Friday, May 30, 2003

Behind door number one...

If you're a little tired of my, ahem, vulgar posts of late (I know I am), go see the big man at the helm of the U.S.S. Clueless. He's got another blockbuster. This one's about political ideological identification - just who the heck you are and what you believe in. He explodes the current simplistic "conservative" and "liberal" labels, and goes for a more representative model.

Oh, and while we're at it, the 2Blowhards have some great essays on postmodernism this week. Start with this one, then go to the main site and scroll down for the "and another thing..." follow-ups. Make sure you at least skim through the reader comments, as they are part of the fun. The "Art Litany" posts are related, and funny.

I guess I've got to quit assuming you just go there already.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Too much information

It seems not only artists suffer pursuing their passions. We have a wonderful local brewery that makes a very hoppy pale ale called "Hopyard". It's a bracing, full-bodied brew whose strength of taste is only surpassed by its alcohol strength; I think it's something like 7 or 8 percent, which practically makes it an honorary wine. The only drawback to it (provided you don't have more than two and thus start hallucinating and/or endangering others on the drive home) is that it regularly gives you a mind-bending and colon-stretching attack of gas. (Through careful inquiry, I've discovered this is a universal occurrence for imbibers of this particular spirit.)

Deep in the middle of one night, after having a couple, I farted so hard and loud that I awoke both my wife and myself. I'm sure proctologists in the 5-county area felt a disturbance in the Force.

"Geez," she said, "are you OK?"

"I think so," I replied, "but I think the dog may have hurt himself fleeing down the stairs." (We sometimes call him "Courage" after the cartoon dog of the same name, because his highly developed flight response is frequent and comical. He typically sleeps under the foot of our bed.)

The dog, who was sitting in the middle of the downstairs living room, still cautiously looking up at our bedroom doorway, wagged his tail sheepishly when I checked on him, as if to say, "I didn't think it was the 4th of July already."

"I thought one of the dressers had fallen over," said my wife when I got back to bed, "that was impressive."

She rolled over and drifted off immediately. As I went back to sleep, I reflected on how fortunate I am that I'm married to a woman who expresses wonder rather than anger at unintentional extreme gastronomical events.

TLD: Both she and I agree, however, that Dooce has the best fart story ever.
"Can we borrow Ganesh for the weekend? We're having a petting zoo for the kid's birthday party..."

Real Live Preacher blogs about being asked to perform a wedding, but to leave out all that God and Jesus stuff.

It's odd that we live in a society where people can have such a ridiculous, shallow grasp on what religion really means to the faithful. As if it were a political party. As if it were this season's fashions. As if it were a preference for a TV show. As if it were, "you want fries with that?"

It's difficult to be articulate or cogent on the topic because it would be similar to explaining how offensive something like "you got a cute teenage daughter there, mind if me and the missus borrow her for a threesome?" would be to someone who's so clueless as to actually ask something like that in the first place. We're dealing with such a profound disconnect, it would take a month of Sundays to try and explain. (Thanks and apologies to Emmylou, and Carter/Clark, for that phrase.) Or, as I said in the Preacher's comment area, will this couple who asked him to perform their wedding without all the Jesus stuff try to contract a Rabbi to do a Bris when they want their boy(s) circumcised? Or ask a Hindu to cater the affair with hamburgers and all-beef hot dogs? And have their Moslem friends run the open bar? (Kinda reminds me of that Monty Python skit "Bells": "The Shintos don't come here shattering sheet-glass in the shithouse, shouting slogans!")

Sheesh. Some people's kids.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

"Mrs. Robinson - are you trying to seduce me?"

Ah, summer movie season. Brought to you by an overt manipulation of dubious demographic information and a big rubber shark. So what if the marketing weenies of the movie studios think the release of teenagers everywhere from school heralds easy money to be vacuumed up (they're probably right). So what if Jaws made the studio heads drool and the bean counters generate predictive charts and graphs that have morphed into big, screechy, kinetic movies designed to move units of detonated corn covered in yellow-hued liquid saturated fat when summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the street.

The point is Hollywood is wingin' product at the wall and seeing what sticks so they can wing some of that same stuff next summer. In amidst the shitstorm there is much fun to be had, as long as we don't get all serious worrying about what's art, or question that movie meme that won't die: black people can make white people hip by teaching them to dance and chant clever phrases from the safer side of ebonics.

Oh the lights dim and the go-light green of the preview rating placard graces the screen and Pavlovian conditioning pumps endorphins into the supine body, resonating with the already quivering body's response to caffeine overload from the tub 'o pop, and Crisco shock. Maybe for the adults there's the added thrill of the stop-light red preview rating meaning we're gonna get a bonus glance of boobies, blood, or bad language - or all three!

Tip: Use today's marathon of previews to embark upon that final bladder-pressure maintenance trip, allowing the woman to go first because her line is longer.

I was standing, ticket in teeth, accomplishing just that item on the checklist for the perfect summer movie experience, when a fond memory swam up from my adolescent past. I worked at movie theatres from the time I was 14 until I was 23, starting as a ticket-taker/usher. Ripping a stack of tickets, counting them by feel to make sure there are enough for the group trying to pass your station, grinning and tossing off a meaningless wish for a grand time at the flicks is more of an accomplishment than it would appear. Personalities are on display in the myriad ways people approach the hand-off of the tickets. Some hand them low like a dealer in Vegas, some hold them fanned an inch from your face, some use extreme caution to avoid skin contact for fear of getting usher cooties evidently, etc., ad infinitum. The dicier situations are when someone approaches with hands full of concessions, a beseeching look on their face, meaning you have to pull the tickets from their person somewhere, and put the stubs back. One joker motioned towards his front pocket once; I told him (politely of course) he was free to set his popcorn on my podium and fish them out for himself.

But then there was that one time. The Jr. High art teacher whose name escapes me - and even if it didn't I wouldn't provide it for litigious reasons and to protect the innocent - approached me, popcorn in one hand, coke in the other, her ticket between her teeth.

This art teacher had most of the male population in the Jr. High walking behind their strategically placed science texts the majority of the day (clearly a man designed those monoliths, and I was convinced of the stupidity of someone who would make a book so large for kids to carry until I and the guys discovered what great boner shields they were - thank you, whoever you were). She resembled Dorothy Hamill with a slight acne problem. She always wore buttoned blouses or scooped fronts that would reveal her lacy bra when she bent down to help you add the shadow to the apple in the still-life or something. If she wasn't aware of what she was doing, she must have thought all the boys needed to cut back on sugar judging from the way our hands shook.

So, there she was, ticket held in her perfect white teeth, between her petal-soft lips, staring at me with those deep, brown eyes. I thought I was gonna die. Were I filming this accurately, this moment would be edited like the standoff in High Noon. Close-ups on each face. One calm, determined; the other wide-eyed, sweaty. Seconds pass.

"Just take it," she said around the ticket. Regaining a percentage of composure, I reached out to take the ticket from her mouth, but was met with resistance as she didn't let go when I pulled, so I let go of the ticket thinking she had changed her mind and was just going to set something down and hand it to me like most people did. The instant I let go, so did she. It dropped and lodged right in her cleavage. She was wearing a tube-top under a blouse tied at her waist, creating a mountainous display of womanhood. One corner of the ticket had caught on her left breast, one corner sat on her right breast, and the third rested against the material of her tube top. It dawned on me I was staring at her chest (with good reason, though), and I quickly looked up, probably with no small amount of lustful horror dripping from my face.

"Well," said she, "My hands are full." (On a stack of Bibles - she really said that.) Those words - "hands...full" - echoed in my head, which had reached a pressure much higher than the manufacturer's recommended limit.

