dressing up like nazis

The question is not whether VMI cadets should be allowed to dress as Nazis for Halloween. The question is what kind of 20 year old men want to dress up as Nazis for Halloween.

The answer? Sick ones.

Having grown up around the whole southern-prep-school-DAR-country-club thing myself, I'm very familiar with the kinds of boys who enroll at The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute. They're mostly boys who have a fascination with all things military, hold very sexist views they would describe as as "old fashioned chivalry," but they don't have the grades and SAT scores to get into one of the real military academies (Annapolis, West Point, Air Force Academy, etc). Many of these boys are also legacies -- under pressure from fathers or grandfathers who attended one of these schools to go there and love it, by God!.

All in all, it's a recipe for racism, misogyny, and, yes, production and encouragement of the kind of young men who truly don't get what the big deal is about dressing as Nazis for Halloween.

If you want a good sense of what I'm talking about, you should read The Lords of Discipline by Citadel alumnus, Pat Conroy.

quote o' the day

"Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."

--Donald Rumsfeld



Is anyone else as put-off and actually, sort of creeped out by this whole Red Hat Society thing as I am?

Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Here's a photo of my very first completed hat. I made it for my daughter Jane (she's wearing it in the picture).

I didn't use a pattern - instead I just cast on about 60 stitches on circular needles, did a few rows of garter stitch to get the rolled brim, and then knitted ribs until it seemed big enough.

I decreased rather haphazardly and did a small tie-off pom-pom thing on top.

Jane loves the hat and I have to say, after months of unraveling all my beginner knitting efforts and starting over again and again (my family has nicknamed me "the unraveler"), it feels good to finish something.

All that knitting and unraveling has served a purpose though. I now know what sorts of yarns and needles I like working with, and know what different stitches end up looking like, etc, etc.

I know now that I strongly prefer knitting on circular needles even when I'm knitting flat pieces. I also know that I actually prefer cheaper needles to the the fancy, stainless steel, turbo addi needles I used for this hat....

Jane's hat

Originally uploaded by kgranju.
A slightly out of focus view of the hat


Well, after saying we would wait a while after our puppy Leo died, I caved in to my kids' pleas and we adopted a new puppy last weekend. She came from the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley.

She's tiny, all black, clearly half pug and I think, half Jack Russell or maybe Dachshund. We named her Mabel. She's remarkably full of herself and athletic to be so small. Plus, I wouldn't have thought a pug could run that fast or jump that high.

Adopting from this particular shelter was a good deal. Even though Mabel is only 10 weeks old, she's already spayed, microchipped and has had her first two sets of shots.

And speaking of Leo, I was pretty shocked to receive a "Grieving for your dead pet" booklet in the mail yesterday, along with a condolence card from my (now former) vet. Given that it's his fault my dog died, it rankled me more than a little.


book review

I bought this book for my sister Betsy for Christmas and then immediately borrowed it and read it. I'd heard a lot about it and I'm a fan of the author's super-cool magazine, Bust.

The book is one of the best for beginner knitters I've ever read. It explains gauge, increasing and decreasing particularly well, and the diagrams are very, very clear. I also like her discussion of why 3rd wave feminists (like moi) are getting hooked on this very traditionally female craft....

I haven't tried any of the patterns yet, but there are some really neat ones. I like how each pattern includes a little bit about the designer who created it.

I'll let you know how I like the patterns after I try one. Overall, however, this is a book I'd recommend highly to a beginner-to-intermediate knitter, as well as anyone interested in the current yarn craze.


Another essay on the topic of abortion that I recommend reading was written by my friend Spike Gillespie It's titled Ask Me About My Abortion.

roe v. wade

I'm a few days late in writing about the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but I've been thinking about it a lot in the past few days as I've watched the anti-abortion rallies and marches all over the country.

I've written about my own experience with making this difficult choice, and thought I would reprint the essay here, to mark the anniversary of Roe. This essay originally ran in Hip Mama Magazine:

The Decision

by Katie Allison Granju

I began to suspect that something was very wrong the day I could no longer walk across the library at the law school where I was a first year student. Ten weeks pregnant, I had been fighting excessive fatigue, loss of appetite and night sweats for almost a month.

