Friday, March 31, 2006
Friday Perfect World Blogging

The revolution is coming, and it will be fuelled by Mexican Coke. Does anyone deny its obvious superiority? And why is it that in a country where half the population lives on $2 a day, the Coke is still made with yummy cane sugar and comes in lovely glass bottles, while we rich Americans are stuck with nasty high-fructose corn syrup and ugly plastic? I think we should take to the streets and demand better treatment. I'm cool with ALL the Mexicans coming to live here if they'll bring their Coca-Cola with them.

Furthermore, we'd all be better off if we scrapped history, with all its petty grudges,long-standing ethnic feuds, and stupid, pointless wars, and adopted a new history of the world based on the movies. We'd be so much better off if we could look back into history and perceive that our true enemy was those fucking Predator bastards all along. (And wouldn't it be awesome if we devoted ourselves as a species to making sure that the future actually happens as prophesied in the movies? At least then we'd know what to plan for... and hey, we'd know that no matter how bad things get, it's all gonna work out great in the end.)

In this perfect future, all children will learn Leetspeak in elementary school.It will finally accomplish what Esperanto never could.

And finally, in our future better world, people will never fight, they'll just carry around Batsigns and flash them at whomever they're angry at. We can use them to fight the coming Cola Wars. Imagine the splendor of thousands rioters waving their colorful cards and shouting, CRUNCH! CRASH! CRA-A-A-CK! FLRBBBBB! And all the riot cops carrying their own cards and yelling THWACK! OUCH! WHACK! BONK! ZAP! (Of course, since they all learned 1337, we'll need a new one for "PWNED!!!")



(It was really hard to pick just one of those, so I opted for the classic.)
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Thursday, March 30, 2006
Why, Oh Why Do Soldiers Hate America?

Eric Haney, a retired command sergeant major of the U.S. Army, was a founding member of Delta Force, the military's elite covert counter-terrorist unit...

Since he has devoted his life to protecting his country in some of the world's most dangerous hot spots, you might assume Haney is sympathetic to the Bush administration's current plight in Iraq (the laudatory cover blurb on his book comes from none other than Fox's News' Bill O'Reilly). But he's also someone with close ties to the Pentagon, so he's privy to information denied the rest of us.

Q: What's your assessment of the war in Iraq?

A: Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated. (Army Gen.) Tommy Franks was brow-beaten and ... pursued warfare that he knew strategically was wrong in the long term. That's why he retired immediately afterward. His own staff could tell him what was going to happen afterward.

We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.

Q: What is the cost to our country?

A: For the first thing, our credibility is utterly zero. So we destroyed whatever credibility we had. ... And I say "we," because the American public went along with this. They voted for a second Bush administration out of fear, so fear is what they're going to have from now on.

Our military is completely consumed, so were there a real threat - thankfully, there is no real threat to the U.S. in the world, but were there one, we couldn't confront it. Right now, that may not be a bad thing, because that keeps Bush from trying something with Iran or with Venezuela.

The harm that has been done is irreparable. There are more than 2,000 American kids that have been killed. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed ñ which no one in the U.S. really cares about those people, do they? I never hear anybody lament that fact. It has been a horror, and this administration has worked overtime to divert the American public's attention from it. Their lies are coming home to roost now, and it's gonna fall apart. But somebody's gonna have to clear up the aftermath and the harm that it's done just to what America stands for. It may be two or three generations in repairing.

(source)

First Hackworth, now this... goddamn traitorous blame-America-first special-ops soldiers. It's a good thing Dubya's truncated service in the Texas Air National Guard trumps Col. Haney's decades of front-lines soldiering, or the Bush true believers might be forced to admit they fucked up.
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Spring

The entire Mississippi delta smells like dryer sheets tonight.

What does it say that the smell of springtime flowers and new growth reminds me of fabric softener, and not the other way around?
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Tuesday, March 28, 2006
And It Makes Its Own Gravy, Too

I love fundamentalists. No, really, I do... they write the best letters in the world. Fundamentalism is like a joke that writes its own punchline (complete with extra hyphens for effect.) However good the original joke is, the cosmic counter-joke always goes one better. I could read this stuff all day.

Bonus: Jack Chick, hoisted on his own petard.
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Monday, March 27, 2006
Crap, Not Another One

The simple fact is, I don't really care much for science fiction. I never took to either Heinlein or Asimov, I never read Clark, and while I admire Dick and Gibson I've read only a little of their work. Which isn't to say that I never read anything in the genre, just that my favorite sf writers tended to use science fiction as a means rather than an end. For instance, I adored Douglas Adams, whom I discovered when I was about 11. A year or so later I began to read Harlan Ellison voraciously. And during high school I was stunned into silence by Stanislaw Lem. I remember reading Gigamesh when I was about fifteen and thinking, "what the fuck?" A few years later, reading Ulysses in college, I got the joke. And it was a goddamn funny joke. The thing they all have in common -- the thing that attracted me to them -- is an eagerness to fuck their own genre. There is nobody in this world I admire more than an inveterate genre-fucker. (I admit it, my mind is so postmodern I can no longer easily think in a straight line, and don't want to anyway.)

Douglas Adams was cruelly taken from us a long time ago; and yesterday Stanislaw Lem followed. Please, please can we keep Harlan just a little while longer?
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Important Announcement

I'd just like to assure you all that I wrote every single, painful word of my thesis myself. (Except for the quotes, obviously... but that's the whole point of quotes.)

Can I be the president of Russia now? I need a job real bad...
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Saturday, March 25, 2006
Whinge

I'm starting to think that this whole "coming back to Memphis" thing was a mistake. A pathetic, entirely predictable mistake.

Then again, I'm just in an ambivalent mood tonight. Feel free to ignore me; I won't take it personally.

I had a pretty okay day, actually -- I got up expecting to stay home and do absolutely nothing, but was soon convinced by a friend to go out and give the day a chance to rise above routine. I went to a small film screening, met up with a bunch of people, and then went to lunch with nine or ten of them (including a few happily-met new acquaintances.) Afterwards I followed several of them to a house to see off a car full of departees on their way to California (where they'll meet up with one of my favorite people from Memphis), then to another house to watch people watch the Big Game. I was just wafting through the day in whatever direction the wind blew, and it worked out surprisingly well -- the day was full of happy synchronicities, the fortuitous intersection of chance and timing. It wasn't entirely smooth -- the gears were grinding a little as they came together -- but it got the job done.

But even so, the seed of ambivalence I felt this morning continued to expand throughout the day. There were a few other stops I could've made tonight, but I was aware that I was becoming less and less good company so I quit the scene and headed home. There are a lot of things bothering me right now, a lot of blockages in my life, and I'm starting to get really frustrated. I just can't seem to get a foothold, but I also don't have much access to the creative/intellectual/spiritual/mental sustenance to get me through this long, dark tea-time of the soul. I try, but things just never come together. Or far too rarely, anyway.

Even the plan to surrender to a mundane life has become frought with frustration -- I can't even fail as an artist well. And not for the first time.

Has it been too long since I told people how much I love them? Maybe this blockage has its source with me, not with the world around me. Maybe I'm not giving enough, maybe I don't push hard enough. Y'know, I often think that we don't tell each other often enough how important we all are; we're all too socially inhibited to express our genuine fondness and respect for our friends. How sad is that? Especially when we all need to hear it so badly; I know I almost always hold my tongue when I'm feeling really expansive about someone.

Christ, I feel vulnerable just talking about it.

Bah. I think tomorrow I'll go back to hiding.
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Friday, March 24, 2006
Friday Dork Blogging, Part 2

I have faith, my brothers and sisters.

I have faith that the world will be a better place in the future. I have faith that we will finally drag Red America kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I have faith that in spite of the tsunami of lies and bullshit they hurl at us, we will succeed in creating an America that is just, enlightened, and multi-orgasmic.

How can I believe these things? Given the fetid swamp of corruption, war-mongering, dishonesty, hatred, and repression through which we are all forced to wade chin-deep, what makes me so sure that somewhere ahead there's a grassy bank of liberty awaiting our arrival?

I know this, because the goth kids are going to rule the world. (I, for one, welcome our new goth overlords.)

I know this because all the whiny little motherfuckers on the playground grew up to be conservatives.

I know this because refusing to say something doesn't make it any less true.

I know this because they'll implode from the pressure of their own hypocrisy sooner or later.

I know this because they've been reduced to fighting over sock puppets.

I know this because they have already sown the seeds of their own destruction.

