Savin' It

Marie Claire has published a fascinating article about virginity pledges, and one woman's journey from being the property of her father to being the property of her husband.

I'm being neither fair nor balanced here, I know. Oddly enough, though, the article is remarkably fair, as the interviewer seems to keep a genuinely open mind even while confronting these people who are kind of... freaky. There's Randy, the father of the bride who takes what I consider a deeply unnatural interest in the sanctity of his daughter's vagina. There's Lisa, the mother of the bride who thinks Randy's concern about his daughter's purity is sweet. There's Brett, the groom who, at first, only knew that he wanted to marry one of Randy's "gorgeous" daughters; it didn't matter which one, though now he does seem genuinely smitten with the one he got. And then there's Lauren, the bride, who honestly feels like staying a virgin until getting married at 22 has prepared her for a lifetime of wedded bliss. Since she hasn't experienced anyone else, she doesn't feel like she's missing anything, is the sense you take away from the article.

Anyway, fascinating and horrifying stuff. Thanks Pandagon, for pointing it out.

Michael Savage Says Democrats Conspired to Cause John Roberts's Seizure

Seriously. This is pretty fucked-up. Conservative pundit/ notorious lunatic Michael Savage claimed on his radio broadcast yesterday that John Roberts's seizure was caused by a Democratic conspiracy.

The former Michael Weiner (he changed his name in order to sound tougher) asked his audience of crazy halfwits, "Am I to believe there's no connection between Charles Schumer on Friday saying he would never appoint, or never, excuse me, approve another Bush appointment to the court, to any court? And then the chief justice suffers a so-called seizure two days later? You're telling me there's no possibility of a conspiracy by the Democrats to have caused this seizure in some manner?"

So what's the deal with Michael Weiner-Savage? Do you think he actually believe the things he says, or what? I mean, is Savage pretty much just a crazy guy in the park screaming at pigeons and ranting about conspiracies, or a performance artist, or what?

It's Time to Get Sexy

I'm afraid that my recent ranting about James Frey and Emily's posts about serious issues have kind of de-sexified this blog; I would hate for Brian and Amy to unpack their computer, only to discover that Incertus lost its mojo while Emily and I were keeping an eye on the place. I suppose that's what happens when you leave your blog under the care of a young married couple who have signed a virginity pledge.

Anyway, to rectify the serious lack of freakiness around here lately, I give you the secret to getting beautiful women: Malt liquor.

Talk about it at Videocracy

I Got a Way-Back Machine-- Let's Go For a Ride

Yesterday's post about Nan Talese, James Frey, and other lying bullshit artists got me thinking about that whole scandal again. I know a lot of people got sick of hearing about James Frey pretty quickly, but I still find the story absolutely fascinating-- and horrifying. Here's a man who got caught lying in a piece of creative nonfiction, but rather than admitting his wrong-doing, he tried to destroy an entire genre of literature by claiming that "everyone else is doing it"; anyone who claims to be writing about his or her own life is just as big a liar as James Frey. Anyway, as an author of a memoir and a scholar of creative nonfiction, I can't help but take that personally-- this is my livelihood this whiney little Bukowski-wannabe is fucking with, after all.

Anyway. Here, for your reading pleasure, is an open letter I wrote to Oprah Winfrey back on January 10, 2006-- the day the New York Times reported the story as revealed on The Smoking Gun. The piece was originally written to be published as a Missouri Review web editorial, but by the time the web content editor got around to looking at it, Frey had already appeared on TV and answered some of the questions raised. So I wound up putting this little piece of writing on my Livejournal blog. Oprah never replied.

Anyway-- the preface and the letter itself, as I said, was written in January, 2006. But all comments in bold are brand new, special edition, director's cut additions, exclusive to this presentation of the letter. So... Time Machine Go!

***

James Frey-- Worthless Fraud/ An Open Letter to Oprah

Hello everyone.

I'm not sure if you've all been following the James Frey story. He's the author of the "memoir" (and Oprah Book Club Selection) A MILLION LITTLE PIECES. I put "memoir" in quotes because much of the book is actually distortions, exaggerations, embellishments, and outright lies. The Smoking Gun reported the story over the weekend, The New York Times started reporting on it Tuesday morning, and last night Frey appeared (with his mother, no less) on Larry King Live to explain that memoir really means "a bunch of shit that I just made up with some details of my life throw in as well." That's not a verbatim quote, but that was the gist of it. Later on in the show, Oprah actually called in to offer her support to James and to reassure everyone that she still liked the book. [Obviously, this changed later. Oprah subsequently had Frey on her show again and pretty much read him the riot act and talked about feeling "betrayed." Which-- Nan Talese's objections aside-- was the right thing to do. Apparently, Frey later claimed that Oprah sold him out because "it's just business." I tend to think Oprah had more to lose by by confronting Frey and revealing that she'd been duped, but what do I know?]

Anyway, I wrote the piece that follows on Tuesday morning. I'd hoped to turn it into a Missouri Review web editorial, but the story developed so quickly that, by the time it could be considered, much of the information was already too "dated," as Frey pretty much admitted to being a fraud (thought not in so many words) and Oprah spoke up. But here, for your reading pleasure, is my Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey.

**

Dear Oprah,

If you’re like me—and I know I am—you were disappointed to see in the January 10th edition of The New York Times an article with the headline “Best-Selling Memoir Draws Scrutiny.” Edward Wyatt reports on an article posted on The Smoking Gun website that makes a pretty compelling argument that James Frey, author of the memoir (and Oprah Book Club Selection) A Million Little Pieces, is… well… a fraud.

At this point, of course, nothing’s been proven conclusively. [At this point, though, Frey's blatant bullshittery has been proven conclusively] The Smoking Gun has alleged that Frey embellished, exaggerated, and simply made-up large portions of the violent, grim tale of his own addictions and the criminal activity that resulted from them. Frey, on the other hand, has written on his website (bigjimindustries.com): “I stand by my book, and my life, and I won't dignify this bullshit with any sort of further response." [Ha! How'd that work for you, Big Jim?] However, both The Smoking Gun and The New York Times reveal that Frey has admitted that parts of the book “were embellished… for obvious dramatic reasons.” Furthermore, Frey apparently refuses to provide records as evidence that this violent, swaggering narrative of his life is true, while The Smoking Gun provides eye-witness testimony, police reports and court records to back up their claims that Frey was not the dangerous man he claims to have been in his book. As I said, we don’t really know how this will all turn out, but for the moment Frey, his publisher, his editor, his agent, and his lawyer all refuse to comment to the newspaper of record about the allegations. So far, at least, Frey hasn’t given his fans much reason to trust him now that he’s been questioned.

I wouldn’t blame you if you were upset, Oprah (may I call you Oprah?); like anyone who reads a piece of creative nonfiction, you entered into a relationship with an author/ narrator with the understanding that the story he was relating to you really happened. Trust is a given when it comes to memoir—as readers, we assume that the memoirist won’t betray that trust, just as we don’t expect strangers we meet at a cocktail party to immediately start lying to us. By nature, we tend to assume that other people will tell us the truth, and when they don’t, we feel hurt and betrayed. That’s why the defense offered by some of Frey’s fans—“It doesn’t matter if it really happened—it’s still a good story”—is so hollow and meaningless. When one individual is conversing with another, honesty matters—whether that conversation is happening in a kitchen, in a bar, or on the page.

At this point, Oprah, you’re probably throwing your hands in the air and shouting, “To hell with this. I’m going back to focusing exclusively on dead authors who can’t do anything scandalous or humiliating anymore.” [Some of you kids may be too young to remember, but years ago novelist/essayist/egoist Jonathan Franzen made a pretty big splash when he accepted Oprah's offer to make The Corrections an Oprah Book Club Selection, then publicly bitched that Oprah's Book Club was bad for American letters (don't try to make sense of that argument-- it's vapid and intellectually dishonest). As a result, Oprah stopped selecting works written by authors who were still alive for a brief period of time, focusing instead on more canonical works.] Again, no one could blame you—if I were in your shoes, that’s probably what I would do. But I think that would be a mistake, because I’m not in your shoes. I’m in mine. And, as me, I find it very important that you continue to recognize the efforts of living writers. Especially living writers of creative nonfiction. Preferably with the initials WB. [God, I miss those shoes].