"Get it," she said. At that point in my life I had never touched a breast on purpose, though I had really, really, really wanted to. However, if I had taken that opportunity at that moment, I truly would have passed out. (The horror of that scene played through my head: my manager responding to the thump of a body hitting the floor, only to discover his teenage usher on his back with a blatant erection tenting his slacks, in front of a patron with a ticket wedged between her boobs.)

To my continual pride, I plucked that ticket out of her cleavage with a flourish, tore it in half, stuck it back between her teeth (yes, she opened her mouth for me to do that), said to her brightly, "Enjoy the show," and off she went to do just that.

My wife claims that women don't do that kind of thing accidentally. She insists either the woman was toying with me, or that she wanted to toy with me. If I had known that at the time, I'm not sure it would have done me any good. You see, Jack Nicholson was right concerning that particular moment in my life; I couldn't have handled the truth.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Starship Trooper

One of our buddies recently had an experience from which our darkest, screaming nightmares are formed.

This guy is a technical wiz, has worked on computers and software all of his life, and was even in the military for a while. Yet, the most common household devices flummox him. One day he awoke to no hot water and called us for advice. My wife told him that most likely the pilot light had gone out on his water heater. He said, "where's my water heater and what does it look like?"

Later, his furnace didn't seem to be heating the house right and he noticed he sneezed his brains out when it started up. He called us for some clues, and my wife asked him when the last time he changed his furnace filter was. He said, "what's a furnace filter?" He'd lived in the house three years at this point, by the way.

My wife told him to go downstairs and she'd walk him through it. He said he'd call back; he needed to get ready first.

In Colorado, some new houses have an unfinished crawlspace (meaning dirt floor) where they put the furnace and water heater, because Colorado is so arid, open-earth crawlspaces typically don't cause problems. Anywhere else you would have a huge problem with mold and other moisture nastiness.

He calls back and explains his accoutrements. He had on this wireless headset so he could talk on the phone, had wound up his emergency crank flashlight that required no batteries, had tucked his pants into his shoes as a guard against many-legged things who like to climb, and was armed with a golf putter for pushing the tapestries of spider-webs aside. He was at the entrance to the crawlspace which he described in a small voice as, "having a lot more spider-webs than he remembered" from the water heater voyage.

My wife told him to find a sliding metal panel, or anyplace that had a slot with a cardboard edge in it (the filter). After a long, quiet pause, he said, "Ok, I'm going in."

For the next minute or so, all she heard were sour, mostly profane grumbles about darkness, bugs, and sticky webs. Then, a screech of sheer utter horror as though someone had looked into the furnace of hell and spotted something Dante didn't have the bravery to describe. Perhaps Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate, frinstance. ("He screamed like a girl!" said my wife.) Then, a loud thunk, with the profanity, hooting, and intermittent banging receding from the sound field of the headset. Finally, a long silence, replaced by a dial tone.

Some details in the remaining portion of the story had to be reconstructed at a later point.

Evidently, something heavy enough to be felt through the headset skittered down the mouthpiece, and before he had time to register this fact, it reached out with at least three appendages and felt around for a foothold (feethold?) on his lips. The ancient lizard portion of his brain swung into action, commandeered his arm, and bashed him randomly about the head to dislodge the headset, and hence the unidentified creature. This effort was met with success. However, this had launched him into many sheets of spider webs that he had not yet pushed aside with his putter, which he had dropped. The windup flashlight that needed no batteries, which was placed on the ledge pointing into the crawlspace, had used up its supply of cranks, and went dark at that precise moment. Panic embraced him like a drunken sailor just back from a year at sea. (Ok, he didn't put it like that; I embellished a little bit). He literally flipped out and his flight towards the dim outline of crawlspace entrance was hindered by the spinning, tripping, and flailing his lizard brain employed for defense against myriad things brushing against and falling on him. (Think of Pris/Daryl Hannah when Harrison Ford shoots her during her attack in Blade Runner.) He bashed against the metal ducts branching from the furnace over two dozen times, counting the number bangs he recalled and the numerous bruises evident once he had reached safety.

He said he lay panting on the linoleum for about ten minutes, thinking he might die of heart failure right there, enduring the receding fantods. Then he realized he had abandoned his favorite putter in the void. So he cranked up the light and brought it with him this time to retrieve the club. Silver lining - nearly all of the spider webs had been cleared out from his whirling dervish performance.

After a couple nerve-calming beers, our hero discovered that the furnace filter was conveniently placed on the very front of the furnace assembly, allowing easy access without necessitating a trip into the depths of the crawlspace.
The Great Pumpkin

Since my long past youth I have been puzzled by the "true believers" in the world of music. You know these people. They put great pride in discovering the new bands first, and then abandoned them with acidic derision if and when they broke through and got a hit. They believed bands "sold out" by becoming financially successful, and by achieving an audience outside the music snobs, the true believers. I've noticed that, to a person, every one of the true believers stopped listening to music entirely somewhere in her/his 30s.

I think I recently found the key to these people's psyche. While reading Kurt Cobain's Journals recently, I kept running across the words these people, these true believers, use like a litany. Music has to be sincere, and honest, and pure, etc. (How some songs are sincere and others not is a mystery to me.) As I read Kurt's invocation of these words again, a glimmer of an idea danced just out of my reach. Where have I heard these words before? What was the circumstance?

Then it hit me.

It's Linus's theology of the great pumpkin! The true believers believe if their pumpkin patch is the most sincere, the most humble, the most worthy, the great pumpkin will visit them. (Has anyone ever made the connection and named their band "the great pumpkin" or "the pumpkin patch" I wonder? Maybe that's where "Smashing Pumpkins" came from.) Of course, crass commercialism, or heck, even purposely trying to write a hit song, with full intention of getting a hit, that will ruin everything and the great pumpkin will pass them by. They have internalized Linus's own private Idaho personal holiday.

It makes sense chronologically, too. You didn't hear these sentiments regarding old pop standards or big band music, or even early rock and roll. No, they began showing up in rock criticism and music snob circles about the time the first generation that watched "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" came of age and started going to concerts and writing about it.

The parallels abound. Sally, Linus's faithful wanna-be girlfriend believes in his cause, and misses trick-or-treating through her dedication to his ideals, then feels foolish when she realizes it's all bullshit. The other kids tolerate Linus's devotion and mythos, but really know the point is to go out and just have fun already. Lucy, the big sister, trick-or-treats for Linus so he won't miss out, thus she's the sibling who secretly loans her Led Zeppelin records to the true believer who thinks only Black Flag or the Melvins are worthy of public endorsements.

In Cobain's Journals, on page 117, there's a picture Kurt drew of Jesus on the cross with a jack-o-lantern on his head (I believe it was part of the plans for the "Heart Shaped Box" video.) Is this an unconscious reference to the great pumpkin? Dunno.

Next time you encounter a music snob/true believer, listen to them for a while. I bet you'll agree s/he sounds just like Linus on Halloween. Point this out to them. You'll probably get something akin to Linus's rant as the others leave him to his pumpkin patch to go to a party.

Cliff Claven Trivia Moment: The movie rating PG-13 was brought into being single-handedly by the Steve Martin/Carl Reiner movie The Man with Two Brains. Steve Martin has a brain he's in love with, but no body to put her into. When the scientist helping him says he could put her brain into a gorilla body, Steve responds, "I can't fuck a gorilla!" The folks involved in the movie felt it was silly to get an R rating for this one joke, but didn't want to lose it. Thus PG-13 was created, and to this day, you can use the work "fuck" precisely once and get a PG-13 rating. More than one "fuck" and you have an R.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Who Are You

I recently read a newspaper article where the author was complaining about the fact that we know little to nothing about Bob Dylan, particularly his inner thoughts (except for what comes out in his music). In terms of his impact on music in this century, yes it is amazing and somewhat terrible that this great man is largely a mystery. Since Dylan won't talk himself, the author offered that perhaps we could at least learn something from those who know him best, but two of the people who would know the most about Dylan are dead. The author then waxed morose on the potential loss of wonderful historical information. That gave me pause.

