Recent reading, plus bonus whining.

NOTE TO LOYAL READERS™: Your Humble Monarch™ has been under the proverbial weather for almost 6 weeks now, and has only in the past few days seen some improvement: coughing less, sleeping better and actually contemplating getting her royal arse back in the gym. Well okay, someday. Pile on the usual holiday stresses this time of year, the drama of dysfunctional families and obligatory interactions with toxic people, and it’s a True Christmas Miracle I haven’t just taken my sugar-free black cherry cough drops off to bed with me—permanently—and said fuck it. But I have not forgotten about you, my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™! Extinguish that thought right now! I have been doing some reading here and there (mainly in doctor’s office waiting rooms and the pharmacy line), diligently keeping track of links and quotes for your personal infotainment.

TL;DR: The bumper sticker slogan for my entire life recently would read thusly: I’d rather be blogging. And oh, is there ever something I am quite eager to write about. After the fucking 25th.

HAPPY SOLSTICE.

library4Let’s start with some quotes:

Religion’s greatest “sin” lies in displacing human endeavor, thought, time, resources and efforts from this world, our only world, in order to exalt a highly unlikely, unknowable, unseeable, unprovable and unbelievable pretend afterworld. The only afterlife that ought to concern us is leaving our descendants (along with the other animals and life we share our planet with) a secure and pleasant future. -Annie Laurie Gaylor

Heaven for climate, hell for company. -Mark Twain

All religions issue bibles again Satan, and say the most injurious things against him, but we never hear his side. -Mark Twain

The average man, who does not know what to do with his life, wants another one which will last forever. -Anatole France

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. -Susan Ertz

We are on the earth, and they tell us of heaven; we are human beings, and they tell us of angels and devils; we are matter, and they tell us of spirit; we have five senses whereby to admit truths, and a reasoning faculty by which to build our belief upon them; and they tell us of dreams dreamed thousands of years ago, which our experience flatly contradicts. -Frances Wright

I believe that this world needs all our best efforts and earnest endeavors twenty-four hours every day. . . . I do not know the needs of a god or of another world. . . I do know that the needs of humanity and this world are infinite, unending, constant, and immediate. They will take all our time, our strength, our love, and our thoughts; and our work here will be only then begun. -Helen H. Gardener

One world at a time. -Robert G. Ingersoll

Dying is a very dull, dreary, affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it. -W. Somerset Maugham

[h/t Don Ardell for the link to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s post containing all of these fine gems.]

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Why Is Rape at the Origin of Most Religion? Tarico, V., AlterNet (Dec. 2014). [Why indeed. -Ed.]

The Oil Coup. Whitney, M., Counterpunch (Dec. 2014). (“Washington has persuaded the Saudis to flood the market with oil to push down prices, decimate Russia’s economy, and reduce Moscow’s resistance to further NATO encirclement and the spreading of US military bases across Central Asia. The US-Saudi scheme has slashed oil prices by nearly a half since they hit their peak in June.”)

Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia. Elliott, L., The Guardian (Nov. 2014).

Musicians’ Brains Really Do Work Differently — In A Good Way. Tsicoulas, A., NPR (Nov. 2014). (with VIDEO via TED-Ed)

War by media and the triumph of propaganda. Pilger, J., Belfast Telegraph via The Greanville Post (Dec. 2014).

The Fifty Shades of Grey series. Cliff, The Pervocracy. (ongoing; link is to chapter 1.) [Brilliant, hilarious and trenchant take on one of the worst books I have ever read by the best kinkster blogger I have ever read. -Ed.]

Villagers in Kazakhstan Are Falling Asleep En Masse for No Apparent Reason. Hay, M., Vice (Dec. 2014). [What the fucking fuck. And no, it’s not satire. -Ed.]

Colleges often reluctant to expel for sexual violence — with U-Va. a prime example. Anderson, N., The Washington Post (Dec. 2014). (“Why, skeptics ask, has U-Va. dismissed dozens of students for academic cheating in recent years but none for sexual assault?”) [Truly a mystery. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s the same reason that drug suspect lab tests are processed immediately while hundreds of thousands of rape DNA kits languish unexamined. #priorities -Ed.]

Merry Christmeh: 13 greatest examples of people phoning it in on Christmas (that I bothered to look for). Fox, M., Happy Place (Dec. 2014). [Hahaha. Now that’s the spirit. -Ed.]