Those of us who are truly committed to writing creative nonfiction know that it’s inappropriate to embellish “for… dramatic reasons,” whether they’re obvious or not. For writers like Joan Didion, Alix Kates Shulman, Danielle Ofri, Natalia Rachel Singer, William Bradley, Abraham Verghese, Steven Church, Jamaica Kincaid, William Bradley, Scott Russell Sanders, Bob Cowser, Jr., Patricia Hampl, William Bradley, and Kay Redfield Jamison, the goal of the writing is to expose and explore a transcendent, capital-T Truth that is spoiled by “dramatic embellishment.” Furthermore, we know the Truth of—and agree with-- Tobias Wolff’s point-of-view, which he articulated in a Missouri Review interview with essayist, gadfly, and all-around neat guy William Bradley: “I do take the distinction between genres very seriously,“ Wolff said, “When I call something a memoir, it’s my understanding with the readers that they can accept this story as a chronicle of actual events as I remember them. When I call something a novel, it’s fiction… I might use colors from the same palette and use experiences from my memory and my own life, but I take off… I’m after a different type of truth, if you will, when I write fiction.” It seems like this is the kind of truth Frey was after as well; as he pointed out in a previous Times interview, he had originally considered the book a novel, but then his publisher decided to call it nonfiction. “It was written exactly as it was published,” Frey said, revealing his own carelessness when it comes to distinguishing between genres. [This, I think, is what Brian was referring to in his comment posted last night on the subject]

Oprah, I know what you’re thinking—“This young creative nonfiction writer is pleading with me out of self-interest. He wants me to select his book and make him rich. What a massive, massive dork.” But you’re wrong. No, okay, you’re right. It’s more than that, though. The fact of the matter is, if James Frey is really the liar that The Smoking Gun says he is, then he has done a considerable amount of damage to all of us who write creative nonfiction; the deceptions of one casts us all under suspicion. You, Oprah, are in a position to rectify the damage James Frey is alleged to have done by facilitating a dialogue between memoirists and readers, thus enabling the exploration and sharing of transcendent Truth.

Wishing you the best for 2006,

William Bradley

P.S.

Can I have a car? [See, once Oprah gave every member of her studio audience a car. It's funny. Har!]


Okay. That's it. I'm re-presenting that letter here because... well, I'm still kind of pleased with it. And it still seems relevant. Nan Talese feels comfortable standing up in a roomful of nonfiction writers and saying Truth doesn't matter. The archair reviewers who have Frey's books on their Shelfari pages still feel empowered to say, "I don't know what the big deal is. Isn't the whole point of literature to TELL A GOOD STORY?! LOL!!" And my local Barnes and Nobel is still-- still!-- a year and a half, later, stocking Frey's stupid, poorly-written, lie-filled dreck in the "Autobiography" section rather than with the other novels.

Bah! James Frey is the devil! Tell your friends.

Bad writing

The 2007 Bulwer-Lytton results have been announced.

(That's the contest for the worst opening sentence to an imaginary novel ... Bulwer-Lytton graced the world with the opening sentence "It was a dark and stormy night".)

This is the winning sentence by Jim Gleeson of Madison, WI:

"Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee."


Check out the website to see winners in various sub-categories.

I have to link this

if only for the phrase, "bobbing for apples in the Goblet of Dumb."

Moving, Day the First

As anyone who has done it recently knows, moving sucks hard. Imagine the thing that sucks hardest in the world--a lamprey porn star who needs to make the rent--and multiply that by ten, a hundred, a thousand, and you have moving in the dead of the south Florida summer.

We moved today. And we will move tomorrow. And we'll probably keep moving in some fashion or another for the next six months or so, because that's how long it takes to get enough boxes unpacked that you'll say you're done even though you've left that box of high school yearbooks you've carted around for the last 20 years unpacked, just as you have the last five times you've moved, when you've come to the realization that there really is nothing glorious about Renèe's brace-laden grin and spiky blonde hair with brown roots, or about the fact that after 17 shots at Olan Mills, you still looked like a dorky teenager because you were, in fact, a dorky teenager.

I will move that box around with me until it crumbles, and when it crumbles, I will place it, whole, into another, slightly larger box, and continue to carry it around with me, because it contains the nametag from the last food service job I worked, the first poem I ever had published (in my high school magazine), cassette tapes of my radio show--the Blues Excursion with Big Poppa Love Monkey--even though I don't have a cassette player anymore, dice, letters from my mother which I occasionally mine for poetic content, razor blades, a deck of cards which may or may not be complete.

On the plus side of this move, our internet service was transferred just as ordered, the electricity only required that we hit a switch in the main breaker room, and while we have not met all the neighbors yet, the ones we have met have been cordial to friendly. We have not even begun to unpack the boxes and boxes of books--the other thing that writers never abandon, no matter the expense. We'll leave behind heirlooms before we leave behind our signed copies of poetry by people we don't even like, but who we saw read in graduate school and felt obligated to support.

Tomorrow will be mostly cleaning and grabbing the last objects from the last place, with both of us likely limping from the chafed thighs we earned today by sweating through our shorts and loading box upon box into a massive U-Haul, and then into our new home, where they wait, expectant, to be arranged and rearranged until the next move, which will suck hard, hard as that lamprey short a few bucks for the week's rent.

Sometimes, it's hard to see our convictions to their logical ends

Anna Quindlen has an interesting article in the upcoming Newsweek about a new tactic that some prochoice activists are taking.

They're asking anti-choicers what kind of penalty a woman who gets an abortion should get if all abortions are illegal. Most of the anti-choicers squirm.

Apparently, this tactic worked in a governor's race in Iowa recently. It does make sense to ask the question - if even abortions for women who are raped or victims of incest are illegal, shouldn't a woman who goes ahead and gets one go to jail? She's part of the crime, too.

Anyway ... it's an interesting tactic, because it forces people to think about the results of their own convictions. Check it out and see what you think.

Sexual Violence as a Tool of War

Officials from the UN's Human Rights Council on Violence Against Women are shocked by the high number of sex crimes perpetuated in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the report, these include things such as gang rape, forcing men to have sex with women in their families, and forcing women to eat excrement or flesh of their murdered relatives.

The report says that 4,500 cases of sexual violence have happened in one region - South Kivu - since the year began. 4,500.

That's a staggering number.

The perpetrators of the violence include the rebel groups and the FARDC and the state police.

That sexual violence continues to be a tool of war - perpetrated by all sides of wars - is a stark reminder that the work of feminism continues. While it's important to continue the work of feminism at home, we need to also use the tools of feminism to bring change to the way a great deal of the world views women.

Of course, one of the struggles of this is the fear of being colonizers ourselves (as feminists). Can we take what is something out of a European and American tradition and impose it on the rest of the world? In this case, it's easy to see that we must - brutality is brutality. Just as we wish to stop the killing, we should wish to stop all forms of sexual violence. Many more nuanced situations exist - and it's necessary to be sensitive to those traditions that are unlike our own. Of course, I would like the world to run according to my own ideals (you can call me Grand Empress of the Universe, thank you very much), but in reality I know we have to be more careful than simply imposing our ideas of right and wrong on other people around the world. That's what colonizers do.

(I think I need to go read some Edward Said. And some Simone deBeauvoir. Hell, let's throw in Judith Butler for the fun of it).

In Alberto Gonzales and Nan Talese's America, the Truth Doesn't Really Matter Much

This is going to be one of those rare blog posts where I don't talk explicitly about politics and current events. Much. Though I do want to direct you towards this story, which is concerned with the many untruths uttered by Alberto Gonzales and which asks the questions, "Is he a liar, or is he just really, really incompetent?" (Spoiler Alert: Liar). Obviously, the nation's top law enforcement official needs to be someone honest, someone who will obey the law. Certainly, we can't have someone who committed perjury occupying such an office.

Don't get me wrong-- if he were really that incompetent, it would be a really good story. I mean, if the Attorney General was a total buffoon, an inarticulate lout who's so out-of-the-loop that he can't help but make up outrageous stories before testifying in Congress, wearing a dumbfounded expression the entire time... Well, that's an Adam Sandler movie I'd go to see. I can hear the voiceover in the trailer right now: "Adam Sandler in... HOMELAND INSECURITY." And, you know, maybe someone gets hit in the balls!

As wildly entertaining as that narrative would surely be, I don't believe it, and I don't think I should believe it-- when someone in a position of authority tells us he's being honest, then he needs to be honest. And that means no lies, no matter how entertaining the fictional version might be.

Which brings us, once again, to James Frey.

I wrote about James Frey quite a bit on my old Livejournal blog last year, and I have a new piece coming out in this fall's College English that talks about him quite a bit. Some people argued that I've been too hard on him, that my standards for nonfiction are too high. Of course, I disagree. I tend to believe that Vladimir Nabokov gave memoir writers an effective formula for writing memoir when he wrote Speak, Memory almost four thousand years ago (okay-- maybe it wasn't that long; my copy's at school and I just don't feel like looking up the publication date): Memoir is a record of memory. It might not always be literally true (as memories are subjective and, at times, corruptible), but that's okay, so long as the author is accurately recording the truth as she understands and remembers it. But the moment she steps away from her memory and "embellishes" for "obvious, dramatic reasons" (to use Fray's language), then the project is no longer creative nonfiction; it's fiction.

