Thursday, March 31, 2005

Are those trees, or a forest?

I might be out of the woods with this dread disease - some sort of viral bronchitis with many other joyous side-symptoms. It's going on three weeks for both my daughter and me. We're still hacking like 92-year-old tobacco junkies, with revisitations of earaches, sore throats, and runny noses. My wife just came down with it today. Gad what a plague. Half of the school, teachers and students, are still out. A friend's kids have all developed pneumonia from it, the baby landing in the hospital. The local children's hospital is so full of kids with this, they are forwarding new cases to a hospital out of town. This is Denver, folks, so think about that: A major metropolitan hospital is FULL and sending kids to the burbs for beds. Why is this not on the news? It makes me wonder if the avian flu or Capt. Trips did sweep the nation, would it be missed because the media was still enamored with political scandals? (Can't you just envision that meeting? "Why are the ratings down so drastically? Go investigate!" ...some time passes... "What? Half the population is DEAD? How did we miss that? Oh, look! Bush is signing a bill that will make all doctors liable for murder if they fail to resuscitate emergency room victims! Especially if they're Republicans! Get the liberal reaction to THAT!")

Of course, the medical story in the news is the woman whose feeding tube was pulled, according to her wishes. My take is this kind of thing is exclusively a private family issue. It's too bad the parents and the husband didn't agree, but they didn't, and now this mess. My family is all on the side of living wills and have signed, sealed, and submitted documents that all scream "KICK THE PLUG OUT OF THE WALL, DAMNIT ANYWAY," so this is just a circus as far as we're concerned. We're all Christians by the way. We don't agree with the fundie and Catholic take on this issue (well, to be fair, there are fundies and Catholics on the other side of the issue, but they aren't making the news). They scream about saving her life. If the brain or the body is damaged to where it can't live on its own without life support (which includes a feeding tube), is that truly life? I would expect atheists to chime in on the side of never giving up since they think this is all there is, but for those of us who believe the soul never dies, why would anyone want that soul trapped in a mindless shell for decades? Especially if we don't know if they are suffering or not inside that shell? For some, this goes back to the question of following God's will. The fundies and Catholics chanting outside of the hospice have decided that any human intervention that causes death is de facto thwarting of the will of God. I dunno. Is keeping a body alive through breathing machines and feeding tubes thwarting the will of God? Because if we weren't there to provide such support in the first place, it would die. These issues are complex, and so I feel this should have remained a family issue. But you can't undo what's done. May she rest in peace.

TLD: By the way, one of the real tragedies in the end-of-life hospice world is that the management of pain, say from cancer or inability to eat or sepsis, is a hit-or-miss deal due to the drug war. Because all drugs that do a great job of managing pain are controlled substances, and so are monitored by the DEA, someone's comfort level will be directly affected by their doctor's views of and fears of the DEA. Doctors have to let the DEA know when and how much of any narcotic they prescribe for any reason, thanks to the drug war. The DEA doesn't really pay attention to what the reasons are, but if a doc suddenly throws a yellow or red light from prescribing close to or above set limits, they get a nastygram, a visit, or even have their license yanked if the DEA is taken with a whim to do so. Some doctors are courageous and will prescribe what the patient needs; others have a reasonable fear of the DEA and choose to be safe, but the patient then usually suffers pain that is unnecessary. If you find a loved one or yourself on the long slide down, probe the doctor on their opinion of this issue and find out whether there will be adequate pain management or not. Get specifics on how they intend to manage it and don't accept vague generalities like "we will do our best to make you comfortable." Also, don't wait until hospice care has started to find this out. America is behind both the first and third worlds in this issue because other developed countries have figured out that if someone is terminal, it doesn't matter if they're on heroin or cocaine (both supposedly superior to morphine for pain control - did you know that our military generals cruise into the void on cocaine rather than morphine, for instance), and hospitals in third world countries use whatever works.

