Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend Notes

I saw today that President Elect Obama is backing the laid off workers who've staged a sit-in since the beginning of this weekend at the Republic Windows & Doors plant (here) in Chicago. The roughly 300 employees were told on Tuesday that because of financial problems caused by Bank of America's cancelation of a line of credit, they would be let go by the end of the week, which was last Friday; one problem is that they didn't receive severance or benefit pay. The article implies the union is working to resolve the issue, while the owners of the company are engaging in shell games and not responding to media queries about what's going. Local politicians are condemning Bank of America, which is an easy target since it's one of the few remaining banking behemoths, although it's doubtful that such posturing will have any effect. Meanwhile, the protesting workers are wondering when they'll get their pay and what will they do just as the holiday season is rolling around. Any bailout coming for them and the hundreds of thousands now out on the street?


To add insult to injury, the parent company of the newspaper to which I'm linking, the vaunted Chicago Tribune, for decades the Second (now Third) City's leading, conservative paper, is on the knife's edge of bankruptcy. As in, it could come as swiftly as this week. The Tribune Company's owner, Sam Zell, took the company private for about $8 billion, an insane amount even factoring in the portfolio's sterling pieces, the Chicago Cubs, and the major league baseball temple, Wrigley Field, neither of which he can unload right now, and repeated decimating waves at the company's various units, including the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, and the Tribune paper itself, haven't brought in the fantastical revenue needed to service the debt. As I wrote to some correspondents earlier, "the media entities under Tribune control are like those insects that are devoured from the inside out, leaving the appearance, though sickly, of being alive, while being utterly hollow on the inside." Well, not completely hollow, but they're getting there, and we can certainly thank greed and deregulation, alongside the technological challenges the newspaper industry is facing, for hastening these events. At this rate, the nation's second and third largest cities could find themselves with one less major newspaper by January 1, 2009, if things continue on the track they're on now.

(On yet another point, this grim news about the publishing industry came out last week. As James Schuyler once wrote, another day, another dolor.)


On a completely different note, I found Marc Lacey's New York Times article on the muxe, transgender/gender-queering people and related social matrix in Oaxaca, Mexico, both fascinating and a bit confounding. Confounding because the article proceeds as if, despite the wealth of material on gender and sexuality among indigenous peoples and a great deal of work on global performances of gender and sexuality, and despite the extensive contemporary discourse in gender studies and queer theory, there were little context whatsoever beyond the notion there are gay people, there are straight people, and there are some men who don't exactly fit either category but many of them dress up like women, consider themselves women, assume important roles in their community and are mostly and widely accepted, yet how do we define them according to the very fixed rubric of gay/straight? (Of course the word "lifestyle" has to enter the picture!) Etc. I say this not to criticize Lacey so much as to note that for the umpteenth time I'm registering the vast gulf between how things are discussed within academe and outside it, here in the putative newspaper of record. What might an article that were graspable by most readers yet that took into account contemporary discourse on gender and sexuality look like? How might it read so that anybody could read and engage in and with it, and how might academics, and non-academics open up conversations even more to make this happen?
“ThalĂ­a,” who was named princess the night before at a vela, or community celebration, for the muxes, waits for a parade to begin (New York Times, Katie Orlinsky)


I was going to write about how I've been baking bread of late, and how it deepened my appreciation first for anyone who does this regularly, for homemade food and cooking, for the felicities of the Internet as an archive and resource, for the simple and profound joy you can derive from successfully accomplishing a task of this sort, for C's marvelous examples as a cook, for my ancestors who had to do this sort of thing with far less at hand, for the delight of finding another way to be thrifty, for finding a way to take my mind of the mounting stacks of material to be read and my own glacially proceeding writing projects, and for the ending of Raymond Carver's famous story "A Small, Good Thing," which I regularly teach and which, despite its evident exemplary status in the contemporary, American realist canon, still carries a faint whiff of the ridiculous with its suggesting that devouring freshly baked bread might create an affective, emotional and social bridge between a grieving couple, parents who've lost their only son, and a crank of a baker whose isolation has led him to behave in an unconscionable way. But then, I made and baked and ate this bread--C. had already done so a number of times--and I realized that Carver might be on to something. I'm not saying that freshly baked bread is the best offering to patch up a broken friendship or any other sort of inimical situation, but the smell of the bread coming out of the oven, and the taste, with just a little butter, or olive oil, or olive tapenade, is enough to calm even pretty severe personal tensions. Or at least I thought so after this last loaf came out of the oven. It really is delicious. Since I've heard that a few readers enjoyed the mulled wine, I'll post a recipe for the bread soon. I need to try it a few more times to make sure I've got it right, and then I'll post it here. A photo, though, of the penultimate loaf:

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