Nan Talese-- Frey's publisher-- apparently disagrees with me, which is disappointing because I want very much to like Nan Talese, mainly because I think her husband, Gay Talese, is one of the great New Journalists. Nevertheless, though, Nan Talese doesn't quite seem to understand that there's a difference between fiction and creative nonfiction, and that the distinction matters. No, as she articulated on Saturday at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference of the Southwest, she feels that Frey did nothing wrong, and that those of us who get upset when someone exploits other people and lies about his own experience in order to swindle us out of our money are sanctimonious and ill-mannered.

"I'm afraid I'm unapologetic of the whole thing," she said regarding her decision to publish Frey's faux memoir A Million Little Pieces. "And the only person who should be apologetic is Oprah Winfrey," who she says exhibited "fiercely bad manners – you don't stone someone in public, which is just what she did."

That's an interesting metaphor, both for its melodrama and its inaccuracy. In fact, when one is "stoned" (in the way she describes the phenomenon), it's always a public spectacle. Anyone out there ever heard of a discreet, private stoning? I guess she meant to say you shouldn't stone someone ever (a position I can agree with), but then, that doesn't really apply to the Frey situation, does it? I mean, I'm sure he's humiliated and all, but didn't he kind of do this to himself? He published a memoir that was largely fiction-- is it really bad manners to point out when someone is obviously lying to you and a bunch of other people? If someone comes to a dinner party at my house and claims to have been the first Minnesotan to scale Mt. Everest (and now he's trying to raise money from my guests to fund his next expedition), is it really rude for me to point out that I know for a fact that this person has never lived in Minnesota, or that his description of the mountain reveals that he's never been there? It seems to me that the rude person in this situation is the liar trying to take people's money, not the person who points out the lie.

"When someone starts out and says, 'I have been an alcoholic. I have lied, I have cheated' ... you do not think this is going to be the New Testament."

Again, are there people out there who think that the New Testament is literal truth? I hate to split hairs here, but...

And let's look at the grammar in these sentences "I have been an alcoholic. I have lied. I have cheated." These sentences all apply to actions taken in the past. He's not saying-- as Lauren Slater did in her book Lying (which I also disliked, but for different reasons)-- "I am a liar." Frey deliberately misleads his audience in his memoir, which is not allowed. Talese's defense-- "You were a fool to trust him to begin with"-- is insulting in its attempt to shirk her own responsibility in this fraud.

"And so I really, really am bothered by the sanctimoniousness of Oprah Winfrey. "

Oprah may be sanctimonious-- I'm not a big fan, to be honest-- but how sanctimonious do you have to be to claim to have had a drug addiction when you didn't actually have one, then write a book telling drug addicts that recovery programs don't really work, and that the key to recovery is to just not be a pathetic weakling and take charge of one's own life? I mean, seriously. As you're involved in this exercise in smug superiority, I should think you'd want to avoid calling anyone else sanctimonious.

"I published the book, I'm proud to publish the book. ... I think it has helped a lot of people."

No you don't. No it hasn't. In fact, from what I've read, the book may have actually hurt a lot of people with its anti-treatment, do-it-yourself guide to overcoming addiction.

More from the article:

"She described the Oprah audience as 'holier-than-thou' and discussed being on the show as Mr. Frey amended his account of one character's suicide.

"'Oprah kept saying, "Did she kill herself? Did she cut her wrists?" And he said, '"No, she hung herself." And the whole audience went, "Boo! Boo!" It was like being in the Roman circus. And after I said to them, "The tragedy is not how she killed herself, it's that she killed herself," they all looked like a treeful of owls – no expressions at all. It was awful.'"

I remember that episode, actually, and one of things I clearly remember is watching Frey shift in his chair nervously, obviously trying to come up with something smart to say, before eventually saying, "She hung [sic] herself." The sense he gave was that he wasn't actually telling the truth-- or, if he was, it was simply because he couldn't come up with an effective lie. That's why the audience was booing-- his whole demeanor during the interview was shifty and untrustworthy. And let's remember, too, that at the time, his defense was a very weak, "I only lied in about 5% of the book-- that's allowed in creative nonfiction!" If people found him difficult to trust, it might be because of that claim. Once someone tells you "I only lie 5% of the time," it puts everything he says under suspicion. Even if I know he's going to tell me the truth 95% of the time, I'm still not going to trust him, because I'll never know what falls under his 5% personal dishonesty allowance.

Another reason why they might have booed him? Even if you believe his accounting of the hanging suicide, that still doesn't change the fact that, in the book, he says she slit her wrists. Why in the world would he make that change if, as Talese claims, "The tragedy is not how she killed herself, it's that she killed herself." No, for some reason Frey decided that the suicide had to be bloody, more violent, in order to get that visceral reaction from his readers. So, given that Frey made that choice in order to write a book that would appeal to the masses (even at the expense of what really happened), I think it's entirely appropriate for the audience to boo him when they discovered how crass and exploitive he really was in handling this material.

I'm assuming that this woman-- Lily, if memory serves-- really existed. Maybe she didn't, and that was part of his 5%. If that's the case, then he at least didn't exploit a real person and her tragic death. Just his readers and Oprah's viewing audience. That's slightly better, but it's still terrible.

The defenders of James Frey-- and they are legion-- usually respond with "But it's still a good story! Who cares if he made it up?" I care. If someone asks me to trust him, and I agree to trust him, then I care when that person betrays that trust. It doesn't matter if that person is a member of my family, a co-worker, a politician, or an author I'm only goint to "meet" on the page. If you tell me one thing's the truth, and it turns out you were lying, then I simply don't like you, and I think your fraud should be made known so that others know to not trust you.

I'm afraid that, in our culture, we no longer expect that people will be honest with us. We've been conditioned-- through pop culture and literature-- to expect that we're surrounded by liars. This works to our leaders' advantage-- Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales can get on TV and lie through their teeth everyday. Even their supporters know they're being dishonest. But nobody does anything because, hey, what did you expect? Of course they lied. Why wouldn't they? What does it matter, so long as we remain entertained most of the time?

It matters. Honesty is still of fundamental importance in our human interactions, no matter what James Frey, Alberto Gonzales, or Nan Talese try to tell us.

Fort Lauderdale bridge tender loses job for talking to Sun-Sentinel columnist


Read this story, and feel my rage.

But beyond the basic BS-firing issue:

Why is my city paying almost $380 per day to some company so they can turn around and pay a bridge-tender $9/hour?

Why are Fort Lauderdale taxpayers providing the profits for some company that does nothing this city can't do itself?

Is the owner of this "company" Jim Naugle's cousin?

WTF?

A picture for your evening

Some fun with photo editing:

"Girls will be Girls" by Anita Kunz



In the center sits a woman exposed. Is that a smile? Her lips are as inscrutable as her shaded eyes. Her sunglasses deny us entry into her thoughts. The basic irony: she reveals her body but conceals her eyes, while the two religious figures at her left and right conceal their bodies and reveal their eyes. They glance away. They are... thoughtful, uncomfortable, patient? Perhaps we cannot read them, after all. Perhaps we just think we can. "Window to the soul," maybe not so much. I look at the center woman's body. Her arms are almost noodly soft in their relaxation. Her toes sprightly in their flip flops. Her shoulders droop smoothly. She does not fear the women beside her. She towers in their presence. Can I read more in her body than in their eyes? Is that what it means to be "exposed"? Is being hidden a sort of power? Is being fearless a better power? Defensive versus offensive power? Passive versus active power? Is hiding one's eyes the same call to passive power as hiding one's body? What is the difference between the body and the eyes? When a stranger looks at a woman's body, the stranger regards it as an object, admires it, or judges its imperfections. When a stranger looks at a woman's eyes, that is a direct affront, assault, challenge, a message meant to be received, a come-on, or a threat. What is a world in which women are only admired but cannot be cowed? What is a world in which women cannot be admired but only cowed?

Significant packing has begun

Amy and I are moving down the road a few blocks, and the mass hysteria that accompanies such a project is well underway. We may be out of internet service for a couple of days, as well as lacking in blogging time, but I have no fear that Bradley and Emily will keep the place humming in our absence.

"I Know What an Airplane is. Yeah!"

It occurs to me that some of you may be unfamiliar with the comedy genius that is Eugene Mirman. So on this laziest of Sundays-- in the absence of any interest in writing about something significant or substantial-- I give you this video. Enjoy.

Some Random Thoughts for a Sunday

If you haven't seen it yet, check out Amanda's excellent post about Natalie Angier's book, Woman: An Intimate Geography. I have a book I now need to read (in addition to all the others).

Teh Portly Dyke has a thoughtful post on empathy.

And this bothers me. I can't quite articulate why without sounding completely humorless, so I'll let you judge.

That is all. I must stop procrastinating.

I Am A Smart-Ass

How American Are You?

And Very American.

