of older sister for Deborah, Professor Davis—who’d never once said, “Call me Margaret”—was like an unmarried aunt, the one who took you to museums and science exhibits, taught you to eat goat cheese and beet salad, encouraged you to aim high.

The two experts had been working on this case over the holidays, redlining each other’s drafts and compiling background material. Claire would give a “brief but pithy” overview of the grim statistics on reporting and seeking medical help. They encouraged Deborah to stick to the facts: where she’d been, why she’d come back to the room early, what she’d seen, how she’d tried to convince Liddie to go to the clinic, why she’d taken the Polaroids. And Liddie—Liddie would read her statement.

Last night Deborah had encouraged Liddie to write out a longer form of what she’d said in her complaint. On a sheet of notebook paper, Liddie neatly printed fifteen sentences: “On December 1, 1979, I went to a fraternity party with Will Quincy. I was flattered that he’d asked me out. We kissed. I had several drinks. We talked about the poet Rilke, and he asked if I had a copy he could borrow. I said yes. We went to my room. Instead of stopping at the desk, Will pinned me to my bed. I said no! We didn’t kiss. He pressed his arm against my neck, his knee against my thigh, tore off my jeans, tore me again and again. I tried to yell, but his arm cut off my voice. My roommate walked in, and she did yell. He left. I will never be the same.”

Deborah copied the statement after Liddie fell asleep and showed it now to Claire and Professor Davis, who both bent their heads over the crinkled page, Claire’s hair dark and tucked behind her ears, Professor Davis’s prematurely gray and scooped up in a loose bun.

Professor Davis looked up first. “They should tattoo that last sentence on his chest.”

Claire’s eyes were wet. “On his nuts.”

Deborah folded the paper and shoved it back in her book bag. It was all she could do not to round up a group of Stop It Now members to attach this statement with permanent glue to the front door of the Delta Omega house. Claire grabbed Deborah’s hand until she regained her composure.

“Okay, so let me be sure I have this right,” Deborah said. “Because this is a preliminary hearing, it’s not going to be like Perry Mason—no cross-examination, no ganging up on the witness, right?”

“That’s what the procedural rules say.” Claire was back to business. “The JA asks clarifying questions, but his tone should stay neutral and objective. No badgering. And it’s his job to get each party to stick to factual statements, rather than diatribes against the other side. Still, we should be prepared for anything. You never know what someone like Will Quincy is capable of.”

Professor Davis promised to treat Claire to lunch—the gas and other expenses for this trip were all coming out of the counselor’s modest salary—while Deborah went back to the dorms, stopping at Loon Lodge to pick up turkey sandwiches for herself and Liddie, mayo and mustard on the side. Liddie had returned to solid foods, but Deborah hadn’t seen her swallow more than a few bites. As for Deborah, she’d be lucky if she made it through the hearing without projectile-vomiting.

After what was indeed a failed meal, Deborah hid in the bathroom stall for ten minutes doing one of the theater breathing exercises she’d learned in high school—in through the nose, out through the mouth, hands lifted up on the inhale and stretched out on the exhale. She’d always felt as if they were offering a blessing when they did that. Only now did she understand that the blessor and the blessee were one and the same.

Liddie looked like she could use some blessings herself. Her hair had lost all its luster, and her cheeks had the pallor of an invalid. For the hearing she chose a bulky sweater and long black skirt, the waist folded over twice to keep it up. Deborah brought along her book bag with the file she’d compiled, sheets displaying the photos, plus a copy of the complaint and of Claire’s remarks. Liddie brought neither book bag nor purse.

As they walked down the corridor at Goodman Parrish, Deborah wondered whether the building was really dingy or just seemed that way compared with the imaginary mahogany-paneled room. She had no idea how Liddie had imagined the space—they’d kept discussions of the session to a minimum. Deborah had assured Liddie she would not mention the hearing to the Stop It Now group, would do no publicity of any kind.

Claire Rawlings had already arrived and welcomed them to the other two desks in her row. Randall Peters, the JA, was seated at the front table. Deborah had expected him to be robed, but he was dressed in a brown suit with a carnelian tie and white shirt. He kept his eyes on the items in front of him, a short stack of papers, a legal pad, and several pens and pencils, which he kept lining up. The implements with which he would record and decide.

Someone had erased the board.

Deborah, seated in the middle, slid her chair closer to Liddie’s so that their knees touched, a feeble attempt to brace themselves for seeing Will. Liddie had her hand wrapped around the sides of her desk. Two minutes later, they heard what sounded like a dozen people entering the room. A glance at the floor revealed six he-man feet and one startling pair of high heels.

Claire had warned them to expect a fraternity buddy as witness, but there appeared to be two of them—like Will, scrubbed and clean shaven, decked out in charcoal blazers with the Delta Omega crest and lighter gray pants. More alarming was the woman who accompanied them, midthirties, wearing a pin-striped suit, carrying a sleek leather briefcase, and sporting a Farrah Fawcett hairdo, every flip deliberate. She looked like she belonged in a fashion magazine.

“Why do they get three ‘interested parties’?” Deborah scribbled on a note card to Claire. “And who the hell is she—expert against concept of rape by a known acquaintance?”

Claire’s writing was tiny and quick. “Looks like lawyer. Think, ‘I pulled myself up by my high heels, and so can you.’ We shoulda known. Quincy family = big donors. Bet administration agreed to make exception.”