I know this because we're the ones with the fucking lasers.

So have faith; we shall indeed overcome. Anyone could see this happy ending coming a mile away (and it only costs a little extra.)


(Was all that too much reading and not enough shaving of Frenchmen? Okay, fine, have it your way.)
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Opening This Can Of Worms Again

Do anti-choicers really believe that abortion is literally the same as the murder of a child? If they did, one would presume, they'd universally hold the opinion that any woman who aborted her fetus should spend years, if not decades, in prison, and that the murder of abortion providers is justifiable. Curiously, almost none of them seem to take either position. So, do any of their rationales hold up? Or is this idea of "life" just a cover for some unjustifiable interest in restricting people from doing things of which the anti-choice crowd disapproves?

Having hashed over this subject recently, I'm not now suggesting that the moral implication of the "life" rationale are comprehensively wrong. I'm merely suggesting that the actions undertaken by the "pro-life" movement completely belie that rationale. I'm implying that that rationale is unadulterated bullshit. And I'm saying that I think the anti-choicers need to put a whole lot more thought into their real positions before they undertake actions that could cost even more lives than they might "save".


I've got a lot of questions about what these folks actually believe, and I'm not the only one. I'd like to hear answers to my questions before we undertake legislation. What's the punishment for this crime? On what basis? How do we determine which kind of life is the most important? How far does this "life" rationale extend? The fetus? The fertilized, unimplanted egg? The ovum and sperm cells themselves? Why do you draw the line in one place and not another? What is it you really want to accomplish with this? Do these laws actually serve those ends?

The second problem is one that was brought up on this very blog last time this subject came up: personal responsibility. Of course, "life" and "personal responsibility" are two very different things -- if you accept that the former is the real reason behind anti-choice laws, then nothing they do makes sense. But if you assume that this is really about "personal responsibility" -- and with it, sex and sexual equality -- then suddenly everything comes into focus. That's how we end up with an agenda promoting ignorance, intolerance, and hypocrisy. I have serious doubts as to whether many ostensibly anti-abortion supporters have thought very deeply about the full implications of the laws they support.

What am I saying, really? I'm saying that the pro-life movement is so full of shit it squishes when it walks.

You guys are going to have to do a lot better -- for your own good as well as for the good of all the people whose lives you're playing with. You could start by actually being honest about your goals, clearly defining what your philosophy entails, and nailing down every practical issue and implication of your proposed laws. Because until you do, all you're going to get is resistance.

And finally, if nothing else the "pro-life" crowd should be ashamed of themselves for their art, which is fucking awful. (Who knew that the miracle of life could be so utterly NSFW?)
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Thursday, March 23, 2006
The Plot Thickens

I missed South Park last night. Damn it, they did Chef in, and I missed it. They'll run it again, right?

The opening episode of the 10th series, screened in the US on Wednesday, appeared to be a satire on Scientology.

Hayes, a Scientologist, quit the animated comedy after a different episode ridiculed the religion.

In the new show, Chef is brainwashed by the "Super Adventure Club" - thought to be a veiled reference to Scientology.

The other characters are angry at "that fruity little club for scrambling his brains".

(...)

Chef arrives after travelling the world with the Super Adventure Club and repeatedly tells the children he wants to "make sweet love" to them.

The children take him to a psychiatrist and then a strip club, where he remembers his love for women and is cured.

But he is brainwashed by the Super Adventure Club again - before falling off a bridge and being burned, stabbed and mauled by a lion and a grizzly bear.

source

Serves Hayes right for being a hypocrite. But, wait... is he?

AV Club: They did just do an episode that made fun of your religion, Scientology. Did that bother you?

Hayes: Well, I talked to Matt [Stone] and Trey [Parker] about that. They didn't let me know until it was done. I said, 'Guys, you have it all wrong. We're not like that. I know that's your thing, but get your information correct, because somebody might believe that [expletive], you know?' But I understand what they're doing. I told them to take a couple of Scientology courses and understand what we do. [Laughs.]

source

That interview is dated January 4 of this year. So, within the last three months, Hayes didn't seem to feel too offended. Now he is. What happened to change his mind in the interim?

A stroke, perhaps?

A couple of weeks after that interview was published, Hayes was admitted to the hospital with "exhaustion," which it's now thought may have actually been a mild stroke. The condemnation of the episode, then, falls in the midst of what some are claiming is his rehabilitation. The upshot of all this, then, is that perhaps it wasn't Hayes who made the statement, and perhaps it isn't Hayes who has a problem with the episode.

But, who else would care about a little Scientology-directed satire?

Hmmmmm.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2006
The Voice Of The South

I've mentioned this to the odd person from time to time, but I don't think I've ever written about it on the blog: my mother has a plan for me.

The mothers of 30-nothing women are notoriously pushy, and mine, while certainly not the worst offender ever, isn't an exception. The thing that makes her a strange case, though, is what she's pushing for -- she doesn't push me to find a man and get married, she doesn't push me to start making grandbabies, she never pushed me into law school or medical school (though she and others certainly made, shall we say, suggestions.) Nope, my mother only pushes me towards one gleaming goal: royalties.

More specifically, she wants me to write a book. She doesn't care, I don't think, what kind of book it is. It could be a novel, a cookbook, a film book, a political screed, maybe even pornography -- if it brought in the occasional check, she'd probably be okay with anything I churned out. She points to this very blog -- yes, this one you're reading right now -- as evidence that I am up to the job. She has even (and I hope I'm not embarrassing her too much by telling you this) printed up a dummy cover for the book for which she hopes I'll provide the filling. She's proud of me, which is nice, except I can't help but feel reluctance to put too much stock in my mother's opinion of my writing.

(She'll protest that last statement, watch.)

Anyway, the book she really, really wants me to write is about Southern-ism. (I know that's not a real -ism, but I think you understand the cultural phenomenon I'm referring to.) She encourages me to drop the political line and write about life in the south with an eye towards the "Why I Live at the P.O." ouvre that Eudora Welty made the common currency of southern letters. The problem, though, is that it just ain't that easy. Southern life is inherently political; the only question is whether or not you go along with the prevailing current. I do not. For me, being a southerner living in the south is an exercise in relentless frustration and constant low-grade conflict with my own culture and within myself.

Here's a funny thing: everybody knows about the feud between David Cross, Jewish intellectual comedian, and Larry the Cable Guy, Spokesman for Planet Redneck, right? My mother and her husband were watching one of those fawning extended advertisements for LtCG's new movie, and, when speaking implicitly of the feud and of his critics (as represented by David Cross), Mr. Cable Guy's statement was essentially this: "they" don't get "our" culture, so "they" can fuck off. (That's not a quote, but that's what he said.)

I understand the sentiment; I really do. I've lived as a foreigner (and a not-entirely-favored one at that); I've been condescended to because of where I come from; I still get to deal with it on a regular basis when dealing with my liberal brethren from the north. I comprehend the emotions behind that reaction on a visceral level, based on personal experience. But here's the funny thing about that: between Larry the Cable Guy and David Cross, which one do you think is the southerner?

If you guessed Mr. Cable Guy, well... you're wrong. Daniel Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy) is from Nebraska. And okay, you don't have to be from the south to be a redneck, but Daniel Whitney's not even blue-collar. He went to prep school in Nebraska, learned his "redneck" dialect from college classmates, is both a southern and redneck poseur. Nothing illegal or wrong about any of that, of course, except that he still considers himself qualified to lecture people like David Cross -- who was born and raised in Atlanta -- about how he "doesn't get" the culture.

Here's the thing I wish Larry the Cable Guy's audience would wrap their heads around: this is OUR culture, too. Even those of us who don't vote Republican, who have gay and lesbian and transgendered friends and partners, who happily live in racially-mixed neighborhoods, who don't give a shit what the neighbor's religion is as long as they don't try to teach it in the public schools or use the courts to jam it down our throats, who accept that evolution is undeniably true, who don't carry guns or drive pick-up trucks, who love books other than the Bible, who speak other languages, who see the civil war as utterly irrelevant to our lives, who love kinky sex and dirty books and contraception, and who don't listen to Toby Keith -- we're all southerners, too. And what's more, we're every bit as southern as Larry the Cable Guy; in fact, we're more southern, in that we're, y'know, actually from the south. I don't remember ever giving Daniel Whitney the sole right to define what southern culture is. The only thing I resent about the persona that he's made for himself is that it pushes a version of southern culture that makes me -- yes, I'm actually going to say it -- ashamed. Embarrassed. It's exactly the same set of emotions I sometimes felt as an American living in London -- but it was never the Europeans who made me feel that way (though a few of them tried), it was other Americans. I felt ashamed for them.

