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Friday, September 30, 2005

The return of Arbitrary but Fun Friday

Following from yesterday’s once-a-season baseball post:  the Yanks-Red Sox chase has me thinking of 1978—not because the Yankees came back from 14 games down this year or anything, but because so few people remember that in late September of that year, the Red Sox actually caught the Yankees, and not the other way around.

Yes, the Boston Massacre was terrible (15-3, 13-2, 7-0, 7-4, in case you didn’t have the scores on hand).  Yes, the Red Sox lost 14 of their first 17 games in September, and the Yankees finished by winning 24 of 33.  But let’s keep things in perspective, shall we?  The Bosox were 62-28 (.689) after the first ninety games.  They went 37-35 the rest of the way, yeah, but played .567 ball over the final two months while the Yankees went .712 in the same span.  And here’s the real kicker:  after sweeping four in Fenway from September 7-10, the Yankees went up by 3-1/2 games.  The Red Sox caught ‘em by winning their final eight games; the Yankees won six of seven, but lost 9-2 to the Indians on the final day.

So, dear friends, when I was but 17 and a callow college freshman living in New York in the early autumn of 1978, I couldn’t go anywhere in the city without running into “Boston Sucks” buttons.  And I was appalled, appalled at the rudeness and discourtesy of it all.  For, in fact, the Boston Red Sox did not suck.  They were a damn good team, and if Lou Piniella (sweet but never fleet Lou) hadn’t made that amazing running backhanded grab in deep right field (with two out and two on and Boston up two runs) just before Bucky Dent entered the Hall of the Immortals, the Red Sox would’ve taken that division title.

But the “Boston Sucks” buttons, of course, were competing locally with the “Disco Sucks” buttons:  it was the year of the Brilliant Pennant Race, yeah, but it was also the year Robert Stigwood, Peter Frampton, and the Bee Gees brought you their epochal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Clearly, the Robert Stigwood Organization needed to be killed dead, and disco with it.  “Die, disco, die,” we said, and we meant it.  Disco sucked.

And yet, in the end, despite the soulless, mass-produced dreck that most of disco had become by 1978, some of disco did not suck either.  Some of it has aged well, and not in a retro or camp kind of way.  Even “Disco Inferno,” after more than a quarter century, has remained kind of hot, though this hustlin’ blog is kind of agnostic about Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights.” So, then, in the spirit of 1978, I invite you all to nominate disco songs that Do Not Suck.  And because these things are arbitrary, I will start things off by citing James Brown’s distinction between disco and funk—namely, that disco stays on top of the groove while funk gets inside the groove and works it—and suggest that Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “Shame” stays on top of the groove, never really working it, and yet Does Not Suck.  Far from it:  on the contrary, it kicks it.  Granted, “Shame” was released in 1977, not 1978.  But anything from 1974-79 is fair game in this game.  Have a good weekend, party people.

Posted by Michael on 09/30 at 01:29 PM
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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Once-a-season baseball post

As I write this, the Yankees are up on the Orioles 6-0 and the Red Sox are inexplicably losing to the Blue Jays 4-1, with both games in the sixth.  I hate to say it, but these scores will have to hold up if the Yankees want to make the postseason, because they’re just not going to take two of three in Boston this weekend.  (And no, they wouldn’t win a one-game playoff against Boston, either—Bucky Dent retired years ago.)

The reason I hate to say it is that I was hoping for a different postseason altogether.  Back in June—yes, as late as June—Nick and I agreed that the Orioles, White Sox, Twins, and the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim, California would make for a fine October.  We were just so tired of these Yankees and those Red Sox.  The only question was whether the Pale Hose would win 115 and then bow out in the first round, collecting eight hits and one run in a three-game sweep, as so many Chicagoans feared (remembering 1983, 1993, and especially 2000).  But thankfully, the White Sox seem to have taken the edge off those fears by collapsing in August and September instead, just before hanging on to render this weekend’s series with the Indians moot.  Except for the wild card race, of course.  But since the White Sox will be resting and the Indians will be trying their best to make sure that their almost-epic almost-comeback does not go for naught, my guess is that the Indians will be your wild card team.  The team that comes out of Boston in second place is going home.  Just so you know.

As for the Orioles, um, Nick and I were fooled.  They looked so much like a major league baseball team back then!  And that Palmiero fellow seemed so nice.  But give the Yanks and Bosox some credit:  teams that can score ten runs at will are hard to beat.  And that A-Rod kid turns out to be quite a player, don’t you know.  I hope he keeps his hands to himself when he runs the bases up in Fenway.