Michael Vick Dogfighting Update

I don't know how I got myself following this story, but since we started getting hits via CNN.com's "who's blogging this" section on the story, I feel a little obligated to continue, even though I generally get my web news from MSNBC.

But they have essentially the same story--Nike and Reebok have dropped Michael Vick because of the dogfighting, just as anyone with an ounce of foresight expected. Corporate sponsors are nothing if not risk-averse, and right now, Vick is an advertising leper. No one wants his name anywhere near their products.

The trial is set to begin on November 26, and there will be plenty of discussion on it between now and then. As of now, Vick has been suspended indefinitely by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and will not be allowed to participate in training camp, which begins this weekend for most teams. Goodell is supposed to hand down a more definitive suspension before too long, and I hope it's for at least a year, if not a lifetime ban (which doesn't generally mean lifetime, since players can apply for reinstatement after some period).

I can't begin to guess what will happen with Vick's contract with the Atlanta Falcons--I'd be surprised if the Falcons can't get out of it via a moral turpitude clause, but I don't know how cancelling that contract would affect them as far as the NFL salary cap. He signed a monster contract in 2004--10 years, $130 million--and generally that means that if the team gets out before the contract is at least half done, they're sunk under the salary cap.

None of which means much in the larger picture. The MSNBC article I linked to above has some details on the indictment, and it looks like Vick is pretty sunk.

Vick and the three others were engaged in a dogfighting enterprise known as “Bad Newz Kennels” from early 2001 through April 2007, according to an 18-page indictment released last week.

It alleges that the dogfighting operation began in 2001, not long after Vick was the first overall selection in the NFL draft. His first contract was for $62 million. In 2004, he signed a 10-year, $130 million deal, then the richest in league history.

The indictment says the fights offered purses as high as $26,000, and that Vick once paid $23,000 to the owner of two pit bulls that had beaten Bad Newz Kennels dogs.

That owner is one of four cooperating witnesses cited in the document.

Disgusting.

Our worst fears confirmed

I have to say that the quiz is a little geared towards pointing out how unAmerican I am because I don't watch football (or NASCAR) and I think American cheese is gross.

I'll let you decide the rest.

You Are 46% American

America: You don't love it or want to leave it.
But you wouldn't mind giving it an extreme make over.
On the 4th of July, you'll fly a freak flag instead...
And give Uncle Sam a sucker punch!

Do the Bartman!

Emily and I had talked about going to see the new Simpsons movie today, but it doesn't seem like it was an idea we were particularly serious about, as it turns out. I'm sure we will see it-- it's been very well-reviewed so far-- but, somehow, going to the movie theater to see a longer episode of a TV show we no longer follow religiously seems like it might not be the best use of our time.

Still, I've really loved The Simpsons in the past, and I like the show well enough now. However, The Onion's AV Club has posted a Crosstalk debate over whether it's time for the show to be put out to pasture. I'm inclined to say yes, and this article explains why. Essentially, nearly a third of the show's regular viewers describe themselves as "conservative." In other words, the show has become the kind of bland, inoffensive comedy that people who don't generally get irony watch week after week.

Okay. I'm probably oversimplifying the situation. Maybe some conservatives get irony, and maybe the show hasn't become boring or bland. But when I was a kid, our parents were kind of worried that watching The Simpsons would warp our young minds and pervert our values. When I was in college, the show was hip in its knowledge that suburan values are often absurd and worthy of parody-- just like I was realizing in my own little hipster commune/ liberal arts university in upstate New York, far from Mom and Dad. And now that I'm at the age where people buy mini-vans and get mortgages... The Simpsons has begun to appeal to people who buy mini-vans and get mortgages.

That's not to say that 30-something Americans are all Conservative. But we're not exactly hip anymore, either. The Simpsons kinda grew up alongside people around my age-- from Bart's adolescent "underachiever and proud of it" phase through Homer's appearance ay Lollapalooza. I think I'd prefer it if The Simpsons fade away now, while the bulk of its seasons (available on DVD) are concerned with a rebellious, absurdist point-of-view, rather than have it slowly turn into the kind of show that grandparents and toddlers can watch together, knowing that they won't see anything that upsets or challenges them.

Sorry everyone

We in Florida are using more than our fair share of gasoline. The state is number 3 nationally in terms of gasoline consumption, but 4th in population size. According to The Sun-Sentinel, our "appetite for gasoline has grown at twice the national average in the past five years."

Okay, not ours specifically, because Bradley and I drive a fuel efficienct car (and we only own one car for the two of us). But still, we live in a state with minimal mass transit and everything sprawls all over the place.

As far as I can tell, something like 75% of the vehicles I see on the road are giant SUVs or trucks. Okay, I might be exaggerating on that, but seriously, who needs a Hummer to commute? There are an awful lot of vehicles of the road that are not fuel efficient, and the new legislation really isn't going to do a whole lot to change that.

I'm all for an SUV ban. I can understand a certain need for some of those pick-up trucks (my step-dad comes from a family of farmers - so I understand the necessity of such a vehicle for certain types of work). But really, do you need to drive your two-ton hemi on the interstate just to get to the grocery store?

I might be a little bitter about this, since we were rear-ended last summer by one of those. Hmm ... I'll think about that. Still, we're gas-guzzlers around here.

Vomit Worthy Video

Via Pandagon



So yeah--I'm thinking we need to do our own Dan Savage-esque contest and come up with a definition for Naugle. Getting a Naugle. Being Naugled. Wiping the Naugle off your leg. Something.

France keeps looking better and better

At the little theater in our neighborhood (a quickly vanishing breed), there's a corkboard pillar with index cards and pencils for quick one-liner reviews as patrons leave the theater. When Amy and her cousin Matt and I went to see Sicko on opening night, I saw one card that read "I'm thinking about moving to Canada." After watching the film, I appended my own. "Canada?" mine said. "I'm moving to France!"

I was being a bit facetious--finding a job there might be a little difficult for someone with my limited skill set--but the tradeoffs the French have made in favor of social justice are more than a little appealing.

As are their choices in terms of public transportation, and transportation in general. According to Serge Schmemann, Paris has taken the radical step of making it more difficult to drive in the city. And I applaud it wholeheartedly. What the Socialist (and I use that as a term of admiration) mayor has done has made it more tempting to use not only busses and taxis, but bicycles as well.

Mayor Delanoë’s latest front in the anti-car war is the bicycle. Last week, more than 10,000 stolid, gray-painted bicycles (no Tour de France speedsters) became available for rent at 750 self-service locations across Paris. The cost is modest, less than $1.50 for a one-day pass, about $7.50 for a week and about $43.50 for a year — and the bikes can be dropped off at any docking station. The number of bikes is supposed to double by the end of the year. Already in their first week, the bikes are all over central Paris, many carrying commuters — and, yes, some New Yorkers. (An outdoor advertising company paid for everything in return for exclusive use of city-owned billboards.)

The system, which sounds very well integrated, includes busses, trains, and bicycles, plus a city that is amenable to walking.

Meanwhile, Florida's gasoline usage has grown at twice the national average for the last five years. No discussion of public transportation, or of making the cities more walkable. The discussions all center around federal legislation that argues over whether to raise CAFE standards to 35 mpg or 32 mpg while including light trucks in the fleet. SUVs would apparently still get a pass.

Where are our priorities?

Mistaken identity and police treatment of black mothers

Feministe has a post about the second incident of mistreatment of a pregnant black woman in Missouri this year.

Apparently, in this most recent case, the woman stopped by Independence MO police was 1) six months pregnant, 2) driving her vehicle with her other two children in the car, 3) a school principal, and 4) a Sunday school teacher. She just "looked" like someone else.

A blog about Kansas City happenings has more; including a link to a local KC television station's website about the incident.

There's apparently video of this, but I cannot bring myself to watch it.

Falafel, Phone Sex, and Whatever Other 'Hateful' Comment You Can Think Of and a Random Ten

"And why do they permit [people to exercise their free speech]? Why do they permit [people to exercise their free speech], then?"

-- Bill O'Reilly July 24, 2007

I've avoided blogging about Bill O'Reilly's recent comment comparing leftwing bloggers to the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, and David Duke for a while now, because let's face it-- it's too damn easy. Bill O'Reilly has quite clearly gone insane-- he was always dangerously unstable, but it's quite clear that the pressure has gotten to him. Yelling at children, cutting the mics of military experts, trying to claim that lesbian gangs are taking over the country and "indoctrinating children into homosexuality," and now, promoting his own hateful ideology even while dismissing all of his critics with the epithet of "hatemonger," without any sense of irony. He's a crazy person, and he's flirting with crupidity. Bill O'Reilly's rating are slipping; he's generally regarded as something of a joke (how else would Stephen Colbert even have his own show?). And he has no one but himself to blame. I'm not quite willing to call him crupid yet-- he still has far more influence than a crupid person generally has-- but he's about one serious outburst away from destroying his entire career.

