Monday, December 29, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Atheists For Christmas

Laura Miller put it best:
Our contemporary, semi-secular Christmas is... a collection of everything yearned for: warmth, plenty, peace, family, conviviality... the holiday is a fantasy, but there are times when a fantasy is exactly what you need.
Happy Holidays everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Something's Shocking

I don't consider myself naive. But I saw this and my jaw dropped and I did a literal double take and I had to read it several times before it sank in:
Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with corruption, including an allegation that he conspired to profit from his authority to appoint President-elect Barack Obama's successor in the United States Senate, prosecutors said.
Really? It's like they aren't even trying to uphold any semblance of propriety any more. Might as well put it up on eBay or Craigslist: "Senate seat for sale. $500,000 or best offer." Another great big "fuck you" from our elected officials.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Final Countdown (on Prop 8)

Keith Olbermann can be annoying, abrasive, and bombastic. Don't get me wrong, I like him, and I think he is incredibly erudite and insightful. Those qualities set him apart from his ideological nemesis Bill O'Reilly. But in this commentary, he truly demonstrates why he is so much more than just the left's version of O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Slow Fade

I just read that India landed an unmanned spacecraft on the moon today. I don't know why, but this bothers me almost as much as the financial crisis that grips the U.S. I love the American space program, and I have always felt a sense of pride in it. But nowadays our education system can't even teach our children science without having to beat back church groups, and in mathematics our children lag behind other nations. And we have no money to address these educational issues - we are heavily leveraged by war and debt and the true cost of the so-called "free" market.

I'm sure Indians feel a great swell of pride in their country's accomplishment, as well they should. But I can't help feel that we Americans should be standing on Moon Base Alpha right now, chillin in a gigantic greenhouse, instead of drowning in ten trillion dollars of debt.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President-Elect Barack Obama

The harder-working candidate won. The smarter, more academic candidate won. The more charismatic speaker won. The more consistent, more even-tempered candidate won. The more hopeful, more inclusive candidate won. Dare I say it? The better community organizer won. Unlike the past two presidential elections, which made it seem like cynical demographic triangulations were the only path to victory in 21st century politics, yesterday I had the feeling that that the better candidate really did win, as opposed to the better strategy, which had triumphed in the past. That is truly a cause for hope.

However you voted, and in whatever way you care to parse the election results, I think it is clear that Barack Obama out-hustled John McCain at almost every step of the campaign, kept a steadier hand upon the direction of his candidacy, and ultimately prevailed at least in part because of these reasons. Obama cultivated a clear vision and (mostly) stayed with his message and his ideals throughout the entire epic campaign. No small feat in a two-year contest. Factor in that Obama is black, and his victory seems all the sweeter: here is finally proof that white privilege can be cast aside, at least for a moment, and that the better man can actually win the top elective office, regardless of race.

I think Obama is going to be a great president. He and his staff ran an incredibly disciplined, focused, intelligent campaign, and they sustained the effort for a very long time. If his administration is anything like his campaign, I think we really will see some positive changes in the next four years. I don't agree with Obama on every issue, and the nation and the world he inherits have monumental problems to face. But I am very excited at the prospect of Obama stepping in to heal the festering wounds that mar our body politic. Congratulations to him and all of his supporters.

* * *

A few words about race.

When I was a college student, over the course of two quarters I spent my lunch hour watching and discussing Eyes on the Prize, the seminal 14-hour documentary series about the civil rights movement. The stories of the movement and the power of the archival footage made simply watching that series and participating in the discussion groups a transformational event for me.

I saw in that series the totality of the American experience for the first time. The true arc of American history is woefully incomplete without a full appreciation of the civil rights movement. Colonial-era slavery culminated in the American Civil War. The Civil War begot the Reconstruction. The Reconstruction gave way to Jim Crow laws and segregation. This institutionalized racism led ultimately to the movement. And politicians and policy makers since then have alternatively tried to shore up, fight against, or co-opt the legacy of that movement. The Black experience isn't some minor part of American history; it is American history.

Fast forward to the primary season at the beginning of this year. To me, it seemed we were closer to a Black president in 1988 when Jesse Jackson made a run than we were in 2008. But on this stage an insurgency was already brewing in the person of Barack Obama.

Obama is not a preacher, a military man, an athlete, or a movie star, as one might have expected the first African-American president to be. In spite of noises to the contrary, he wasn't really a celebrity of any kind. Derided by Sarah Palin for being a "community organizer," it turned out that that was his fundamental strength: his feet-on-the ground, working knowledge of how to build and maintain a coalition propelled him to victory.

Watching Eyes on the Prize, I couldn't help but think that as a nation we had drifted away from the promise and focus and optimism of those bygone years. I can see that I was wrong. In Obama lives a deep knowledge of and respect for that history, and whose rhetoric is steeped in that tradition. I am thrilled by the knowledge that his election will energize the dialog on race in the United States. And I am deeply, deeply happy that the hopes and dreams of so many tireless participants in the civil rights movement, these community organizers, are partially fulfilled by Obama's ascendancy. They sacrificed so much, and some paid the ultimate price for their belief in a nation that could live up to its highest ideals. This victory is theirs.

Monday, November 3, 2008

If Only Issues Really Decided The Outcome

If this picture illustrated the actual candidates, would the polls in this presidential election be so close..? Sadly, I guess that the answer is no.

Don't forget to vote!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Witch Head Nebula

Happy Halloween! The image of the nebula is courtesy of those lovable nerds over at

Monday, October 20, 2008

What the Rest of the World Thinks

I found this graph today. It speaks volumes about what the Bush presidency has meant for U.S. standing in the world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who Gives A Damn About The Stock Market?

There is strong element of sarcasm in the headline, but there is also an earnestness. Who really suffers from these volatile financial markets? And for that matter, who benefits from them? In the past week, the DJIA took triple digit losses for something like six days in a row. Then yesterday, there was a nearly-quadruple-digit rally. It makes me wonder, who are the people buying and selling that number of shares? They aren't anyone I know.

Like the winners and losers on American Idol, who represent a tiny fraction of musicians and artists, it seems that in spite of how large the stock market looms in our collective consciousness, we are actually thinking about a relatively small number of people who control it. Ordinary folks just have to sit anxiously by and hope their favorite mutual fund doesn't face Simon Cowell's virulent tongue. The only difference is that the stakes are retirement, health care, and municipal works, rather than merely bearing witness to someone else's fifteen minutes of lame.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fiddling While Rome Burns

I love my Google home page. It distills a lot of information I want from the web at a glance each morning, and indeed throughout the day. And sometimes it even provides me with great ironic content as well. Take this collection of news stories:
Six headlines. Four of them grimly confirm the economic crisis that has the world by the throat, one of them illustrates the dangers of unchecked government spying. And then there's this: "McCain Joins Attacks on Obama Over Radical." 5600 related stories! There is a global financial crisis, war and genocide and terrorism are rampant, domestic spying is on the rise, civil liberties are being systematically eroded, and the best McCain can do is to perform a "guilt-by-association" hatchet job on Obama.

Maybe Nero wasn't so bad after all.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Grampa Jim

My grandpa died today.

