Come on in, non-NASCAR fans! There's only a little bit of NASCAR content! The panda bit is brief, too, I promise. :-)
This is Tai Shan, at the National Zoo, showing that bears can too use tools this week. He's standing on a favorite toy, called a Kong. It's sturdy enough to withstand panda claws and teeth--and, as we see here, panda cub weight. He wanted to get out, and at two years old he's still too small to reach the door handle, so he used the Kong as a stepstool! What a smart little guy! I was frankly amazed to see that. Tool use is supposed to be what separates us from the other animals, but some primates and birds use them, and so, obviously, do some very motivated pandas with cabin fever.
So we had a tornado here on Tuesday, the biggest in 50 years. That was odd. We were all expecting thunderstorms, but people in Brooklyn aren't used to tornadoes. I stocked up like the Floridian I am--water, ice, charcoal, cat food, etc., and star-taped the windows, and brought in the lawnchairs and lawn flamingoes. L'Ailee was home all day, and I was at work. We're all right, and the people in our neighborhood were, too, but it was scary as hell. I was extremely worried for L'Ailee and our animals, and worried that I wouldn't be able to get back home. (And I'd brought extra food with me to work, too, just in case!) There was some property damage and there were some injuries, and the subways went all to hell for a while, and it's not something anyone wants in Brooklyn again for at least another 50 years, but it could have been worse, much worse.
I felt insensitive for thinking this, but L'Ailee reassured me it's okay, and since she's an immigrant from Siberia, I'll trust her judgment. I feel like as much of an immigrant as she is sometimes, even though I'm from what is technically the same country. And like people from other countries, I bring bits of my homeland with me, from my accent to my lawn flamingoes to the knowledge that I need to stock up and tape my windows for a big storm. Nobody else around me was doing anything like that, but a couple of neighbors brought their stuff in and started taping their windows once they saw what I was doing. And then I lent them my Citra Solv to get the tape residue off the windows. I guess Floridian culture is just as valuable for our neighborhood as the rest of the many cultures here!
We learned something from Glamour magazine, the new one. L'Ailee's still shaving her head. With the temps we've been having, this would be an awful time for her to stop. (And it's an awful time for someone with thick, wavy, mid-back-length hair, too, but I know if I adopted L'Ailee's look or something close, I'd regret it quickly.) Anyway, her hair went from pin-straight and almost Asian to black lamby curls at some point a couple years ago, and it was quite a surprise for her to see that, even more than when a few strands came back white when she was 19. She didn't like it. She shaved it back off.
We saw an article about hair secrets of the stars, and Natalie Portman talked about dealing with the "Little Orphan Annie" look after she let her hair grow post-V for Vendetta. A "tiny straightening iron" was mentioned. This didn't occur to either of us--L'Ailee doesn't look at hair stuff in the beauty supply stores unless she wants something for *me*, and I never fight my texture because I'm lazy and my hair becomes a hot mess if I try. But this sent us on a quest, and we found a really small one! It looks like something you'd use on a Barbie doll--I could use it on my bangs! Armed with it, L'Ailee might--*might*--start letting her curls grow once the air cools down. Of course, as a gymnast, she also can't stand in-between-length hair---she likes how it looks, but anything that's long enough to get in her face but too short to stay pulled back sends her screaming for the clippers, which is why it hasn't been long enough to stay pulled back for over a decade now. :-)
I learned something from Ebony magazine, too. It's a magazine it wouldn't occur to me to read, as I'm not in the target audience. My foundation is "Natural Warm Beige", my hair is amber-colored, my eyes are green. However, I was very interested in a cover article on "soul surfers." My friend Yemaya, who is multiracial, her black partner, and other black and multiracial people of my acquaintance have been treated like they were weird for surfing. I got to experience that firsthand a while back--it was awful. Yemaya's from Jamaica and her partner's from Trinidad, and in those places, black people surf, but apparently it's a white thing in America. Well, the people profiled in this article didn't see it that way. There are organizations for black surfers, too, like BlackSurfing.com.
The thing is, I don't like surfing and NASCAR because they're "white". I like them because they are awesome. If someone doesn't want to embrace them because they don't find these sports interesting, that's one thing, and I have no problem as long as those people don't make fun of me for my interest. But if someone doesn't want to embrace them because they think the sport's not interested in *them*, something is mad wrong. It's stupid, and it's sorry, and it sucks.
