Friday, December 31, 2004

And On The Sixth Day, The Prophet Jughead Spake...

When I was a kid, I was madly in love with comic books. Spider-Man was my favorite. I loved the Avengers and the X-Men. I thought Batman was incredibly cool. I also had a love for the lesser-known heroes like Banshee or Hawkeye or The Question or The Creeper. I took great pride in being one of the few sixth graders who knew what "omnipotent" meant.

When I was about 15, I quit reading comics. For one, I discovered, finally, that girls were extremely interesting. Secondly, I got into the newspaper business, which proceeded to eat up my life for the next 10 years. However, the real killing stroke was that, frankly, the books got bad. If you know comics, you know what I mean when I say the early '90s were a particularly bad time for comics, and it really hasn't gotten much better.

Sure, there's good stuff. There always is. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the recent and much-anticipated "Justice League versus The Avengers" came off, even if the four-issue series seemed a bit rushed. I keep up. Marvel has killed off Hawkeye as a part of an incomprehensibly stupid plot to make the Avengers more like the JLA and is bending to what movie goers think - i.e. Spider-Man produces his webbing from his body rather than through mechanical means, like it's been for nearly forty years - and from what I understand, DC is just bad apart from the Batman books. Still, the new "Justice League Unlimited" cartoon is pretty darn cool, so check it out if you can.

As a kid, I also had some of these. They are, in short, Christian comics, like the ever-popular Jack Chick Tijuana Bible-style tracts you find in fine truck stops everywhere. However, Spires made full-length books like "Hansi: The Girl Who Loved The Swastika" and "On The Road With Andrae Crouch". I remember owning "The Cross And The Switchblade" and "In The Presence Of Mine Enemies: 7 Years a POW In Hanoi! The True Story Of A U.S. Pilot And His Wife!", which is a helluva mouthful for a title. The stories were trite, even to a 10-year-old country boy, the art was sub par, and the theology was heavy-handed and simplistic. That's that, basically.

However, I said all that to say all this: if you do nothing else in your life, click here to read the Gospel According To Archie. I am not kidding. The best part is when Sheriff Archie tells Jughead, playing his "faithful Indian companion Pronto" - as always, I am not making this up - that the local schoolmarm - a still-hot Betty - has been having problems since "they started to bus students across the prairie!!!"

Terry Pratchett said it best: multiple exclamation marks are the surest sign of a sick mind.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Oddly Enough, The Literacy Rate Won't Be Affected

This isn't a new story, but it's well worth repeating. Seems there's this state legislator from Alabama - where else? - who's trying to pass a bill that would "ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that 'promote homosexuality'" or "support 'positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.

So that means, of course, no Heather Has Two Mommies or Daddy's New Roommate, but it also means no Tennessee Williams or Alice Walker, no "A Chorus Line," and maybe no Shakespeare. What to do with all those books and plays and films and pieces of music? "Dig a hole," recommends Allen, "and dump them in it."

Charming. Now, there's a way for dear 'ol Alabamy to shake that image of being a bass-ackwards state full of thick-headed knuckle draggers. Sure, that'll go over well. Don't like what a book says? Well, I suppose you could just not read it, and if you had a problem with your kids reading it, maybe you could explain to them why you didn't want them reading it. But, nah, that takes effort. Might as well just ban 'em. Even in universities, where one would hope there'd be a little more room for other ideas and concepts.

Allen, of course, says it isn't censorship. He compares it to a stoplight, but apparently forgetting that to get a "green light", there would have to be new legislation introduced into Alabama's already bloated constitution. He also says that maybe some classic stuff like the Bard could be "changed" and all the "gayness" in "Romeo And Juliet" or "As You Like It" could be taken out or toned down. This is, of course, a not-so-fresh idea, except it used to be called bowdlerizing.

And, of course, Allen is convinced that the morality of America is under attack from Hollywood and the music industry. Insidious teachers and librarians are plotting in Gordo and Gu-winn and Anniston to twist young Alabamian minds by "re-engineering society's fabric". We have to act now, he says, to "save society from moral destruction". He is, of course, "thinking of the children", who are apparently so fragile they have to be protected from things that scare the grown-ups.