The Posters that Warned against the Horrors of a World with Women’s Rights. MessyNessy, MessyNessyChic (Dec. 2014). [TW: misogyny, ageism.]

This Physicist Has A Groundbreaking Idea About Why Life Exists. Wolchover, N., Quanta Magazine via Business Insider (Dec. 2014). [Mind: blown. -Ed.]

The War on Christmas is over. Jesus won. Ingraham, C., The Washington Post (Dec. 2014). (“nearly three-quarters of Americans — 73 percent — believe that Jesus was literally born to a virgin.”) [Exhibit No. 7,376,233 that the Greatest Ever Country Ever on Earth Ever is chock full of deluded apes. -Ed.]

Your body, his choice: Missouri GOP bill requires men to give written permission for abortion. McDonough, K., Salon (Dec. 2014). (“Exceptions, according to the bill’s sponsor, will be made for victims of ‘legitimate rape'”.)

The White Guy Problem. Bitter Gertrude (Dec. 2014).

5 Things You Learn Escorting Women Into an Abortion Clinic. Axness, A.J., Cracked (Dec. 2014).

How Medicaid forces families like mine to stay poor. Campbell, A.L., Vox (Dec. 2014).

Chicago activists have quite a bit of proof that the police are eavesdropping on protestors’ phones . Einenkel, W., Daily Kos (Dec. 2014).

Undercover Cops Outed and Pull Gun on Crowd. Harrop, C., Storify (Dec. 2014).

Texas officer attacks and tasers 76-year-old man over expired tags. Hayden, J., Daily Kos (Dec. 2014).

Stop blaming liberals for conservative backlashes. Marcotte, A., Raw Story (Dec. 2014). (“Hating change is the constitution of the conservative. Of course they’re going to scream and cry like infants. Knowing that’s going to happen and there’s no way to avoid it is freeing.”)

Winter beauty tips for the slovenly and unkempt. Irby, S., bitches gotta eat (Dec. 2014). [LOL. -Ed.]

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

New Yorkers: 1, Motherfrackers: 0.

New Yorkers: 1, Motherfrackers: 0.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the disputed method of natural gas extraction.

You’re welcome, New York! I don’t like to toot my own horn or anything, but it’s pretty clear the good governor really took to heart the letter I wrote him in July. I kid, I kid. He doesn’t give a flying fuck what I think. Hell, I didn’t even vote for the guy. And therein lies a lesson.

As New Yorkers may remember, Andrew Cuomo, the incumbent Democratic governor, faced a Democratic primary challenger on September 9: Zephyr Teachout. While it was universally acknowledged that she had no chance of actually winning, she put up fight with the backing of environmentalists (and other lefties who see Cuomo for the corrupt, conservative opportunist he is). While Cuomo continued to drag his feet and waffle on deciding the fracking issue, Teachout flat-out stated that she would ban it.

She had me at hello.

And oh, how I heard that I’d be wasting my vote, and/or to not even bother voting in the New York primary because after all, Cuomo was a shoo-in. And that was just from people who had heard of Teachout. More often the conversation started and ended with who?

Nevertheless, this upstart with a pittance of a budget went up against a Democratic icon with a massive war chest and the backing of a well-oiled party machine—and she came away with 33% of the primary vote. Not enough for a win, of course. But Cuomo is a scion of Democratic politics who harbors national ambitions, and, well, that certainly does not bode well for him. While he may not give a shit about me, or about New York’s ground water, he sure as hell gives a shit about that.

Environmentalists are fawning all over Cuomo:

Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said Mr. Cuomo “set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people” over the energy industry.

But tonight I’ll be toasting Zephyr Teachout, and those of us who showed up on September 9 to vote for her. Especially in primaries, it doesn’t take a “win” to win.

By the way, if you want to actually waste your vote, just keep right on voting for the “lesser of two evils.” They’re counting on you.

Major Award: Hilarious Asshole of the Day.

edelmanBenjamin G. Edelman is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, which as you probably know is the premiere, go-to institution of higher learning for America’s Owners and many of their kindred doucheweasels.

