So everyone can get to know our contributors a bit better, we’ve decided to run a series called “Meet a Contributor”. Each Contributor will be interviewed by the others in turn.
Hi! I’m abby jean. I live in sunny Southern California and am an attorney in the public interest field, which means I work primarily on civil rights issues affecting low-income folks, including not only disability rights but also issues around language access, immigration status, and domestic violence. Right now I’m focusing on rights in the welfare system and issues around access to health care. As you may have noticed, I am usually an all-lowercase girl, but am using these newfangled capital letter thingies in my FWD posts – only to relapse to all lowercase in comments.
The other huge area of my life is music – I used to dj in local dance clubs when I could still handle getting only 3 hours of sleep before going to my lawyer job – so I’ll start with the questions from Chally (What kind of music do you like?) and Annaham (“If you were going to a deserted tropical island and could only bring 5 albums, which would you bring?”) in one lump.
I like a whole lot of different kinds of music, but I favor pretty much anything with female vocalists. I like a lot of indie music, but I also love pop music and listen to a fair amount of hip-hop, even though I sometimes have misgivings about the violent and misogynist content. I’m not a huge fan of opera or ambient electronica or noise metal, but none of that is totally off the table, either. I do, however, have some core artists to whom I go back over and over again – and those are the albums I would bring to a deserted tropical island.
First, I’d bring a magical cd that contains the entire works of Tori Amos from Little Earthquakes to To Venus and Back. I used to follow Tori extremely closely – I had all the b-sides and live recordings and alternate versions and between 1994 and 2003 or so, I saw her in concert about 45 times. While I’m not nearly as invested in her later work, she’ll always be important to me and her music resonates for me in a way few others do. Second, another magical cd with the complete works of PJ Harvey. Her perspectives on femininity, and its power, were extremely influential on my ideas of what it means to be a woman. And especially what it means to be an angry woman, and how to use and channel that rage and energy. Third, another magical cd (you may quibble with these magic cds but you are sending me to a deserted tropical island which is also quite unreasonable) with the complete works of Nine Inch Nails. I’ve been listening to them since Pretty Hate Machine and this year was lucky enough to go to three of the concerns on their final tour. To me, nothing compares to standing with a huge group of people, united by the music, screaming along with the lyrics, with everything so loud and powerful there’s no room for thought or worry or anything but sound. Fourth, I’d go with another magical cd of Le Tigre to pep me up a bit – they’re still strongly feminist and political, but they make me dance and dance and dance. I also adore Kathleen Hanna, formerly of Bikini Kill, and will listen to anything with which she’s even tangentially involved. Finally: Britney Spears. You can’t think all the time.
Meloukhia asked “I can’t help but notice that you follow sports…do you have a favourite sport/team?” Mel noticed my interest in sports because my twitter feed often spits out a series of twits along the lines of “dear dodgers i’m not a team manager or anything but i think it helps to HIT THE DAMN BALL” and other ire when things aren’t going right for my teams. I actually follow sports mainly because of relationships with friends and family – I follow the Dodgers because I live in LA and need to be up on it at work (though nothing could convince me to care about either the Lakers or the NBA as a general concept), I vaguely follow some NFL teams because friends of mine follow them, but most of my sports love is tied up with teams my dad likes. We used to go to baseball games together when I was in middle school, and I’d bring my math homework and we’d calculate the batting average of the players for each at bat. We are also BIG BIG fans of the University of Kansas Jayhawks in NCAA college basketball – there are pictures of me in my crib wearing Jayhawks gear. BEAK EM HAWKS!