The JA, a short, tidy man in his early forties whose face remained a blank slate, was asking each person to state his or her name and title. The complainant’s side went first; the fancy-schmancy woman went last. Claire had pegged it right—the woman introduced herself as Lucinda Baxter, attorney-at-law. JA Peters proceeded to remind everyone of the rules, the importance of sticking to facts and avoiding judgment-ridden terms. “This is not a courtroom,” he said, rolling a pen between his two hands. “There will be no badgering of witnesses or cross-examination. Attorney Baxter is here not to ask questions of the other side but to share expertise and views on evidentiary material, in the same way the complainant has brought someone to share expertise on other matters relevant to the case.” Deborah assumed Lucinda Baxter intended to discredit the studies they’d brought. What could she possibly have up her sleeve—a statistically significant sample of women who enjoyed being ravished?

Randall Peters called on Liddie first. She pushed herself to standing and pulled her statement out of a pocket in her skirt. “On December 1, 1979, I went to a fraternity party with Will Quincy.” Deborah could have recited the rest from memory. Liddie read it hunched over, both hands on the desk. Her voice never wavered and remained low, except for the “no,” which she held for a long beat, and the “tore me again and again,” which was nearly inaudible.

This morning, the book of Rilke poems had been lying on Liddie’s desk when she took her shower. Skimming through the table of contents, Deborah found a short poem titled “Again and Again” and read the lines: “ . . . again and again the two of us walk out together / under the ancient trees, / lie down again and again among the flowers, / face to face with the sky.” Deborah had to spin around to keep from getting the page wet with tears. One more reference that would never be the same for Liddie.

Now it was Deborah’s turn. “Avoid subjective words,” Claire reminded her this morning. “Let the facts speak for themselves, just as Liddie did. Let the pictures speak.” Deborah had rehearsed her remarks with Claire and Professor Davis and several times on her own. None of that prepared her for how hard it was to bite back all the barbed words that flooded her mouth now. She did her best reciting what had happened and holding up the sheets on which she’d pasted the Polaroids she’d taken of Liddie’s bruises.

Claire was brilliant. Unlike Deborah, who felt herself rocking back and forth like a fourth-grader giving her first speech, and Liddie, who had to brace herself against the desk, Claire remained steady and rooted, alternating between statistics and examples of women she’d met over four years of working with rape victims. “Every reaction we’ve heard from and about Elizabeth Golmboch—her worry about her parents’ response, her fear of being blamed and of losing her scholarship, her wish to avoid further pain and humiliation—all these are typical behaviors following a rape, particularly one by an acquaintance.” Claire held up a folder of articles on the subject that she had prepared for the judicial administrator. When he removed his reading glasses and waved her to the front, she delivered the folder and the photographs to his table.

Deborah began to keep a scorecard on the back of the receipt for the turkey sandwiches. She gave them one point for her testimony, three for the Polaroids, three for Liddie’s statement, three for Claire’s.

The speaking order for the other side was not as she expected. Rather than Will’s going first, the person Deborah came to think of as Frat Boy One, Norman Kuehn—“K-u-e-h-n, pronounced ‘Keen’”—was their starter. He looked like a linebacker and rose with difficulty from a desk sized for the average person.

“Your Honor . . .”

“Mr. Kuehn, I’m not a judge. Please address me as Mr. Peters.”

“Sure. Mr. Peters, I’m here because I want you to know that everyone at that party saw Liddie drinking and coming on to Will. Several guys say they heard her invite him to her room, and everybody knows what that means.”

The JA stopped writing. “Mr. Kuehn, I must remind you that you are here to state facts, not opinions. Please limit your remarks to what you yourself saw and heard.”

Deborah added another point to their column.

“Sorry, Your Honor . . . I mean, Mr. Peters.” Norman Kuehn unbuttoned his jacket. “I saw Liddie Golmboch pawing at Will . . .”

The JA stared over his half-rimmed glasses and repeated his admonition about judgment-laden terms.

“Okay. Sorry. I saw her kissing him hard and long and pressed up against him. She seemed quite happy. I mean, she was grinning and she was laughing.”

Liddie’s knee against Deborah’s started to shake.

Frat Boy Two was named Stuart Mulligan—“everyone calls me Skip.” Although he was as big as Frat Boy One, he seemed more accustomed to moving out of the chairs. Probably dropped in to class now and then. “Glad to be here, sir. I want to say that I myself with my own ears did hear her invite Will to her room.”

Peters wanted specifics—this had to be a good sign. “As close to the actual words as possible, Mr. Mulligan. Did you hear Ms. Golmboch initiate the idea of going to her room?”

After three variations of that question, Frat Boy Two finally conceded that maybe Will had brought up the idea. “But I can swear on a bible that she did say she had the book and that Will could come over to get it. And everyone knows . . .” The JA’s throat-clearing ended that sentence.

Deborah wished Peters had asked the frat boys how much they’d had to drink. But never mind. Another point in Liddie’s column.

Will Quincy waited to stand until Frat Boy Two had returned to his seat. Deborah realized Will wasn’t nearly as big as his fraternity brothers. Lacrosse, like rape, apparently benefited from speed and agility, rather than bulk.

“Thank you for the opportunity to speak and the commitment to due process,” he began. Deborah remembered Will’s smarmy voice that day on the quad. This I’m-such-a-good-boy tone now made her want to gag. “Rape is a very serious charge, sir. The mere accusation can be enough to ruin a person’s reputation. So let me say this unequivocally. I would never engage in sexual relations if they were not absolutely consensual.”

Deborah wondered if the JA could see the tremor in Liddie’s legs.