Illustrious alumni include these fine citizens:

  • George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
  • Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, co-founder of Bain Capital
  • Henry Paulson, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, former CEO of Goldman Sachs
  • Teresa Clarke, former managing director Goldman Sachs (2004-2010)
  • David Viniar, CFO and Executive Vice President of Goldman Sachs
  • Jamie Dimon, CEO and Chairman of JP Morgan Chase
  • John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch
  • Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, United States armed forces
  • Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief of the General Staff, Israel Defense Forces
  • Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense and former President of the World Bank
  • Jeffrey Skilling, Former CEO of Enron, convicted of securities fraud and insider trading
  • Michael Bloomberg, media magnate and former Mayor of New York City
  • Chase Carey, President of News Corporation
  • Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric
  • Meg Whitman, President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard
  • Gary Rodkin, CEO and President of ConAgra Foods
  • Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform
  • Ann S. Moore, CEO of Time Inc.

…and many, many more financial, political and media elites (the rest of whom went to either Harvard Law School, Yale or Wharton).

Anyway, back to this Edelman d00d. He has a Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at Harvard University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an A.M. in Statistics from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College (summa cum laude). I think it’s fair to say that Edelman is extremely smart—and extremely well-connected. This is precisely why his email correspondence over the last couple days is so fabulously, freakishly, funny. Here’s the setup:

Ran Duan manages The Baldwin Bar, located inside the Woburn location of Sichuan Garden, a Chinese restaurant founded by his parents.

Last week, Edelman ordered what he thought was $53.35 worth of Chinese food from Sichuan Garden’s Brookline Village location.

Edelman soon came to the horrifying realization that he had been overcharged. By a total of $4.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a Harvard Business School professor thinks a family-run Chinese restaurant screwed him out of $4, you’re about to find out.

SPOILER ALERT! The Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute and threats of legal action make several hilarious appearances.

edelman1edelman2Anyone who has ever worked in any kind of service job with the public has met at least one Ben Edelman. They’re relentlessly demanding and scheming bullies who are remarkably adept at wasting prodigious amounts of everyone’s time (including their own), and leaving a wide swath of head-scratching, eye rolling and snickering in their wake.

But can I just say? I looooove this Ran Duan d00d: Oh, you notified the authorities? Okay, great. Then I’ll just wait to see what they say. Wanna make sure I handle this properly, as I’m sure you understand. Of course, this only drives Edelman to escalate the hilarity. The Boston.com article that posted their correspondence notes:

Ran Duan moved to the U.S. from China when he was 3-years-old. His father had hoped to support the family with a career as an opera singer, but when that didn’t pan out, Duan says “like all Chinese families we decided to open up a restaurant.”

“I personally respond to every complaint and try to handle every situation personally,” said Duan, who was profiled by Boston Magazine in June and featured in GQ Magazine last month as “America’s Most Imaginative Bartender.”

The exchange with Edelman stood out to Duan. “I have worked so hard to make my family proud and to elevate our business. It just broke my heart.”

BTW, Edelman said of the food: “It was delicious.” He also said he plans to “take a few days” to decide whether he’ll pursue further legal action against Sichuan Garden. Incidentally, the court fee for filing a civil case in Massachusetts is $240, plus a $20.00 security fee and a $15.00 surcharge.

OMFG I CANNOT WAIT TO READ THAT COMPLAINT. All I want for Christmas is for Ben Edelman to sue Ran Duan. If he does, I have little doubt that the Internet will come through for Duan’s legal fees in a big way—that is in the unlikely event that no lawyer will happily defend Duan for free for the lulz. Oh, and for the legal fees and costs that will be awarded to Duan eventually, after Edelman exhausts all of his appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

LMAO.

 edelmanmajoraward

Recent reads.

library417 Disgraceful Facts Buried In The Senate’s 600 Page Torture Report. Volsky, I., Think Progress (Dec. 2014). [Perhaps the most disgraceful of which is that—like NSA surveillance—the torture program did not stop a single terrorist attack. -Ed.]

Obama says CIA torture report exposed ‘brutal activity,’ won’t criticize Bush administration. Garcia, A., Raw Story (Dec. 2014). (“mistakes were made.”) [By war criminals. -Ed.]

Instead of prosecuting torturers, Obama prosecuted the guy who revealed the program. Lee, T.B., Vox (Dec. 2014).

Let’s not kid ourselves: Most Americans are fine with torture, even when you call it “torture”. Ingraham, C., The Washington Post (Dec. 2014).

Inconsistencies in rape victims’ statements about the trauma are understandable. Tetlow, T., The Times-Picayune of Greater New Orleans (Dec. 2014). (“Carefully trained officers recognize these symptoms as evidence of trauma. Most confuse it with lying.”)

