Thursday, April 30, 2009


A conversation with a fellow Friend, poking fun at a few well-deserved targets.

I've dreamed up some folk-song lyrics for lefties:
(strum a guitar and sing:)

When humankind is truly free/
everyone will agree with me.

Brother, you can come around our commune and eat our food anytime you want to. Keep feeding each other, children!

Except then everyone complains

"I only eat organic WILD rice!"

"This is organic WHITE rice."

*continues singing*

"Everyone will believe as I do one day."

It's an authoritarian view, but an unconscious one. Mistaken for liberatory and peace-y justice-y.

And we all do it sometimes.

Social justice. I know better so you don't have to.

Let me set you free, people!
Why don't you let me set you free?
What's the matter with you?
Why are you opposing your own liberation?
… And at this point, we sound exactly like US soldiers in Iraq

On the ground, Ahmed! We're liberating your country!

See, this is what we call a rationalization, children.
People believe in a concept called "free will"

Can you say Rationalization?

Sure! I knew you could.

But you notice that there's a word there next to "will"


as in, "you get to decide for yourself what to believe"

and the government can't make you believe otherwise.

now, they try, but
oh, you're a bit too young for THAT discussion.

remember, Rationalization.


I knew you could.

A Quick One, While I'm Away

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blessings in the Most Unexpected of Places

I don't have to tell you fellow bloggers out there that the internet often brings out the worst in people. Or, as a good friend of mine often says, the internet magnifies douchitude. So the times when it brings out the absolute best in people remind me of the whole reason why we spend the time online to reach out to people we will likely never meet in reality.

Yesterday I got a very moving comment left about one of my performance videos. I include it below.

"My brother, who was only 44 and had a beautiful wife and two teenagers, passed last week and I can not tell you how much this song has helped me. Thank you, buddy. Thank you so much."

I was very touched and made a point to leave this anonymous person a personal reply.

In my inbox this morning was an even lengthier reply.


Kevin, THANK YOU. Our family is devastated.

I found you on YouTube when I watched the season finale of "Big Love" on HBO because they played the song you sang in that last episode and my parents and I would always watch that show and then I would call them and we would talk about it afterward. Anyways, I kept playing that last episode because I really liked that song but I had no clue who sang it so I YouTubed it and several people had sang it but I just felt like you were looking me right in the eyes when you sang it and I felt blessed. Stupid, I know, but I watch your version of that song over and over and over again and it helps. This is a really difficult time for me and for my family and you have made it a bit easier. I appreciate you more than I can express in words and if I ever met you in person, I would hug you tight.

Thank you, Kevin. You help more than I can express.

I'm really not sure what else to say. But I will include my performance of the song in any case.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Movie Review: I Am Curious (Yellow)

Though it is known primarily to film historians and art house cinephiles these days, Swedish director Vilgot Sjöman's controversial I Am Curious was the United States' top grossing foreign film from its 1967 opening until the late 1990's. Taking in over twenty million dollars at the box office, its success is often explained by way of its then-shocking graphic sex scenes. A modern audience has come to expect and desire nudity in feature films and the obligatory cottage industry to perpetuate that craving has sprung up around it. There was a time, however, in the not-that-long-ago past where nudity in film was meant to make a statement. Unsurprisingly, today's viewers won't find much in I Am Curious tremendously shocking, though even today full-frontal male nudity and unsimulated oral sex are still largely forbidden in Hollywood. Over forty years after its release, the movie retains an NC-17 rating as a result of this.

Specifically because of the sex, the master print of the film was seized by U.S. Customs Agents the moment it reached American shores. A protracted obscenity trial resulted between the film distributors and the U.S. Government, which was eventually taken all the way to the Supreme Court. The High Court ruled affirmed the decision of the prior Circuit Court which ruled that it was not obscene, and decreed that it could be shown in all states that had not taken a hard stance against its viewing. Only Maryland's Board of Censors dug in their heels and refused under any circumstances to allow it to be shown in their state. The other 49 states in the Union, however, registered no objections. The amount of media attention the film received for nearly a year before it was finally shown before an audience created a publicity sensation the film distributors could have never dreamed of producing themselves.

The irony, of course, was that most casual viewers decided to attend a showing specifically for the sex, completely disregarding the political, social, and moral commentary that comprised the other 80% of the film. The author Upton Sinclair, a committed socialist, experienced the same phenomenon upon publication of his famous book The Jungle. "I aimed for America's heart," he lamented, "but instead hit it in the stomach." Without meaning to, Sjöman's film made pornographic movies briefly quite popular with the average moviegoer, coalescing in the success of the famous XXX feature Deep Throat. The unexpected success of I Am Curious drove many art house cinemas out of the business of showing foreign language or experimental film. Many were forced to switch completely to XXX pornographic films to stay afloat. This meant that, quite unjustly, many worthy art house and foreign films went completely unnoticed by audiences for several years.

I Am Curious was broken down into two separate films: one yellow, one blue. Yellow and blue are the colors of the Swedish flag. Both have dated considerably over the years. They are quite indicative of the prevailing winds of the decade of their creation---by turns daring, self-indulgent, wildly experimental, needlessly undisciplined, engaging, graphic, unrestrained, and completely unfocused. The audience is rarely provided enough exposition and linear transition between passages to produce a desperately needed kind of narrative cohesion. As it is, the films could be considered without much of a plot or an anchor and the final result is perplexing and occasionally dull. The director, looking like either a beat poet or an Amish bible salesman, inserts himself periodically into the action but even his presence doesn't overcome the movie's tragic flaws. Sjöman was himself a disciple of fellow Swede Ingmar Bergman, but lacked his idol's talent and command of the discipline, which produced an amateurish, sloppy product.