How do we know where to draw the line between historical necessity and a personal, private life? Right off bat, it's obvious that bias must be towards the personal, private life. Your business is your business, as long as it's not about killing or hurting someone. So that wins by default.

Yet, there are people whose lives have had such an impact on history or culture, our lack of knowledge about them seems almost like a crime. If we can wail over the loss of historical vases during a war, mourn over archeological sites covered by highways, and flip out over the decay of great works of art like the Mona Lisa and the statue of David, then it seems to follow that we would be hysterical over the fact that history is sitting right there, smoking a cigarette, strumming a guitar, and refusing to talk about himself (or herself).

I just finished reading Curt Cobain's Journals, a collection of some of the many notebooks he filled with notes, pictures, and lyrics. When it first came out, there was a great controversy about the invasion of his private (past) life because they are his raw notes, most likely something he never intended to publish. He even writes about how angry he was that other notes he wrote in rehab and other places were stolen and the contents released. So, he probably wouldn't approve of Journals if he were here today.

And you know what? The journals really don't give you that much more of an insight into Cobain's art and life (at least the ones that were published). I got more information about him just reading the excerpts of the bios on him and Nirvana on The one piece of information in Journals I hadn't read about before anywhere else is this sad little incident where he tries to relieve himself of his virginity, which was on his "to do before I commit suicide" list.

Cobain had an obsession with rape, with "white male oppression" (though I personally wonder how much of that came from dearest C. Love), and, well, suicide. Since what he did could be characterized in some misguided people's minds as an attempt at "date rape" or taking advantage of someone who's mentality was questionable, he might have felt guilty of rape, given his total acceptance of gender feminist misandrist "thought" (i.e., men/males = bad, evil). The fact that she was 18, was a willing partner, and the fact that Cobain didn't even make it to consummation, all dismiss any construal of rape. Still, his classmates labeled him a "retard fucker", and clearly he felt terrible about it, so maybe in his mind it mutated over into an obsession with rape - by which I mean he abhorred it and often used it in his lyrical imagery as one of the worst things possible.

Everything in that last paragraph is cheap, dime-store psychological speculation that might be complete bullshit. Have I contributed positively to the gestalt of the case of Kurt Cobain by stating such a thing? I'm dubious on it. I put it here because as I was reading his journals, I had these thoughts, and they would seem to explain his obsession. But I'm just speculating based on sketchy info. I remarked to my wife how little Cobain writes about others, like his wife and the other Nirvana band members. But right after I did, I realized that in most blogs, including mine, the authors don't often talk about their family and friends, so the lack of those kind of personal references probably means nothing. When you are writing about your thoughts, it's naturally mostly about you.

When I was in the midst of pondering this topic, I happened to get my hands on the deluxe DVD of Taxi Driver that contains a documentary on the making of the film. Towards the end, the writer reminisces about the FBI interrogating him after Hinckley gunned down Reagan in order to get the attention of Jodie Foster. Then they cut to Jodie Foster. I sat straight up on the couch in anticipation. What would she say?! Well, she said nothing really. She skirted all around the topic, only addressing it in a general way - no names, no dates, no direct reference - and only in the context of how the movie is about a nut who guns down people. I was so disappointed. But then it occurred to me, what could she really say? (Then I was briefly angry at myself and the Barbara Walters conditioning we've all been exposed to where any meaningless comment a celebrity might have on a topic is deemed worthy simply because the celebrity opined in the first place.) And, if Foster had addressed it directly, Hinckley would have won, because that was his sole reason for the act - to get Jodie to notice. She handled the topic brilliantly and responsibly, given the circumstance. The best thing she could have done in relation to history, and the consequences around the event, is precisely what she did: nothing.

So, would we really gain any real information about Bob Dylan, or any other historical media figure if they really opened up and spilled their guts to us, and we knew that a girlfriend walked out on a given day, right before they wrote that song we love? As a fervent aficionado of all things music, especially trivia, I find that for me personally it doesn't add much. Because it's not about the music.

Knowing that Bowie got that great vocal in "Heroes" by using three gated mics placed at various distances away from him so the mic that got the best signal turned on while the others turned off so he could whisper some lyrics and bellow others is much more useful and interesting than his getting caught by his wife in bed with Mick Jagger. I so think, anyway.

TLD: About the only thing that I've found that is consistently interesting and useful as hell (historically), besides Pete Frame's great rock family histories (see post "Symbiosis, or fractals on movies and music " on Friday, May 02, 2003), is the "Classic Albums" series available on DVD. The bands and their producers, mixers, and roadies explain how a particular album was written, recorded, and mixed. Full of fascinating stuff like Steely Dan recorded something like 10 different guitars solos for a song, which all still are on the master tape; or Stevie Wonder is the only guy who could do the drums on some of his songs; or that Fleetwood Mac had to re-record all the high-end on Rumours because they literally wore out the first master tape by the number of times they made another pass at a take. That's history.

I don't think we are missing anything by not knowing what Bob had for breakfast, and what he thought about it.
<valley girl> Omiga-awd</valley girl> published my "date from hell" story today! (I'm the cat hair one, aka "The slob and the spit gob". I cannot stress enough how much cat hair there really was. You probably could have constructed an entire third cat from what the other two had shed.)

I don't know why they withheld my name - I don't recall asking them not to publish it. Oh well. Maybe they figured the woman could figure out it was her, if she happed across the story somehow, and sue the heck out of them and me. Or maybe she works for Salon. Hmmm.

Anyway, you have to watch the "free day pass" ad to see the story. They don't ask for personal information or anything - you just have to endure the ad (get to it via the upper-right hand of the topmost banner). They place a cookie on your machine which allows you access for a day. I would just post the story here, but I think Salon owns the story once you've submitted it to them.

Aw hell, I guess if I can post an entire copyrighted article by someone else, I can post my own.
Here's my "date from hell" story on Salon:

I swear this was not an episode of "Seinfeld."

I met this pretty blonde at a party -- a slightly less glamorous Gwen Stefani look-alike. I asked her out, and we decided on an afternoon movie followed by dinner at her apartment that coming Saturday.

I arrived at her door and immediately noticed a thunderous, full-bodied stench that had so many components to it, the very air around me seemed to carry slight discolorations. Looking down, I saw I was standing in a grayish, viscous puddle that was hosting a fly rave. About a minute after my second knock, I was beginning to think I'd been stood up when she dashed around the far corner yelling, "Sorry! I had to put the garbage out!" Puddle mystery solved.

She was wearing a cute red top, very sporty, and flattering jeans. When she went into her apartment to grab her coat, I happily noted that she was as cute and svelte as I remembered her. Caveat: Walking to the car, I noticed she had those little dried white spit globs at both corners of her mouth, the ones we all sometimes get. I'm not a fussy guy, so I mentally shrugged it off. We're all human and sometimes flaws are cute.

At the movie, she was charming, intelligent and funny. Secretly I was thrilled at my luck as the movie started. We shared a tub of buttered popcorn and a Coke. When the movie ended, as we got ready to leave, I noticed that the spit globs were still hanging on! The grease from the butter was shining all the way around her mouth, and you'd think that the popcorn would have dragged the globs into oblivion. Still, no big deal. I would just have to think of a way to have them exorcised by the time the goodnight kiss arrived, which I suspected it would, given that the date was going well so far.