I've had little peace myself in the last week or so, staying up all hours, hacking away on the couch downstairs so as to not wake the rest of the family. From the run of Sat through Tues, I had approx 2 hours of sleep per night, incessantly surfing through the dregs of nightowl TV. It's always been a wasteland, but any more it's just, well, sick. Porn is openly advertised, with barely pixilated blurs pretending to hide the naughty bits. All the condom and lube commercials tout a new "warming sensation" chemical, which just makes me wonder two things simultaneously: 1) Are there really people out there whose genitals aren't warm enough whilst in the act, and if so, shouldn't they be seeing a doctor about it rather than applying heat rub on their pink parts?; and 2) who thinks it's healthy to have a chemical that makes perhaps some of the most sensitive tissue on the body experience burning sensations? Aren't burning sensations in our pee pees something most of us actively strive to avoid? Dave Chappelle, though funny, gets old upon the 5th rerun of "I'm Rick James, bitch!" MTV and VH1 are back to playing about an hour or so of videos in the wee hours, but it's mostly (c)rap and hiphop, with rock getting maybe one slot per hour, which makes the ratio of rockin' time to commercial time 1 to 5; how sad is that? To my dismay I've seen NO movies during this sick vacation because my wife wants to see all the movies we have rented (meaning I can't watch them alone), and since the child is home sick, too, we can't watch them during the day. I am in serious withdrawal. I almost watched a Hallmark/Lifetime Special movie the other day, it's that bad.

Because of lack of entertainment options, I've been reading the paper a lot. The local big deal is this schmuck-on-a-stick "humanities" (Identity Politics, Minority Studies - take your pick, they're all the same animal) professor, Ward Churchill, who labeled the victims of 9-11 "little Eichmanns," which means, for those of you in the cheap seats, he called them Nazis. This guy is a prime example of how fucked up these departments have become. If you can mangle logic to the extent that innocent people blown up at work by terrorists equate to evil bastards who purposely killed fellow human beings they had downgraded to animals through massive disassociations and putrid justifications, to quote the late great Bill Hicks, "You ARE Satan." Yeah, Churchill has the freedom of speech on his side to say such idiotic and cruel things, but he has to expect some consequences for the same. Many want this bastard fired, as do I. I don't want him fired for what he said, but for what he represents. If you identify a cancer, cut it out, I say. (Maybe I should just go up to the Boulder campus, find Churchill and cough on him. With his butt habit, this nasty virus would probably take him out in a week.)

Oh, a couple more notes on Churchill just to further emboss how twisted this guy is: He pretends he's a Native American (or an American Indian if that term does not offend) even though there's damn good evidence to the contrary. His claim for being an NA is based on his grandma telling him he was 1/16th Indian once and some tribe giving him honorary membership. Even the tribe that gave him that honorary membership won't go so far as to claim he's actually a Native American, they just had fun partying with him once or twice. Many suspect that he claims to be NA because it provides him the legal protection of being a minority and because apparently some college chicks dig it. He doesn't have a degree in the field he teaches either; he has an art degree (which he employs to create Native American paintings that he sells for cigarette money, natch). His tribal drumming leaves a lot to be desired by all reports, too, as his talent for rhythm is in as short supply as his honesty. You'd think someone living such a warped, corrupt existence would eventually perish from his own asshole rising up and engulfing him out of utter shame. Apparently his first two wives, including the one who has a restraining order on him, concur with opinions approximating this one. His third wife died by wandering into traffic while intoxicated, which friends say was due to her remorse over her marriage to Churchill.

So some say fire the bastard, but I'd like to take it further: Rout the whole damn department. These Identity Politics/Humanities/Minority Studies departments are all just little bastions of hate mongering, and their profs will stand in front of a class and say shit like: "White people have no culture" or "All of white culture has been stolen from people of color." How is this different from a white supremacy rally? You tell me. (One of Churchill's more odious pronouncements of this type (and I paraphrase) is he recommends that yuppies who push their baby strollers up to him and chastise him about his chain smoking should kill themselves and their children if they really want to do the world a favor, because the resources they consume would help about 70 Chinese people. Think I'm kidding? Search down to "Using this method" and read the two following paragraphs.) A while ago these departments pulled of the coup d'etat of making their classes mandatory for graduation. These departments would shrivel like poisonous mushrooms in the bright sun if they were no longer mandatory. That's all it would take. Let's roll.