One of the many difficult things that comes with dealing with a death in the family is an awareness that there have been words left unsaid and deeds left undone. My relationship with him feels somehow unfinished, and now it must remain so. I suppose one cannot truly "finish" a relationship. But it hurts to feel the loss of someone so dear and so lively in heart and mind. There were many things I would have yet liked to have learned from him, and I long to hear more tales from his life in his own words.

I am grateful to have known him and I am very proud to be counted among his grandchildren.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Right About The Right, Again

Sometime late in the morning four years ago, the day after the disastrous 2004 presidential election, a friend sent me an email which decried the gulf of difference between ourselves and the average voter.
There is a large sector of the American public (51%, I guess) that is uninterested in facts. I'm not saying they're necessarily dumb, but they simply are not interested in weighing evidence or critical thinking. They believe what they believe, and for them, it all turns on social issues... [in that context,] the only way to win would be to sacrifice the social issues... In the meantime, we have no choice but to keep fighting for reason, science, and decency, or else just move to Canada. Obama 2008.
Obama in 2008? What a dreamer. And yet here we are! He gets full credit for calling that one.

I bring up his sagacity because we exchanged some email today about some quotes in the New York Times. In an article about the election, one church-going Catholic seriously asked, "are they going to make it the Black House?" And another: "She said she’s never voted, and was a teenage mom "like Bristol." She likes Sarah [Palin] because she’s "down home" but said Obama "gives me the creeps. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s black. He just seems snotty, and he looks weaselly." This is who we might be going to the polls with in November?

My friend wrote of these shameful (shameless?) pronouncements:
...if we [Democrats] don't [win the 2008 election], it won't be because we don't have a good candidate, or that he didn't run a good campaign. It's just that there are more of *them* than there are of us. And worse, they're outbreeding us by a fairly wide margin.
Goddammit, I suspect he's right again. It sounds a lot like Idiocracy, doesn't it?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Was Wrong (Again)

Since Friday I've been saying that John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin was a desperation move that surely marked the end of any Republican aspirations to keep the White House in this year's election. How could an unknown, first-term governor from one of the least populous states in the country be a legitimate choice for VP? It seemed like the ultimate gimmick, designed to grab disgruntled Clinton voters away from Obama, and shake up a race whose outcome was all-but-determined.

Boy was I off the mark. But I've been wrong before, and I'm sure it will happen again. Here's the truth: Palin is a dynamic, funny, engaging, and charismatic speaker, possessed with self-confidence and poise. She's got toughness and pride and broad appeal, and she is certainly a far more inspired and daring choice than Joseph Biden, Obama's running mate. And still more - she has the social- and religious-conservative bona fides that McCain lacks that so energizes the Republican base. She may actually be the best choice McCain could have made in a challenging election year for Republicans.

Already the media machine has been charmed: instead of an honest exploration of her hypocritical and invasive policies, and her wrongheaded views on science and the environment, news consumers have been treated to the most simplistic of narratives about her: that she is a hockey mom who has been judged and mistreated by the democratic establishment and the liberal media.

I have watched only a bit of news since Friday, but I have heard repeated countless instances of hand-wringing that Palin's family should be off-limits, and that Palin should not be criticized for being a working mother of five and accepting the offer to be McCain's running mate. Here's my question: who criticized her for being a working mother? I would love to see the sound bites. Because I don't believe any such criticism actually happened.

Instead, reporters have asked her and everyone around her soft-headed questions like "do you think it's fair to be criticized for being a working mother of five?" Does anyone honestly think that there is more than one answer to that bullshit?

Here's a question for Palin that should not be off limits. "Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between a lack of comprehensive sex education and teen pregnancy rates. This statistic has played itself out in your own life. As an opponent of sex education, how do you respond to that?"

I'd like someone in the "liberal media" to ask that question, please.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pseudointellectual Property

After living with my mom for almost a year, I finally have my own place. But now that I'm moving in, I'm beginning to realize just how few practical possessions I have. I have many games, books, comics, CDs, DVDs, tapes, LPs, posters, and miniatures, as well as two musical instruments, two computers, and other hobbyist equipment. But I have almost nothing in the way of bookshelves, towels, flatware, bed sheets, or things to sit on.

I'd better get to work on that.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Feminists Flock to Anti-Choice Former Beauty Queen

Thanks to John McCain's maverick choice for his vice-presidential running mate, enraged Hillary Clinton supporters have found the feminist voice they had sought in Clinton, and are rallying under the McCain/Palin banner in overwhelming numbers.

Ok, sorry. I always wanted to write an Oniony headline and story. Seriously though, McCain's choice makes his campaign seem even more desperate than I thought possible. This is not going to tip the scale in his favor. It is a laughable and apparently ill-considered move.

Game over, dude.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

No Uglies, Please

Apparently Ashlee Simpson and Milli Vanilli aren't the only ones who do it. The plucky, cute nine-year-old who performed "Ode to the Motherland" during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics was just pretending! But here's the real kicker - she wasn't lip-syncing to her own voice, because it wasn't even her voice to begin with!

The girl who actually sang the song was deemed too ugly to perform, so they put a prettier girl on stage. Said the show's musical director: "[she] was used [in place of the actual singer] because it was in the best interests of the country." Wow. Talented enough to sing in front of the entire world at nine years old, but told she's too ugly to be on stage? Sign this poor girl up for therapy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Spectacular Contrast Of Then And Now

In this amnesic age of sixty-second sound bytes, one-hour debates, twenty-four hour news cycles, and the daily scramble to follow current oil prices and stock quotes, one would do well to ponder at length the moral of this tale.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Centerfold and Actress Clash Over Vaccinations

Playboy bunny Jenny McCarthy and actress Amanda Peet are having a media spat over whether vaccinating children is good public policy. Now, call me fucking crazy, but I would prefer that SCIENTISTS and DOCTORS debate the merits of childhood vaccinations and their impact upon public health on the news, rather than a couple of b-list celebrities. Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Space Is The Place

NASA turns 50 today! They've had their share of failures and cock-ups and shortcomings, but you have to love an organization whose motto is "for the benefit of all." And I just love space. Reflecting upon space is akin to nothing less than contemplating the nature of existence itself.

A quote from the classic film The Right Stuff once admonished, "No bucks, no Buck Rogers." But do we need 'Buck Rogers' anymore? There's a lot to be learned from space exploration. But do we need astronauts to do it? The manned space program is exciting and inspiring, and I don't want to give it up. But it is so expensive relative to the unmanned space program, and the science that is done benefits few.

What should a society pay for in this age of nearly half-trillion dollar deficits? Should NASA pursue the best, most cost-effective scientific research? Or should it protect itself by funding "politically sensitive" projects? NASA isn't done wrestling with these questions. I hope they come up with a good answer.

Happy Birthday, NASA.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak

My life will never be the same. I just discovered that downstairs in the cafeteria here at work, there stands a refrigerated vending machine stocked with frozen dairy treats. How can I resist the temptation of an M&M ice cream sandwich? Or a classic drumstick? And there are other choices too! I think the folks over at Aramak must be mocking me.

