Monday, December 31, 2007

An Introvert's Quandry

Let it be known, sleep is golden. After languishing in bed yesterday afternoon, cobbling together a few moments of rest at a time, I finally drifted off somewhere around eleven in the evening. Seven hours trumps three the night before, but since I don't have much to do today, I'm going to return to bed after I finish writing and hope I can grab a few more hours. Here's hoping, anyway.

Thanks for the tea and sympathy from all the usual suspects. Know that you are loved and always appreciated for what you do and say. Our tight-knit band of like-minded kindred spirits is a major reason why I enjoy blogging as much as I do.

Though in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have risked public contact on so little sleep, I muddled through Quaker meeting yesterday morning feeling tired and spouted awkward replies to the inevitable questions and general small talk of the tiny gathering. I doubt seriously I made as horribly unforgivable an impression as my fears wanted to make me think I did, but then again, my whole life I have had to excuse the irrational paranoia that often grips me. Medication, therapy, experience, and a sense of perspective have helped but I'd be lying if I said social interaction wasn't still a constant challenge for me.

I wish I were more comfortable being immediately social with strangers. My potent combination of introversion and social phobia makes me appear detached, distant, and often standoffish. Yesterday, in between first hour and second hour, a man greeted me warmly and, being caught off guard, my already-frayed nerves created a less-than-fantastic first impression. Over the years, friends, I have learned to compensate for this by bringing light to my fears when they arise and making jokes at my own expense. One can't please everyone, nor can one be responsible for what others think of him. Part of the nature of my illness is an extreme sensitivity to criticism and nagging fear that others despise me. It has no basis in reality, and I recognize that, but I still feel caught off guard and overwhelmed among people.

And on that note, I have a warm bed calling my name.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


I didn't sleep very well last night. It was one of those frustrating nights where you tell yourself "you know, it really would be nice if I could drift off" but instead your mind wants to race and process things when it really would be better off CHILLING THE FUCK OUT and resting.

Boxer, I'll get to your meme tomorrow. If I could be a character today, I'd be a monosyllabic grumbler.

Read this.

What Made My Year Special?

*vomit* Well, I'd say it's because you got damn near everything you wanted, George.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Saturday Video

I came of age just in time to bask in the dying embers of the early 90's Britpop movement. By the time I entered high school and was intellectually mature enough to properly understand it, the early exuberance and complementary manic energy had long since faded. Instead, what remained were melodic, albeit melancholy discourses like these that seemed to be asking , a la The Kinks, Where Have All The Good Time Gone?

This song "Beetlebum", released in 1997 and featured on the group's self-titled effort, which also notably Blur's first widespread American success, has been long rumored to be about heroin addiction. A UK number one for one week at the end of January 1997, it was ultimately displaced by LL Cool J in the UK Singles Chart. Though a fan's favorite and even a personal favorite of number one competitor Noel Gallagher of Oasis, "Beetlebum" had a rather limited stay in the charts during the time of its release.

2008's Central Theme?


The assassination of Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto earlier in the week crowded everything else off the front page. Despite its impact, one still can't discount that this has, for the most point, been a slow news week. To a large extent, this was expected. The week of Christmas historically means a Congress on hiatus, a minimum of government offices open, many businesses closed, and on election years such as this, a temporary strategic de-emphasis on voracious campaigning. Every Presidential candidate running has taken great care to refrain from direct attacks on its opponents and has been loathe to drop major bombshells. What remains are the over-warmed shadowy leftovers of arguments, accusations, and innuendo. No need to worry, American People. We are only in a momentarily lull, so rest assured the gloves will be off again well before our post-New Year's hangovers have subsided.

I notice a few conservative commentators are ranting anew about immigration, hoping to make it the central campaign issue of the year, let we forget, is finally only a few days away from arriving. At long last, the answer to the bumper sticker that proclaims "Is it 2008 yet?" will be emphatically provided. These pundits hope to make illegal immigration as important an debate as was National Security in 2004, but I would qualify that thus far their attempts are mostly in vain. Wishful thinking alone is insufficient to influence the fight for the hearts, minds, and tip of tongue banter of the average citizen. This blog addressed the immigration debate in length months upon months ago. I feel no compelling need to revisit it and so curious enterprising souls can scour the archives if they wish.

The question remains, then, what will be the central issue of the year to come? I cast my vote for economic woes, since it has been proven time and time again that the American public responds more potently to it more than anything else. Send its young people to war on false pretenses, restrict its civil liberties, resort to barbarically punitive means of punishing its so-called enemies, call into doubt the patriotism of the Loyal Opposition, Americans have proven time and time again to be a remarkably forgiving people until they realize the latest conflict they face is the War on Pocketbook. Even the self-described apolitical spring into action and spout platitudes of outrage with a sense of vigor so pronounced one wonders from whence it came.

One can be sure the growing recession, a largely a lethal product of greedy subprime lending, unwise overseas war, and persistently high energy costs will be co-opted by Democratic candidates in the same fashion as Bill Clinton's "It's the Economy, stupid" mantra of his 1992 campaign. Though interest rates cuts and slight-of-hand tactics have largely kept the bottom from dropping out, one can be certain that if it does, the Bush administration and by implication the GOP will find themselves blamed in wholesale fashion. It nearly goes without saying that this is the Democratic party's race to lose. That being said, I have grown too cautious over the years to make any sort of pronouncement of victory before all the votes are counted, or at least before the votes which will count are tallied. The last landslide victory was twenty-four years ago and these times are far different to those.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fallout from the Bhutto Assassination

Upon hearing about tragic circumstances like this, I often reach the same inevitable conclusion. After the moral indignation subsides, after my theorizing as to the identity of the parties responsible for the killing concludes, after my often-justified wary suspicion of widespread international ulterior motive arrives at a practical, rather than emotional resolution, after I take deep breaths and calm down, what I am is often left with is a renewed realization of how fortunate we Americans are.

Indeed, we are very lucky to live in a country where overt and shocking acts of violence like these are still relatively rare. Say what you will about the rising level of violence in this nation, the latest school shooting, or the latest human with untreated mental illness who opens fire in the middle a crowded group of people. When public violence occurs on these shores, one can be sure it will be proclaimed in screaming headlines and then exhaustively analyzed by talking heads. Rest assured if events like these were not newsworthy, no media outlet would find them worthy of bringing to our attention. The reality of violence in other parts of the world, particularly the Middle East and Africa, to cite two key examples, is a sadly more prosaic affair.

The brutality of the killing might give us all reason to pause. Not content to simply take her life by gunfire, the assassin detonated a bomb to seal the gruesome deal. The bombing yesterday succeeded not only in taking her life but also ending the the lives of several bystanders in the process. Nor did it lack precedent. As it has been extensively noted, she had recently dodged several similar threats on her life. Though I am filled with many strong emotions, I cannot say that surprise is one of them.

Rest assured, I'm not going to attempt to add some new dialogue to this debate. Others have done a much more admirable job of it over the past two days. I don't have any new pet theory, or web of conspiracy contribution. Yet, I would like to add some perspective.

We on the left often are criticized for being America haters, calling into account our patriotism and devotion. Those who levy such accusations might do well to realize that there is a difference, and a rather large one at that between constructive criticism motivated by righteous outrage and, on the other hand, destructive vitriol designed purely to destroy. Let it be known that I love this country, though I must admit I rarely like it. How could I, owing to the fact that I strongly believe it is on the wrong course? I'm not sure how any sane person could conceivable like seven years, going on eight of gross misuse of power. I'm not sure how anyone could like a war justified by false pretenses and lies. I'm not sure how anyone could like soaring energy costs and a slowing economy. Furthermore, the hypocrisy of the patriotism argument is rather telling, since I've never seen anyone on the right refrain from bitching up a storm when their agenda is being overlooked.

