Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A very serious crime against humanity was not reported on the NOPD 5th District Crime Map

I'm not even joking: the incident of aggravated throwing of macaroni and cheese on my car is not documented on the official police roundup of neighborhood crime, despite my best and most protracted efforts at reporting it.

As my mother said, "What is this country coming to?"

I would ask my friendly 5th District police bureau, but unfortunately I think I am permanently on Officer Addison's shitlist at this point.  She responded to a call from my address last night around 9:30pm, only to find me and my ragamuffin friends eating couscous and drinking gin on the front porch.  Some might call this undesirable street hooliganry; I call it "neighborhood watch."

When I explained the situation - that I suspected my neighbor had smeared macaroni and cheese all over my car - I really thought the officer was going to slap me.  And I couldn't have blamed her.

I retold the history of harassment, explaining that we knew that if we didn't catch our neighbor in the act, the police couldn't really do anything.  Eventually I got my police report (it has the wrong street name on it, but hey, nobody's perfect), with a number for follow-up inquiries.

But I'm getting competing advice from one of our other (black) neighbors, who instructed us to pay a "big black thug" fifty dollars to go over and threaten the problem neighbor.  After all, she said, "there's not much you can't accomplish if you give fifty dollars to a black man."  Amen?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Someone threw macaroni and cheese all over my car and I'm not sure what this reveals about America

And I called the police about it. Seriously, who would waste perfectly good macaroni and cheese like that?

Actually, because we've been having problems with our neighbor that go well beyond the mere grumpy - multiple tire slashings on my roommate's car, motor oil poured all over our front porch, a shut-off of our water supply - I called the cops to document this latest incident of harassment, after confirming with the neighbor's home healthcare aid that she cooked macaroni and cheese last night for dinner.

As much as I hate to call the police to settle community disputes, if anything should happen to this car or our house, the insurance companies will be on it like a bonnet.  And nothing sates insurance companies' quest for justice like a well-researched police report.  I know this from getting rear-ended by a mail truck back in 2004. (What is it with me and public employees?)

They of course didn't answer the phone for five minutes, during which time I saw a cop driving THE WRONG WAY down our one-way street, and despite my best efforts to flag him down, he did not stop.  (I've been having a problem lately with getting cops to stop their cars for me.)

When I finally talked to the lady, she told me to call dispatch and hung up.  I had to go to work, so, dear Shtetl Denizens, expect to be on the update as soon as this worker bee gets to leave for the evening.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My first run-in with the NOPD: It went well, considering

I was biking home last night on St. Claude, a main thoroughfare in my neighborhood, when I almost got run over by a cop.  I was waiting at the corner of Elysian Fields for a green light, and despite my reflective helmet, backlight, and pedal reflectors, a driver - with no signal flashing, it should be noted - decided to turn right into my path once the light changed.

I yelled "Hey! Hey!" until the driver noticed me, but she didn't slow down.  I was halfway through the lane trying to figure out my path of escape when I saw that she was wearing a police uniform.

"You're a cop?!?" I asked, incredulous.

"I'ma write you a ticket, bitch!" she replied.

Confused and scared, I pedaled furiously and got away unscathed, if just a little rattled.  The cop hopefully didn't attempt any more vehicular homicide that night.

Well there you have it - just a step in the long march towards traffic court justice.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Glee" is reactionary and anti-feminist and also not entertaining

I got suckered into watching Glee on Super Bowl Sunday, and my initial groaning turned out to be wholly justified.

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against fiercely competitive singing teenagers.  I was a happy participant in my school's Glee Club for years, even mentoring younger members.  Fortunately for my coincidental career as varsity volleyball captain, my high school wasn't as divided along the jock-nerd dichotomy as "McKinley High" (named after my old frenemy William, who condemned Spain's atrocities against Cuba only to "annex" it later, along with Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico - a Little Giants reference, mayhaps?).

No, my issue with Glee stems not from its weak laugh lines or hyper-saccharine locker room pep talks, but from its problematic themes on gender and the body politic.

For those of you as out of the loop as I was two weeks ago, the show combines serviceable covers of Top 40 hits with predictable high school sitcom plotlines.  What is most offensive - aside from the  show tunes - is how righteous the characters can be on matters of identity politics ("There's no way I'm sharing the choir room with a known homophobe," one incensed Glee Clubber pouts) yet still unapologetically solicit sympathy and humor from active subscription to the gender binary.

Firstly, the actors are supposed to be portraying high school students, but they are tiresomely sexualized.  There is truly little that is teenage about their breasts, vocal ranges, and confidence.  Note to Hollywood: Putting an actor in striped arm warmers does not make her a high schooler.  She's still 24.  I'm 24, and trust me: high school was a long time ago.

In any event, the show made me mad for a few reasons.  Starting with the use of female bodies as sites of sexist projection, Glee falsely claims the high road on liberal compassion and instead reinforces a damaging status quo:

  • When the Glee Club girls play on the football team as stand-ins, only the boxy, hard-featured girl is actually good at the sport.  The other girls literally lie down on the field when it's time to play.
  • Despite the fact that the girls played the first half of the game because the boys were too engaged in a petty argument to even take the field, once the boys decided they wanted to get back in the game, the girls all had to leave the field.  This only reinforces females in their support role to male vitality and success.
  • One of the episode's biggest ongoing laugh lines concerned the cheerleading coach, who, presumably menopausal, forces her athletes to slap each other and stuff chicken cutlets down their bras in order to revive her own mojo.  [In an egregious yet entirely unsurprising subplot detailing the coach's pursuit of life thrills, an inept tattoo artist is coded as Latino.] Her coaching career is derailed, however, and she launches into a violent temper tantrum when told she cannot endanger the lives of her squad members by propelling them out of a cannon across the football field.  Lesson learned: Her maternal instinct must be reinstated.  Otherwise she is ridiculous, out of hand, even dangerous.
  • In the end of the episode (spoiler alert!), the cheerleaders abandon their quest for state championship in favor of boosting at the sidelines of the big football game.  Here, cheerleaders are not athletes and cannot claim power through self-determined physicality.  They are again relegated, literally, to the sidelines in favor of demonstrations of masculine prowess and dominance.  The lesson from this is that women are worthwhile only in their ability to support their men.
  • Fittingly, the football coach is an ambiguously gendered individual known as "Beast."  Her presence reinforces the idea that women can have knowledge and skills related to athleticism only if they are masculine in appearance and demeanor.

So in the end, Glee was just as annoying as I thought it would be, only more offensively so.  My parents didn't let us watch TV for the longest time, and now I know why: If I want to be hit on the head by patriarchal conceptions of femininity and race, I can just go outside.