We got back to her place, she got me a beer, and told me to sit on the couch while she made dinner, turning down my offers to help. While she cooked, I took in the apartment, which was like a shoe box, taller than it was wide, and it had two lofts: On one I could see a gray futon with stained sheets. The other was piled approximately six feet high with dirty clothes, including undies. There's something a little too intimate about seeing someone's soiled underwear before you've even kissed them, so I looked away and did my best to ignore it.

She also had two enormous gray cats who stirred only to growl at each other occasionally. I'm cool with pets, and they didn't seem to be annoyed at me, so I took the place in. Beer helps with denial, so I reached for mine. My hand had an odd nimbus around it. The beer was strong, but I hadn't had that much yet, so I took a closer look. It was covered with a thick mat of gray cat hair. Glancing around I saw the whole place was coated. Even the carpet, which was probably some form of beige, had a gray cast to it.

That was when she had put the pizza in the oven, sat down next to me, and told me how good her Bisquick pizzas were. According to her friends, they were renowned, she said. One of the interesting facts I learned about Bisquick pizzas is they take only minutes to cook from scratch (or from box, at least), so we would be eating soon.

During our conversation, I licked the corners of my mouth a few times in hope she would unconsciously mimic me.

We had just opened our second beers when the pizza was done. It looked marvelous. She'd put the ingredients on rather artistically; an aesthetic culinary event appeared imminent. I took a big bite, carefully holding the cheese so my chin wouldn't get a molten cheesy hug, and the odd sensation of many tiny things dragging across my tongue and out of my mouth almost made me drop the piece. The whole edge of the bite mark was lousy with threads of baked-in cat hair. Since there was so much, I thought it had to be a fluke, so I pulled off that part of the crust, explaining that though the pizza was good (not that I could tell, my mouth had shut down from shock), I liked a little less crust. The next bite was the same. As was the third. I nearly gagged on the third bite, managed not to, but my eyes watered up quite a bit. I can only guess she mistook that for newfound affection brimming up within me.

I gave up. By now, I was thoroughly, irrevocably grossed out. Critical mass had been achieved. I did not want another date with her, no matter how cute or smart or sexy. I went to the bathroom, rolled the cat hair off my hands, washed, and then looked into the mirror to prep for a breezy, promiseless exit.

The first words out of her mouth when I emerged were, "We have to do this again! I've had a great time! Are you busy tomorrow?" The globs were still in place, and I probably imagined this, but they were bigger. I have no excuses for what happened next.

I immediately abandoned all intentions of honesty, smiled brightly and said, "Sure! I'd love to. However, tomorrow I'm meeting some buddies, uh, out of town, and I won't be back till late, but how about sometime later this week?"

"Great!" she said. And stood there waiting for a kiss. So I kissed her. The globs were gone after that.

She waved to me from her door as I got in my car. "Call me!" she hollered. "You bet!" I hollered back. She closed the door before I was stricken with a full-body shudder. And, of course, I didn't call her.

I'm such a schmuck.

Friday, May 16, 2003


When you see "remastered" on a CD, what does it mean? Does it make it sound better?

I'm glad I asked that question! I've done extensive personal research on the issue and would love to share my knowledge!

Yes, it almost always makes it sound better. How much better depends on what is meant by "remastered" and the source recordings.

Sometimes all that is done is a higher bit-rate sampling of the existing original stereo mix-down master. That means they made a clearer copy of an old tape, the one made back when they first made the album. The multi-track master tapes (the ones the band used while actually recording the pieces of a song) are mixed down to a "stereo master" which is the source for a CD, tape or vinyl record. This kind of remastering can make a difference since you're hearing more information due to the better sample, but sometimes these old stereo mix-downs just don't sound the best, and often they were equalized specifically for the known audio dynamics of vinyl records (light on the bass, heavy on the mid-range). The first Rolling Stones remasters were of this type, and though clearer, they didn't sound much better. Sometimes the older, "muddier" versions of their albums had a more pleasant sound. (But stay tuned, they tried again.) Tom Petty's remasters don't sound much different from his originals because the dynamic range of his "sound" was a lot like the Stones', which doesn't really improve with a simple higher bit-rate remaster.

If the original stereo mix-down tape is decent, though, a remastering from a high bit-rate sample can really "open up" the sound. Billy Joel, the Eagles, Steely Dan, and Earth Wind and Fire's remasters are good examples of this. Especially the horns on EWF brighten up quite a bit. And Steely Dan is restored to its original champagne and caviar clarity and range - it's orgasmic.

TLD: The Eagles, for some reason, were sneaky about their CDs being remastered. You have to look real close at the back of a CD to see if it's remastered. I find this odd because back in the day when everyone was using the "aural exciter" - a little device that took the high end and kinda echoed it, punched it up, and made it all shimmery - the Eagles made a point of stating in their liner notes that THEY did not use it, {sniff}. So if they were audiophile snots back then, why weren't they hooting about their catalogue getting an upgrade? Beats me.

Then there are the folks who went back to the original master tapes, the ones where all original recording was done on 8, 16, 24, and even 64 separate channels which, is then mixed down to the stereo master. The original multi-track tapes contain ALL of the original sound information, so going back to them produces the best remastering result of all. The catch is sometimes no one remembers which tracks they used for the stereo mix-down (as there is typically much more on the tapes than what made it into the final mix - see below on Fleetwood Mac), or what levels, equalization and other tweaks were done on those original tracks. Sometimes that's where a band's "sound" comes from (see below on the Beatles).

To date, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and the Beatles have done this - gone back to the original multi-track recordings to create a new remastered mix. Oh, and the Rolling Stones finally did this. Their latest remasters are of this type, and they sound niiiiice.

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page did the purist form of this. He supervised the remixing of the original master tapes so that the sound of the original mix would be preserved. The results are astonishing. If you can get your hands on an original (non-remastered) Led Zep CD and compare it to the new ones, it's apparent even on a cheap boom box. On a good stereo (I recommend Yamaha), you can pick out all individual instruments on every track. The warhorse "Stairway to Heaven" sounds as good when you are sober as it used to sound when you were stoned out of your gourd at a party. Pink Floyd's remasters are of this quality as well. If you like either group, you do need to get the remastered versions of your favorites, if you haven't already.

The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac took slightly different routes, and (save for the one exception explained below) you can't find original master tape remasters on CD; they're only on DVD. (Suppressing ... rant ... on greed of ... music industry... {strain ... grunt}.)

The only true original master remix available for the Beatles is on the soundtrack to the movie Yellow Submarine - and on the DVD of the movie itself, where it's in 5.1 surround. The effect on the DVD of the movie is astonishing. When the guys harmonize on "Nowhere Man", their voices come from individual speakers. When the remaining Beatles (which at the time was Paul, George, and Ringo) were approached about this remastering for the movie soundtrack, originally they said "no" because they were concerned that they would futz with the masterful stereo mixes of Sir. George Martin (the fifth Beatle), which they felt was instrumental to their "sound". (Which becomes apparent when you see George Martin demonstrating just what he did back then in the documentaries that comprise The Beatles Anthology.) The remastering team got around that by giving the Beatles absolute final approval on the mix they created. What's even more astounding is that those songs were recorded before we had only 4-track tape machines. Nearly every other group that recorded in those days would fill up three tracks, then those three tracks would be mixed to the remaining one, and then they would do that a couple more times before tape generation degradation set it. But, this meant they "lost" the original single tracks of some of the instruments or voices. Evidently due to some huge miracle of foresight, the Beatles did not do this. They kept all the original tracks, and mixed down to a new tape, so we have all their original single track takes of everything. The team that restored Yellow Submarine copied all those tracks to a digital master, synched them up, then remixed them. The complete story is here. (Wouldn't it be cool if they did this for all of their music? Shudder to think!) If you're a fan, go get the DVD, turn on the 5.1 surround, and make sure you're sitting.