"Relax," my midwife told me. "You're just having a rough first trimester."

I was inclined to believe her. At age 27 and in perfect health, I had no reason to consider that anything more than extreme morning sickness was plaguing me, and that was no big deal. Heck, with my first pregnancy, three years previously, I had felt so good that I had even wished for a little first-trimester yukkiness so that I could feel "really pregnant."

Still, the nagging feeling that something other than just the pregnancy was going on grew stronger with each wretched day. The afternoon when I found myself collapsed in a chair in the law library brought the situation to a head. A classmate had to practically carry me to her car so that she could drive me home. There, she insisted on taking my temperature: 104'.

Within hours, I was admitted to the maternity floor at a local hospital, where I spent the next eight unhappy days. Each afternoon, just to make sure that all was well, the obstetrician would perform an ultrasound, showing us the tiny "beep, beep" of the fetal heart and the jerky movements of a glowing human jumping bean. We began calling the baby "Peanut." My doctor was puzzled as test after test failed to determine what the cause of my illness could be. He brought in an infectious disease specialist, who tested me for everything from HIV to Malaria. On the sixth day of my confinement, as I was lying miserably in my hospitalbed, watching a rerun of the Andy Griffith show, both of my doctors suddenly entered my room, closed the door and turned off the TV without asking. Now I knew for certain that I had been right; something was terribly wrong.

They had come to inform me that I had an acute, primary cytomegolovirus infection, popularly known as CMV. The disease is not generally something to worry about....unless you are immunocompromised, which I wasn't....or pregnant, which I was. CMV, we were told by the obstetrician, is very dangerous to a fetus, particularly in the first trimester. It is a leading cause of congenital neurologic impairment, severe physical anomalies, devastating mental retardation and infant fatality. Really, we were told, we should consider our "options".

Suddenly, I, a person with all her grandparents still alive, a person who had never even been to a funeral, was faced with death. Not only was I faced with death in the abstract, I was faced with The Decision. In consultation with my with my sweet, 26 year old husband, a man similarly unschooled in the ways of mortality, I was charged with handing down a judgment as to whether Peanut would continue to leap and hop about in my womb and ultimately, be born alive. With a somber face, the doctor uttered the words that were to become so familiar to us over the next weeks, "Now, no one can make this decision for you. Only you can decide."

Only, I couldn't. Not without more information. And maybe not even then. We immediately became experts on CMV and its potential sequelae. I stayed up all night for days after the diagnosis, reading medical literature and searching the World Wide Web for answers. None was forthcoming. The best information available told us that if we carried the pregnancy to term, there was approximately a 1 in 4 chance that an infected baby would be affected by the CMV in some way. I was paralyzed with grief and indecision.

As an ostensibly pro-choice woman, I realized that I was not actually "pro"- anyone ever having to make a choice like this. Although no one wanted to offer an opinion as to what we should do, everyone had an angle. My doctor answered my questions honestly and told me that if his wife or daughter were faced with a CMV diagnosis in the first trimester, he would definitely encourage an abortion.
The minister whom a friend sent to see me was gentle and kind. Yet, she assumed that I was crying because I had already made the obvious decision to have an abortion and was grieving. She offered to set a time for a memorial service after the abortion to "celebrate and remember". She even showed me the feminist liturgy she had photocopied for just such an occasion. I found her point of view strangely repulsive and without intellectual honesty. If the life I would be taking was worthy of religious remembrance and ceremony, how was it possibly mine to take? There are no memorial services for appendectomies or squashed bugs. Only for people.

I was hesitant to share my dilemma with a certain close relative because I feared her unbending anti-abortion stance. Of course, she immediately realized the decision with which I was faced after someone told her of my diagnosis. She telephoned me to instruct me that, although abortion is wrong, sometimes God realizes that the time is not right for a particular soul to come into this world. Considering the circumstances, she opined, no one could blame me for whatever decision I felt was right. Her stunning hypocrisy angered me. Despite her stated views, she was conveniently able to allow for choice in this issue when the woman in question was someone she loved.