Anyway... the above quote came from Wednesday's O'Reilly Factor, where O'Reilly was just beside himself at the very notion that valuing freedom of speech means sometimes you have to put up with hearing (or reading) unpleasant things. O'Reilly claims that this isn't a problem on his online forum. He's wrong-- as plenty of people have pointed out, there's all sorts of hateful rhetoric full of violent imagery in posts devoted to talking about Hillary Clinton. But that's neither here nor there. I'm willing to concede that O'Reilly's website probably doesn't have has much foul language or angry declarations as places like The Daily Kos, Shakesville, and that fortress of liberal wrong-headedness Incertus. And I can think of a few reasons for that.

1) Bill O'Reilly charges his forum users a membership fee, which means that only his devotees are likely to post. Even those of us who have unbridled, George Wallace-type hate for Bill O'Reilly find it difficult to justify paying a fee just for the "pleasure" of arguing with the guy.

2) Bill O'Reilly's forums are devoted to people who are happy with the status quo-- pro-war, anti-civil rights, anti-education people who like the direction our country's been going in for the past six years. What on earth do they have to be angry about?

3) The leftwing blogosphere is full of young, hip, sexy people who know how to dress and are phenomenal dancers. Because of our youth and vitality, we sometimes get excited and use profanity to express ourselves. But what you can vulgar, I call a more nuanced vocabulary. You dickhead.

Look, as many of you know, I sometimes get pissed off at liberal bloggers myself-- particularly when I feel like they prioritize the expression of their righteous anger over constructing a logical argument that might win over a reader who finds herself undecided regarding the issue at hand (also-- to be clear-- that's also a tendency that I hate about myself, too). But, on the whole, the communities at The Daily Kos, Shakesville, Pandagon, Feministing, and other leftwing sites are full of hard-working, intellectually honest people who want to have genuine conversations about how we might make this country better. The leftwing blogosphere represents the real America-- not just the smug, self-satisfied elitists who don't mind paying a fee to express their opinions, so long as that fee goes towards keeping out "undesireables."

(Except for Emily. She, I grant you, is kind of like Mussolini).

And by the way-- is anybody besides be delighted that, in the same week that Bill O'Reilly is targetting liberals for their expressions of "hate speech," Sean Hannity is reviving that tired, oft-disproven conspiracy theory that suggests the Clintons murdered Vince Foster? You wanna talk hateful... what kind of blame America first type slanders the former president of the nation by knowingly lying about something as serious as murder? Sean Hannity, why do you hate America and flags and baseball and the baby Jesus?

Anyhoo... here's D.J. Rad Brad's Random Ten for today. All y'all know the drill-- get your breakdancing board out, put on your grooviest leisure suit, and have yourself a love-in at the sock hop. Shuffle the songs. Record even the embarassing ones, like Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," if it comes up.

1) Solomon Burke-- "Diamond In Your Mind"
2) Weezer-- "Why Bother?"
3) The Killers-- "Mr. Brightside"
4) The Velvet Underground"-- "European Son"
5) Eminem-- "Without Me"
6) Elvis Costello-- "45"
7) Electric Sic-- "Dance-A-Thon 2005"
8) Sam Cooke-- "Twistin' the Night Away"
9) Meat Loaf-- "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" (oooooohhhhh)
10) Spinal Tap-- "Gimme Some Money"

Listen for the Republican Howls and the Random Ten

I figure I'll do this now instead of when I wake up--at noon. So here's the story--the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is doing a preliminary investigation into possible voter fraud in Palm Beach County.

West Palm Beach - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking into whether an estimated 60 people committed voter fraud by voting in the Nov. 7 election in both New York state and Palm Beach County, according to a letter from the Florida Department of State.

Mind you, this is the same place that had pretty strong evidence that Ann Coulter committed voter fraud but couldn't find a prosecutor willing to take the case.

But even though this is a preliminary investigation, based on introductory work done by a lawyer working for the Palm Beach Republican party using methods ChoicePoint would recognize, expect the right-wingers to be in full throated howling about Democrats stealing elections.

This isn't to say that I'm nonchalant about the issue. I'm more than a little of a zealot when it comes to the issue of clean elections--they're the root of our system of government, and I look at voter fraud as akin to treason. But we're nowhere near proving voter fraud yet, so don't let the howls--and you will indeed hear them--fool you into thinking there's anything other than a preliminary investigation going on yet. If people did indeed vote twice--throw the book at them. But the howlers will make it sound like there are 31,000 Democrats who are double voting, throwing elections to Democrats in both states, and perpetrating a fraud. Tell them to take a flying Cheney at a rolling donut.

Here's the Random Ten. Put your computer's music player on Party Shuffle or whatever and post the next ten songs that come up. Be sure to distinguish between Van Hagar and Van Halen, please. Here we go.
1. With the Dark--They Might Be Giants (new album)
2. Gathering Storm--godspeed you black emperor! (don't think I've ever listened to the whole song--22 minutes long)
3. Hello City--Barenaked Ladies
4. Babylet'shaveababybeforebushdosomethingcrazy--The Coup (yes, that's how the title comes up.)
5. I May Be Wrong (but I think you're wonderful)--Hoagy Carmichael (a truly brilliant song)
6. Polythene Pam--The Beatles
7. Quarry Anthem--Big Smith (small town, hillbilly political antheming at its best)
8. So Weird--Veruca Salt
9. Invisible Sun--The Police (sans lute)
10. Hey Hey What Can I Do--Led Zeppelin (though Hootie's version is quite good--no shit).

Bonus oomph track: I Got The Power--Technotronic.

Whatcha listening to?

I didn't know that I didn't need to know about this

We just saw a commercial for the new water filtering system that can add flavor as you filter it from your faucet.

Do we really need this? Do we need this as much as, say, scented disposable razors?

I like stuff. An alarming amount.

But still, this doesn't seem necessary.

Incredibly, CBS Apparently Doesn't Think Anything Significant Happened Today

How else can one explain why the CBS Evening News ended with a strange-yet-touching story about a cat who lives in a nursing home and who can apparently "predict the future" by going into the rooms of the soon-to-be-dead and... Well, read for yourself:

"When he senses their time is near, Oscar goes to the room, jumps onto the bed, curls up next to the patient, and purrs. The 2 year-old cat provides welcome company for grieving family members and staff keeping their bedside vigil; sometimes he fills in for family members who haven't yet arrived at the bedside."

Okay, look-- I'll grant you that this story is kind of interesting in a very goofy way, but come on-- you've got a half an hour to report the vital news of the day. That vital news might include, but is not necessarily limited to, Congress's subpeona of Karl Rove, the possibility of the Attorney General of the United States being charged with perjury, and... I dunno... the death and destruction in Iraq, maybe?

Seriously, Katie? This is why we hate your broadcast.

The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers

ABCNews.com is reporting that New York lawyer Roy Den Hollander is launching a class-action lawsuit against bars and clubs nationwide in an effort to put an end to Ladies' Nights in bars and clubs. Why on earth, you might ask, would someone want to do something so joy-killing and senseless?

"I'm tired of having my rights violated and being treated as a second-class citizen," sniveled Hollander.

Oh, fuck you, you little twerp. The very fact that you-- a rich lawyer from New York-- think you can claim that you're treated like "a second-class citizen" goes to illustrate how cold, amoral, insensitive, and downright stupid you actually are.

"This is a constitutional-question suit, which means if I win, in theory any guy in America could bring a similar suit and use this as persuasive precedent," he yammered on.

My God-- and people wonder why this country is so messed-up? This guy is trying to make it easier for whiny dickheads to sue bars that try to attract women-- which, in theory, is supposed to benefit the men who are going to be hitting on those women. Idiot.

Look, Roy Den (can I call you Roy Den?)-- there are actually real problems in this country. Problems that could probably use some attention from your keen legal mind. I mean, seriously-- instead of launching your little nuisance lawsuit in an effort to get back at all of those cold-hearted bitches that didn't let you fuck them even though you paid a cover charge to get into the bar, why not focus your attention on providing legal aid to the prisoners in Gitmo? Or maybe try to help people who have been screwed over by their HMOs? Hell, why not provide legal advice to women, homosexuals, African-Americans, the disabled, immigrants, or other people who actually aresometimes treated as second-class citizens in our culture. There's a lot of injustice out there-- theoretically, that's why we have lawyers. Why don't you try to find some, and stop trying to act the martyr? You halfwit.

UPDATE: Wow-- this guy actually really hates women. From his MySpace page, listed under "Heroes": "Frank Gifford, Mohammed Ali and any man, that's with an 'M', who fights for what he believes despite the odds."

Women who fight for what they believe? Fuck 'em.

And isn't the phrase "fights for what he believes in"?

Oh for the love of ...