“To be perfectly honest, I thought Liddie was okay, but not really anything special. I wasn’t particularly attracted to her. But when she made a big deal out of having a copy of Rilke in her room, and then when we got there she pulled me onto her bed . . . well, you know, I’m only human. I admit it was awkward when her roommate came in. I was embarrassed—the roommate seemed a little possessive and started yelling at me, so I felt the best thing to do was to leave. A couple days later, that same roommate, Miss Borenstein, accosted me on campus . . .”

Deborah’s pencil slipped into her lap.

“Accosted, meaning . . . ?” Peters asked. His forehead wrinkled.

“She was waiting for me outside Simpson Hall on the Monday after my date with Liddie. She told me I’d be sorry, that she was going to make my life miserable. I tried to step away, but she ran after me. It was really uncomfortable.”

Deborah waited for someone to object. But this wasn’t a Perry Mason movie; she was going to have to do it herself. “Objection, Mr. Peters. That is not what happened.”

“After everyone has spoken, Miss Borenstein, you’ll have a chance to comment on anything you’ve heard here,” Peters told her. “If you’re finished, Mr. Quincy, we’ll move on to Attorney Baxter.”

Claire passed Deborah a note card, one they’d written ahead of time. “Breathe. He’s a snake. Breathe.” Claire had added another line: “JA only cares about what happened Sat. nite.”

Between breaths, Deborah tried to convince herself that this was true. Will had completely misstated what happened between them. But even if she’d used those exact words, so what—it didn’t undercut her testimony or Liddie’s. Might even help. She wouldn’t award them any points, but she wasn’t taking any away, either.

Lucinda Baxter was the only person who made her statement standing not at her seat but directly in front of the JA. Briefcase in one hand, she walked up to the front table and touched the sheets with the Polaroids. “May I, sir?” Peters removed his glasses and nodded.

“These photos do seem alarming—but one has to ask, are they authentic?” Baxter put them back down on the table and clicked open her briefcase, whose top immediately popped up. One by one, the attorney pulled out what looked like yearbooks. “In my hand are the yearbooks from Cleveland Heights High School, years 1976, 1977, and 1978. As you will see on the pages I’ve marked, Miss Deborah Borenstein was a member of Thespians on the Heights each of those years, specializing in”—and here she opened one of the books to a page marked with a scarlet square of paper—“productions and stage makeup.”

Despite Claire’s efforts to restrain her, Deborah was on her feet. Stage makeup! The most she’d ever done was rouge and face powder, a beauty mark! Who needed bruises in Oklahoma and Bye Bye Birdie?

“Please, Miss Borenstein.” The JA held up his hand. “You will have another opportunity to speak in just a moment.”

Deborah saw points stacking up on the other side. Her pencil skittered somewhere on the floor.

“The possibility of fabricating evidence becomes more likely, Mr. Peters, when combined with the reality that Miss Borenstein has an ax to grind.” Once more, Lucinda Baxter, tilting slightly forward on the toes of her three-inch high heels, popped the lid of her briefcase. Liddie jolted in her seat at the sound. This time, the attorney drew out a thin booklet.

“This document, sir, entitled ‘Stop It Now,’ is a screed against men, written by Miss Borenstein for a militant group she organized. I offer one excerpt as evidence of the kind of strident sexism it contains, and I quote: ‘All men have rape fantasies. All men are potential rapists. All men are capable of wielding the penis as a weapon of war.’”

Deborah could hear Claire scribbling but was simply incapable of doing anything other than keeping herself upright in her seat.

“Judicial Administrator Peters, as someone who has worked hard to reach my position in life, I must say this kind of document offends me and many other women. But the sentiment isn’t limited to writing. As part of my preparation for today’s session, I interviewed the dean of student services about whether there’d been any publicity or threat of publicity regarding this proceeding, in contravention of the rules. Dean Biddle mentioned that Miss Borenstein had paid him a visit and made statements implying that her militant group would take action if Miss Golmboch were not awarded an extension to take her exams.”

Lucinda Baxter added the slim booklet to the pile of yearbooks and tossed the Polaroid display on top, as if she were about to start a bonfire. “Given the lack of any independent medical analysis, the likely fraudulent photos, and the motive for false accusation, I respectfully submit that these charges be dismissed. I trust the university has appropriate procedures for filing complaints for perjury and slander, which Mr. Quincy will avail himself of.”

Surely there had been oxygen in the room when the session began. Deborah managed to rise from her seat. She managed to speak without moaning or screaming. She addressed the nature of the plays she was involved in back in high school, actors without a single bruise, how limited and amateur her role had been. She sat down again without collapsing. When the others left, she walked out with them. She allowed Claire to accompany Liddie back to their room.

And then Deborah walked to the gorge, curled up against a fallen tree, let the snow pummel her, and howled.



Ellen Bravo is the author of Again and Again, a novel about date rape and Beltway politics. Bravo will donate 20 percent of net profits to the work of groups fighting against sexual assault.

When I Was Pardoned

Monday, 3 August 2015 12:45 pm
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Posted by Dimas Salaberrios

The judge, an older woman, looked up from the papers on her desk.

“I read through your file, young man, and I have only one question. Why did you turn yourself in? You were on the run five years, you had a job under an alias, and you seemed to have created a new life for yourself. So why did you come back here?”

I was 22 years old. I swallowed and then met her piercing gaze. “Ma’am, I’ve given my life to Jesus Christ, so I’ve made up my mind to obey the law of the land. Whether I do it in jail or out of jail, I’m going to follow Jesus.”