Now, do I even need to go into any sort of detail about what sort of rather shaky ground the whole concept of "America is a moral nation" has been on since the get go? I realize yay-hoos like Allen are trying to drag this country and its people kicking and screaming back into a "golden age", but the sad, sorry fact is such an age never existed. Sure, maybe certain people were much better off than, well, everyone else, but rich white men having to share stuff now doth not a paradise lost make. To anyone who really thinks this was ever a moral country, I recommend reading a little on how early immigrants were treated or slavery or the genocide of American Indians, and then shutting the fuck up.

Now. My mother has this idea that's almost charming in its naivety. It is this: all 11 state referendums against gay marriage popped up all on their own and were in no way influenced by outside forces, much less outside people. She actually believes that not a one of 'em were following Bush's lead, despite him championing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would outlaw gay marriage. Bless her heart.

Allen's book-dumping wishes are much the same thing. I ain't saying he's getting his marching orders from Karl Rove - though he has met with the Little King five separate times concerning this issue - but he admits the successful push against gay marriage by sexually repressed, hate-filled assholes - okay, he didn't say it like that, though - showed him that "moral values" was money in the bank, politically speaking. Probably otherwise, too.

And he's running with it. Even though he couldn't, when pressed by the interview, come up with a specific instance where such a bill would be "needed", even by his own Puritan standards. Hell, he even missed the gay parts in the aforementioned Shakespeare plays, though I'd be flat shocked if he'd seen either. Nor, Allen admits, is the proposed bill all that precise. Most things, he says "would be worked out in committee stage". Maybe ol' Willie S. will get a free pass.

Now, the really funny part. I told my brother, a graduate of the very fine University Of North Alabama in Florence, about all this and how this ding-dong in Alabama wanted to ban books in university libraries to protect school children. Know what he said? "I don't see what they're so worried about. It's not like kids in Alabama read." I guess I should admit that neither one of us care much for the state, but that's how it goes. Course, we're from Mississippi, so we probably shouldn't say much.

How Does One Say "My Penis Is Larger Than Yours" in French?

Oy.

In a nutshell, French and American officials have apparently gotten into something of a dick-measuring contest in regards to disaster relief for the Asian tsunami victims. First, everyone in America apparently swallows the whole "U.N. slams U.S. for being stingy" meme the Washington Times pumped the other day, including a pot-shot at the French by U.S. Agency for International Development chief Andrew Natsios on a FOX News (natch) interview. The USAID distributes American aid, and Natsios said most French donations are generally loans.

This, of course, torked the French off, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said France gives more development aid than all other members of the G8, including the U.S., proportionally to its economic output. The upshot of all this is the U.S. has upped the ante with its $35 million pledge, saying it's just a "start", and French President Jacques Chirac ordered his nation's donation be doubled to $60 million.

So, the French and us are spending boatloads of money to help people so they can, basically, say "nyah-nyah, we're better than you". I find this immensely gratifying, for some reason, much like I enjoy the idea of suburban white people losing money at casinos owned by American Indian tribes.

There’s just a sense of cosmic rightness to it, ya know?

The Luckiest People In The Universe

Now, here's a helluva note. Seems this couple from the United States was vacationing in Thailand when the tsunami hit this weekend. Specifically, the couple - Faye Wachs and her husband Eugene Kim - was scuba diving when, apparently, the big wave went over them. As a matter of fact, the couple didn't know what had actually happened until the dive master - the cat running the scuba show - got a text message from his wife.

Now, ain't that something. The couple spent the last couple of days in Thailand trying to get out, of course, but helping along where they could and how they could. Says Ms. Wachs in an email to her mother:

I can't describe carrying a moaning person who just saw his girlfriend killed down a hill in the middle of the night. I saw more bodies than I care to report. The hotel where we were staying is mostly gone. We lost everything, but our lives.


Indeed, Wachs and Kim are luckier than Pauly Shore and they know it. Whole lot of folks ain't. The death toll has passed 80,000 with a bullet and that's before disease and water contamination sets in, which it inevitably will.

But here's where the story gets funny... well, to me, anyway. Although other nation's governments set up booths to greet nationals who'd been afflicted and help them get back home, the U.S. government did no such thing. The couple had to track down officials from the American consulate, who were apparently in the VIP lounge. Wachs and Kim lost all they had on the trip (except for one thing, which we'll get to momentarily), so they had to get new passports issued.