No! I must be strong. I need to watch what I eat and take better care of myself. I refuse to cave in to their demands that I buy and consume their delicious sundries. But still the treats sit silently in their frozen case, waiting... waiting... waiting.

Anyone got a quarter?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Coolest Summer Movie

Last night my ma and I cruised down to Riverview to beat the heat. Iron Man was playing! That is the summer superhero movie to beat. It totally rocks! But my guess is that The Dark Knight is gonna take a run at it this weekend. Let the games begin!

Ya know, I need to go to more cheap movies at the 'View. For less than the price of admission at a first-run theater, I can get a ticket, a medium popcorn, and a medium soda - more than I can drink and eat. Go value!

Monday, July 14, 2008

If God Wasn't Dead I'd Have To Kill Him Myself

A friend of mine is getting a divorce. Nevermind the details. But he is a fairly religious man, and his wife is a very religious woman. And for all of my friend's faith and hope, and all of his soon-to-be-ex-wife's faith and prayers to God, their marriage cannot be saved.

They are both in a great deal of pain right now. And when I step back from my duty as a friend, all I can think is, "what a base, capricious creature God is. That is, if He existed." If "god" did exist, he would surely come to the aid of these two people, who are at bottom excellent human beings and wonderful parents.

Some prayers answered, some thrown by the board. And if a silver lining be found in unanswered prayers, then "he works in mysterious ways." Bullshit. I am so fucking tired of the closed-circuit logic of religiosity. Let's give up on imaginary friends and get real. Then we can really take care of each other.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not Another Protest Song

The other day a friend asked me if I knew about any protests against the Republican National Convention while it is in town this September. I'm sure there will be, but I don't know of any. Maybe I'm jaded, maybe I've become too cynical, but these days protests seem kind of pointless: a bunch of folks who agree with one another walking around agreeing with each other. No one else listens or even cares, and I am certain that they do not raise awareness like they once did. They have become a big echo chamber where like-minded people convene to hear themselves speak.

Every time I've been to a march or a protest, I have felt that the energy was false; I have never felt real passion or conviction in the midst of such events. These crowds belch forth narcissistic indignation that says nothing so much as "we are cool because we are fighting the man," or "look at us old hippies, we changed the world by protesting." News flash: no you aren't and no you didn't.

The friend conceded my point, but explained that he has been feeling the need to do something, anything to feel like he is making a difference. He lamented he has little to show for his foray into participatory democracy (voting, caucusing, being a delegate, writing congressmen, etc.), and that Minnesota isn't the progressive place that it once was.

I'm sympathetic to his cry: what can an ordinary person do to affect change in the corridors of power? Year after year, polls tell me that Americans want progressive health care reform, a fair tax structure, a better education for their children. Why doesn't this ever happen? I've been told that "doing all you can" gives one a sense of peace and satisfaction. But for my friend, and for me, that is no comfort.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Straight to Hellboy

I love Guillermo del Toro, I quite enjoyed the first Hellboy film, and I am a fan of the comic book genre. In short, I wanted to like Hellboy II, and I was well-primed to have a favorable reaction to the movie. Sadly, I found it mostly stiff and mundane. I had a few good laughs, to be sure, and the creatures and visuals were truly amazing. Hell, on one level it was an enjoyable summer movie and a great way to beat Friday's oppressive heat and humidity. But I found myself cringing at a plot device here or a badly placed bit of dialog there. And the action sequences were so long and so frenetic that they were difficult to watch. To top it all off, I kept thinking that the villain bore an uncanny resemblance to Ted Danson.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Check Back In Thirty Years

I found a comical yet ominous quote the other day: "...the idea that 95% of content on the net is free is not sustainable. We don't believe that society can allow the free consumption of content to persist," [Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, the body which represents the UK recording industry] said.

This sweeping statement poses an incredible array of questions. Is "free consumption of content" really a threat to civil society? Is 95% of the content on the net even free? It doesn't seem like it to me, given all the damn advertisements I have to endure. And who exactly does he mean by "society"? And what the hell does he mean by "sustainable"? Is content a non-renewable resource, like fossil fuel?

Clearly, people have grown accustomed to having unfettered access to content without being charged. In that sense, society seems to prefer free content. So how does he propose to put the genie back into the bottle? Through lawsuits? That might work for a while. But hindsight shows that shutting down Napster has had little effect on the demand for and availability of free content.

So what does all this mean? Time will tell.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Is Blogging Even Good For You Anymore?

So I have a blog. So what. Big deal. Apparently 185.6 million other people do too, give or take. That probably doesn't even include people who write blogs on MySpace or Facebook.

I've been traversing the blogosphere the past couple of days. It is vast, vast, vast. Humblingly so. And whenever I start looking I can't seem to stop! I get lost in there. It can go on for a few weeks like this: following links and hop-scotching around the internets. Of course there is an endless supply of banality and worse, but in truth I am continually astonished at how many folks are churning out funny observations and insightful commentary for friends, acquaintances, perfect strangers, or even just for themselves. There is some really good writing out there, published and distributed for free and available to anyone with a computer and a desire to find it. It actually makes me sad to think of all the interesting self-published work I'm missing, simply because I don't know about it.

When I first started writing online, within two months I was contacted by a movie promoter who forwarded my review to the director of the film she was promoting! That distorted my sense of scale of the web: I thought, "damn I'm good! There ain't nothin' to this blogging! I'm gonna network and meet the right people and I'll be making money off of writing in no time!"

Ha! I have sobered up since then. It turned out that the "movie promoter" was little more than an intern seeking out the online buzz surrounding the small Icelandic film on which she worked. And looking back on it, my "review" actually kind of sucked - it wasn't even a full-on review, more of a writing exercise for the day. I think my film studies professors would have been disappointed.

Fast forward to today. Obviously I've long since come to understand how enormous the world of weblogs is. But more than that, I now appreciate that keeping a blog isn't easy, keeping it fresh and lively is still more difficult, and generating interest and holding an audience, well... You get the idea.

My point in rambling on today is to re-affirm the reason I'm here: to become a better writer, and to read and interact with other writers. That is a far more manageable and enjoyable goal.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obama's God Problem, Part II

Apparently Senator Barack Obama did not heed my advice. Instead of shelving all his talk about "God" in politics, he's actively courting this outrageous affront to the separation clause. How does supporting and enhancing the role of "faith-based initiatives" represent "change"?

We have been force-fed religion in the political sphere by the Bush Administration, and faith-based initiatives were one of the staples of this unwholesome diet. And from appointees high and low to matters of policy large and small, this administration favored religious dogma, ideology, and patronage over science, reason, and experience. It really is time for something different.

Faith-based initiatives should stay where they belong: in the churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues. Let's recall that these organizations are already tax-exempt. At least let's keep tax dollars from flowing back to these groups! Please?!? I for one would like to re-boot American politics, and Obama's rhetoric about change resonated with me. But in my eyes, coming out in favor of these initiatives is the first major blemish on the Obama Campaign.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Do Ya Wanna Dance?

Do You Want To Dance turns fifty this year. Here are five amazing versions of the classic song...