The judge waved her hand at me. “Take him out of my courtroom right now.”

Too many African American young men have been in similar situations where their future is in the hands of judges who are often not from their community — judges jaded by a series of people who misused their leniency and let them down in the past. From my rap sheet, most would have looked at me as a person in need of incarceration and significant time off the streets.

I had sold drugs for over a decade — half of my young life. The entirety of my teenage years were drowned in abuse and a thuggish drug existence. By the time I faced that judge, I had been arrested numerous times, all for the same nonviolent offense: sales of a controlled substance (crack cocaine, marijuana, and other illegal drugs). To add insult to injury, I had escaped incarceration while handcuffed, a fact that alone could have netted me a mandatory seven-year prison sentence.

Once I escaped, I made my way from New York to North Carolina, building a larger drug empire than ever before. I became a “street god,” the main supplier for an entire city. Some newspapers called people like me kingpins or drug bosses, but popular culture was not privy to what street-god status meant for those steeped in the poison of that life.

Do drug dealers deserve a second chance?

The question permeating our national conversation right now is this: Should some nonviolent drug dealers be granted a second chance? My answer: It depends on the person.

I know some guys who seemingly engaged in good behavior and even became trusted volunteers while in jail, but just two weeks after being released to the streets, they could be found pushing kilos of cocaine in a family-run drug enterprise. And yet I am not an anomaly — thank God. I also know guys who have genuinely had a change of heart from the inside out.

I suppose people wonder whether President Obama did the right thing in commuting the sentences of some criminals. I know that, had I faced that same judge just two years prior and been given a shot to return to the streets, I would have blown it, passionately going back to my business of dealing in illegal drugs. The key line that made all the difference was, “Ma’am, I’ve given my life to Jesus Christ, so I’ve made up my mind to obey the law of the land.”

Jesus Christ purged me of the desire to be a street god. My operation was intact when I walked away from it. All the pieces of the organization were well oiled, operating with precision, and flourishing. But when God closed that chapter in my life, I wanted to please him — the one who loved me when no one else was even looking. My life of taking risky shortcuts to success was over. It was time for me to become a real man, a productive citizen. I was determined not to allow the felony on my record define my future or stop me.

Is grace needed today? Absolutely. I was at Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s funeral in Charleston, South Carolina, where President Obama reflected on grace. After seeing his actions following that funeral, I now know that that grace extended beyond merely an esoteric, personal spiritual awakening. It was applied — lived out in very real terms in the very real lives of several inmates who were blessed to have their sentences commuted directly by President Obama. All grace, I believe, beautifully leads back to the remarkable grace we all receive from God.

But what about the hazard of extending grace to the wrong person?

Matthew 7:6 states, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

I trust that President Obama’s vetting process was thorough. And yet what we’re talking about is perhaps the trickiest, messiest, most complicated business there is — that of the tangled, intimate affairs of a human life, with all the thought processes, environmental challenges, and familial influences that shape and mold it. I pray that the young men who have received so lofty a blessing as to have their criminal sentences commuted will also have access to good jobs to help them live with their heads up once they are back on the streets.

From street god to hard-working citizen

For me, prayer and reinventing myself were key pieces of my success. I launched into a GED program once released, and after completing that, I went straight to college. It took some time, but I eventually earned my master’s degree as well.

I was on a mission to make it as an upright citizen and committed Christian. I took the tenets of my faith seriously, just as I had taken the tenets of the streets seriously. I was committed to living a life of celibacy while unmarried and showing kindness to all mankind. Jesus got ahold of my heart, and I was not letting the hem of his garment go.

I worked on my vocabulary and listened to motivational tapes to build up my self-esteem. I developed a love of literature, and reading became a valuable part of my daily routine. I saw myself as my own personal makeover business long before all the makeover reality shows ever came onto the scene.

My best friend came home from jail around the same time I was pardoned. He had just beaten a murder charge. But he, too, gave his life to Jesus and turned his life around. Unfortunately, all of our friends who did not follow Jesus had a much rougher ride.

Attending and being involved in a local church was helpful to me in several ways. For one, I was around godly men whom I could imitate and ask hard questions. Church was the best place for this former street god to transform into a hard-working citizen.

I once harbored an insatiable drive for the drug world. Once given an opportunity to change, I redirected that same drive to killing and eradicating my past so that I had no residue left, no telltale signs of my former life left on me.

I had changed. I was trustworthy, and even that was something new to me. New friends did not hesitate to give me the keys to their cars or their homes. I was invited into celebrity homes and welcomed by great leaders. There was no malice in my heart, meaning that I wasn’t being deceptive in order to win their favor.

It wasn’t like I was fighting some internal ghost from my past that was tempting me to scheme or steal or fall back into more nefarious ways. The truth was far less dramatic than some Jekyll-and-Hyde existence. I had changed, and my new life was my new normal. I became a student of life, observing what it took to be a leader.

What a show of amazing grace

On that day in my past, the judge said words to me that changed my destiny. Before entering the courtroom, I had been waiting in another room with my lawyer for the judge’s decision. Finally, the bailiff called my name. I stood silently before the judge for what seemed like forever. She would look down at me and back to her papers on her desk. She did this four times. Finally, she took off her reading glasses and studied me long and hard.

“I’m sorry for taking so long, but the man standing in front of me is completely different from the person I’m seeing in these reports. I believe that if I send you away to jail, it will turn you back into the person I’m reading about. So I’m going to set you free.” Then bang went her gavel, and just like that, I was free.

