Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
Motto of the MOC: Sincere, yes. Serious? Never!

"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007

The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Quizzes! Quizzes! Quizzes!

Over at the Blog Whose Name We Do Not Mention, links to a couple of quizzes have been posted, flooding poor Alison Bechdel with more irrelevant notes. Hoping to pick up some of the overflow, I’m posting both links here.

Free Rice (words): Free Rice

Geography: The Traveler IQ Challenge

I made it to Level 11 of the geography quiz, but I expected better. Part of the problem was the scale of the map, but I confess I don’t know the Central Asian republics as well as I should, and with some of the islands I consider myself lucky to have gotten the right ocean.
Warning: Free Rice is said to be addictive!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, Divas!

Here's wishing all you divas (and divos) out there the Happiest of Holidays!

This is what I wish for us all in 2008:

An end to the war in Iraq, and the troops coming home.

A Democrat in the White House.

Someone wonderful to love you.

An end the the writer's strike (I miss my Daily Show/Colbert Report!)

A robust economy.

Better health for all of us!

I want to thank all of you for your commentary here---it has been a source of education, amusement, and a real blessing to me.Again, to everyone----have a wonderful Holiday!



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stuff I Hate About The Holidays

the angry kitty captures my mood...

We're at that part of the holiday season where I begin to think Scrooge had a point---I mean Scrooge before his conversion. I feel like George Bailey when he knocked all the stuff off the table. Or the Grinch, when those damn Whos wouldn't shut up.

The Holidays can be wonderful, but aren't there times you just want to close the drapes and wish it was over?

So I thought I'd get this off my chest, and maybe the rest of the divas could too!

What is it that bugs you the most about the holiday season?

Here's my list:

1. Oprah's Favorite Things Show--I don't find it entertaining to watch middle-class people getting free presents. And the screaming! Now of course, all the shows are hopping on the bandwagon; I saw something similar on "Ellen" today.

2. Ice Storms--Now the ice storms we used to get in March come in December. Great.

3. Christmas Carols--I love the classics; it's the contemporary songs I'm talking about. Where are the new ones? Every year it's the same old stuff, over and over and over. I mean I loved "The Little Drummer Boy" as a kid, but if I hear it one more time, I'm gonnna hurl. And what about Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah? Can we sing about those holidays for a change?

4. The "War" On Christmas--I mean really, people. Come on, now!

5. Green Bean Casserole--This may sound weird for someone who cooks all the time with mushroom soup to say, but I really don't like it all that much. Can't we come up with a new, quick and easy vegetable dish to bring to the potluck?

Well, those are my issues.

What say you, my divas?


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

AREN'T THEY LOVELY? -- by Shadocat and Feminista (Grandmas)


All 9 pounds 8 ounces

21-1/2 inches of her


Alfedo Joaquin Pascual-Damian was born to my daughter Shakira Pascual-Lopez and Sergio Damian on 8/3/07 at a hospital outside Portland, Oregon. At just over 5 months, he weighs a healthy 15 lbs. He is cheerful, smiles a lot, and can sleep through most anything. Joaquin has 5 young (ages 8-13) tias (aunts) who help their mother Aracelia with his care.


Monday, December 3, 2007


I've been thinking a lot recently about my neighborhood. Stuart may be on a local food only kick, but I'm on a more general local business kick. And when I say "my" neighborhood, I do mean mine. I'm very possessive about Berkeley, because in a way, I've inherited it. My mom's family has lived here since the early 1940's, which makes me unusual in the transplant-heavy Bay Area. I live 5 minutes from where my mother grew up. The pharmacy lunch counter where she would stop for Cherry Cokes after school is still there, across from my apartment. Up until a couple of months ago, it was still open. The drugstore is there, but they aren't running the soda fountain at the moment.

Anyway, it wasn't the only old family business to survive on the street. In fact, up until recently, the closest thing to a chain in the 2 block stretch surrounding my house was "House of Curries," which has a couple of branches around Berkeley. The heart of the neighborhood is really that, a 2 block stretch that contained just about everything one could need in life.