I know that sounds like snobbery -- and I'm not going to deny that I, like everyone else, possess a snobbish streak. (For a liberal, intellectual southerner, snobbery is more a defense mechanism than a social weapon.) But in this case, it's not snobbery that drives my shame, it's something a lot more like love. I love the south, I'm a product of it, it's part of me -- including the ugly parts. When I lived abroad, I learned on a deep level that not only am I thoroughly American (in the full, complicated meaning of that word), I'm also thoroughly southern. Living in New England, I learned all over again that, however much more smoothly I "fit in" in the north, I'm never going to be a Yankee. My mother is a product of fallen Texas aristocracy, and my father was from mixed-Cherokee, Scots-Irish stock -- in a word, hillbillies. I am firmly and deeply rooted in the south, however much I sometimes wish it wasn't so. This is my native culture, and however far away I move, however deeply enculturated I become somewhere else, it's always going to be. We're stuck with each other.

The real source, then, of this shame and anger is the knowledge of how much better the South could be. It hurts and disappoints me to watch my culture -- or at least broad sections of it -- reject its potential in favor of the celebration of ignorance, the practice of intolerance, and the rejection of the world beyond our arbitrary geographical and mental borders. I'm pissed off at you because I have to sit here and watch you sell yourselves short, have to watch you get high off of your own reverse-snobbery and anti-intellectualism, have to watch you exult in your victim mentality, your welfare-queendom, your glorification of all the least noble aspects of yourself. And there doesn't seem to be a fucking thing I can do to pull you out of it. This is why David Cross so resents Daniel Whitney, this is why Bill Hicks was always so fucking pissed off, and this is why I get so fucking frustrated.

The only solace and salvation I have is my ability to define for myself what words like "southern" mean. Daniel Whitney's got his pastiche of southern culture, and lots of people seem to like it -- and I can see why, since now and then, inbetween the "redneck" routine (which I am convinced is nothing more than a white version of the old vaudevillian blackface pickaninny act), he sometimes makes a funny joke. But that version of "southern" is no more true than mine, even as it is diametrically opposed. My version has its roots in the black south, the gay south, the liberal south, the intellectual south, the artistic south -- the scientific, rational, godless south. I've been to Daniel Whitney's south -- I've spent most of my life here -- but I don't think he's ever been to mine. I don't think he even knows it exists. I'd quite like to tell him that it does. So back to my original point:

My mother wants me to write a book, and especially a book about the south. And I could certainly do that -- in fact, I think such a book might even be needed. But if I were to do it, this is what it would be about. It wouldn't be about kudzu or Wal-Mart or Elvis, it would be about art and literature and science and ideas. It would be about liberalism and gay equality and feminism and multiculturalism. It would be about learning our place in the world, about getting over our history, about making a place for those who are different from us, and about how they, too, are southerners. It would be about my South, written by a Southerner. A liberal, intellectual Southerner.

Given Daniel Whitney's success, though, you'll have to pardon my skepticism about whether anybody would want to read it. But from the looks of things, all I'd need are a few gratuitous fart jokes. I think I could manage that.

Oh, and in case you haven't, you should read David Cross' open letter to Daniel Whitney. Mom'll hate it.

Related: I want to see this so bad.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Random Statement

So, it's the middle of the night and the comments have been fuckée since this afternoon; and now my blogroll's down as well. And I know I'm not the only one, though that doesn't make it any less irritating. All I'm saying is, it's them, not me. Hopefully it'll all be back on in the morning.

Incidentally, speaking of Great Comedians, I just wanted to publically confirm that I fucking love Eddie Izzard. He's the absolute shit. He is now officially my new/long-standing comedy crush.
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Monday, March 20, 2006
We Now Resume Our Regularly-Scheduled Pointless Rambling, Already In Progress

I've been thinking that it's time I picked up a new skill. I mean, something completely unconnected to everything else I do -- something to learn not because it builds on what I already know, but rather something to expand my horizons and get me involved in something I don't know much about at all. Self-teachability is a big requirement here: I can't afford lessons or classes. Fortunately, I'm a good self-teacher, so even something fairly complex is do-able. Ideally it should be something with a lot of scope and room to grow -- the optimum end result could be, for instance, that in 10 or 20 years I could be really good at something that I'm completely unfamiliar with today. The catch: I have no idea what kind of skill I should try next. There are lots of things I should learn, but I've already got enough of those self-teaching programs on my plate. And anyway, "should" doesn't get you to that learning-for-the-pleasure-of-it state that I'm looking for. Learning with a "should" attached can still be pleasureable, but learning for the hell of it is pure play.

I've also been thinking that I should take my camera out more. Not my video camera -- though that too, admittedly -- but my still camera. I'm only stopped by the simple facts, 1) I can't afford to buy or process much film, and photography's just frustrating if you can't see what you photographed; and 2) I haven't found a processor in Memphis that meets my nitpicky requirements. Oh, and 3) obviously I don't have access to a darkroom that would enable me to side-step 1 and 2. But I love to take photos, and I don't do it nearly enough.

Christ, why does life have to be so full of things to be doing, and so devoid of things that are done? It's not as if I don't have plenty to keep me occupied already: I'm writing multiple screenplays, I'm trying to get good enough with Blender that I can sort out this strange little visual art piece I've got in my head, sharpening up some office-related skills, I've got it on my agenda to finally put together the camera stabilizer I've got all these parts for (except that now there's a truck parked in the workshop, so that's tricky), I'm indulging in some heavy reading on biology and evolution, I'm still struggling towards a Real Job, and now I've got my new little id-baby to work on. It's all a matter of chipping away at all these projects-in-progress, a little every day, while new ones continue to crop up -- most of them come without deadlines, but it still leaves me with a lot more to do than stuff I've already finished.

Not that I'm complaining or anything.
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Unhappy Anniversary


And so, we enter the fourth year of the second war in Iraq.

(Just in case, feel free to review the story so far...)

Coalition fatalities: 2,525*

US armed forces fatalities: 2,318*

Total US armed forces casualties: 19,442*

Average number of Coalition deaths per day: 2.3 (roughly equal to last year)*

Cost of Iraq war so far: $ 248 billion and counting**

Estimated total cost of war including all long-term commitments: over $1 trillion***

Barrels of oil the US could purchase with $1 trillion: 14 billion

Number of years that amount of oil would last: 2

Number of days since George W. Bush promised to catch Osama bin Laden, "dead or alive": 1,435

Predicted length of time the war would last, according to Donald Rumsfeld: "Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."****

Actual length of the war so far: 1096 days / 157 weeks / 36 months

Weapons of Mass Destruction found: 0

Are we getting tired of this yet?




*source
** source
*** source
****source
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Capitulation

Okay, so, here's the thing...

I have indeed written something interesting. The very evening the challenge was issued, I decided a small foray into fiction was a reasonable response. I grabbed a couple of old characters I haven't been able to find a use for elsewhere, took my id firmly in both hands, and gave it a good, hard squeeze.

I've got maybe five pages of id-squeezings so far, and my confidence is faltering. I don't know if you know what id juice looks like, but at the moment I'm not sure that even I want to live in the same skull as me. And after five pages, I sat down and had a good, long think about this. This stuff is just nasty; really quite repellant. It's potent, it's positively pregnant with subconscious meaning, it's some of the most interesting stuff I've yet put down on paper. So obviously it's not the kind of stuff I want to blow on a blog post just to annoy my mom. It's worth much, much more than that.

My initial fear was a gut-level one of rejection -- "if anybody knew about this, I'd have no friends left." That, of course, is silly -- the kinds of people I keep for friends would probably only like me more. (I know I'd like me more if I were them.) My second worry is that it's just not good enough -- but then, that's my universal worry, the worry that I apply to every single goddamn thing that comes under the sweep of my radar (I'm not good enough, what I do isn't good enough, nothing I think is good enough and will never be good enough, etc. etc. etc. until I feel like slitting my wrists.) Being "good enough," though, has more to do with the time put into something than with the original seed of an idea. "Good enough" comes with effort and patience. And I can manage that... but not in three days.