The other big deal in the news is Bush baby and his minions are continuing their purging of undesirables from public meetings. (Yes, I actually typed those words in America as an American describing the current American government.) They did this during the last campaign stating that since it was a campaign for their reelection, they were in their rights to purge hostiles, which was dubious enough. But now, these are public meetings regarding proposed policy paid for by citizen's taxes. Any and all citizens should be allowed to attend. Even Al Sharpton or Pauly Shore. (Ow, that hurt.) What we have here is bullshit people. This simply shouldn't be happening. I dare anyone to defend this behavior of our elected officials; but think twice if you do, because you have to consider that it might happen to you.

Now some may think I'm experiencing cognitive dissonance if on one hand I can state that college professors should lose their jobs for controversial stances and on the other condemn politicians for curtailing free speech and fair representation. Well, let's give postmodernism yet another heave-ho and hope it will just wander off and die, because context is everything here. On the one hand you have a group of people so rabidly fucked in the head that everyone who's not a self-proclaimed minority victim should euthanize themselves for the greater good (gosh, who's solution does that resemble?), and on the other, you've got a supposedly democratic government actively excluding from participation citizens with differing opinions. In other words, they're the same thing, the same evil: one group declaring the other group is not worthy, and therefore excluding them or (suggesting) extinguishing them. This is not what the dream of our nation is about. We are about liberty, equality, and justice. Let's try to get back to that, huh?

[Deep breath.]

[Cough. Cough.]

The high spot in all this dross was I finally got a copy of Dean Koontz's How to Write Best Selling Fiction, his long out of print and now expensive second cook book. It's pretty darn good. Stephen King's On Writing is still the best, and John Gardner's The Art of Fiction is the other standard-bearer, but this joins them as yet another must-read, if you are into cook books. ("Cook book" is my adopted term for "how to write" tracts.) Koontz's takedown of "literary fiction" and the myth of "The Great American Novel" alone is worth the read, but the highlight is the chapter on plotting. Lotsa good stuff there; good practical advice on do's and don'ts. For instance, one of main characters has to be likeable to give the reader someone to associate to, something that literary fiction authors just can't seem to understand. (I'm looking at you, DeLillo.) And this seems to be obvious with so many real-life parallels. If you're at a party, do you want to be trapped talking to a boorish asshole who cheats on his wife and suggests that yuppies kill their children or would you prefer someone who's fun, upbeat, and tells good stories? Perhaps I'll put some excerpts from it up later (if I can find a way to boil it down). One interesting note is that all three authors mentioned here have little or no patience for the dreck that academia touts as serious fiction, which alone I think proves their mettle and worth.

And, btw, for all the slamming I've done on college academia, I still think everyone should graduate from college if they can manage to. There are many good professors and classes to be had that are invaluable towards having a good and prosperous life. Just watch out for the poltroons is all.


I suggest you read the first comment to this post. Sharon straightens me out on what should have occurred for Ms. Schiavo in accordance to the wishes of the Catholic church.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sicker'n Hell

I have been laid low with this evil two-part disease floating around Denver. First you get what seems like a cold for a week, then just as you think you're recovering, it goes into your lungs and you're down for the count. It has been going back and forth across my dept. at work for half a year now, making it sound like a TB ward. My daughter's school is half-emptied at the moment - which is significant if you consider the fact that many of the two-income households view elementary school as day care and dump their kid there regardless of how they feel unless the school nurse puts her foot down.

As if to make up for it, my dreams have been vivid and more bizarre than the court of public opinion these days, what with the poor woman and her feeding tube and Wacko Jacko's pedophile circus (you just watch, if he escapes, he'll move to Sri Lanka with that other famous pedophile, Arthur C. Clarke of sci-fii fame). The press doesn't know which way to point its collective pecker.