I love Del Shannon's raspy growl:

Cliff Richard and the Shadows made the song sugary sweet - Bobby Darrin and Richard must have compared notes. And I love the moves of the band members. Look at the way those shoes shine!

The Ramones just rock it:

The Beach Boys take it on a surfer groove (note Dennis Wilson's use of the floor tom):

And finally, check out Bobby Freeman's soulful original, which still has power a half a century later. It's got almost an island feel to it. Thanks for a fantastic song!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Turn About Is A Bitch

So John McCain is crying foul because Obama broke a campaign pledge about public financing. Boo-fucking-hoo. Republican candidates have always had an overwhelming advantage in 527 muscle. So in the past, what did they care if they spent exactly the same as Joe Democrat on the general election? They knew that they'd be able to deploy their forces of darkness to outspend their opponents, with the added bonus of avoiding responsibility for the vitriolic, misleading ads run by these political entities. A win-win for them.

Now that there is a democratic candidate who has figured out how to inspire a great number of people, and marshal relatively modest resources to raise enormous sums of money, Republicans have their undies in a wudge. Let's recall that opting out of public financing is a perfectly valid, by-the-rules thing to do. The fact that Obama did it shows me that he's gonna take the gloves off and really fight to win. That's encouraging. And while Obama isn't perfect, and he isn't some savior, he is running a very publicly-financed campaign, to my way of thinking: thousands of small donors are bankrolling his run for president.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Exactly My Thoughts

Dan Savage always seems to find an interesting, funny and fresh way to talk about issues that are important to me. Take his column last week:
Homos are marrying in California as of this week (congrats to all), and should a tornado—or an earthquake or a meteor or the Incredible Hulk—flatten, say, San Francisco's City Hall during a big gay wedding, respected leaders of the religious right will rush to cable broadcast studios to insist that the tornado/earthquake/meteor/Hulk was God's divine judgment, His righteous wrath, the Baby Jesus' latest temper tantrum, wocka wocka wocka.

"I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing," said the Rev. John Hagee, John McCain's ex-BFF, when asked about Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans just before a "massive homosexual rally," a.k.a. an annual street party called "Southern Decadence," was supposed to take place in the French Quarter. "I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment. And I believe that Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans."

And God got his way: By drowning all those little old ladies in their attics in the Ninth Ward, God prevented that massive gay rally—for one year.

So how does a douchebag like Hagee explain away the tragedy in Iowa last week? A tornado struck a Boy Scout camp, killing four and injuring scores more, and the Scouts are famously anti-gay and anti-atheist. Well, we need only to consult the same interview with Rev. Hagee to learn the answer: While all natural phenomena represent God's "permissible will," says Hagee, "it is wrong to say that every natural disaster is the result of sin… No man on Earth knows the mind of God."

See how that works? Not every natural disaster is the result of sin, you see, because sometimes natural disasters happen to us, not just to them, and when they happen to us, well, the Lord sure moves in mysterious ways, and no man on Earth knows the mind of God. But let a natural disaster strike San Francisco this week, next week, or ever again, and Rev. Hagee will be able to read the mind of God like it was a large-print edition of Highlights For Children.
That cracks my shit up!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dead Letter Office

Over the year and a half that I have writing a blog, I have accumulated over thirty drafts that await publication, revision, or deletion. I really ought to do something about these orphans.

There are many reasons why I abandon a piece. Most often, I read the post and find it to be lacking in interest, humor, factual research, or passion. Other times I leave it because I find a piece that says what I was going to write, usually with more elegance (there are a lot of good writers out there!). There are times when I hesitate, and then the subject becomes no longer topical. Then there are those occasions when I simply forgot what my point was, or I have just plain run out of gas that day.

So what do other writers do when they start an essay but run into these sorts of roadblocks? Or do they simply avoid them altogether before they begin a post? Do most writers finish every essay that they begin? I invite you to share experiences and opinions in dealing with these questions.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

Do You Want To Be A Good World Citizen Or Not?

Europeans are very pleased to say goodbye to George W. Bush. Not surprising! I've lived through seven presidents. In my lifetime I don't think the world has been happier to bid good riddance to an American president. My experiences abroad have suggested to me that most folks like the American people and all things American well enough, but they despise our leaders and our foreign policies.

Let's do something about that.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

He's Got A Point

A friend gave me Black Swan Green for my birthday. I just started it and it's good so far. Early in the book, Jason, the story's twelve-year-old narrator, dismisses the plot of Superman II with a keen observation:
Clark Kent gives gives up his powers just to have sexual intercourse with Lois Lane in a glittery bed. Who'd make such a stupid swap? If you could fly? Deflect nuclear missiles into space? Turn back time by spinning the planet in reverse? Sexual intercourse can't be that good.
Hard to argue with that.

Monday, May 26, 2008

It's Really Hard To Believe, But We'd Better Do Something About It Now

There are vast swirling masses of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean. How vast? Big enough to cover the whole of the continental United States. Twice. Holy shit.

Yesterday I was at the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center playing miniature golf. At the second hole, Water Hazard (incidentally created by an architect of my acquaintance), my brother told me about this "island of garbage" four thousand miles across floating in the Pacific Ocean. I could not believe him. I refused to believe him. But while it turns out that the term "soup" is more accurate than "island," this mass's existence and size are horrifying realities.

A call to action for myself and everyone: reduce your plastic waste. Now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

As If We Need Something Else To Make Air Travel Suck Even Harder

American Airlines is going to start charging for all checked baggage. Industry experts predict that all of the other major carriers will implement similar changes. Ugh. People already tend to carry on far too much shit, which slows security lines, boarding, and deplaning, and generally makes what is always an uncomfortable ride even more painful. This change will exacerbate all of these problems as people clamor to avoid checking luggage to save the surcharge. Dumbasses.

Friday, May 16, 2008

COINTELPRO - Republican Party Remix

Damn those vegan potlucks! They are heinous breeding grounds for terrorists and subversives. Seriously, though. Vegan potlucks? The FBI thinks they are gonna find illegal activities at vegan potlucks?!? Maybe tasteless activities (that lentil loaf looks suspicious). I should concede that smoking certain herbs is still illegal. But c'mon.

Apparently the same thing happened in NYC in '04:
During the lead-up the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the NYPD’s Intelligence Division infiltrated and spied on protest groups across the country, as well as in Canada and Europe. The program’s scope extended to explicitly nonviolent groups, including street theater troupes and church organizations.
Our homeland security tax dollars at work.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


People are basically good and want to help.

True happiness is found within.

There are a lot of problems in the world, but it is worth saving.

One must overcome one's own anger and frustration.

I'm good enough.

I'm smart enough.

Gosh darn it, people like me.

Hey, that reminds me. Stuart is running for senate. We could do a lot worse. Hell, we already did.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Oil on Canvas

On Wednesday I snapped this picture with my camera phone to document the progress I've made on my first oil painting ever. I'm pleased with it so far, even if it is a little primitive compared to some of the amazing work my classmates are doing. I chose an N. C. Wyeth painting as my subject, because he has a strong, dynamic, yet simple style. I love his work. And who doesn't love knights and dragons?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Enough Already

My ideal Democratic Party presidential candidate would be Dennis Kucinich, though it was never likely he would garner the votes and attention to make a serious run. So early on I supported John Edwards for president. Unfortunately both of these men were eliminated long ago, even before the Minnesota caucus took place last February. So I happily, if not whole-heartedly, threw my support behind Barack Obama.