What Fleetwood Mac die is an example of how NOT to do it. They went back and remastered Rumours from the original masters, but put it out only on DVD! (Bastards.) What's worse, is THEY CHANGED THE FREAKIN' MIX! They added instruments and vocals that were recorded at the time, but not included in the original mix. Half the songs sound entirely different. For an album that is more or less tattooed on the public consciousness, the stupidity of that misstep is hard to state adroitly. Sure, it's clear as a bell and it sounds like you're in the studio, but it's not the same album!!! (Paging Jimmy Page for reality patrol ... Paging Jimmy Page for reality patrol ... get to Lindsey Buckingham STAT!). Still, it's probably worth the money for die-hards who have a DVD and 5.1 surround stereo. And it has the studio version of "Silver Springs" which wasn't on the original release. Let's just hope they put it out on CD someday, with the original mix restored.

Lindsey, give us a call. Let's chat.

Remasters to buy, like fer sure:
- Led Zeppelin
- Pink Floyd
- Steely Dan
- Earth, Wind and Fire

Remasters to buy, if you're a big fan:
- Billy Joel
- Eagles
- Most recent Rolling Stone remasters.
- The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" on DVD - but only if you have a good 5.1 surround system.

Don't bother:
- Tom Petty
- Older Rolling Stones remasters
- Fleetwood Mac DVD (sounds great, but it's a different mix altogether)


TLD: I'm going to break from tradition and take the high road in this particular post.

I simply don't believe the nutrition information on packages of whole kernel corn.

Here's why. The way they determine the calories in something is they get a sample of a certain weight, they then burn it in a chamber that can measure the exact amount of heat given off, and voila, you have a calorie count. The thought is that the amount of heat can be extrapolated into how the body digests that food as it relates to calories.

Carbohydrates are determined by inverse zen math performed without a spotter, evidently. All the stuff I've read on how they guess determine carbs reads like most college papers and scientific articles where the author doesn't want to come out and admit s/he really doesn't have any idea what's going on. They're largely making it up as they go.

But the issue at hand is corn. After reading how the scary C's are determined, and observing that my body doesn't even begin to process whole kernel corn the way their labs and calculators do, I conclude that corn is the dietary equivalent of Styrofoam packing peanuts. Therefore, from now on, I'm going to ignore the dietary label on all whole kernel corn products with extreme prejudice.

Disqualifier for those of you in the cheap seats: I'm not a professional scientist and have not done anything to prove my opinion. Carefully reading the post and imagining my situation when my conclusion occurred can help you to determine the one method I used. Don't even think of suing me if you're fat from a month-long all-corn bingefest.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Deeply Throated

I really didn't think political abuses of the Homeland Security department would start this early. I thought we'd at least make it past the next presidential election, and it would've come out they used it Nixon-style to mess with the Democrats during. Well, they're ahead of schedule.

Even the wingnuts have got to hoist an eyebrow at this one.

I'm gonna go crank Jackson Browne's "For America". I like the lyrics a lot. Plus, it rocks.

Update: Talking Points Memo
Via: Calpundit

Ooo! More: Lieberman Seeks Answers On Use Of Homeland Security Resources To Aid Texas Political Battle


Wednesday, May 14, 2003

M-O-O-N spells eclipse

For those of you, like myself, who like to gaze into the night sky, portents of doom and a decent summer movie season will appear in the night sky at the end of this week. On Thursday, May 15th, most of us in the USA will be able to see a total lunar eclipse as the moon rises, with the exception of Oregon and Washington because not only will it rise already eclipsed, but it will be raining.

You are here:

The moon eclipse will begin about 11:14 PM EDT (9:14 MDT, 8:14 PDT), be fully eclipsed at 11:40 PM EDT (9:40 MDT, 8:40 PDT), and end at 12:07 AM EDT (10:07 MDT, 9:07 PDT). You central time zone folks will just have to do the math, but then most of you can.

Here's looking at you, kid.

(Bonus points for those of you who not only get the reference in the title, but why it's especially appropriate in these infectious times.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

a question

What do you suppose they were doing to this woman to get that look on her face?

Monday, May 12, 2003


I futzed around recently with possible inspirational links between movies and music. ("Symbiosis, or fractals on movies and music" - 5/2/2003. And I'm even more sure that "More Human Than Human" was inspired by Bladerunner because the word "Nexis" appears in the lyrics, which is the classification of the type androids that Harrison Ford hunts down.)

I've found a new one. The latest Foo Fighters CD, One by One, is about Vampires, I think. Specifically, it follows the lore of Anne Rice's vampires Lestat and Louis from the movie and book of Interview with a Vampire. If you've seen the movie or read the book, go read the lyrics for every song. They fit perfectly. Lestat even becomes a big rock star, like Grohl, in The Vampire Lestat.

When I got the album, I wondered why they used hearts as the design theme:

Now I think, "well, duh."

Even on the website, notice on the menus how little blood cells gather around the menu choice under your mouse.

Houston, we have a concept album.

Ever noticed how toothy Dave Grohl's smile is?'

Now maybe the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons will mention me on the show!

Well, the Republican-controlled Colorado legislature, at the close of the session, has gone and illegally redrawn the congressional districts so that seven out of five districts will greatly favor Republican chances during an election, and I got to learn a new word: Gerrymander.

All over the conservative and/or wingnut blogs and newspapers and magazines, they say quit calling the last presidential election a "stolen" election, get over it, shut up, move on. Etc.

Uh, that'd be a "HELL no!"

Friday, May 09, 2003

Science vs. Christianity

On the way into work today, I listened to Annie Lennox's "Why". It's a very dramatic and sad song, but to me, like all good tragedy, it has some wonderful comic proportions, too. For instance, when I encounter something that's frustrating or stupid or confused, sometimes that song, particularly the long, drawn-out "why", plays in my head. Very loudly. For specific instance, every time I encounter a science vs. Christianity debate, I roll my eyes and sigh, and sometimes even sing along out loud with "Why" while it's playing in my head. I imagine the people adjacent to my cubicle make a mental note to never invite me to a karaoke party.

Look. Science and Christianity are simply different things. It's not even an apples and oranges comparison, it's more like apples and lightbulbs.

Science, and let's be precise here in that we are talking about "hard" science - physics, biology, etc. - and not "social science" - like anthropology or psychology; science is about observable, predictable facts and, because of that, is limited in its ability to describe much of the human condition outside of the mechanics of the human body, the effect of the physical environment upon the same, and descriptions and manipulations of physical properties. Science is about how the heart works, computers, electricity, gravity, chemistry, and stuff that blows up real good.

Christianity, and the text that documents the source and history of it (the Bible, for those of you in the cheap seats), is about humanity and its relationship to God, and our relationships to each other. Nothing about science.

Simply put:
Science = Explorations of physical reality.
Christianity = Relationship with God.

Pardon me, but I'm just not seeing the intersection there. To which someone might say, "Excuse me, but don't you consider God part of physical reality?" To which I'd answer, "No, He's outside of it." Therefore, He's unknowable save for perhaps the little He has told us about Himself.