Also, I usually take times like this to read a difficult or dull old classic because nothing fosters stick-to-it-ivness like the inability to get up and do something else. This time I'm tackling Dracula. I've already tackled the other two big monster classics: Frankenstein and Moby Dick (though Moby Dick is hardly just a monster story, which is true of the other two, too, come too think of it; and btw, Jaws is a direct rip-off homage to Moby Dick, borrowing the plot and most of the major characters). I'm 3/4 of the way through, and it will be my least favorite of the three as the middle section was really rough hoeing. Once the first newly minted vampire is dispatched, that being Miss Lucy, there's a good 20 pages of "what shall we do next?" until someone asks Van Helsing what to do, and he says, "Kill Dracula now, of course," to which they collectively slap their foreheads to indicate "of course" and go after him, then things pick up again. The beauty (or the drag if you're not so inclined to enjoy it) is these novels take huge side-trips into philosophy about the thing they are battling. In Frankenstein, the most eloquent philosophizing is done by the monster itself (which never gets a name, btw).

My eldest daughter has the same ick I do, so we've been consuming way too much TV. She's again taken a huge interest in the classic Star Treks that I have on DVD. Nothing warms my heart more than to see my daughter embracing the classics. We got the movies from the library, but she wasn't as taken with them, and it's obvious as to why. Though some of the movies are great, they never really captured the tone and pacing of the original series. I think back in the day the joy of having Star Trek back in movie form was so thrilling that we tended to overlook how superior the original series was. You can never go home again, it seems.

Hopefully, when I post again, I won't be a solid brick of snot.

Friday, March 18, 2005

"What's the Worst Green Thing You've Ever Had?"

Last night on the way home, one of the radio stations was having people call in and describe the worse green thing they'd ever had - in honor of St. Patty's day of course. (I was channel hopping over to AM to hear some songs and surfed onto the station (obviously FM since they weren't playing music) in time to hear the premise.)

This stirred a memory that I doubt they'd allow onto the air, so I didn't call. However, for your enjoyment, here's the story of the worse green thing I ever had.

I was never one for one-night stands, though still managed to have a few - almost always after losing all sense and proportion due to being wasted. In this case, I was getting ready to head home as the wedding reception post party had wound almost all the way down, and people had partnered off or passed out - or, comically, both. The bride and groom had rented half a floor of rooms, and I wandered from a room that had collapsed into a grope-fest into the remaining noisy party to grab a cold one for the road. Beer in hand, I parked in one of the few places left on the floor. This girl next to me immediately started chatting me up. (Which should have been my first clue as to her motives. Experience has taught me that women will not usually initiate conversation with a male stranger unless they want something - the obvious exception being if he's a major hunksicle, which I am not.)

After about ten minutes of chatter, she hauls off and plants one on me. Just wham, out of the blue, no warning, no gleam in the eye ahead of time, just a full one-and-a-half gainer with no spotter into my face. Had there been flailing tongue involved, I certainly would have selected another spot to enjoy the final brew of the evening, but she had some talent, which is rare enough to have given me pause. (My wife and I estimate that well over half the population is not very good at kissing.) Anyway, after a little inappropriate public display of affection, someone muttered, "get a room," to which she immediately purred, "yeah, let's." Not many unattached men in their early twenties can turn down such an easy conquest, especially while wearing beer goggles.

Off we went to find a room. Not that anyone's proud of this, but people who were in the thralls of lust that weddings tend to evoke* were pairing off in some of the rooms, one couple to each bed, which was clearly what the betrothed had expected to happen and thus provided accommodations to keep all the horny drunks off the road. An unoccupied room was not to be had, so we claimed the empty bed in a room that already contained a couple in the throws thereof on the other bed, who mumbled without unlocking lips their semi-oblivious consent to our crashing there. To say the least, it's a little disconcerting to be doing the deed in the room with another couple doing the same, unless that's what you're into, of course. I am not, even though the events of this story include that very occurrence. But, with the dual shields of booze and the other couple's intense focus on each other, into the breech we leapt, lads.

*Hint for you young single men out there: Weddings are THE place to score. The whole event just does something to a portion of the female contingent; I've witnessed it myownself many times. As a bonus, the liquor is usually provided. (And I'm sure Jesus will bring up my circulation of that little factoid if I make it to the big pre-heaven life review.)

