Friday, May 25, 2007

Possible crafty bent

I will be entering my self-imposed summer exile to Singapore starting on the 24th of June. One of the side effects of this will be even more spare time than I currently have. Due to a combination of factors, one of which being that I know three people currently selling on Etsy, I am seriously considering listing some of my own little things online as well.

My style is more crocheted stuff and cross-stitch, which is usually useless for selling as the time involved can never be properly reflected in the price in a first world country. However, I realized that I could list simple things at an affordable price, mixed in with the occasional outrageous price for a handmade doily (which take MANY hours to complete). Besides, even if I don't sell much, it's such a nice outlet for a crafty bent that it's probably worth it.

I dunno. Is there a market for crocheted lace coasters? Angel ornaments? lace edgings? I already do all this stuff for fun, may as well see what else I can do with it.

I heart handmade crafts. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The last few weeks, I have had the privilege of having plenty of time in which to do things, and the opportunity with which to do them, especially reading. I have read about six books in the past two weeks, just from the time I have sitting on the train on a regular basis.

Two of them stand out to me especially, Lakota Woman and the Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I just finished last night.

I have heard, multiple times, that reverse racism (Afro-Americans disliking light-skinned Americans on the basis of color alone) is a travesty, because, the person telling this to me would say, 'I'm not racist. I didn't try to enslave that person.' And I would think, well yes, that's true. You're not racist, that I can tell, and no, you didn't attempt to enslave that person.

I have often struggled with how precisely to express the fact that collectively, all light-skinned middle class Americans have a responsibility to improve the situation of poor minorities. This is not because I have any communist leanings and think that wealth should be distributed equally, or anything like that. Communist philosophy seems to me to be much like Christianity - it's a great idea on paper, but how often have you seen it actually working in the real world? The reason I believe that all light-skinned middle class Americans have this responsibility is because all of our success and opportunities in the United States came at the expense of the dark-skinned peoples our forefathers exploited.

I do not know, like most Americans, who my great-great grandparents were. All I know is that most of my forebears actually emigrated to the United States around the turn of the 20th century, long after slavery was illegal. I'm virtually certain that neither I, nor my family were involved in oppressing Afro-Americans directly. However, I am part Cherokee. My grandmother's family is from Oklahoma. The white man who decided my grandmother wasn't worth acknowledging, and the tribe that refused to accept her are part of my heritage as well.

What can now be done? I think I am right in saying that most light-skinned Americans today do not consider themselves inherently superior to anyone of darker skin simply on the basis of color. But how many times have I heard complaints about 'those dirty Mexicans' or 'blacks are just like that' or 'why should that Indian get any money? He'll just blow it on booze and a pickup truck he'll wreck by next week anyway'? Who put them in that position? The white male power structure.

Malcolm X's grandson, Malcolm Shabazz did time for the arson of his grandmother's home, Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's widow. She died in that blaze in 1997. I'm not really sure what Malcolm X would say to that. Probably something like, 'liberals are trying to tell you that the race problem in America is getting better. All they're doing is keeping Afro-Americans from being proud of who they are and where they come from.'

I really don't know. But I find it inutterably sad that a man who sacrified so much of his life and energy trying to make life better for the Afro-American should have a grandson who was responsible for the death of his wife.

Here is an excerpt from 'Black Enterprise' from 2001:
"African Americans also saw record rises in income in 1999. That year the median income for African American households rose to $27,910, the highest household income for blacks ever recorded by the Census Bureau. This number, however, pales in comparison to the median income for white Americans or all households, which was $42,504 and $40,816, respectively."

UPI, 2001:
"The NCIA said, "During the twelve years we examined (1985 to 1997), the U.S. prisoner population more than doubled from 502,376 to 1,240,962. Nationally, non-whites accounted for 70 percent of this growth in state and federal prisons."", 2007:
"The latest Centers for Disease Control report on the US epidemic shows that in 2005, 73% of people diagnosed with AIDS were men. Within the African American population, men represent 65% of AIDS cases. Women comprised 35% of all African Americans diagnosed with AIDS in 2005. Black women represented 67% of AIDS diagnoses in women in 2005, though they make up just 12-13% of the population."

One of the things I found most interesting about Malcolm X's reasons for converting to Islam is that Christianity, as it exists, is not real Christianity. This was also the reason given in Lakota Woman for Mary's embrace of the American Indian Church. Christianity is unique in that it was a relatively obscure sect of many sects in the Roman Empire that grew to become one of the most powerful and influential forces in the world. Originally, it appealed to the poorest and most indigent in society, telling them how much worth they had in the eyes of God - one reason for its rapid spread. Today, I think Jesus would be crucified again today by all the so-called Christians who talk about God like he lives next door. After all, the first person to whom he showed himself in the Bible after the resurrection was to Mary Magdalene, a former prostitute. Today's 'Christian' leaders hang out with prostitutes - but they certainly don't want anyone to find out about it (cf. Ted Haggard). Jesus would have been derided for spending too much time with drug dealers, prostitutes, and other social outcasts, just as he did in his own time. And those of us who call ourselves Christians had better do something about the hijacking of our faith and name by those who glory in living like modern-day Pharisees.