And the A’s?  Well, they did look like they were going to pull off another dazzling post-All Star run of something like 66-9.  But still.  Next year, someone has got to tell those boys that the games in April and May count in the standings.

In the National League, I would like the 34-consecutive-division-title Braves, the Houston Enrons, and the .500 Padres to disappear as quickly as possible, so that the only team worthy of playing against the AL’s best can get down to work.  Here’s to a fine World Series in which the Cardinals defeat the White Sox in six.

UPDATE:  OK, so Ortiz dragged the Red Sox back from the brink.  They obviously couldn’t go into the final series with the Yanks two games back.  But this humble prognosticatin’ blog says that Boston just put themselves into position to win the division. 

UPDATE SATURDAY OCT 1:  Now you know why prognosticatin’ keeps this blog humble.  The Yanks are division champs already, and the Red Sox need to win Sunday to take the wild card.  Who saw this Cleveland Collapse coming?  Not me!  More specifically, who could imagine that the Indians would have the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the eighth, down by one with their season on the line, and fail to score?  Not me again!

Still rooting for a Cards-White Sox series, though.

Posted by Michael on 09/29 at 07:51 PM
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Disability and disasters

So I did my little ten-minute presentation this morning, to help kick off the Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities conference here at Penn State—together with disability studies scholars Doug Biklen of Syracuse University and Michael Dorn of Temple University.  We were asked to speak very generally on the representation of people with disabilities; Michael offered a historical overview of institutions charged with “administering” disability in the Philadelphia area, and Doug spoke of the representation of mental retardation in films like There’s Something About Mary, The Eighth Day, and Rain Man.  And then I went on a rant about Hurricane Katrina and disability issues.  The next couple of paragraphs (up until the asterisk break) are part of that rant.

I’m sure you’re aware (I said to a breakfast audience in the Nittany Lion Inn ballroom) of the debate that erupted in the media in the days after the levees broke—first when it became clear that many of the individuals trapped in the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center were black, and then when it became clear that so few reporters knew what to make of this.  When the media did get around to noticing the obvious, the results were often embarrassing, as when, on September 1, Wolf Blitzer said, “You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals . . . many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold.” One wondered just how black these poor people would have to be to be “so black,” but yes, it did raise lots of questions for people who watched that story unfold.  Some of those people raised legitimate questions about race and poverty, and some simply associated black people with looting.  And once again, race became “visible” in American politics in the way it does every decade or so—which means, unfortunately, that lots of white people slapped their foreheads and said, “oh yeah!  we forgot about race!  dang!” while lots of other white people said, “we never forgot about race, and that’s why we keep our shotguns ready just in case those people want to escape New Orleans by walking into Gretna,” and still other white people said, “why are you making an issue out of race again?” You know, we had another one of those conversations about race.

But even as we watched the stunning spectacle of people dying of starvation and thirst in the streets of an American city that seemed to have been abandoned by every form of government, I was struck time and again at the fact that while race had become “visible,” disability had not—even though we were watching the deaths of so many people with disabilities.  Again, most of them were so poor and so black, but Wolf Blitzer did not go on to say that many of them were also so disabled.  It is not that their disabilities were invisible; paradoxically, it was quite the contrary.  Who among us can forget that iconic image of the dead woman in the wheelchair outside the Superdome, covered only in a blanket?  That might well have been the very symbol of Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans, the wheelchair—not the woman, who was not visible, but the wheelchair itself.  For if you used a wheelchair, and you lived in New Orleans in late August, you were very likely subject to something I will not hesitate to call terror.  From the Cox News Service:

SLIDELL, La.—Alone in her one bedroom house, confined to a wheelchair, Fluffy Sparks did the only thing she could think of when Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters rushed into her home: she prayed.

“I prayed like I’ve never prayed in all my life,” said the 46-year-old woman, who watched in terror as the waters rose to under her chin as she sat in her wheelchair. “I told God, ‘I can’t believe you’re ready for me now. Don’t let me die in this water here by myself.’”

Somehow Sparks managed to haul herself up onto her small, wooden-legged kitchen table. Miraculously, the water stopped rising just as it reached the table’s top.