The backlash to Rolling Stone’s story about rape culture at UVa. Reed, K., reedkath (Dec. 2014).

A Texas Grand Jury Recently Cleared 2 White Cops Who Beat a Black Woman in Jail. Brodey, S., Mother Jones (Dec. 2014).

Black Trans Woman Killed While Pounding on Door for Help. King, J., For Harriet via Colorlines (Dec. 2014). (“Anti-Violence Project issued a statement bringing attention to a rash of recent murders of transgender women of color…the organization has “documented 18 anti-LGBTQ homicides last year. Of those homicide victims, almost 90 [percent] were people of color, almost three-quarters (72 [percent]) of homicide victims were transgender women, and more than two-thirds (67 [percent]) of homicide victims were transgender women of color.”) [Fucking hell. -Ed.]

The Global Rich Are a Tribe with Their Own Folkways, Values & Mythology. Those Values Are “Pathological.” Publius, G., Down With Tyranny! (Dec. 2014).

Kinky*Cool. “Fucking the patriarchy with a rainbow strap-on.” [Rainbow strap-on added to shopping list: CHECK. -Ed.]

The Feminist Killjoy Gift Guide. The Belle Jar (Dec. 2014). [Needz moar rainbow strap-ons. -Ed.]

Dear White Allies: Stop Unfriending Other White People Over Ferguson. Spectra, The Huffington Post (Dec. 2014).

A Concise History Of Black-White Relations In The United States. Deutsch, B., Everyday Feminism (Oct. 2014). (Comic.)

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Some Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King for the Quotes collection. D00d is as relevant now as ever.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.

Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.

We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

See also: Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did. HamdenRice, Daily Kos (Aug. 2011).

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Recent reads.

library4

See it, touch it, feel it: Team develops invisible 3-D haptic shape. Phys Org (Dec. 2014). (with VIDEO) [WHAT. -Ed.]

A long list of sex acts just got banned in UK porn. Hooton, C., The Independent (Dec. 2014). [No seriously, WHAT. -Ed.]

Wait A Minute–Let’s Hear From Some Actual Police Officers Before We Rush To Judgment. Dartagnan, Daily Kos (Dec. 2014). [TRIGGER WARNING: racist as fuck. -Ed.]

More Black people killed by police than were lynched during Jim Crow. Taylor, A.V., Bay View (Oct. 2014).

Charges Dropped For Cop Who Fatally Shot Sleeping 7-Year-Old Girl. Moreh B.D.K., for Counter Current News via MintPress News (Dec. 2014).

How to Be a Feminist (According to Stock Photography). Sad and Useless (Dec. 2013). [OMFG hilarious! But this one is all kinds of awesome:

feministdriller-Ed.]

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas voted worst film ever with 1.3 out of 10 stars on IMDb. Zhao, H., MailOnline (Dec. 2014). [OMG SHOCKING. -Ed.]

Cosby and Ferguson: Why Addressing Gender Violence and Racial Violence Is Not Either/Or Option. Cambron, A., Moyers & Co., (Dec. 2014).

Death and Injustice: How Can Humanists Respond? Christina, G., The Humanist (Dec. 2014).

Prosecutor Who Let Darren Wilson Slide Is Charging A Black Cop For Hitting A Suspect’s Hand. Parker, J., Addicting Info (Nov. 2014).

UGA study finds it’s mean boys, not mean girls, who rule at school. Ayer, R., UGA Today (Dec. 2014).

3 Shortcuts to Not Being a Terrible Person. Clay, F., Cracked (Nov. 2014).

Pregnant hero lays into anti-abortion protesters outside of a clinic. Fox, M., Happy Place (Dec. 2014). (VIDEO) [Badass. -Ed.]

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For the Quote collection:

Considering these two sets of circumstances — Ferguson and Cosby — there is no choosing. This is not “one or the other.” This is both and then some. Racial violence does not trump gender violence, and gender violence does not trump racial violence. Oppression is oppression. -Andrea Cambron

Now the haters and atheists are coming out of the woodwork, attempting to hammer your good work (they rallied to drop your rating super low). They are attempting, once again, to ruin Saving Christmas for everyone. -Kirk Cameron [Great work, everyone. -Ed.]

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Racism is whites’ problem to solve.