A motivation in writing this post is to directly address those who say leftists never have anything positive to say about America. They do have a point, albeit one they likely never intended, nor implied. It would do us all well to occasionally acknowledge the good things about our country, if only for our own sanity. However, it cannot be ignored that do we have our work cut out for us, particularly when we consider the vast need for reform that exists in the world.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Latest Addition to the Blogroll

Open Source Punk Name Database

A creation of the lovely Dragon, this site features a vast selection of supremely clever band names. Have any of your own to contribute? If so, please submit.

Comrade Kevin has vanity projects too, ya know.

A Day in the Life (In Pictures)

I decided to take a sanity break from politics to complete a meme I'd been meaning to do for a while. This is the Day in the Life in Pictures (DLIP) in which the goal is to document one's daily doings, pictorially, to whatever degree one wishes. What follows is a relatively restrained retelling of my day. Some people have been known to go to obsessive lengths when fashioning their DLIP. I find these sorts of people usually have small children.

If the spirit moves you, be the next to contribute! I tag no one but openly invite all interested participants to act in kind.

9:00. My stockinged feet and pajama clad legs hit the carpeted floor

Time to take my medication.

Then shower.

Rummage through the closet looking for what I'm going to wear today.

Breakfast, part one.

Breakfast part two, tea.

I read the news today, oh boy.

Upstairs to the computer room.

A look out the window to see what's up, if anything.

Onto my blog roll.

Noon already? Time for the next pill.

While I'm at it, I might as well write some letters.



Off to write reviews of largely boring pedagogical texts such as this.

Clothes done!

Clothes sorted and put in drawers.

The kitchen floor needs to be swept.

Twilight, already? Where does the time go?

I am unfortunately out of milk, so I crank the car, pull out of the drive.

Here I am at the grocery store.

The goods.

Time to curl up with a good book

And hit the bed

but not before forgetting to take my night medication.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Blogging in the News

I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd open the paper and read an article like this. Newspaper columns like these I strongly object for a variety of reasons, mostly because they trivialize blogging, whether intentionally or not, describing it as though it's little more than the latest craze for young people. The first website mentioned, for God's sake, is described in terms that render it little more than an approximation of a low-rent Elle or Cosmopolitan magazine feature. Those not in the know might assume we bloggers talk exclusively about cutesy fashion tips or sure-fire ways of making sure our cuticles are perfect. The reality is not nearly as easily defined. This knowledge, I realize, will not be news to my regular readers or active participants in the nebulously-defined endeavor we called collectively deem "the blogsophere" but in the odd chance someone new to the parade reads what I have to say, please let me set the record straight.

Maybe this is merely common sense, but as Voltaire famously put it, "Common sense is not so common." The egalitarian format of the web provides a wealth of different kinds of blogs in a staggering variety of genres ranging from the ever-popular emotional vomit type, to Mommy blogs which obsessively document the lives of the writer's children, to the fashion tip modern day Emily Post sorts, to blogs which showcase a person's art, to the kind of citizen journalist/social commentary blogs of which this is an example. One of the strengths of the internet is that it is, as yet, unregulated and so it's truly a medium of the people.

The reality, however, and call me a snob if you wish (I've certainly been called far worse) is that They The People often have very little to say of substance. As anyone who has browsed the internet for any length of time at all, the challenge is not finding a wealth of information, the challenge is instead sorting through the copious amount of crap in order to find the proverbial rose in the garden of weeds. The relative ease of blogging opens up the internet to anyone, and this more often than not invites any yahoo with a computer and/or a digital camera to spill his/her guts all over the monitor. Sometimes the results are fantastic and deeply thought-provoking, often they induce little more than yawns.

I have a bone to pick with the writer of this article. Several bones, actually. My first criticism is in references to a particular assertion in the text of the article.

...Young Adults are joining a national trend of posting thoughts and ideas in hope of making a difference and/or making enough money to call it a career.

Most blog authors who I interact with on a regular basis, indeed, the ones that you will find linked to this blog are usually several years older than me. The reality, take it how you will, is that most people my own age and younger do not "blog" in any conventional sense. If they do, they likely use their blogs for largely masturbatory activities like the sort described above, or worse yet as a template for emotionally overwrought confessionals--little more than a high-tech journal. Some of us have hopes to make money by blogging, but so far, paid positions are rare. Those who make money off their blog either a) advertise copiously on their site or b) have the connections and luck necessary to get a job writing at the handful of heavily-visited sites. As it stands now, this blog features no advertising for a reason. I'm opposed to it on principle and I also understand quite well that a relatively low-traffic site like mine would not produce much income from ad placement.

The article does get it right when it mentions that many of us want to make a difference. That I can get behind, though I do make a point to qualify that I never forget to remind myself that my relative scope is fairly limited. Small potatoes blogs like this one average twenty hits a day and most of those visits are by members of an adoring core audience. To me, the real thrill in this exercise is making an impact on a few people who I love and who love me in return. This family atmosphere would be compromised, if not made far more difficult if I hit the big time, so to speak.

Yet, if you spoke to most of us, we'd like nothing better than to be one of the big boys. Count me as someone not holding my breath.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Comparison



Merry Christmas!

Late morning on Christmas Day. By this time, most of us, particularly those of us with children, have unwrapped presents. Living rooms have been transformed to heaps of discarded wrapping paper, each family member is giving their gifts a trial run, and we are all collectively basking in a sense of accomplishment. Another Christmas brought to a successful conclusion. Soon there will be lights to put away, ornaments to remove, and expenditures to contemplate, but for right now, we are content to bask in the lazy warmth of Christmas Day.

Or so it goes for some of us, that is.

My Christmas wish this year is to remember those who have no family to return to this season and thus are sitting at home alone, painfully aware of said fact. My Christmas wish this year is to remember those those for whom holiday gatherings entail familial obligation, but no real sense of familial love. My Christmas wish this year is to remember those for whom even the mention of the word "Christmas" connotes worry and negative feelings. My Christmas wish this year is to remember those who are separated from their family: fighting wars, working, or otherwise occupied with demands which keep the away from their loved ones.
Today's editorial section in the local paper, The Birmingham News, sums it up better than I could.

...[I]t's easy to forget this in the frenzied activity that so often leads up to this day. We stress out. We fight our way through the crowds in the stores. We overspend. We cook and eat more food than sanity should allow. Sometimes, we put impossible demands on the ones we love and on ourselves.
That's true even of Christians, for whome this holiday is supposed to honor the birth of Jesus and to commemorate the greatest gift of all time. It's a great irony that we have come to equate
hostile parking-lot standoffs and tense family gatherings with a holiday that marks God sending a Savior to identify with and ultimately restore our fallen humanity.

The best manifestations of Christmas should not be confined to one month, let alone one day. One day of giving cannot make up for 364 days of neglect, whether it's downtrodden strangers or your very own family.

Merry Christmas to all, and especially to the ones we often overlook!