“I’m breathing,” she said Tuesday morning, sweating in a mud-stained gown and watching a parade of people wading and passing in small fishing boats down Fremaux Street, which was still covered by thigh-deep, but thankfully receding waters. “It was horrible, and it’s still horrible, but I’m breathing.”

Sparks’ terrifying story is just one of hundreds, possibly thousands, that will be shared for generations in Katrina’s aftermath.

One more of those stories, from USA Today:

Mark Smith of the Louisiana office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said at midday that it was still “too severe for us to put people on the ground.” He had supplies and National Guard troops poised to go in to help those stranded.

“We’re not going to add to the list of victims by going in prematurely,” he said.

As he spoke, his Blackberry rang with a text message.

“Oh, this sucks,” he said. He held it up, showing the message: “Help!” It described an emergency call from a person who uses a wheelchair in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb.

Smith shook his head. “There’s nothing we can do for this person right now.”

That, I think, might well have been the motto of our Department of Homeland Security: there is nothing we can do for this person right now.

Now, of course, disability groups knew perfectly well what the hurricane meant for people with disabilities.  They knew also that in Biloxi, Mississippi, a city of about 50,000 people, 26 percent of residents are people with disabilities.  That in Mobile, Alabama, a city of 198,915 people, 24 percent of the residents are people with disabilities.  And that in New Orleans, a city of about 484,000 people, 23.2 percent of residents are people with disabilities.  But if you got your reports about Katrina from anyone other than groups organized to serve people with disabilities, disability simply not was mentioned as such.  What do I mean by “as such”?  We saw people in wheelchairs.  We saw patients on gurneys.  We read about people abandoned in nursing homes; we heard of people with cognitive disabilities trapped in houses with rising water.  We heard about the sick and the elderly and the dying . . . but nowhere in mainstream media was this rendered, or understood, under a more general heading of “disability.” And at no time did anyone say, my god, what does all this mean for people with disabilities?

And the consequences of that, I believe, were devastating.  First, of course, because it demonstrated that our government is so profoundly inadequate when it comes to disability preparedness in emergencies.  Second, because as the floodwaters rose, you could actually hear politicians and pundits blaming the people of New Orleans for failing to evacuate.  This was our very own senator, Rick Santorum, on September 4:

I mean, you have people who don’t heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.

You might object that Senator Santorum wasn’t thinking about people with disabilities when he made this remark.  And if that’s what you’re thinking, well, thanks—that’s precisely my point.

Now, it’s quite true that many politicians and pundits have no idea whatsoever what it is like for a poor person not to have the money on hand for an evacuation.  But it’s apparently even more true that many politicans and pundits never stopped to consider that one-quarter of the population of an American city might be made up of people who cannot, for physical or other developmental reasons, pick up and leave when they are told.  And that’s what I mean when I say that in the Gulf Coast, disability was invisible as such, even when we were looking right at it.  Individual persons with disabilities were depicted as objects of charity, or horror, or pity; but disability as a category of human identity, disability as a social and political fact, disability as a factor in public policy remained inconceivable.


My point, of course, was that Katrina is not an aberration.  On the contrary, it is a horrific example of business as usual that no one is talking about Katrina or Rita in terms of its impact on people with disabilities except for that tiny handful of groups whose job it is to administer care for people with disabilities.  Think about this way: at no point in our national debates does an issue turn on the question of how policy X or policy Y will affect people with disabilities.  Here and there, an elected official might take to the floor for five minutes to say, “these proposed budget cuts will have a devastating effect on services for people with disabilities,” but once those five minutes are up, the country moves on to other things, like tax cuts.  Even worse: on the rare occasions when disability is acknowledged in the public sphere, people with disabilities appear as infantilized props for right-wing extremist crusades – as in the Terri Schiavo Media Circus of this spring, or Sam Brownback’s Opus Dei showcase last week.

And because my plenary panel at PARF was followed immediately by a panel on rights and responsibilities in disability law and policy in Pennsylvania, I quickly learned that I didn’t even know the half of it.  To wit: you may have already heard that the ghouls who infest (and govern!) our body politic are planning to pay for Katrina cleanup by lining the oily pockets of Cheney’s Halliburton kleptocrats and taking the money from public radio and other “liberal” causes.  And you may have heard that Medicaid is going to be slashed to the bone and beyond.  But unless you work with a disability organization, I bet you didn’t know that Medicaid is the major funding source for hundreds of disability-advocacy organizations, from residential to vocational to medical facilities across the nation.  In other words: hundreds of people with disabilities were killed in Katrina.  The health crisis associated with Katrina will have a disproportionate impact on—indeed, will produce—still more people with disabilities.  And the crony-capitalist kleptocrat kleanup of Katrina (with Karl Rove in charge of budgetary oversight) will be paid for by cuts in services to people with disabilities.  When I say people with disabilities are invisible even in their visibility, this is what I mean.

