Obama, why dost thou test me so?

I want to vote for Obama. I really do. I like his inspirational style. I like his biography. I like the way he says we have to rise above the current system and start talking to each other instead of at each other. I've had that quote at the top of this blog since before the 2004 elections. In some ways, he's my dream candidate.

And then, just as I go and change my mind on the necessity for impeachment, he goes and says this:

"I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breeches, and intentional breeches of the president's authority," he said.

As Melissa says, "what the fuck does he think has been going on at the White House for the past six years?" There are any number of actions that Bush and Cheney have taken that fall under the definition of "grave, grave breeches," not the least of which is the recent flouting of Congressional authority that made me turn the corner myself.

So say you think it's a moot point because they'll never be removed, or say there are more important things for the country to deal with right now, but don't say they haven't done anything worthy of the charges being brought. We're not stupid, Barack, and neither are you.



It's supposed to be an anti-LSD propaganda film, but there is such an incredible truth to it: she WAS killing the weiner! She WAS!!!

It's 12:30 am, and I've just seen "Sicko."

I should announce before I say another word that I am clearly Michael Moore's target audience. I saw Roger and Me when it came out on video (I was probably about 13) and it was, for me, a revolution. I thought Bowling for Columbine was smart and pretty (if it's high praise for a woman it's high praise for a film). And F911 fed my soul and brought me laughter. I loved his short-lived anti-corporate TV Nation. And I thought that Stupid White Men was a great, concise little book, whose best, most profound point -- (implied in title), that if you think of who has done the most horrible things to you in your life, it's not an "angry urban youth," but an old white guy -- was well-said, phrased hilariously, and worth the cost of the book.

Now I know it is the vogue to distance oneself from Moore before praising him -- to give oneself some credibility: after all, he is a boogey man akin to Castro or Marx -- but I am really really really (really) unfashionable. And I really really have loved all of his films.

But this movie, this was something else. Something I haven't felt since Roger and Me: a revolution.

Now, I've seen Roger and Me again, since then, and while I still think it's a good film, it pales next to Moore's more recent work. But still, to my 13-year-old working-class eyes, that film spoke a kind of truth in a kind of way... it was nothing I had seen before. Sicko, to me, is like that. To my 32-year-old borrowed-my-way-up-to-the-next-highest-class-but-still-a-bit-of-a-debt-slave eyes, Sicko said something, and it said it in such a way...

No great work can be summed up, and the reviews I've read at Salon and the New York Times do a good enough job of conveying the scent if not flavor of the film. The movie makes you laugh, and cry, and laugh again. It makes you wonder and it makes you ashamed. It makes you want to move to France. There is a security video of a shoeless elderly women being pushed out of cab and left to wander down a street, disoriented -- she couldn't pay her hospital bill, so the hospital paid to get her as far as skid row, L.A., U.S.A. Another woman arrives the same way shortly after with broken ribs and a head injury. And when people in Canada, Britain, France, or Cuba are asked "how much did you pay to have your fingers re-attached?" or "to have that baby?" they wince in uncomprehending surprise. Pay? What monster would make a person pay for medical care?

What monster?

And that is the question I left the theater with. "What monster?"

The film, though it made me weep with grief in many places, supplied plenty of laughs, not least of which was the mention in the credits of hook-a-canuck.com. However, I found most enlightening the revelation from my cousin Matt, who had previously seen the movie online, that a part had been cut, a part that told you what happened to so many of these interviewees by the time the film was finished... and many of them had died. "I guess they figured only the online audience was ready to hear that..." I said. You know, one of Moore's greatest talents in his films is he takes a story that is absolutely heartbreaking, and, after getting you to feel the tragedy, he gives you some relief -- he's like the drunken Irishman who's got good jokes at the wake -- but I guess telling us how many of these Americans we just met died from lack of care was the step too far. So see it in the theater, and let them live long in your memory... I doubt the DVD will leave it so shrouded in mystery.

If we falter

Cats will become the dominant species on this planet. My cousin first pointed this out to me: they're smart, they're everywhere, and they mutate more than most animals. And don't forget the three-way symbiosis they've managed through toxoplasma!

And according to the Science Times, all 600 million of cats in the world (why am I surprised that there are more humans in Europe than cats in the world?) are descended from five (5) Near Eastern female wildcats who, about 10,000 years ago, opted for the easy vermin-pickin's around human granaries.

Until recently the cat was commonly believed to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where it was a cult animal. But three years ago a group of French archaeologists led by Jean-Denis Vigne discovered the remains of an 8-month-old cat buried with its human owner at a Neolithic site in Cyprus. The Mediterranean island was settled by farmers from Turkey who brought their domesticated animals with them, presumably including cats, because there is no evidence of native wildcats in Cyprus.

The date of the burial far precedes Egyptian civilization. Together with the new genetic evidence, it places the domestication of the cat in a different context, the beginnings of agriculture in the Near East, and probably in the villages of the Fertile Crescent, the belt of land that stretches up through the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and down through what is now Iraq.

Buried with kitty, huh? Can someone please also date back the toxoplasma? But the most interesting and unique part of cat evolution is that they didn't get chosen by humans to act as pest control -- let alone as companions -- that they weren't domesticated by force or even coercion, that they domesticated themselves, by choice.

And that should sound familiar to every cat owner in the world!

And if we futch up, they are waiting in the wings to fill our niche and eat our tuna!

Brown v. Board of Education and the Random Ten

As I am not a lawyer (nor have any wish to be) and only read Supreme Court decisions on occasion for fun--what?--I haven't written on the recent thoroughly depressing decisions emanating forth from the Roberts Court. Fortunately Bitch Ph.D. and Samhita from Feministing have a couple of really good perspectives of their own on the situation, both well worth ruminating on.

Here's this week's Random Ten: put your computer's mp3 player on party shuffle and post the next ten songs to pop up. No cheating to make yourself look ironic (whatever that's supposed to mean):

1. The Remedy (I Won't Worry)--Jason Mraz
2. The El--Rhett Miller
3. Punishment fits the crime--The Ramones
4. The Bones Of An Idol--The New Pornographers
5. Waiting For the End of the World--Elvis Costello
6. Respect Yourself--The Staple Singers
7. Pump Up the Jam--Technotronic (for those romantic mornings)
8. Drive In Drive Out--Dave Matthews Band
9. I Fell In Love--Susan Tedeschi
10. I Don't Believe You--Magnetic Fields


And just to make the point, prepare to be seduced by this silky smooth love song and these dance moves.

British Sex Workers

are no longer "insulted by statute" according to Reuters.

Britain is proposing to remove the term "prostitute" from the criminal statutes because it carries too much stigma.

Instead, a new bill that the Justice Ministry has drafted refers simply to persons who sell sex persistently -- defined as twice or more in three months.
I love, love, love this. I don't personally think that selling sex is a great thing for a man or woman to do: especially where it's illegal (most places) it's extremely dangerous, and puts the sex worker in legal limbo -- what happens if a sex worker is robbed by her customer? -- what happens if a sex worker is abused by police?

She finds herself at the bottom of the victim pile, that's what. And that just makes her more likely to stay in the sex trade.
The new bill introduces measures to try to get sex workers out of the industry, and in effect decriminalizes prostitution for those who are not considered persistent.
Even where it's legal, I think it's corrosive to one's self image to sell one's body for sex. Some people don't think so, I know, and where it's legal, sex workers often have a lot more say in what they will and won't do, as well as physical and legal protections. Which is more than you can say for coal miners in WV. Still, who would advocate the sex trade for a child or loved one? No one. Decriminalizing the trade and getting people out of the trade go hand in hand.

And a big part of that is not *labeling* people. We should not treat them like, nor even call them, anything other than what they are: men, women, often kids, who have ended up workers in the sex trade. Not "prostitutes," or "whores," or "rent-boys" or "catamites"...

"We just wanted to remove the stigma of the label 'common prostitute'," said a spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry.

"It's been around since 1824, so it was a bit outdated. It just wasn't really helpful to label people."

Begone unfriendly label! Let's all look behind and see who was there all along: people trying to make a living with very little to work with. (Themselves -- and what less could one have to work with?)

And I would suggest "illegal immigrant" should go next, on the same grounds.

Yeah, we have to do it

It's taken me a long time to get here, lots of fights in the diaries at Daily Kos, lots of defending my position, but I've changed my mind now.

Bush has to be impeached, even though he won't be removed from office.