Is President Obama right? I hope so. I know that judge was right in pardoning me.

In the past 20 years since receiving my pardon, I’ve traveled to every continent except Antarctica, sharing my story in the hope of ultimately sharing the freedom I found in Jesus Christ. Fourteen years ago, I married the love of my life, and I am now the proud father of three incredible girls. I am also president of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, the largest mobilizing force of pastors in the tri-state area.

But my most notable feat is that 10 years ago I started a church in the Bronx River Housing projects, located in a section of the South Bronx that is part of the poorest congressional district in the entire country. As a street god, I had ensnared many young people in the projects within the vicious cycle of the drug world. Now I see young people following my lead in truly remarkable ways.

Some are the first in their families to go to college, the first to travel to other countries to engage in humanitarian efforts, and often the first in generations to get married (something that had become nearly extinct in the projects where I serve). And they’re the first to grow up without the constant reminders of death and darkness permeating their environment.

Former New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly credited my work and the church I started, Infinity Bible Church, with eliminating homicides and bringing drug dealing to an all-time low in the Bronx River housing projects.

What a show of amazing grace — the beauty of a second chance used for good.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

The post When I Was Pardoned appeared first on OnFaith.

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Posted by Richard Beck

What does the land of Faërie look like?

We've already discussed the first two of the three characteristics of Faërie--Recovery and Escape--described by J.R.R. Tolkien in his lecture "On Fairy-Stories." In this post we'll talk about Consolation, the third characteristic of enchantment.

For Tolkien it's with Consolation where we reach the very essence of enchantment, the "highest function" of the fairy-story. This is the consolation of the Happy Ending for which Tolkien coins a new word:
But the “consolation” of fairy-tales has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite—I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.
For Tolkien the eucatastrophe--the good catastrophe--is an experience of "sudden and miraculous grace":
The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. 
Importantly, eucatastrophic grace is not a denial of the sorrows and sufferings of the world. Eucatastrophic grace is, rather, commitment to hope, loyalty to hope, fidelity to hope:
It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
Faërie enchants the world through an eschatological commitment to the Happy Ending.

Faërie is a gospel proclamation--glad tidings--hidden in a fleeting glimpse of Joy. The enchantment of Faërie is rooted in a denial of universal final defeat.

Faërie is watchfulness for the eucatastrophe, the sudden unanticipated turn in the story that brings miraculous grace.
“It will not be long now,” thought Bilbo, “before the goblins win the Gate, and we are all slaughtered or driven down and captured. Really it is enough to make one weep, after all one has gone through. I would rather old Smaug had been left with all the wretched treasure, than that these vile creatures should get it, and poor old Bombur, and Balin and Fili and Kili and all the rest come to a bad end; and Bard too, and the Lake-men and the merry elves. Misery me! I have heard songs of many battles, and I have always understood that defeat may be glorious. It seems very uncomfortable, not to say distressing. I wish I was well out of it.”

The clouds were torn by the wind, and a red sunset slashed the West. Seeing the sudden gleam in the gloom Bilbo looked round. He gave a great cry: he had seen a sight that made his heart leap, dark shapes small yet majestic against the distant glow.

“The Eagles! The Eagles!” he shouted. “The Eagles are coming!”
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Posted by Libby Anne

Three months ago, Dan Price, C.E.O. of Gravity Payments, a credit card processing company in Seattle, announced that he would no longer pay an employee less than $70,000 a year. Price hoped to ensure that all of his employees would have a minimum standard of living, and figured the publicity wouldn’t hurt along the way. Yesterday the New York Times published a piece on Price’s struggles since making that fateful decision, as two of his best employees quit, upset that newer and less qualified employees were earning nearly as much as they were, and as the company lost customers who saw him as an ideologue or feared the business’s demise.

As chatter about the story spread to other news outlets, HSLDA and Christian Right leader Michael Farris posted this status update:

Michael Farris facebook post

As a young woman with a good Christian upbringing rich in Bible reading and memorization, Farris’s comment leaves me confused. More than that, it leaves me wondering if Farris reads the Bible he claims to adhere to so closely. Surely I am not the only product of a devout evangelical upbringing to note the close resemblance between Price’s situation and a certain parable told by Jesus in the Bible.

Matthew 20:1-16 (NIV)

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

In sum, a landowner hired people to work in his vineyard, and at the end of the day paid each worker a denarius whether they’d worked since dawn or only arrived in the afternoon. When some of the workers who had been there since dawn complained, the landowner reminded them that they’d been promised a denarius from the beginning. “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” He asked. “Or are you envious because I am generous?” It is the landowner who is presented positively, and the grumbling workers who are presenting negatively.

You want to know what’s going on here? Farris and others like him claim that their beliefs are based in the Bible, their economic positions flow not from the Bible but rather from conservative politics. After all, it is conservative politics, and not the Bible, that derides Price’s decision as socialism. When they side with conservative business interests, they forget that at his core, Jesus was subversive against the reigning order. Can you see Jesus defending the level of social inequality in our capitalist society?

But you want to know the best part of it? Dan Price is a homeschool alumni raised in a large conservative Christian family. Farris may not have realized it when posting his status update, but he was deriding a product of his own movement. Somehow I don’t think we’ll see Price on Farris’s next list of successful homeschool alumni, his CEO status be damned.

French vs. English

Sunday, 2 August 2015 08:41 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

When I travel around the world and come upon parallel translations of French and English, I am often struck by how much longer the French usually is than the English.  This impression was reinforced last week in the bathroom of the Marriott Courtyard in Columbia, Maryland.