Two of the speakers in the followup panel explained why this is so in Pennsylvania.  One remarked that our state legislators are loath to increase “welfare spending,” and have to be “better educated” on the subject.  This means, as the speaker explained, that legislators have to be made to understand that increases in Pennsylvania’s “welfare spending” are in fact increases in local health care costs, and that—as one legislator advised him—“not welfare spending as you traditionally know it.”

What does that mean, you ask?  Good thing you asked!  Another speaker quoted a legislator who was still more explicit, though not so explicit as to say what he really meant: Medicaid, said this lawmaker, is seen by many of my colleagues as a program that allows poor single mothers to have more babies.

And there you have it, my fellow Americans.  We already knew that the United States has the worst health-and-human-services policies, for people in poverty, of any industrialized nation, and we already knew that this had everything to do with the fact that many Americans, and their elected representatives, think of the poor as so many shiftless Negroes.  But now we have another dynamic to consider: according to the logic of stigma and abjection by which American politics operates, disability advocacy groups will be funded under Medicaid to the extent to which they can rhetorically distinguish people with disabilities from African-Americans in poverty.  From single mothers and their innumerable babies.  From welfare spending as you traditionally know it.

Again, if you’re familiar with the issues and policies concerning disability in the U.S., you know that many people with disabilities are poor: the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is somewhere between 60 and 70 percent.  And you know that some people with disabilities are, in fact, African-American.  And so you’re probably wondering how disabled African-Americans in poverty—like many of the people who remained in New Orleans, who were so poor, so black, and so disabled—can possibly distinguish themselves from “welfare spending as you traditionally know it” and “poor single mothers,” since, of course, these are our elected officials’ traditional code terms for race.

I’m wondering that too.  I was kind of hoping that we could retool the entire national logic of stigma and abjection so that unbearable shame would accrue to any elected official who tried to blame people for not leaving New Orleans, or any elected official who tries to pay for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast by cutting disability services, but, as always, I’m open to more practical suggestions.

Posted by Michael on 09/28 at 09:39 PM
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Monday, September 26, 2005

First-time commenter extravaganza

Borrowing an idea from my armwrestling buddy Chris Clarke, now that it has been borrowed in turn by Lauren the Indomitable and PZ the Pirate, this blog would like to invite comments from people who’ve never commented before.  We know you’re out there—indeed, in certain cases we know where you live and whether you have any Captain Morgan in the liquor cabinet (our referral stat machine is a modern marvel).  No, that’s not true.  We think you’re out there, because the stats tell me this site is visited five to six thousand times a day on weekdays and three to four thousand times a day on weekends.  But we know that only a handful of visitors actually stop to comment.  So if you’d like to sign the guest book, so to speak, please do.  And feel free to make suggestions, utter imprecations, and offer advice.  Thanks, everyone.

Posted by Michael on 09/26 at 08:14 PM
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Catching up

Thing the First: All Politics is Local

The past six or eight weeks have been so hectic around here that even when I tried to recap them a little while ago, I completely forgot to mention three of the things I’ve been working on lately.  You know things are hectic when I can’t even do a little self-promotion properly!  How hectic were they?  Let me give you an example.  I was supposed to contribute something to a Chronicle of Higher Education forum on the “chilly climate” on campus, and I was supposed to do it by August 5.  August 5 came and went, and the Chronicle didn’t hear anything from me—partly because August 5 was the day of Jimmy Crofts’ funeral, and Janet and I had been stumbling around in a stupor for about a week beforehand, not thinking about much else.  So when, a few days later, the Chronicle sent me a gentle reminder (that may have included the words “we need this right now”), I thought, Oh. My. Goodness.  I didn’t have any time to write the thing before we packed up for vacation, so I asked my family if it would be all right with them if I wrote the thing in our hotel room as we drove down to the Outer Banks; in effect, I was asking Jamie, Janet, and Nick to let me sit in a corner and type for half an hour.