Now, personally, I accept as reasonable the justification some folks proffer where just the fact that we exist, the wonderfully balanced laws of the universe, and the possibility that evolution can explain our occurring naturally is enough for them to believe we came to be by some phenomenal accident, which doesn't require God as part of the explanation or equation. To me, that's just as plausible a cause for their belief as is my accepting the New Testament as the literal truth and real history of Jesus is a plausible cause for my belief. That belief that natural accidents may explain away God is the one place where science vs. Christianity connect very tenuously. Still, I think that particular leap is based on only one implication among many possible ones, and it is quite a leap. Even a leap of faith.

Two people observing a marvelously complex and robust system can come to the opposite conclusions that 1) someone consciously designed and constructed that system and that 2) it just occurred all on its own by sheer happenstance, and having no proof of either the two will just have to accept each holds a possible valid conclusion.

Outside of dubious theological missteps and overreaching, such as denying the earth goes around the sun because we have to be at the center of God's creation because he just wuvs us SO MUCH!, Christianity just hasn't got all up in science's process. Well, unless you count the anomaly known as Creationism. Creationism is to science as stage magic is to real magic (if real magic existed, of course). Creationism's attempt to meld science and religion is as misguided and futile as strapping rocket jets to your roller-skates - see any Roadrunner cartoon or MTV's "Jackass" for proof, provided you're immature enough. By the way, believing that God created everything does not make you a Creationist. Glad we got that out of the way.

Nothing in the Bible makes any claims or statements on scientific knowledge or the advancement thereof. It is all about people and God. Now, everyone knows that it contains a couple creation stories (yes, it does have two), but these are either allegorical or vastly simplified in the same way an explanation to a three-year-old on where kittens come from is. The reason for this is apparent, at least to me. How do you really explain how you created everything when your audience has no previous experience with any of the concepts they'd need to begin to understand, and really your most immediate concern is to introduce yourself, tell them to quit cheating and killing each other, and demand that they stop fucking goats and stuff already. (If you want a book that starts at the dawn of time and realistically walks you through the continents forming, life populating the earth, and finally places you on the front steps of modern times, read a James Michener novel.)

The first five books of the Bible were by Moses or about Moses, and all of the things God conveyed to Moses, including the creation stories. Can you imagine how it might have gone if God had tried to explain the big bang, the basics of matter, and evolution (if evolution was the mechanism God used to form us) to Moses?

GOD: "Hi Moses. Take off your shoes; this is holy ground. Don't get too close. That robe looks pretty flammable. Get comfortable, this may take a while."

Moses complies.

GOD: "Well, in the beginning, I created a proto-singularity that contained the proto-matter from which I would construct all matter, such as atoms and molecules and the various forces to bind them all together."

MOSES (with a very puzzled expression): "Atoms? Proto...what?"

GOD: "Hmmm. Okaaay. Lessee. First there was nothing and then I created this huge explosion that threw matter everywhere."

MOSES: "Matter?"

GOD: "Um, 'stuff.' I made the earth, moon, the sun and the stars from that stuff. Then, I evolved all the animals and you humans from the same single-celled organisms, though I formed you humans in my image..."

MOSES: "Evolved? Single-cell organwhatis?"

GOD: "Well, it was like I made jelly fishes turn into fishes, and the fishes turned into a lizards on the land, then I made little furry things like mice out of those lizards, those lizards became dinosaurs, later after going through many kinds of animals, I made humans from the same animals I made monkeys from."

MOSES: "Holy Shit! Monkeys? What the hell is a dinosaur?!"

GOD (the bush burning a little more furiously than usual): "Oh for heaven's sake, I'll let you guys figure out all that stuff later yourselves. Just write this down: I started with nothing. I made everything over a period of time, like seven days is a "period of time," and then I made a man called Adam, and from him I made a woman called Eve..."

MOSES: "Are atoms and Adam the same guy?"

GOD: "Oy."

A little later...

MOSES: "I always knew I didn't like snakes for a good reason."

GOD: "Um, yeah. And, here, take these few simple rules down to the folks. I'll be in touch."

So Moses goes down the mountain and finds everyone in the middle of a drunk, nekkid orgy around a golden statue of a cow (at least it wasn't a monkey), and flips out.

MOSES: "Holy cow! A golden calf? What, you've all gone Hindu on me, now? You! Put some clothes on. You! Put on some coffee! We've got a lot to cover. And leave that goat alone!" (Moses thinking to himself all the while that he's glad he didn't have to explain the stuff about the atoms and the monkeys.)

And then, in this day and age, a scientist gets all fussy when s/he doesn't find the equations for atomic states in the footnotes of Genesis, and declares the whole thing bullshit.

<Annie Lennox>Whyyyyyyyyy... </Annie Lennox>

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Invisible Sun

Wow. Steven Den Beste of USS Clueless bats one out of the park, the parking lot, the layers of the atmosphere and achieves lunar orbit. This is a great must-read for anybody with any interest in modern theological and non-theological debate.

In my years arguing with fundamentalist atheists (Steven calls them "proof atheists" and "evangelistic atheists"), I have attempted to explain why they were in the same ontological boat that I am as a Christian, and any claims of theirs (or mine) to being more correct, less delusional or irrational are wrong, because it comes down to the decision, the arrival at an opinion that may or may not be fact, that has been made by the individual given the available evidence. We are all/both stating belief which we believe to be fact, but neither of us can know if it is fact or not (yet).

Yes yes, there are many theists and atheists who arrived at their professed view because it was handed to them, they didn't think very hard about it, didn't really investigate, and sometimes chose what they did just for comfort, or need, or to piss somebody off. But then, many of us believe what we do because we have investigated extravagantly and thought about it for years, and have reached our decision without regard to any needs or promises of comfort. We theists and atheists who have given it a lot of thought and have done much investigation quite rightly take umbrage at the presumption of someone else who claims we haven't done our homework. And then calls us idiots, delusional, or what have you.

Well, Steven has done his homework, to say the least.

So did C.S. Lewis.

And so have I.

Now, can we just all get along and have a couple beers?

Update: Additional thoughts from Steven.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Symbiosis, or fractals on movies and music

The other night on one of those "Behind the Music" shows, to which I'm unapologetically addicted and will only turn away from when my wife mumbles a sour wish that I preferred sports (I'm missing the sports gene entirely - I can see why cats and dogs chase balls, but I have no idea why people do, or care to watch other people chase them), I discovered that Aerosmith wrote the lyrics to "Walk This Way" after they saw that Marty Feldman gag in Young Frankenstein. How cool is that?!

I get extreme jollies from that kind of stuff. As a kid, when other kids were sorting baseball cards or reading stats on some football team, I was devouring the The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, which included Pete Frame's marvelous rock family trees (the third page on this Amazon "Look Inside" sample shows one). The Rock Family Trees traced which members were in which bands for specific albums and tours, and were festooned with little rock trivia gems among the branches. Through these things some interesting details come out, such as the Eagles, Poco, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, and Linda Ronstadt were more or less one big band behind the scenes, as were Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers.

I am the Cliff Claven of rock trivia.

So, the other day I was grooving along to the Flaming Lip's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (like someone said in the comments of another blog recently, it's like audio crack), and I wondered why "pink" robots? Well, in two great sci-fi movies, The Matrix and Bladerunner, the robots were pink, mostly. (And in The Matrix they weren't technically robots, but software bots, so let's not quibble.) (And I think they're always pink because robots equate to slaves, and having someone black in those roles would probably too close to the bone for many.) Thus, I concluded, those movies are probably the influence or source inspiration for Yoshimi. I listened closely to the lyrics after that revelation, and I'm pretty sure I'm right. (If you follow the link above, you can preview the entire album and the lyrics on their site. What do you think? Is Yoshimi the red-headed step-child of Bladerunner or what?)