As days passed and I wrestled with my conscience, I realized that I was petrified of the physical procedure itself. My doctor assured me that he could perform the abortion at the hospital. I wouldn't have to go sit in a waiting room at a clinic. I told him that, although I realized that most first and early second trimester abortions are performed under local anesthesia, the only way I could face this would be knocked out cold. He agreed. I knew that I could be admitted to the hospital, drift gently off to sleep and wake up, relieved of this problem forever. I would never have to think about it again if I chose not to. Variously, this sounded tremendously appealing and completely horrifying. When I envisioned the actual opening of my womb and suctioning of its contents, the same primal instinct kicked in that would allow me to single-handedly rip the lungs out of any man who laid a hand on my little boy. What kind of terrible mother would allow her defenseless offspring to be taken from the very bosom of maternal safety and warmth? I felt sick, and wept yet again.

My father tried to reason with me, pointing out the lifelong ramifications of my decision. He was terribly worried that I would be forever shackled to the responsibilities of caring for a severely ill or disabled child. He fretted that his big plans for his own child would be sucked away forever by a draining responsibility from which I could never escape. I too was seized with these fears. I secretly believed that I simply wasn't up to the task of mothering a child with serious health and developmental problems. What would that do to our other child, whom I already knew and loved? What would it do to my career goals? Our marriage? And what about the baby? The thought of seeing our tiny baby, suffering, perhaps hooked up to tubes and wires in a neonatal intensive care unit, caused me almost unbearable psychic pain. I imagined a future in which our mentally retarded and physically handicapped 13 year old child would endure the cruel taunts of other teenagers.

I began to wonder if I was being selfish in even considering giving birth to this baby. Would anyone choose for herself the life that this child might face? Were my own fears about a relatively minor surgery and future guilt good enough reasons to bring forth a human being who would have to live with the consequences of my own cowardice? I tentatively decided that motherhood is full of tough calls and hard decisions, both in the name of love and in a child's best interests. This must be one of them, I thought. I would do what was best for all concerned.

I telephoned the hospital, as instructed by my physician, and weakly scheduled the procedure for the next day. The admitting clerk who took the call easily misunderstood my vague instructions and thought that I was coming in for labor induction of a full-term, healthy pregnancy. "Congratulations," she said brightly. I corrected her mistake and her tone grew dark, almost menacing. She told me to meet my doctor at the labor and delivery wing at 6:30 a.m. sharp the following morning. She abruptly hung up.

There, I thought to myself. I have done the right thing. No turning back. I felt like someone had drained all the life from me. I sat in a darkened room for the next several hours, absently rubbing my still flat belly and murmuring maternal expressions of comfort to no one in particular. Later that evening, my husband and I discussed the choice that had been made. I attempted stoicism. He reminded me that we had a friend coming over to bring us supper, as many kind people had done throughout my illness and convalescence at home. I roused myself enough to get dressed and out of bed.

Our friend arrived and we all ate supper together. I told her of my decision and the reasons behind it. She listened quietly and then asked if she could tell us a little about her brother, who had died recently at the age of nine. She recounted a tale of extraordinary courage on the part of her parents, her sister, herself, and especially, on the part of a little boy with Down Syndrome named David. This child and this family had lived through all of the things I feared when I considered birthing my own baby, including David's eventual early death. Still, the joy and love of his brief existence canceled out all of the pain, fear and hurt. No one who knew David had any regrets. Our friend showed us his photograph: a beautiful and smiling tow-headed little boy, obviously mentally retarded.