Let me remind you, dear reader, that while you are sitting there reading this in what I assume is relative sobriety, neither of us had the benefit of clear minds, or else I would have noticed the other warning flags going up in addition to the fact that some girl had jumped me moments after met. Yes, I should have been thinking of possible mitigating factors. (Btw, this was before the specter of AIDs. The herpes scare hadn't started yet. Nor had the outrageousness of abdicating responsibility for one's actions while wasted and charging a consenting partner with rape become even a possibility on the legal radar. I had inquired about BC though, and she said she was safe.) She was bombed, my friends, way more bombed than I had the ability to discern, being in the cups myself. So, what happened next you've probably seen a mile off, where I was completely surprised.

Let us join the mash session already in progress:

"Uuuuh, <---- the internationally recognized sound of passion
HURRRGH!" <---- the internationally recognized sound of an impending power hurl

She leapt out from beneath me (had there been Olympic judges present, she certainly would've averaged a 9.7 score for the maneuver) dashed to the can, slammed the door, and proceeded to ralph her brains out. The couple in the next bed had stopped what they were doing and directly after the crushing silence was broken by my paramour's first resonant retch, they burst into guffaws, replete with snorts.

For years after that, I was trailed at parties with the mocking reenactment of:
"Uuuuh, uhh, uuuuuuh, HURRGH!" Particularly if I were having luck at successfully chatting up a young lady. I would say that my buddies were cruel in haunting me with that particular episode in my patchy love life, but sober reflection always leaves me with a good shot of "what the hell was I thinking?" and so I feel I deserved the ugly reminder. It helped to keep me honest and more aware of what I might be getting into, so to speak, and as proof I can say this is the most tawdry stain on my love life to date, as it will remain.

And it serves as my punch line to "what's the worse green thing you've ever had?": A very green girl whom I should have stayed away from had I managed to produce one clear, prudent thought in my bigger head. I take a tiny bit of refuge in the fact that it's at least a better answer to the query than "too much St. Patty's day beer."

Maybe I should have called the station...

I'm always torn when I encounter a novel that's named after a classic song. Part of me thinks it's cute and digs the cultural reference while the other part cringes because the work has now inherited the baggage of the song.

TLD: For instance, it irked me for years that the song "Shangri-la" on the best album of all time imnsho - A New World Record by the Electric Light Orchestra - had the lyrics "faded like the Beatles on 'Hey Jude'." Urgh! The past purist in me hated that. I'm no longer a purist because it's a form of anal retentiveness that makes silly things annoy you, like direct Beatles references in a favorite song. About the only purist thing left in me is that I don't like to enter a movie showing after the credits have started, for grown-up movies, that is. I'll do it because babysitters are hard to procure and date nights are precious.

But, Douglas Coupland has proven to be deft handling nearly anything literary and allusionary, so I lunged into his latest, Eleanor Rigby, with glee and gusto. Coupland's writing itself still floors me. About the only word I can conjure to describe it is "profound." He is the master of invoking the background music of the universe through a description of someone making jello.

It's not one of his best, those being Microserfs, Generation X (yes, the very one), and Hey Nostradamus!. But, for even lukewarm fans it's a must - if only, at the very least, to discover why the title is borrowed from one of the Beatle's finest.

For those not into literary fiction, I recommend another fun recent read:

The Poet by Michael Connelly. This one's been out for a while, but if it's not yet shown up on your radar, consider this official SONAR contact (to mix metaphors and technologies all at once!). This was a exuberant read even though I'm tiring of the serial killer genre, not only because half the TV shows out there are retreads of Ed Gein/Ted Bundy inspired tales, but also because there's not a lot of variation to the story. It's almost as wrote as "The Hero's Journey," but it would go more like this:

The initiation:
- Future serial killer is abused as a child, typically sexually, but frequent brutal beatings will suffice. Mocking by peers is common as well.
- Future serial killer is overly intelligent but also overly shy and sensitive, and has trouble meeting gurls, at first. (It's never a woman, btw. Women travel a subtler path to the destruction of a target: financial ruin, social ruin, or both - so said victim can live with the full suffering until the end of their days - no quick and easy out like death. God bless 'em!)
- Future serial killer often expresses his brewing sickness by torturing animals to death or starting fires, or both.