It has nothing to do with the Iraq War, or with Valerie Plame, or Jack Abramoff or the US Attorneys or Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo or any of that other stuff. He has to be impeached because of two simple words:

Unitary Executive

Everything that Bush has done over the last six years has been leading up to this--telling Congress they are irrelevant to the process of governance. The signing statements, for instance, were an early indicator of the attitude, but Bush and Cheney have, in this most recent standoff over documents and investigations, told Congress that they don't matter, and for the sake of the future of the Republic, Congress has to act as a body to repudiate that attitude, lest it become as powerless as the Roman Senate in the time of Augustus. There's only one way to do that: impeachment.

I understood why the Republican-led Congress rolled over for their guy from 2001-2006--their individual power increased exponentially. But one would hope that they would have at least the limited foresight to know that their hold on power would not last forever, and that whatever powers they ceded to Bush would also be ceded to whoever was President next.

But they didn't, and by all indications, they still don't, because with few exceptions, the Republican Congressional Caucus still supports Bush unquestioningly. Party over country. Present power over future problems.

This is where we stand as a nation: on the knife's edge of transforming a system of checks and balances into a dictatorship with a recommending body. Congress must reassert its authority. It must say, with a bipartisan voice, that no President is above the law. It must vote to impeach both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, even if it doesn't result in removing either from office.

Chris Matthews is a worthless human being

In other news, water is wet and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. Yes, I know I just wrote something that is self-evident.

But here's the reason for my rant. (Warning--link will open MSNBC's video player). Matthews has Ann Coulter on a couple of days ago and treats her like a human, when she clearly isn't. She's vileness on a platter, a walking, breathing piece of dog excrement who makes noises resembling speech in an attempt to court controversy. A while back, when she called John Edwards a fag, I thought the left did an admirable job of dismissing her, treating her as the unimportant person she is.

But Chris Matthews (invariably held up as an example of the "liberal media") continues to have her on his show, probably because his ratings are in the crapper again (when Beck's beating you, you're in trouble), and that gives her a place to spew her vile crap.

Here's the thing though. Watch that clip, and see how Matthews spins this confrontation. He's acting as though he had nothing to do with the fact that Ann Coulter was on his show that night so that Elizabeth Edwards could confront her in the first place. He's Mister I'm-not-involved, and wanting to discuss the controversy, as though he wasn't the cause of the controversy in the first place by having Coulter on.

John Edwards, I thought, comported himself more than well, by the way. He called Coulter crazy, which she is. I wish he'd called out Matthews, asked him why he keeps having her on the show when he knows she'll pull this kind of crap, but you can't get everything. I mean, it's not like Coulter was moving a ton of paper before the show, so Matthews can't legitimately use that as an excuse.

It's a nice feeling, personally, to have such quality at the top of the ticket for 2008, I have to say. I mean, I have the Obama quote at the top, because I really like him, but I could vote for Edwards or Clinton or Richardson or nearly any of the Democrats running without any hesitation. I say nearly because I'd cringe before voting for Gravel or Biden, not that it's likely to be an issue. Edwards has his moments when he really impresses me. Still, I have to wish that Chris Matthews wouldn't provide them this way.

Side note: In case you're thinking I'm a little rough on Ann Coulter, I suggest you read what the Rude One has to say about her.

Good Lord!



I would love to hear what this cop-- who's been on administrative leave since this incident was reported-- has to say for himself.

Mitt Romney Strapped His Dog to the Roof of His Car

Seriously. Mitt Romney strapped his dog to the roof of his car.

Back up and running

feministe is back up.

Server issues ... you can donate to help them raise money for better security features.

Anyway, it's good that one of the downed sites is back up.

Young Americans Leaning Left

Conservatives love to pull out the old saw that if you're not liberal when you're 20, you have no heart and if you're not conservative when you're 40, you have no brain--makes them feel superior, I suppose--so I imagine someone will use that as a way of discounting this piece in the NY Times showing that young people are leaning more left on social and political issues.

The news is largely good, if you're of a liberal mind like I am (even though I'm rapidly approaching 40).

Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.

I looked up that Iraq question because I had a suspicion it wasn't any good, and I was right. It simply asks if the respondent "thinks we're likely to succeed in Iraq," which is vague at best. Succeed at getting control of their oil? Succeed at building a stable democracy? Succeed at getting out of the middle of a civil war? Too many possibilities, some of them contradictory, fall under the rubric of "succeed."

Most of the other questions are fairly straightforward, and they bode well for Democrats. Democrats are better liked by a majority of young voters, as are our candidates (at least, those they know about--Obama and Clinton), and they like our issues: universal health care, immigration, gay rights.

And they're taking the word "liberal" back--28% describe themselves as liberals, as opposed to 20% of the general population. I like that.

There are some down sides to the poll--choice isn't as strongly supported as I would hope, though again, there's some fluff in the question. The question asked was "Which of these comes closest to your view? Abortion should be generally available to those who want it, abortion should be available but under stricter limits then [sic] it is now, abortion should not be permitted?" It's completely possible to read that first option as "a woman should be allowed to abort a baby during delivery if she wants," and I suspect that's the sort of thing, given the recent debate over late-term abortion, that might skew the numbers that way. Even so, young people favored choice or choice with some restrictions 75-24. Only 24% of young people favored a complete ban on abortion, and that's a good thing in my book.

So feel free to pick through the poll--there's lots of good stuff in there.

Football Players and Prayer

So, the big hullaballo at Iowa State University has been that the football team wanted to hire a chaplain. University faculty cried foul, and rightly so. (By the way, make sure you read the comment that someone left about that ...

Now, the football team wants to hire a "Life-Skills Assistant." The faculty, of course, say that it's really the same thing with a new name.

Apparently the football team would most likely be spending money from private donations to the team (not University, and therefore state, money), but it's still a bit odd to me.

Now, you may know that I grew up in the Lutheran church, my dad was a minister when I was a kid (he's now a communcations professor at one of the ELCA's smaller schools), and that I even went to a church-affiliated school (this is different from a church school). Nevertheless - or probably because of all this - I'm skeptical about the need for a chaplain on the football team's list of staff. And I'm far more skeptical about a "Life-Skills Assistant."

I realize that oftentimes, student athletes lack certain coping skills, but I'm not sure why they need a special "Life-Skills Assistant" to help them cope, rather than the resources already available to them at the university. And really, this sounds like something that would be on Oprah or one of the shows that has been spawned in the midst of the Oprah revolution.

Another One Down

So, another feminist blog is down - this one is feministe.
You can read some comments about it on this thread at pandagon. Scroll down through the comments - Amanda at pandagon links to feministe in her discussion about the recent Jessie Davis murder, and some of the subsequent ignorant blogging (blaming the victim discussion) in the conservative realm of the blogosphere.

I don't know that this is the same type of attack as that at Shakesville, that Brian describes below, but when you try to open the link, you end up with an error message saying that it cannot select the database.

If it's not, it's an eerie coincidence that a second, fairly heavily read feminist blog would go down in the last week.

Unfortunately, I don't really think it's a coincidence.

I'm bothered by the fact that the only discourse that some people seem to want to engage in is bullying (see Bradley's comments on Anne Coulter below) or to only attempt to silence others through drowing out discussion.

Shakesville Update

Shakesville is still down from the DOS attack of a few days ago. Word is that they're making it as troll-proof as possible for when the next inevitable attack comes. But there is good news for people jonesing for their Shakesville fix. Melissa has reopened Shakespeare's Sister for the time being. Head on over and get in on the fun.

More on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Katherine Keller, editor of Sequential Tart, is offering to donate $1,000 to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund if 40 people send her an email proof-of-donation proving that they have donated at least $25 to the fund since June 10th. So if you've already sent a donation, forward the receipt the CBLDF sent to you to kadymae at operamail dot com. And if you havent send a donation, now's the perfect time. Remember-- Gordon Lee's trial is just around the corner. Nothing less than the First Amendment itself is at stake.

For more information, click here.

Does Ann Coulter Have Any Dead Loved Ones We Can Make Fun Of?

Here's some video of Ann Coulter's appearance on this evening's Hardball, which I know we all agreed we were very anxious to not watch. Anyway, since we were all busy not watching the show, I'm afraid we all missed out on hearing this exchange between Ms. Manners and Elizabeth Edwards, who called in to request that Ann perhaps try to elevate the tone, refrain from ugly personal attacks, and-- please-- stop making fun of the fact that John and Elizabeth Edwards have a dead son.