What I'm really saying is, I'm not going to post anything interesting today after all. This is my capitulation, my surrender, you win, I'm so boring, ta-da. You could even legitimately doubt that I've written anything at all if you're a cynical bastard. I don't care; this blog isn't really for any of you anyway (although I'm still glad you read it.) I've got my little id-baby here, and it's an ugly, scary motherfucker, but I think I'm starting to become rather fond of it. If nothing else, when I do finally present it to the world, I want it to be with my real name attached to it and not some nom-de-blog. And I want it to be after having given it enough time and space to be the best, ugliest, scariest glob of interestingness it can possibly be.

So y'all can just go home disappointed.
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Saturday, March 18, 2006
We Interrupt This Interruption In Blog Posting To Bring You A Blog Post

I just saw V for Vendetta. As I've already said to a couple of lucky others, it was fucking awesome. (And if you're one of them, why are you reading this? Didn't I tell you not to?) Anyway, this isn't going to be a proper review of the film because, to be honest, the only sufficient review of it will be the reaction you personally feel, and I don't want to screw that up for you.

Having said that, a few random thoughts, in no particular order:

This film is not, contrary to the popular line, about the United States or about George W. Bush. The very, very first thing the film does is to completely reject that notion -- this version of this story has certainly been firmly rooted in our current world, with all its political complexities, but it's spelled out in no uncertain terms that the United States and its 2006-vintage reality could not possibly be more irrelevant to the story. Anyone who seriously claims otherwise wasn't paying attention.

It should then go without saying that this is also not a "liberal" film. This one's not about left and right, it's about capital-F Fascism. Whatever parallels you draw between that subject and our current political landscape I leave you to mull over on your own.

In conjuction to the statement above, it's also just a movie. It's supposed to be fun, and it is if you let it be. It's not a perfect movie -- there are a few lumps in the bedspread -- but it's a solidly-crafted movie nonetheless, and to my mind one of the most successful interpretations of a graphic source yet filmed. I know how Alan Moore feels about it, and I have nothing but respect for that, but honestly this film is only a testament to his obvious brilliance. (That link, by the way, leads to an interview with the man that demonstrates that, whatever brilliance exists in the film, it must be largely credited to Moore. I do actually disagree with some of what he says here, but it should all be taken into account. Just do it after you see the film, not before.)

And finally, I strongly suspect that you could apply any number of possible meanings to this story. It can be about Thatcher's Britain, it can be about Bush's America, it can very easily be about Bush's Iraq, it can be about your own inner-conflict, it can be about society's inner-conflict regarding all of the above. Anything with that kind of fertility has to be worth a $6 matinee ticket, right?

Things I particularly appreciated:

- It's deliciously ambiguous. It really does take some talent to pull off something so lacking in comfortable, simple answers built on such a satisfying, fully-realized plot. (Maybe it is a bit "liberal" after all in its willingness to sit and ponder our own fallible righteousness. Not that I would expect someone who'd reject the film for its politics to understand that concept.)

- This story is drawn (obviously) much more from British society than American society. Some rudimentary knowledge of British history and culture will help you pick up a little extra nuance.

- It actually convinced me to genuinely like Natalie Portman.

- It's brazen enough as a film to occasionally, subtly break its own internal reality -- to remind you that it is, in fact, just a film; and even better, its doing so somehow manages to reinforce the internal reality it just ruptured. Now that's impressive (not to mention tastily post-modern.)

- They made a chubby, mousy little girl with coke-bottle glasses a minor hero in the film. And that might just be one of the most culturally-subversive elements in the whole movie.


To sum up: it's chewy and delicious and highly recommended. I myself have every intention of seeing it again before it leaves the cinemas, as well as reading Moore's version (of which I've already read bits, but not the whole thing), and then everything else he's done that I can get my hands on.
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Friday, March 17, 2006
Friday Non-Blogging

Sorry kids, nothing new today. And probably nothing for the rest of the weekend. I'm busy. I'm writing something... interesting.

Come back Monday.

PS: Oh, and, uh... I'm thinking about going to see V for Vendetta this weekend. Anybody else in Memphis looking to go? Or maybe I'll go see Why We Fight instead. Dunno. Still... anybody?
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Thursday, March 16, 2006
Boring, Am I?

Having had my interesting-quotient dissed (by my own mother, no less), I am now compelled to find something sufficiently "interesting" to post in order to reclaim my cred.

(You'd think she'd avoid daring me to be more "interesting." Especially since she has co-workers who know about this blog.)

This may be a multi-day mission. I may not make it to the other side of the mountain with you. None of you may want to read this blog or have me in your homes after I'm done. But I cannot leave the challenge unanswered: it's a point of honor.

To be continued, and may God have mercy on us all.
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Question of the Day

Yes, another one. Because I know how much you love them.

Right: you get to design a holiday. It can be in honor of anything, or celebrating anything. Give us a date, a reason, and whatever other information we need to observe your holiday well.

What's it going to be?

(If anybody comes up with something really good here, I might actually try your holiday out the next time it rolls around.)
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Question Of The Day

Sometime last year I had a conversation with another young woman about the contents of our bags. "You can tell a lot about a person by what they carry around with them," she said. I've pondered this ever since -- is it true?

And if it is, what, then, do we make of the fact that any time you ask a guy what he's got on him, he will invariably produce a wallet and a set of keys and nothing else? How the fuck do they do that? How do you get through a day with only a wallet and keys? The guys will say, "hey, you don't really need all that stuff you carry." As if we did this by choice.

I have a theory about this.

I think men only get away with the wallet-and-keys thing because they know that there will always be a woman around with a bag full of crap to help them if they need something that doesn't fit in a wallet or hang off a keychain. I don't know how women got saddled with the packmule gene, but it's a trait that seems to transcend culture and progress. There are nomadic women schlepping gourds across the North African desert as I write this, and I've got my own bag o' junk that goes with me everywhere.

How about you? What's your daily burden?
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006
All Hail Xenu

Isaac Hayes, it turns out, is a big diaperbaby who can't take a joke.

Soul singer Isaac Hayes has parted ways with the Comedy Central series "South Park," citing the series' "inappropriate ridicule of religious communities."

Hayes, who has voiced the character Chef since the series began in 1997, released a statement through his spokesman Monday requesting a release from his contract because he "is disappointed with what he perceives as a growing insensitivity toward personal spiritual beliefs."

In a rejoinder issued later in the day by Comedy Central, "Park" co-creator Matt Stone described Hayes as a disgruntled Scientologist unhappy with a recent episode lampooning the organization's religious beliefs.

"In 10 years and over 150 episodes of 'South Park,' Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Jews," Stone said in a statement in which he agreed to release Hayes from his contract. "He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show."

(Hollywood Reporter)

I think Matt Stone is absolutely right: the episode about Mormons, for instance, was a hell of a lot meaner than the episode about Scientologists, and I don't remember Hayes throwing his toys out of his crib over that. (Then again, Mormonism is a weird cult that believes ridiculous things -- but then again again, magical spectacles sound downright plausible next to believing that the space god Xenu is imprisoned in one of our volcanoes at this very moment.)

Bottom line for me: I've got no fucking patience or sympathy for offended Scientologists. Or Mormons. Or anyone who takes themselves too seriously. It's not as if the show hasn't attacked things that I strongly believe in once or twice, but any cartoon that shows Martha Stewart stuffing a whole, greased turkey up her ass is a cartoon that you're going to have to watch on its own terms. I, for one, look forward to watching Chef's horrific demise on a future episode. My bet: something involving Chef, a weird culty-celebrity religion, and Xenu's ass. I also predict that it will be the most eyelash-curlingly cruel episode ever. I'm looking forward to it already.
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Unbelievably Fucking Fun

A game. It's simple to the point of elegance, easy to understand, challenging but gratifying even in the early stages, and really quite beautiful. The cats think it's the best game ever.

Mono.

(What, like you had something better to do today?)
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Monday, March 13, 2006
The Republicans

A guy walks into a talent agent's office and says "Have I got an act for you!"

The agent asks "Yeah? What sort of act?" and the guy says,

"It's a political act. There's me, my running mate, our aides and media chums and their aides, plus a few non-union extras who work for less than minimum wage.

"First I walk on stage with a baby seal. I start feeding the baby seal endangered fish that I pull from a 55-gallon drum labeled 'Clean Water.' The fish have been soaking in mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls and crude oil. While the baby seal oinks and pukes and turns green, my running mate starts clubbing it with a 6-foot crucifix. Our media chums narrate this whole thing, explaining how we're making the environment safer for fish and baby seals. Then my running mate starts stuffing illegal campaign contributions into the seal's body cavity while slicing off layers of fat and passing the fat to the audience, while our aides pass out press releases explaining that the baby seal fat is actually safer than it was before I fed it mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls.