Sjöman's desire in making the movie was ostensibly to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. Believing that the more orthodox approach was constraining and furthermore wishing to embrace the impulse of the moment rather than the usual obsessive pre-planning, he allowed his actors and actresses to freely improvise and instead of giving much in the way of direction, primarily sat back and let the cameras roll. Filming got underway without a shooting script, or much of an idea where the picture was heading. It shows. Some sequences are presented in conventional fashion, the familiar cinematic conceit of actors and actresses playing a part, performing them in front of a camera. Other sequences attempt to show the back story behind the making of the film itself---the players as human beings with real feelings and emotions, merely working a job. Nowadays, this kind of film-within-a-film dynamic has been utilized so many times that it borders on cliche. In its time, however, I Am Curious was one of the first to attempt to combine the genres of documentary with feature film.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tragedy and Community

A good friend of mine wrote this homily on her blog, discussing the fallout of the University of Georgia professor who on Saturday shot to death his wife and two other men. To provide a bit of needed backstory, she is a current Athens resident and an Athens native. What I couldn't help but notice while reading this compelling account was how closely tied she is emotionally to the city itself. Her first person account describes a tight-knit community in which all feel a part of something larger than themselves. It is on that note that I include below what she wrote in totality.

I sat on my front porch tonight and listened to the sounds of my neighborhood. It doesn't sound any different, but something feels changed. I sat here just a few days ago and wondered at the verdant trees and bright blue sky, grateful for the arrival of spring, and all the freshness and beauty it brings.

I can't help but ponder why. Surely the act itself is irrational. A person with any bit of rational thought would surely have to reason out doing such a thing. And yet, if one were to reason it out, how would it have come to happen that way? Surely you wouldn't do it in public, in front of your community. He was together enough to leave the children with friends who would take care of them, and yet so far gone that he'd killed their mother while they sat in the car.

I wonder what it means for me, personally. It means more than just a day of hysteria and helicopters flying overhead. I didn't know anyone involved at this theatre only a few blocks away, which means I haven't offered myself as a volunteer with the theatre community here, as I'd always planned to after college. I donated once or twice when I was doing better financially, but I rarely bothered myself enough to even attend shows. It means more security everywhere. I developed a healthy appreciation for our police force, and especially the radio operators, as I listened to them on the scanner. On a day when the force was already heavily taxed, they were dealing with a situation they hope to only have to plan for, not ever deal with. Voices were strained, but everyone on the scanner kept their cool enough to be able to act rationally as they were needed. How odd, on a day of such tragedy, to hear of dealing with loud party complaints and disorderly drunks. Apologies to my liberal nature, but it means that my feelings on gun laws have been cemented. With an armed killer in the neighborhood, it was beyond reassuring to know that should it come our way, we wouldn't be in a gun fight carrying only a knife.

For my community, it means so many things. A city budget, already stretched thin, now surely in the red. Important members of the arts community, the small but extant and active theatre

It's trust, I think. We trust our neighbors less tonight. You trust that the friendly professor with two children next door, or the single mother, or the group of rowdy but pleasant college kids, or the aging grandmother, are not the kind to go and do something of this magnitude to other members of your community. You trust that the people you see every day are just normal folks like yourselves. And maybe that's really the rub--if this was just someone like ourselves, how did they come to this point? What snapped? What changed inside their mind to make doing something like this seem actionable? That trust we have, that our neighborhood is not the sort of place where this happens, that our neighbors are incapable of this--has been eroded.

I don't know how that is fixed. I can only hope that as Athens has done before, it will find a way to turn its collective good will and caring into something that will whittle away at the shock and pain we all feel. I have no doubt that we are capable of doing so.
community, gone. 3 more tragic deaths in a year that has already, in only April, seen too many. It's neighbors--that only recently when snow fell and power lines came down, came out on the porch and shared candles, food, and warmth--its neighbors who are more guarded, less trustful.


This is something I have never felt before in my own life. No matter where I live, I'm just someone who happens to take up space next to someone else who takes up space. I grew up in a suburb where we faintly knew our neighbors, and only interacted with them if there was a problem brewing involving something like unruly pets or large trees which needed to be cut down to avoid broaching someone else's property line. Aside from that, we lived very different, very isolated, very separate lives which no one questioned and no one sought to reform.

In reading this account, I envy that kind of closeness she has, especially so when it is compromised by violence and unwarranted tragedy. But, all the same, I often wonder if true community is something I could ever learn to embrace if at some point I came across it in my life. Old habits are hard to break. I'm not sure it would be easy for me to reach out to my neighbors or engage them in small talk.

Readers, have you ever experienced true community in your own lives? If so, would you mind sharing a story or two?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quote of the Week

*The owner of this blog wishes to note that he does not hold the same opinion as the speaker of this week's quote, but rather was struck by how unusual the sentiment was and also by how unexpected was the messenger in which it arrived.



Women’s Liberation is just a lot of foolishness. It’s the men who are discriminated against. They can’t bear children. And no one’s likely to do anything about that.- Golda Meir

Saturday, April 25, 2009


To bring the whole male privilege discussion to a proper close, I thought I might add a few words in an effort to neatly wrap up what has been said.

Gender is a powerful force. Before there was any other strict, unyielding delineation separating human beings from each other like race, religion, or ethnicity, there was gender. This is why gender equality has proven to be such an elusive goal. For as long as humans have roamed the earth, there have been two sexes. Men are men. Women are women. Their ways are different. Their roles are different. Their perspectives are different. Their experiences are different. The ways both internally perceive the same external situation are entirely different. None of this should come as that much of a surprise. This is merely a matter of common sense and simple biology.

