Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Today we honor the passing of Charlton Heston, known variously to his fans as Moses, George Taylor, and President.


Goodnight, sweet prince. As Dennis Miller said (before openly embracing right-wing conservativism), "Whatever."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Somehow, FOXNews Doesn't Drop a "Bombshell"

On April 4, 2008, ran a story on Agusta Urica, a 31-year old Angolan woman recently crowned Miss Landmine 2008.

Let FOXNews never be accused of sensationalism, yet the front-page story1 seemed to promise gross spectacle. However, coverage of the event was respectful, if not enthusiastic.

Miss Landmine is the brainchild of Morten Traavik, a Norwegian theater director who traveled to Luanda, Angola, in 2004 and saw first hand the effects of twenty years of civil war. It is estimated that 8 million landmines are still buried throughout Angola, and over 80,000 people who live there have amputations resulting from landmines. The situation gave Traavik the idea to celebrate the beauty of Angolan women despite the stigmatized trait of amputation, a spirit capture in the pageant's Miss Landmine Manifesto.

(in no particular order)

  • Female pride and empowerment.
  • Disabled pride and empowerment.
  • Global and local landmine awareness and information.
  • Challenge inferiority and/or guilt complexes that hinder creativity- historical, cultural, social, personal, African, European.
  • Question established concepts of physical perfection.
  • Challenge old and ingrown concepts of cultural cooperation.
  • Celebrate true beauty.
  • Replace the passive term 'Victim' with the active term 'Survivor'

The Miss Landmine Pageant seems to run counter to dominant American ideology about pageants, a fact that Traavik himself has acknowledged:

"We tend to associate beauty pageants with sleaze and exploitation of women and so on, but this felt very different. This was much more of a celebration, much more of a carnival-esque in many ways," [Traavik] said of his first pageant experience in Angola. (

Traavik's use of the term "carnivalesque" is perhaps unintentionally reminiscent of Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin's usage of the term. To Bakhtin, the carnivalesque represents a collective within which dominant socioeconomic and politic classes cease to matter. Within the democratic space of the carnival, "[A]ll were considered equal during carnival. Here, in the town square, a special form of free and familiar contact reigned among people who were usually divided by the barriers of caste, property, profession, and age" (Bakhtin 10). Moreover, carnival augurs an inversion of dominant social practices--all carnival goers engage in activity that is commonly associated with lower social classes, and in carnival the fool is king.3

In this regard, the celebration of a stigmatizing bodily characteristic is requisite for the competition. By incorporating this anomaly into the cultural ritual of the pageant, Traavik and Miss Landmine inflect cultural assumptions about beauty and normativity.

However, for all the democratic work of the pageant, there can be only one Miss Landmine. Or, in this case, two. A group of ten women competed for two titles, Miss Landmine 2008 and Miss Landmine Internet Winner. Miss Urica, the brick-and-mortar winner, was chosen by a panel of five Angolan government officials, while Miss Cuanza Sul, Maria Restino Manuel, was chosen as the Internet winner.

Both winners received custom prosthetic limbs among their prizes, an award that highlights the material reality of their lived conditions not as young women who treat pageants as their careers, but as survivors who are integrating their difference into their and our lived experience.

1At the time, the main headline was for a story set in Fenway Park in which a girl named Alexa Rodriguez was attacked by a red-tail hawk. Remember, the date was April 4th.


3 This is, of course, problematic, but one could argue that only through the inversion of social roles might the hegemonic class be inclined, encouraged, or coerced into change.

Bakhtin, M. M. [1941, 1965] Rabelais and His World. Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yankee Die Nasty?

Watching the top of the eighth inning of the April 4, 2008, New York Yankees baseball game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, I wonder if the fork is finally stuck deep into what had been a powerful Yankee dynasty.

Down 6-4, Yankees' reliever LaTroy Hawkins forces a 6-3 ground out before giving up a blast to right field by Cliff Floyd that stayed just left of the foul pole.  For the past few seasons, the bullpen is expected to blow holds just like this one, but the real daggers are still to come.

After being hit by a come-backer that leads to a 1-4-3 out at first, Hawkins forces a routine fly ball to left. The Man Formerly Known as Godzilla gives chase, but does not have enough leg to collect the easy fly. The ball drops in for a double. The next batter, Riggans, hits a grounder into the hole at short. Using his signature scoop and hook-shot-throw-to-first, Jeter fields the ball and hurls it to Giambi (who is currently batting .100 after three games), only the throw is too late and the runner is safe.

Now, after the past two seasons, I'm prepared to watch a Yankee reliever get pounded out of the Bronx, but I'm not prepared to realize suddenly that even the Yankees who were the young Yankees are now the Old Yankees. Matsui has never really lived up to his promise, but for the past season he has been mediocre at best; consider his platoon duties in left with the rag-armed Johnny Damon.

But Jeter. Maybe this was an anomaly, but his throw to Giambi for the first out of the inning was up the line, forcing Giambi to earn the out with a tag.

After a passed ball, Hawkins gives up a bloop single that no one expects Johnny Damon to field (although, I suspect, Melky Cabrera would have made it close).

By the end of the top of the eighth, the Rays will lead 13-4 and the Yankee faithful will wonder if we're caught in the lull--the heroes nearing their twilight and the younger players (Cabrera, Chamberlain, Duncan, Hughes) still too green to take us to number 27.

Well, we still have 19 more than Boston.