You've got to hand it to Ann Coulter-- if I had made a joke at the expense of grieving parents, and the grieving parents called me on it and asked me to stop, I'd be a little flustered. Not Ann, though-- she went right on laughing at the pain of a grieving mother and cancer patient.

Oh, and for those of you wondering about the question posed in the title of this post-- the answer is no. Creatures like Ann Coulter aren't capable of love.

I've been called out

A blogger named Alasandra took exception to a comment I made over at Daily Kos a couple of days ago about Mississippi being a social backwater. One thing she didn't do, apparently, was actually read the context in which I wrote those words, even though they're readily available. What follows is my reply to her.

You know, if you're going to bash someone, it's good form to get your facts straight and not mischaracterize what they say. For starters I made it very clear in that exchange that I am not a Yankee. I was born in Texas, lived in Louisiana until I was 30, lived in Arkansas until I was 34, and currently live in Florida. In all, I've spent two of my 38 years living in the south, most of it in the deep south.

Secondly, none of the stuff you mentioned precludes Mississippi from being a social backwater. I keep up with it because my teenaged daughter lives in Waveland currently.

You have Haley Barbour as governor--a Republican who gladly accepted an endorsement from the racist CCC during his first run at the job. You have Trent Lott, who is a big fan of Strom Thurmond, as one of your Senators. You have a racist state flag, and when the state put it up for a vote a few years back, the vote fell largely along racial lines, with white people telling the black citizens "get over it."

You have some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the state, and if memory serves, one clinic that does them statewide, and they only do them a few days a month.

Gay bashing is a state sport. (My ex is an open lesbian, so I get to hear these stories as well.)

So, in the major social issues of the day, Mississippi is decidedly a backwater, and all of the pretty things you pointed to in your post don't change the fact that if you're not straight, white, and male, you're pretty much at a disadvantage living there.

I'd like to add a couple of things. Saying Mississippi as a state is backwards socially is not an insult to any individual citizen of that state. It's a description of the situation, and in this case, an insult to the people in that state who perpetuate the situation. If I have to listen to people crack on Florida's issues with voting, then Mississippi gets to hear it about their racism, sexism, and homophobia.

One last thing. The majority of what Alasandra points to in her defense of Mississippi has nothing to do with social issues and everything to do with culture--music and literature dominates her list, and being a fan of both the blues and southern literature (my first online persona came from a Faulkner novel's title), I certainly appreciate the huge cultural contribution the south continues to make. Hell, I was published in the Southern Review's southern writers issue. The ironic thing is that many of those great cultural contributions evolved the way they did because of Mississippi's (and the South's) socially backward attitudes toward race, gender and sexuality.

So Alasandra, if you'd like to make this a conversation, I'll be glad to have one, but it needs to be a conversation, not one person accusing another without cause.

My end-of-the-semester song
In the style of The Coup's "Wear Clean Drawers"

End of school
for summer A
Finals done
Submitted grades
I don’t care
if the kids complain
Done with school
for Summer A

Destined to become a classic, I am certain.

Eight Random Things

Brian kinda took a hit for me, after I got "tagged" in the comments section of my post about the kid who outsmarted Bill O'Reilly. I figure fair's fair-- I was the one who got tagged, so I should also reveal eight random things about me.

Okay...

1) I used to teach "mosh pit etiquette" in my freshman composition classes, back when I still used to occasionally venture into mosh pits.

2) I don't like vegetables on my pizza.

3) Once, at the movie theater, a total stranger sitting behind me stuck her tongue in my ear.

4) I have an extensive collection of old Justice League of America comic books from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

5) I still know all the words to "Janie Got a Gun" and "November Rain."

6) I got married on David Bowie's birthday.

7) When I was in the ninth grade, owned a pair of baggy "M.C. Hammer" pants.

8) I've violated my virginity pledge more than once in the past week.

Ann Coulter Returns

Don't forget-- according to Media Matters, Ann Coulter will be on Hardball tonight. This is her first visit with Chris Matthews since she called Al Gore a "total fag" almost a year ago.

Let's all not watch it together, shall we?

Tagged

It's been a while since I got hit with a meme, and it may take some doing to find 8 folks to pass this one along to, but why the hell not?

1. All right, here are the rules.
2. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
3. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
4. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
5. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

So--eight random facts about me.

1. I spend way too much time online.

2. I haven't talked to or heard from my parents in over a year and the last time we had any meaningful conversation was over two years ago. This happens when you leave a fundamentalist church.

3. At one time, I knew all the words to "If I Were a Rich Man," and "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof. I used to sing them in my bedroom, imitating Topol's accent.

4. My best poems have never been published, and that doesn't bother me as much as you might think.

5. They're all about Amy, and she likes them, so the editors who turned them down are stupid.

6. I once portrayed both Confession and Discretion in a performance of Everyman.

7. It involved a costume change in the wings--no time to get back to the dressing room for modesty's sake.

8. I (at least) once had a complete stranger assume my real name and post truly hateful things on a right-wing blog. I would never have discovered this unless another poster hadn't emailed me and asked me why I wrote them. I still don't know why someone would try to do that.


So, I need 8 people, huh? Grim, Michael, Walrus, divine mandate, Someday Satori, Freewoman, Phydeaux Speaks, and Dohiyimir. Enjoy.

The Supreme Court is Two for Two Today

According to The New York Times, the Supreme Court today loosened restrictions on campaign ads, deciding that special interest groups should be permitted to exploit a loophole in the McCain-Feingold law.

According to the article:

"Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that, when regulating what can be said in a campaign and when it may be said, 'the First Amendment requires us to err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.'”

So, just so we're clear-- the First Amendment is sacrosanct when it comes to anti-abortion groups and corporate entities. Individuals-- like certain high school students who hold up silly signs? Yeah... it's not for them.

Thanks, Values Voters of 2004! Grrrrrrrreat job!

Jesse Lange Is My New Hero

Hey, Bill O'Reilly-- seriously, how dumb are you that an articulate 17-year-old can win an argument with you?

Just watch this clip, and pay attention to the point where O'Reilly obviously realizes that he's lost the argument and has to quickly raise his voice and talk over this child in order to save face. And when he resorts to name-calling? Awesome. A middle-aged man-- a father, for God's sake-- is calling a kid names. It's pricelesss-- just priceless.

Equally priceless is the other kid, the one who can't actually articulate his position beyond, "It's inappropriate. It's totally inappropriate."

Seriously-- sometimes I feel like I'm turning into my parents, getting outraged at "the kids today." Then I hear or read about a kid like Jesse Lange, and my faith in America's future is restored. The clip below, I maintain, is the feel-good story of the year.


Didn't Really Think This One Through

Curtis Allgier, a convicted burglar and white supremacist, briefly escaped from custody today by stealing a corrections officer's gun and murdering him. This is not the first time Allgier has been a fugitive-- he keeps running from authorities and trying to blend in with the general population.

Right off the bat, I can think of at least one thing wrong with this plan.

More examples of what 2004 cost us

Roberts and Alito do their damage:

The fourth ruling, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., over three full dissents and one partial dissent, declared that public school officials do not violate a student's free speech rights by punishing the student for words or actions that promote a drug message. The ruling in Morse v. Frederick (06-278)also should count as a 5-4 decision because Justice Stephen G. Breyer would have decided the case on qualified immunity grounds, and not reached the First Amendment issue.

Morse v Frederick is better known as the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case, where a student was suspended for 10 days for showing a banner across the street from the high school where he was a student during the Olympic torch relay.

Let that sink in. Not on school grounds, not during a school function, and SCOTUS seems to say that an anti-drug philosophy is more important than a student's right to self-expression outside the bounds of the school.

So to anyone out there who voted for Dubya in 2004, I'd like to thank you, and warn you that you don't get to bitch about freedom of expression. You voted for the guy who put these clowns on the bench for life.

Politics and Movies

Do you remember in 2004, when it seemed like entire country was going to see-- and then debating-- The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11? Seriously, I can't even remember what other movies came out that year, but a quick look at the Internet Movie Database tells me that I saw two of the top grossing films of 2004-- Spider-Man 2 and Harry Potter and the Magical Shit (or whatever it was called), so I was definitely going to the movies that year.