While looking over the last two posts, I notice that my male readers shared the perspective I advanced, while my female readers took a contrary view. Perhaps that in and of itself isn't very surprising, since I am also a man. Still, I've never wanted to perpetuate the Stalemate Between the Sexes, since it has always been my belief that pitched conflict of this kind never leads to any satisfactory resolution. By the end, the fault lines often exist in much the same ways as they did before and both sides continue to stare across a large divide at each other as though the verbal jousting accomplished nary a thing.

It is also unfortunate to me to ponder how much gender conflict and power dynamics influence our points of view. We see often see ourselves first as our gender, and last as human beings. Furthermore, our own personal opinion of gender is shaped often by negative past experiences. Many are so awful and traumatic that they completely cloud the way we respond to other people of our own or an opposite gender, those whom they themselves did nothing at all to create the negative impressions we hold. If there were any way to push past our own conditioning, I wish we could manage it for the sake of the greater good.

We wage struggles like these all the time in the sake of progress, evolution, or reform. Some state that gender inequality is the default primordial state of human existence and that as such, it will always exist. Though I disagree strongly with the assumption, I will mention again how pervasive and powerful gender bias and gender identity are in the human mind, since both create artificial boundaries between men and women. We are a strange combination of the rational and the instinctual, and the unskillful interface between these two vital parts of us often creates tremendous problems. Until we can fully embrace the civilized impulse, we'll always be trapped bouncing back and forth between different worlds.

Saturday Video

And in the beginning, Britpop sounded like this.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pragmatism Might Be A Better Approach

This is Part Two of yesterday's post.

I do consider myself an activist. I also consider myself a Feminist. But I also understand the concept of pragmatism and how it must be included if success is ever to be reached. To wit, while it might seem necessary to constantly harp upon the role of male privilege in modern life, whether visible or invisible, I know that many men will take offense to that tactic. It's human nature. Few people are going to respond positively to any group or movement that heaps blame upon a massive segment of the population by stating specifically that they benefit from some kind of inborn advantage. While stating it might be completely justified and completely true, one wonders whether the cost of abject honesty is worth the membership needed to make goals a reality.

To wit, I believe in the ideals and goals of Feminism. As I said yesterday, my mother is a Feminist herself and I was raised to believe in the equality of the sexes. I also know that more men would join and lend their talents if they didn't feel like, upon entrance, that they wore a bull's eye by default. The way to defeat sexism in its multifarious permutations is to seek the input of male allies. I promise that they are just as weary of men behaving badly as women are. Furthermore, they understand what it is like to be summarily dismissed as chauvinistic due to the ravages of prior bad experiences with offensive men.

Problems with many identity groups like feminists occurs when their rhetoric renders them self-isolating and extremely limiting in their greater impact on society. After a while, they end up being exercises in preaching to the choir. A little choir practice now and again is a good thing, but too much of doesn't really move the dialog forward. The message is stuck in time. This is why when I, as a male, express feminist points of view or mention feminist scholars, many women are surprised why any male would ever be interested in such a thing. They often find it appealing that I would have gone to the trouble to learn about the history of the movement, but often hand in hand with that notion is that most men would automatically feel so threatened by the idea of a strong, opinionated woman in any context that they wouldn't make much of any effort to dig deeper. This may have been true in another time with a different generation of men, but it's far less the case in this day and age. Men don't feel threatened by smart, empowered women. Men feel threatened by any movement which labels them automatically part of the problem from the moment they leave the womb.

For a similar example, I recall the Civil Rights Movement as practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers. If one is to be fair, one must acknowledge the many white liberals who lent their political clout, money, time, and effort to the movement. Though most preferred to take an advisory position far out of the public eye, one cannot deny their existence or their impact on the overall success of the movement as a whole. I can't ever recall Dr. King mentioning that all whites were part of the problem or that every white person benefited from the color of their skin from birth. Both statements are likely true to some degree, but the pragmatic King knew that stating them in a public forum or incorporating them into the goals of the Movement would be counter-productive at best. Compare this to the militancy, separatism, and hatred of whites practiced by the Black Panthers, or by Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam as voiced by Malcolm X. Though Malcolm X after his conversion experience in Mecca softened to the idea of incorporating white support, he also stated that whites could help but could not join.

Let me reiterate that I want Feminism to succeed. I want the Equal Rights Amendment to be passed. I want to see complete parity in pay for men and women. But I know that so long as the current tact is maintained, we will still be fighting for these same reforms years from now and wondering why they've never come to pass.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Or, To Put It Another Way

Then Peter came to him and asked, "Sir, how often should I forgive a brother who sins against me? Seven times?"

"No!" Jesus replied, "seventy times seven!

The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him $10,000,000! He couldn't pay, so the king ordered him sold for the debt, also his wife and children and everything he had.

But the man fell down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, 'Oh, sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.'

Then the king was filled with pity for him and released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a man who owed him $2,000 and grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. The man fell down before him and begged to give him a little time.

'Be patient and I will pay it, ' he pled.

But his creditor wouldn't wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full. Then the man's friends went before the king and told him what had happened. And the king called before him the man he had forgiven and said,

'You evil-hearted wretch! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me to--should you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?'

Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every last penny due. So shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers.

Something I'd Like to See Feminism Address

I agree with the commentary advanced by the author of this book excerpt. Ms. Valenti is a thoughtful, articulate young woman with much to say. She is also, scarily enough, my age. I have nothing of note to add to the link provided other than to concur that I too believe that the ideal of female sexual purity is a social construct that does far more harm than good. It's a concept I have simply never understood, since I take a practical eye towards virginity. It reminds me of clumsy, awkward sex among two teenagers barely out of puberty, not some desired state, itself a romanticized conception based on wishful thinking.