And, of course, U.S. officials demanded payment for the pictures, Ms. Wachs said. Luckily, the one thing the couple held on to was their ATM card. They were able to get cash for the photos and help out some other Americans.

Ain't that a helluva note. Anyhow, here's another site if anyone feels the need to do some donatin'. Again, do what you can.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Virus With Digital Watches...

Reuters is reporting the death toll from the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia the day after Christmas has hit 68,000. Read that again. Over 68,000 men, women and children of all ages, political ideology, sexual orientation, religion and walks of life are gone like Hank Williams. That's three times the number of people in my home county in Mississippi, Itawamba County. It's three-fifths the population of my current home, Athens, Georgia.

And they're all dead. Wow.

You may or may not know the tsunami was caused by an earthquake that registered a solid 9.0 on the scale. Sunbathers were washed from the beach. A baby was washed from her father's arms. Ritual bathers celebrating Full Moon Day were swallowed like so many oysters. The earthquake itself was enough to "slightly alter the rotation of the Earth".

Again, wow.

Now, of course, we've all heard of this event. It's been all over the news, granted it didn't manage to knock Christmas stuff off my folks' television news, but nevertheless it's on the news. Horrible? Sure, without a doubt. Should we, both as a nation and as simply decent people, do whatever we can to help the folks who've been through this? No doubt, despite the administration's rather tight purse strings on the matter.

But here's the thing. People didn't do this. This wasn't terrorists or insurgents or even a military "lawfully invading another country", whatever the hell that means. Nope, this was that beautiful but awfully moody lady Mother Nature what done it. Sixty-eight thousand people dead and no one to bomb. And there wasn't a damn thing we coulda done to stop it, frankly. She gets the urge to wipe the stain of mankind from her flesh, Mother Nature won't pay much attention to our concerns over the matter.

Want some more encouraging news for the New Year? Scientists say an 400-meter asteroid has a good chance of striking the earth in 2029. So, not only is our own planet against us from the get-go, the rest of the universe could care less about our little hopes, dreams and new DVD players. Happy New Year!

Seriously, there's a really good reason I bring all this unpleasant news up. On this, the third stone from the Sun, people have a problem, or a number of problems, really. People are unhappy. People are scared. People are confused. People are generally disagreeable to each other on a daily basis. People think they can be happy if they have money or toys or control over other people or a steady stream of other people having sex with them on a regular basis. Then, the people get up the next morning and wonder why they're still unhappy.

I don't have the answer, really, and I can't say that I'm completely and totally fulfilled with my life. No one is and I'd wager to guess no one ever will be. I have found, however, that life is generally much more enjoyable if you don't let it scare you or confuse you or make you unhappy, but rather make an effort to enjoy it. It sounds impossible - and it isn't totally effective, I will admit - but it's much easier than most think.

I've got a very simple philosophy for life: it's all you're given, so you might as well enjoy it as much as possible while you got it. Barring responsibilities and activities necessary for general upkeep like work, I try to do only what I enjoy. Hear people all the time all put out because they told a friend s/he would drive said friend to the airport or help that friend move. Simple answer to that: if you don't want to do it or, at least, don't mind doing it, don't do it. Bitching about it afterwards just makes you sound like a whiner and really doesn't say much for your worth as a friend, to be quite frank.

I just got back from spending time with my family back in Mississippi, and I had a rather nice visit, thank you so much for asking. To be honest, I don't like the drive home, nor do I look forward to spending that much time around my kinfolk, good folks they may be. However, it makes Momma happy. It makes Mommaw (maternal grandmother for those of y'all who are not cultured enough to know who "Mommaw" is). It makes one or two aunts, uncles and/or cousins happy, depending on what family crisis is kicking up at the moment. I got a big, extended country family who all live within a square mile of my grandmother and they think family gatherings are the wasp's nipples. I, however, don't.

But I do it anyway. It doesn't take much out of me and it makes some of the few folks in this world that are very important to me very happy. Otherwise, I do what makes me happy. I read. I listen to music. I write. I surf the Internets. I smoke pot. I watch movies. I go see bands. I smoke more pot. I enjoy life as much as I possibly can because it's awfully short. Just as one person isn't the sum total of humanity, humanity is only a small part of the Living Earth. Whether we like it or not, and it can all end without even a sliver of our involvement and there might not be a damn thing we can do about it.

