An Inclusive Litany


After CBS aired a "60 Minutes" story in 1986, numerous members of the newly formed "Audi Victims Network" brought lawsuits against Audi, claiming "sudden acceleration syndrome" in the Audi 5000. Any of a number of mysterious flaws inherent in the car's design were said to have caused the car to rocket out of control when the driver stepped on the brake. A three-year study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reinforced what Audi and independent transportation authorities had also concluded: that in each case the driver had pressed the accelerator rather than the brake. "If a driver unknowingly steps on the accelerator pedal and continues to push on the same pedal because he or she believes it is the brake pedal," the car will accelerate and the brakes will seem to have failed. Shying away from the judgmental term "driver error," the NHTSA preferred to characterize the accidents as resulting from "pedal misapplication." The NHTSA then initiated another study to determine the effects of pedal placement on auto safety.

In March 1988, after an accident in which Harold Horowitz's '79 Audi plowed into the home of Germaine Gibbs, and in which Horowitz admitted that he had put his foot at least partly on the wrong pedal, a jury awarded $14,000 in damages and $100,000 in punitive damages to Gibbs, based on the alternate theory that the Audi was defectively designed because the accelerator and brake were too close together, making it more likely for plaintiffs to press the wrong pedal. Audi, like most European automobile manufacturers, places the pedals closer together to decrease response time when braking, contributing to the car's superior safety record.

The previous year, Chicago lawyer Robert Lisco filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 350,000 Audi owners, named and unnamed, stating that the Audi's resale value had been destroyed by the bad publicity over sudden acceleration, and that the bad publicity was also Audi's fault.

Kate Bornstein in the New York Times Magazine, October 24, 1993:
My identity as a transsexual lesbian whose female lover has become a man is manifest in my fashion statement: both my identity and fashion are based on a collage. You know—a little bit from here, a little bit from there? Sort of a cut-and-paste thing. What I've found as a result of this borderline lie is that the more fluid my identity has become, and the less demanding my own need to belong to the camps of the male, female, gay or straight, the more playful and less dictatorial has become my fashion. Thank goodness the gender binary has begun to collapse and the old body binary is changing... it was so boring and predictable, wasn't it?

The Washington Post, October 23, 1993:
When the GAO asked for evidence that White House employees had actually worked the days for which they were being paid, the [White House] legal counsel's response was that the law did not require presidential employees to actually work.

Sally Jacobs in the Boston Globe, February 28, 1994:
In the 35 years since the revolution, Cuba has developed what is easily the finest health care system in Latin America. One of the most cherished "achievements" of the revolution, the health of the population has come to be a metaphor for the health of the body politic.
From a sidebar on the same page:
In the absence of traditional medical supplies, herbal remedies known as "green medicine" have become commonplace in Cuban hospitals and clinics. Lemon grass is used for circulation, bee pollen for cleaning wounds. Oregano syrup is used for colds, cola nut for stimulation. At one hospital, doctors are experimenting with yogurt and sugar remedies in place of antiseptic.

David A. Kaplan in Newsweek, February 28, 1994:
Around the global village, women cheered and grown men wept. At his press conference, [Gold medal-winning speed skater Dan] Jansen paused to take a call from the President, the man who's made America safe again for tears.


Utah entrepreneur Brandt Child planned to build a campground and golf course on his property in Three Lakes. Neighbors in southern Utah had long used the area for recreation, and the spot seemed ideal for the planned improvements. The project, however, was brought to a halt when the Fish and Wildlife Service declared Mr. Child's pond to be a prime habitat for the endangered Kanab ambersnail. The area was fenced off, people were no longer allowed on the pond's banks, and Mr. Child was forbidden to work in the area. He dutifully contacted the Fish and Wildlife Service to report that a flock of domestic geese had taken up residence at his pond. If the geese ate any snails, the owner of the geese could face a $50,000 fine for each snail.