That got all up in my process, so I wondered about other albums that were probably inspired by movies, other than the obvious Heartlight ("Turn on your heartlight!" -- {full body shudder}) by Neil Diamond, his ode to E.T The Extraterrestrial. Went pouring through my copious CD racks and nothing stood out at me. The only other one I thought of was White Zombie's "More Human than Human", which was probably also inspired by the plight of the androids in Bladerunner.

TLD: "More Human than Human" is a great song, but I don't own that White Zombie album, because after I had a look at my brother-in-law's copy, I decided I didn't want to give my money to someone who would include a picture of a nun about to have sex with the devil in the cover art. Some folks claim it's just cartoon satanism, done for the shock value, don't get your undies in a bunch already. No. It just shows how utterly some people misunderstand the religious experience. Could anyone find humor or satire in that same graphic if the nun were replaced by a picture of their mother? I doubt it. MHTH is still a great song though. Steal it off the web somewhere. I recently noticed that you can hear either pudenda slapping together or the bed creaking during the sounds of ecstasy in the intro before that great guitar riff explodes, making it yet another song I can't play around the house anymore for fear of having to explain it to my young daughter who misses nothing. ;)

So, I went the other direction and tried to think of movies that had come from songs. That was easier. R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It" inspired Independence Day, and appears front and center in the movie.

David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona and songs inspired The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie. It has a scene where the aliens make love, and it looks like someone slipped some acid into the coffee one morning at the dairy processing plant and everyone became ballerinas in the holding tanks for a short, wasted while. That visual makes you glad they didn't provide one for the mating ritual Kevin Spacy character's Prot describes in K-PAX where the mating participants feel like they've been kicked in the balls and have fallen into a cesspool rotten with floating dead skunks, or something like that. Sounds like fun, eh?

Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone came from the song of the same name by the Police. What a great near miss of a sci-fi flick. It would have been great except for the fact that Stallone was in his "I get a cool car out of the deal" phase. I think for something like four of his movies in a row there was THE SCENE where Stallone meets, drives in on, or blows up a totally kewl car, dude. In Demolition Man, Stallone finds a cherried-out, freshly waxed rod in the underground habitrail of the good guys who are so poor they can't afford to bathe or buy Top Ramen. But the rest of the movie is a hoot. One of the best scenes has Stallone carrying an eight-year-old girl away from the smoking wreckage of a building, and a stupid reporter trails along beside him, asking this question: "How can you justify destroying a seven-million-dollar mini-mall to rescue a girl whose ransom was only $25,000?" To which the little girl responds, "Fuck you, lady!" I fall off the couch howling every time. (Oddly, it's not as funny when Diane Sawyer asks a question of the same caliber while interviewing the Dixie Chicks, for some reason.)

Finally, it hit me.

Superman. The all-time winner for cross-pollination. Comics. Movies. Novels. Songs. Frequent Seinfeld in-joke. Poems. Meme. Archetype. Center of many atheist philosophies. One of the five cornerstones of American culture that have become universal along with Star Trek, Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz (the movie, not the books), and Gone with the Wind. You make a reference to any of these anywhere in the world and everyone will get it. I made a CD recently of rock/pop songs called / that are about / that mention Superman, and I was able to fill the entire 70 minutes. My fave is the recent "Superman" by Five for Fighting. Men weren't meant to ride with clouds between their knees, indeed.

Thank you for joining me in this little Cliff Claven geek-out fanboy moment.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Mawwidge, that sacwed awangement...

TLD:When I started, I didn't mean for this post to balloon to standard Steven Den Beste length. Most humble apologies.

So there's been some talk because some guy in Washington - I don't care to go hunt down his name, suffice to say he's some Republican wingnut (surprise!) - who said that homosexuality is bad, and then said that incest and bigamy and polygamy and other things that comprise basic plot points of nearly every MTV series or "The Sopranos" are bad, too.

Well, anymore, seems we don't agree on what is wheat and what is chaff. The reality is that people pretty much have to sort that out for themselves, and hope they don't catch anything or do anything that haunts them later in the wee hours when the demons come out to play. (One of the borders you pass over from early adulthood (read "still a kid") to real adulthood is you abandon "I'll try anything once" and embrace "Ok, I don't need to experience EVERYthing ... ick." I think for a lot of kids these days it will be when they either try a "threesome" or "experiment" with same-gender sex only to discover they prefer the opposite gender for that particular activity.)

But, besides the issue of making those choices for yourself in the privacy of your own life (though the current administration would have it otherwise, see below), there are the legal issues concerning what we as a society want to drag into the legal arena and what we don't. And, further, there are two sides to that: civil and religious.

Let's get the religious one out of the way, since it's more or less moot. If the laws of a religion say it's wrong, not accepted, don't do it, don't even ask, then the discussion is more or less over. Yes, the pomo weenies out there will complain that it's not fair and doesn't Jehova/God/Allah love everyone and if He does, how come He doesn't want Floyd to marry Bruce? (Not that you'll catch anyone who's gone down the intestinal tube of postmodernism believing in a deity.) Like it or not, things are a little more cut and dried regarding marriage issues within most religions, and that's just the way it is. Some would say that's harsh; others think there's a good reason behind it. You know how you stand on that issue. So there you have it.

The civil issue is much more complex. Essentially, we can do anything we want in the civil arena when it comes to making laws. We could legalize dying bunnies Easter-egg day-glo colors and renting them out to bestiality buffs. (Which reminds me of a sick, terrible old joke - vegans turn away now: Q: "Why do you wrap your hamster in duct tape?" A: "So it doesn't explode when you fuck it.").

There are no compelling legal or logical reasons why there should not be civil gay marriage. (Imagine stringing together that phrase about fifty years ago with the old meanings of those words; everyone would agree that marriages should be gay and civil, of course!) There's really nothing more to say than that. However, there may be societal reasons against it derived from historical experience (I'll get to that later). The same goes for polygamy (both kinds!: polyandry - a babe with lots of dudes or, polygyny - a dude with lots of babes), or hell, group marriage, inclusive of any number of mix-and-match genders and orientations, thereby extending the original definition of the military term "clusterfuck". Really, if we legalize gay marriage but not polygamy and/or group marriage, how do we justify that? If we are going to revisit what's allowed in a civil marriage, we should throw the doors open and get it all over with; or reject it as a society, stay with what we have now, and move on. You pick which side you're on; I don't care. Just don't require that I explain any of it to my little daughter (and the new one on the way) until she's old enough.

I can imagine divorce lawyers across the land spazzing out and flopping unconscious onto their desk blotters out of sheer glee overload if wide open marriage were to become legal.

Of course incest and cheating should still be illegal because people with tails, three eyes, retardation, or bullet holes in them tend to have extremely troublesome lives - not that Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice wouldn't have enormous friction on household chore assignments, much less deciding on a restaurant.

And I think it goes without saying that children should be protected from the world of adult sexuality, period. If you think sex with children is a debatable topic, I suggest you go fuck a hamster; see instructions above.

Now the fun part! We skate from the available alternatives to how we arrived where we are now, in relation to history.

(Note: for a lot of the rest of this post, I'm in "thinking out loud" mode, for what it's worth.)

For some reason, most societies have abandoned polygamy. Some cultures still practice polygamy, but let's examine the list: some Arabian sub-groups, some African tribes, and some Mormons. If I haven't caused an aneurysm in my pomo audience (assuming I have one) yet, I just might now. Are any of these cultures representative of how you would like to live? If so, grab a passport, get your ticket, get your inoculations, and rock on! However, the rest of us, as a society, have agreed that this tribe of spouses thing just doesn't fit with our current understanding of interpersonal needs, stable family dynamics, and what's best for bringing up well-adjusted children*. Why? Polygamy was about wealth and power and real estate and worker bees, not loving relationships, romance, kinky sex, or loving families where everyone was valued (our current most popular reason for marrying). Which situation do you think is a better formula for happiness? Power and real estate, or a loving family where you are unique and loved and are not just glorified help.