*In the meantime, Mom and Dad remind us all to keep it real.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mike Huckabee's Risky Scheme

Those of who have long since grown weary of the 2008 Presidential Election need not wait much longer for some kind of resolution. The primary seasons kicks into high gear with the Iowa caucus on 3 January. I for one am eager to get moving and put an end to largely meaningless poll numbers and theoretical analysis, all of which boils down to, at best, little more than a gigantic guessing game. We will not get a break from exhaustive coverage, but at least we'll have the benefit of concrete details rather than 100% speculation.

The current darling of the GOP, Mike Huckabee, has co-opted a libertarian idea and instituted it as one of his campaign proposals. Like many libertarian ideas, this one almost makes sense until you closely evaluate it. I for one am no fan of the IRS either, but I would propose far more modest reform. Sales taxes of any sort are deeply regressive levies that punish the poor at the expense of the rich. Far fairer taxes are those on property or on corporations.

Not stated by this article, but often cited as justification for why it should be implemented, this scheme seeks to find a way to tax undocumented workers at the same rates as American citizens. Often paid in cash, under the table, illegal immigrants evade paying their share of income tax. However, I do not believe this is the proper way to go about it. I instantly grow nervous when anyone proposes sweeping tax reform this radical, because I'm immediately reminded of destructive taxation policies which have been implemented in the past. The first that springs to mind is the sort which was instituted by the UK. Foolish policies such as these nearly forced the country to go broke. The Beatles sang about them in the song "Taxman".

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me.

American readers might not understand that under the pre-decimal pound system, a pound was equal to 20 shillings. Thus, it stood that the wealthiest members of British society were paying 19 shillings out of every twenty in tax alone. Or to put it another way, 95% of all their income was paid in tax.

Lest it seem that I have some kind of wholesale sympathy for the super rich, rest assured I do not. However, knowing what I know about the whole premise of the capitalist system, I recognize that punitively punishing those at the top for the benefit of those not as well off usually fails. The strategy involved in the UK plan attempted to motivate the rich to spend more in an effort to avoid paying the lion's share of their income in tax, thus thrusting more capital into the system. A desire to preserve wealth, more often that not, creates tax refugees who put their money in other places where tax is lower. This same premise has resulted in massive outsourcing of American jobs to other countries.

The fairest plans keep taxes at tolerable levels for both the rich and poor. So long as an unequal distribution of wealth forms the basis for the capitalist system of which we are a part, so also will our tax policies need to be modified to affect each socio-economic level in a different way. This will lend some degree of complication to the tax structure, but neither should it be as unnecessarily complex as is today. In that, at least, I do agree with Huckabee.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Good Tactics Make Good Bloggers

Occasionally I think we bloggers need to take the time to focus our attention inward towards the blogging community at large. Since most of our time we comment on the outside world and the problems of said outside world, I understand how we might overlook the same sorts of issues when they exist amongst us. Worse yet, we might feel as though these situations only pertain to the outside events that serve as our impetus to blog in the first place. For example, some of us talk about how we ought to extend kindness, compassion, and fairness to the poor and disenfranchised then act in hypocritical fashion towards our brethren. If anything, we ought to be more kind, more benevolent, more understanding towards all people and along with our regard for needed societal change, make sure that we nurture individual relationships with those whom we interact.

I'd like to address a trend I find more than slightly disturbing. Perhaps it's not so much a trend as it is an unfortunate reality. Trends sound finite and fickle. The behavior to which I'm referring appears deeply ingrained in the consciousness of many folks. I'm not sure why the curmudgeon setting some of us seem to be stuck on is so prevalent these days. In particular, I'm speaking about the way some of us love to devour our own. No, I'm not speaking to EVERYONE, but I think it would do us well to contemplate how we ought to avoid this kind of behavior. Especially as this is the Christmas season, where our ultimate stated purpose is, lest we forget, to extend goodwill and peace towards all, and this includes people with whom we might disagree.

Let it be known that there's absolutely nothing wrong with a well-placed snarky remark. Indeed, an off-the-cuff clever remark is well appreciated. Gems like those are what make blogging worthwhile and rewarding.

There's absolutely everything wrong with snark that is destructive in nature and serves no purpose. How did we get so callous over the years? Not only callous, but so convinced in the indisputable rightness of our own personal message that we deem anyone who deviates from it even a fraction is somehow worthy of scorn? I find this a kind of inexcusable idolatry of sanctimony that needs to be addressed.

Some of us love to pick fights and split hairs. Some of us want to be right at all costs. May I suggest that there's much to be said for diplomacy. Anger and negative salvos do have a kind of seductive immediacy to them, but their ultimate impact wins few friends and more often than not backfires. Repeatedly nasty assaults often lead to certain people being referred to as blowhards, trolls, loose cannons, or worse.

I'm twenty-seven years old, and I once assumed that once I became an adult that the kind of pettiness so prevalent in adolescence would subside. This knowledge served as great solace in those often painful times. Yet, I find example after after of people clearly old enough to know better ripping into their fellows. Are we that insecure? Should I add a qualifying statement that says a person can act stupidly at any age?

As Robert Frost mentioned in "Mending Wall"

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/
What I was walling in or walling out.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday Video

Your humble narrator acknowledges how many good things have come his way over the course of his life.

The REAL War against Christmas

Cal Thomas, more often than not, turns my stomach. Most of the time I heartily disagree with every argument he sets forth and object to the smarmy way he trots out his obnoxious rhetoric. Still, I read him almost every day if only to know what the other half thinks. It was quite a surprise to me then, that I found much to agree with in his most recent column. Readers might wish to ignore the inevitable partisan swipe at the left while contemplating the overall message behind it.

Passages such as these are firmly in keeping with arguments I've seen advanced by a multitude of lefty blogs.

Why has the acquisition of "more" produced so much less — less contentment, less happiness? When the income increases don't come fast enough to keep pace with the want increases and pleasure is not constant, many complain and moan about "hard times." Anyone who has not been through a Great Depression and a world war has no reason to whine.

Most of our demands are a response to marketing. We are assaulted with commercials and ads that assert our "need" for whatever it is they are trying to sell us. When our income is insufficient to meet those newly discovered wants, the spouse goes to work to help pay for them. The kids go into day care, or its equivalent — ever earlier pre-kindergarten. When these children display social malfunction, we find doctors to prescribe drugs to soothe their legitimate anxiety.

Though a conservative commentator would never put them in these terms, herein is the REAL War against Christmas. In its ideal incarnation, (and to his credit, Thomas points this out at the end of this column) the gifts we gave to other people would have some functional, practical appeal beyond the latest electronic toy or product with shelf life shorter than milk that either falls apart within months or becomes another long-term occupant of our garage or attic. Or, to broaden the scope of this line of thinking, how often have we gotten passive-aggression in wrapping paper, presents that conform to someone else's ideas and/or fantasies of what we ought to receive? If we don't spend our lives trying to keep up with the Jones, there's always someone out there more than willing to remind us of that fact.

Acquisition of possessions is the almost uniform litmus test of what constitutes success in this society. Yet, as it has been shown time and time again, through history and through modern day examples, success almost never equates to happiness. Furthermore, the more wealthy we are and the more stuff we acquire, the more unhappy we seem to become. If we strike it rich and buy a huge sprawling McMansion, we become so deadly afraid that we'll lose it all that we prefer to live behind fortified compounds, gated communities with security guards regulating the flow of traffic.

It doesn't really have to be this way. I'd expand Thomas' premise and state that, in future, the gifts we give ought to be given for their practical value, reflecting true unselfishness in the process. Recall O.Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi". The presents given by both the husband and the wife are gestures of love, though in typical fashion, the author inserts an ironic twist at the end. He concludes by saying,

Here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What I'm Thankful For This Season

I know I'm supposed to say something serious but really, I'm thankful for not having to watch the movie Love Story.