I don't think that the situation is really better than it used to be. It's simply been masked in that there are a lot of individual Afro-American success stories, or individually successful Hispanics or Native Americans. Just because a dark-skinned man is in the position to run for the White House, we shouldn't think that somehow the crimes of our forefathers are null and void. We are successful because of their poverty. Our riches came at their expense. Somehow, I think we need to do something about that.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bobble head syndrome

Is it just me, or has Angelina Jolie gone from being a kick-butt female who could credibly pull off Lara Croft to a skinny sack of bones with a bobble head? I was scrolling through a few pictures of the Cannes Film Festival and came across this little gem where you can just about see through her arms.
I mean, I know she wants to save the whole world's starving children, but don't you think the sympathy-lack-of-eating thing is going a little far? I do like the outfit - this business of saving the world is almost as interesting as the black haired, Billy Bob Thornton blood in a vial phase. Well, no - that was entertaining, but sad.
I was actually rather impressed with what she's managed to accomplish in terms of awareness. I'm convinced she's a kook, but whatever. Now, however, she's a super skinny kook with the bobble head syndrome.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pirate pendant fun!

Last night, I was tired, but couldn't get to sleep because of a headache, so I was horribly bored and resorted to looking up friends on google to see how long it would take to track them down. I'm impossible to track down because thousands of people are named Rachel Johnson. However, my friend Michelle has a fairly unusual name, and she has a fairly extensive online presence, so she was a piece of cake to track down. If you are ever in need of a unique and special gift, she makes awesome clay pendants and other jewelry. I'm a big fan of pendants since I never got my ears pierced, first because I wasn't allowed and now because I see it as unnecessary. She also has a great sense of the cool and unusual. Check it out!

Monday, May 14, 2007

the real world

My definition of the real world:
  • student loan payment
  • mortgage payment
  • car payment
  • insurance payments
  • stuff - lots of it!
  • 40-hr workweek
  • only federal holidays off
  • headaches
  • budgeting
  • griping about co-workers
  • weekends spent cleaning house
  • no 'me' time

I am not really looking forward to joining the 'real world' for the first time in my life this fall. I'm really not looking forward to the student loan payment part. Here's how I envision my life, in the perfect 'real world':

  • bicycle and publice transit instead of car
  • nice co-workers
  • manageable student loan payments
  • weekends spent exploring where I live
  • good job with enough pay that budgeting effort is minimal
  • time for 'enrichment' classes like pottery or backpacking
  • lack of need to clutter life with too much stuff

I realize that this is, to some extent, a pipe dream. We shall see how long it takes until I, too, lose my soul to the individuality crushing world that is the American middle class life.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Coffee is very important.

I say this because my coffee today is absolutely disgusting. I have grown accustomed to the delicious espresso makers that seem to abound here in Austria, where people can appreciate a good cup of coffee.

This coffee, which admittedly only cost me €0,30, is absolutely disgusting. It was like drinking - well, bad coffee. You've all had it before, so you know what I mean.

I'm afraid I've become a coffee snob. Good thing I live in Seattle. :)

Monday, May 07, 2007

May 15 Gas Out

Why this won't work: it's stupid. Okay, so there are more complicated reasons. But when I first saw this on Myspace, I thought it was another bad joke. Because I just saw a front page article on it on, I've decided that it's clearly not a joke.

Why is this idea stupid? A number of reasons. 1) Not buying gasoline for one day won't damage profits at all. It just means Americans will fill up their gas guzzlers the day before or after, thereby ensuring that profits remain stable. 2) The idea itself assumes that we're stupid enough to believe that we, a nation of perpetual consumers, will have any impact on anything by changing habits for one day.

This is like just about every other American idea - fix it quick'n'easy. The only way to make a real dent in the profits of large oil companies is to reduce the total amount of gas consumed, not reduce the short term amount of gas consumed on May 15. In real world terms, what this means is that you should ride a bike, bus or train, or carpool, or go shopping for a more fuel-efficient car. Now that would actually make a difference. For those of you who already are, kudos to you. For any of you driving a vehicle getting less than 20mpg (which is still pretty lousy), get a different car.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

'Little Children'

This is my review of Little Children. **Warning, spoiler ahead**

When I left the movie, I was feeling slightly sick and was NOT pleased with the way I had spent my money for the evening. The movie is completely disturbing, and really upsetting in a lot of ways. After a while, I decided that meant that the director and actors did a fantastic job getting their message across because if they hadn't, it wouldn't have been so disturbing.

The basic story is of Sarah, a stay at home mom who used to study literature, and Brad, a stay at home dad whose wife is trying to get him pass the bar exam and finally start working as a lawyer. They meet at a playground, and through a series of meeting and getting to know each other, start an affair. Meanwhile, a man, Ronnie, arrested for indecent exposure to a minor moved back into their neighborhood to live with his mother. His storyline intersects with theirs, but everything hinges on the children.

For Sarah, it's when she finally realizes how much she cares about and loves her daughter, Lucy, and that changes her perspective. For Brad, it's finally feeling alive again after years of marking of time after his mother's death and during his marriage - he's also a dedicated father. For Ronnie, it's trying to manage his 'illness' - aka, the desire for a 10 year old 'girlfriend' - and the steps he takes to control it after his mother's untimely death. For Brad's friend, it's the 13 year old boy he accidentally shot while he was a police officer. For Kathy, Brad's wife, it's the little boy whose father was killed in Iraq and how he and his mother are now dealing with that.

The message of the story, as I saw it, was a combination of "suffer the little children" and "if anyone harms one of these little children, it would be better for him to have a millstone around his neck and then tossed into the sea." I'm also assuming this is where the name comes from. The theme seemed to be how we, as adults, have failed to protect the Little Children, and the price we pay for not doing so. However, the movie ended on a hopeful note and the narrator said that while we can't change the mistakes of the past, we have a choice in what we do in the future.

Overall, brilliant movie, good casting - Kate Winslet is fantastic, has a perfect American accent - and the movie set out to do what it set out to do. But if you do see it, don't buy the popcorn.