The Fish and Wildlife Service asked the Utah Department of Wildlife and Resources to send someone to shoot the geese, remove their stomachs and bring the contents to Salt Lake City so they could determine how many snails had been eaten. But when a state wildlife agent and a highway patrolman arrived and saw newsmen and photographers, they opted not to shoot the geese, claiming they did not have the jurisdiction. Later, the Fish and Wildlife Service induced vomiting in the animals, and it was determined that they had not consumed any snails. Today, the geese are living happily elsewhere and the snail population is soaring in the pond—but Mr. Child has never been compensated for his estimated $2.5 million loss.

Four women have filed a complaint with the Florida Human Rights Commission claiming gender discrimination. They were fired from their jobs as bartenders and waitresses after the bar they worked at began catering to a gay clientele in an effort to drum up business. They claim they were fired because of their heterosexual orientation. The owner said some patrons complained that the women had a bad attitude towards homosexuals, and acknowledged that the bar's new clientele preferred being served by other gay men.

The penalty for killing or harming an endangered Delhi sands fly, which is thought to inhabit an area near Colton, California, is a $200,000 fine and one year in jail. So far, there have been no reported encounters between the two species since the law was enacted.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers approved a new landfill in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on the condition that the city take steps to collect the American Burying Beetle. Landfill officials must set baited traps throughout the 400-acre construction site and then move the captured beetles to safer ground. Although about 180 traps were set, only seven beetles were caught in three months, at a cost to local taxpayers of $78,176.

Rapper-actor Tupac Shakur was, within a period of less than three weeks, arrested in separate incidents for allegedly holding a woman down while a friend sodomized her and for allegedly shooting two off-duty police officers while out on bail. Shakur is a nominee for an NAACP Image award, to be presented in January.

Jane Brown, a London school principal, refused to have her class attend a charity-sponsored production of the ballet version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." She stated that artistic works should reflect diverse forms of sexuality and that until they did, she wasn't going to allow her pupils to be indoctrinated into heterosexual culture.

During the 1993 holiday season, the Ad Club of Boston rejected an in-house Christmas card because "all the elves were white." It then changed the name of its continuing education catalog from The White Pages to The Book of Courses.

[Ed.: In the 1870s, the English printer Tucks started making Christmas cards popular, although temperance groups objected to a picture of wine drinkers enjoying a glass in the center of their card....]


From a full-page advertisement in the November 22, 1993, issue of Daily Variety. The ad, a tribute to River Phoenix, the actor, was signed by "Brief Candle," a pseudonym for Joel Hoffman, a little-known actor who placed the ad at an estimated cost of $2,800. Phoenix died on October 31, 1993, after collapsing outside a Los Angeles nightclub from an overdose of cocaine and morphine.
I returned to my van and read the story in the Calendar section of the L.A. Times: River Phoenix collapses, dies. I let myself cry. Oh, River, part of me surely dies with you. You were the first of my contemporaries younger than I whom I came to admire. I was both jealous of your career and so very proud of you. I feel like a tree ripped from Mother Earth. I wish I had someone to hold right now who understands my fraternity with you, someone through whose embrace I might root myself again. When I looked at you, it was as though I was looking at myself. Maybe it is for myself that I weep, like Margaret in Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem, whose breast shudders upon correlating autumn's falling leaves with her own inevitable demise. No doubt there will be talk of drugs and sordid clubs, but for all the I-told-you-so piety, your absence will be no more comprehensible to me. Who among us has not bent to that innate need to self-destruct? It is your breed of actor that keeps alive the mystique of craft. Only a few of us could have played My Private Idaho. We are the men whose identities are an amalgamation of others'; we are the men who know a thousand souls, perhaps at the expense of knowing our own. The Aquarian Age may crumble and blow down the streets like an empty Coke can, but your river is not quieted: it swells in the heart and bleeds from the eyes. I dedicate my career to the memory of yours.

Good night, sweet prince of cinema.
Adieu, adieu, adieu.
You have shuffled off your mortal coil,
Which we shall care for now.
May better realms await you.