That was no problem, but our little motel in Williamsburg didn’t have any access to the Internets, so when we got to Virginia Beach I asked to stop at a Starbucks.  Such is the life of the itinerant writer, postmodern version.  Eight hundred years ago I would have been wandering around Western Europe from church to church, looking for literate men with some skill as scribes.  Now I’m looking for a wired coffee shop.  Anyway, the mini-essay appeared a few weeks ago; it’s mainly about Pennsylvania’s Horowitzian “liberal-bias-on-campus” bill, HR 177, and if you’re a Chronicle subscriber you can read it right here.  If you’re not a subscriber, I hope the Chronicle won’t mind my offering you the penultimate paragraph:

The truly curious thing about the bill is that it may not wind up pitting libertarian students and fans of the free-market economist Friedrich von Hayek against leftist professors who allegedly want the state to run our lives, and it may not target professors working on race, gender, or sexuality. Instead, according to reports I’ve seen, the constituency that seems most pleased by HR 177 is the local religious right, some of whom see it as their best chance to get intelligent design taught in biology classes. They draw strength from Horowitz-inspired initiatives like the one in Pennsylvania, just as they are inspired by President Bush’s recent endorsement of intelligent design, and they view it as a way to combat the Darwinist “bias” of the natural sciences.

Remember, all you Kansans out there, we in Pennsylvania are fighting you as hard as we can for the title of Most Medieval State (and I think we have more scribes than you do, too).  Our Dover Area School Board has been making national news for much of the past year, thanks to its wisdom in the ways of science: they’ve endorsed the teaching of Intelligent Design, and the case is now before a Harrisburg federal court.  Here’s the nut graf (in various senses of the term) of today’s story:

“Nearly 2,000 years ago someone died on a cross for us,” said board member William Buckingham, who urged his colleagues to include intelligent design in ninth-grade science classes. “Shouldn’t we have the courage to stand up for him?”

There.  Now who says ID is not a scientific theory? PZ, the ball is now in your court: refute that with all your microbes and your book-larnin’.  As George Bush might put it: as Christians stand up, scientists will stand down!

Thing the Second: Bloggity Blog Blog

I also dashed off a little thing for Academe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors, on the subject of academic blogging.  Thanks to the miracle of the Internets, which clearly could not have evolved without supernatural intervention, that article is available for free at this Internets location.  Which reminds me.  I’ve been meaning for some time to address Ivan Tribble’s pair of anti-blogging essays in the Chronicle; last week John Holbo asked me what I thought about all this, and he sent along the url to Rebecca Goetz’s recent post on the subject, which reads, in part,

I expected that Tribble’s poison would have little effect, but I was wrong. It is even worse: Tribble’s drivel has become even more twisted in the telling and is being peddled at job-hunting seminars. I was at a CV and cover letter writing workshop sponsored by Harvard’s OCS today, in which we were told that the Chronicle of Higher Education had reported that bloggers were not getting jobs because they wrote terrible things about their colleagues, and then job committees found out about this by checking the URLs bloggers had listed on their CVs. Actually none of Tribble’s victims had committed that particular blogging crime, but it seems that Tribble has trickled down in an especially anti-blog way that characterizes all blogs as career-destroying gossip sheets. In fact, it seems to be translating into an anti-web attitude completely: my cohort and I were further advised to google ourselves and attempt to get anything that looks less than appetizing “removed from the web.” (I’m not sure how one goes about doing that.)

I think I should save my full reply for a separate post in the future (particularly since this one is just a grab bag of personal/ professional updates), but here’s the short version: Ms. Goetz, it sounds like you’re dealing with some seriously medieval job placement advisors.  (NOTE TO MY READERS WHO ARE MEDIEVALISTS: you know perfectly well how much I love you all, and Gawain too.  Please don’t take it personally when I use the term adjectivally to suggest that certain professors and politicians are not quite up to speed on post-Darwinian science and post-Gutenbergian technology.) For instance, the notion that you can erase information from the web at will is clearly derived from the idea that the Internets consist of millions of swinking scribes who can be asked to scratch out or misplace pieces of web-parchment you don’t want people to see.  And what would I do about a blogging candidate if I were on a search committee this year?  That’s an interesting question, since I just so happen to be chairing a search committee this year.  My attitude is basically this: people who write smart stuff are good.