The independent health panel reviewing NASA has determined that on at least two occasions, astronauts launched into space while intoxicated.

Awesome. Drunk astronauts.

Mocking the Freepi

I was thinking about writing on the news that Hazleton PA's anti-immigration law was struck down by a federal judge, basically because the city doesn't have the authority to make that sort of law. When a subject like this comes up, I slather myself in anti-stupid cream, don the fire-proof suit, and venture over to Freeperland to see what the mouth-breathers have to say.

And then I came across this fund-raising picture, and decided it would be more fun to mock them instead.



Now, it's true that south Florida is a bit more liberal than the rest of the state. That's not saying much, considering that the panhandle is more like Alabama than anything else. It also discounts the fact that one of the most powerful Republican constituencies in the state is located in Miami--the Cuban exile community. There's also a lot of really rich folks down here, and they're not all about helping out the dirty unwashed who clean their floors and wash their cars.

But I love the right column, which has what looks like a misspelling of "dummies" and the letters BJ as part of the list of offenses that Democrats commit against the country.

Sometimes it's too easy.

What kind of defense is this?

One of my favorite sci-fi series growing up was Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat. I'm not actually suggesting you go read it--it's not as good as I remember it--but the main character had an odd sense of morality. He justified his theft as providing a service to society--keeping the public thrilled, cops and insurance agents in their jobs, etc.--but he loathed killing. He considered it the ultimate immoral act, because it was too easy to drop into the never ending loop of the ends justifying the means.

I use this as an example because after reading this story, I have to ask "how many other people are in jail because the ends justified the means?"

BOSTON - A federal judge Thursday ordered the government to pay more than $101 million in the case of four men who spent decades in prison for a 1965 murder they didn't commit after the FBI withheld evidence of their innocence.

The judge called the government's defense that the FBI had no duty to get involved because it was a state case "absurd."

I'd say the defense is beyond absurd--it ought to be criminal.

This is why I cringe when I hear people make cases for actions that supposedly aspire to higher, loftier goals--because the person who's going to pay for those goals is never the one who's clamoring for it. It's never these guys who wind up bringing democracy to the Middle East. It's the guy who can't find a job outside the regular army, who can't go to college because the local schools have put in student caps so property owners can be told they're getting a tax cut.

These people may have been criminals in their own right--I certainly have no way of knowing--but they weren't guilty of the crimes they were charged with, and our chief law enforcement agency knew it and did nothing. And it doesn't matter that they were trying to take down the mob at the time--you don't do shit like that. The ends do not justify the means.

You Need This

Just trust me. You need this.

I've come to the conclusion that, these days the Prodidgy is wearing a Bill O'Reilly mask.

Remember, He's Singing About His Horse

Is it just me, or is this week totally sucking ass? Maybe it's just me. Can't believe it's only Thursday, though.

Anyway, here's something to cheer us all up:

Billy the Kid Buckles the Swashes



My pirate name is:


Iron William Bonney



A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

Amy's smart nervousness

A couple of months ago, Amy and I found ourselves unexpectedly thrust into the housing market, a place we never expected to be here in south Florida, since up until last year, this was one of the hottest housing markets in the country--median house prices for a single family home were somewhere north of $300K for a while (Update: they're still north of $300K--well north, in fact), to give you some sense of where we were, and for two full-time-but-not-tenure-track faculty members, that was well out of reach.

A couple of months ago, though, what looked like the perfect house came out of nowhere--a small two-bedroom across the street from Amy's uncle and blocks away from her parents, in the neighborhood where she grew up. It seemed idyllic, but it was just out of our price range.

It's just as well that we were forced to wait, because it looks like the market still has a ways to fall.

Countrywide’s stark assessment signaled a critical change in the substance and tenor of how housing executives are publicly describing the market. Just a couple of months ago, some executives were predicting a relatively quick recovery and saying that most home loans would be fine with the exception of those made to borrowers with weak credit who stretched too far financially.

Executives at Countrywide had for some time been more skeptical than others but the bluntness of their comments yesterday surprised many on Wall Street. In a conference call with analysts that lasted three hours, Countrywide’s chairman and chief executive, Angelo R. Mozilo, said home prices were falling “almost like never before, with the exception of the Great Depression.”

Nationally, home prices have not fallen in the 35 years or so that the government and private services have tracked them. Some researchers like Robert J. Shiller of Yale have compiled data that goes as far back as 1890 and shows that home prices fell for several years during the 1930s.

Mr. Mozilo said that because of a large number of homes on the market, the housing sector would continue to suffer until sometime in 2008 and not begin recovering until 2009.

Now, a number of bloggers have been predicting that the housing market was going to stay soft for a while--Atrios and Bonddad are the ones I've read most--because of the coming resets in the adjustable rate mortgage markets, and the papers have been full of stories about the problems in the sub-prime mortgage market, including the announcement from Bear Stearns that one of their hedge funds is basically worthless now. But the above NY Times article says the problems are growing beyond the sub-prime markets.
Countrywide said about 5.4 percent of the home equity loans to customers with good credit that it held an interest in were past due at the end of June, up from 2.2 percent at the end of June 2006. By comparison, more than a fifth of subprime loans were past due at the end of June, up from 13.4 percent a year ago.

Now, I'm certainly no economist, but even I know that when the good credit people are having trouble, there's nothing but bad news ahead overall. 42 has an interesting take on the market as well, and it's worth taking a look at. It seems to me, that at least for the moment, buying a house in any market that was recently hot is a sucker's bet. Fortunately, we just signed a lease on a new place, so we won't have to think about the potential of buying for at least a year, and that's oddly comforting. We have enough to worry about right now.

Computer Games for Girls

Bradley and I were tooling around the electronics section of Target last night when I ran across this charming computer game.

It’s called “My Fantasy Wedding” and it promises all the excitement of planning a wedding day. From picking your ideal groom to picking the kind of cake you’ll have. It’s all there! You can watch the wedding unfold according to your plans! (It’s not the only game like this out there)

I know that Bradley has discussed some of our experiences with the modern marriage industry

And this game certainly struck me as part of the absurdity of it all. Really, a game to play to prepare you to go through the steps of planning a ridiculously expensive wedding.

I will grant that when Bradley and I got married, we spent a fair amount of money, and we certainly paid for some things that my parents were probably horrified by. For example, we had a DJ. My parents, who married in 1971, had a wedding on the super-cheap at their alma mater, performed by the campus minister, and had the reception the house of everyone’s favorite English professor. They didn’t have a cake; they had a loaf of bread (okay, it was the early 70s, and it was a weirdly liberal little Lutheran school).

But still, this is endemic of the entire wedding-industry. This is marketing weddings to women (girls – it’s rated “E for Everyone”) who don’t even have wedding plans in sight. As Bradley explained in his post about our wedding, we did have a good experience planning for the wedding and an awesome time at the wedding. But it wasn’t because we had some sort of fantasy that the wedding day would be the most important day of our life where everything had to go exactly perfectly (it didn’t).

There’s so much good commentary on this out in the ethers of the blogosphere, so I’m not going to rehearse it here for you. Suffice it to say that I was not amused.

In Defense of Crupidity

I'm not sure that this really qualifies as crupidity, that peculiar mix of crazy and stupid that causes people like Ft. Laderdale Mayor Jim Naugle to do things like call press conferences promising an apology to a sizable group of the electorate, only to take the opportunity to be even more insulting and deranged. Crupidity causes people to not only be hateful and harmful to others, but also to harm themselves-- imagine if George W. Bush said in a press conference, "It's not that I'm instructing White House officials to refuse to cooperate with Congressional investigations because I feel like, on principle, the White House shouldn't be subjected to Congressional oversight. It's that I'm afraid Congress will discover that we've been breaking the law for the past six years-- and I know we have, 'cause I gave the orders. Suck on that, bitches!" Crupidity.

So Janet Folger isn't crupid herself-- she's just your normal, garden variety, run-of-the-mill stupid person with a persecution complex. She's the author of the "book" The Criminalization of Christianity, which I admit I haven't read but I'm sure it's really gripping and not completely, fundamentally flawed at its core at all. She's also been on FOX News a lot, I guess. So she's pretty famous among people who want to make praying to the Christian God in English while wearing a flag lapel pin a mandatory part of the citizenship test.

Again, that's stupid, but not crupid. She's made a very comfortable living for herself-- I mean, she's met Sean Hannity, and he's dreamy. She may be a very shallow thinker, but she's turned that to her advantage.

Nevertheless, the essay I linked to above is a defense of Naugle's crupidity entitled "News Flash! Sex in Public Still Illlegal," which will cause the literate among you to sit up in your chairs and proclaim, "News flash! Nobody's argued otherwise."