AnnaP asked “If I gave you one million Canadian dollars, and told you that they had to go to charity, but not just one charity, how would you divide up your one million Canadian dollars? It doesn’t have to go to Canadian charities, it’s just that one million US dollars looks like a lot of money, and I only have Canadian money.” I’d like first to question why we allow these Canadians to have dollars of their own. But to address the actual question: I’d give some to Planned Parenthood or another reproductive health rights organization. I’d give some to the American Civil Liberties Union so they can keep doing the essential work of forcing our government to comply with the Constitution. And then I’d give the rest, the majority, to an organization or movement working to provide a right to representation in civil court. In the United States, people charged with crimes are guaranteed an attorney to represent them in court, regardless of their ability to pay. There is no such right in civil court, so people being evicted, trying to get restraining orders, or being charged with enormous debts can only obtain representation if they can pay for it or if they can find a legal aid organization with resources to represent them. In my mind, this guarantees unjust outcomes based on ability to obtain representation rather than the actual merits of a case, making it more likely that low-income folks will be subject to court orders that don’t protect their rights. This access to meaningful justice is an extremely important issue and one I’d very much like to support.
Kaninchenzero asked “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Yoshinoya Beef Bowl is one of the top three fast food chains in Southern California. Discuss.” That may be true, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten at a Yoshinoya. My preferred fast food is TACOS. From taquerias, from taco trucks, from the grills they set up in tents along the side of the street late at night. They’re all just a little bit different, the salsas are all different kinds of ‘burn the hell out of your mouth’ spicy, and standing on a sidewalk with a bunch of other people waiting for your tacos to come up is a SoCal rite of passage. (So is trying to eat the tacos while walking without spilling all your onions and cilantro.) For anyone in LA, the best tacos in the entire world are the asada tacos from La Estrella in Highland Park, but I’m always looking for new places I haven’t yet tried and have driven all over the southland in search of rumored deliciousness.
Amandaw asked “Is that your picture? If so, what’s the story???” The photo she’s referring to is this one:
It is indeed me, and ties in to my regular attempts to explore undiscovered corners of the southland (which I call “going on an adventure.”) A while ago, we all went down to Irvine or Anaheim or one of the areas of Orange County just over the border of the county line, to go to the Orange County Barbeque Festival. (If you made me choose between eating tacos or eating BBQ I would have a hard time deciding.) After eating approximately my body weight in pulled pork and ribs, we were driving back home by a circuitous route and found ourselves passing by the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda – something so amazing it was mandatory that we stop and explore it. It turns out that 4 giggling hipsters was not exactly what the library was expecting, and the pearls-n-suit wearing conservative lady working the lobby was none too pleased. I bought a “Nixon Il Capo” button and a postcard of him shaking hands with Elvis, and then went outside to the marvelous fountain in the parking lot. This photo is me, mid-balletic leap, in front of that fountain.
Lauredhel asked “What art or craft that you’re not accomplished at would you most like to be, and why?” Oooh. Screenprinting, or graffiti, or stenciling, or anything that would let me make street art. I HEART street art for so many reasons. It divorces art from galleries and museums and positions it as something for everyone, regardless of economic class. It’s often political and provocative in a way mainstream media isn’t. And it adds another layer of complexity and interest to the city – I’ve noticed so many amazing things while I’m keeping an eye out for posters or graffiti and feel that helps me engage with the urban environment more actively. I’m a fervent reader of Wooster Collective and other street art blogs, but don’t create any myself.
OuyangDan asked “Do you think the moon is really made of cheese?” And I totally do! (I mean, not really, because that would mean the moon landing was a hoax and I cannot in any way be affiliated with that argument.) There is this totally delicious cheese called burrata, which is basically fresh mozzarella that when it was made into a ball had some cream or other creamy deliciousness inside it, and it tastes like clouds and light and perfection. And it comes in a pale creamy colored lump, exactly like the moon! I discovered this at a restaurant and was amazed that there’s a factory in an industrial warehouse district of a nearby city that makes it by hand and supplies most of the United States with burrata – so of course I had to visit it and buy it direct from the source on another adventure.
Feel free to ask any questions – I reserve the right to not reply or to reply via private email if they’re things I consider personal or private. You can also find me at my tumblr blog, think on this, or on twitter at @abbyjean (entries are protected so you’ll have to ask me for permission).