Neither do I have any regrets about the decisions I made after that discussion. I never arrived at the hospital the next morning. I canceled the abortion and after a pregnancy alternating between exhilaration and despair, gave birth to my daughter, Elizabeth Jane Chevillard Granju on August 15th, 1995. She was born ten days early weighing 6 pounds and eleven ounces. She was born infected with congenital cytomegolovirus and had two seizure episodes in her first year. Since that time, however, she has been physically and developmentally normal in every way. She is also a strikingly beautiful child, with shiny dark hair, olive skin and a lithe, elfin figure.

Jane's epilepsy could conceivably worsen and she is at risk for other neurologic problems and progressive hearing loss until she leaves childhood behind. Still, she is remarkably healthy. Many people want to extract a moral from this story. Pro-life friends tell me that Jane is my gift from God for making the right choice. They want to hold my baby up as their own personal anti-abortion poster child.

Those who are pro-choice attempt to use the tale as a cautionary parable for why choice should be the focus of the debate, rather than abortion itself. After all, I was able to carefully consider each of my options and ultimately, have the final say. This wouldn't have been possible in another political context. My own views have become less reactionary and more cognizant of the complexity of the abortion issue. I continue to fear the slippery slope that we head down when we deny women the right to choose when and how we bear children. On the other hand, I no longer attempt to repudiate the fact that the graphic posters displayed by anti-abortion activists are real photographs of what really comes out of the uterus during an abortion. Many abortions do indeed "stop a beating heart," as the bumper sticker says.

However, I will not allow Jane to be used as a crucible for the views of any person or group. I know that I would love Jane just as much if she had been born severely disabled. I do not, however, deny the relief I feel that she is so radiantly well. I am deeply aware that I was graced with this experience, which has allowed me to see that the blessing is sometimes as much in the struggle, from which I have learned so much, as in the outcome.


And here is an essay written by my friend, the fabuloso Marion Winik. She has given me permission to publish it here, but it also appears in her first book, Telling.

Where Mommies Come From

by Marion Winik

I have been pregnant five times. Two of these resulted in the little boys watching "Barney" in the next room, but this is mostly about the other three.

It was the autumn of my junior year in high school, just before the homecoming football game. Football games ordinarily came and went without my notice, but at the time I was in love with Alan Jacobson, who was in charge of the float our class was building for the half-time parade. I volunteered for the float committee just to hang around him, and spent many cold nights in some cheerleader's garage, stuffing bits of crepe paper into chicken wire sculptures of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.

One night there was an after-float-meeting party at Alan's house, where I drank too much beer and finally was the only girl left. After I passed out in a hallway, some comedian put a hollow bear head over my face. I woke up half-suffocating, disoriented and sick and barely made it to the blue-tiled bathroom. My next conscious moments were much later on, in Alan's bedroom after everyone was gone.
A few weeks later the time for my period came and went. I approached Alan at his locker before English class to give him the news.

Don't tell me, he said, Tell Tim Turner.

Tim Turner was a guy I had been involved with a few months before. He had nothing to do with it. I went into the girls room and cried all the way through English. Alan wouldn't help me; I was doomed. None of my girlfriends even had a driver's license much less any money.

The next day I was sitting across from my mother at the big two-sided desk in her study, staring at my math homework. Tears started falling on the theorems and she asked what was wrong. Poor Mom. Drugs, shoplifting, hitchhiking, attempted suicide, now this.

Roe v. Wade was barely two years old at the time. In fact, I'd been on the eighth-grade debate team when legalized abortion rocketed into place alongside ecology and the school dress code as one of the most pressing issues of the day. I remember copying out the definition of D and C, dilation and curettage, into a three-ring binder. I wonder if school kids are doing that same sort of thing right now, looking up crack cocaine in the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.

There I was, the beneficiary of the new law I had so avidly defended. But if abortion had still been illegal, I'm sure my parents would have personally rowed me to Puerto Rico. A teenage pregnancy carried to term would ruin my schoolwork, my social life, my future: all more important to them than the two-week old idea in my stomach. I was overwhelmed and heartbroken, and relieved to have someone else take charge.