Masochists can indulge below.

Balancing the Abortion Argument

The national debate raised by the admitted pregnancy of sixteen-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears has yet again opened a national discussion on teen pregnancy and abortion. Ms. Spears, much to the delight of Focus on the Family and other conservative groups, has chosen to keep the child. I can't help thinking about what hollow victories we claim in this debate. The decision Spears made does not disguise the fact getting pregnant at such a young age is a product of irresponsibility and of making poor choices. Had she instead chosen to terminate her pregnancy, Planned Parenthood or a related group might consider refraining from sounding joyous. Another young teenage girl knocked up should not be a cause for celebration.

Due to Jamie Lynn's relative youth, commentators of all stripes have largely given her the benefit of the doubt, instead focusing more of the blame onto her mother or lifting this up as an example of the failings of abstinence-only education. I do not disagree, as certainly these are valid points. However, I would be far more willing to cut Ms. Spears a break if she wasn't wealthy beyond belief and privileged beyond the scope of most Americans. The girl from a working class or impoverished family who ends up pregnant is far more likely to simply not know any better or to have an utterly insufficient role model for a parent. Wealth does not always correlate to knowledge but it certainly makes it a great deal easier to obtain. Neither does wealth correlate to good parenting, but it certainly makes it more difficult to excuse.

Some have taken this a step further and decided to make this into yet another opportunity to have a widespread dialogue on abortion. Perhaps we need to evaluate where we stand on this every now and again, but I have to say I regret it when little more than celebrity gossip is the impetus. But while we're at it, I have a few words to say on the matter.

We on the left often justify our position by taking great pains to separate fetus from child. My personal beliefs reflect this line of thinking as well. Through manipulation of language, we soften the impact. Fetuses are terminated, not killed. The movement's chosen nomenclature is "Pro-Choice", an emphasis made to switch the focus onto the decision rather than the nature of what it entails.

The reality is that hormones and body chemistry create a strong bond between mother and child, even fetus and child. Abortion, although often the only viable alternative, is a brutal, painful procedure. This ought not to limit its scope, but rather we ought to refuse to present any false pretenses to a woman in the awful situation of deciding whether or not she ought to terminate her pregnancy. It's no easy choice and so long as abortion is an option on the table we should respect the inevitable decision made by any woman, even if we may not agree with it. I see abortion as a necessary evil but as such it must always remain available.

In this instance, I'm reminded of a poem that powerfully discusses the sort of ambivalent desperation and utter agony involved in making a decision like this.

the mother
by Gwendolyn Brooks

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Those of us who are pro-choice need to use care to not transform a woman's right to choose into a kind of arid, sterile argument that doesn't take into account the biological reality. The traditional feminist viewpoint which states that terminating a pregnancy destroys only a group of congregated cells and not a baby does not take into account that the cellular life inside a womb is just that--life. Lest we come across as cold and inhumane, we must not concede the facts of the matter to the pro-life crowd. Doing so provides them with additional ammunition and gives rise to accusations of "baby-killer" or worse. The three oft-cited precepts are still applicable: safe, legal, and rare.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Beware the Democratic Process

Let's vote on it.

How many times have you heard that old familiar suggestion? A decision needs to to be made, clearly there are conflicting opinions among members, no one position is in firm agreement with all parties, and so someone suggests taking a vote.

Sound reasonable enough, doesn't it? Seems in keeping with egalitarian, democratic principles, namely the one that states every member of a free society ought to have an equal say in dictating policy. How would decision-making be totally fair otherwise?

I remember a year ago the church I attended at the time brought in a consultant to aid us in the transition process. Bitter feelings all around had characterized the departure of the previous minister, and so the consultant, armed with a PowerPoint presentation and a wealth of experience in speaking to a variety of different denominations methodically trotted out his recommendations. One of the bullet points of the talk he gave struck me upon first glance as deeply insulting. It instantly connoted some kind of statement restricting individual liberty.

Beware the Democratic Process.

Upon further contemplating, however, I understand the point he was trying to make. The Democratic process has a way complicating matters. In catering to individual demands out of a spirit of being accommodating and open minded, what often occurs instead is that unnecessary layers of complication are added. Routine, simple matters of policy which could be quickly dealt with become strung out, protracted affairs. Voting can often politicize membership to its detriment, creating opposing factions. An entitlement mentality can often result as well, by which a few people with private agendas insist that all of the desires must be incorporated. This often creates resentment and bad tidings.

In response to this, I have always favored keeping individual gatherings small whenever possible. With every additional person added to the mix, so too arrives unique concerns and complications. If most church members know each other, they bring a vested interest and mutual understanding of individual desires that is often not present in larger gathering just as a matter of course. Sometimes restraining growth simply isn't feasible and sometimes growth occurs of its own accord.

When we derisively decry churches who actively resist growth, the implication in the criticism is often that they don't wish to add additional members because the often self-proclaimed leaders do not wish to entertain anything resembling challenges to their authority or to have their methods actively questioned. Criticisms like these, sadly, do often have validity. Let me say that it doesn't have to be this way, either. This is the other extreme, the totalitarian, autocratic approach. Inevitably, in circumstances like these power is wholly equated with seniority, as though somehow length of membership trumps any other factor in determining who gets final say.

The Quaker Way of dealing with situations like these is rather novel.

Questions are not decided by majority rule. The presiding clerk tries to be sensitive to the meeting's search for truth and unity. Strongly opposed views are often reconciled through suggestion of a Third Way; or decision is held over to a later meeting, awaiting further insight, information, understanding. No vote is taken. Unity, although, not unanimity is the intended goal.

Perhaps a better way to define the crux of my argument is to say, rather, use the democratic process sparingly and only for matters which simply cannot be resolved in any other fashion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christian in Practice, Christian in Deed, Christian in Intent, but not Christian in Identity

The first words out of my mouth this morning are "Wow!" A mention at an active blog aggregator has a ways of doing fantastic things for one's daily hits. This site received 80 hits yesterday and nearly fifty the day before that. As such, thanks are in order to the good folks at Quaker Quaker. I take this good news as a challenge to keep my posts at a consistently high quality.

I was in search of a starting point this morning and one arrived in the form of a comment I received to Monday's post. In it I am reminded to contemplate that the message of Jesus, that of love and stewardship towards one fellow person, ought to be separated from the religion about Jesus to which so many of us object. It's an excellent point and one I made reference to in a series of posts a few months back.

Perhaps the region of the country where I live has much to do with it. Here in the Bible Belt South, the overpowering nature of Evangelical Christianity often renders progressive "loyal opposition" faith traditions/denominations not specifically Christian passionately opposed to any and every mention of Jesus of Nazareth. There is, however, a great danger in this sort of approach. Taken to an extreme, what remains is a faith tradition that gives preferential, even glamorizing treatment to other faiths, all faiths, that is, except Christianity. The irony, of course, is that the underlying message preached is often Christian in practice, Christian in deed, Christian in intent, but not Christian in identity.

No religion or faith tradition is perfect. Being that all are conceived by humans and that human are intrinsically flawed beings, it would stand to reason that they would have problems. What I object to is the line of logic that supposes that if a human being y has had a negative experience with x tradition, then it should be removed from all discourse. No doubt there are people who have been scarred by the perversion of Islam, particularly the sort of militant fundamentalism advanced by terrorists. No doubt there have been people adversely affected by all of the world's faith traditions. Discounting, if not altogether avoiding the historical context and intrinsic basis of any movement, however, is hardly a good strategy.