The changeling:
- Future serial killer morphs into full-fledged sociopathy if not born that way already.
- Future serial killer forges outer shell personality to pass through the world with the appearance of normality, correctly sensing that the creature they've become would not be accepted by society.

The rise:
- Serial killer's first victim is usually someone they know whom they have formed a grudge on, deserved or not, or is someone who has rejected their friendship or romantic advances.
- Getting away with this first crime gives the serial killer confidence.
- An expanse of time passes before the serial killer strikes again, but it's inevitable as the pressure builds until the release of a kill is required.

The full bloom:
- Once the serial killer is established, a twisted sense of pride arises from the power to kill undetected, which conflicts with the fact that pride of accomplishment requires acknowledgment.
- The time that passes between killings is either consistent or becomes shorter each time, as continual release of pressure and seeking of pleasure is required.
- If it was not a element of the first killing, the serial killer initiates the use of sexual gratification with the victim, pre or post death, depending on what does it for the freak, as most serial killer's pathology has a sexual component.
- The serial killer, either by purposeful design or unintentional repetition of methods that are needed to bring release but also provide a pattern, becomes known by the police through a "calling card" of identical clues for different killings.
- The serial killer also must keep mementos, usually parts of the body, as prizes and reminders of the killing accomplishments, thus providing identification and proof when and if caught. (Ed Gein made an entire costume out of the skins of the women he killed, in which he would dance under the full moon.)

So, what makes The Poet interesting is that it almost never dwells on the killer, like the great Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs do, but on the inner and outer world of the reporter tracking the killer down. It's a page turner, and one of the better ones I've read, even though the killer conforms to "the serial killer's journey" as outlined here. And while the writing isn't as profound as Coupland's, the style is as deliberate and skillful, and beautifully serves the purpose of the story.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Thumbnail movie reviews of 03-14-2005

Saw, um, Saw. It stars Cary Elwes who was the mysterious stranger in Princess Bride. My wife marveled that he still looks the same, if not a little heavier. We had way low expectations and were braced for over the top gore. Se7en is still the high water, or blood, mark to meet when it comes to sheer "eeeeew" inducing fantods. Saw manages to suggest more than it shows, and it has a truly surprising turn of events. Those who like dark, grim explorations of the depravity of serial killers will enjoy this; casual viewers will not. I don't want to give anything away, but this would have been much better had the pace been a little tighter, and we got to the end about 15 minutes sooner. The collective reviews would have been better, too, methinks. Worth the time on a slow night, imho.

I was unable to make it through Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Who thought this was funny? Dear lord what a stinker. Even the bloopers were dull.

Friday, March 11, 2005

One of the Better Things You'll Read this Month

After I post something like the post immediately below, a screed on an unpopular topic where I'm even taking the designated wrong side (especially for a liberal), I feel I need to offer up something fun, informative - heck, just outright better - to read.

Well, here it is. Note: this does not allow access to non-subscribers, but see below.

David Foster Wallace1 researched talk radio to bring us one of his stellar articles on the same. Wallace's short fiction can be hit-or-miss because most of his short stories are experimental and many bomb quite badly. His novels are much better, though2, and his reports from the front, like this one, are perhaps his best. In the collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, the article that lends the collection its title is about his investigation of going on an ocean cruse. I've been on one, and he NAILS the experience, particularly that weird twilight zone mood where you're trapped on what's supposed to be a party boat but is really just a floating Vegas without the easy access to extreme sleeze, unless you count the topless sunning deck at the fore of the craft, punctuated by blasts of that accursed Buster Poindexter song "Hot Hot Hot." Because he was so close to the bone on that one, I've since trusted him implicitly with any reportage.

I don't listen to talk radio because radio to me is a device that's supposed to bring me an interesting mix of music. When it does not do this, it's merely an annoyance. And, no big secret, the vast majority of talk radio is wingnut Rush Limburger clones screeching at anyone who will call or tune in that they're not Americans unless they buy into the neocon's vision of war all the time, no social safety net, no increase in minimum wage, and their latest trick: making it much harder for the poor to declare bankruptcy while building in blatant loopholes for the ultrawealthy so they can do it easily and protect their money offshore at the same time. Let them eat Twinkies!