So, enjoy life while you can. It's over before you know it. And since this is called by some the "season of giving", here's a place to go to give to help the folks in Southeast Asia who's need is the most desperate. Here's a list of some other good organizations trying to help. Check 'em out and do what you can.

UPDATE:

The always engaging and entertaining Bryan Zepp Jamison has a few words on the matter as well, and as usual, he says things much better than I ever could.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Well, At Least It's Not Alabama This Time...

Picked this up via the comments section at Atrios' place. Seems a young lady in Lexington, Kentucky, is suing her school district for barring her from her senior prom. Must've been a pretty big deal, huh, seeing as the prom's such an event. Turns out, they barred her from that rather unpleasant high school to-do - in my opinion, anyway, but I got thrown out of my prom - because she wore a dress styled as a large Confederate battle flag. That's right, she came to the shindig all dolled up in the Klan flag.

Jacqueline Duty, 19, filed a lawsuit - with the support and financial backing of The Sons Of Confederate Veterans (none of which really are, of course) - in U.S. District Court saying Greenup County district and administrators violated her First Amendment rights by barring her dress at the predominately white Russell High School's prom. Duty says she worked on the design for four years, which seems to me a helluva long time, to be quite honest, to spend on a damn dress. She's seeking actual and punitive damages in excess of $50,000, even though she was told well in advance the dress was not allowed at the prom. Lovely. In other words, she knew it would stir up shit and she went and did it anyway. Here's another little dollup of wisdom from the lass:

Everyone has their own opinion [if the flag is offensive]. But that's not mine. I'm proud of where I came from and my background.


Okay, let's think about that for a bit. She's proud of what the flag represents. Does that mean she's proud of the Klan and Night Riders? Is she proud of Jim Crow laws? Segregation? Lynchings? The exclusiveness and overwhelming racism that pervades every iota of Southern culture, in some form or another, to this day? And despite all the other very valid reasons, when you get right down to it, the Civil War was fought by the South to keep in place an economic system that kept actual human beings in slavery. End of story.

And as a side note, it's an eternal pet peeve of mine that the battle flag is considered a symbol of the whole South. It was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, not the entire Confederacy. Nit-picking, I know, but what can I say. Hell, the only reason it's a "symbol of what the South stands for" is because of the struggle against the Civil Rights movement in the '50s and '60s.

In any event, you can’t have one without the other. You can’t fly the flag and say it represents Southern pride without acknowledging that it also represents a whole lot of Southern shame, as well. In fact, I’d say it’s more a symbol of the South’s dirty history than any sort of anchor of regional loyalty. There’s plenty of black folks in the South, and it amazes me to think that anyone seriously things that familiar stars ‘n’ bars symbol carries any positive connotation for them. How could it? Why would they want to honor something that was flown by people who thought them less than animals for so long and, many, still do? Boggles my mind.

Full disclosure time. I used to be a flag waver. Like a whole lot of people, I want to belong to some group, and since the South never really had the sense of ethnic and national community the North had - i.e., Italian neighborhoods, Irish neighborhoods, etc. - I, like most other white Southerners, saw myself as a Southerner first and everything else second.

I was also a teenager. And wrong. I'm still a Southerner and will be one to the day I die, I reckon, but it's no longer the end-all and be-all of my existence. But, that's pretty much why there's still a very strong pro-South movement - in terms of "fuck you, we're different" sorta mindset - in the South today. People want to belong to something, it's just natural. And, frankly, there's nothing wrong with being proud of where you came from, but you have to recognize all the facets of your home, not just what you choose to believe is positive. Whether it is or isn't positive is, of course, another matter.

I've got to be honest. I don't really think much of "identity politics" of any stripe, whether it's dingbat girls in Kentucky dressing like Miss Kleagle 2004 or black/Latino/Asian/Eskimo pride. What you are racially, geographically and nationally isn't something to be proud of or ashamed of, really, because it's something you had absolutely nothing to do with. Seriously. I'm proud of getting a college degree - first non-teacher in my family to do so - because that's something I accomplished. I'm not proud to be white or Southern or even American simply because my Old Man decided not to pull out at the opportune moment. Be proud of what you do and what you accomplish, not what you look like or where you’re born. Acknowledge your history, study the past but live in the present. And for cryin’ out loud, quit pretending that everything “your” people did was wonderful. It wasn’t, and that goes doubly for Southerners. We shouldn’t beat ourselves over the sins of our fathers but we also shouldn’t pretend like those sins never happened.