I admit to being caught between two viewpoints when I contemplate this matter further. One claims that the message of Jesus has been so thoroughly co-opted by the right over the years that, despite my best efforts, it has been forever tainted. If I assert that I am a Christian (which I do) then what I stand for is bound to be misinterpreted. Furthermore, this point of view argues that religion has evolved far beyond Christianity and as such, couching faith in such terms is, at best, a counter-productive activity.

The other part of me, which speaks to my fighting spirit, is not content to surrender so easily. I am far more comfortable in the context of a Christian movement or at least one which is unwilling to remove scriptural references at the risk of offending someone's sensibilities. Emasculating a faith tradition in such fashion caters to a sort of victim mentality unfortunately prevalent in today's discourse. Dwelling on one's own past hurts is helpful insofar as it spurns us to right the wrongs which created them. The grieving process ought to be temporary, not permanently institutionalized as policy. The ultimate goal, as I see it, is to strive towards empowerment, which works within the confines of reality, not at cross-purposes with it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Purpose of Reform

Editor's Note: I will sometimes cross-post my entries to Street Prophets out of a desire to increase my hits and get additional exposure. Yesterday's post created a minor firestorm of negative comments and thus I felt compelled to write a response.


Had I known my previous diary would have created so much fuss and so many negative responses, I would have tried to couch my argument in much more diplomatic, tactful terms. Do allow me this opportunity, if you will, to defend myself and to furthermore emphasize what I was attempting to say.

I feel that I have been misunderstood. Please allow me the ability to set the record straight.

In doing so, I would also invite you to take a second look at my earlier entry. In your haste to criticize me, I daresay you some of completely missed my point altogether.

If I erred, I erred in phrasing my criticisms in terms of us versus them. I meant no disrespect to Unitarian Universalism, nor individual Unitarian Universalists. When I was a member, I know I would have taken posts such as mine in the spirit of constructive criticism and out of a desire to affect change and make needed reforms. Indeed, I spent many a national con in lusty conversation with other UUs who had identified similar problems and at the time I listened with a rapt ear to their own unique pet theories regarding the ways things ought to be. Several of them blog and use their own personal weblogs as a launching pad by which to best extrapolate their ideas.

Our desire in doing so was be to improve the faith, maintain its membership, and furthermore patch the trouble areas. Or to put it simply, the reason we even bothered to waste our breath is because we loved our church. We saw spirituality and especially organized religion, any organized religion, as an evolving process constantly in need of being modified to suit changing times.

Perhaps I'm different than a lot of people. I'm a reformer by nature and to me, even the supposedly most perfect system ever created leaves room for improvement. I feel the same way about anything I hold dear. This goes equally for music, the written word, films, and my favorite sports team. None of us live in a vacuum or immune from the passage of time and as such I believe we are constantly in search of perfecting ourselves. Thus it's not surprising that the elements in our life which we hold dear reflect this own innate sense of striving for perfection.

In reading back over what I wrote earlier today, if I had it to go over again I would have made a point to add a few well-placed qualifying statements. These would have made a point to mention that my criticisms noted problems I have observed in the whole of liberal religion. The main idea, namely, that in a desire to be as inclusive as possible we have progressively whittled away more and more the meat of that which we believe. In a comment posted today to my blog, a Quaker blogger pointed out that the same issue exists to some degree in Quakerism as well, which is to say that no liberal movement, even the one I currently hold in favor, is immune to this same sort of quandary.

In conclusion, please hear this. I put my heart and soul into being the best Unitarian Universalist I could possibly be for eight years. Then my priorities changed. Then I changed. I found that I had serious problems with a faith which I had once been so committed. It broke my heart and I felt deeply disappointed. In time and with the insight of maturity, however, I have realized that no faith journey is static and that my time as a Unitarian was another journey along the way--merely another knot on a rope that exists next to the one I label Methodism.

I'm not sure where my faith journey leads me. Rest assured, however, that if Quakerism is the path by which God is leading me, you'll likely hear one, if not several of my theories of what it needs to work on. Think of that in terms of that of a Mentor or a Parent offering constructive criticism, the implication not to tear down, but to reveal the truth in an effort to build up.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What a Difference Sensible Doctrines Make

This past weekend I attended a Quaker meeting and found it much to my liking. I noticed some similarities between its philosophy and the Unitarianism I practiced for eight years, but also recognized some crucial differences. By differences, I mean adherence to sensible doctrines that had Unitarian Universalism taken more strides towards adopting I'm very sure I would not have left it behind. Yet, upon further contemplation, I recall that I do know enough of change and the inevitable human tendency to resist it to have come to this conclusion--namely, that the needed reforms may not be forthcoming for quite some time to come, if they arrive at all, and I for one am not willing to sit around and play the game of wait-and-see.

Returning to Quakerism---upon my visit, I was handed the obligatory newcomer's packet, full of introductory materials. These I read through with no small degree of interest. One passage in particular caught my eye.

Quakerism is here described in terms of its ideals, not necessarily its attainments. In avoiding one form, Friends sometimes slip into another. Forms and creeds are inevitable. They have important uses, especially in education, where forms are used to show what ought to be their real content, and even, sometimes, to create the content. Our Christian religion would be weak and vague without the doctrines which undergird it. Quakerism does not aim at formlessness and undiluted mysticism (emphasis mine).

Unitarianism in its current incarnation purports to be a creedless faith which openly shuns dogma and doctrinal requirements. In reality, such a position often leaves it rudderless. The church adopted the Seven Principles as a means of addressing this lack. However, as the UU blog The Socinian recently pointed out, "[The Seven Principles] may be sound rules to live by, but they aren’t our creed or a statement of our highest truths. They are no more than a transitory statement of broad propositions that all of us in our wide theological diversity were at one time willing to support, a lowest common denominator."

I am not uncomfortable with doctrines when they serve a purpose, for I have observed for myself the sort of formless nihilism which results when they do not exist at all. The wording of the passage above takes into account several important precepts.

a) Human imperfection has a ways of reducing ideals to rougher, imperfect reality
b) Attempts to avoid creedal statements often inevitably become creedal statements in spite of themselves
c) Without some degree of underpinning, religion suffers from a lack of substance and strength

My other concern regards the unfortunate tendency that often Unitarians take in looking first, foremost, and sometimes only within their own ranks for the source of ultimate truth; this implies strongly that only we can understand us. Doing so produces a myopic, short-sighted tunnel vision which often discounts the usefulness of other faiths traditions. It's a circle-the-wagons, insular, bubble mentality that reminds me a little of a Soviet Propaganda film. This defensive posture couches all events, identities, policies, and daily minutia in cloying, self-referential terms of purpose and esoteric phrasing.

By contrast, I refer to the above passage one final time and note that that Quakerism makes a point to refer to itself as a Christian faith, even citing passages in The Bible to emphasize its roots. I do understand that some Friends do not self-identify as Christian but I daresay they are probably not as squeamish with scriptural references as UUs. When Unitarianism jettisoned itself from Christianity, the results rendered it closer to a cult of wounded souls in a state of suspended uncertainty. I am pleased to know that Quakers have not acted in kind.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy Birthday to Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks would have been forty-six today.