I avoided both of those movies, though, mostly because I was pretty sure I knew what I was going to get from both of them without ever watching them. Even serious fans of The Passion acknowledge that it doesn't present a narrative so much as a gruesome representation of a story the audience is already familiar with-- that, actually, the visual representation of torture and death is much more important than the story in this case. If I'm going to believe that that's what makes a good movie, then I have to insist that The Passion fans also allow that the same is true of Saw and Hostel-- even if the storylines seem simple or nonsensical, you have to admit that the guy sawing his own foot off and the other guy trying to walk across the room after his Achilles tendons have been sliced open are some pretty imaginative ways to torture somebody-- much more imaginative than the stuff they came up with in The Passion. Therefore, Saw and Hostel are even better movies.

My resistance to the Michael Moore movie is a bit more difficult to explain, as Moore and I are pretty much in sync, politically. And I enjoy documentaries, too-- Outfoxed,Bush's Brain, and Jesus Camp were all great, and related-- thematically and in terms of poltiical inclination-- to Moore's subject matter. And I liked Roger and Me when I saw it in college. At some point though, I started to get the feeling that, while Moore certainly cares very much about the topics he reports on, he cares first and foremost about being famous. There's no reason for Michael Moore to always be on camera during a Michael Moore film-- he has no charisma, his voice irritates, and he seems better at expressing himself through the presentation of images than verbally. And frankly, his sense of humor always strikes me as stupid, his "jokes" uninspired and obvious ("Ha! He totally played the Go-Gos' 'Vacation' while talking about Bush going on vacation!"), and only entertaining to those already inclined to agree with him.

Anyway... all this is to say that, although I'm very interested in politics, I generally steer clear of movies that seem to have a political message or ideology at their core, unless I can be reasonably sure that the movie is either a) nuanced enough to portray at least two sides of a very complicated issue or b) able to tell me something I didn't already know about a person or issue. That's why Jesus Camp succeeds where a Michael Moore film usually fails for me-- that's a movie that showed me a culture I really haven't seen-- even those these people were living alongside me in Missouri just a few years ago-- but the filmmakers very wisely chose to step back and allow their subjects to tell the story rather than forcing them into a predetermined frame.

So in 2004, my resistance to political ideology disguised as entertainment meant I missed the two big movies. Some of my neighbors were saying, wide-eyed, "Wow-- that movie really illustrates what Jesus went through in a way no book ever could. You should really see it." And some of my friends were saying, with a smirk, "You know none of those Washington insiders were willing to enlist their own kids when Michael Moore tried to get them to?" And Emily kept saying, "Should we open a bottle of wine, or do you want to make a pitcher of bullfrogs?" And I kept saying, "Bullfrogs, baby."

Two notes: No one, not even a member of Congress, can "enlist" someone else in the armed forces. Also, a bullfrog is a delicious cocktail that's pretty much just lime juice mixed with a ton of vodka and served really, really, really cold.

I eventually saw both movies when they came out on DVD. They both sucked ass-- or rather, they were exactly what I expected them to be, which meant they wasted about three hours of my life, which sucked ass. Yes, the gore in The Passion was really well done, and yes, Michael Moore had about a half-hour of really compelling footage that really stayed with the viewer (predictably, that's the footage of Iraq itself, and the dead soldier's mother-- you know, the moments in the film where Moore removed himself entirely and trusted his camera to capture the story without any heavy-handed interpretation). But, for the most part, heavy-handed, manipulative ass-suckage.

It seems that, in the three years since those movies came out, more people are beginning to feel like me-- they don't want to go to the movie theater to see political arguments. I'm pleased to report that last weekend Evan Almighty-- at $210 million, the most expensive comedy ever made-- performed very poorly. At the moment, many of you are probably wondering just how "political" this movie could be-- you're thinking, "Yeah, it looked stupid-- but I like Steve Carrell/ Wanda Sykes/ the older Gilmore Girl/ John Goodman-- how bad could it be?" It's a movie about a politician who talks to God and is convinced to build an ark, Old Testament-style. Also, Townhall-- the online magazine featuring just about every conservative pundit you can think of-- has been hyping this movie for weeks in their email newsletter as a return to comedy with "values" and a conservative, pro-family, pro-God, pro-America message. It seems like the most promising thing anyone's said about the movie is that apparently there's this bird that shits on Steve Carrell. Comedy gold!

Of course, there's a downside to people feeling fatigued about seeing politics and current events reflected back at them on the big screen. A Mighty Heart, which has been very well-reviewed, also had a disappointing opening weekend. The story about Daniel Pearl's widow-- played by Angelina Jolie-- may strike people as being too much of a grim reminder of what's really going on in the world, when what we really want at the movies is to be entertained by flatulent CGI ogres and pirate ghosts. That's too bad-- or at least, I think it's probably too bad-- assuming the movie's as well-made as reviewers say it is. I don't think this is really a "political movie" so much as it's a movie about the world we live in. But, as others have pointed out, sometimes telling people the truth about something is in itself a political act. Anyway. I'll probably go to see A Mighty Heart. When I do, I'll let you know if it's really worth your time.

The good news from this weekend's box office, though, is that 1408-- a new horror movie starring the once-excellent John Cusack-- apparently did quite well. This comes a few weeks after many film reviewers pointed to the lackluster opening weekend performance of Hostel Part II to make claims like this one from The New York Times: "Moviegoers put a nail in the coffin of a dying horror boom this weekend..." It turns out horror movies aren't dead; nor are they dying. People just don't want to watch crap like Hostel (or, presumably at this point, The Passion of the Christ). Go figure. Anyway, horror movies are here to stay, and we probably won't be getting more movies like Evan Almighty. Awesome.

How dare she!

Elizabeth Edwards has an opinion, and it differs from that of her husband. Commence pearl clutching.

At least, that's what you might think based on the headline and tone of the story about Elizabeth Edwards's extremist opinion that gays and lesbians ought to be able to get married like everyone else.

Look at the headline: Elizabeth Edwards strays on gay marriage

The use of the word "strays" there is the real issue, because used in such proximity to marriage, it hints at betrayal, unfaithfulness, adultery. But let me give the headline writer the benefit of the doubt and say that (likely) he had no ill intent in the choice of the word. It's still a problem, because it insists that the wives of candidates share the policy positions of their husbands, and that any deviation will be pointed out and punished, even though disagreement is an integral part of any long term relationship. What couples don't disagree on some things? Scary ones--the kind who wear matching jogging suits to CostCo, the soulless pods from suburban sitcoms, that's who.

Now the tone of the article hints at the possibility that this would be damaging to John Edwards's chances at the nomination (though I think his recent fundraising troubles are more problematic), but it does so through the filter of Elizabeth Edwards putting him in a tight spot, policy-wise, as though John will either have to repudiate his wife or change his position.

I wonder how the press would spin it if Bill and Hillary Clinton had that kind of disagreement while she's the candidate and he's the spouse? I can see Chris Matthews now, spittle spewing from his piehole in orgasmic splendor as he waxes about how Hillary can't possibly recover from a disagreement with her husband, because he's the Big Dog and she's a harpy with a voice "like fingernails on a blackboard."

It's still all about the gender. The wife's place on the campaign trail is to repeat her husband's opinions and never have any of her own, according to our media, and heaven help her if she "strays."

When the waitress

at breakfast this morning heard us talking politics, she insisted that Hillary should NOT be the next president -- that she should be the next VICE president, to OSAMA.

...it took us a minute...

Robot Bears

I meant to blog about this earlier, but I forgot.

We've been discussing the great things that the US military is doing in terms of R&D these days. One of the things that they're working on (rather seriously, I might add) is a robot that would go into the combat zone and retrieve wounded soldiers. This is important in terms of the safety of the other soldiers in the unit, since they could then avoid going out into the fray to rescue said wounded soldier.

But the most important part is that to make the robot "friendlier" and "more reassuring" it has a teddy-bear head.

Teddy bears have been used before, masking various instruments to care for the elderly in Japan, and to keep ill children company in the hospital. These are items that look like actual teddy bears, but have various things implanted in them.

The rescue robot, however, is a really big robot.

Oh, if you hadn't guessed, I've spent all afternoon on my dissertation and my brain is beginning to melt. That's usually a good time to stop working.

Shakesville's still down

According to William K Wolfrum, a regular over at Shakesville, the site is suffering from yet another DOS attack by people who dislike Melissa's position on rape. This apparently happens nearly any time she takes on the subject, so the site's being moved to a dedicated server. I know less than nothing about how that stuff works or if it's possible to track down the people behind it, but I hope there's some sort of penalty for pulling this kind of crap. It's sad when people feel so threatened by ideas and talk that they feel their only recourse is to be a bullying asshole.

