Why does Rachael Ray hate America?

I’ve never been a big fan of Rachael Ray. I don’t dislike her, but I don’t go out of my way to follow her on any of her shows or read her books or anything like that. Like Al Roker, she’s just one of the thousands of celebrities in the world that don’t arouse any passion in me one way or the other. I think she’s kind of cute, but that’s about where my interest in her ends.

But she’s aroused passion in the minds of conservative commentators like Michelle Malkin. In a recent ad for Dunkin’ Donuts, Ray wore a white scarf with a black paisley design. Here is a picture of Ray with said scarf:

Personally, I’m interested in peeking in to the alternate universe in which Malkin and her ilk live. In that universe, Ray’s scarf looks like a Keffiyeh, the traditional head dress of Islamic men. For the sake of comparison, here is a photograph of Yassir Arafat wearing a keffiyeh in 1999:

I suppose they’re both white scarves with a black pattern, and that makes them sort of similar. So, naturally, this makes Ray a terrorist sympathizer. I suspect the Jihadists who are out to destroy America (and I’m willing to bet there are a lot fewer than Malkin wants us to believe) would have issues with Ray’s "keffiyeh" for a few reasons. For one thing, Ray’s wearing it as a scarf, and not as a head dress. And second, it’s a woman wearing it. And third, the woman who’s wearing it is exposing a lot of skin. From what I understand, these guys are very hardline conservatives within Islam, sort of the Eric Randall Rudoph of their faith, with bigger guns and more organization. But then, these are facts, and as Stephen Colbert has pointed out, reality has a well-known liberal bias. (I am willing to admit that I don’t know everything about fundamentalist Islam, so correct me if I’m wrong on these points. But Ray’s scarf still doesn’t look like a keffiyeh. I have in my time known women who’ve worn the keffiyeh and men who did not object, but they were much more liberal types.)

As frequently happens when I hear about the antics of right-wing columnists like Malkin and others, I end up just scratching my head and going, "Huh?"

The saddest part about this kerfuffle — aside from the fact that there are people who actually listen to Malkin — is that Dunkin’ Donuts has actually pulled the ad in question. "Due to the possibility of misperception", they say. Malkin claims victory and says, "It’s refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists.". She also said, earlier, "The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad."

For me, it’s disappointing that there are Americans who continue to buy into misguided and xenophobic cluelessness like Malkin’s. The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is a headdress for men. And it is not made of silk. And it doesn’t have a paisley pattern. And it looks nothing like what Ray’s wearing in the ad.

I don’t support censorship in any way, but there are times when I really wish that people like Michelle Malkin would just grow the fuck up already.

Wee Writing Angst

I submitted my newest short story, "Padma", to my writers’ group last night. It went over very well, which honestly surprised me. I was convinced that it sucked, especially the end; and yet the end got the most positive feedback overall. Some of the descriptions that were bandied about were "chilling", "scary", and "superb", though there was some mixed thoughts about the very last line.

I do have some concerns about the story. For one thing, it’s really about overcoming the fear of death, and I’m not entirely certain my main character’s fear of death is well demonstrated. For another, I don’t know if the imagery and ideas I was going for at the end really came through. I gathered that there was some confusion, though some people got it and some didn’t.

Mostly, though, I worry that with my main character, Sameera, I’m not creating a strong individual character but rather playing into stereotypes of East Indian women in America. I don’t think I am. Sameera is based more on a couple of women I know personally who actually are Indian immigrants to the US (one is a lawyer, one is a doctor), along with some traits from other women I know and some quirks from my own head (because every character you create, no matter how hard you try, will have some of your own quirks).

The biggest surprise was that everyone at the table said that the story is definitely marketable. I was convinced that it isn’t. Not that I tried to be really deep or anything but I did consider the themes too esoteric, the twisting of Hindu theology too whacked, my character’s revelation at the end too weird and too Matrix-esque for the story to have any hope of finding a home. Now, though, I think I may be otherwise convinced.