One little box had this writing on the front:



Another little box had this written on the front:



“Typical”, I said to myself.

When I turned one of the boxes on its side, it said:

fresh and clean formula for everyday use

formule rafraichissante et pure, idéale pour une utilisation quotidienne

It was the same on both sides of both boxes

On either end of the bath bar was written:

citrus sage

sauge et agrumes

The facial bar had no writing on the two ends.

On the back of both boxes was written the following:

Eco-friendly products for a better today and tomorrow.

Packaging contains 35% post-consumer paper, 50% total recycled content. 100% recyclable.

Produits écologiques pour un endroit où mieux vivre aujourd’hui et demain.

Emballage contenant 35% de la papier recyclé post-consommation et 50% de contenu en matières recyclées.       Recyclable à 100%.


The French for “please recycle” could also be expressed in various other ways.  Here are a few:

Recyclez s'il vous plaît

Veuillez recycler

Merci de recycler

Could someone else translate the French on the boxes to make it as short as the English and still convey the same content?

Is the French on these packages correct and idiomatic?

Is the greater length of the French an artifact of its being the language into which the translation has been made?  I rather doubt this, since my impression is that the length of French compared to English tends to be greater no matter where I encounter them together.

So as not to rely on impressions, though, perhaps Mark could do a breakfast experiment on this.  Or maybe someone else can do a larger scale comparison of material having equivalent content in French and English. I’d be very curious to know the results.

Is French more succinct in other realms?

Incidentally, the back of the two packages also had the names of the products in Spanish and German:

Barra de jabón de baño – Badeseife

Barra de jabón de facial — Gesichtsseife

[Thanks to John Lagerwey and Haun Saussy]

Say what what?

Sunday, 2 August 2015 03:42 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Doonesbury, "Say What?" 8/1/2015:

"It was my phrase. I came up with it, and I had it copyrighted. And people see the biggest standing ovations…and all of a sudden some of the other candidates started using the phrase. But I had it copyrighted, so they're not allowed to use it. Which even surprises me."

— Donald Trump on "Make America Great Again".

Although that quotation certainly sounds authentic, there's no citation or link, and I haven't been able to find the quote referenced anywhere else. Did Trudeau just make it up?

If so, why? Donald Trump has been quoted saying similar things. Back in March, e.g. Ben Kamisar, "Trump brings birther charge against Cruz", The Hill 3/23/2015:

Trump claimed he had come up with Cruz's line about making America great again and questioned whether he should have secured the rights to it ahead of the 2016 campaign.  "The line of 'Make America great again,' the phrase, that was mine, I came up with it about a year ago, and I kept using it, and everybody's now using it, they are all loving it," Trump said.

"I don’t know I guess I should copyright it, maybe I have copyrighted it."

Kamisar got this from a 3/23/2015 telephone interview on myfoxny.com:

[Creakologists take note, e.g.

To paraphrase Naomi Wolf: "Donald, give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong masculine voice!"]

Kamisar's version of the copyright quote was picked up by others — Matt Taibbi, "Donald Trump Claims Authorship of Legendary Reagan Slogan; Has Never Heard of Google", Rolling Stone 3/25/2015; Kaili Joy Gray, "Donald Trump: I Invented The Word ‘America.’ YOU’RE WELCOME!", Wonkette 3/25/2015.

In May, it was reported that Trump had trademarked the phrase a couple of years ago — Colin Campbell, "Donald Trump trademarked a Ronald Reagan slogan and would like to stop other Republicans from using it", Business Insider 5/12/2015:

Businessman Donald Trump moved to trademark his potential 2016 presidential campaign's catchphrase more than two years ago.

And — according to a Daily Mail story published Tuesday — the real estate mogul and television personality would really like his potential GOP rivals to stop using it.

"I've actually trademarked it," Trump was quoted saying last weekend. "I mean, I get tremendous raves for that line. … I could come up with different lines. You would think they would come up with their own. That is my whole theme."

And it's true, a USPTO TESS search shows that his lawyers did actually register "Make America Great Again" as a service mark, filed 11/19/2012 and registered as of 7/14/2015.

This is not a "copyright". You can't copyright a short phrase like that, even if it hadn't been used many times in the past. So the quotation from Trump's My Fox NY interview ("I guess I should copyright it, maybe I have copyrighted it") is odd in two ways: Trump confuses copyright with trademark registration, and seems to forget that he actually did register the phrase as a service mark.

But the trouble with Trudeau's Say What quotation is that it seems to be an invention — anyhow no source is cited, and internet search doesn't turn up any source other than the Doonesbury site. Even cartoonists should have higher journalistic standards than that.