Hillary Clinton and her supporters may be right: it is possible that white working-class voters will never vote for a black candidate, and that she has a better chance to defeat McCain in November. But that does not make her the best choice. The not-so-subtle implication of her continued candidacy is, "you might like Obama better, but the only democrat who can beat McCain is me." It's the "lesser of two evils" argument. What makes it absurd is that it is being espoused by a candidate who is behind in delegates, behind in the popular vote, and behind in fund-raising. Isn't this sort of posture reserved for the actual nominee, in shoring up support for the general election?

The trouble with this logic is that Barack Obama already represents a compromise for me: he's more centrist and conventional than suits me, and he is far less experienced than a presidential candidate should be. But the Clinton campaign is asking me to compromise further, and support an aggressively and calculatedly centrist candidate, who is saddled with baggage from her long-term designs to ascend to the White House, and who supported a then ill-advised, now colossally disastrous, 'preemptive strike' on Iraq. And she is about to lose, by the ordinary process of vote counting, her chance of securing her own party's nomination. So why should I support her? It just doesn't make any goddamn sense.

I am very fatigued by the already over-long campaign. If the democrats don't get it sorted out now, McCain might be able to capitalize on the their party's inability to settle this matter. Hillary, do the right thing. Please.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Damn Bird...

Yesterday evening as I was walking my dogs a bird shit on me. A direct hit! Little fucker. Never in my nearly thirty-nine years can I recall that ever happening before. It left a big ol' bird turd right on my jacket and my arm. The experience brought to mind a classic childhood verse...
Birdie birdie in the sky
Dropped some whitewash in my eye
I'm a big boy I don't cry
Gee I'm glad that cows don't fly

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sluts Report, I Deride

It's come to this: recently Fox put on its payroll a pornstar as a political correspondent. Yes, you read that right. But I guess it stands to reason: to Fox, news is just another form of stroke material to be packaged and peddled to an all-too-uncritical audience. So if a man watching late-night cable wants to flip to Fox News after his seven minutes of fun in front of adult pay-per-view, who am I to object? Maybe Fox is just giving the demographic what it wants.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Not a day passed when he did not fulminate against Batista (That ox! That peasant!) or Castro (The goat-fucking comunista!) or CIA chief Allen Dulles (That effeminate!), who had failed to stop Batista's ill-advised Mother's Day Amnesty that freed Fidel and the other moncadistas to fight another day.
Needless to say, I've been tagged. Lately I haven't been keeping with my bloggerly duties. The rules...

1. Pick up the nearest book (at least 123 pages).
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Find the 5th sentence.
4. Post the 5th sentence on your blog.
5. Tag 5 people.

The passage was taken from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. Great book, by the way. I highly recommend it. I still haven't written my review of it. So sue me.

I tag LLTK, JFB, Lacifer, Miz Verde, and Onion Town.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Strange And Sublime Turns of Mood

I looked out this window this morning and I have to admit I was a little disappointed to see that the 6"-10" inches of snow that we were promised had not fallen. In its stead there was about an inch of really slushy slop covering the sidewalks. Minnesotans take a perverse pleasure in inclement weather. I suppose we are not that different than other folks in that regard. I think there is something about being clobbered by bad weather that slows the pace of modern life.

After a walk with my dogs and a hot bath, my disappointment was forgotten and I was much revived. I got on the bus to work and I buried my nose in my book, happily engrossed in its pages while the driver sped us on our way. When I arrived at my destination, I was again completely deflated to find that I had forgotten my computer at home. Not my day! I stood outside in the cold rain, a little annoyed by cigarette smoke from someone nearby. I couldn't seem to avoid no matter where I stood. But I bore up as best I could and the bus arrived from the opposite direction. I climbed on board for the return trip.

I again found myself absorbed in my book when a couple of teenagers got on the bus and started a loud conversation. A minor irritant, but somehow it always seems to get under my skin. I nevertheless managed to refocus my attention on my book and read an exceptional passage.

By the time I was home, I was again in high spirits.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Iraq Me Dave Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus said today that the success of the surge in Iraq was "fragile and reversible." He added that "we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel..."

Blah blah blah. I'm too tired to complain about Bush's billion-dollar-a-week kill-brown-people habit. In fact my mind began to wander as I was reading this story, and I found myself humming this song in my head, only I exchanged the lyrics with the title of this post.

I think Falco would be proud, may he rest in peace.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Oh To Be Young Again...

Yesterday as I was wandering around Target in a stupor, my head filled with all of the distractions of modern life and my body weary from a poor night's sleep, I overheard a four-year-old in the toy aisle. He whispered breathlessly, "daddy I think I know what I want..."

His words were not whiny or demanding or haughty. His request overflowed with humility and wonder. The sweetness, innocence, and purity of his earnest tone serve as a wonderful reminder to simplify.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Positively Viorstian

I woke up late today. I drew a bath but the water was too hot. At breakfast I was out of milk for my coffee. A blizzard had begun by the time I walked to the bus stop. When I got to the stop I realized that I had missed my bus and I had to wait for the next one. I arrived at work only to discover that I forgotten my access badge. I won admittance into the building, trudged the stairs to my desk, and proceeded to lock myself out of my account, because I had neglected to change one of my passwords. When I finally got online, the first email I saw was from my boss, telling me and the rest of our team that everyone should be in the office on a week that I had requested off.

I think I'll move to Australia.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Blind Twin Town Albino Is A Rhymin' Badass

My sixteen-year-old car has a tape deck and an AM/FM stereo. I have never really been into music radio (too much dreck and too many commercials), but I have taken to listening to the Current in spite of myself, and I have to admit it is a great station. Yesterday I heard a song that grabbed me, and I had to learn more about the artist.

I am not the greatest person to come to for new music. Turns out Brother Ali hails from Wisconsin and has been making rhymes for eight years. He lives right here in the Twin Cities, and records on the Minneapolis-based indie label Rhymesayers. I might have to pick up some of his music.

This is a great song.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Check Out The Carbon On This Baby!

Aw yeeaah...

You know, pig shit produces methane. At least that's what Auntie Entity told me. I wonder if they are cooking bacon in the Vulpecula Constellation?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's God Problem

Barack Obama is set to deliver some sort of mea culpa on race today. For my part, I think it's a shame that he has to apologize for someone else. But I suppose all candidates end up doing it for one reason or another. It is a tired song and dance routine, so devoid of substance and meaning that it scarcely seems worth mentioning. Do members of the media think that they are doing their jobs by airing someone else's angry sound bite? To me this kind of "news" is akin to push polling.

When you ignore Jeremiah Wright's admittedly fiery rhetoric for a moment, what you are left with is a preacher. A man of god. A leader of a group of people who share some beliefs. He collects money from his community, pays no taxes on that money, and directs it where he sees fit. So why are these people so crucial to a presidential hopeful's chances? If Obama didn't feel the need to have a spiritual adviser in the first place, this would not be happening to him.