An interoffice memo at Fox Television:
To: Patrick Jarvis
From: Denise Van Patten
Date: September 14, 1993
Subject: "The Mo Show"/Standards and Practices

This memo will confirm my conversations with you earlier today.

According to Don Bay, for the program on large-breasted women, the following terms are acceptable:

"snack trays"

The following terms are not acceptable:


cc: Don Bay
Gerry Friedman
Daphne Gronich
Brian Graden
David Keneipp
Patti Mailman
Lillian Smith
Scott St. John

Spyros Stanley, who owned a bar in Charleston, West Virginia, purchased $23,000 worth of food stamps for a fraction of their value from welfare recipients and crack cocaine dealers. Stanley was buying the stamps to purchase food for himself and his bar.

In Hampton, Virginia, Lazaro Sotolongo sold crack for food stamps at 50 cents on the dollar. He converted the food stamps to cash by selling them to unscrupulous authorized retailers. Over three years he took in more than $1 million.

An art aficionado in Albuquerque owned a general store authorized by the Department of Agriculture to accept food stamps. But instead of milk or eggs, he gave customers cash at 30 to 50 cents on the dollar for their stamps. Then he redeemed them at the bank for their face value. With his profits, he bought $35,000 worth of stolen art.

In Detroit, the department of social services sent $26,000 in food stamps to Mae Duncan, but she didn't exist. The name was one of 26 invented by Patricia Allen, a 39-year-old social worker. Over a nine-year period, she collected more than $221,000 worth of food stamps.

After Dennie Lyons of New Orleans was caught counterfeiting more than $127,000 worth of stamps to sell around the country, he was sentenced to four years in prison, and his wife was given five years' probation for aiding him. Soon after her indictment, she was admitted to the food stamp program.

From the SF Weekly, December 29, 1993. The "SF," by the way, stands for "San Francisco":
I guess everyone's begun to realize a simple truth: It's dangerous at the top of the food chain. As the economy freezes over and the level of affluence goes down and the bitter social shoreline is exposed, certain highly specialized creatures are threatened with extinction.

The most important cultural event of 1993 provides a perfect illustration of this. The event, of course, is the symbolic consummation, the Passion, in a biblical sense, of Michael Jackson. I believe it was David Spade's rude character on "Saturday Night Live" who first made the Jackson-as-foodstuff concept explicit. "Put a fork in yourself, Michael," he said. "You're done." Jackson, it now becomes obvious, was being fattened for sacrifice over a period of many years, and now it is time for the feast. His body, like that of any self-respecting sacrificial victim, has been ritually altered, and his personality has transcended the boundaries between male and female. Heck, he may even be a virgin. Into the volcano he goes!

[More from the same source...]

It seems that Hillary consciously makes herself a moving target, while previous presidential wives often projected a simpler identity. In her straitlaced and mainstream way, she embraces gender-bending with all the enthusiasm of a cowboy-boots-and-lipstick grrrl. She chooses, very deliberately, to create an image that blends traditional markers of masculinity (toughness, immersion in public policy) with the most conventional signs of femininity (nurturance, concern with home and hearth). Her melange of butch and femme may be more muted than that of your basic gender radical—and most of the femme effects come off as calculated political moves—but it draws on a similar spirit of mix-and-match role-playing. Spy once featured a doctored image of Hillary-as-dominatrix on its cover, but you can be sure that if S/M were her thing, our First Lady would be an enthusiastic "switch," delighted equally in the top and bottom roles.

[Ed.: Questioning Hillary Clinton's sexual identity might qualify as hate speech on any other occasion.]

The Washington Post, October 17. 1993:
[In 1985, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski] saw the pay stubs of his daughters, who were airline flight attendants, and he was shocked at how much was withheld in taxes. It just wasn't fair.

Neil Chethik in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 19, 1993:
I now have the opportunity to help shape a man.