I love my neighborhood. It sounds kind of strange, but I really love where I live. Because I think of this neighborhood (the Elmwood) as my own, I'm very protective. It's as if I'm 5 and I've lent you my toys. You can play with them, but you have to be nice and gentle or I'll get mad.

Herein lies the problem. My glorious little cocoon of little independent shops, all with classic architecture and fun and useful things, is under attack. Not a big, obvious attack, or anything, but something much more dangerous and subtle. Little by little, the family run businesses that have given the Elmwood its charm are being pushed out.

Originally, when the neighborhood was developed, in the early part of the century, it was designed to be completely self-sustaining. You had a post office, a hardware store, a pharmacy/soda fountain, an ice-cream shop, a laundry, a 5 and dime, a bank. A little later, there came the theater, the donut shop, a toy store, some small shops, a couple of restaurants, a bakery. Around the corner, my godparents opened the Star Grocery in 1922. With the exception of the bank (orginally the Mercantile Trust Co, then Wells Fargo) these were all independent, family owned businesses. The scene has changed some, but the character of the neighborhood is more or less intact.

That said, I'm terrified that in a few short years, the street will be taken over by developers. The unique shops and services will disappear and homogenous, horrible annonymity will take over. Then I get all morose and hope that my grandparents don't live to see it....

Some of the family businesses have left because there were no younger relatives able or willing to take over. That is sad, but is an understandable end to a business. Recently, though, it has been more due to rising rent for the store fronts. Can an ice cream shop make enough money in the cold season to pay the ridiculously high prices?

The other issue is that of zoning. This leads us into the treacherous waters of the Berkeley City Council. I'd be really curious to know whether all towns have to deal with such a circus. Despite claiming to support local business, the city council and zoning board seem hell bent on destroying all that makes a neighborhood sustainable and functional. For example: the owners of Bolfing's Elmwood Hardware,

which has been at the intersection of College and Ashby avenues since 1923, recently put in a bid for a permit to renovate. The building had the original plumbing, wiring, and warehouse space. They want to update all of these, obviously, as well as add some storage and office space. Oh, and handicapped accessible bathrooms. I know, shocking....

In order to help finance this, they proposed adding an upper floor with 3 apartments. This would alter the roofscape, but not in an obtrusive way. They were denied the variance. They can renovate and update the structural issues, but cannot add a couple of residences that would allow them to make the rent and pay the contractors. All of this while City Hall is touting "multi-use" buildings downtown, with retail space on the ground floor and condos on top.

But those are shiny, new, developer approved buildings, so they're special. Or something.

The hardware store is closed for at least 6 months while they work, but it is unclear whether they'll reopen at all, or if it will end up as another expensive clothing boutique. I loved not having to get in the car every time I needed light bulbs or hinges or something for the kitchen. I loved that the owners' kids worked there and that the older daughter was the most knowledgeable employee.

Anyway, while this long-standing, independent business is floundering, across the street lies the newest addition to the retail atmosphere. Lulu Lemon. If you've never heard of this store, it is because not only is it a chain, it's a foreign chain. It began in Vancouver, BC, and they sell yoga clothes. Incredibly expensive yoga clothes. Like, $60 for a teeny stretchy shirt, and things like that. Yoga clothes that you'd better stock up on if you find something you like, because in a couple of weeks it will be out of style and you'll never find it again.

Now, this shouldn't bug me, right? I don't do yoga and I don't buy expensive clothes, so why should I care? Well, a) they're a gigantic foreign chain in a neighborhood of family businesses and b) because their window displays are quite possibly the most offensive things you've ever seen. Seriously. One of the first after they opened a few months ago had some happy yoga mannequins celebrating on one side, and mannequins in work-clothes (the kind of stuff worn by retail folks and teachers and office flunkies) with bags flouting dollar signs covering the heads. Uh, right, because you can afford $60 yoga shirts if you don't work. Or, the way I that I interpreted it: working is for chumps. It's better to be an ultra yuppie yoga mommy and spend your incredible amount of free time (because you have a nanny even though you don't work) working on your "inner self."

I'm sorry, was that snarky? I'm a diva, after all, what else would you expect?