If you’ve been following links about policing here or elsewhere, you will know that American society is by far the most incarcerated in the world, that black and brown people are enormously overpoliced compared to whites and given harsher sentences than whites for the same crimes, and that young black men in particular are killed by police at rates 21 times greater than their white counterparts. Many liberal-minded whites I know seem incapable of grasping the enormity of the injustice of all of that—which may be understandable given that their interactions with police have been generally much different, but is not excusable on those grounds. Of course many less-than-liberal-minded whites are openly defensive and hostile in response to anyone calling this what it is—systemic racism—in favor of all manner of victim-blaming and othering and authoritarianism and bootstrapping narratives that have about as much relation to reality as…well, as all things conservative generally do. This is why as protestors took to the streets yesterday in NYC (and across the nation) in response to police violence and the failure to hold accountable the cops who killed Mike Brown and Eric Garner, I was heartened to see people of every race among them, especially whites. I say this not to suggest these whites deserve a cookie just for being decent fucking human beings. They don’t. I say it because—and this really cannot be said enough—racism is whites’ problem to solve.

RACISM IS WHITES’ PROBLEM TO SOLVE.

See, there I said it again. And it is true in exactly the same way that street harassment is mens’s problem to solve. (The similarities to misogyny don’t end there, but that’s another post entirely.) It’s a tall order, to be sure, and will take a hell of a lot more than white people demonstrating and marching. The solution to black victims of police violence and mass incarceration does not just lie within the relationships between cops and communities of color—although it certainly lies there, too. It lies with whites interrogating themselves about their participation in social, cultural and political systems that sustain racism, and committing to fucking doing something about it. Janee Woods wrote recently:

We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily.

People of color, black people especially, cannot and should not shoulder the burden for dismantling the racist, white supremacist system that devalues and criminalizes black life without the all in support, blood, sweat and tears of white people.

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Here is a one-minute video I shot from Greenwich St. last night around 8:00pm as protestors marched West on 11th Street. (Yes people, believe it or not, I was actually roused from my bar stool, not by all the NYPD sirens of course, but by the protestor chants I heard over them a block away.)

Some stills:

IMG_1175IMG_1187IMG_1194IMG_1178IMG_1196__________

 USA Today has a fantastic collection of photos from nationwide protests yesterday; here are a few from NYC.

brooklynbridgeBrooklyn Bridge.
(Photo: Jason DeCrow, AP)

grandcentralGrand Central.
(Photo: Justin Lane, European PressPhoto Agency)

wecantbreatheFoley Square.
(Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

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Back at the bar, a young woman came in, sat next to me and ordered a drink. We got to talking, as bar people do. She had just turned twenty-one a few days ago, and in a few weeks will be headed for a semester in Paris to study curation. We talked about art and artists (she loves Frida Kahlo) and Europe (she’s never been) and her excitement about the adventures that lie ahead (highly contagious). Eventually she mentioned that she had just been marching with the protestors, and that she was struggling with some guilt over pursuing her dreams overseas while her community was suffering so much here, and yet she felt a duty to take advantage of these opportunities for them. She has an autistic brother, 17, who she fears will make an easy target for police violence, not just because of his race but because his disability makes interpersonal communication so difficult for him. She is not wrong about that. I listened for a while, and did not interrupt, until she shared that she was really torn between being a committed activist and “curling up in a ball in bed.” Wait, I said. Those things are not mutually exclusive. And I urged her to curl up in a ball in bed exactly as often as she needed to, to mourn, to rest, to reset. There is no shame in tending to your own garden. We hugged, I wished her well and parted.

IMG_1213Photo shared with permission; name withheld.

We may well lose her to Paris, and that would be our great loss. Who could blame her? Any future she may have stateside is up to us—all of us.

Earlier in the evening I had posted to Facebook a photo of police helicopters swarming the skies above Manhattan. Later on, I would have a fitful night’s sleep, awakened over and over by the sounds of sirens blazing and helicopters roaring. This is nothing, I reminded myself, compared to the nightmare that will never end for the families and friends of those unjustly killed by police with impunity.

I hope you will get involved, and stay involved. I may well be curling up in a ball in bed today.

The helicopters are already back in the skies.

blacklivesmatter[A version of this article is cross-posted at Secular Woman.]