Valenti is the founder of a third-wave feminist site called Feministing that showcases a variety of different feminist-related content and commentary. I have had problems not with the daily posts themselves or their writers, but I have taken some issue with a few regular visitors to the site who leave frequent comments. It annoys me when certain women make assumptions that I benefit from unconscious male privilege by my very being and, as a result, somehow the deck is stacked in my favor from the beginning. For men who want to be allies in the movement itself, it's tough to not interpret this to mean that we're automatically a part of the problem from the outset. What some feminists simply don't understand is that we find the conduct of many men equally as off-putting and resent being summarily lumped into the same category as the offenders.

My mother is a feminist. Much to the chagrin of my conservative father, she espoused a variety of strong opinions around the house when I was growing up. Cheerleaders, for example, were routinely criticized for being air headed and stupid, when they should be aspiring instead to be educated and articulate. Most of these beliefs I agreed with on principle and eagerly incorporated them into my own system of values. However, what always got under my skin were the times when my mother uttered a phrase that often seemed to sum up her attitude towards masculinity as a whole. If a prominent male figure was ensnared in a sex scandal or called to the carpet for letting his hormones get the better of him, Mom would quite cavalierly diagnose the situation by saying simply, Men are weak.

The implication was that a woman would never find herself in such a situation. What was further implied in that statement was a kind of smug, self-righteousness which indicated that although men thought they were in control and more powerful than women in every situation, they were secretly weaker than females. The statement might say more about my mother than feminism itself, but it's a viewpoint that I have discovered isn't strictly relegated to my mother. To be fair, I have also known women who have cheated on their significant others or have acted foolishly in sexual situations in which they themselves were purely at fault. Philandering is hardly a male problem.

If I take offense to anything addressed by feminism it's that it tacitly assumes, much like my mother, that men behave badly based on willful ignorance or some kind of deficit of moral fiber. As this line of thinking goes, these men know better and choose to act like chauvinist pigs or impulsive users. It has been my experience that painting all men with a broad brush isn't particularly fair, just as it is unfair to paint all women with the same broad brush. Among some men, I do see a kind of unapologetic misogyny, but there are also many men who genuinely make an attempt to respect women and treat them with common decency.

Furthermore, summarily dismissing the offensive male might be an exercise in catharsis or self-satisfied condemnation, but I would recommend instead digging deeper into the past of those with whom we disagree. That is, of course, if understanding is that which we desire. Confronting such factors as to whether the offending male grew up with beneficial male role models, taking into account the father's influence, or discerning whether or not a father was even present at all during childhood I think are fairer ways to form an well-reasoned opinion. This is not to say that I recommend letting the behavior or conduct of offenders go unchallenged, merely to suggest that to write off a male or all men without taking into account the whole story is not especially helpful to the cause of feminism itself or to one's own method of addressing the problems of gender inequality. Our own past shapes our present, regardless of what our gender might be. Looking within ourselves and examining the variety of elements that have shaped how we respond to the opposite gender may very well be a beneficial exercise for each of us, rather than lashing out with views shaped by misunderstanding or limited understanding, no matter how justified we think we might be in doing so.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Remember, Waterboarding is NOT Torture.

A Quick Point to Make


Here’s perhaps a reason why Obama was so hesitant initially about getting dragged into this debate over interrogation: Obama’s intelligence director Dennis Blair “told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists,” the New York Times says.


Blair later released this statement: "The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."


There will still be apologists for torture but I have to admit that those who do, do so at their own peril. They scale a slippery slope that, one broached, lends itself to an end justifies the means justification for increasing violence and brutality. "Because it keeps us safe" has been a historic rationalization for all kinds of inhumane behavior of which subsequent history has since taken a rather dim view. This goes well beyond everyone's favorite analogy of Nazi Germany. It applies to every center-right government who responds to an attack by a foreign enemy by embracing the same policies of fear and terror.

I admit I do not understand the mentality of people who seem to believe that the United States has a right to dictate terms to the rest of the world. In seeking to repair our damaged reputation in the eyes of the world community, Republicans seem to believe that we're asking permission from other nations as to what we should do---turning towards some completely submissive stance. This I really do not understand. At what point does wanting to work together with the rest of the world become this exercise in surrender or in capitulation? I don't think any power should run the world. If we're going to live together in some semblance of peace, this is going to have to be a stance that more of us are willing to take.

I Got An Award!

Neno's Award.

Thanks, Liberality!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Normally I Would Not Even Bother to Care, But...

The world of celebrity drama queens, irregardless of sexual orientation or gender usually produces in me a nearly jaw-breaking yawn. However, the recent controversy over Miss California's anti-gay marriage answer at the Miss USA pageant does inspire me to speak. Asked her personal opinion on the extremely controversial topic, she, in her own slightly articulate way affirmed that she believed that marriage ought to be between a man and a woman. This was an answer, of course, much to the disdain of the openly gay Perez Hilton, one of the judges.

Contrary to what Mr. Hilton thinks, I believe she has a right to express her view, even if I strongly disagree with it. If in fact, as Hilton insists, she lost the competition based purely on her response to one answer, I think it's deeply unfair. Same-sex marriage advocates must take care not to resort to the same prejudicial tactics and close-minded attitudes of their enemies and detractors. If they do so, they risk creating a backlash that will only shore up the will of their opposition and delay the process altogether. Attitudes like this are catnip for the Fox News crowd and play right into prejudicial stereotypes.

Perhaps I simply don't understand the appeal of kitsch and camp. I admit freely that I don't get it at all. I can't comprehend the supposed glitz and glamor of the gorgeously trashy or the desire to live vicariously through them. I don't understand what's so appealing about dubiously intelligent media or pop princesses. Divas of all shapes and sizes annoy me. When I was in college, it was quite trendy to go to drag shows and I went to several of them. I found them to be tremendously boring affairs that I couldn't wait to leave.