"Next, one of the non-union extras drives a huge HumVee onto the stage. We've modified it so it gets half a mile per gallon. It's belching out carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons like crazy. We've sealed all the ventilation ducts so the audience gets the full dose. This makes them light-headed, and more likely to find this entertaining. The HumVee has a banner on the side that says 'Blue Skies.' We start singing Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World,' in black-face and pickaninny voices. Al Jolson would be proud of this part.

"We truck in a bunch of crippled kids and tell them how compassionate we are, but then we rip up their Medicare checks, dump them out of their wheel chairs and order them off stage. They drag their disfigured bodies from the stage while we call them a drain on society and we sell their wheel chairs to GM for scrap metal.

"While this is going on, one of our media chums is having phone sex with his aide, describing unspeakable acts involving a falafel and a loofah, and he's masturbating the whole time. We patch into the call using an illegal wiretap and broadcast it over the PA system in the theater, and blame the mainstream liberal press for the repulsive content.

"A guy dressed as Jesus walks onstage and kicks a guy dressed as Mohammed in the crotch. Jesus tells the audience that they need to give all their money to him or go to Hell. Then Jesus picks up the crucifix we used to club the baby seal, and attaches strings to it. The strings are connected to the hands and feet of a woman in a persistent vegetative state. Jesus makes her dance around the stage like a marionette, and preaches about the Kingdom of Heaven.

"After that, Rush Limbaugh comes on stage and bloviates about the sanctity of marriage, the importance of personal responsibility, and how drug users should be locked up in prison. As he's delivering this monologue, we trot out an underage girl my running mate has knocked up the day before. We dangle a morning-after pill just out of her reach and lecture her on sexual abstinence. All her jumping up and down causes her to spontaneously abort her 1-day-old embryo.

"We carve Ronald Reagan's face onto a life-sized mock-up of the Statue of Liberty.

"Meanwhile, one of my aides is cleaning an assault rifle, which accidentally goes off and blows the head off a lady in the front row. He then gives a long-winded lecture on the 2nd Amendment, and again, personal responsibility.

"On a giant screen at the back of the stage, we play an endless loop of news coverage of a privileged white girl who went missing in Aruba.

"While this is going on, I start firing missiles at the studio next door, saying that the act over there is against family values and God, and they have weapons of mass destruction aimed at our studio. Then I do a pantomime of looking for the WMD under sofas and behind the curtains, laughing my ass off. I never find the WMD, but I keep insisting that the other studio was a dire threat to our studio.

"I explain how morally superior we are, and how we're the only ones who really understand personal responsibility and Christian values and abstinence and the sanctity of marriage and the evils of drug abuse.

"We all dance and slide around in the baby seal blood and fat and the dead lady's blood, and the PCBs and oil and the tears from the underage pregnant girl (Did I mention that she's homeless? She's homeless.). We're rubbing the blood and oil all over each other, slapping each other on the backs, congratulating ourselves on a job well done, and laughing at the homeless pregnant girl and waterboarding the guy dressed as Mohammed as he issues a fatwah against us and the entire audience.

"Then for the finale, we all join in a rousing chorus of 'Nearer My God To Thee.'

"Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that the audience will walk out in droves and demand refunds. But that's the beauty. My running mate and I have cooked the books so that even after you hand out all the refunds, you still made more money than they originally paid. The audience has to pay for their tickets with their credit cards. We steal the credit card numbers and max them out to pay for the lavish party we throw after the show. Halliburton does the catering, so it costs about twice what it should.

"Now get this: We tape the whole show and broadcast it on Fox. Nobody watches it, but we paid Diebold to make the ratings-counters, so it will have the highest ratings in television history."

The agent says "Wow. That's a hell of an act. What do you call it?"

And the guy says "The Republicans!"

(Thanks to Doug for the tip, and apologies to The Walrus, who actually wrote it.)
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Sunday, March 12, 2006
Re: Long Posts

I'm trying to figure out how to make a jump link for these long posts (see the one directly below), so that the entire block of text doesn't have to show up on the main page. I've made a couple of attempts, and both of them worked, except for some unintended consquences with which I could not live.

If anyone knows how to accomplish this in Blogger, I'd be grateful for your advice.
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Sunday Aimlessness

I don't know how things are for you, but I find Sundays almost painfully dull. This, admittedly, has a lot to do with the unstructured quality of my present life -- still not having acquired the real, honest-to-god grown-up job, there's no external pressure that differentiates weekends from weekdays. So weekends are mostly defined, for me, by the fact that everyone else stops doing anything interesting (for me to participate in or just watch), leaving me to wait impatiently for them to start again on Monday. Alternately, we could put it down to my being a steady kind of worker -- the times when I've been happiest at work were the times when days off came few and far between, when I was working three or four weeks at a stretch without a break. I tend to get in a productive groove and then want to stay there; weekends have always felt artificially imposed upon me.

Anyway, the point is that Sundays are when I'm left to my own devices, and that means I invariably start to mull over the less-demanding sorts of issues in my life, and that in turn means that Sundays are when I'm most likely to impose upon my gentle readers the kind of aimless, meandering, quasi-philosophical post I'm going to start writing...

... right...

.... now.

I've been thinking about art again, and more specifically about how I, as a filmmaker, interact with other artists. One of the reasons I chose film as a medium over all of the other worthy candidates was that it promised me the greatest opportunity for creative cross-pollination. Film is a super-medium, potentially encompassing all others -- I'm not a musician, but I can work with musicians; I'm not a writer (well, not for the screen especially) but I can work with writers; I'm not a sculptor, but I can work with sculptors -- you get the idea. Film allows me to focus on all the things that I love the most -- process, structure, narrative, visuals -- all at once, while also finding plenty of opportunity to gain insight into all of these other disciplines. Film, for me, is as much a vehicle for learning as a vehicle for expression. The most interesting people I've met and places I've been and things I've done have all been by way of film.

And these other people are a hugely important part of why I stay in it. Of necessity I find myself working with and around other film people, and generally speaking I love film people. But the people I love the most are the non-film people, and that's where I always hope to forge my strongest creative connections. Some of it's down to ego -- I am frequently jealous of film friends who seem to be doing better than me, although I try very hard to keep my jealousy (and my ego) on a short leash; but I'm never, ever envious of my non-film-friends' successes. In fact, I support them fervently: what's good for them is good for me and good for our various collaborations. But it's also because those are the people who get my mind out of my film-based assumptions and show me new ways to consider creative issues.

One of the things I love best is talking about process -- I don't just want to know what an artist makes, I want to know how they make it. And not just in physical terms -- I want to know about the conceptual work, about the obstacles they have to deal with, about how their processes differ from mine, and why. I haven't the foggiest clue how a composer goes about writing music or a costumer goes about designing a dress, but I'm absolutely, avidly eager to hear their explanation of it. I could sit and listen and discuss all goddamn day long. Sometimes I suspect I got into this just so I could engage in those kinds of conversations. And this can certainly extend beyond pure art -- the wonderful thing about it is that you can draw any discipline or field of knowledge into the circle. Film, for example, is solidly grounded in science and technology; without them, there'd be no such thing as the cinema. The (post)modernity of the medium is part of its intrinsic character.

On the other hand, as I get older I increasingly suspect that some of my artistic values are always going to get in the way of traditional success in my field -- my interests and the film culture at large have yet to really intersect. The deeper I get into whatever passes for my particular, still-developing style, the more I find that I'm chiefly concerned with structure and process -- visual structure, narrative structure, repetition and variation, conducting film production the way you might conduct a lab experiment or a mental exercise. Even at my most optimistic I have strong doubts that the market's ever going to come clamoring for inwardly-self-referential films of people's lips moving. (I think I must've been deaf in a previouslife, because I can happily watch people's lips move for hours at a time -- it's the most sensuous, fascinating thing in the world. I probably shouldn't say that aloud, because now anybody who watches my stuff will always pick out the moving-lips parts -- of which there are plenty -- but fuck it, an artist just likes what a she likes.)

I guess this is all an indirect meditation on what it is I'm actually trying to do, what I hope to accomplish as a filmmaker. At this point, I can safely say that I don't ever really expect to get rich (although a living wage would be a very welcome thing), and that if capital-$ Success ever comes knocking it won't be because I went out courting it. My plan, at the moment, is to crank out at least nine more solid shorts before I even consider attempting anything in a longer form; to be honest, except where compelled to tell a story that requires a feature-length running time, I'd be perfectly happy to keep making chamber films for the rest of my career. I've always had the greatest respect for short forms in all mediums.