But, as the new reality show "The Contender" has demonstrated, you don't necessarily have to give a flying star-spangled fandango about the topic to enjoy the entertainment itself. Wallace's article is a grand entertainment, but informative, too. Further kudos, while I don't even attempt to walk the non-partisan line, Wallace trips down the wire gracefully. I don't believe anyone of any political ilk will object to how talk radio is portrayed here.

So, have a good time. It's long, so it'll take a good hour or two, all of which you'll thoroughly enjoy.3

"But, Yahmdallah," you say, "How can I read this thing if they don't allow you to see the whole thing on the site unless you subscribe?" To which I respond, "Dear, cherished reader, fret not. You can find a copy4 at your local library. But, if you don't have the time, or want to read it on the convenience of your own computer, just drop me a note, and I'll forward it on to you."5 Who's your buddy?

1 He of the copious footnotes which drive some readers to distraction, but I like them because they're funny as hell. (Well and I do the same thing, just with parenthesis, usually.)

2 (Since this is about the DFW, I'll stick these kinds of asides in footnotes as a pale homage to the master.) His Infinite Jest is one of my favorite novels ever, only beaten by A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, and neck-in-neck with the other denizen of my top three, Texasville by Larry McMurtry.

3 It even outs the scam of the herbal concoction Enzyte that's supposed to provide "natural male enhancement." That part alone is worth the read.

4 And a photocopier, no doubt.

5 See the upper left part of the page for my addy. Don't feel the need to compose any niceties for the request, a "gimme" will do.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Running with Scissors

One of the guideposts of raising a child is to not reward bad behavior. Sometimes just attention is the reward when someone's throwing a fit, because the goal is attention, good or bad. Once it a great while, though, you've got to weigh intervention against possible harm, such as a child in full tantrum meltdown who grabs something sharp.

What follows is something like that.

I read this in the Sunday Denver Post:

The Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance bashed a speech by Jada Pinkett Smith on Feb. 26 at a Harvard University Cultural Rhythms show.

Three days after the speech, BGLTSA co-chair Jordan B. Woods said "some of the content (of Pinkett Smith's speech) was extremely heteronormative, and made BGLTSA members feel uncomfortable." Heteronormative, according to Woods, means they implied that standard sexual relationships are only between males and females.

A snippet of Pinkett Smith's speech: "Women, you can have it all -- a loving man, devoted husband, loving children, a fabulous career. They say you gotta choose. Nah, nah, nah. We are a new generation of women. We got to set a new standard of rules around here. You can do whatever it is you want. All you have to do is want it."

You probably noticed that the person who wrote this (unidentified in the article) dripped enough contempt, sparing me the duty.

Which is good because I wanna snark about the big, white elephant in the room. That big bastard over there in the corner double dipping in the guacamole and crapping on the settee.

Homosexuality is not "normal." Let's pause here before the screaming begins and see what Webster's has to say about normal: "a : according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b : conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern." No matter which percentage you choose on how much of the population is gay, 3%, 5%, that still leaves a vast majority of folks who are heterosexual. With those kinds of odds, that means heterosexuality is normal.

Again, in attempt to speak over the screaming, let me add further that I don't believe "not normal" is necessarily bad. In America particularly, we like the underdog, the misfit, the rebel - all terms for someone who's not normal. Most of the gay people I know and the ones whose opinions I've read often say they revel in being different, outside of the norm. They consider it a positive element of their identity.

Trying to force this Orwellian/Huxlian monstrosity "heteronormative" into the lexicon will result in little from annoyance to open guffaws, because no one wants it. It doesn't help anyone and only clouds the issue, because it's a lie. It wants to pretend that heterosexuality isn't the only normal there is. Don't we have enough to deal with considering the current administration and its love of Orwellian/Huxlian manipulation of the language? ("Personal Accounts" my ass. "PATRIOT Act" indeed.)