Still, the irony of the pageant queen speaking in opposition against the queen who would otherwise be inclined to idealize her is itself an example of a deep, deep disconnect. The only other situation more ironic would be the gay icon who espouses homophobic points of view.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why I'm Not Going

Yesterday I promised that I would explain why I have decided not to revisit my High School Class of 1999 by way of the reunion. Here it is.

These days, every function or event has its own corresponding Facebook page. So it is with my 10th High School Reunion which will be held in early August. The intent of the page was for people to confirm their attendance, indicating whether or not they attended to show up by clicking on the corresponding radial button. Of a class of nearly 700, roughly half confirmed that they would be there. Of those 350 souls, I made a point to investigate their profiles, pictures, and commentary.

I found myself not particularly enthused by what I read. No one all that interesting or compelling jumped out at me. Instead I observed the same kind of dull, unsubstantial conformity that confirmed why I never had any desire to befriend most of these people back in the day. High school was not an especially happy time of my life to begin with, so feigning interest with people who I feigned interest with back then does not excite me. I wouldn't be miserable. Instead I would be thoroughly bored.

In particular, the following statistics made the decision for me. Of my fellow classmates, I observed that

  • 80% of them were married
  • 60-70% self-identified as Conservative Christian
  • 40-50% had children
  • 60% went to Auburn University for undergraduate
I have to say that I'm batting 0 for 4 there. Those of you who understand what it's like to be the square peg will understand my plight. Back then, I felt resentful and full of scorn. These days, I have to say that I just don't understand. I don't understand people like that and I suppose I never will. I don't understand their political convictions, their interpersonal relationships, their faith traditions, and their cheerful willingness to procreate. So no, I'm not going. And in the process, I'll save $100.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quote of the Week

You might notice I've changed the quote this week to someone who only exists in the realm of fantasy and narrative fiction. This is because, after much deliberation, I have decided not to attend my tenth high school reunion. More about that tomorrow.

Janie [Burnham's adolescent daughter] is a pretty typical teenager. Angry, insecure, confused. I wish I could tell her that's all going to pass, but I don't want to lie to her.-

Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham in the film American Beauty.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday Video

Blame it on the Tetons
yeah, I need a scapegoat now

Friday, April 17, 2009


I remember the Frau
who took my order

as I stared towards
the aging cemetery

on the day after Christmas

which reeks of satiated but
disappointed children

and seasons greeting yet
to be dismantled

I should not have spoken
I should have thought instead

All seemed to be forgotten
Two days hence

I gazed
past weed-covered

ill-kept resting places
of the dead.

upwards towards
an ancient elm

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Final Word on Tea Parties

Much ink has been already spilled about the faux-populist protests known as Tea Parties. I think it's fine for disgruntled conservatives to peacefully protest. Now they'll reach the same conclusions we on the left learned a long time ago: protests accomplish not all that much in the long run. Lawmakers ignore them altogether and their impact on a large scale is quite minimal. If Republicans want to use them as a way to network with each other and have solidarity in a kind of misguided, ill-thought-out ideology, that's probably the most realistic outcome they ought to expect from all the bluster.

The irony among many of these protests is that the first Tea Party was conducted by a bunch of rabble-rousing liberals who objected to a very conservative, very remote King dictating distasteful orders and increasing the American tax burden on staple products from across the ocean without any colonial say in the matter. The most immediate impact of throwing tea chests in the ocean was that Great Britain, in a retaliatory measure, closed Boston Harbor to trade and to increase the tax burden as punishment. These measures did, of course, effectively inflame the Patriot cause, which snowballed into armed rebellion a few months later. The major grievance colonists had with Mother Britain is that they were being used as a cash cow and source of cheap raw materials while not being fairly compensated for their goods. In 2009, then, using the phrase "tea party" then, is not a particularly accurate comparison to the current day. While the fear of and response to increased taxation is what both of these gatherings have in common, that's about as far as it goes.

The conservative argument assumes that nearly all taxes are evil by their very nature. Tax revenues, as their line of logic goes, fund unnecessary programs, are allocated improperly, or are embezzled by lawmakers and lobbyists. While it is true that there is wasteful spending and improper stewardship in government and always will be, the conservative argument assumes that the private sector is somehow immune from this same kind of gross incompetence, greed, graft, and corruption. If anything, the private sector is just as seriously flawed as the government if not more so, and certain companies resort to such shady accounting practices, blatant cronyism, and unfair labor practices that the government looks lily-white by comparison. I think a much fairer conclusion would be to say that neither government, nor the free market has some kind of intrinsic purity.

To reiterate, there are many fallacies in the conservative argument against taxation and so-called big government. The first is that somehow the Federal Government and Washington D.C. is the supreme offender. Many state governments are far more wasteful and ten times less effective. This is what gets conveniently left out of the discussion. The second is that government growth is a cancerous evil that must be checked lest it spread and destroy the country. I see no one on the right willing to acknowledge that if they believe that, they need also believe that the unchecked growth of huge corporations is a similar threat upon the rights of individuals, businesspeople, and consumers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Country Song

My Advice to Purveyors, Consumers, and Producers of Soft News

This old Sly and the Family Stone song is pretty prescient. Before we engage in the satisfaction of seeing someone gets theirs in the end, we might be wise to consider this first.