Wright's position of privilege in Obama's campaign is not unique. Many, many "religious" leaders use their resources and their pulpit to speak on temporal matters, on matters of the state, on civic matters, on matters of public policy, and align themselves with candidates who represent their interests. They do not confine themselves to spiritual matters, nor limit themselves to matters of private morality among their own constituents. When they do so, they cease to be merely spiritual figures and become agents in the political sphere. But because they are cloaked in the mantle of religion, they enjoy special financial status in the United States, and yet receive every deference with regard to questions of morality.

Now, religion has played a central role in political struggles throughout history. It would be foolish to argue otherwise. But does it really have to be so anymore? Knowledge and understanding of the natural world have advanced far beyond the capabilities of the Christian Bible to answer modern moral questions. What can the Bible tell us about stem cell research? About genetic engineering? About space exploration? About global warming? I say our political sensibilities need to evolve to a point where we do not lean on such an antiquated crutch as the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

If religious figures want to continue to advise, lobby, and persuade their candidates and their congregations on political matters, and we all know they do, then it is time to abolish the tax exempt status of religious organizations. Then their political designs and ambitions will seem less like the height of hypocrisy. Let them join the fold of other lobbyists and special interests, where they belong.

I am so tired of hearing about the religious views of the candidates and the ugly rantings of their spiritual advisers. When I do see them loudly proclaiming their faith, I am reminded of nothing so much as the Pharisees, whom Jesus himself so frequently and sharply criticized for their false displays of holiness. Please keep your god to yourself! And if they start talking about religion, reporters, turn your microphones elsewhere! Someone somewhere must have something well-reasoned and intelligent to say.

The private religious views of a candidate should remain private. Let us forever put an end to reporting on the religiosity of political figures. It's time to take god off the political table. If a candidate needs to resort to god to explain a position on some issue, he should be ignored, criticized, and lampooned.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Doggie See, Doggie Doo

My dog Hercules has a peculiar habit of defecating on hills. Be it a tiny berm on the boulevard or a little snowbank or a large rise facing a house, he is strangely compelled to stand on an incline while taking a shit. Must be for leverage or something.

At any rate, my other dog Frodo has begun to ape this behavior. Just this morning he went well out of his way to position himself on a hill before pinching one out. The little brown nuggets rolled down the slope as they dropped, just like in the proverb. What can possibly mean?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Musings On A Sex Scandal

On the one hand we have the blatant hypocrisy of a self-styled corruption fighter caught doing what he put others in jail doing. It seems pretty clear he should be called out for such actions. But on the other hand, besides his wife, should anyone really care whether or not Eliot Spitzer paid for a piece of ass on the side?

There is a sordid voyeurism at work when this type of "scandal" emerges. Whenever a sex scandal breaks, the television news becomes laden with titillating images of strippers, peep shows, and out of the woodwork come a phalanx of current and former call girls to explain the shadowy underworld of prostitution. This isn't news, it's lurid entertainment. Not that I am against such diversions, but let's not kid ourselves.

I don't know if I should admire Spitzer's Republican opponents for calling him out on his hypocrisy or to complain about their hypocrisy and antiquated sexual mores. Does anyone remember Larry Craig? He was trying to solicit anonymous gay sex in a public bathroom, for fuck's sake. He made a living as an anti-gay, anti-sex politician. His hypocrisy is no less than Spitzer's. You know what they call him? Senator.

Should Democrats grow a backbone and run Craig out of office? Is it simply cowardice that prevents them from doing so? Or is their lack of action an attempt to stake out a position of sexual tolerance? If so, is that the path to a more enlightened, sex-positive society? Fuck, I don't know.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Like a Lamb...

Something's coming, something big, something I can't stand
Dark as the ocean, secret and cruel, something I can't command...
March is here, taxes will be due soon. At this moment Obama vs. Clinton is playing out on the grand stage of Texas. I have yet to find a home. Oil prices are soaring, the dollar is plummeting, the markets are twitchy. My brother still doesn't have a job.

It's only the future.

Friday, February 29, 2008

How Come I've Never Heard Of This Dude Before?

Great song.

Lil Fascist Playthings

My dad sent me this. Awesome.
One of the reviewers put it nicely: "This is great learning tool for young brownshirts. I am waiting for a few accessories though, like kid-size jackboots and a toy taser."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Real Wisdom For Teens

  1. Post these rules before presenting your list.
  2. List 6 actions or achievements you think every person should accomplish before turning 18.
  3. There are no conditions on what can be included on the list.
  4. At the end of your blog, choose 6 people to get tagged and list their names.
  5. People who are tagged write their own blog entry with their 6 suggestions.
  6. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged.
LLTK tagged me with yet another blogging meme. This one is different than others I have seen, however, and I want to try my hand at it. Unfortunately, TK's list on this topic is nearly flawless: a virtuoso distillation of how to grow up in the modern world. I wish I had seen his list when I was 13, and again when my children reached their teen years.

Here is my attempt at formulating a list on the topic.
  1. Make art. Join the school theater, get into the choir, play a musical instrument, start a band, write a story, take a drawing or a painting class. And don't just make it - perform it, put it on display, integrate it into your social life. This involves some risk, which is part of the point. But also it nurtures something better inside of you than the raw competition of academia or athletics. And it's fun as hell.
  2. Learn a language. Sure, I studied Spanish in high school, Finnish in college, and dabbled in French as an adult. But I still haven't become fluent in any second language to my satisfaction. I think my life is poorer because of it. When you can read a book in another tongue at an adult reading level, or converse comfortably with a native speaker, then you have opened up your world immeasurably. So really learn it - do extra credit, put in your time at the language lab, go to a language camp, take that semester abroad, join a club, whatever it takes. This is on my list of things to do before I'm dead.
  3. Start a savings account. Did I really need to spend all that money on the bullshit I paid for? If I had saved just $20 a week throughout my teen years, that would have been $5200 by the time I turned 18. That's enough for a real adventure abroad, a significant investment, or some other substantial purchase. To be able to plan and execute a long term goal, especially a financial one, is truly a life skill worth learning and having. I'm still working on this one too.
  4. Don't worry about what you want to be. I'm almost 39 and I'm on my second career. I don't expect to stay in this career until I retire. Heck, when I was 15, the job I have now did not even exist. There are young people out there who have the singular drive and interest to pursue a particular career as teens, but in my experience most people are not like that. So do not worry about what you're going to be when you grow up! But...
  5. Develop interests and skills. Find something you're passionate about and go for it. It doesn't matter what it is, it is likely to have several, dozens, or even hundreds of facets to explore. The ability to find and develop an interest is itself a valuable skill. Just caring about something other than who kissed so-and-so and where the party is this weekend makes you a better person. It may even turn into something you could get paid to do.
  6. Break clique boundaries. This was one thing I was actually good at. Hang with the jocks. Hang with the clowns. Hang with the partiers. Hang with the nerds. Don't be hidebound by your peer group. Find interesting individuals, don't settle for a group in which you feel comfortable. Getting along with a variety of people isn't a life-skill, it's living.
If you are reading this blog, consider yourself tagged. Or not :-)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Immoral Majority

Sam Harris' tiny volume Letter to a Christian Nation deals a crippling blow to the idea that religion, especially Christianity, is a force for moral good. While Richard Dawkins pursued a broad-based intellectual argument against belief in god, Harris cuts right at the heart of the supposed strength of religion: morality. Using simple examples and clear language, he relentlessly dismantles notions of divine morality.