Recent reads.

library4The Staggeringly High—And Shockingly Under-Reported—Rate of White on White Murder. Allon, J., AlterNet (Aug. 2014). (“36 percent of those killed by whites are women, a far higher percentage than what you see with murderers who are black.”)

Video Game Reviewer Is Contacting the Mothers of Her Online Harassers. Aran, I., Jezebel (Nov. 2014). [Hahaha. Awesome. -Ed.]

8 Ways You Can See Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in Real Life. Emspak, J., Live Science (Nov. 2014).

Police Behaving Badly 12.1.14. Tony, The Shoops Roost (Dec. 2014).

The Ferguson Masterpost: How To Argue Eloquently & Back Yourself Up With Facts. Manduley, A., [smut & sensibility] (Nov. 2014). [h/t Tony].

Tiny 23,000-year-old limestone ‘Venus’ unearthed in France. Agence France-Presse via Raw Story (Nov. 2014).

Former Philadelphia Police Officer Ray Lewis Explains Why He’s Standing With Protesters In Ferguson. Levine, S., The Huffington Post (Nov. 2014).

7 hipster ‘superfoods’ that aren’t really that super. Barrett-Ibarria, S., Raw Story (Nov. 2014).

A Student Has Died After She Confronted A Group Of Men Harassing Teenage Girls. Mack, D., Buzzfeed (Nov. 2014). [Remember, people: street harassers are only trying to make the world a better place by giving compliments! -Ed.]

The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy. Moyers & Company, youtube.com (Nov. 2014). (VIDEO). [h/t nubs]

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Words to live by.

I’ve always loved this quote from Robert G. Ingersoll, recorded in 1894 in Thomas Edison’s New Jersey lab:

While I am opposed to all orthodox creeds, I have a creed myself; and my creed is this. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so. The creed is somewhat short, but it is long enough for this life, strong enough for this world. If there is another world, when we get there we can make another creed.

[h/t Don Ardell]

I’m sure Ingersoll would not define happiness as something more or less akin to a state of oblivious bliss. The words he left to us, words that so eloquently rail against the world’s great injustices—particularly racism and sexism and the role of religion in perpetuating both—leave little doubt about that. I don’t know much about the thought processes that led him to his creed, but it took me a very long time to come to terms with my own understanding of happiness, to somehow reconcile fierce anger and even hopeless despair in the face of the world’s injustices with the equally powerful feelings of awe and transcendent love for the magnificence of the universe in which we find ourselves, the Earth, and so many of its creatures. Many times these clashing forces have threatened to overwhelm me from within, and occasionally they have followed through on those threats. This is the very real risk of engaging in any sort of activism in opposition to the status quo: feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment and the guilt that results are only too common. I suppose everyone who aspires to affect change in the world has to find their own equilibrium; maybe this comes easier for some.

Anyway, what I’ve come to is this: joy and sadness (or rage) do not exist in opposition to each other, such that one is diminished by the presence of another. Indifference lies at the other end of the spectrum from all of these things. They can and indeed must coexist, if one is to be fully present in life. This is not to say that disengaging from the world is not necessary from time to time: a temporary state of oblivious bliss actually has much to recommend it, whether one finds it in literature, hobbies, silly movies, daydreams or intoxicants—all of which require a considerable amount of economic privilege to indulge. It seems to me that this is one mechanism by which grinding poverty robs people of their full humanity, and ultimately robs all of us of lost contributions to a better world, in whatever capacity and shape that might have otherwise taken. The poor have no choice but to engage with the world, constantly, in a struggle for survival. There is no disengagement option, no licking one’s wounds, no moment for peace and recovery.

For a while now, I’ve envisioned my life taking place in a kind of protective bubble surrounding me and others inside of it, a bubble that I forged for myself over the years, made out of hard-won knowledge and the once-alien skills of boundary-making. When I’m at my best, its membrane is flexible and resilient and crystal clear, and I can expand it to envelop almost anything. I have strength in here, so much of it in fact that I have it to spare, and I find great joy and deep satisfaction in using that strength in the service of helping others—just as Ingersoll promised I would. There are patches, though, where my bubble can be opaque and suffocatingly close, and so brittle that almost any adversity will shatter it, leaving me unprotected from the whims and horrors of the world and vulnerable to all manner of blowing debris. That’s just built into the nature of such bubbles, I think, and it takes work and time to piece them back together. This is where the aforementioned silly movies can come in pretty handy, though for sure nothing helps to rebuild a bubble more than the love and support of people who understand and appreciate you, and your bubble.