That’s about it.  You can write smart stuff in a refereed journal, and that’s good; you can write smart stuff in a newspaper, and that’s good; you can write smart stuff on a blog, and that’s good, too.  I mean, are you kidding me?  If I came across a job candidate with a blog like this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this (just to take a half dozen at random), I’d be impressed, and if the rest of the candidate’s materials looked as good, I’d want to interview him or her.  That’s not because I’m especially partial to blogging—as I’ve said before, I delayed converting my own website into a blog for over a year because back in 2002, my initial impression of blogs was that half of them were written by Star Trek obsessives living in their parents’ basements.  It’s because I’m very, very partial to people who write smart stuff.

I think you can even write smart stuff under a pseudonym in the Chronicle of Higher Education, though this is largely speculative, since it so rarely happens.  Which brings me to:

Thing the Third: Professional Advice

I also forgot that I while I was forgetting about all these other things, I managed to write a brief preface to Robert McRuer’s forthcoming (2006) book, Crip Theory—which will be, when it appears, the most comprehensive queer theory/ disability studies book in the business.  And just as I finished that, I got an advance copy of this in the mail—another book for which I wrote a brief preface, late last year.  Its title is Graduate Study for the Twenty-First Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities; its author is Greg Colón Semenza, assistant professor of English at the University of Connecticut, and if you’re interested in graduate study in the twenty-first century, or curious about how to build an academic career in the humanities, I recommend it to you with much enthusiasm.

Thing the Last: The Return of Hockey Blogging!

Readers have been deluging me with one pieces of mail, asking whether I’m still playing hockey and why I look so much like Rod Gilbert these days.  The answer to the first question is yes.  My Nittany Hockey League season opened two weeks ago, but I was in New York that weekend and in northern California last weekend.  So this past Saturday was my official 2005-06 debut.

2004-05 was a good season, on balance.  I had played sporadically in the A league in 2003-04 after sustaining a severe groin injury (too much information?) in October 2003 and a mild shoulder injury the following February, and wound up with a paltry 8 goals in 23 games (out of a 40-game schedule).  So I thought of last year as a last-ditch “comeback” season, and set myself some personal benchmarks: a return to the 20-goal level in the A league (as in my first two seasons), and 40 in the B.  I didn’t pick up any injuries all year, but my academic schedule was intense, so I wound up playing only 22 games in A and 23 in B.  Nonetheless, I scored my 20 goals in the A league, and 42 in the B, so I cleared myself to keep playing for another season.  And then, of course, I had that surprise appendectomy in May.  Then the summer league was cancelled.  So when I took the ice this weekend, I did so after a five-month layoff, during two months of which I did no workouts at all.  I was honestly not sure I was going to be able to play at the A level.

Well, it wasn’t pretty, and I know I won’t be in decent game shape for another month, but I played acceptably well as my A team won 4-2 on Saturday and tied 1-1 last night despite outshooting our opponents by a ratio of roughly 5 to 1.  In last night’s game I actually could have opened the scoring within the first minute: I took an outlet pass off the boards while cruising through the neutral zone, looked up at the last defenseman back, said to myself, “I can beat this guy to his right,” beat the guy to his right, and came in alone with 40 feet to the net.  A mini-breakaway on my very first shift, in other words.  The goaltender happened to be the same guy we played on Saturday, because the league is suffering from a severe goalie shortage and this one guy is now the Universal Goaltending Donor, playing on three or four teams every weekend.  And on Saturday, I’d had two terrific scoring chances against him from 10 feet out, but fired one shot off his mask and the other high to the glove side; he got just enough of that one to keep it out of the net.  So what do I do with my mini-breakaway last night?  I shoot high glove side, that’s what.  And once again, he got just enough of that one to keep it out of the net—worse, he made a good save in the opening minute, which, as all of you forwards know, gives a goaltender all kinds of annoying confidence.  Arrrrggghh.

Next time, I’m going to shoot high glove side.  I figure he’ll never expect it.

The only catch this weekend was that right after Saturday morning’s A game, I had to play a B game.  I had intended to slip out of the rink unnoticed, but the B team captain spotted me and said, “thank goodness you’re here—we only have three players, and you make four.” We picked up two more guys and managed to put together a 4-1 win, but needless to say, I was not ready to play two games, let alone to spend five-sixths of the second one on the ice.  So what hurts?  Let’s see: my left hamstring.  My right elbow.  My pride.  Stats so far: one assist in A, one goal in B.

Thanks to all the reader who’ve asked for updates about this critical aspect of my blogging life.  I’ll be back later today with a very short post.