Both my mother and my father accompanied me to the clinic on the appointed evening, their anger by then tempered with empathy. I had them pick me up at the float meeting because I wanted Alan (whom my father from this time on sarcastically referred to as "Daddy") to guess what was going on. See what you've done to me? Don't you care? Don't you care about me at all? said the bitter look I flashed him as I waved goodbye and shuffled out to the car. Sandye followed me to the driveway and gave me a hug; no one else paid any attention.

There were other girls my age in the waiting room, but none of them were accompanied by their parents. Several had forlorn-looking boyfriends along, and I envied them.
The next morning, I was back in school as usual. I walked the halls with my head down, surprised and almost angry that what had happened to me did not show. It was over, hardly anyone knew about it, and those who did never mentioned it again. Soon it was almost as if it had never happened.

Sometimes, alone at the bus stop or pacing around the empty football field after school, I let myself think about it. I'm sorry, I sobbed, wrapping my arms around my stomach. I'm so sorry.

My second pregnancy befell me four years later. I had just graduated from college and was up to my neck in a neurotic romance with Jan, a housemate from the co-op where I lived senior year. Our shared interests were filmmaking, hitchhiking, ninety-nine cent breakfasts, and the destruction of the capitalist state. His previous love was Squeaky Fromme, whom he still hoped to spring from jail.

By this point in my life I was certainly bright enough to use birth control, and did so. But I got pregnant anyway, a victim of imperfect technology. I missed a period while we were driving around the country in a beat-up Olds Cutlass, saying goodbye to all our friends before we left for our happy new life in Eastern Europe. Though I was sure I was pregnant, my tests came out negative in clinics from Saratoga to Las Vegas.

See, said Jan cheerfully as I slid into the car beside him, everything's fine.
Yeah, fine, I replied gloomily. I could just see myself three months later, wandering the streets of Dubrovnik, trying to find out the word for abortion in Serbo-Croatian.

When I got home, my mother took me to a doctor who insisted on giving me hormone pills to bring on my period. He said that I "couldn't be pregnant," and my mother, against all reason, seemed inclined to believe him. By the time the two of them wised up, I was scheduled to leave the country in a matter of days.

I had an abortion on the Fourth of July with my long-suffering mother beside me; the doctor was in a hurry to get to a cook-out. My socialist sweetheart did not manage to show up for the occasion.

Though I was still far from being mommy material, it was not easy to give up that baby. I knew that women younger than I, with less education and fewer resources, became mothers every day. Why not me? Well, why not? In my mind's eye, I held a darling little person with Jan's wire-rimmed glasses and bent nose. Please don't go, I thought, even as I lay on the doctor's steel table. Then the Valium drip and the cruel poking began.

As tragic as I felt, I knew I was lucky. Once again, the course of my life was not completely changed because of a dumb mistake.

During my twenties, the nesting instinct worked its wiles on me. I acquired an apartment, a mate, a respectable car, and a case of stroller lust. I want a baby, I said to the guy in my bed, and that was a sexy thing.

So Tony and I started trying to get me pregnant. "Trying" is the operative term here. As my past experience had shown, when one has no intention of having a baby, fertilization can scarcely be avoided. A tricky contraceptive device is just another thrilling challenge to the speedy young sperm with a dream. The traitorous ovum climbs out her window and sneaks down the tube to meet him. One might sooner try to prevent the full moon.

Once I'd become fascinated by the miracle of conception and was eager to try it out in my own home, things were suddenly more complex. I had to read books about breakthrough bleeding and cervical mucus, had to purchase basal thermometers and home pregnancy test kits. I had to have my IUD removed. By then they were illegal anyway. I was just waiting to get pulled over for an expired inspection sticker and have the cop stick his head and ask, "I'm picking up something on the radar, Miss. Not an illegal intrauterine device, I hope."

The minute my various predictive methods indicated that an egg had been produced by my ovary, we bombarded it with spermatozoa throughout its 12- to 24-hour lifespan, rushing home from work at lunch if it seemed opportune.