I think it's plainly obvious that however mad my skillz may be in some areas, I've probably got another decade's work left to do before I am officially kicking ass. The thing I wrestle with the most when showing people my work is the strong urge to denounce everything I've done so far on the basis that I can do so much better. I've really got to figure out a better way of coping with that, though, since it is my sincere hope that I always feel on the verge of being able to accomplish more. That, for me, is the big reward of doing the work; it's great if people see my work and like it -- that's important, too -- but it's the process of getting better that pulls me in.

I'm all about the process. Sadly, there's not much money in that.
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Friday, March 10, 2006
Friday Dork Blogging

While I was out running a couple of errands this afternoon, I happened to pass by the local high school as they were letting out for the day. It was the still-familiar selection of adolscence: the hot chicks and cheerleaders, the bewildered would-be tough guys, the shitkickers, the jocks, the half-assed gangstas, the teeming swarms of nondescript, nothing-special teenagers. You know the ones I mean.

And then there was one of My People. They haven't changed a bit in 15 years -- skinny, dressed all in black in the bit-of-this-bit-of-that noncomformist fashion peculiar to small-town high schools, with a black jacket and unnecessarily large black boots; wavy, dyed-black hair down to his chin; glasses, lugging an instrument case of some kind, pimply, the smell of teenage lust wafting off him, slouching down the sidewalk alone. I have rarely felt such a wave of instant sympathy and warmth towards a stranger as I felt towards this slightly-greasy lump of yet-unrealized potential. I wanted to run up to him and give him a hug, put my arm around his shoulders and reassure him that everything was going to be okay.

Yes, little dork, everything's going to be just fine. If you can make it through these next few years with your soul intact, things are going to get so much better for you. Whatever's in the case, keep playing it; if you can, if you haven't already, learn to play something you can play in a band, and then there will be parties and interesting people and girls enough to see you through (or boys enough, or both, whatever draws you.) Learn to draw, learn to write, get to know your computer inside-out, move to the city, and soon this miserable high school existance will be nothing but an irrelevant memory. Ignore all these little shitsuckers; this is as good as it gets for too many of them. You, on the other hand, have everything to look forward to if you just put in a little effort and stay true to yourself. There will be times in the future when things will be bad, but if you keep trying and always treat the people around you with kindness, it'll all be worth it in the long run. You'll see, little dork. Things are going to turn out beautifully.

He, of course, would've thought I was mad. It's the kind of thing I'd have liked to hear from someone when I was walking that lonely stretch of sidewalk, though.

What would you tell your teenage self if you could?

PS: Couldn't be more unrelated, but this is the Best. Chinese Restaurant Menu. Ever.
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Earworm

So, like, I've had the song "Frank Mills" stuck in my head for two fuckin' days now.

It's the Lemonheads version, so I guess that's not so bad. And I do actually kinda like the song and its deep-seated reluctance to rhyme... but enough is enough.

Normally when I get a song stuck in my head, I can handle it. I'm the queen of curing those annoying little things that crop up -- I can whip hiccups reliably in thirty seconds flat without fail. For this kind of thing, I've found that humming the theme from "The Tonight Show" ten or twelve times in a row will usually dislodge any sticky tune without the unfortunate side-effect of taking up residency in its place. But apparently Frank Mills is immune to Johnny Carson.

I met a boy called Frank Mills
On September twelfth right here
In front of the Waverly
But unfortunately I lost his address.


Help. Please.
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Thursday, March 09, 2006
Question of the Day

I think something safely uncontroversial is in order, something we can all agree upon:

What's your preferred vehicle for the consumption of chocolate?
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Wednesday, March 08, 2006
A Reply For Koba

From the comments:

Where is the consistency of argument on both sides? Liberals want to be able to murder fetuses and the conservative right wants to save fetuses and kill murders.

If you're going to be pro choice, then why not be pro death penalty? Talk about no logic. "It's OK to kill the three month old fetus, but by God, no, you can't kill that man who killed 5 people. Two wrongs don't make a right.

I was wondering when you'd drop by again. :) That's an excellent question, and one worth addressing properly. I shall do my best.

First, I do make a distinction between a blob of incognizant tissues (which is the state in which the vast majority of aborted fetuses exist) and a human being who has lived in society. This, of course, is where the idea of God enters and leaves the debate, and where that 5% I spoke of previously resides: some people view that blob as a human being; I, generally speaking, do not. Philosophically, I believe a blastocyst/embryo/fetus becomes a human being at a) the moment it becomes independently viable or b) the moment the woman carrying it decides it's a human being; I don't simply accept the argument that "life begins at conception." So that's one element, with which you can agree or disagree. (This certainly leaves some grey-area regarding late-term abortions -- although that grey area exists almost exclusively in the domain of theory, since late-term abortions are essentially never performed except in cases of major risk of death to the mother or the absolute inviability of the fetus. But if we stick purely to theory, you still have some room to wiggle there.)

But mostly, I just think the death penalty is inefficient and unecessary. As far as I'm concerned, a murderer locked up for life without chance of parole is as good as a dead one -- as long as the offender is removed from society and unable to do harm to anyone else, what's the point of killing him? It's never been demonstrated to be a deterrant to crime; furthermore, it's more expensive to the taxpayer to execute a prisoner than it is to maintain him (which is really more of a value-for-money issue.) And frankly, if punishment is the goal, then you've removed the prisoner's meaningful life regardless of whether or not you actually kill him. All you've got left, then, is revenge, and I don't put a lot of stock in vengeance as a punitive measure. Revenge is the real impetus behind the death penalty, whereas in abortion it's a woman's self-preservation, and the preservation of her existing (or perhaps future) family. It's perhaps a fine distinction in some minds, but I think an absolutely crucial one.

So I'd suggest that the far more apropos analogy here would be to compare a woman aborting a fetus to a woman shooting a threatening intruder in her home. I don't have a problem with killing someone if your goal is to preserve the wellbeing of your own life and the lives of those for whom you are responsible -- do you? The birth of an unwanted child can be enormously, overwhelmingly destructive to the mother and her existing/future family; the process of gestation and childbirth itself can be as physically damaging as a physical assault. To force that kind of harm on a woman against her will is, as far as I'm concerned, ethically not that far removed from the kind of harm your imprisoned murderer has done. Now, obviously, in one case the intruder is culpable, while the fetus is blameless -- but then, when self-preservation is involved, it's not really about blame or guilt. It's about protecting that which you already have against harm.

Like I said in my previous post, if we lived in a society in which the birth of a child did not carry the risk of such enormous financial, emotional, and physical damage -- to the mother, to her existing children, to her future children, to the child who will come into the world unwanted and unwelcome -- then I personally would certainly be willing to reconsider my position. To a woman who wants a child, these risks are worthwhile; to a woman who does not, a birth can be as traumatic as a death. As a wise man once said, "abortion may be murder, but it's murder in self-defense."

And, finally, I do believe that abortion should be, as we say, "safe, legal, and rare." I think it should happen as rarely as possible (hence my strong emphasis on contraception as the most valuable way to prevent it and the insanity/maliciousness of opposing both abortion and contraception), but that even under the best circumstances it will ocassionally be necessary. I do not assume that I (except where I myself am concerned) have any right whatsoever to judge when "necessary" has been reached. It's for the woman, with the advice of her doctor, to decide. Contrary to the beliefs of some, women don't rely on abortion for convenience -- there's nothing convenient about it. It's a terrible thing to have to do, but sometimes you have to do it.

An interesting side-note to all this:

There's a video making the rounds today (without broadband I haven't actually been able to watch it myself, but you can find a link and discussion of it here) which apparently depicts various anti-abortion activists being posed the question, "so, if abortion should be illegal, then what should be the punishment?" I have to admit, it never occurred to me that the people pushing these laws might not have considered that question (even I gave them more credit than that), but indeed it looks like by and large they haven't given it much thought -- they all seem to assume that someone else will figure that part out. That surprises me, but I don't think it should -- in all the years that this debate has been going on, I can't recall anyone ever suggesting any serious answer to that question, but you have to admit, it's pretty goddamn important if they're going to start changing the laws.

My assumption, of course, is that the punishment will be ridiculously inflated -- look at the War on Drugs and then tell me it won't be. On the other hand, a simple fine would essentially be nothing but a tax on abortion, albeit in a really creepy, ass-backwards way.