The final funny bit to the whole story is the name of Miss Duty's lawyer. Guy's name is Earl-Ray Neal. Well, of course it is.

One Of The Most Brilliant Things I've Ever Seen

This is awesome. It's called Audi-Oh. It cost about seventy bucks. It is, in a nutshell, a vibrator that picks up and reacts to sound waves. If you have to ask exactly what it stimulates with those sound-wave induced vibrations, you probably aren't old enough to read this blog.

It's also got two modes, Ambient and Direct. Ambient picks up just any old sound wave, like a person laughing or music at a club or, if you're a real masochist, the network news. This, dear hearts, is brilliant, especially if one attends a lot of club shows. Nine times out of ten, whatever band's opening for whatever band one came to see isn't worth the energy it'd take to beat them into silence. However, with this doo-dad, I'd imagine they'd become more than just tolerable. And hey, ever been to a poetry reading that was enthralling and enlightening? Me neither, but I imagine this could at least make it interesting.

And then there's the Direct mode, where you plug Audi-Oh into your CD player or MP3 player and, I suppose, yourself. As someone who does little more than sit around listening to music, I must say, this sounds incredibly intriguing. I'm probably lucky I don't have the money to waste on it or I might not ever leave the house. And if you don’t understand how a mane could get use out of a vibrator, you really aren’t old enough to be reading this blog.

So, yeah, it's probably a little late for Christmas, but it would make the perfect gift for that perverted music fan you know (and we all know one, and if we don't, we are one). But I say "pah" on gifts solely at Christmas. Give your friends gifts whenever you want to because they're your friends, not because some yay-hoos decided you only gave on certain days.

I've got at least three or four female friends that would find this gadget... well, let's just say they'd get a whole lot of use out of it, bless their hearts.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hard Candy Christians

With his usual aplomb and wit, Frank Rich shows just why the whole fundie Christian dual whines of persecution and folks being "against Christmas" is so much bullstuff. And, as usual, he says the whole thing much better than I could. So go read him and then come back for my drivel.

Now. Here's the thing about fundie Christians like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson getting major airtime on the talking head shows. It isn't because this nation, spiritually speaking, is moving further to the right. It may be, of course, but that ain't why these dingbats are getting airtime and calm, reasoned and, above all, non-fundie nutball Christians aren't.

It's because the fire and brimstone crowd is just that much more entertaining. Think about it. What would you rather here, a message of love and tolerance and acceptance - like the Swingin' Nazz preached - or some fat guy in a bad suit wailing that the queers and feminists are trying to take over the country and place good, God-fearing Christians into breeding camps so the Jews can have fresh babies to eat daily. That shit is box office, baby, and television producers know it. It's the same reason screeching harpies like Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan still have careers outside of circus geek tents.

And the Christmas thing. I am so very tired of hearing this. Christmas isn't under attack, no matter what dead horse Bill O'Reilly is flogging to try to distract his viewers from the fact he's a raging nitwit. Christmas is in fine shape for what it is. It's just a holiday and the only reason it's a big deal is because we have made it so. Calm down.

Admittedly, I'm not one to engage in much Christmas spiriting. I'm not religious, so that's right out the door, and frankly, I really don't swallow the meme that this is a time for joy and love and kindness. Go to any shopping center in this country and watch folks for 10 minutes. These are not people all ate up with feelings of good tidings. These are miserable bastards. And frankly, I've never quite understood why this is the only time of the year people are supposed to be nice to each other. Why can't we do it the rest of the year, too?

Still and all, it strikes me as continually odd that in a country where they hold a definite majority - not every Christian thinks the same, of course, but there's definitely more Christians than there ain't - the fundies have to whine loud and long about how persecuted they are. There are still parts of this world where one can get killed by the government for being Christian, and the United States isn't such a place.