OTW Fannews: Fandom Tourism

Sunday, 2 August 2015 03:01 pm
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Posted by Claudia Rebaza


Banner by Alice of a road sign reading OTW Fannews: Fandom Tourism and a dotted path from a compass to an X

  • Media outlets have been engaged in 'fandom tourism' articles for some time. Although there are fewer articles these days demonstrating surprise that fandom or fanworks exist, there are still a number of fandom profiles that either serve to stoke fandom nostalgia by pointing out activity surrounding a particular canon, or by demonstrating surprise that works exist in a specific fandom. Some recent examples were run in Jezebel, Flavorwire, and The New York Times.
  • While the spate of fandom tourism articles may have been inspired by San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), other articles involved SDCC directly. In a post at Belief Net, Nell Minow discussed her participation in the San Diego Comic Con panel Fandom: The Next Generation. "We all dream of sharing our passions with our children. But it is important to be careful about it. Everyone on the panel had a story about sharing the wrong movie — or the right movie too soon — with a child who got upset, and feeling that we had 'flunked parenting.' Young children will say what they think you want to hear and if it seems too important to you, they will tell you they like something when they really do not."
  • NPR talked with screenwriter Nicole Perlman, who discussed her excitement at seeing fans of her next project. "Perlman says she got very excited the first time she saw someone dressed up as her new project, Captain Marvel. 'She looked fantastic, so I completely accosted her and I kind of whispered it shyly, 'I'm writing the movie, take a picture with me please!'"
  • Polygon contrasted the approaches of Marvel and Warner Bros when fans promoted their new projects. "When trailers leaked from Comic Con, because studios show things to huge halls of people who are all carrying recording equipment and still think they can control the footage, the response from Warner Bros. was, to put it mildly, messed up." Writer Ben Kuchera concluded, "The reaction to the Suicide Squad footage was mostly positive; this was a great thing for Warner Bros. until they had to stomp in and make sure we knew they didn't approve of the way we were excited about their product and everyone needs to cut it out at once or they'll turn this movie right around and drive home."

What articles could your write about your fandoms? Don't wait! Post them to Fanlore. Contributions are welcome from all fans.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.


True Christian Ecumenism: Reconciled Diversity

Sunday, 2 August 2015 12:36 pm
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Posted by Roger E. Olson

True Christian Ecumenism: Reconciled Diversity Some Christian theologians I know believe the existence of separate Christian denominations is scandalous. H. Richard Niebuhr very strongly promoted that belief in his classic book The Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929). For much of the twentieth century especially so-called “mainline” Protestants talked endlessly about “visible and institutional unity” of [Read More...]

Sunday WTF?

Sunday, 2 August 2015 11:40 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

1 Timothy 2:11-15

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Softy Calais goes ballistic…

Sunday, 2 August 2015 09:49 am
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Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum

Calais in north-western France, and Kent in south-eastern England, have been experiencing weeks of extraordinary chaos. Thousands of desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East are fighting to get into the Eurotunnel depot where they think they might be able to stow away on trucks that will make the train journey through the tunnel to the immensely desirable destination of Great Britain. The British think the Calais local authorities and the French government have been making only desultory efforts to prevent the migrants from clogging the approach roads, breaching the security fences, delaying train departures, and causing side effects like 24-hour traffic jams on the M20 freeway in Kent. So the headline writers at The Sun went to work, with feghoot based on a song from Mary Poppins:

Softy Calais goes ballistic… Frenchies are atrocious!

One would have to spare a grudging moment of appreciation for this tortured effort at eye-catching summary [if it were not a case of multiple self-plagiarism by The Sun — see footnote at the end].

But incidentally (for this is Language Log, not Asylum-Seeker Log), I have always been irritated by the famous song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." What's wrong is that it's an impossible word. The morphemic structure is fairly obvious:


The main thing that makes this an impossible word is that the suffix -ic can never be followed in any word by the prefix ex-. Absolutely no word has -icex- in it. But even the spelling tells you that: no word has c pronounced [k] when followed by e (correct me in the comments below if you can find a counterexample).

Of course, supercalifragilistic is a possible word (an adjective; one related abstract noun would be supercalifragilisticity), and expialidocious is a possible word (also an adjective; one related abstract noun would be expialidocity and another would be expialidociousness). It's gluing the two together that loses the possible-word status.

It would be easy to make up morphologically possible but nonexistent English words of this length, but *supercalifragilisticexpialidocious isn't one of them.

[Update: Two or three commenters pointed out that The Sun was plagiarizing itself, drawing on an earlier headline about a soccer match between Caledonian (winners) and Celtic (humiliated losers). The latter team's name is usually pronounced "seltik", so that wouldn't be a counterexample to my claim about c; but the language family name Celtic is pronounced with initial [k], so that is a counterexample; and sceptical in its British spelling (American skeptical) is another. And as several people have pointed out, "soccer" is a counterexample if you don't draw a distinction between c and double c.]

Lesbian Duplex 27: An Open Thread

Sunday, 2 August 2015 09:00 am
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Posted by Libby Anne

It’s time for another Lesbian Duplex thread! If you have a link or article or interesting thought that’s not relevant to an ongoing thread, you can share it here. If a conversation on another post has turned entirely off topic, you can bring it here also. Every so often, as the number of comments on a given Lesbian Duplex post becomes unmanageable, I put up a fresh post. I’ve added a “chatter” tab under my blog banner that will direct readers to these discussion threads, so no one will have to worry about digging for one. In any case, my comment policy lays out the house rules.


In case you’re unfamiliar with the backstory of this feature, the lesbian duplex has become a running joke on this blog since two of my posts on Debi’s book, Created To Be His Help Meet. For the backstory, you can take a look at these posts—Simper, Smile, and Giggle and Single Moms Turned Lesbian. The name suits these threads, because if Debi were right, we would all be lesbians living in duplexes!

A new AI problem

Sunday, 2 August 2015 12:11 am
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Here's a task that I haven't heard about: recognizing mixed metaphors and idiom blends.

For example, from Bob Ford, "Eagles season can go one of three ways", Philadelphia Inquirer 8/2/2015:

If the Eagles win big this season, they will get bonus points for degree of difficulty. The tightrope over which success is stretched is very narrow.