*Yes yes yes, the polygamists say the kids turn out just fine, and we all know children are resilient and can thrive in a lot of whacked environments - just look at all the wingnuts who have children - but isn't our goal as a society to try for the best arrangements for everyone's mutual benefits? Your answer to that question is your answer to the question of polygamy.

The Bible allowed polygamy, but it was primarily to allow the taking in of a widowed relative's wife so she wouldn't starve. And there were strict laws about taking extra wives for the hell of it (I chose my words carefully, there). You had to be wealthy enough to do it, and you had to respect the pecking order and honor of the wives. About the only person who really benefited from the arrangement was wife number one, who got to be the boss of the rest of the wives. However, as our societies and our views of personal rights and needs have progressed, not a single Judeo-Christian society has kept the tradition of polygamy because we've replaced it with a better view of our responsibility to one another and an individual's worth.

TLD: An almost but not quite related issue is the concept of romantic love. I remember somewhere in one of my literature classes a prof said that the conception of romantic love was a relatively recent occurrence, beginning about the time of the troubadours. At the time, like most students, I just put that in my notes and let it pass, but now that I've got some experience on me, I realize that is utter horseshit. (There is a difference between horseshit and bullshit, but I've already taken enough of your time, here). The Song of Solomon in the Bible speaks, quite eloquently, of romantic love, and it predates the troubadours by centuries. Regardless of how authentic you feel the stories of the Bible are, there is no arguing about its age. Besides, the troubadours existed only in European society, and nearly every society on earth has myths and stories about romantic love. The Odyssey anyone? Further, one of the common things all human societies share is marriage. It exists or existed in every single society we know about. I think that implies a lot.

There has never been an example of gay marriage in all of the historical record of the world. Gay relationships and trysts abound, but a formalized, legal relationship have never existed as far as we know. Why? Well, (pause - deep breath - gotta break eggs to make omelets) homosexuality was primarily viewed as a sexual activity and not a civil rights issue or even a relationship classification. Romulus boffed Remus because, well, he thought he had a cute little hairy ass, not because he wanted to pick out a china pattern. With male homosexuality, there weren't power or wealth issues. Children don't result from gay sex, so that wasn't an issue, either. The issues were roughly the same with female homosexuality, though the power element was different, of course. It was thought to be about sex (even if love and attachment were involved) and not about the reasons people married in those societies, as marriage wasn't viewed as a required component of a romatic or sexual relationship.

I'm not saying that homosexuality being morphed into a civil rights issue in our age is a good thing or a bad thing; that just comes down to personal opinion, and I'm not really concerned with what yours is, nor should you be concerned with what mine is. In our age, with our different views on what marriage is, we are told by gay activists that "it's not just about sex". So, anymore, apparently it isn't.

Up to now in this windy oration, since two consenting adults are involved, the issue of gay marriage isn't really thorny, because we aren't dealing with the complexity that polygamy/group marriage can bring, and it's, in theory, about love. If it stayed that simple - two shiny happy people holding hands and skipping along humming "Just the Two of Us" - then I think the debate would be over. However, a larger issue is that marriage typically implies children. Since other people are involved, particularly non-consenting non-adults, it gets complex. This is, again, when we face questions on what kind of society do we want to have and/or create?

Do single parents make good parents? Typically, yes. Do gay parents make good parents? Typically, yes. Do ________ make good parents? As long as you're not filling in that blank with something that doesn't fit, like "pedophile" or "serial killer" or "a family of gorillas", then the answer is the same: typically, yes. However, what has proven to be the best situation within which to raise children? A mommy and a daddy. It's just a fact. That doesn't mean we should prevent single parenthood, gay parenthood, or what have you, but should we put things in place that will purposely cause less-than-optimum situations? That's not a question I can answer for you, and I'm not sure I've completely answered it for myself.

There is the issue that most gay people don't have children because of the obvious. If they have them, they either have the children from a previous heterosexual marriage, or they adopt (if it's allowed where they live). Of course lesbians can do the turkey-baster thing if they've got a pliant Birkenstock-wearing male who's willing to have a go with Rosie and, uh, hand over the result. Or, heck, they can just go fill out some paperwork at a sperm donor clinic and hit the stirrups. Either way, we are not talking about a huge demographic here, so the whole "impact on society" is moot, perhaps.

I think the final question, then, that we need to answer, is how will opening up marriage to be something other than, or in addition to, the contract and commitment between two heterosexual people, a man and a woman, affect society? The biggest question to be answered is how will it affect children's lives? Do we want those affects? Do we put the individual ahead of society or society ahead of the individual? Typically, those decisions have been made considering the two, with the individual's rights being the dominant factor. But here, we have an individual who can choose and one who can't. Yet we don't want to go down the road of involving the law in who can conceive kids and who can't.

Having talked out loud about it here (at length - sorry), it seems that, if we're going to be American about it, we are going to have to open marriage up to whoever wants to take the tax hit.

So, perhaps the thing we should agree upon beforehand is how we behave towards others who might be in a marriage arrangement (or not) that we personally don't agree with (presuming we disagree, that is). If I don't want to explain the situation with Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice next door to may child, allow me that parenting choice without any red-faced, spittle-flecked ranting about my being a close-minded bigot, and I'll grant you the same courtesy. If you don't want to present a heterosexual male/female couple as the norm for families to your kids, that's just fine with me. You even have enough children's books and a swath of PBS shows that will bolster your case to your kids. If my religion (or yours) says that gay people can't be married in the eyes of God, then accept that and don't mock my religion or expect me to disown it on that one basis alone (hint: it's about bigger issues than that). If you are going to have a group marriage orgy on your deck, at least put up some screens or something. See the theme here? In other words, let's be respectful and civil about each other's choices, even if we disagree, and agree to live and let live. Whattaya say? By the way, I know a great photographer if you need one.

The Poor Man weighed in on this topic, which got me to thinking about it, and he's much smarter than I, so go read his post and make sure you check out the comments. I'm not sure where some of the commenters were pointing their little red wagons, but maybe you will.

A Note on Punctuation

Grammar snobs may have noticed that I sometimes put my punctuation outside of my quote marks: "like this". Which is wrong wrong wrong. Strunk and White would red-pencil me within an inch of my sanity if they were alive.

But here's why I do that: I make my living writing technical documents. Nearly everything we put in a technical document is a variable or some thing that must be completely literal; it must contain no less and no more than what appears between the quotes. So, I've gotten into the habit of always putting the periods, commas, and semicolons outside of quotes. In typical non-technical writing, quotes are employed for much the same reason - the name of a song, scare quotes for being snotty in a flame war, and so on - with the sole exception of the words some one is saying, or actual quotes of dialogue. Since nearly everything except actual quotes (of what someone said) are like a technical term in form, and since the technical term entities in quotes typically do not have punctuation in their own forms by themselves - such as a title on the cover of a book - it's only logical that the punctuation not found in the term should lie outside the quotes. The only place I think punctuation inside quotes makes sense is when you are using punctuation within a quote (a representation of a statement or dialogue) itself. Yes, it's not proper current accepted style, but I think as computers take over, it will be. I'm on that freaking bleeding edge, baby!

That's also sorta the same reason I don't use the word "whom" properly. Languages are living evolving things, especially American English, and there are many dead words and grammar forms. "Whom", except in formal business communication, is at the intersection of dead words and abandoned grammar forms. It's going to be buried right next to "thee".

You heard it here first.