The other Very Bad Sign is that a developer has been granted a conditional permit to turn what used to be a small car-repair place and tow truck depot just below College Ave into a 5,000 square foot bar. They claim that it will not impact the traffic or parking at all. Yeah Right.

So Stuart may be torturing Clarice with local food and no heat, the latter of which I'm into, inasmuch as my limited budget will allow. I'm sure he knows all about local business and how when you buy from a chain, at least 80% of the money leaves the community immediately, never to return. I knew this before, of course, but it's hitting home a lot lately.

I'm finding myself very angry and unable to figure out what to do about it. Go to a city council meeting? They are routinely useless shouting matches that go into the wee hours of the morning. Write a petition? No one signs them, and no one likes getting hassled while walking down the street. I don't know how to make a difference, and that feeling of helplessness sucks.


Saturday, December 1, 2007


Four years ago, in December 2003, I rode the train three days to visit an ex in Oregon. It was an epic journey in a number of respects, but one of the stand-out memories is that the books I took to read were Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I was astounded by how good they were, far better than Harry Potter or most so-called "adult" material. I couldn't believe everyone wasn't reading them and talking about them.

That train trip was a spiritual watershed, and the trilogy played a role in making it so. Now, finally, the first of the books, The Golden Compass is being released as a movie, and the Religious Right has moronically but predictably decided to agitate against it.

The New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights launched a boycott of the film, calling it "selling atheism to kids" at Christmastime in stealth fashion. Adam Holz of Focus on the Family, writing on the Christian ministry's Plugged In site, calls Pullman's books and the film a "deliberate attempt to foist his viciously anti-God beliefs upon his audience."

This is despite the fact that director Chris Weitz has said he cut controversial religious content to make the film more commercially viable, with the plan of being more faithful to the original material in sequels. For instance, the evil organization dominating the world is not "the church," as it is in the book, but the "Magisterium," which is getting criticism anyway because it's a Catholic term.

An article today in Huffington Post Golden Compass Points to Controversy does a good job of debunking the hue and cry. Yes, Pullman is a self-described atheist or agnostic, and he has been quoted as saying "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief." But being anti-Christian is often necessarily aligned with freedom of thought, and atheism often goes hand-in-hand with profound morality and spirituality. Just not the "state-approved" variety.

Indeed, according to the article, many Christians are coming out in defense of The Golden Compass. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rates the film "intelligent and well-crafted entertainment", adding "The film is not blatantly anti-Catholic but a "generalized rejection of authoritarianism."

Ah, but rejection of authoritarianism strikes at the heart of fundamentalist religious belief and is, according to their definition of g*d, "anti-God".

Quoting from the above article: "Donna Freitas, a visiting assistant professor of religion at Boston University, goes a step further, calling the books a 'theological masterpiece.' Pullman's intent aside, she views the trilogy as a treatise on Christian belief.

"To Freitas, the series' mysterious 'Dust' -- portrayed in the books as connected to original sin -- represents the Holy Spirit. Pullman is not attacking religion but those who use power to corrupt, she said."

Well, no wonder Focus on the Family is against it. Not to mention which, the main character is a girl and there's a group of amazing witches who help her out -- anathema!

Make no mistake about it, the Christian Right is adamantly opposed to freedom of thought and belief, especially as it is proferred to children. Their ranks are populated by those who are afraid of modernity and change, and they seek to roll our culture back to medieval circumstances -- with all the threat to women, racial minorities, Jews, science, and class mobility prevalent during that era. This week's Republican debate, tailored to appeal to that 28% base, very much reflects the emphasis on racial hatred and glorification of violence in the name of "morality" and "godliness" that is threatening the future of democracy in this country. The big battle, of course, is to restore habeus corpus, to stop torture and crusade-based wars, and to stop the election of those who believe not just in creating a theocracy but in such lunacy as that the earth is flat. (I'm not joking.)

But the smaller battle will be to take your children to see this movie, to allow it to expand their minds and give them that hand up. They'll need it when dealing with their peers, one-third of whom are being raised in a horrific vacuum devoid of diversity or independent thought.

P.S. The official website for the movie is located at The Golden Compass. Under the "Downloads" section is a quiz you can take to find out your own daemon. Mine was Pyrrheus, a Bengal tiger.