Good Morning!



Are you awake yet?

Virginity, overrated

I'm trying to figure out what Dick Cavett is saying in this piece. He seems to be bemoaning the idea that teens are openly sexually active today, and that what was once called virginity wouldn't pass muster back in the hoary old days when he was a youngster.

Even in the allegedly innocent 1950s, there were always rumors in junior high and high school of this or that pair who had visited the promised land, but even rumors were few. In general you had little reason to think that your contemporaries were quaffing sweet nectars that you were not. And then, the first thunderbolt.

Eighth grade, Irving Junior High School, Lincoln, Neb. A tall, rugged and handsome “German-Rooshen” lad transferred to our school from western Nebraska. The girls swooned. He seemed bigger and older than the rest of us. We never got to know Terry very well. After only a month he had to backtrack to his native Scottsbluff to tidy up some unfinished business. And I had learned a new term: shotgun wedding.

Here's why I'm confused. I can relate to not knowing what was going on sexually when I was in high school. I mean, I heard the same rumors that Cavett apparently did, perhaps slightly more graphic (one involved a guy who had graduated and gone to LSU, where there were girls in whipped cream all over the place), and there was one girl I graduated with who gave birth about two weeks after we walked, but outside of that, there was little discussed openly other than what we hoped would happen some day.

I was a nerd; what do you expect. I was uber-nerd, actually: glasses, no money or fashion sense, driving a rust-gold 1970 Pontiac Bonneville, working at a local fried chicken joint, photographer for the yearbook, VP of the Art Club, editor of the literary magazine. Oh yeah, and did I mention I was a Jehovah's Witness? I was a black hole of dorkitude. Actual sex was like antimatter as far as I was concerned.

But Cavett follows up with the story of the guy who gets called back for a shotgun wedding--and he was in the 8th grade. When I was in 8th grade, sex didn't exist either, outside of furtive glances at porn mags behind the counter at the convenience store.

Now it's certain that more kids are having sex at younger ages today--my daughter had 3 or 4 classmates in the 8th grade who had kids--and that's tragic, but that's less an issue with virginity, I think, than it is with open and frank discussions about and access to contraception.

Part of the problem with Cavett's post is that it's unfinished, and he acknowledges that. I'm interested in seeing where it goes, since he finishes with an anecdote about his high school reunion where he discovers that the school is offering daycare for their teen mothers so they can continue in school (a fabulous idea, I might add). I hope he plays that part of it up and doesn't turn it into a judgmental rant on kids being too sexually active, because I'm not sure that they are.

As far as I can tell, teens have always been sexually active. Romeo and Juliet were teenagers, and that story has been universally lauded for centuries now--it's not like critics have complained that that story over-sexualizes teenagers. It's just that we've now moved other parts of adulthood to later periods in maturation. Instead of going to work right out of high school, or even before finishing, we're starting our careers later--early to mid-20s or even later for professionals. But we're still horny while in high school, so we have sex.

The mixed signals don't help. We have companies advertising makeup to girls under the age of 12; Clothing companies marketing thongs to preteens; even dolls like Bratz are highly sexualized. And don't even get me started on the monstrosity that is the pageant industry--those parents are monsters, in my eyes.

The pressure to be a sexual person is high on boys as well, but it's of a completely different type. While the girls are pressured to be objects that are gazed upon, and are expected to be willing receptacles for the gaze, the boys are pressured to be not only gazers, but conquerors (to steal Amanda's construction) of the female. So the problem as I see it isn't so much the age that kids are when they're acting out sexually, but the frames they're acting within, and the reasons they're doing so. I really like Amanda's description of this, so I'm going to steal it:
The conservative-sexist metaphorical framework of sex is Sex As Conquest. In this frame, women’s bodies are objects and sex is about the struggle to conquer the pussy. Sometimes the struggle over the pussy is between men (ex: jokes about fathers guarding their daughters’ bodies from young male interlopers) and sometimes women themselves are tasked with defending the pussy from sex. If sexual intercourse happens, by definition, the man who gets to fuck the woman has won and the defender (father or woman herself) has lost. Sex happens when women surrender, in this model.

The liberal-feminist view of sex is that it’s not a war or a game, but more of a mutual collaboration, less like a battle and more like playing music. In this model, to be a sexual person is to be a musician and sex is playing your instrument. Sometimes you play by yourself, sometimes you get with others and jam, and sometimes you actually have a band that you have a long-term relationship with. There aren’t winners and losers, but there can be good and bad sex, just like there can be good and bad music. The collaboration model of sex explains why acceptance of homosexuality and kinkiness are generally liberal views. It makes no more sense to call homosexuality immoral than it does to posit that rock is more moral than jazz; it’s all a matter of taste.

Right on! I want to shout. Why can't we teach the sex as collaboration model to kids, along with the inherent respect for each other that comes along with it? It would be healthier, for one thing, and not just emotionally. If sex ceases to be a matter of conquering the will of another, then we don't have one partner pressuring another to not use protection, and that cuts down on pregnancies, on STDs, on abortions, on all the things we point to as a society and say are a result of our oversexed culture.

Maybe we are oversexed--I'm certainly not the person to make that judgment, as I wouldn't mind seeing a public orgy every now and again. But the real problem is more the way we look at it, I think, and less at what age we're starting it or who we're doing it with (except when it comes to child molestation. I shouldn't have to put that caveat in there, but I can imagine the hell I'd get if I didn't).

I've gone far afield from where I began, I fear, and I'm not sure the title even fits anymore. I'd planned on going on about how I was a virgin when I got married, and how now I look at it as a mistake, because I built sex into something it could never hope to be, when in the end it was just sex. And there--I've said it. Virginity is overrated, especially if you have a screwy way of looking at sex to begin with. But I fully support Bill and Emily's continued renewal of their virginity vows, no matter how often they break them.

The Dumbest Thing I've Ever Received from a Corporation

Like most people, I get these nuisance emails from the companies I grudgingly do business with. Most of them are full of stupid offers for people who see consumerism as a fun game they'd like to spend more of their lives thinking about: "collect points" and whatnot. I glance and delete.

But the one I got from "Bellsouth the New AT&T" today was so strange that I glanced, and... had to take another look. This one claimed to be a GIFT with no strings attached: no collecting of points or whatever -- we're just GIVING you this gift (valued at $24.95) to thank you for being a wonderful customer.

And what is this "gift" they claim is worth five finskis?

A personality quiz.

Yeah, that's right, on the internet. And they value it at $24.95.

So are they completely stupid, or do they think I'm completely stupid?

Either way, it's the most unprofessional and embarrassing thing a corporation has ever sent to me.

A Press Release From the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund... and Some Commentary

For those of you who don't know, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is an organization devoted to protecting the First Amendment rights of comic book artists and comic book store owners. From their website:

"The CBLDF exists to fight censorship and defend the first amendment rights of comic book professionals throughout the United States. In the past five years, the CBLDF has raised over $200,000 to pay expenses related to defending freedom of speech and expression, and the battle continues. As new waves of conservatism flood the publishing industry and the country, the CBLDF continues to raise the money and awareness needed to fight the censors every step of the way."

In recent years, this organization has played a pivotal role in protecting the rights of adults as the ideological descendents of the moral majority have sought to criminalize discussions of sexuality. Consider the case of Jesus Castillo, who was convicted of selling adult comic books to an adult. Or Mike Diana, who was convicted for simply creating drawings-- not distributing them to impressionable children or hurting anyone in any way-- that a jury found upsetting (as part of his conviction, he is no longer allowed to draw even for his own amusement. If that sounds illegal to you, don't worry-- it probably is).

Anyway, the CBLDF is currently trying to help Gordon Lee, a Georgia comic book retailer who made the mistake of accidentally giving a 9-year-old kid a comic book about Pablo Picasso that featured tasteful, non-sexual nudity rather than the X-Men comic where Wolverine uses his metal claws to disembowel someone.

I'll discuss this particular case in a moment. But first, the press release:

"The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund urgently needs your help. This August, the long-running case of Georgia v. Gordon Lee will finally go to trial, with court costs expected to hit $20,000.