But lately I’ve been thinking maybe there’s a better metaphor for all of this…this…stuff. Maybe my life is really taking place in my private garden. To keep it beautiful and productive requires regular nurturing and care, as well as the utmost vigilance in keeping harmful critters at bay. This includes yanking weeds from time to time, even (especially?) those you’ve grown accustomed to, lest they quietly strangle your azaleas and berry bushes by the roots. Of course none of this protects a garden from the hazards of storms, or the relentless determination of destructive species. But in the aftermath of the devastation, the very process of cleaning up—mourning what’s been lost, salvaging what remains, and planting a few new specimens—turns out to be inspiring and even exhilarating. You are, after all, patching yourself up. And in a surprisingly short time, you witness growth and new beauty. It’s powerful stuff.

If all of this seems unsettlingly dissociative, well, it probably is. Dissociation, for better and for worse, is a common reaction to childhood abuse and other traumas, and I’ve certainly had my share. If you have not experienced any of that, then it will likely make little sense to you when I say that these things, both the bubble and the garden, are integrative steps for me, milestones of a sort on a journey to healing and progress. In fact, this entire post may well seem like so much blather and nonsense to you. To which I say: good for you. I would ask only that you recognize your mystification as a distinct form of privilege. Or, put another way, your beautiful bubble has never been breached, your splendid garden never violently uprooted.

One more thing about the garden metaphor that I really like: there ought never be any guilt or shame in tending to one’s garden. I can neither feed nor comfort anyone here if I do not tend to it, and well.

Whenever you see the welcome sign hanging on my garden gate, feel free to stop in. Please rest and replenish yourself: I have plenty, and it makes me happy to share with you. When my gate’s locked up tight, though, I have work to do. I can only let you in if you’re packing some kind of shovel: some wine, maybe chocolate, kind words, a shoulder. This is how I will live to fight another day.

Conscience, consumerism and cephalomugs.

New York’s thrift shops are legendary, and Housing Works is among my favorites. Their mission is “to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.” They advocate for marginalized people in particular, including active drug users, homeless people and sexual minorities: they’re like the anti-Salvation Army*. I donate goods and funds to them regularly, and I shop there. Like, a lot. (More on that in a minute.) But beyond the obvious charitable aspects, there are other considerable benefits to shopping at thrifts.

Cost.

If you are cost-conscious, you will rarely find better deals than you will at a thrift shop. Sometimes those doing the pricing know exactly what they have, and they will upcharge accordingly. For example, a valuable antique, an item with high-end branding, or something that’s obviously beautifully crafted from quality materials won’t be super cheap. But the pricing will still be nowhere near what you would pay for the same item at retail, even on sale. Want to save more money? Your donations of goods and funds are also tax deductible (although your purchases are not, at least not in New York). And sometimes a price is so low you just know it has to be a mistake. But it isn’t. :D  

The thing is, you can almost always find something cheap, but all too often you will get what you pay for. Thrift stores provide an opportunity to find really nice stuff cheap—or at least a lot cheaper than you will find it elsewhere.

Labor and the environment.

If you’re environmentally conscious, this is the ultimate in recycling. A lamp or table for which one no longer has any use—or, more likely in NYC, any space—would normally end up in a landfill. Instead it takes on a second life, filling a niche for someone who can really use it. If you’re sweat-shop conscious, the clothing and accessories (handbags, ties, scarfs, shoes, belts, etc.) come with a lot less guilt: by purchasing an item here you’re supporting a good cause, and not so much a system of labor exploitation in, say, China. Many thrift shop clothing items have never been worn and still sport the original tags; if that seems odd to you, consider how many times you received a gift of clothing you know you will never, ever wear, or purchased something at a retail store that has lived in your closet for years. Uh-huh. I thought so. Bonus: if you’re the imaginative sort and handy with paint or a needle and thread, your furniture and clothing options at a thrift shop are considerably more vast.

Gifts.

platterI bought this platter for $40 as a gift for someone I don’t even like
Turns out it’s worth a couple grand. Fuck.