And at the end of the piece:

Those are the three doors, and, admit it, the Eagles could open any of them this season. As training camp begins, there is no way to tell. There could be opportunity knocking or a doorbell tolling. Finding out which will take a while, though.

The Farberisms page presents a nice collection of (mostly) idiom blends:

We need to rein in our horns.
A problem swept under the table occasionally comes home to roost.
From here on up, it's down hill all the way.
Don't look a charlie horse in the mouth.
He's cornered on all sides.
I don't trust him farther than you can bat an eye.
Don't talk to me with your clothes on.
Put yourself in his boat.
If that happened to me, I'd clean my ears out with a pistol.
It's a white elephant around my neck.

I've found a few small collections of things presented as "mixed metaphors" out there, e.g. here,  here,  here, here. These are mostly idiom blends and eggcorns, it seems to me, but there aren't clear boundaries between these categories.

The classic study of idiom blends is J. Cooper Cutting and  Kathryn Bock, "That’s the way the cookie bounces: Syntactic and semantic components of experimentally elicited idiom blends", Memory & Cognition 1997.

Some relevant earlier LLOG posts:

"Mixed metaphor of the month", 4/13/2004
"The way the cookie bounces", 12/20/2004
"Blending in", 12/23/2004
"Beating back those Gordian hurdles", 10/12/2008
"'Green behind the ears': the untold story", 10/15/2008
"Idiom entanglements", 10/5/2011

Update — in fact there's at least one paper proposing recognition of mixed metaphors as an AI problem: Mark Lee and John Barnden, "Mixing Metaphors", Proceedings of the AISB'99 Symposium on Metaphor, Artificial Intelligence, and Cognition:

Mixed metaphors have been neglected in recent metaphor research. This paper suggests that such neglect is short-sighted. Though mixing is a more complex phenomenon than straight metaphors, the same kinds of reasoning and knowledge structures are required. This paper provides an analysis of both parallel and serial mixed metaphors within the framework of an AI system which is already capable of reasoning about straight metaphorical manifestations and argues that the processes underlying mixing are central to metaphorical meaning. Therefore, any theory of metaphors must be able to account for mixing.

But there doesn't seem to have been any significant uptake over the past 16 years.

Roman letter shapes in Japanese

Saturday, 1 August 2015 11:13 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

[A guest post by Nathan Hopson]

Recently, I encountered two examples of the intriguing use of roman letters in Japanese to describe various shapes and parts of the nether regions of human anatomy.

The first was in a Japan Times article on military terminology and slang in Japanese, which was an interesting read in its own right. The passage that caught my eye, though, was at the opening (emphasis added):

One of my first encounters with Japan’s 兵語 (heigo, military terminology) came about when Kato-san, an older co-worker, jokingly made a reference to the term M検 (emu-ken, an “M inspection”), which in the old days doctors performed at military induction physicals to look for visible symptoms of sexually transmitted disease.

Ken, I supposed, was short for 検査 (kensa, test or examination). But what did the M stand for? Then Kato-san drew a letter M on a sheet of paper, and I immediately understood it to be a crude depiction of the anatomical shape of the, er, object being examined.

This is a different anatomical usage of M than the one we are subjected to in the media. The more common usage is M脚 (emu-kyaku), which describes female legs spread with raised knees.

Google Image search provides predictable results.

This got me to thinking about the other alphabetical descriptions of legs in Japanese: O脚 and X脚 (and the elusive XO脚), which again are best illustrated by, well, an illustration.

The various ~脚 usages are, unlike M検 fully integrated into the common lexicon. Their visual appeal and similarity to older Japanese phraseology probably made them all easily acceptable. For example, コの字型 (コ-shaped, ko no ji gata; one furniture and many corpus examples here) describes a rectangle open on one side, or a more rounded C-shape — though I believe this usage is obsolete. As the first corpus sample above shows, this would now generally be C字型. In fact, the use of of E字型, etc., signifies how widespread acceptance of romanized shape descriptions has become.

The other item I encountered, though, returns to the anatomical uses of romanization, and with the same combination of mild obfuscation and bold visual illustration. This visual (from this ad campaign for depilation) revealed to me the intricately romanized anatomy of waxing, from the V-line to the O-line, which is described as "Hard to do yourself" (自分ではむずかしい).

Clockwise from the top left, the waxable parts of the "delicate zone" (デリケートゾーン) are described and captioned as:

Vライン上部 (V-rain jōbu) Upper V-line: "Get a fresh, clean upper area"
VラインS・両サイド (V-rain S, ryō saido) V-line S, both sides ("S" = "side line"): "Reduce your side lines"
Oライン: "Hard to do yourself"
Iライン: "Peace of mind even with daring underwear"
Tトライアングル (T-toraianguru) T-triangle: "In your own design"

I found it fascinating that in all cases, the anatomical use of romanization was for the lower body. This is probably coincidence at some level — necks and shoulders, for example, don't lend themselves to alphabetical visualization.  While this campaign is for three depilation companies: épiler, TBC, and Men's TBC, the image above is titled:

txt-female11.png (emphasis added)

So particularly with the VOI and T, this is probably a gendered vocabulary that describes matters in in-group only (≈ women) terms that could obscure them from men.

The female body and its inner workings have often been discussed in veiled and euphemistic terminology away from the ears of men, and it's interesting that this reticence continues even in a context including bold visual representation intended for a mixed audience.

[A nod to Robert Hegwood, who shared both the military article and depilation ads on Facebook.]

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-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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