In one deft passage, he starkly contrasts that which science offers to humanity with that which religion offers. For me, this excerpt so convincingly illustrates the impotence of religion to render aid or comfort in the face of real adversity that I had to read it several times:
...there had been ample warning that a storm of "biblical proportions" would strike New Orleans, and the human response to the ensuing disaster was tragically inept. But it was inept only by the light of science. Religion offered no basis for a response at all. Advance warning of Katrina's path was wrested from mute Nature by meteorological calculations and satellite imagery. God told no one of his plans. Had the residents of New Orleans been content to rely upon the beneficence of God, they wouldn't have known that a killer hurricane was bearing down upon them until they felt the first gusts of wind on their faces. And yet a poll found that 80 percent of Katrina's survivors claim that the event has only strengthened their faith in God.

...It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved. It is time we acknowledged how disgraceful it is for the survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God while this same God drowned infants in their cribs. Once you stop swaddling the reality of the world's suffering in religious fantasies, you will feel in your bones just how precious life is - and, indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgments of their happiness for no good reason at all.
I have always felt uneasy listening to people carry on about the miracle of their holy deliverance, but I have never been able to articulate so directly and eloquently the madness of such stories.

Not content to call out fundamentalists only, Harris also takes to task liberals and moderates for their religious apologia, and posits that any defense of religion by definition lends credibility to radical fundamentalists, because religion, whether moderate or fundamentalist, asks its adherents to accept facts without evidence. For Harris, this leads to a primacy of dogma at the expense of truth.

I could go on about Harris' little tome. It was a quick, informative, and engaging read. Remarkable, given that was just an impulse buy that I made last Sunday. But I have been thinking about his book all week long - Harris lays a great thumping upon the tired, soft-shell head of theological morality. Instead of rambling, however, I will simply end with Dawkins' jacket quote: "I dare you to read this book... It will not leave you unchanged." Well said.

Shadow on the Moon

The lunar eclipse last night, with Saturn and Regulus to complete the triangle. Nikon D40 with 200mm lens. 165mm zoom @ F/5.3. ISO-200, 2.5 second exposure.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I met my boss's new boss today during a lunchtime mixer. He used words like "gamer" to describe himself and "RPGs" to describe his interests.

I think we're gonna get along just fine.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I've been seeing commercials for Finding Nemo On Ice, which is coming to the Minneapolis Target Center next month.

Does anyone else find this costume more than a little creepy?

Monday, February 11, 2008

She Was Wide-Eyed, Now She's Street-Wise

There's something about girl-coming-of-age tales that really resonate with me. Ronja the Robber's Daughter, Spirited Away, To Kill A Mockingbird, Whale Rider, Because of Winn-Dixie, Kiki's Delivery Service, Juno... The female character is strong and capable, yet vulnerable and sensitive. The setting is personal and immediate, but often seeks to illuminate a deeper political or social context. I am enthralled by the scope and sentiment of this type of story.

Persepolis is the latest example. The tale is an account of Marjane, an Iranian girl living with her parents in Tehran at the end of the 1970s. She is the quintessential high-spirited youth: inquisitive, intelligent, in love with her parents and the world around her. The film portrays the exuberance of life at her age, an age in which everything is new and exciting. I find that kind of joy almost heartbreaking in its purity.

Though the film depicts the horrifying violence and crippling social control of the fundamentalist regime, it also is touched with gentle humor and the warmth of human kindness. It is a sad tale of the end of innocence, without simple answers or resolutions. But like all coming-of-age tales, it filled me with wonder and a desire to strive for a richer, fuller life.

Friday, February 8, 2008

I Suck!

I suck! You know how I know? Someone on the internet told me so! So it must be true. Thank goodness a faceless, anonymous dork trolling youtube had the courage to tell me so. I could have gone my whole life without knowing! The horror, the horror!

There is something deeply satisfying about being insulted anonymously. It's like, damn, people care enough to watch the shit I put out on the internet (!), and even take the time to complain about it (!!). Does that constitute "making it"? Well, probably not. But it is amusing that some jackass from Phoenix watched the Strummones and felt so strongly about us that he had to reveal to the world his keen insights and issue such a probing, thoughtful critique.

Reverend Zero Speaks...

Reverend Zero is out there having fun lampooning sidewalk preachers. Brilliant.

I'm gonna have to keep my eye out for this Kirby Ferguson as well. His internet show "Goodie Bag" is pretty damn funny.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Far Fucking Out

My cell has resurfaced! How cool is that? I had just given up hope when it turned up in a lost-and-found that I hadn't checked. The attendant must have dug through the contacts today and found my mom. She telephoned my ma just now and left a message giving its location. Thank goodness for good Samaritans!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I ♥ My Phone?

I lost my fucking cell phone. There. I said it. Not a great big deal on the cosmic scale. It's a clumsy slab of metal and plastic, not flesh and bone. It can be replaced. And it was a Motorola Razr, which is a hokey piece of shit. So good riddance in that regard - now I can replace it with something that actually works.

But I do love the ideas that I exchanged with that phone. It kept me connected over the last five months, when things were pretty grim for me. And I had some good stuff on there. Personal stuff. Some pictures, some text messages. Those things meant a lot to me. I mourn the loss of those things. I still don't really give a fig for the device itself. But as a chronicle of my communications, I miss it badly.

Monday, February 4, 2008

I Watched It

I hate football, I find it to be pretty dull on the whole: an anemic twelve minutes of action, dotting the landscape of a sixty-minute contest, drawn out over an interminable three-and-a-half-hour broadcast. And my a-hole stepdad, an ex-Marine, was a huge fan, even played at Michigan. Yes, that Michigan. He was a recovering alcoholic and a habitual gambler. That pretty much guaranteed my lasting distaste for the sport.

Needless to say, I haven't watched a Super Bowl in many, many years. But for some reason I did tune in last night, and saw the better part of the game, including all of the final quarter. I must admit, last night's fourth quarter was exciting by any measure of any sport: lots of action, plenty of lead changes, some big plays, and a dramatic finish. Even some douchebaggery! But the dude who caught the fuckin ball with his fuckin head is the fucking man. Tip o' the hat to you, Tyree! You and Eli are kings for a day.

I suppose Super Bowl XLII defined what makes football exciting to fans.

Friday, February 1, 2008

That's a Lot of Effing Tater-Tot Hot Dish

I read today that Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire - an elite high school - spends $63,500 per student per year housing and educating their pupils. That's almost two times what they charge for tuition. They make up the difference by being one of the most well-endowed preparatory schools in the U.S. Talk about penis envy!