At no point has anyone-- gay or straight-- tried to argue that sex in public should be legalized, or demanded that those arrested for breaking the law be freed. What we have pointed out is that the mayor has an unnatural, pathological obsession with the idea of two hot, sweaty guys ducking into a park's restroom, removing each other's tank tops to reveal their glistening abs and rock-hard pecs, then sliding their short cut-offs off of each other to reveal meaty, throbbing cocks just begging to be sucked.

I'm sorry if the above description seems crude, but blame the mayor. He won't stop talking about it! I just report-- you decide.

Anyway, the mayor keeps bringing this fanta-- er, imaginary criminal behavior up in public, and law enforcement keeps contradicting him by pointing out that, by all accounts, this doesn't actually happen-- they'd made one arrest in three years and receive approximately zero complains each year of this sort of behavior. But the mayor's not satisfied, and wants to spend $250,000 on robotic toilets because he's convinced that Ft. Laderdale's gay community is such a randy, amoral bunch that they're not only having sex in public places, they're also using their powerful influence to prevent police officers from arresting them for doing such things.

Folger has a series of stupid questions in her article that I'm now going to attempt to answer.

Q: Why do they arrest the Gideons for handing out Bibles on the Florida public sidewalk and, yet, give the homosexuals their own section in the public library for gay porn?

Q: What would happen if we tried to put a nativity scene on that public property? Would they even let those who are 18 and older see it?

Q: If homosexuals aren't having illegal sex in the public restrooms why are they so upset about a mayor trying to stop it?

A: Shut up.

A: Shut up.

A: Oh, shut the hell up!

Hmmm. That was easy, though I'm afraid not entirely persuasive. I'll try again.

A: The Stonewall Library and Archive is not about pornography, it's about presenting the history and culture of a group of people that have been discriminated against. It's true, some of the material is erotic in nature, but since this is a library devoted to sexual identity, that sort of makes sense, don't you think? Still, I think it's safe to say that nobody's going to look at these pieces of history and immediately seek... ah... "relief," if you know what I'm saying. This is about setting up a place for scholarship, not turning the library into an adult bookstore. And you know it.

And those Gideons handing out Bibles? Well, first of all, that happened in Key Largo, not Ft. Lauderdale-- different city authorities, genius. And why were they arrested? 'Cause they were hanging around outside a school when they had no business being there, and the city has a law that says you can't do that. It's designed to protect kids from people who want to have sex with them. But I suppose in Folgerland, a pedophile armed with a backpack full of small, pocket-sized Bibles should be able to trawl for as much underaged tail as he wants, huh?

Here's a question for you, Janet-- what kind of a person tries to argue that we need to oppress and villify homosexuals in order to "protect the children," but then tries to rip apart a law designed to prevent people from raping kids? Are you that dishonest? Or crupid?

A: Seriously. What the hell are you talking about? The reason nativity scenes on public property invite controversy is that their violate the constitution-- our civil authorities can't endorse one religion over another. The Constitution doesn't ban libraries, you nitwit.

A: Because, unlike "values voters" who vote Republican, some of us (gay and straight) are in favor of fiscal responsibility. $250,000 for a single toilet is a moronic waste of money-- particularly in a state that refuses to fund its schools. Those of us who live in Florida are being told that we're in a state of fiscal crisis-- universities have to institute enrollment caps, fire fighters can't extinguish our state quickly when it's on fire, there aren't enough cops on the road to enforce the speed limit. But we can pay $250,000 for a bathroom with a door that will open automatically if it decides we're "taking too long"? Seriously... maybe you are crupid, if that sounds like a good idea to you.

Blogroll Additions

While my coffee drips and MSNBC tells us not to panic (in their best not quite panicky voices) about the threat of cheese carriers on airliners, I figured I'd point out a host of new additions to the blog roll, especially under Bradley's favorites, and remind anyone who's interested that we have a very broad cross-linking policy.

And Some News from the Academy

Just keeping you informed: the University of Colorado has fired Ward Churchill.

On Cynicism

I've been reading around in one of my favorite Paulo Freire books, Letters to Cristina: Reflections of My Life and Work, and I ran across these passages that I had underlined:

"I lived my world intensely."

"Reinvention is a requirement for life."

And my very favorite,
“Cynicism is not the weapon that will rebuild the world”

Freire has always been one of my favorite educational thinkers - if for no other reason than his absolute belief in critical thinking as a way to enact positive change in the world. This is a critical thinking that he describes as "critical optimism." Thus, while he critiqued his world, and he taught other people how to do the same, he also insisted on attempts to create change and suggest solutions. Not just cynically point out problems.

It's important to point out problems, of course, but then it's time to engage in real, open dialogue about those problems and about possible solutions.

For me, at least, a little Freire goes a long way to reminding me of why I pay attention to the world. Even when that world makes me feel sad.

On Net Neutrality

This is far better than I can ever put it. Maybe. I'm not really sure. But it has a ninja.

Okay, Seriously-- Can This Really Be Mere Stupidity?


Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle's putting us on. He's got to be. Nobody's as stupid as this guy pretends to be, right? I mean, this is performance art, right?

We've written about the mayor before, but to refresh your memory: Naugle is the homophobic mayor of Ft. Lauderdale-- an otherwise lovely city-- who also thinks that all poor people are lazy, beer drinking slobs. At no point did Naugle have to worry about MENSA badgering him to join them, but in recent weeks he's taken stupid to entirely new levels, advocating that the city replace its public restrooms with robotic, self-cleaning toilets in order to keep gay men from sodomozing each other in them.

Seriously. This guy thinks that, without robotic toilets, "the gays" are going to exercise their savage man-lust all in full view of your impressionable children.

This notion is, of course, moronic, as law enforcement officials basically said in response to the proposal, pointing out that they haven't received complaints about such things going on. But Naugle won't let something as inconsequential as facts restrain him-- he's decided that there's rough-as-hell man-on-man action going on behind every stall's closed door, and he won't rest until... someone does something. Preferably something that involves robots.

Naturally, activists in favor of gay rights and normal primate-level intelligence have been calling for an apology, and perhaps a resignation. And today, Naugle called a press conference, telling the media to be there to witness his apology:

"I want to apologize to the children and parents of our community, for not being aware of the problem.''

Fuckin'... Did you just fuckin' see that? Fuckin' what the fuck? He apologized for underestimating how widespread non-existent homosexual hook-ups in public places are! This problem that only exists in his head... he's apologizing for not spending more time and money on solving it! I mean... fuck, man! Just... wow! Fuck!

As you can see, I'm beyond rational thought and expression at this point. He's been raked over the coals for this for weeks now. He's become a laughingstock on a national level. And now, he calls a press conference designed to make people laugh at him even harder. I mean, who does that? Surely, he's sick of being mayor and wants to be impeached or recalled or something, right? I mean this is the kind of stupid that history's going to remember, you know?

You can read the full article here.

Seriously. Stupid isn't even the right word anymore, is it? Crazy might describe a person with such an obviously self-destructive pathology, but that seems insufficient too. Stazy? Crupid? Yeah. That's it-- this is massive crupidity on Naugle's part.

More on Gordon Lee and The Salon

Comic-Con International (which was known as the San Diego Comic Book Convention when I was a kid who desperately wanted to go there) begins tomorrow. Bloggers and message board posters will be documenting all of the exciting fanboy encounters with the writers and artists of Batman and X-Men and Spider-Man; the G4 cable network will be covering the festivities. Basically, Comic-Con is a place where geeks and nerds can, finally, come together and celebrate what they have in common: Bad skin, bad dietary habits, and not getting laid.

(Attention geeks and nerds: Please don't attack me. I'm one of you. Trust me on this-- I've got a huge Justice League of America collection and I once regaled my wife with a detailed explanation as to why Firestorm was the greatest superhero produced during my childhood. I kid out of love. Truly. I actually really wish I could go to San Diego-- and I probably will in the next year or two, just for the experience).

Anyway, while the entire comic book industry is celebrating-- buying cheap comics, getting autographs, and drinking Bud Light out of someone's Boba Fett helmet, I think it might be a good time to remind everyone that Gordon Lee-- the Rome, Georgia retailer who accidentally exposed a nine-year-old to a mature-reader's art comic-- is still awaiting trial; he's got about three weeks to go.

I've written about Lee before; if you want to read what I've had to say about him and his trial (and trials), click the "CBLDF" label that appears below this post. A few people have suggested on other message board's that the problem with liberal Constitution-huggers like me is, we talk about this case but don't present "both sides." There may be some truth to this, but that's only because I genuinely don't understand the other side's argument. It seems obvious to me that the parents of the boy given the comic should have gone down to Lee's store, demanded an apology, returned the book, and let that be the end of it. Instead, they called the police, and now the District Attorney is prosecuting the case and trying to get Lee put in jail for two years. All over a mistake and a drawing of a naked Picasso. It seems absurd to me.

But, to be fair, I've collected a bunch of write-ups on the case from all over the web, so that you can read them and make up your own mind. I report, you decide.