A singular talent who passed away in relative obscurity before he reached the age of thirty-five, Hicks' uncompromising, unflinching style and simultaneous disdain of the trappings of fame ensured that he remained widely unknown during his lifetime. Better known in the UK than in his native America, he was nonetheless adored on both shores by an appreciative cult audience who immediately took to his acid-tipped satire. Hicks deliberately shunned widespread fame by refusing to lend his name or image to endorse any product and actively incorporated anti-consumerist rhetoric into his fiery routines.

His rants reveal a keen grasp of human nature, particularly in its darker elements. Typical targets include the soullessness of mainstream culture, the evil of marketing and advertising, and the exploitive power of religious hypocrisy. Yet, in spite of the raw anger inherent in his standup, his basic message remained that of transcendence-- as he frequently reminded audiences, "The truth will set you free."

Since his 1994 death from pancreatic cancer, the legend of Bill Hicks has grown by leaps and bounds and the ranks of his admirers swells every more with the passage of time. His often-philosophical routines cater particularly to a demographic of disaffected, malcontented liberals, particularly the so-called angry young men of the left, who see in him an effective anti-hero prophet. It's easy to see why. His views reflect those of the chronically misunderstood and disenfranchised. Raised Southern Baptist in Texas, he left behind his conservative upbringing and spoke darkly and critically of the unthinking masses, their superstitions, and their failings.

Like most visionaries, his words seem ever more applicable with time. One wonders what he would have to say about our current state of affairs.

Fans have put together a MySpace Music page which features some of his best routines. Check it out if you're curious. See the below video for Hicks in action.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday Song

The best music ever produced by three dudes who all look peculiarly like Cave Men.


Please visit the newest member of the Comrade Kevin's Blogroll!

What are You Reading?

Dragon reviews a variety of different books from a multitude of genres.

A Few Lessons in Safe Logic

Here, another in a long series of lessons in safe logic. Namely, thou shalt not resort to hyperbole when an accurate portrayal of the facts deserves to be told. I've seen evidence of similar histrionics in the prose of many members of the mainstream media and from both the right and left. No one side is any more or any less guilty of said offense, only that either side uses a different mechanism in going about it.

First, an event from our racist past.

In 1956, popular Black entertainer Nat King Cole played in front of a sold-out, adoring crowd at Birmingham, Alabama's Boutwell Auditorium. While in the middle of a song, a group of three extreme racists made an ill-advised invasion of the stage and managed to awkwardly topple Cole from his piano bench. Their efforts might have been more fruitful had not they been almost immediately intercepted by several white police officers who quickly took charge of the situation. A fourth man who had participated in plotting the event was later arrested in connection with the crime. All four were eventually tried and and convicted.

However, subsequent accounts often refer to this event as "Cole attacked on stage by white mob". I hardly think three people constitute much of a mob. The event is shocking enough on its own and thus there's no need to distort the truth. Many of the violent events of the Civil Rights Movement are shockingly brutal enough on their own without the need to resort to hyperbole. In attempting to use a broad brush to paint an account of our past, the mainstream media often sensationalizes situations like these.

Furthermore, an eyewitness account of the event recently provided by a Mr. Jim Felts, who was in the auditorium at the time, states that, in his words, "this phrase [white mob] is a gross misrepresentation at best, and leads the reader to infer that that a large part of the audience participated in, or approved of the attack."

He continues to say "it is safe to say the white audience would have happily lynched the four idiots who attacked an entertainer [they] loved". After all, the crowd of several thousand, most of whom were white, had paid almost one day's wagers to see Cole, who was at that time one of the most popular artists in the nation.

He concludes by saying that "The [media]...constantly bemoans "code words" and hyperbole that inflames racial attitudes. If I were a black person reading about this "white mob" attacking a black entertainer, I would surely react different than if I read about four racists who committed this idiotic crime".

Second, an account from everyone's favorite right-wing curmudgeon, Cal Thomas.

I read Mr. Thomas' often smarmy invective out of a desire to see how what the other side is thinking. Case in point, Faux News has been currently jumping up and down reporting how, yet again, Christianity is under attack. When asked to produce evidence of it, they refer to the recent church incident in Colorado, where gunman Mathew Murray's stated objective in killing members of the New Life Church were to punish Christians for their role in creating most of the problems of the world.

Thomas writes, "Does that qualify as a 'hate crime'? Probably not, as such designations are usually given only to "oppressed minorities."

The logic in these statements, if one can call them that, is two fold.

1. It assumes that all liberals have secret desires to destroy Christianity by violent methods and that the religion at a whole is under attack.

Let's back up a bit here. This a man who, if facts of the case serve me correctly, came OUT of the community itself. He's hardly some outside invader. Murray was clearly a very troubled soul and his statements ought to be taken as the ramblings of someone with severe mental illness. It frankly troubles me the line of thought that says that the ramblings of the disturbed somehow are indicative of the viewpoints one's opposition as a whole.

2. Justice is some commodity that is rapidly becoming the sole domain of protected minorities. Either that, or there's some sort of base inequality in the justice system that does not extend equal protection to Christians and violent attacks upon them.

However, incidents like this fly in the face of that sort of logic.

Muslim helps Jews attacked on NYC Subway.

The supreme irony of course is that a *gasp* Muslim intervening on behalf of Jew serves as a far better example of upholding the Christmas spirit then any so-called believer. This is the same Christmas currently under attack, if one believes the rhetoric.

Your humble narrator identifies as Christian, but he also identifies as a free-thinker. He feels that faith, spirituality, and religion as a whole ought to evolve with the times. Furthermore, he is made uncomfortable when anyone attempts to take religion, any religion, and use it as a rhetorical ace-in-the-hole. I'm remind of that in particular when I consider the so-called religious litmus test one must apparently pass in order to secure the GOP's nomination for President in 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

There's No Atmosphere on the Moon

In making this post, I'm going against one of my blogging rules, which reads: The Blogger Shall Never Post About Sports. It's nothing personal, folks. Please allow me to make that quite clear to all of you rabid sports fans out there. Admittedly, I have already broken this rule once this year already. What's once more?

Readership, you must understand that I feel that sports are a fun distraction from the increasingly heavy, negative times in which we live, but neither by any stretch of the means do I think that they're a matter of vital importance. Any sort of congressional investigation of sports is time wasted which could be spent on much better things. To wit, this is one of those times where I feel compelled to speak not because I find it important, but because so many other people find it important. Here, yet another lesson in safe logic.

The moral lesson to be pulled from this mess of across the board flagrant usage of steroids by Major League Baseball players seems to be cut and dried. This is the price we pay for coddling and vastly overpaying an elite group of prima donnas who play a child's game for a living. Can anyone really be surprised? Am I saying anything particularly new or novel when making this statement, the general sentiment of which must be on the lips of so many people at this exact instant.

Over the past thirty years it has been well-documented how the price of a ticket, parking, concessions, and souvenirs have risen to obscene levels. Why anyone would wish to pay $6 for a 50 cent cup of stale tap beer or shell out $35 for a replica jersey of one's favorite player is beyond me. Why we would want to pay so dearly for our entertainment is still another, and reveals rather pointedly that we must be desperate to escape our humdrum existence of day to day living. Perhaps this is a fallacy of the human condition, albeit one that can be easily addressed in the name of personal responsibility but only as long as we, individually, make the effort.

