Journalism


Russian Dolls Promo Image from Lifetime Network

If the guilty pleasure in watching reality TV shows is derived from the voyeuristic clips of outrageous, hair-pulling catfights and the chance to glimpse the homes and lifestyles of the rich and not-so-famous, then Russian Dolls won’t satisfy even the basest TV-watching desires.

From my review in the newest Bitch magazine. Read the rest below, or buy the print or digital edition here!

After I wrote the review, the Lifetime network ran a marathon of all the remaining episodes in season one. It is still unclear whether the show has been cancelled or if it will return for a second season. My review should make it pretty clear which option I prefer.

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About 150 homeless campers and activists affiliated with the OccupyNOLA movement were evicted from Duncan Plaza yesterday, Tuesday December 6. They had been occupying the space across from the New Orleans City Hall for two months.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that “public health issues, such as unsafe electrical outlets and unsanitary conditions” were part of the motivation for the police sweep. After some homeless were offered temporary shelter, remaining protestors dragged their belongings across the street. “By 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday…dozens of city workers had already piled tents, sleeping bags, and other personal items into dumptrucks parked in the plaza.”  The plaza was fully cleared and scrubbed clean with power washers.

Some photos of the forced eviction from WWL.com:

This is one at least half a dozen trucks filled with tents, tables, and other gear protesters had brought to the park

This is one at least half a dozen trucks filled with tents, tables, and other gear protesters had brought to the park

Here are photos that I took in the very same Duncan Plaza on approximately December 21, 2007:

City contracted waste removal employees dragged any remaining tents and belongings into trash compactors, clearing the plaza, which earlier had been filled with hundreds of homeless.

City contracted waste removal employees dragged any remaining tents and belongings into trash compactors, clearing the plaza, which earlier had been filled with hundreds of homeless.

Yes, it looks eerily familiar. In ’07, the encampment was a post-Katrina right-to-affordable-housing protest. Homeless people and those kicked out of the soon-to-be-demolished public housing units were demanding that public housing be reopened and that the city not forget its poorest residents. City-contracted waste removal employees dragged tents and belongings into trash compactors, clearing the plaza, which earlier had been filled with hundreds of homeless people. (See more from my original reporting back then.)

One theory from 2007 that seems perfectly applicable to this recent eviction: that the forced removal was timed for the holiday season beautification and to make sure that tourists didn’t see the tent city. (The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the much-beloved New Orleans Saints play, is located nearby.)

So really not much has changed. Much of New Orleans’ public housing stock was demolished even though it wasn’t significantly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. There are little to no viable replacements. People in 2011 are protesting skyrocketing rents and a city government that is out of touch with the needs of the 99%. A forcible eviction of tents in Duncan Plaza comes around Christmas time.

The only good news is that today, a Judge overruled the Mayor’s decision and has allowed occupiers to return to the Plaza, but only for seven days while the judicial reprieve process is worked out.

The only lesson we ever learn is that we never learn.

Oscar HijuelosLoving this interview with novelist (and now memoirist) Oscar Hijuelos from Guernica magazine:

Guernica: Could you elaborate on how your lack of spoken Spanish affected your relationship with your parents?

Oscar Hijuelos: My father was a laconic guy. He would hang out with his friends and have all kinds of discussions about work and politics, but they never asked me, Y tu, Oscar, que te opines? I was pure ojos then, a fly on the wall, just taking in all that talk. In contrast, my mother was more loquacious.

Guernica: And poetic.

Oscar Hijuelos: Oh yes, she wrote poetry. You know, I grew up going to public clinics and low-end department stores, and on many occasions, she became anxious when she had to fill out forms. I always had to guide her through those things. The funny thing is, as an immigrant, my father felt fairly at ease, whereas my mother never really got used to having to adapt to a new system until she hit her seventies.

I’ve written about gender inequity in the literary and journalistic industry a few times over at LitDrift.

I’ve said that women are grossly underrepresented on the mastheads of major literary magazines and journalistic outlets and win contests and recognition way less than men. This is no surprise but it’s helpful to point out and remind people so that those in positions of power can make more thoughtful decisions about hiring and recruitment.

Two updates on this issue:

  1. Finally, some editors have responded to the facts about the lack of women in their publications. I think the editor of The New Republic, Jonathan Chait, had some interesting thoughts about why women may be less involved in opinion journalism.
  2. A friend of mine and a talented artist/cartoonist Susie Cagle reminds us that this disparity exists in the cartooning world. Read her thoughtful post here.

Clearly this is not an isolated issue, and also affects people of color. I just like to be the voice of persistent outrage. So I’ll just keep on ranting over here.

Side note: in my MFA program (creative nonfiction), the vast majority of students are women (upwards of 80%). I’m very curious to see if despite this, the people who go on to get jobs and book deals don’t reflect this…

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