Exeter spends eight times what an average public school kid is alloted. According to the principal, in 1980, about 40% of American families could afford such a school. By 2004 that number had dwindled to 6%. So as the income gap between the rich and poor grows, it in turn widens the education gap, which doubtless perpetuates and exacerbates the already large gulf between the wealthy and the shrinking middle class.

I wonder if they teach creationism in that school?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

That Banal Trope, Again

"They hate our freedom." Let's take a moment and parse that phrase.

"They." Not us, but them - the other. "Terrorists" and "extremists." Some group outside of history, beyond our geography, alien to our culture, to very the ideas of family, duty, honor. Untouched by the ruthless force of the global economy. A people utterly without context.

"Hate." Inflamed, enraged, irrational passion, without cause or justification. A primitive, savage emotion, unfit for enlightened peoples.

"Our." The embodiment of wholesomeness. Righteousness. Again, a body without history or context. Enthralled by its own sense of goodness and destiny. (And as such, the group is eerily parallel to "them.")

"Freedom." A word so laden with meaning it can hardly be unpacked. Freedom from want? Freedom of movement? Freedom of thought? Self-determination? Freedom of choice? All of it and more. As if it is all possessed in equal measure by "our" side.

Now, I find religious despotism to be singularly distasteful. And violent fundamentalists wield a lot of power in this age. But the phrase "they hate our freedom," invoked too often here in the U.S., lacks insight of any kind. In fact, rather than explaining our enemy, it shrouds him in fear, awe, and mystery. And it elevates our own sense of specialness as a people "chosen" to confront this "enemy."

This is the language not of diplomacy and reason, but of dictatorship and theocracy. Bush's last State of the Union address? Good riddance.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

True Romance

A friend directed me to an awesome website called Overheard in Minneapolis. City dwellers are invited to post stories of outrageous and ridiculous statements made by complete strangers. My absolute favorite:
Guy yelling into cell phone: You know there ain't no one else. All them other bitches, I don't talk to them any more. I don't want no other bitches, just you. I'm with you all the motherfuckin' time. I ain't got time to be with no other bitches. Why we gotta fight? Why can't we just be cool? Come on, baby.

Overheard on the light rail train, all the way from the 46th Street station to the Warehouse District.
Here's to eavesdropping!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You Can't Make This Shit Up

So I got home from work today and said, "hey ma, how was your day besides wonderful and invigorating?" And she flashed me a bemused, exasperated look and replied, "today while I was seeing the amputee, and tending to his infected stump, the dog was sniffing my crotch. I look over at other side of the bed and see a mouse crawling up the bedspread, and the cat isn't doing anything about it. So I say to the woman, 'there's a mouse, how come the cat isn't doing anything about it?' and the woman picks up the cat and throws it at the mouse. In the meantime the amputee has shit the bed."

I love my job.

Does Anyone Else Think This Is Annoying?

Two days in a row now, I've caught the 8:39 bus to work. The driver of this route is in the habit of announcing each stop. Which is fine, that's great. It's like complying with ADA standards or something. Except she announces the time too. "Twelfth Street, 8:47. Eleventh, still 8:47. Tenth, 8:48. Ninth Street. 8:49..." and so on. SHUT UP ALREADY! I DON'T NEED TO HEAR THE GODDAMN TIME EVERY THIRTY SECONDS!


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Mom Does The Real Work

If you're reading this, then like me, you obviously have time to sit in a semi-vegetative state staring at the tubes of the internets. But while you and I idle away our day in front of the computer, my mom is out there busting her ass to care for ungrateful and often half-sane patients as a home care nurse, working for an even less sane bureaucracy.

In my vision, the home care field is supposed to be about maintenance - caring for people who are basically OK, but who need some minor, specialized assistance. In practice, however, home care has become a dumping ground for patients with financial hardships, mental problems, or chronic conditions. What is maddening is that though home care has become a necessity in modern medicine, the for-profit health care industry looks down on this field because it makes no money.

The dehumanizing influence of capital festers at all levels. Management is obsessed with tracking the whereabouts of its home care nurses, all degree-holding professionals. Meanwhile the office staff throw each other parties and nominate each other for employee of the month. Work nights? Yes. Now why would a patient who is "basically OK" need to be seen at night? Same goes for weekends. Low pay? Yes. Considering her skill and experience level, it's shamefully low. Loads of data entry on inferior software? Yep. The latest ridiculous cost-cutting measure: the company will not provide folders to store patients' paperwork! And the list goes on. It's comically horrifying.

The clincher: my mom, a twenty-plus-year home care veteran who turns 65 in June, had to work Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day in the last month, without any incentive pay. What the hell is that? She was actually scheduled to work the entire Christmas weekend, but had to call in sick because she was so sick she couldn't get out of bed.

My job is a cushy cakewalk compared to hers.

Monday, January 7, 2008

God of War (on Science)

So one friend of mine is reading the entire transcript of the Scopes Trial in preparation for a course he's teaching on American religious history. He told me that more people believe in creationism now than in 1925. Another friend mentioned that according to Schott's Miscellanies, a recent survey of college graduates revealed that one-third expressed a belief in the literal creation story of the Christian Bible.

Both of these assertions seemed so beyond belief that I had to do a bit of cursory research myself. But I quickly corroborated both of these claims: according to, around 50% of Americans believe in literal creationism. A staggering statistic. In that context one cannot be surprised that American teens are among the worst in science, compared to their international peers. What was more surprising is just how out of step Americans are on this "issue." Again, (emphasis mine):
By one count there are some 700 scientists with respectable academic credentials (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science [0.14%]... A British survey of 103 Roman Catholic priests, Anglican bishops and Protestant ministers/pastors showed that: 97% do not believe the world was created in six days, while 80% do not believe in the existence of Adam and Eve.
In other words, most scientists and religious scholars have wildly divergent ideas about the nature of the universe than mainstream Americans. Meanwhile, Fundamentalist Christians applaud figures that demonstrate that Americans have lost all interest in actual science, and use them to demonstrate the correctness of their positions. The insanity of that logic is apparent on its face. But it doesn't seem to matter. Mike Huckabee won in Iowa. The God of Ignorance is ascendant.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Beneath The Surface

Having been mired in my own thoughts and concerns for the last six months, politics, the economy, foreign relations, social problems... these have all been largely lost on me. But I'm coming out of it, and I'm looking around, and what I see is not encouraging. The American economy is heading for a recession, if it isn't in one already. And my family has been touched by it in a very real way: Friday my younger brother was laid off. Single dad, fifth year apprentice in his trade, hard-working man. Is this the best we can do collectively, to cast such a person aside? I hope not.

I wonder, how many homes does half a trillion dollars buy?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Two Thousand Eight

Happy New Year. I want to start this year off right! My blog foundered for the last few months, and I fell short of my goal of fifteen posts a month. It's time to dust it off and renew my commitment to writing. I dunno if fifteen per month is a viable goal, but certainly I can do a lot more writing than I did in the fourth quarter of 2007.

This year is a fresh canvas. I am going to try new things, visit new places, meet new people, have new experiences. The possibilities are vast and exciting! Onward!