This part was not exactly painful. More trying was the task of Quitting Everything. While I strongly suspected that my own mother had martinied and Marlboroed her way from the marital bed to the delivery table, and my sister and I were born whole nevertheless, I was a woman of the just-say-no 80's. Cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drugs were only the beginning of what I had to renounce. Caffeine, aspirin, permanent waves and my beloved diet sodas were all to be abjured; I only thank God I didn't eat hot dogs so I didn't have to stop.

I had always seen myself as fundamentally incorrigible. I believed in my obsessions and compulsions more than I believed in my ability, or any necessity, to overcome them. Pick a vice, any vice: too much was never enough. I thought this a very romantic trait. Also essential to my persona was a certain recklessness. I would try anything, do anything, Egyptian cigars, horse tranquilizers, drag racing around town without seat belts in the middle of the night.

Now I had to turn the willfulness that had made me such an abandoned young decadent in the opposite direction. Since by this time I wanted to have a baby more than anything else, I did it.

So, fine. There I was with no hobbies, no pastimes, and little in common with anyone I knew, Tony foremost among them. Though at first I wept in frustration at parties where everyone was drinking and puffing, I gradually found I could have a good time anywhere, even with people who were totally looped. I developed preferences, noticing that people on cocaine talk your head off about matters of profound insignificance, while those who have taken psychedelics laugh so hard at your jokes that you soon believe you're ready to host a late night talk show.

Ultimately, it all worked the way it was supposed to, and I was pregnant. I ate dark green vegetables, took vitamins, went to prenatal exercise class twice a week. We continued to pore over handbooks, guidebooks and intrauterine photo essays, tracking the progress of our blob or blobette whom we had by now nicknamed "Peewee" through the forty weeks from pinhead to Pampers.

Sandye came down from New York to paint the nursery, an undersea dreamland with seahorses and starfish. We had three different bathtubs, piles of receiving blankets, a bassinet, a crib, clothes and washcloths and towels, a few carseats, dozens of stuffed animals, and what our friends at the shower described as the "Porsche of strollers". We were signed up for diaper service and ready for action.

A few days before Peewee was due, I invited a midwife friend over for dinner. I wanted to talk labor. Even with all my studying, I was sure there was some vital secret I did not know. At this point, my stomach was so big I could hardly reach the countertop or bend to put the quiche in the oven.

Jenny asked me if I had been feeling any movement. I said I hadn't felt anything in a couple of days, but didn't babies tend to move less as they settle down into the pelvis right before birth? She said yes, but maybe she should go out to her car and get her bag so she could check the heart tones.

I lay down on my bed and she began to listen. As I watched her face, something deep inside me, some knowledge that I had been resisting, began to surface. I felt as if I were leaving my body, drifting out the window into the gray sky.

I called my doctor and left for the hospital, running back up the stairs to call Tony at the last minute. I so much didn't want to make that call that I almost forgot. Then on the way there we passed him in his green car, speeding down the street, looking grim and frightened. How can I do this to him? I thought. How can the universe do this to him? Just the day before he had washed and folded each tiny t-shirt and stacked them in the nursery closet.

At the hospital, my doctor confirmed that there was no heartbeat. The baby is dead, she said. She was crying.

Peewee was stillborn. Still, born. There was no explanation for what happened, not from the tiny, perfectly-formed body I delivered the next day in the hospital, not from the autopsy that was performed after that. I remember holding him and thinking of the tightly curled bud of a flower whose petals will never open.

And the fun was not over yet. We had to go to a funeral home to make the arrangements. We had to make a million phone calls, tell a million people, open a mailbox full of sympathy cards every day. I had to take hormones to prevent my milk from coming in. My dead baby pills, I called them. The day after I stopped taking them, it came in anyway. I was sitting in a meeting at work when I saw the stain on my shirt.

I felt as if I had run at full speed with open arms into a brick wall. Every cell in my body, so ready to nurture my baby, ached with frustration and loneliness.
When a baby you want so badly is taken from you, it is hard to believe you ever gave one up by choice. In the crazy aftermath of PeeWee's death, I brooded about bad karma. Three babies lost to me now, I thought, all lost. But I never really wished I had had those first two babies, or believed that I was damned for what I'd done.