The day after Thanksgiving, following a smooth pregnancy and a harrowing labor, my wife, Kelly, gave birth to an 8 1/2-pound baby boy. Because of the tense delivery, there was no sweeter sound than Evan's first healthy cry. We cheered and hugged him when it came.

But that could be the last time anyone praises him for his tears. He's a boy, after all, and the world will soon teach him that burying his emotions is part of the price of becoming a man.

Smith College professor Faye Crosby used the occasion of the school's annual Parents' Weekend to conduct a series of "condom relay races," during which parents and students competed against each other to see who could put five condoms on an unpeeled banana the fastest without breaking the banana.

But the event was soon criticized for "marginalizing lesbians" by mentioning, but not actually featuring, dental dams in the races. "It was as if you said, 'oh, well, here are the dental dams—boring, insignificant lesbian sex... Now let's get to the really great and fun heterosexual sex,' " Crosby quoted her critics as telling her. Crosby has since apologized for her "exclusionary" behavior, confessing, "I felt terrible!"

[Ed.: The University of California at Davis celebrated Valentine's Day, 1994, with a week-long, campus-wide "pin-the-condom-on-the-man contest."]

After being threatened with a lawsuit by the American Center for Law and Justice, the Kyrene Middle School in Tempe, Arizona, allowed sixth-grader Adam Villa to sing the religious song "Shepherd Boy" before classmates and teachers at a school talent show.

Johnette Howard in the Washington Post, January 8, 1994, two days after the assault upon Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan:
Coarse as it sounds, what happened to Nancy Kerrigan Thursday afternoon is not that out of the ordinary—not if it is taken in its correct context as the sort of violence that is perpetrated by men against women every day, in myriad ways, in places a lot less well-lit or noticed than this week's U.S. Olympic skating trials.

More than an act of a madman or an isolated incident—which is what the Monica Seles attack previously was called—Kerrigan and Seles's cases have infinitely more to do with what happened to former Navy distance runner Kerryn O'Neill last month when she and ex-Navy quarterback Alton Grizzard were slain by George Smith, a classmate who then fatally shot himself because he was angry O'Neill had ended their engagement some weeks previous.

All three cases aren't about what this world is coming to; it seems to me to be about how this world has always been. At least for women.


New York City's Human Rights Commission charged that the Jack La Lanne health-club chain practiced discrimination by offering membership discounts to families. Its offers are discriminatory towards homosexuals, since the chain's description of family means relatives by blood or marriage. A deputy commissioner criticized the company for what she called "a narrow definition of family."

According to a Florida Supreme Court ruling, a police officer who asked a suspected drunk driver to recite the alphabet from C to W was violating the state's guarantees against self-incrimination. By asking for only part of the alphabet rather than the whole 26 letters, the usual test, the court concluded that the officer was trying to trip up the driver—in essence compelling him to be a witness against himself. A request to recite the entire alphabet would have been legal, the court noted, because it seeks information only.

The Washington Post, October 28, 1993:
House members have gone on a spending-cut rampage this fall, killing the Superconducting Super Collider project.

The Miami Herald refuses to refer to the city's arena football team by its proper name: the Hooters.

The National Feminist Association of Ecuador has issued a warning: If Lorena Bobbitt is found guilty of dismembering her husband, the organization would similarly dismember one hundred American men in revenge. Luckily, Bobbitt was judged not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.

[Ed.: Ms. Bobbitt eventually lunched with Abdala Bucaram, the president of Ecuador, who said the meeting was an "extremely high honor." Bucaram, nicknamed "El Loco," was later ousted amid allegations of mental impairment.

Following a career in show business that included novel roles in films such as Frankenpenis, the victim of the attack, Mr. John Wayne Bobbitt, stunned the world by joining the clergy as an ordained priest in the Universal Life Church. The Rev. Bobbitt commented that he intended to use his "knowledge and experience to help people avoid similar tragedies."]

Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff now offers a course called "Transsexualism and Society" which delves into such topics as "sexual identity and gender-role preference, homosexuality, bisexuality, cross-dressing, transvestism and transgenderism," according to The Lumberjack, the school newspaper. Between 30 and 40 students have enrolled in the class, according to the university's sociology department. Some students were shocked to discover that one of their mandatory assignments was having to cross dress for one class session.

Thurin Schminke, a graduate student in sociology and twice-married former female, will teach the course. One more operation is needed to make the former Carmen Schminke all male.

The Kentucky Educational Association has decided to withdraw sponsorship of its state's participation in the national spelling bee on the grounds that such competition causes children stress by forcing rote memorization and by endangering the self-esteem of the losers.

Savino Latuga has filed a federal lawsuit against "Hooters," a Chicago bar, saying that it rejected his application for a job as a waiter because he was male. The restaurant, whose waitresses wear distinctive white tank tops and tight orange shorts, says its name refers to owls.

Orlan, a French performance artist, has on several occasions been her own subject, inviting the public to attend while she had plastic surgery performed upon her.

Alternative cartoonist Diane DiMassa writes in The Nation that "Cartoon images... for years have been bombarding us with homogeneous depictions of husband/wife and race/class." DiMassa says most cartoons promote "false standards of beauty" and "a constant onslaught of white heterosexism."

DiMassa says her own strip, "Hot-head Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist," is inspired by people who "experience life from a 'second class' position [who] accumulate monstrous reserves of rage as a result of having to 'eat' injustice after atrocity after injustice."

In a work pictured in The Nation, DiMassa's lesbian heroine performs a Lorena-Bobbitt-like dismemberment on a male character while gloating, "Oooooh! This is gonna be a good day." In defense, DiMassa writes, "I heal my rage through my cartooning."

In the fall term of 1994, the University of California Humanities Research Institute in Irvine will host a resident group, "Re-Theorizing Music." The group seeks to remedy the fact that "the postmodern thought and theory embraced by other disciplines" has scarcely affected the field of music, "one of the last fields to be affected" by such developments. Among the questions to be addressed: "What effect would it have on analysis if we theorized music along the lines of Lacan? What does 'queer theory' have to offer to the study of music?" Has an analysis of the construction of gender roles fully informed our reading of 19th century music? To what extent is 'music theory' itself a projection of an elaborate controlling mechanism in our profession and art? ... We hope to push the discipline in more socially aware and intellectually challenging directions... into a multiplicity of ways of theorizing music that will not exclude or privilege any particular repertory or period, any national interest or genre."

From a press release issued by Capitol Records to promote Gangsta Lean, the debut album by DRS (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels):
DRS's album, Gangsta Lean, is a slice of the average day in the hood and insight into the mind of the endangered young black male. You can't be soft in the world DRS talks about. That explains the song "Mama Don't Raise No Punks." This song is about a nigga who "doesn't care about dying" for what he believes in, whether it be his right-hand man, his mama, or taking out some other nigga for messin' with his woman. It's a humorous take on the gold-digging hoochie who, even though she is out spending her man's ends ($$$), is also out watchin' his back. "Hell Yeah" she's down for her nigga, down to be his partner and hold his glock (gun) or yayo (dope). Down to give it up when he grabs the back of her head and says "Make It Rough" for me tonight. Not only do the DRS men play ball hard and talk hard, they also knock the boots [have sex] with the same ruff neck attitude.

That attitude is also conveyed in "Strip," a song about what is called "Sexual Aggravated Assault" for the white-collar individual, but for the black man is always called rape. It's about a girl who decides in the middle of the act or after sex that she either doesn't want to give up the poom-poom anymore or that she never did want to give it up, making it rape. DRS states in the song that it's not about those who were legitimately raped but about those who lied. There are a lot of innocent men locked up because some girls, for whatever reason, change their minds.

This hard-core debut is like a CNN, or rather an "RNN" (Real Nigga News), for the world. If you walk away from this "broadcast" without having gained some insight into what it's really like in the hood, then you missed the whole muthaf***in' point. And that may be the worst crime of all.