Still, one can't help recalling that it did not use to be this way. Forty years ago baseball players made a decent leaving at the sport but certainly not enough by salary alone to constitute extreme wealth. It could easily be argued that domineering owners were the ones who profited most and made pots full of money off the backs of their players. The move to correct this and spread the wealth out more equitably amongst all those involved went way too far in the other direction. I often make a point that this is one of the paradoxes of human behavior. The pendulum never seems to reach happy medium point, but instead swings from pole to pole.

Here's what I propose and do take this with as many grains of sand as you wish. I would recommend highly that everyone should undertake and put into action the lost art of creating something worthwhile and substantive, or at minimum adding something intrinsically positive to the world. Doing so has always been a far more satisfying endeavor than passively watching any ballgame for me, at least. By "creating", allow me to expand the definition to include many things. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Talk to an old friend. Read a book. Exercise. Make something with your hands.

Sports have their place in society. They can be remarkably unifying, egalitarian, and cross-cultural. They are a fun outlet and a hobby for many people. However, like everything else in this world, taken to excess they are damaging.


Read the Full Report, here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Classes Which Need to be Taught

I got this from Blue Gal by way of Dr. Zaius

"Write about 5 classes you would like to take if you could make up your own curriculum. AND - and this is important, ONE of them must come from your tagger's list."

I believe that some of these were meant to be light-hearted but I seem to be in a more serious mood today. Suppose I'll roll with it rather than fight it.

GS 114. Critical Thinking (3 credits) MWF 11:00 am-12:30 pm

This mandatory class for all incoming Freshman encourages students to be able to think for themselves. This hands-on class forces students to formulate their own opinions separate from personal bias, spin, and baseless prejudice. A wealth of alternate points-of-view will be actively discussed. This course will also include a weekly series of outside speakers who will speak on a variety of diverse topics. These talks will pull from a wide cross section of different cultures, religions, and political persuasions. Prepare to have your world view expanded and your heretofore unquestioning opinions called to task.

SOC 42DD Teh Hott For Any Weight (3 credits) Tu Th 8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Learn the ways by which our culture encourages people, particularly women, to conform to unrealistic standards of physical beauty for the sake of making maximum profit for corporations. Learn how few people are capable of looking like models. Be exposed to alternate cultural expectations of body shape that do not conform to the current model proposed by looks-obsessed Western culture. The point will be hammered home when students will watch a series of mind-expanding and utterly unsettling documentaries. Final paper topics in past have included titles such as Why I'm Happy with the Way I Look Now and No Wonder I Used to Have an Eating Disorder.

Upon completion of the class, students often find their sense of satisfaction with their own bodies to be at an all-time high.

EC 200 Rudimentary Economics (3 credits) Tu Th 2:00 pm-3:00 pm

Learn how to balance a checkbook, avoid taking out credit cards, make wise decisions with their personal income, and how to avoid falling into risky lending schemes created by unbridled, unregulated greed. This information should have been dispensed by parents around the dinner table, but research has recently revealed that this information is rarely taught by parents and that most young people no longer sit around dinner tables with the rest of the family.

Students will learn the disquieting reality of where money really comes from, how it is created, and how to use that knowledge to their own benefit.

Warning. This class might make you a communist.

HE 230 Effective Sex Education MWF 12-1:30

This hour and a half course will be taught in an spirit of open-minded discussion free from scorn or doses of shame. Lies and misinformation, particularly those advanced by Fundamentalist teachings, will be education actively refuted. Slides showing diseased genitals in advanced stages of syphilis will not be shown. Abstinence-only curriculum will not be advanced. Students will learn a variety of different means of contraceptives, none of which involve the phrase You CAN pull out, right? Romanticizing one's virginity will not be allowed, since no one's first sexual encounter has any sort of aesthetic purity, unless by pure you really mean extreme awkwardness.

AS 300 Deflating the Cult of Celebrity Th 3:00 pm- 5:00 pm

Students will learn the virtues of ignoring soft news and the behavior of dysfunctional, drug-addicted stars. This course will make a point of encouraging students to create their own drama if they're really that desperate for salacious gossip. The reality of celebrity will be discussed, particularly the pitfalls of wealth. The fallacy of living a life of quiet desperation will be exposed.

This course is a fine companion with GS 114. (See above).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Readership, I found this yesterday on Blue Gal's page, so those of you who have been to her site might find this a bit extraneous. I wanted to add my own two cents.

Apparently the fine folks at WalMart want our young teenage girls to never forget this.

This is wrong on so many levels. I don't know where to begin. This would be not nearly as offensive on a t-shirt or a wallet, but on a pair of panties clearly designed for TWELVE TO SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRLS this suggests something absolutely appalling. It's still wrong no matter how old the women in question happen to be. The age thing just adds an even more sinister edge to it. Nothing like the suggestion of underage girls selling their intimate areas for cash, but certainly not plastic.

Read more, here.

I discussed this with a friend of mine who lives in Australia. She wrote this in response.

I have a hard time finding decent clothes for my seven year old girl. she's seven! She does not need midriff baring tops, tops with slogans on them, skirts that are ridiculously short. not just short skirts but RIDICULOUSLY short. Items promoting all sorts of fucked up shit. I get so mad about this.

But then again, no one said WalMart had good taste. This shirt was recently featured on the racks as well.

What's next? "Some say it's rape, I call it hot sex"? Or: "Some call it domestic violence, I say I'm just teaching her a lesson"?

While you're there you can also pick up my personal favorite, Bratz dolls. These are some of the tamer variety. I wasn't able to find the ones that look like 100% harlot.

Not that the name itself isn't appalling enough. These dolls, clearly designed for the tween, early teen set wear short, midriff revealing clothing, globs of makeup, and apparently delight in looking like borderline prostitutes. What a great example for impressionable young girls to aspire to be! Don't worry about being reasonable or unselfish, girls, because remember it's all about you and how good you look in front of the boys!

Let's not also forget the thong for Preteen girls. This item speaks for itself.

Random Factoid: 90% of all people shop at WalMart.

Comrade Kevin is glad to be in the 10% who don't.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I love America, but I don't like it."

-Sinclair Lewis.

This keeps getting truer and truer for me by the day.

Evolution or Bust

When I was in grad school, one of the topics we discussed concerned the onward pace of humanity. One school of thought, the fatalistic side, argued that we humans were evolving at a rate of speed far beyond our own ability to correctly perceive it. The other side, the optimists, argued instead that we were instead on the path towards telepathy.

I find myself more inclined to the former viewpoint, but let me qualify it slightly by saying our technology is evolving at a rate of speed beyond our ability to make ethical decisions regarding it. The pace of technology which grows more hyperactive by the moment doesn't provide us much time to reflect, contemplate, or ponder. What was new yesterday becomes antiquated and outdated today and I doubt seriously we can get our minds around much of anything that progresses in such a fashion.

A different but related matter comes to mind. Regarding human evolution as a whole, I was directed today to a link in National Geographic Magazine.

Human Evolution Speeding Up

It makes sense, when you think about it. Evolution is, as we know, a process expedited by exposure to stimuli. With more stimuli and more people comes more evolution. As our human population swells, so with it comes evolutionary mutations to bacteria and animal alike. The article points out that the rapid pace of evolution is a recent phenomenon. Perhaps the problems of modern society are a response to a reaction wholly unprecedented in the history of man.

Not only are we evolving at a faster clip, but we are evolving far beyond each other. Africans are evolving in totally different fashion that Europeans. Asians are evolving differently than Europeans. With such much evolutionary friction and cross-pollination, one wonder what end results will be created by the process of exponential growth. By the year 2050, the planet Earth which will contain fully 12 billion residents.