Nor was I about to be thwarted by a mean universe. I shut the nursery door, got out my basal thermometer, and bought a pair of tickets to Puerto Vallarta. Two months later, I was pregnant again.

A couple of weeks before my 30th birthday, I had Hayes, a peaceful little baby with big ears and curious eyes, and tumbled headlong into the unbelievably wholesome and consuming experience of motherhood. I pureed carrots and peas, poured bleach into a plastic pail, sang old James Taylor songs over a skirted bassinet. And then I got really brave and had another, this time at home, with a midwife, in my very own bed. My sister Nancy came down to watch. Holy shit, she said, as Vincent emerged from between my legs.

I am not the greatest mother on earth, though I am a hell of a lot better than I would have been at sixteen or twenty. I don't have very much patience and there are still a lot of things I want to do in a day besides make sandwiches and search for matching socks and drive to and from the Montessori school and play Candyland. I yell too much, I bribe them with sweets, and sometimes I just want to run away. But I don't. I love them, and I asked for this. I prayed for it.

There is only so much choice to be had in this world. I think we need as much as we can get.


kristin hersh

I'm a Kristin Hersh fan of many years, and can certainly understand how bummed she is that her new band (with an already-recorded new CD coming out in March) chose the unfortunate name of "50 Foot Wave." The tsunami comments are apparently coming fast & furious. It's sort of like releasing a new album called "The World Trade Center" on 10/1/01.


"Be the media." -- Jello Biafra

From Poynter's New Media columnist, Howard Finberg:

J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism ( launching a nonprofit citizen media project that will help fund the start-up of 20 hyperlocal citizens news ventures over the next two years. And they even have some money to give away.

The New Voices project, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is calling for grant proposals from nonprofits, community groups and education institutions that want to start a news initiatives for a geographic community or a community of interest. Funded projects may receive as much as $17,000 in grants."

August 28, 1963

"I Have a Dream"

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon of hope to millions of Negro slaves, who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our Nation's Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed to the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is not time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of it's colored citizens. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must ever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for white only."

We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of your trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our modern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow. I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that, let freedom, ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.

And when this happens, when we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."


dead dog

So my dog died. He was a 6 month old Great Pyrenees puppy and he died at home yesterday morning after weeks of being bafflingly ill and taking every antibiotic and bloodtest and antiviral known to veterinary science.

And suffice it to say that figuring out what to do with a very, very large dead dog in a downtown neighborhood until he can be picked up is challenging, to say the least.

I am really, really sad and also, reminded that ultimately, even with medicine and technology, it's all really beyond our control.


knoxville's grand entertainment palace

Tonight is the grand re-opening of the Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville. Earlier today, I got to wander around inside, taking pictures and checking things out. It's really something!


the Wallett family

Originally uploaded by kgranju.
I write news for a living and spend most of every day working in the middle of a TV newsroom. I'm a sensitive sort, so I do get sad or angry ar excited over stories more often than many of my colleagues, but in general, I'm sort of detached because I see so many terrible things in my work.

But I have to say that the interview I saw on NBC this morning with Jimmie Wallett, the man who lost his wife and three daughters in the mudslide in La Conchita, CA this week has really, really left me shaken up.

As you can see from this photo of the Wallett family (which I'm almost certainly violating copyright by reproducing here, but I don't care), this was a gorgeous, gorgeous family. And if ever love was palpable in a photograph, it is here.

They also seem like a family I would know and like. From what I've read today, they were homeschooling, homebirthing, earthy crunchy parents who clearly adored one another, even though they didn't have the typical house in the 'burbs, daycare, minivan existence.

I just ache for their loss and wish there were something I could do for them.

conversation with my son, henry

Henry: "Mom, I think we should get a pet monkey."

Me: "We don't need a pet monkey."

Henry: "I would take care of him."

Me: "Henry, we aren't getting a pet monkey."