Posted by Michael on 09/26 at 01:11 PM
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Friday, September 23, 2005


Because I am too depressed about my country’s descent into theocon-administered kleptocracy, I haven’t bothered to keep track of the charade known as the Roberts confirmation hearings.  (Though while in SF I did catch a few minutes on NPR and heard Roberts being asked if there were any specific precedents he’d like to revisit, and though he didn’t reply audibly, I did hear Arlen Specter say, “Three words.  OK.  First word.  Rhymes with.  Under.  Beneath.  Low.  Low!  Rhymes with low. . . .")

So I missed this lovely moment, captured for us Internets users by Michael Scherer at Salon:

Not to be outdone, Sen. Sam Brownback. R-Kan., brought in Abby Loy, a pretty 14-year-old girl with Down syndrome, who wore a blue flower made of ribbon on her dress. For a few moments at the hearing, she stood behind Brownback’s chair, a prop in his continuing effort to outlaw abortion. “We want to celebrate her,” Brownback said, by which he meant that he was happy she had not been aborted. Last week, Brownback used time during the questioning of Roberts to talk about “Jimmy,” a man with Down syndrome who runs one of the Senate elevators.

“I would just ask you, Judge Roberts, to consider—and probably you can’t answer here today—whether the individuals with disabilities have the same constitutional rights that you and I share while they’re in the womb,” Brownback asked

OK, Senator Brownback, listen up and listen good.  Jamie Bérubé is a 14-year-old with Down syndrome, and I celebrate Jamie every mother-lovin’ day.  Right now, in fact, Janet and I are celebrating his right to attend seventh grade with his nondisabled peers; we visited his science class yesterday, and we celebrated his use of the microscope and we celebrated the moment he raised his hand in response to a question, was called on, and said that some cells might look like “rectangles or squares.” And while I’ve counseled other parents—and genetics counselors themselves—that a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome should not be followed automatically by a decision to terminate the pregnancy, I strongly believe that all such advice should be a matter of persuasion rather than coercion.  Many families, for whatever reasons, decide that they do not have the financial or emotional resources to raise a child with a significant disability, and I do not support clerics, mullahs, and their elected-official enablers who insist that the police power of the state be marshalled to compel those families to bear children against their will.  Furthermore, unlike most contemporary conservatives and unlike all libertarians, I insist that the full health-education-and-welfare resources of the state be made available to every family that does decide to bear a child with a disability.

You, Sam—you and your cohort of extremists in Opus Dei, together with your extremist counterparts on the other side of the Reformation—profess to be worried about the constitutional rights that accrue to fetuses, embryos, and zygotes.  Indeed, you are so worried about the rights of fetuses that you will install at the head of our nation’s highest court a man who almost surely will strip numerous constitutional rights from living humans.  But then, your cohort is not always as concerned about humans ex utero as humans in utero.  You all have made that clear time and time again.  And one of the differences between people like me, who are actually raising children with disabilities while supporting other prospective parents’ right to determine what will happen with their bodies and their families, and people like you, for whom attractive 14-year-olds with Down syndrome are props to be used in the service of theocracy, is that people like me do not necessarily want to invoke the power of the state to ensure that our own choices are made mandatory for everybody else.  People like me celebrate reproductive rights as one of the cornerstones of individual freedom; people like you are dedicated to finding ways of making individual rights pass right through a woman’s body, so that they adhere only to the zygote-embryo-fetus in the womb.

I’m not alone, either.  People like Digby say

I believe that a woman’s right to choose gets to the very heart of what it means to be an autonomous, free human being. Control of one’s own body is fundamental to individual liberty. If the church believes that abortion is morally wrong it should instruct its voluntary membership not to do it. Individuals must always be allowed to follow their own consciences. But there should be no legal coercion on such a personal matter.

And people like Dr. B. say

Women have abortions because they need them. They have them because they know that they cannot raise children right in poverty, in abuse, with no educations, under punitive social conditions, in desperate circumstances. They know that adoption is, at best, only sometimes an option, and they are unwilling to take that chance with their own children. Women have abortions, at great expense and trouble, despite abuse and ostracization, despite great shame and disapproval, in the face of myriad laws trying to prevent them from doing so, because they are responsible.

I’m just so proud of Jamie, you know.  That’s why I celebrate him all the time.  And I’m grateful to live in a country where our decision to welcome him into the family was our decision—mine and Janet’s.  We think that’s the way it oughta be.

Posted by Michael on 09/23 at 11:38 AM
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