Hey, here's an idea. Instead of pissing and moaning that not everyone thinks your Bible-thumping balderdash is the greatest thing since electric guitars, why not actually follow some of those teachings laid down by the Late J.C. Show some love and compassion to those who aren't on your side. Help folks out. Lay a little of that Christian charity on a poor soul who's cast out in the cold winds of the world. Bring a little love into the world.

In other words, my fundie friends...practice what you preach.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ah, They Never Fail To Entertain...

Man, I love Alabama.

Check this out. Apparently, Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan showed up to court wearing a robe that had the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold. The Covington County judge said he feels the Big Ten represents "the truth" and can help a judge know right from wrong. He also, of course, doesn't believe his robe will have an adverse effect on jurors, purposely choosing a lettering size that wouldn't "be in anybody's face". Sure.

Now, here's the funny part. The case McKathan was hearing was a DUI and, apparently, no one saw the robe in question until the case started. The defending attorney filed a pair of motions, one objecting to the robe and one asking that the case be continued. Shockingly, McKathan denied both motions. And, of course, future presidential candidate Roy Moore offers his full support of McKathan. In case you've forgotten, Moore's the dingbat former Alabama Chief Justice who got the boot in 2003 for placing a gigantic goddamn statue of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery. Says Big Roy, "It is time for our judiciary to recognize the moral basis of our law."

Now, I'm not going to get into the argument of whether the Ten Commandments is the "moral basis of our law". Personally, I really don't think so, seeing as how we don't have laws outlawing adultery or businesses being open on Sunday, but it's really neither here nor there. And, for what it's worth, the whole discussion concerning the merits of Christianity as a moral philosophy really isn't germane to the discussion. There's a lot to like and dislike in Christianity - I'm rather fond of the whole "do unto others" idea but I don't care for the whole "casting sinners into the lake of fire" thing. But it's really not the issue.

What is the issue is, apparently, some folks in the Heart Of Dixie feel the need to beat folks over the head with their religion. This whole Ten Commandments-in-public-places argument is flat-out silly. It's just a list, beloved, and it's a list way too many Christians decided to ignore. Hell, if we based laws on the Ten Commandments, the entire economic system would collapse because you wouldn't get far in the world of big business holding fast to the idea of "thou shall not steal"? And just what is "coveting" if it isn't wanting what the other guy has? Isn't that what we work ourselves to the bone, day in and day out? I won't even get into the whole "thou shall not kill" and how American society wouldn't dig that at all.

To be honest, whenever I see someone like this yay-hoo making a big ruckus about the trappings of his personal faith and insisting it be put in places where it isn't relevant, I think one thing. I think to myself, "Now there's a guy who's not really sure if what he believes is for real or not." And frankly, considering the parts of the Ten Commandments that do groove with U.S. law, who wants a judge that needs to be "reminded" that killing, stealing, adultery and bearing false witness are wrong?

My eternal reminder to folks like McKathan, Moore and others who want me to believe in their god mainly because they say so is simple. Live you’re life like you preach. Don’t just preach. Don’t just tell me you’re right, prove it. Simple enough, but I guess it’d take too much effort. As they say, talk is much cheaper.

Thanks to my buddy Jen for the heads-up.

There's A Reason I Don't Like Dating...

This may be the single dumbest thing I've heard since the last White House press gaggle.

Allow me to summarize. Apparently, yay-hoos in Chicago are paying fifty bucks an hour to a company that supplies them with "wingmen" for a night out. A wingman - or woman, as the case sometimes may be - is a buddy who runs interference when a young swain notices an object of desire at a local drinkery. The story claims such folks are used to "break the ice" between the potential lovebirds, but that's horsefeathers. Wingmen take care of the "ugly and/or fat chicks" so the other lame asshole can score with the brain-dead girl he's drooling over.

And the Associated Press decided to waste space and money on this. And I decided to blog about it. What a world. Frankly, I never cared much for the whole dating thing in the first place and have never, ever played the wingman just so's whatever friend I'm with can hook up with whoever he or she wishes to hook up with. Sure, I've wound up talking to the friend, but it was always done mainly so I'd have someone to talk to whilst my friend was trotting out some tired line on her friend. So, maybe that counts, I don't know.

In any event, the whole concept reeks of extreme silliness to me, cast into even sharper relief by the revelation that people are posting online ads looking for wingpeople to accompany them on the Hunt. Granted, again, the whole dating thing never really rang true to me (or worked for me, if I'm to be totally honest), so what do I know?