Pretty pretty pretty as a picture
Witty witty witty as you can be

Blind 'cause your eyes see only glitter
Closed to the things that make you free

Ever stop to think about a downfall?
Happens at the end of every line

Just when you think you’ve pulled a fast one
Happens to the foolish all the time

Somebody’s watching you
Somebody's watching you
Somebody's watching you
Somebody's watching you

Games are to played with toys etcetera
Love is to be made when you’re for real

Ups and downs are caused by life in general
Some are yours no matter how you feel

Shady as a lady in a mustache
Feelings camouflaged by groans and grins

Secrets have a special way about them
Moving to and fro among your friends

Somebody’s watching you
Somebody's watching you
Somebody's watching you
Somebody's watching you

Live it up today if you want to
Live it down tomorrow afternoon

Sunday school don’t make you cool forever
Neither does the silver of your spoon

The nicer the nice the higher the price
this is what you pay for what you need

The higher the price the nicer the nice
Jealous people like to see you bleed

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Creative Writing Day

Today I had to run a multitude of errands and have just now gotten back to my computer. In response, I offer you a brief short-short story and beg your forgiveness, O Worthy Readership.

Bad Victorian Literature Parody

“We must come together against all odds, futitive and imparious as they may be, to resolve our grevious situation.”

Whatever do you mean, kind sir?” spoke the dirty man with nary a tooth in his head, nor proper shoes.

“Well,” spoke the similarly attired one, “Our urination situation has become rather precarious. No longer can we fertilize the street of the village square with our own secretions.”

The second man scratched two fleas which had nested in his underarm before contemplating this issue further.

“Have they not considered that it is not enough for us to defoul our own clothing, bodies, or mudplots?”

The first man tipped his imaginary hat to a passing lady, then replied,

“They find us revolting, they say. Thought I daresay they cannot understand a gent’s desire to be so uncouth after imbibing intoxicating liquors.”

Aghast, his companion let out a mock shudder.

“This is most upsetting, yes, yes.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Outrage, Indeed

In which credit card holders are being asked to pay for the sins of the irresponsible.

To cite a personal example, my father's Bank of America credit card rate was abruptly raised from 8% to 29% back in November. He has good credit, has never missed a payment, and has never gone into default with that bank or any other credit lender. Each of the major players have now accepted billions of dollars in government TARP funds but continues to charge exorbitant fees anyway. More that just a Congressional inquiry is needed to right this wrong. We need the Obama Administration to address this problem head on and propose legislation to stop these usurious tactics.

Articles like this one understate the problem. The AYP rate for many cards has done more than just double--it has tripled or quadrupled in many cases. This is not a recent phenomenon, either. Many cardholders have noticed inflated interest rates for the past six months or so.

Congratulations Are In Order

My mother's first book will be published and ready for purchase on 1 May. Entitled Creating the Best Literacy Block Ever: A Framework for Successfully Managing, Teaching, and Assessing in an Extended Literacy Block, it is available for pre-order purchase here.

For those of you who care about Early Childhood Education and teaching reading to grades K-3, this book will be right up your alley.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quote of the Week

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.- George Fox.

My New Favorite Obsession

The Fail Blog

Saturday, April 11, 2009

10 Most Influential Men

Liberality tagged me for this. Due to time constraints, I'm only going to select ten instead of the twenty she suggested. Since the word "influential" is a highly subjective term just by its very existence, I'm going to pick the men who were most highly influential in my life.

1. Peter Cook

Comedic genius and wit extraordinary.

2. Charlie Chaplin

An autodidact Vaudevillian who through his own hard work and creativity rose from utter poverty to become phenomenally popular and influential to the current day.

3. C. Vann Woodward

A brilliant historian, scholar, and writer whose prescient insights still amaze me.

4. James Thurber

Member of the Algonquin Round Table, Thurber's darkly comedic worldview, cartoons, and self-designed genres of creative fiction greatly popularized The New Yorker magazine.

5. Lou Reed

A rock musician whose inventive guitar tunings, sonic effects, and literate, often sordid lyrics completely revolutionized the genre.

6. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

A hero to my grandparents and a hero to me.

7. Hieronymus Bosch

A Dutch painter of the fifteen and early sixteenth centuries whose bizarre, demented imagery had no equal in its time or since.

8. Thomas Eakins

A multi-talented painter, photographer, sculptor, and educator.

9. Che Guevara

A physician, revolutionary, guerrilla leader, and writer. He espoused a socialistic philosophy that called for the unity of Hispanic America and an end to the crippling poverty of the region. A deeply flawed, but still admirable man.

10. Eugene Debs

Labor leader, unapologetic socialist, and frequent Presidential candidate.

Here, There, and Everywhere

At The American Street

Saturday Video

Neko Case is the latest female singer/songwriter to skillfully mine the alt country genre. She is also quite the fashionable artist these days, so once you see this you can name drop to your heart's content.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What Is a Martyr?

On this day where Christians pause to reflect upon the grim death by crucifixion of Jesus, I thought it might be worthwhile to commemorate a few notable figures who have given their lives to advance a noble cause. The question of what constitutes a martyr is itself a controversial one. I think this is because the cause or causes these men and women advanced were often quite polarizing, and many times their frequently imperfect behavior in their personal lives distracts and detracts from the good works they did during their time on earth. Character flaws are true for all of us, but when too many of them are present in the court of popular opinion, even a history of good works cannot redeem them.

To Islamic extremists, the 11 September 2001 hijackers were considered martyrs, though most people around the world do not believe that this. Martyrdom has been extended to people who were intrinsically secular and not particularly religious, also. In truth, I think there are few martyrs who would make almost everyone's list just like there are few people who have ever lived who are universally praised. Who would be on your list?

Here are a few martyrs I thought notable.