Monday, December 10, 2007

MySpace Music Page!

I figured, you know, what the hell.


Cabaretic's Music Page

New Songs

I've been experimenting with a multi-track recorder and have set down two songs.

1. Motion Pictures

2. At The Zoo


In other news, I am pleasantly surprised that Barack Obama has made substantial gains on Clinton's lead. This is from someone who volunteered to help with campaign before bowing out over serious disagreements with the strategy. He has come out swinging in recent days but I still hold serious doubts. Hillary Clinton has shown herself to be a candidate with serious flaws. Had they been exposed before now, I doubt she could have effectively solidified her base of support.

What almost goes without saying is although Obama has made great strides in recent weeks, she still leads him overwhelmingly in all but a few states. Obama has set himself up on a course to take the nomination in a fight on the floor of the Convention, which ironically I find much more likely a scenario in the GOP convention.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Story Meme

FranIAm tagged me, so I'm going to continue.

I'm not much of a tagger and am sort of opposed to it on principle, so if any of you lot wish to continue the story, go for it.

I woke up hungry. I pulled my bedroom curtain to the side and looked out on a hazy morning. I dragged myself into the kitchen, in search of something to eat. I reached for a jar of applesauce sitting next to the sink, and found it very cold to the touch. I opened the jar and realized it was frozen. (Splotchy)

"That's strange," I said out loud to no one in particular. My fingers slowly reached towards the jar again. My body experienced a wave of apprehension as weighted blanket covering me as I did so. The jar was completely frozen.

I picked it up and stared at it, my fingers stung with little knives of chill. "What the..." again I spoke aloud. Then I realized what had happened with a shock. Suddenly the jar flew from my hand. It shattered creating a collage-like mixture of frozen applesauce and glass shards on my kitchen floor, the lid lazily rolling to a stop across the room.(FranIam)

"Goddamn it," I yelled, cursing my bad luck and my lack of co-ordination. Oafish is a word that has been used to describe me from time to time. If I don't fall on my face at least once a week, I know there's something wrong with me.

Snapping back to reality, I took stock of the situation. Though I was not wearing shoes, I was lucky enough that the mess was several feet away and thus not close enough to have cut me. The worst thing I had to worry about was cleaning up a spiraling trail of mushy, clotted applesauce and globs of glass. Most of it lay in one big sideways vomit across the linoleum floor, about two feet from the refrigerator. I sighed and walked towards the closet where I keep the dustpan and broom. (Comrade Kevin)

See The Sky About to Rain

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Birmingham Disappointment

White flight decimated the City of Birmingham, scattering the majority of its wealth and white population over Shades and Double Oak mountain. Motivated partially out of racism, partially out of a failure of white and black leadership to reach any sense of consensus, the past thirty-five years have produced the rise of the suburbs and the slow death of the city. This is not an particularly original story. It's no different here than in many other cities in the United States. The history of major metropolitan areas North and South, East and West, will show the same tale.

The predominantly white, affluent suburb in which I live is named Hoover. Some twenty years ago, under the premise of if you build it, they will come a plethora of wealthy white businessmen pooled their money and funded the then-largest shopping center in the Southeast. The Galleria transformed a sleepy little community into a thriving city of 80,000 residents. The success of Hoover moved Birmingham's population further and further away from the city center. What remains worthwhile in Birmingham is the Southside, home to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the largest employer, a few good restaurants, and a shopping center called The Summit. Most of the city is impoverished, overwhelmingly African-American, and a cesspool of run-down eyesores.

When Larry Langford was elected Mayor of Birmingham three months ago, I knew trouble was on the way. Known for no small lack of ambition and a flair for the dramatic, Langford proceeded to push a large tax increase through the City Council. It was overwhelming approved yesterday. As of 1 January, the sales tax for the city itself will be increased to ten cents upon every dollar for the next six years and the tax upon businesses will be effectively doubled from now on.

What I object to most is the heavy-handed way by which this matter was handled. When business leaders protested, Langford and a few devotees on the Council caustically dismissed them. "If you leave, someone else will come," they said. "If you sell your dealership, we'll find someone else who will buy it."

Our local paper, The Birmingham News, came out strongly against the proposal. Letters to the Editor were resounding against the proposal as well. I estimate that they ran 70% against to 30% for the proposal. No specifics of this increased tax revenue have thus been spelled out, which is an accountability nightmare. Furthermore, sales taxes are not "fair and equitable", no matter what the spin doctors say. They are the most regressive taxes of all, which punish the poor to a much larger degree than they affect the wealthy. The much fairer way to resolve this situation would be to rise property taxes but doing so would have required a county-wide vote, a vote which would likely have failed.

The tax revenue is supposed to be raised to improve public transportation and build a domed stadium. Count me as someone who would love to not have to rely on his car to get everywhere, but I have a feeling that money itself is not going to be sufficient in and of itself. Effective public transportation would take into account the suburbs as well as the city of Birmingham and one gets the feeling that the public transportation system proposed would halt at the city limits.

A domed stadium has been proposed for fifteen years. The intent is to attract a big name sports program and to draw more civic and sports events to the city. I do not see the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB coming to call at any future date. I see instead a domed stadium which sits empty most of the time and when it is built is filled to, at best, half capacity. It's a panacea, at best, a dream which will likely be deferred forever.

Really, when you get down to it, the whole point of this tax is to try to save Birmingham. Instead, I think the net result will be the final nail in the city's coffin. I see a wide spread boycott of the few remaining Birmingham businesses which are solicited by patrons who live outside the city itself. I see the few remaining business mainstays who have remained within the city limits uprooting and moving to the suburbs. I see the destruction of the up and coming small businesses and entrepreneurs that the city desperately needs to stay competitive with the suburbs.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Music Meme, Ganked From Damn Near Everyone

The rules:

1. Put your music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER WHAT (this is in capital letters, so it is very serious.



3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL? (Straight To Your Heart) Like A Cannonball- Van Morrison

4. HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY? Something in the Way- Nirvana

5. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE? The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get- Morrissey

6. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? Fuckin' With My Head- Beck

7. WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU? Now Mary- The White Stripes



10. WHAT IS 2+2? Everybody Wants You- Sloan



13. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY? I am the Mob- Catatonia

14. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? Walking Down The Highway- Graham Coxon




18. WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL? I'm Not Like Everybody Else- The Kinks

19. WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST? In Love- The Raincoats

20. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET? Care of Cell 44- The Zombies

21. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS? Glass Onion- The Beatles

22. WHAT SHOULD YOU POST THIS AS? Anyone Can Play Guitar- Radiohead

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Updates, Updates

Parnate has produced some low-grade nausea for the past couple days. This is a merely temporary side effect that I'll easily fight through. My appetite is minimal at best, and I can already clearly visualize the pounds dropping off of me. If this keeps up, I'll be thirty pounds lighter by February/March.

I appreciate your words of support, Readership. Dealing with this for years and years has made me tough, resilient, and persistent. What I'm dealing with now is hardly anything new. As a matter of fact, things have been much worse before. I'm very glad you did not know me in my late teens, which were a nightmare combination of constant bouts of hospitalization and trauma unthinkable.

I was a nervous, high-strung, fearful child. The onset of my first bouts of depression occurred when I was sixteen and I developed full-blown bipolar when I was in my early twenties.

I'm looking forward to perusing your blogs, leaving comments, and getting back to politics as usual.