So what shall it be, anti-abortionites? Prison? Death? Torture's very much in vogue in those circles... or maybe hard labor? (Ha! I made a funny.) Will it be the doctor that's punished (hardly seems fair, since the mother's the one doing all the "pre-meditating"), or the mother only (hardly seems fair, since she couldn't do it without an accomplice), or both? Will they be punished equally or not, and if not, on what basis do we distinguish between their punishments? Do we just punish the women who have abortions after the laws are passed, or does it apply retroactively? How long is the statute of limitations? In short, how far have you thought this through?
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My Sweet Vermont

In five Vermont communities, a centuries-old tradition of residents gathering in town halls to conduct local business became a vehicle to send a message to Washington: Impeach the president.

An impeachment article, approved by a paper ballot 121-29 in Newfane Tuesday, calls on Vermont's lone member of the U.S. House, independent Rep. Bernie Sanders, to file articles of impeachment against President Bush, alleging he misled the nation into the Iraq war and engaged in illegal domestic spying.

(...)

At least four other Vermont towns, spurred by publicity about Newfane's resolution, endorsed similar resolutions during Tuesday's meetings: Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney.

(source)


Newfane, Dummerston, Marlboro, Putney. I know them all well, especially the second-to-last one. (My mother will remember Newfane as the heartwarmingly quaint image of Perfect New England we visited when last she went there.) Did you know that Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita to the Iraq war than any other state? On a per-person basis, one of the states that most opposed the war and its architects has sacrificed the most to feed it. I'd wager that's a pattern you'd find repeated across society.

No, obviously it doesn't accomplish anything. But damn am I proud of Vermont today.
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Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Abortion Statement

So, let's lighten the mood around here for a minute and talk about abortion, shall we?

This is one of those subjects I'm always reluctant to undertake on the blog -- not because I don't think most of my readers are sympathetic, not because I'm fearful of condemnation, not because I'm not confident in the correctness of my position; but only because there's a level on which the question can never be answered completely. Rationality will get you 95% of the way to a definitive answer regarding abortion, but that last 5% is untouchable by logic. It's the same 5% that values human life over the lives of animals; the same 5% that makes us value our friends and families over strangers; the same primal 5% that wants to protect the helpless, even when there's no "rational" reason to do so. It's this last little bit that makes the question so hard to deal with.

But still, deal with it we must: abortion is over in South Dakota; Mississippi is likely next; Tennessee is flirting with the idea as well. "No abortion, no exceptions for rape or incest; women are beholden to the wishes of the men who impregnated them." This is what the pro-lifers want for us. They say it's about life; I call bullshit. It's really about sex, and it's about keeping women in their place.

(That I should even have to point this out, 30 years after the second women's movement, is tragic.)

Let's consider the problem.

The religious declare that their faith forbids them to kill or to be party to killing. (We'll set aside war and the death penalty for the sake of argument -- that would put the lie to the claim before I've even gotten to have any fun with it.) God, they say, creates every human being and imbues them at conception with the dignity of Humanity and the right to live. (Again, we'll set aside that not everyone believes that, and that in the United States we are all protected from the faith of other people, for the sake of the argument.) Thus, aborting a fetus is murder, and as people of faith, they are required to condemn abortion. The argument isn't really backed up by their larger behavioral patterns, but it's straightforward enough in its own way. The assumption we're left with is this: abortions must end, in order to preserve the dignity of every Human Life.

With me? Of course you are, you're a clever little sausage.

One of the first problems we run up against is that so far we're dealing only with theory, not reality. Science has no opinion on the dignity of Human Life; history has no opinion on the dignity of Human Life; the Bible itself metes out a harsher punishment (death) for eating shrimp than it does for killing an unborn baby (a monetary fine.) And then there's fact to contend with: humanity has never existed without abortion. It has always been with us, it will always be with us (have you noticed that women are already starting to dig the old knowledge up and share it amongst themselves again?) and without safe, medical intervention it carries risks quite apart from the risk of offending the gods. American abortion law (as it still tenuously stands) was never about the Life of a fetus; it's about the Life of a woman.

Women used to die from abortions. Women were mutilated by abortions. It happened every damn day. Our laws were written to protect life -- the life of women doing something that women have sometimes been forced by circumstance to do since our species developed an understanding of the processes involved. It's a difficult ethical question, nobody denies that -- which life is most worth salvaging?

In an ideal world, of course, the choice would be rendered unnecessary. And that's the rub. See, the weird thing about our current crop of pro-lifers is that it's not just about "stopping abortion" with them -- it's about stopping contraception, too -- contraception, of course, being the best, easiest, safest, cheapest way to prevent abortion. The republican administration is quietly blocking the approval of effective emergency contraception for over-the-counter sale, and red states are lining up to allow pro-lifers to deny not only the morning-after pill but ALL contraception to women. They combat Planned Parenthood clinics whose activities are much more about preventing pregnancy than about providing abortions. They battle against meaningful sex education in public schools, denying young men and women the facts they need to prevent disease and pregnancy.

They would rather see women forced to give birth and their babies forced to grow up in poverty than prevent pregnancy in the first place. They would rather have teenagers get sick, get pregnant, and live in ignorance than give them condoms with which to protect themselves. And yet, they say, this is about the dignity of Human Life. Their proposed laws are about preserving Human Life. That's what they say.

Okay, fine.

When we have a society in which:

- no child goes unfed or uneducated
- every child has a doctor to go to, clothes to wear, and a safe home to live in, regardless of the economic situation into which they were born
- every Person of Faith has personally put as much effort into protecting existing children as they have into protecting children who have not yet even been conceived
- every child, of every color, religion, and nationality is regarded as the same as our own children
- no woman is forced to choose between caring for her child and caring for herself
- every father is held responsible, and assumes an equal share of the burden of being a parent
- every woman capable of conceiving a child is given full, easy, and private access to every available method of preventing an unwanted conception
- every baby can be born into a family that wants it and loves it and has the resources with which to raise it
- and every parent is afforded the full protections of parental leave, and given every necessary tool to see to the wellbeing of their offspring...

... when you Good Christian People get that lot taken care of, when you acknowledge and address your own personal role in the "murder" of every aborted fetus -- hell, when you even make a significant, good-faith effort in that general direction -- then I'd be happy to re-visit the subject of abortion with you. That sounds like a world that could be free of abortion, and it sounds like an all-around cool place to live. That sounds like the kind of change we could all get behind. That's the kind of change that would have a huge impact in preserving the dignity of Human Life -- every Life, of every Human Being. I look forward to working with you on the project.

But until then, you can keep your fucking cross out of my uterus, thanks very much, you fucking hateful, hypocritical liars. Your laws don't protect life, they just shift the death to someone else: to the poor; to the women who "deserve" death, mutiliation, poverty and the cruel punishment of laboring while shackled to their maternity bed; and to their children who incur a lifetime of deprivation for the mistake of choosing the wrong womb in which to be conceived. Your laws and your philosophy are the half-assed, easy way to "protect life" -- the way that doesn't require anything of you except to be a self-righteous asshole. Truly protecting life and human dignity requires sacrifice, introspection, practicality, and the co-operation of entire societies -- things that you are clearly not prepared to engage in. Protecting life is harder than you and your fundamentalist God-cum-Sky-Buddy can even bear to think about. Your way is the coward's way, and I have no use for it. So you can expect to see me spitting on your so-called "Christian" laws from now until the day Jesus comes back and slaps that smirk off your face.
12:54 PM ::
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Monday, March 06, 2006
Hot Burger Fat

So, I've just undertaken a reading of Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale. I've barely started it (and I probably won't tuck in in earnest until I finish re-reading Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.) But I've been increasingly fascinated by the (ahem) "controversy" surrounding evolution, and wanted to better understand. To put it simply: wherever the fundies decide to pick a fight, I want to be intellectually prepared to resist them. (Though why I should have to, 81 years after Scopes, is a bitch-session for another day.) As a reasonably well-educated, fairly intellectual woman, I already understand the rough outlines of evolutionary theory, and I'm equipped for all-purpose critical thinking; but I also know that there's a lot I don't know. I figured it would be a good thing to fill in some of the gaps, and Dawkins seems like the man for the job.

But I'm always curious to see what other people who've read a given book think, so I turned to Amazon.com for a preview. Most of the reviews were lucid and reasonable. And then, predictably, a few were hysterical -- in both senses of the word. You gotta read this stuff, it's a work of faith-based genius:

If life had been evolving for billions of years then surely even animals like goats and squirrels would have turned into humans by now.