Henry: "I've been reading about monkeys online and they make great house pets."

Me: "No, no monkey."

Henry: "You can teach a monkey some great tricks."

Me: "No pet monkey."

Henry: "I'd name my monkey 'Trotsky'"

Me: "You amuse me."

Henry: "The monkey would amuse you more."


writergeek cool

You can enter your editorial copy HERE, and the calculator will tell you which words you use most frequently (read: too much).

breast cancer & breastfeeding

This new report is the latest among many to point to the fact that western-style motherhood increases a woman's risk for breast cancer.

Sadly, no mention is made of the fact that a growing body of hard evidence indicates that the more months a woman breastfeeds during her lifetime, the lower her risk for cancer becomes. Instead the report only mentions another important factor: delayed childbearing also raises the risk.

I look forward to a day when women get the straight story here -a day when major breast cancer awareness groups like Susan Love's and the Komen Foundation tell women clearly and without apology that, along with eating right, exercising, and avoiding overweight, breastfeeding very clearly lowers a woman's risk for this terrible disease. Significantly, this is true even of women who carry the identified genes for breast cancer.

The reason this isn't happening is that the same pharmaceutical companies that underwrite breast cancer research, sell the expensive drugs that fight breast cancer, and donate millions to these awareness groups ALSO manufacture and sell infant formula. Every woman who breastfeeds represents a loss of at least $1000 (cost of infant formula for one year) to these companies like Abbott Labs.


dog trouble

Even for someone who loves canines as much as I do, they are sometimes a huge pain. Lately, mine have been.

My Jack Russell, Fiat, has suddenly begun chewing things up -- something he has NEVER done before. He ate my favorite Coach handbag. He then ate my favorite wooden knitting needles, some of my favorite La Perla unmentionables, and today, he gnawed a hole in my couch (not my favorite, but my only, so same difference). I am now crating him every time he's out of my sight and scratching my head over why he's doing it.

Then there's Leo, my Great Pyrenees. On the 27th of December, late in the day, he began vomiting. I became convinced he had swallowed a Christmas ornament, so I rushed him to the after-hours vet, where for a modest cost of only TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS, I was informed that he had not swallowed anything, but that he did have a virus of some kind, compounded by a bacterial respiratory infection. They prescribed antibiotics and sent us home. The next day, I was going out of town, so I left both dogs with my regular vet to board for the week. I explained that Leo was taking the meds and left instructions for them to be given.

When I picked him up a week later, he was sicker than ever and had lost five pounds. So today we were BACK at the vet, getting a super-power antibiotic shot and a new kind of oral meds to try to knock the infection out. If he isn't beter in 48 hours, he will have to go to the UT Vet Hospital for special tests.

He feels awful and has the nastiest runny nose and eyes....basically I've been following this giant dog around with a towel for two weeks. Poor guy. Poor me.

So I have this bizarre neighbor who constantly calls the animal welfare authorities on me and other people on m street for no reason, and apparently, when Leo was out in the yard yesterday, she spotted his runny nose and called the dog cops to report a neglected, sick dog at my house. The dog welfare people dutifully came by and just as dutifully marked the report as unfounded when they knocked on the door and found Leo snoozing contentedly on his heepskin bed in front of my fireplace, but they have to check every complaint out.

I am getting really tired of this woman sending the dogcatcher to my house twice a month. They are very nice and apologetic when they stop by, but I'm just getting sick of dealing with it. But I think that saying something to her would just fan the flames. I'm hoping she gets bored and finds some other "neglected" pets to worry about.


quote o' the day

"The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor. He took my measurement
anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me."

~ George Bernard Shaw


well, duh

Men apparently really DON'T make passes at girls who wear glasses.


Check out Becca's new blog.

good fortune

My friend David Ordoubadian got the coolest fortune in his cookie last night.

It said: "You will soon get some new clothes"

This fortune gave me hope that I, too might one day predict the future with some accuracy. If this whole being-a-writer thing doesn't pan out, I might look into it.