"For nearly three years the Fund has defended Georgia retailer Gordon Lee, seeing him through multiple arraignments and procedures, and racking up $80,000 in legal bills. The charges stem from a Halloween 2004 incident in which Lee handed out, among other free comics, an anthology featuring an excerpt from the critically acclaimed graphic novel The Salon. The segment depicted a historically accurate meeting between 20th Century art icons Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, the latter depicted in the nude. It was a harmless sequence, no more explicit than the nudity displayed in the award winning Watchmen. Yet because the title found its way into the hands of a minor, Floyd County prosecutors hit Lee with two felony counts and five misdemeanors. The Fund eventually knocked out most of the charges, but must now defeat the two remaining misdemeanor counts of Distribution of Harmful to Minors Material, each carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.

"The case is slated to go to trial the week of August 13. We urgently need your support in order to wage the best defense possible against these remaining charges, and that means raising the $20,000 that the trial is expected to cost. Here’s how you can help:

"Make A Monetary Donation: Every dollar counts, so please make a tax-deductible contribution today. As a thank-you for making a donation of $30 or more, the Fund will give you a brand new t-shirt displaying the text of the First Amendment in the shape of an American flag. Show your commitment to free speech, and your support for this very important case.
Join The CBLDF: Now is the time to join or renew your membership in the Fund. Your member dollars provide the baseline of support that we need to perform our casework, and defend your right to buy whatever comics you wish. If you join now with a basic membership of $25 you will receive a CBLDF Member Card, featuring new Groo art by the one-and-only Sergio Aragones, as well as a subscription to our news publication Busted!, and special admission to CBLDF events across the country. If you join at a level of $100 or more, you will also receive one of the new First Amendment t-shirts.

"Donate Original Art & Collectibles: With summer conventions upon us, the Fund needs original art, high-grade comics, and other collectible items to make the most of our summer auctions. Please e-mail cbldf1@gmail.com for more information about how to donate to our auctions, or with a description of your intended donation. If your donation is accepted for our summer auctions, you will receive a letter of acknowledgment and a 2007 membership. To ensure that your donation is received safely, please do not send physical items until accepted by the CBLDF.

"With Gordon Lee's freedom in the balance, the CBLDF needs everyone who values Free Expression in comic books to do his or her part to support this very important case. Please make your contribution today."

Okay. So, for more on the Gordon Lee case, I would suggest you go to www.cbldf.org, where they have a lot of information available. But here's the short version:

On Halloween of 2004, Gordon Lee was giving out comics leftover from the summer's Free Comic Book Day (an event where comic book publishers provide retailers with free comics to be handed out, under the assumption that people might come back later to actually pay for more of the product; it's sort of like how crack dealers to business, I suppose). Anyway, either Lee or one of his employees accidentally gave a "mature readers" comic to a kid-- it wasn't done maliciously, or in an attempt to corrupt someone else's kid. It was an honest mistake; no one disputes that.

So the kid takes his comic home and shows it to his parents, who don't want their kid exposed to naked Cubists. Of course, that's their right, and it would have been completely reasonable for these parents to march right down to the comic book store to yell at Gordon Lee and demand an apology. But that's not what they did. No, these people decided that, to get satisfaction, they had to see Gordon Lee behind bars for his oversight.

That, my friends, is not reasonable.

It was a mistake. Nobody got hurt. A kid saw cartoon renderings of a naked woman walking and a naked man painting. Oh, and the woman refers to the naked man's painting as "masturbating," which I guess is a pretty serious dirty word whose meaning I couldn't even guess when I was nine. Seriously, if your kid is somehow damaged by looking at these pictures, you ought to just take him back to wherever you got him; he was broken to begin with.

Gordon Lee could face $2,000 in fines and two years in jail, all for "exposing" a kid to a cartoon version of Pablo Picasso. I mean, it's not just me, is it? That's pretty fucked up, right there. Isn't it?

So, if you can, donate some money to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. And if you can't spare the change, then perhaps send some kind thoughts in the direction of Gordon Lee's house in Rome, Georgia. But be careful not to let those thoughts get too close to the District Attorney's house. She's a pro-censorship zealot who wastes the tax dollars trying to prosecute frivolous cases in an effort to make it look like she's committed to "protecting the children."

There's that phrase again, by the way. As I mentioned earlier this week, some people will rationalize any act of mindless viciousness if they can convince themselves that it's all about "protecting the children."

Here's my Random Ten for this week:

Night Ranger-- "Sister Christian"
Prince-- "Erotic City"
Elvis Costello-- "Man Out of Time"
Elvis Costello again-- "Kinder Murder"
Prince again-- "Do Me Baby"
Sinead O'Connor and Shane McGowan-- "Haunted"
House of Pain-- "Top o' the Morning to Ya"
Cheap Trick-- "I Want You to Want Me"
Bob Dylan-- "Jokerman"
Billy Idol-- "Dancing With Myself"

The implications of Cheney's position

As Emily noted yesterday, Dick Cheney has said that the Vice President's office is not "an entity within the executive branch." Set aside for the moment that he's full of crap. Let's assume he's right--what does that mean for him.

1. He's not really Vice-President. As tas pointed out in the comments, the VP's office is certainly discussed in the Executive Branch of the Constitution. If Cheney's office is exempt, he's not VP, and that means he's basically resigned the post. So let's choose another one.

2. If he's VP, but not part of the executive branch, then he can't claim executive privilege. So even under the Bush administration's stretching of that privilege to cover ridiculous stuff, they can't claim this.

3. If he's not part of the executive branch, then he shouldn't have offices in the White House, the Capitol, or anywhere else the executive branch has them. Security should pack his shit and leave it on the curb. He should also be required to pay back the taxpayers his salary and all the money we've spent on security, transportation, and medical care.

4. Of course, if he is part of the executive branch, he's been deliberately violating federal law, which means he should be impeached, removed, and prosecuted.

Now, I don't expect any of that will happen, but it should, and I hope that Dennis Kucinich amends his impeachment bill to include this. In fact, I'd like him to amend it to deal only with this, as these are legitimate charges that are pretty much not up for debate. He has no defense. Cheney must go.

"Why does no one recognize my genius?" and the Random Ten

This week was crap in the submissions/rejections department for both Amy and me--we both missed out on things we thought we had really good shots at--so we've been slightly cranky about it. It's the downside of working in the creative side of things: the aggravating dependence on others for validation in the form of acceptance, even while trying to strike a new and original path. And it's really easy to look at what gets accepted and published and wonder "what the fuck do they see in that piece of crap?" because it is always, always crap, when compared to your own work.

Okay, not always. But often enough.

Here's the Random Ten--put your computer's music player on random/party shuffle and post the next ten songs to pop up. No skipping songs to make us think you're hip--we know you don't really listen to Ornette Coleman.

1. Herbie Hancock--And What If I Don't
2. Katherine Whalen--Angel
3. The Decemberists--The Engine Driver
4. Max Roach--Triptych:Prayer/Protest/Peace
5. Spider John Koerner--Last Lonesome Blues
6. Superdrag--So Insincere
7. Alejandro Escovedo--Slip
8. Susan Tedeschi--Love's In Need of Love Today
9. Dr. John--Quatre Parishe
10. Eric Clapton--Stop Breakin' Down Blues
Unnecessary Remake of the Day: Love Spit Love--How Soon Is Now

Tell your tales of woe. Or something.

Well, since it came up, this is my favorite internet video ever:


A New Branch of Government?

Dick Cheney insists that the Vice President's office is not "an entity within the executive branch."

Huh?

I realize that this is related to the fact that he doesn't want to hand over documents to the National Archives, like anyone in the Executive Branch is required to.

But still, huh?

edited 4:10

What is this?




Okay, okay, I know it's a lizard. But what kind? We haven't seen this kind before, and it has started hanging around the steps to our apartment the last couple of days.

Making War More Fun for Everyone!

Okay. I've been posting to this blog for the past month or so now, and I've really enjoyed it. Even when I disagree with Brian, Amy, or Emily, I usually find their opinions so well-reasoned that they at least make me reconsider my opinions on some issues.

Not this time.

All three of my co-bloggers have written some pretty disparaging things about the so-called "gay bomb" below. They seem to regard it as "stupid" or "a waste of time and money" or "really, really stupid." But they're wrong. The gay bomb is totally awesome, as are some of the other projects the U.S. military has recently undertaken, as outlined in this article.

What the peaceniks and Little Lilly Liberals don't seem to realize is that we're not just talking about a bomb that somehow "turns people gay." I mean, as if! That would be stupid. No, this is something different:



This is a bomb that gets people really, really turned on-- so much so that they put aside their weapons in order to fuck anything that will let them. In this case, it happens to be the other guy in the foxhole. But just imagine... if someone detonated one of these non-lethal bombs in your neighborhood, you could stay home for, like, a week, getting it on, and there's no way your boss could fire you-- you were the victim of an attack, after all.