1. Joan of Arc

2. Mohandas K. Gandhi

3. Harvey Milk. This is a controversial selection.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Old Verses to an Even Older Song: The Budget Battle

When President Obama's budget comes up for a vote in the next few days, expect the same predictable attacks from the right. GOP politicians will try their damndest to saturate the cable news airwaves with an rabid outrage bordering on overkill. I would guess that many of these attacks will, no doubt, be some variation of the same arguments used against The New Deal back in the early 1930's. Allow me to include a few applicable quotes to better underscore my point. Each of these comes from Adam Cohen's book Nothing To Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America.

The Wagner Bill immediately drew Republican attacks. "It is socialism," Representative Robert Luce of Massachusetts protested. "Whether it is Communism or not I do not know."

How many times have we heard THAT complaint in the last nine months? While it is true that the reform measures pushed by the Obama Administration represent a growth in government oversight, federal spending, and government intervention in the private sector, it'd be pushing it to say that these program represent anything close to true Socialism. Americans, by in large, have a healthy suspicion and distaste of complete government control of anything. Furthermore, it would really be an exaggeration to state that the budget bill is a manifestation of Communism, irregardless of what Glenn Beck says.

Senator Simeon D. Fess of Ohio, whose unswerving loyalty to the Republican Party earned him the nicknamed "Faithful Fess" complained that "Uncle Sam is looked upon as a Santa Claus to give alms."

Until The New Deal, it was widely believed that poverty was little more than a moral failure. Those who were unemployed and living in squalid conditions, as the argument went, deserved exactly what they got because their gaping character flaws and deliberately slothful behavior was what created their state of being. These days, I'm not sure we're quite so callous and cold-hearted towards the poor, but there is still a strain of thought in the American condition whereby we assume the poor have no desire to work, no compulsion to increase their station, and are instead content to live off of the public welfare. FDR himself was hesitant to institute a large-scale system of relief because he held many of these same reservations. Quite simply put, he believed that a European-style welfare system gave an incentive for people to live off the system and not put in their fair share. The reforms he favored along these lines advanced work over monetary payments, though through the crusading efforts of progressive Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, he did establish a system of public relief that involved unemployment payments. The arguments for and against them is a debate that has been raging for a good while.

Southerners, led by Senator Hugo Black of Alabama, insisted that states be given full control over how their funds were spent, to ensure that federal administrators could not require that blacks and whites be treated equally. Conservatives demanded that no new federal bureaucracy be created to manage the problem.

Even if you remove the racial component, attitudes like this still characterize the political mentality of the southern states. Southern natives, I being one of them, recognize the reasons why politicians frequently invoke the tenth amendment and state's rights to serve their own interests; to wit, the region wishes to run its own affairs alone without anyone's oversight. The problems in this circle-the-wagons mentality arise when a kind of entrenched, stubborn provincialism creates an unwillingness to work together for anyone's common good. Arguably, the south has never known true democracy for this reason and its leadership has never wished to work together with Washington, DC, or surrounding states, even for a noble purpose.


I imagine what it must be like to be part of Obama's Brain Trust at the moment in time. If I were in that vaulted inner circle, I'd be excited to shape public policy to a degree that hasn't been done since The New Deal. Rather than sit on the outside and throw rocks, an attitude that has given rise to the careers of so many armchair politicians and cable television pundits, I'd rather seek to understand the game plan of the Obama Administration. Perhaps I've never sold into a gloom and doom way of thinking or wanted the role of the mad prophet forecasting the end times. As Frances Perkins herself said, "You've no idea how much more human beings can endure, particularly if they see a ray of hope."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Short-Term Planning

Eventually I intend to point-by-point describe the similarities I've observed between FDR's New Deal and the reform measures proposed by the Obama Administration. I'm sure that you wouldn't be surprised to hear that the same criticisms being used now by the Republicans are identical to the ones used by the party eighty years ago.

This is my goal. Give me another day to prepare.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

Movie Review: Visages d'enfants

What gets forgotten in a discussion of the late silent era are the surprising variety of quality French directors producing work during the period. Any worthy list would have to include Abel Gance, best known his series of art films packed full of experimental techniques, high production values, and substantial running times. Gance was perhaps even better known for his sweeping epic, Napoléon, which was, in typical fashion, six hours long upon first release. One shouldn't forget Andre Antoine, an actor by trade, who dabbled in film making before retiring from the screen altogether to become a film and theater critic. And, the list would be wise to pause to mention the director of Visages d'enfants, Jacques Feyder. Though technically a Belgian, Feyder worked as both an actor and director in his adopted home country of France.

Upon viewing, a contemporary audience might make the connection to a more recent foreign film. To wit, Ingmar Bergman used Visages d'enfants as a major plot influence in his 1982 goodbye to feature film making, Fanny and Alexander. The differences between the two films are that in Feyder's work, the father of the sensitive young boy (Jean) who serves as the film's protagonist remarries a widowed female, primarily to provide his two children with a second parent. While in Visages d'enfants, the stepmother is callous, firm, and primarily unemotional in nature, in Fanny and Alexander, by contrast, the sensitive young boy's (Alexander) father dies instead. Though his new stepfather, a Bishop, metes out discipline with a similarly firm hand, the clergyman also possesses a deep sadism, the likes of which is not present in the former film. Additionally, Feyder's film differs from Bergman's because includes a bratty step-sister suspicious of Jean and fiercely loyal to her birth mother.

A major similarity between the two films, of course, is that Jean is devoted to his younger sister,
Pierrette, in the same way that Alexander is devoted to Fanny. Both sets of siblings band together against changes in their environment and face adversity with defiance. The film's conclusion, however, is decidedly more optimistic and affirming than in the Swedish director's work. In Visages d'enfants, having nearly caused the death of his cursed stepsister through deliberate perfidy, Jean, plagued with guilt, throws himself into a river. He is saved by his stepmother, who has had a change of heart. As he regains consciousness in her arms, he refers to her at long last as his own mother, not a stranger in the place of his birth mother. By contrast, in Fanny and Alexander, Alexander's mother comes to realize the evil that lurks within her new husband. The clergyman has no redeeming qualities, much less any desire to change his cold heart. Alexander will never see him as a Father and the Bishop will never make anything more than the feeblest of overtures to be liked and trusted by his stepson.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people"- Eleanor Roosevelt

Have We Become Numb to Tragedy?