Maybe they got a look at you and decided they were better off hoarding nuts in their cheeks and eating garbage. I couldn't blame 'em.

A simple syllogism proves that existence must have been Created:

Things that exist must have been created
Existence exists
Therefore existence must have been created

Stupid people make stupid assumptions.
Your argument hinges on a stupid assumption.
Therefore...

Many of nature's wonders - such as the motor-driven tails of the bacterium Helicobacter - simply cannot be accounted for by the incremental genetic framework proposed by evolutionists such as Dawkins. Like a George Foreman GRP4P Next Grilleration 4-Burger Grill, if you remove the functionality of a single component (such as the grease tray) then the organism (grill) will fail to operate, and hot burger fat goes literally everywhere.

Wasn't that great? I'll just let you enjoy it for a minute.*

Moving on...

Here's the best one of all. This one wants to be savored line-by-line:

Creation may be contradicted by facts, but facts don't necessarily add up to truth.

That's what you call a core thesis of ignorance.

Evolution itself is flawed on several counts, for example it cannot explain:

1) Why heavy fish, like whales, don't just sink to the bottom of the ocean

Kinda makes you want to cry, huh?

2) Why most trees are so much taller than necessary

This one's cool because the sheer stupidity behind the question is so overwhelming, I'm having trouble even finding the words to address it. It's like some kind of mysterious dumb-fu.

3) How non-biological animals, like crocodiles and ostriches, came into existence

What's a "non-biological animal"? Do you actually understand how words work?

(Are you sure?)

4) Why sharks haven't grown legs, moved onto land and taken over the world

Dude, you haven't even managed to take over operation of your frontal cortex; who are you to criticize?

5) The existence of invisible species that remain undiscovered

Because if they were visible, we'd probably have seen them by now.

Fucking idiot.

There are a few longer ones that are worth a read if you're inclined -- right now, I'm feeling pretty good about my choice of teams. The ignoramuses are breeding faster, but when it comes to evolutionary survival, I think we all know who's going to come out on top in the end. God bless the smart, creative motherfuckers.

(Incidentally, if you've never read Geek Love, you should. I read it some years ago, together with Gregory Maguire's Wicked, and they complemented each other well. Personally I think Geek Love is the more interesting of the two, but then, I tend to like my freaks extra-freaky. What can I say? I'm a purist.)



*I strongly suspect this one was intended as satire -- obviously heliobacter is morphologically much closer to the George Foreman GRP90WGR Next Grilleration Removable-Plate Grill with 5 Plates. I mean, duh.
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Sunday, March 05, 2006
Last-Minute Predictions

This is a useless, pointless exercise, but I just can't not.

Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Actress: Felicity Huffman (though Reese will doubtless win the popularity contest)
Best Supp. Actor: George Clooney
Best Supp. Actress: Catherine Keener
Best Doc. Feature: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Best Doc. Short: A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin
Best Orig. Screenplay: Good Night and Good Luck
Best Adap. Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain
Best Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Best Editing: no fucking clue, how about Michael Kahn?
Best Director: Ang Lee
Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain (though Good Night and Good Luck deserves it just as much.)

As if any of it means anything. I'm only watching for Jon Stewart.

Update: Yep, less than 50% for me; I'm too idealistic for this game.
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Saturday, March 04, 2006
Memphis Is Doomed

All this time I've figured it would be an earthquake or a chemical plant explosion that would get us... why didn't anybody tell me about the mutant daddy longlegs breeding facility?
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Friday, March 03, 2006
Wait, That Can't Be Right

John Travolta and Queen Latifah have been confirmed to star in the big-screen version of Hairspray to be directed by Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House).

Huh? I've seen Hairspray, and I swear to fuck that Travolta's not in that movie anywhere. I've seen it several times and I'm quite certain.

Travolta will play the role made famous by Divine as Edna Turnblad. Latifah will play Motormouth Mabel. A current nationwide search is on for the lead role of Tracy Turnblad made famous by Ricki Lake. Production begins this Fall with a 2007 release.

Y'see, John Waters? This is what happens when you sell your shit out. Now, I know that you never claimed to be an artist solely for art's sake, and I know you've always been open about your pursuit of money, but this is some serious whoredom. And not the good, fun kind, either. Eating dogshit for a buck is one thing, but hooking up with Travolta? Christ, you'll be doing ads for Hummers next. (And not the blowjob kind, the 10 mpg kind.)

Whatever cred Travolta earned for doing Pulp Fiction was more than wiped out by doing Phenomenon, Michael, and Battlefield Earth.

Unless Travolta eats dogshit in the movie. That I'd pay to see. Do you think it would show up on an E-meter?
5:56 PM ::
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Friday Blah Blogging

I don't know about you, but my energy's been at a low ebb for the last couple of days. Not low to the point of immobility -- yesterday I took a long walk at a local park and ended up feeding lemon cookies to fish with some old guy named Lloyd. (I was sure he was going to start talking about Jesus at any moment, but he never did.) This is more like, "I could do this now, but then again, I could also do it tomorrow" kind of low-energy.

Obviously what I need is a photograph of an absurdly large boxer and his terrified prey.



Holy fucking shit. That's Nickolay Valuev, and he's 7 feet tall, 320 pounds. I think he only wins because nobody can reach to punch him in the face. The fur on his back just makes him scarier -- I think I'm going to have nightmares.

Elsewhere: the kids in the generation coming up now sure are nice, but they're a bunch of little fucking lemmings. Or so says this article. I'm feeling really irritable about the whole thing, sandwiched between two generations so numerous that they become tyrannical in their desires: when the boomers want to talk about getting old, we all have to talk about getting old; when the millenials want to talk about having babies, we'll all have to talk about having babies. That's too goddamn much diaper-talk for this grouchy Gen-Xer.
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Thursday, March 02, 2006
Question of the Day

What's your very, very first memory?

(I'm gonna start putting my answers in the comments, too... maybe seeing something besides '0' there will prod y'all into action.)
1:50 AM ::
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Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Films In Hell

One of the cruel facts of my creative life has been the apparent impossibility of ever getting to see or meet one of my heroes in person. The simple reason for this: all of my heroes are dead. And that's not merely a coincidence; in fact, it increasingly appears to be an absolute requirement for ascending into my personal pantheon. Someone whom I find while they're still alive, for reasons I can't rationally explain, will never reach "hero" status; and people whom I could so enthusiastically admire will always remain obscure to me until after their deaths. Why it should be so, I don't know. I just know it always happens that way.

The most recent applicant to my personal League of Superfriends: Doris Wishman. Doris was (and is) the most prolific woman director in history, having produced 30 feature films during her lifetime. She worked in exploitation, sexploitation, and camp, films with titles like Nude on the Moon, Bad Girls Go to Hell, Satan was a Lady, A Night to Dismember and, with a premise that would make John Waters slap his forehead with anguish at not having thought of it himself, The Amazing Transplant:

Somewhat of a softcore film, it detailed the perils of a young man whom, as young men are wont to do, has the penis of a dead man transplanted onto his groin.

Stop, stop... I'm sold.

Sadly, I've never seen one of her films, although by now I fully intend to. But it's not really the films themselves that put Wishman in the running for Hero '06; most of them sound, frankly, almost unwatchable. Having little interest in seeing Chesty Morgan play a detective who suffocates unruly perps with one of her garganu-tits, there might not be much in these films for me. But ironically enough, it's not Wishman's films that demand my admiration, it's her huge fucking balls.

(Yes, women have balls, too -- we just keep ours on the inside. Now stop interrupting.)

Doris started making films in 1960, during an era when women were routinely told they couldn't even keep their jobs once they married, much less run a cinematic empire, much less run a cinematic empire that stuck exclusively to sex-centric themes. She made her films without outside financial support, regardless of whether anyone gave her permission, and regardless of whether anyone noticed. She easily beat out Russ Meyer for eyeball-peelingly outre story ideas and actress cup sizes (Russ never got Chesty), and she was still churning out movies like Dildo Heaven at the age of 90. She was once quoted as saying, "When I die, I'll make films in hell." Now tell me those aren't some stunningly huge balls on that woman. She's the anti-Deren, a woman whose body of work can be appreciated exclusive of its artistic merits, who thrived in a hostile landscape by becoming even more hostile than her environment.

I think I love you, Doris Wishman.


11:56 PM ::
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Blogiversary #2

It's official: I have nothing better to do with my time.

That's 704 posts (counting this one), or roughly .96 posts per day; and just shy of 40,000 hits total.

Wheeeeee. I'm having so much fun.
11:55 PM ::
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