In fact, if I'm elected president, my first official act will be to authorize the use of these weapons. All over the world. We'll have a day of worldwide coitus. And if that won't make the world a better, safer place, I don't know what will.

But the Pentagon isn't just trying to make the world a better place for orgasms and the people who have them. No, no. They've also funded research into psychic teleportation. Yeah, that's right-- psychic teleportation. In addition to giving us the edge militarily, psychic teleportation has all sorts of practical peacetime applications. Like, what if you're watching Must-See TV, but you really have to pee, and you're still five minutes away from the next commercial? Zap! You're in the bathroom, you evacuate, and Zap! You're back in your beanbag chair noshing on a Slim Jim and laughing at the crazy antics of Ross and Rachel.

(Obviously, we could have used this technology in 1997, when I knew which shows were part of the Must-See TV line-up).

But my favorite use of tax dollars for military experiments has to be the spy sharks. I don't want to ruin it for you-- just click on the link above and read all about it. And remember-- spy sharks. It's like a James Bond adventure written by Peter Benchley and directed by Timothy Leary. It's da bomb. No-- it's da sex bomb.

I think it's rather appropriate that I should read about all of these exciting developments this week, as I've just finished re-reading Grant Morrison's epic comic book series The Invisibles this week. For those of you unfamiliar with Morrison-- he's primarily known for his comic book work, which goes from the mainstream (Justice League of America, New X-Men, Batman) to the more esoteric (the 90s revival of The Doom Patrol, Sebatian O, Kill Your Boyfriend, and The New Adventures of Hitler). He's also sort of famous for writing about his experiences with psychotropic drugs, chaos magic, and an alien abduction experience that may or may not be metaphorical.

Anyway, The Invisibles follows a a cell of fashionable, sexy, clever terrorists as they travel across the world, through time, and to several different dance clubs as they try to save the world from the forces of self-hatred and repression before our world ends (or, rather, evolves into its next state) on December 21, 2012. Over the course of their adventures, they find themselves utilizing psychic booby traps, a drug that causes its users to view signifiers (words) as that which they signify (things), and a meditation technique that allows them to travel back in time in order to recruit the Marquis de Sade to their ranks.

In short, these comic book heroes/ terrorists utilized technology similar to that which our government has been trying to develop. And I've got to tell you, the results were awesome. I highly recommend the book. And if you want the world to be more like a comic book, I would suggest that you shut up and get behind our government as they endeavor to make the wars of the future more silly and entertaining.

Oh teh dumb

Being the social libertarian that I am, I hate using the word criminal to describe this guy, but there's no question that he was dumb.

PORT ST. LUCIE � Maurice Stuckey made a critical error Wednesday when he asked Officer Matt Wood for directions but forgot to remove the marijuana "blunt" tucked behind his left ear.

When I read this, I thought automatically about the scene from Season 3 of The Wire where Major Bunny Colvin is driving his district and a particularly dumb corner man asks him if he wants to buy some heroin while everyone--including the other guys working the corner--laugh at him. Alas, either YouTube or my search skills are lacking, so instead, I'm providing you with a completely unrelated piece of tv history.

WTF?

Just this month, the government confirmed that an Ohio Air Force laboratory had asked for $7.5 million to build a nonlethal "gay bomb," a weapon that would encourage enemies to make love, not war. The weapon would use strong aphrodisiacs to make enemy troops so sexually attracted to each other that they'd lose interest in fighting.
And then our macho troops will come over the hill and have no problem slaughtering all those "enemy queers"? UGH.

Maybe they should use it on themselves, so they'll lose interest in pursuing stupid shit like this.

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Consumerism"
or,
The Most Shocking Thing Is That They Published This At All!


FREEGANISM. Now this is delightful: a movement to drop out of the wasteful, consumerist system America lives by, and by which we're destroying the world.

My description of our system just there won't seem radical to anyone who sits left of Limbaugh, but what these people are doing will seem radical to almost everyone:

Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.

They dress in castoff clothes and furnish their homes with items found on the street; at freecycle.com, where users post unwanted items; and at so-called freemeets, flea markets where no money is exchanged.

...

— the freegan movement has become much more visible and increasingly popular over the past year, in part as a result of growing frustrations with mainstream environmentalism.

Environmentalism, Mr. Torres said, “is becoming this issue of, consume the right set of green goods and you’re green,” regardless of how much in the way of natural resources those goods require to manufacture and distribute.

“If you ask the average person what can you do to reduce global warming, they’d say buy a Prius,” he added.

I read this and I know they're right. But living off garbage? Is that safe? Is that sanitary? Is that viable? Could I ever in a million years possibly bring myself to do that?

A freegan interviewed in the article advises:

“Opening that first bag of trash,” he said, “is the biggest step.”

And boy I believe it. It's a psychological barrier more than anything else. I mean, isn't trash... "dirty"? Isn't it the cast-off stuff? Metaphorically, it is like poo... it is unclean, out-caste.

Yet this story's description of what people are throwing away -- working ipods, televisions, half-full bottles of laundry detergent, fresh, even fancy, food:
The haul had been astonishing in its variety: sealed bags of organic vegetable medley, bagged salad, heirloom tomatoes, key limes, three packaged strawberries-and-chocolate-dip kits, carrots, asparagus, grapes, a carton of organic soy milk (expiration date: July 9 [ie: still fresh]), grapefruit, mushrooms and, for those willing to partake, vacuum-packed herb turkey breast. (Some freegans who avoid meat will nevertheless eat it rather than see it go to waste.)
I was especially pleased to see this last bit, since Brian and my current logic is that we "avoid" meat but will not turn it down if we're offered it -- an approach some people find odd. But then there's this strange expectation that if you're going to care at all, if you're going to take any action at all, if you're going to be "non-norm" in any way, you must then be "pure" or you are a hypocrite:
These contradictions and others have led some people to suggest that freegans are hypocritical, making use of the capitalist system even as they rail against it. And even Mr. Weissman, who is often doctrinaire about the movement, acknowledges when pushed that absolute freeganism is an impossible dream.
No, you can't live off consumer waste unless consumerism exists, that is true. But we don't live in a world of ideals. I find what these people are doing to be admirable. In a much more mild way (ie: when it comes to my non-edibles) I try to do the same thing. Most of my furniture, most major purchases I make are of used things, usually located through craigslist. But my household cleaners? My food? Those things I buy new. I'd never considered doing otherwise.

Our America is not Walt Whitman's America: I cannot like him just go naked through the woods and eat from the earth and trees -- at least not around here. Maybe if I move to Montana? But our economic system is so entrenched it seems unlikely that even in a more remote part of America I can find land that doesn't belong to someone, a way to thrive without being a part of this system. Like Ginsberg, I can only wander fully-clothed through the all-night supermarket and wonder at the full ripe fruit there available in exchange for coin.

One freegan who gave up a high-paying corporate job and the luxuries of class privilege in order to live this way:
...has learned that fruit tends to get thrown out more often in the summer (she freezes it and makes sorbet), and that businesses are a source for envelopes. A reliable spot to get bread is Le Pain Quotidien, a chain of bakery-restaurants that tosses out six or seven loaves a night. But Ms. Nelson doesn’t stockpile. “The sad fact is you don’t need to,” she said. “More trash will be there tomorrow.”
Lordy-loo, does our society throw away so much good food that you can reliably find it every day, from the same locations?

Perhaps Walt's America is still here after all -- for those willing to wander through the dumpsters and trashbags, our new natural landscape, the new bosom from which something new must be born....


Mob Brutality

This is just horrifying. A violent, deranged mob has beaten a man to death in cold blood in Austin, Texas.

David Rivas Morales was a passenger in a car whose driver accidentally hit a young girl-- about 3 or 4 years old. When the driver got out to check on the kid, a group of men (perhaps as many as 20) advanced on him. Morales got out to assist his companion, and was rewarded for his efforts with a beating so severe it killed him.

The little girl was taken to an area hospital with non-life threatending injuries. The driver is cooperating with the authorities. If there's any justice in this world, Texas will fry these 20 men like they were mentally retarded.