Housewares are probably my favorite stuff to peruse. I collect eclectic silverware—no two pieces the same—so I’m always on the lookout for a single place setting to add to the mix. Ditto: coffee mugs, serving platters and table linens. (Dishes and glassware, however, must be strictly matched and neutral-toned because (a) I am really weird and (b) this is a monarchy.) Many times I’ve come across enormous troves of donated silverware, serving pieces, plate settings and tabletop accoutrements, presumably from restaurants and hotels who are switching theirs up or going out of business. I’ve also found Candlewick pieces, which my mom collects, in addition to scented soy candles, gorgeous coffee table books, candle holders and picture frames, all of which have made really nice gifts.

cutleryFrom the Palace cutlery collection.

And then there is the jewelry**. I don’t wear very much of it myself, and I tend to rotate a few pieces pulled from the same small collection every day. (Until, that is, unbeknownst to me, I lose one of the earrings, or a stone pops out, or the catch on a necklace breaks. This is why I can’t have nice things.) Although I may rarely indulge, I do frequently buy gifts of jewelry for friends and family. And d00d, I have scored.

earringsL: sterling silver fleur-de-lis earrings. R: pink & amber studded post earrings.

Magic.

Finally, I want to talk about the magic. Yes I know, that’s quite the word to be flinging around willy-nilly on a godless blog, but hear me out. I am not talking about anything supernatural here; what I mean is something more like “a fortuitous confluence of matter and spacetime events in the natural universe.” Life in New York City generally meets that definition for me; so does fall color, and being in love. On a much smaller scale, if I don’t feel like drying my (plain and perfectly matched) dishes right after I wash them, I might wander off and quip that “the faeries can dry them.” And when I return from my errands, lo and behold the faeries have done my bidding, and the dishes are all perfectly dry! It’s a goddamn Christmas miracle, is what that is.

lampcakeplateL: glass-beaded tealight lamp; R: silver cake plate and server with mother-of-pearl inlays.

And so it is with scoring a find when thrift shopping. The trick to the magic is this: be open-minded, shop early and shop often. It is generally not a good idea to have a particular item in mind when you go; there is a constant churning of merchandise and thus the selection can vary wildly from week to week or even day to day. My fellow New Yorkers tend to have keen eyes and impeccable taste, so if I don’t grab that really cool thing when I see it, it will almost certainly be gone in an hour. There are not one but two thrones that I do not possess because I dallied (and/or I listened to My Amazing Lover™, who for reasons I cannot fathom does not share my glorious vision):

throne2throneI needed these thrones, people, and now they are gone. Forever.

But my point is that if I went looking for a throne in a thrift shop, the odds I would find one are virtually zero. The same holds true for finding the perfect gift for someone on the exact day you need it. By far, the most important thing to take with you to a thrift shop is an open mind, and again, go early and go often. That is how I crossed a few items off of my holiday gift list before August.

It is true that for some things I will have to resort to retail. It turns out that some people, especially kids, have no appreciation whatsoever for vintage martini shakers or embroidered eyeglass cases. But seriously? Fuck Wal-Mart and K-Mart and Target and Macy’s and everywhere else. Or at least, fuck them as much as possible. I’ll be doing most of my holiday shopping at places like Housing Works (and Greenmarkets) this season. And if for some reason I have not yet convinced you to do the same, behold my latest find:

 cephalomugsHand-painted Cephalomugs, $2 (each).

^This is what winning looks like, my friends. Happy holiday shopping.

__________

*To be clear: I do not repudiate anyone who relies on Salvation Army’s services in New York, or anywhere else. I do, however, repudiate donors and patrons who have the opportunity to make a better choice but don’t: there are networks of thrift shops that benefit local veterans, domestic violence shelters and programs, animal rescue and many other causes that are not right-wing Christian churches. (NOTE: I recommend doing your research to make sure any charity you’re inclined to support is reputable.) And I really repudiate a government and economic system that requires charities to ensure the barest survival of its most vulnerable citizens, including disabled vets and AIDS patients. Such a system is not only morally grotesque, a charity approach to these issues is itself a terrible idea.

**Iris’s trusty sparkly sanitized jewelry trick:

  • place jewelry in an aluminum vessel of some sort. I use aluminum cupcake pans, or you can rig something up with foil yourself. It just has to be aluminum because SCIENCE.
  • sprinkle baking soda on the jewelry.
  • pour boiling water onto the baking soda and jewelry.
  • let cool, rinse and dry.

Do this to clean and brighten your own jewelry whenever it begins to tarnish. I don’t know how it works. Probably magic.