MSNBC seems to think so.

I think it's a simple matter of perception. Lost in all the news regularly reported and discussed is the simple fact that there are more people roaming the earth these days. With population increase come a statistically larger likelihood that there will be more people born with paranoid schizophrenia, more serial killers, more mentally unstable people who refuse to seek treatment, and more of everything else, really. When it comes down to a matter of proportion, we'll continue to see these maladies increase ever-so-slightly with time.

Once I talked to a firefighter about the nature and demands of his job. I asked him the question that many of us wonder: "How you deal with the tragedy you face on a daily basis?" His reply was, "If I internalized everything with which I deal regularly and took it home with me, I'd go totally nuts. You simply can't do it if you want to work this job." It was nothing personal, he added.

Factor in a hyperactive cable news network cycle and we get further inundated with similar stories. To an extent we are somewhat "numb" to tragedy, but under that criteria, my Depression-era Grandparents were, too. For example, my grandfather's Christmas presents every year were an apple and an orange. My Grandmother remembered even fifty years later how she spent all of D-Day weeping, having heard over the radio that the invasion was underway. She knew from frequent correspondence over the mails that two of her brothers were going to be among the first waves of soldiers to storm the beaches when the long-promised invasion would take place. Neither of them bothered to wring their hands about routine tragedy, instead they learned coping strategies as a survival skill. The implication in this story is that we are collectively growing hard, callous, robotic, inhuman, and insensitive to random acts of violence and I honestly think otherwise.

The adversity my grandparents faced made them more human, not less so. They learned the value of sacrifice, perseverance, courage, and unselfishness. With the problems they faced, they became more empathetic and more compassionate to their fellow person. It is a tempting belief that the tragedies and senseless crimes we experience will drown us and collectively drag us down into the mire, but this was an idea advanced by the Lost Generation and the early modernists. While it is true that World War I was a completely futile slaughter, it's a stretch to believe that the only things gleamed from the conflict were purely negative and soul-destroying. Nothing is that cut-and-dried or purely negative. I encourage us to take the time to find the good among the bad and not sell purely into a mentality that the final outcome of tragedy must always be awful and destructive.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

An Open Letter from Me

Dear People Who Get Tattoos on the Back of their Neck,

I really don't understand the appeal. It's not the ink I object to, it's the placement. Is tattooing a Greek or Latin word meaning something inspiring or vaguely uplifting, written in the same blue-green cursive a fashion trend of which I am not familiar? Does it mean "I have been to jail before"? Does it mean "I think I'm hardcore?" Or perhaps it means, "I am likely a recreational drug user?"

Or does it mean, "I hate myself, look at me!"

Saturday Video

which asks the age old musical question: What kind of fuckery is this?

Friday, April 03, 2009

While On the Job Search, I Encountered This...

Yoga Studio Seeks Mary/Marty Poppins

Are you a punctual, morning person who wears a smile on your face and would enjoy greeting and hosting Flow’s morning yoga students? Are you a neat-nik who feels more comfortable actively battling dust bunnies than watching them multiply? Are you comfortable assisting in an office environment – moving gracefully between computer work and small errands?

And do you have a brimming love for children (esp. newborns) and experience caring for them, inspired by the likes of Mary Poppins – including the sweet lullabies and the spoonful-of-sugar-accompanied life lessons.


No. I don't.

Still Busy, But Thought You Might Need a Laugh

God knows I do. Do you know how many cover letters I have written in the past fourteen days? It's shocking.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Blarf on the Page: Catharsis up to a Point

In case anyone needed confirmation, here it is: relationship blogging is a stress relief, to some extent. It can also be more trouble than it's worth. Those of you out there who seek an audience of sympathetic readers and validation of your own situation/point of view have probably also learned that there can be unforeseen consequences which which to deal, as well. This is where the matter gets supremely complicated. Feelings and desires are complex organisms and if one doesn't impose strict boundaries and controls upon what is said in an online forum, one can easily end up playing with fire.

In my younger years, I misinterpreted the typical relationship frustration that goes hand-in-hand with every long term pairing as something else entirely. Instead of seeing it as purely a stress-reliever from whomever was writing, I interpreted the gesture to mean that breakup was imminent, and contented myself with the belief that all I had to do was bide my time until it did. Sometimes I was right. Most often I was wrong. Sometimes I learned that it was indicative of a woman who was in an unhappy relationship or marriage and quite willing to engage in an affair. More often than not, however, I was reading the words of someone deeply conflicted on all sides whose intentions, in the final analysis, were not nearly so cut-and-dried and were tremendously convoluted.

Lots of people take to the internet to voice issues and feelings they'd never feel comfortable expressing in public or face-to-face. The relative anonymity of cyberspace makes it a tempting medium but I honestly believe that a session with a trusted counselor is a much better option. As the article addresses, when blogging becomes a passive-aggressive medium for voicing concerns with a partner that one would never say to them in person, this quickly becomes problematic. We all have thoughts and desires that we withhold from whomever it is we're with at the time because they would do nothing but bruise feelings and create resentment but I often wonder if instead of to committing these feelings to an electronic medium, a private e-mail with a close friend might be a much better option. My two cents, of course.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Something Silly

I didn't get much sleep last night, so today I'm taking a mental health day.

Enjoy the silliness!