Okay. Obviously, I'm not really wishing for that. I'm against the death penalty, but cases like this really push it for me. A mob, high on its own self-righteousness, has beaten a man to death for being a passenger in a car that accidentally hit a kid. Was the driver at fault? Who knows? But there's never an excuse for mob violence-- although I'm sure that these people will sleep soundly tonight wrapped up in the rationalization that they did what they had to do "To Protect the Children," which for some people excuses anything.

My Top Japan Sites

I spoke to Bradley’s and my good friend the other night about my trip to Japan. He asked me to list the top five things that I saw while in Japan, so I’ve been thinking about this particular list.

I went to visit my brother, who currently lives in the Akita prefecture. It’s fairly distant from Tokyo, and English speakers are sometimes rare, so we had some interesting experiences. We also spent a couple of days in Tokyo (which I fear stressed out my mother far too much), and that was great too.

So, for your pleasure, here are my favorites:

5. Squid boats fishing. This sounds like it wouldn’t be that interesting, but the boats go out onto the Sea of Japan at night and have these particularly bright lights and so it looks like there’s a city just over the horizon, on the water.

4. The samurai village of Kakunodate in Akita prefecture. It’s several fairly well preserved samurai houses, which, oddly enough, look a fair amount like the house that my brother lives in. Japanese domestic architecture has been fairly similar for a long time.

3. The five-story pagoda on the sacred peak of Haguro-san. It’s been in place since something like the 14th century. It survived earthquakes, because, my brother explained and showed us, it only rests on its foundation. It’s not actually attached to the earth, so it mostly just bounces in an earthquake.

2. A sumo wrestler on a bicycle. He was wearing his yukata (light cotton robe) and getting on his bike outside of the national sumo stadium. The museum at the stadium is good (and free) if you happen to be going to Tokyo.

1. A Buddhist mummy. I am not kidding. The priest at the temple explained (in Japanese, which my brother translated) that this is not a mummy, but instead a Buddha within his own body. Japan outlawed the process of self-mummification in the nineteenth century, but you can still see some of these guys around, particularly in the Yamagata prefecture (where ours was). The process is a little something like this: 1000 days of eating berries, nuts, and twigs; 1000 days of eating nuts and twigs; 1000 days of drinking only water. There’s also a drink mixed from the sap of the trees that acts as a mild poison to kill all the bacteria in the body, and that’s either added in the second or third period of 1000 days, but I don’t remember which one. After all this time (have you done the math yet?), you are placed in a sort of tomb, and sealed up while meditating. And you die. And your body is preserved.

I saw, of course, gazoodles of shrines and temples (shrines are always Shinto, temples are always Buddhist. Most of the time, they’re in the same complex), some interesting museums both in places in Akita prefecture and in Tokyo, and ate a whole host of new foods, some icky, some that I’m going to try to learn to make.

(damn, I cannot tell you how many times I have edited this post now. I am simply unable to get the links correct the first three times)

Ann Althouse is Losing Her Mind

Law professor and blogger Ann Althouse is infamous among those of us who read left-wing blogs created by people who are under 35 or so. Althouse got all sorts of attention for herself last year, when she attacked Jessica Valenti for having breasts while meeting with former president Bill Clinton. Althouse doesn't particularly care for young feminists, but she really hates Clinton.

Now, Althouse has turned her attention towards the recent Sopranos spoof featuring Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the video, Bill asks, "No onion rings?" and Hillary replies, "I'm looking out for ya." A normal person would imagine that this is, first, a reference to the fact that Tony Soprano was eating onion rings in the last scene of the last episode of The Sopranos, and, second, that Bill Clinton-- with his history of weight and heart problems-- can't be eating beer-battered, deep fried anything. Okay, so it's not particularly funny. What politician-- aside from Zell Miller-- really makes you laugh, though?

Anyway, a normal person understands that the onion ring refers to a popular TV show and the president's history of eating junk food and paying the price for it. A normal person. Not Ann Althouse. No, when Ann Althouse sees an onion ring, she thinks of...

Vaginas.

"... I doubt," Althouse writes, "if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the 'O' of an onion ring is a vagina symbol."

Well. I know one who will disagree. But let me check... Yep. Emily disagrees with that assertion too. So that's two. How about the rest of you?

I mean, seriously. I've seen onion rings, and I've read an awful lot about vaginas-- there are no similarities. In fact, a crass person might point out that a vagina isn't really shaped like an "O", and that they don't tend to leave severe burns on a penis, the way a fresh onion ring would. But that's just tacky, so I'm not going to say that.

But still. For God's sake. Ann Althouse is so quick to look for hidden innuendo, she's like that really obnoxious guy that used to hang around your group of friends in college, anxious to turn any innocuous comment into a sex joke. "I'd show her a lightsaber." "I'll boil her angel hair pasta." "I'd like to walk her lhasa apso."

Seriously, Ann Grow up.

So that's what it feels like

to be linked by one of the big boys. A hearty welcome to all the people from Crooks and Liars who have dropped by today. You gave this blog more traffic in an hour than it's ever gotten in a day before, and we appreciate it.

And more thank yous to Shakesville who has also front-paged us. It's a huge day for us here.

Bad advice

Or more properly, questionable advice slanted to make women appear like desperate, grasping creatures who would wither without their man. At least, that's how this piece from the Sun-Sentinel (reprinted from New York Newsday) reads to me.

As spring turns to summer this week, infidelity expert Ruth Houston has a question for every wife: "Do you know where your husband is?"

The piece is peppered throughout with that sort of question and corresponding advice--"Go. Stake your turf. Be at your loving best."

I have a question for Ms. Infidelity Expert. Why? Why should a woman have to chase after a man she's afraid will cheat on her? Forget having to chase him--why should she bother in the first place? How worth it can he be? Okay, that's four questions, but you get the point, right? Call me old-fashioned, what with my living-in-sin relationship and my strong support for gay rights and what not, but fidelity ought not be something you have to worry about. If you're worried, something's wrong in the relationship.

Marie and Marlene Brown, the second authors featured in the piece, take it a step farther. Theer book is titled You Can't Have Him -- He's Mine: A Woman's Guide to Affair-Proofing Her Relationship. Notice anything missing so far from this discussion? Like the man's responsibility in this? The Browns are all about protecting their menfolk from the whores who are out to snag them a man.
The Brownes also recommend that wives make it clear to potential interlopers that their husbands are spoken for. Give him a well-timed kiss in her presence, or ensure that his work space is full of photos of your family, or put handwritten notes in his briefcase or gym bag -- anything, Marlene Browne says, that would tell another woman to move on.

But my favorite is the last example--a self-confessed cheating guy who makes this beaut of a claim:
"Back doors allow you to 'sneak out' and compromise on your commitments," he says. That includes sex with prostitutes, watching Internet porn, visiting online chat rooms, communicating with old girlfriends or flirting in the office. "They're distractions and energy drains. Any energy going out the back door is energy that's not going into your relationship.

Wow--looking at teh bewbs on your computer is like frequenting a prostitute? Let's get a bit of a grip here. Sure--some of those things aren't healthy in a relationship. I don't talk to old girlfriends, and the only person I flirt with in the office is Amy, but we work together, so it's kind of tough not to. I don't visit the sort of chat rooms where the talk is going to get steamy-- I haven't gotten any hot love in the comment threads at Shakesville yet (though I did tell a guy to fuck off in a thread over at the Great Orange Satan a couple of nights ago--does that count?) and the best looking local prostitutes around here are male. I guess. I can't say as I've actually rated them, but I do live near Wilton Manors, so it's a safe bet.

But here's my real gripe with the piece as a whole--the focus is always on the woman doing stuff to keep her man satisfied, and as a man, I feel more than a little insulted here. I dislike the notion that I have so little self-control over my cock that unless Amy is plying me with sexual favors and catering to my every whim, I'm going to start hitting up the few Spring Breakers left for furtive blowjobs. I certainly don't expect Amy to go hunting for stunt cock at the first sign of rockiness in the relationship--why should she expect it of me? It's infantilizing, and it's the same kind of stupid argument men in bassackwards cultures use to oppress women everywhere. "Oh, women are too stupid to make their own decisions, but when they show some skin, we lose our damn minds and start raping them willy-nilly!"

Please. Chris Rock has joked in the past that men are only as faithful as their options. Bullshit. Assholes are only as faithful as their options, and it's time responsible men pushed back on that attitude.

Like I Needed Another Reason to Support Obama

Here's Hillary's campaign theme song.

It's not safe for work, unless you work with the deaf.

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