Anyway, first up is the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's timeline of the case. I realize that the CBLDF probably doesn't meet the "fair and balanced" requirement, but it's some interesting reading anyway.

Here's the local coverage, from the Rome News Tribune.

Here we have an account from The Book Standard.

Yet another opinion piece.

Here we have a blogger who find himself disagreeing with the CBLDF and their representation of Gordon Lee. I tried to find more people who felt as he does, but I couldn't find anyone (though I have to admit that I limited my Internet searching to about a half an hour, and there are lots of blogs and message boards I didn't visit). If you know of a blogger or news source that presents a similar point-of-view, please feel free to post a link in the Comments.

And here we have a look at the book under discussion and some comments on the controversy from The New York Times. I know, I know-- they're notoriously liberal, and aren't to be trusted. But keep in mind that they frequently know what they're talking about when discussing literary matters.

So, look-- don't take my word for it. Read up on this case for yourselves; I think most reasonable people will come to the same conclusion I have-- this isn't justice. No children were harmed or threatened-- one retailer made a small mistake, and several powerful people in his community are so afraid of sexuality and so threatened by art that they want to lock him away for it.

Seriously. I wouldn't try to spin you. This is a no-spin zone here.

Anyway, if you're going to San Diego, have fun, and maybe pick up something new to read-- there are lots of really cool independent comics you might really really like. But if you're more of a "mainstream" comics fan, do yourself a favor and pick up as many Batman comics from the 70s as you can find-- trust me, they're crazy fun. And if you're going to drink out of someone else's Boba Fett helmet, make sure to rinse it out first. I don't even want to imagine how hot it gets in one of those things, particularly under the California sun.

I feel meme-ish today

You Are Chardonnay

Fresh, spirited, and classic - you have many facets to your personality.
You can be sweet and light. Or deep and complex.
You have a little bit of something to offer everyone... no wonder you're so popular.
Approachable and never smug, you are easy to get to know (and love!).

Deep down you are: Dependable and modest

Your partying style: Understated and polite

Your company is enjoyed best with: Cold or wild meat



I thought you should know.

Why not just ship them off to leper colonies?

No one who loves gadgets as much as I do can reasonably be called a Luddite, but there are times when I wonder jutst where the hell we're going with technology.

Lawmakers in Indonesia's Papua are mulling the selective use of chip implants in HIV carriers to monitor their behaviour in a bid to keep them from infecting others, a doctor said Tuesday.

Tey're talking about RFID chips, which we're already surrounded by. They're implanted in damn near everything these days, including vehicles, library books, pets--people have even chipped themselves.

But this, it seems to me, is a no-brainer--you don't chip people against their will. It's become enough of a concern in the US that a California State Senator has introduced legislation banning employers from requiring chips as a condition of employment, which is another no-brainer for me.

On the phrase "I Support the Troops"

The blog Sharp Sand (by Joseph Duemer, prof at Clarkson University) has an interesting take on the phrase "I Support the Troops."

Take a gander.

He brings to mind King Harry's lines "Every subject's duty is the King's, but every subject's soul is his own" (granted that Shakespeare writes about a king - Henry V - who actually went into the battles with his troops ... but still).

(I found this blog via the Chronicle's daily round-up of academic blogs)

Here's one for the "no shit" pile.

U.S. Is Seen in Iraq Until at Least 2009

So much for that progress report in September, huh?

Dogfighting Update

The NFL is getting there on Michael Vick, slowly but surely. He hasn't been suspended yet, but you can tell that he's leaning that way with this move.

Michael Vick was ordered by commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday to stay away from the Atlanta Falcons' training camp until the league reviews the dogfighting charges against him.

"While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy," Goodell said in a letter to the quarterback.


Now, Vick is going to still get his preseason pay, and Goodell has told the Atlanta Falcons to hold off on any disciplinary action of their own until the league gets finished with him. But this signals, to my mind, that the league is questioning only the length of Vick's suspension, not the suspension itself. It's a shame that it has taken such vocal protests to make even this much happen, but I'm glad to see the league taking these steps.

An Awesome Website

Feministing has already reported on this today, but in case you missed it, check out the Take Back the News website.

From their mission statement:

"Take Back The News confronts the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of sexual assault in mainstream media with the goal of improving both the quantity and quality of media coverage of sexual assault. We intend to provide outlets for rape survivors to publish their stories in their own words. Take Back The News also seeks to raise public awareness about the epidemic nature of rape, in order to foster greater public dialogue and ultimately greater public responsibility."

Writing that informs and heals. Seemed like an idea everyone who writes for and reads this blog can probably get behind.

How pathetic is this?

From Think Progress:

The Washington Post writes, “Bill Kristol’s the-war-is-being-won piece in The Washington Post brought him plenty of ridicule, but at least one person liked it. President Bush read the July 15 Outlook article that morning and recommended it to his staff.” The title of Kristol’s piece was: “Why Bush Will Be A Winner.”


So basically, we've got a guy in charge, his finger inches away from the nuclear trigger, who's so insecure that he recommends a favorable newspaper piece about himself (written by a wanker of ginormous proportions) to his staff. What's next? Skits by the office personnel about how wonderful he is? Or something more along these lines?

Recommended Reading

Over the weekend, I re-read Maureen Stanton's essay "Laundry", which won the 2004 Iowa Award in nonfiction and was anthologized in Pushcart Prize XXXI. If you care at all about feminism, love affairs, illness, death, relationships between women, relationships between women and men, issues of class, or the history of laundry (which is a lot more interesting than you'd think), you'll probably love this essay.

Here's a typically lovely paragraph:

"Laundromats are pure efficiency, lovely spiro-gyro machines at your disposal. I love the machines that dispense miniature boxes of soap, which remind me of the individual cereal boxes my mother rarely purchased for me and my six siblings. It was truly a special occasion when she did indulge in the variety pack of twelve tiny cereal boxes—the kind whose bellies you slice open as if performing surgery, a cesarean section, then pour milk in and transform the box into a bowl: ergonomic, economic, thrilling. The same sense of pleasure blooms in me if I’ve forgotten my economy-size laundry soap and I get to pay fifty cents or a dollar for a box of mini-Tide or mini-Cheer or mini-Bounce, identical to the huge supermarket-size boxes, an offspring."

Against Voting

I know this goes against conventional wisdom on the issue, but I seriously don't have a huge problem with the fact that so many Americans don't vote.

Today's Sun Sentinel has a rather alarmist article reporting that "40,000 fewer young Floridians voted last year than in 2002." This situation, the Sun-Sentinel would have us believe, is a very bad thing.

I disagree.

The "young people" interviewed for the article trot out the usual excuses for not being politically active-- variations on the "it's all bullshit anyway" argument that 19-year-olds who think they're too deep to be genuinely apathetic offer up when someone calls them out on their lazy self-centeredness. Both parties are exactly the same, my vote doesn't really count anyway, politicians are too negative, man.

So these people aren't voting. Good.

Don't get me wrong-- there's any number of reasons to hate the two party system. Neither Democrats nor Republicans truly represent my values either. The electoral college is discouraging and useless. Politicians are too negative.

Nevertheless, if you genuinely feel like there's no difference between the parties of Karl Rove and Dennis Kucinich, then you're woefully ignorant, and are probably intellectually ill-equipped to actually engage in a serious conversation about the issues. You'll believe anything, so long as the information being conveyed is easy to understand and not too difficult to find (requiring the bare minimum amount of intellectual effort on your part). In short, you'd make an excellent young neocon-- they see the world in simplistic terms too, and they're not big on thinking for themselves either.

So, if the above paragraph describes you, don't vote. That's right. Don't vote. You don't like politics? You don't understand why people argue about Affirmative Action? You can't decide how you feel about the death penalty? You don't have an opinion on No Child Left Behind?

Don't vote.

Obviously, a preferable alternative to not voting because you're ignorant is to actually get online, buy some magazines, and get yourself a political education, then voting. That's not only your right-- it's kind of your responsibility. It appalls me to hear people say, "I'm not into politics," as if that's even a fucking option when you live in a Republic and people are dying every single day because of the decisions our leaders make. Make no mistake-- those of you who decline to participate are just as complicit in the crimes committed by our leaders as those who voted for them (see the Barack Obama quote at the top of this page).

Nevertheless, the people who decline to participate in our political system by refusing to educate themselves about the issues should decline to participate through voting. It's logical and consistent. It sucks that there are people like that in our country, but it sucks even more that some political operatives can count on the electorate not doing their research, so that they can be more easily manipulated by images and soundbytes, and then going out and voting anyway. The problem that needs to be addressed isn't really voter turnout; that's just a symptom of the larger problem of apathy and intellectual laziness. I'd like to see less hand-wringing over convincing people to vote, and more hand-wringing over convincing people that they actually want to vote because the issues actually are important to them.

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