"Padma" has some flaws, to be sure. There are typos and malapropisms, cruft left over from previous drafts. The big revelation at the end does not come from within Sameera herself but rather from another character, which makes the story less effective. Some of my descriptions are vague. But now I feel inspired to actually do another draft or two. So far this story has not worn out its welcome. Not yet, at least.

Limited horizons

One of the things I really miss about my college days was my near constant exposure to people of other cultures and nations. Within my relatively broad circle of friends I regularly got to hang with people from France, Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Ecuador, India, Mexico, and so on. And, of course, there were the regular cultural festivals: the Native American Cultural Days, the Pan-Asian Culture Week, and Black Family Day.

After finishing college I gradually drifted away from all this multicultural awesomeness until my cultural circle became limited to US culture. The low point was living in Dixon, I think, where there was little if anything in the way of multicultural experiences (or of culture, in general; if you wanted live music in Dixon, your options were limited to bikers doing karaoke, or cowboys doing karaoke). I looked forward to our move to Sacramento in the hopes that I’d have more opportunities to explore culture, multi- and otherwise. So far, though, it hasn’t really worked out. Honestly, I’m not even sure how to go about finding such opportunities. I’ve Googled until my Googler’s sore (looking for "cultural diversity", "cultural festivals", and even "foreign language adult classes"), but that doesn’t seem to be working out as a viable approach.

So I’m turning to teh intarwebs for help. If you wanted to go about meeting people from other cultures and learn about them, how would you go about doing that, especially if you’re in the Sacramento-ish area?

McCain scares me

I do think that even though there’s some equivocation and disingenuousness going on in this video (voting to extend tax cuts is not the same as voting against the tax cuts in the first place) there’s enough material here to remind us that McCain’s so-called "straight talk" is really anything but.

Thanks to filkmaster Tom Smith for the heads up and the video.

Things you can't make up, part one

It’s nice when people who have been missing for 42 years are finally found. Especially when they’re found inside their apartment. It’s sad when they’re dead, though.

It’s been well observed that one of the downsides of being a writer is that many of the outrageous and bizarre situations that come up in real life, like the story above, would not pass as believable fiction. If I had written a story about a woman who was found dead in her apartment after having been missing for 42 years, I would have been told that it lacks verisimilitude.

Minor Digressions

  • Spam subject line of the day: "Prevent your organism from diseases!" The Dada-esque nature of this subject line is nearly perfect. It almost makes sense on a number of different levels, but once you think you’ve figured it out, you realize that you haven’t gotten it at all. This truly is the Platonic ideal of spam subject lines.
  • Plenty of you already know that my wife and I are having our kitchen from hell remodeled. For updates, including pictures, mosey on over to my wife’s journal, where she’s posting pictures and commentary for your amusement.

GO CALIFORNIA GO!!

California is now the second state in the US to legalize gay marriage.

Today I am damn proud to be a Californian.

Gay sex does squick me out, to be honest. How in the world can anyone, male OR female, find men attractive, let alone find the idea of sex with them at all appealing? Big, sweaty, hairy grunters… I mean, ew. Still, though, that’s my issue, and people all over the world do things that I find squickish. So who cares? That doesn’t mean that they aren’t human beings entitled to the same rights as everyone else.

A review is in

"The Fix", a website that reviews short fiction, has a review of Issue #33 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Of "A Most Heinous Man", the reviewer says this:

[The illustration by Lewis Morley] appropriately meshes with the humorously pulpy monster tale by Richard S. Crawford. A bit longer than flash, this fun bit of fiction makes up in character what’s lacking in plot. To tell more would give away what little story there is, but if the family antics of Herman & Lilly or Morticia & Gomez are up your alley, then this will be a delightful read.

Honestly, I’m still working out whether this is a positive or negative review. "Lacking in plot?" Bah. "What little story there is"? Double bah. Still, it is a "fun bit of fiction", and the reviewer at least caught the tone I was shooting for with my story.

Anyway, if you have not yet read this story, then go buy the magazine and read it now.