Let your freak flag fly, man, but don't ask me to pretend it's anything else.

Now that I'm all wound up and sloshing around in the verboten topic of the day anyway, allow me to lob another mouse at the elephant.

Most people I know (including me) don't equate the gay rights movement with the civil rights movement. These same people also believe that gay people have the right (and I do mean the right) to be safe from harm and to pursue happiness. They also believe that their orientation shouldn't be a factor in their job, housing, and so on. I don't make a blanket statement on discrimination because sometimes we all face some expected things we can't do; for instance, I can't use the women's sauna or changing room at the gym because I'm a guy - and let's not be coy and ignore the fact that the issue of homosexuality, because it is about sexuality, has some tentacles in that ballpark (to mix and torture a metaphor to death, most humble apologies).

Even gay-friendly had an article recently that stated:

To compare these two struggles [gay rights and civil rights] is not to equate them. To say they are the same would be ridiculous. It goes without saying that there are major differences between race and sexual orientation -- and therefore homophobia and racism. [snip] To ignore the parallels would be no less ridiculous. [snip]

Hell yeah!

But, being (when it comes gay issues), after it makes this bold statement, hauls off and messes it right up again:

There are two main reasons why this comparison jars with many. The first is blatant homophobia. It is far easier to marginalize the lesbian and gay agenda if you can sever any association between it and other struggles for equality. The second is latent homophobia, which argues that such comparisons trivialize racism, as though the right to love who you want and still keep your job, your home and sometimes your life is a trifling matter.

Well, no.

It's not homophobia, either the wax-on or the wax-off type as defined here, when folks just don't see the equals sign between gay rights and civil rights. It would be homophobia (how I hate that inaccurate, silly word) if someone said, "You shouldn't have a job here because you're gay." (With the possible common sense exceptions like the monitor behind the two-way mirror in a changing room.) It is not homophobia if someone says, "Y'know, I don't want my children's cartoons to explore the concept of homosexuality." Because what's really going on is the parent wants to decide how and when the child is educated concerning ALL sexuality, part of which is homosexuality.

This is where most draw the line: Our kids. In the adult world, nearly all of us agree that what consenting adults want to do with and for each other is their own damn business and no one else's. When kids come into the picture, the rules change.

Now, before anyone thinks this is just about homosexuality, let's trot out another example. I think that polygamy is not a good thing; I don't approve of it. I think it's an archaic form of marriage that no longer (if ever) serves a purpose, other than allowing a guy to legally get some strange once in a while (I've never heard of a woman having a harem of husbands). Our society allows all the strange you want, and the economic reasons for polygamy are non-existent, so I like the fact that it's not recognized in the states. Thus, when and if I have to discuss it with my children, I throw in my opinion that I think polygamy is wrong. For the record, I tell them Veganism is unhealthy, too. (And immoral since the philosophy and premise behind it would condemn most of the world to starvation; Veganism isn't sustainable as a primary diet anywhere but wealthy countries with efficient distribution systems.)

How and when I choose to divulge these adult things to my child is entirely up to me. And that's the way it will remain.

For the record, my wife's and my stance on homosexuality that we will communicate to our children is that it's just how some people are. It's not bad, it's not necessarily good, it just is. We will also say that gay people can have a hard time because of prejudice and that they encounter special problems that heterosexuals won't. It never hurts to be honest. This, of course, does not tow the GLAAD or BGLTSA line, but too damn bad. I won't tell my kids that being gay is a big rainbow Disneyland A-ticket ride. But then I won't tell them that it's inherently evil and wrong either. This will not set well with some, but there you are.

Oh and I wish whichever gay organization attacked the Boy Scouts would leave them the hell alone, just like PETA should leave kids fishing on the local pier alone. Yes, Miss Natalie Merchant, if I'm beating my kid in a grocery store, you can come up, stop me, and sing your sanctimonious little ditty, and I'd deserve it. But, don't force my kid to read "Beeboo Has Two Mommies" or scream at them that meat is murder. It's hard enough to get them to eat right in the first place. Crikey.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

I believe it...