A black friend of mine in my 97 percent white high school said she felt like "a raisin in a huge bowl of rice," and I imagine that would feel totally awkward even if you longed with all your heart to go to a speedway or play in the ocean. It would require the same mental strength and disregard for others' looks that it takes for me and L'Ailee to dance at a mostly straight club or party, or something similar. Some people in both sports, a small but troublesome minority, would like to keep the unwritten "Whites Only" sign up. Not me. I want to open them up to everybody and have all my friends join in! I'm happy to see organizations like BlackSurfing.com and the Urban Youth Racing Schools. I'm sorry they're needed. I hope I can help usher in a better future. Yemaya's daughter loves the ocean. She has as much right to it as any lighter-skinned child, and I'll do what I can to make sure she always knows it.
Link time, though I ran off at the keyboard a bit when it came to comments:
Sinead O'Connor said she wasn't political a few interviews ago. Sinead O'Connor says a lot of things. Listen to her contributing vocals to a very political--and very cool, too--song by Ian Brown (formerly of the Stone Roses) called "Illegal Attacks."
You saw above just how wonderful panda cubbies can be. And it's cub season! Bai Yun at the San Diego Zoo just gave birth to a strong little butterstick-sized cub last week. An intersexed panda in China's Wolong Reserve just gave birth to twins, too. I always welcome new pandas, and I hope the entire adorable family is happy and healthy, but I don't particularly like how her handlers treated Jinzhu or how the Reuters reporter described her condition. If she were human, I'd be outraged. One reason why I love Jinzhu's kind is that they aren't even remotely as neurotic about these things as we people are, and it sucks that we project our hangups onto other animals.
I was introduced to the Orcinus blog by a contributor who belongs to one of my ex-fundamentalist e-mail lists, and I am not sorry. You won't be if you read it, either. Often updated, with interesting thoughts about how American politics and religion work the way they do.
Speaking of which...this gives new meaning to the term "unholy alliance." This, by Max Blumenthal for the Nation, ought to scare any American with a central nervous system. Or you can look at Talk2Action's take. Remember the Left Behind video game, the objective of which was to convert "unsaved" New Yorkers to their brand of Christianity or shoot them? It didn't do so well in the stores, TTG. But it is being distributed for charity. To our soldiers. In Iraq. Who are dealing with Muslims in cities. A Christianist ministry called "Operation Straight Up" is planning to provide these games in care packages, and also to stage a series of tours that it calls a "military crusade" to "entertain" the troops, with the Pentagon's express support!!!!. Because if there's anything we need, it's for the Iraqis and Al Qaeda to hear Americans invoking the Crusades, or taking on the kind of religious beliefs that sparked them. Might get awesome ratings on Al Jazeera, too. I feel safer already, don't y'all?
Christianists are also opposing Redbook magazine--that's right, the one for homemakers and married women with kids--because of its "offensive" advice to women. Let me repeat--this is for *married* women, as in married to *men*, as in doesn't pretty much anything go between husband and wife according to even the most conservative Christians? Not according to the American Family Association and Marcia Segelstein, who believe that excess fun and pleasure should be avoided even in the traditional marriage bed they claim to love so much that it must be protected from the likes of me and L'Ailee. She dissects the July issue of Redbook.
Really, it's worth a read. She felt that the words "groin" and "vibrator" needed to be blanked out like obscenities. Personally, I feel that she and the many, many, *many* repressed commenters might be happier if they allowed themselves a bit of quality time with a "v_____r", but that's the kind of worldly chick I am. One woman proudly states that she literally throws magazines in the doctors' waiting room away "all the time, knowing that I have protected someone from some vulgarity, and do not feel bad at all." Another rather telling comment: "I tell you truly that if I could find a group of like minded Christian people, I'd live in my OWN TOWN, with my OWN media sources, my OWN Christian values, and my OWN wonderful Christian neighbors." I feel a Talk2Action article coming on.
After that, you need something intentionally funny, I'm sure. I close with two excellent Top Five lists from the past week or so: the top 18 poor responses to the question, "Are you seeing someone else?" and the top 25 possibly dangerous toys. We need it!