There always seemed to me a certain level of dishonesty in dating. Even if the parties have known each other for quite a while, go on that first date, and one inevitably finds oneself engaging in the tiniest of falsehoods. Not out and out lying, of course - well, hopefully not - but definitely acting on one's "best behavior", which generally isn't how one usually acts. It's always little things, of course, but those little things can become significant, especially if the relationship progresses.

But, of course, anyone who flies with a wingman really isn't looking for a mother to his potential children. He's looking for a warm hole for the night. Me, I don't care for one-night stands - mainly because I can't find it within myself to maintain that level of bullshit long enough to entice a sweet young thang back to my boudoir - but as long as everyone's willing and careful, hell, let 'er rip.

I wonder, though, if the whole "wingman" phenomenon - the wingman itself isn't a new creation, of course, but the popularity of the concept is - isn't indicative of the problems facing modern Americans when it comes to getting horizontal on a regular and relatively stable basis. I admittedly don't know much about women - and any guy who tells you he does is lying through his teeth - but I do know they really aren't that different from men. We all want the same things - love, physical pleasure, happiness, the feeling of being needed/wanted/desired, etc. - but society does enforce certain roles, and despite the whole Sexual Revolution hoo-hah, we're still playing the same roles our forefathers and mothers played. To some extent or another, anyway, we're still clubbing women over the head and dragging 'em back to the cave.

Personally, I find it hard to picture the whole mating thing as a competition or "war of the sexes". We basically want the same thing, right? So why does it have to be a struggle? Why can't people be honest with both themselves and the person they want to make the sign of the triple-finned catfish with. Elsewhere on this site, I gave advice to the ladies when it comes to dealing with cats. Now, I shall attempt the do the same for the fellas. It'll be much shorter, too.

Don't look at a woman, no matter how pretty or charming or sexy she is, as something to be "won". One way or another, you always wind up the loser. Women aren't trophies, though admittedly, some do act like it. Brothers, avoid these women like you'd avoid going to the dentist. It may sound a bit crude, but the best way I've found of getting a woman worth the time and effort is finding someone you at one time want to hang out with and have sex with. It's a delicate balance and I'll admit I ain't got it quite figured out yet, but that's what makes the most sense to me.

Of course, I haven't had a date in almost two years, so what do I know? And for those of you who are interested in what passes for my sex life (and there is a disturbing number who do), I got some good news for you. I met a very charming, intelligent and attractive woman at a party this weekend. She listened to me ramble for almost an hour on the various topics that wander past my mind, and seemed to be fairly enraptured (which is, believe you me, a rare thing).

However, at the time, I was full of several herbs and spices, and my brain was somewhere in Calabi-Yau space. So I failed to get "digits", as the kids are so found of saying, nor do I have any idea of what I said that was so fascinating. I'm not sure which is more disappointing, frankly.

However, he name is Candy and she has light blue hair, which is, I suppose, something to go on.

Friday, December 10, 2004

More Proof The Web Was Made For Stoners

If you're like me, you love the internet. You use it for research and entertainment, but mainly for wasting huge amounts of time.

Also, if you're like me, you smoke a rather healthy amount of pot on a regular, if not daily basis.

Therefor, you need to visit this website. It will keep you occupied for hours.

The Best Movie Reviews In The World

Flick Skinny

I'm not a man given easily to superlatives, but Clint and Jeremy are some of the funniest sons of bitches I've ever run across. I agree with my old compadre Emerson: all critics should be cartoonists. Might as well; they're all basically cartoon characters, anyway.

A Plethora Of Stupidity

For those who aren't hip, every year media critic Norman Solomon, along with Jeff Cohen of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting compile a list of the most egregious examples of cowardliness, small-mindedness and out-and-out incompetence in the U.S. mainstream media.

So, without further ado, here's the 13th Annual P.U.-litzer Prizes, for the foulest media performances of 2004. Well, a link to it, anyway.

Enjoy!

Supporting The Troops

Robert Loria, a 27-year-old specialist in the U.S. Army, served in Iraq. Last February, he lost his left hand and forearm in Baqubah, a town 40 miles north of Baghdad, when a bomb went off. After recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., he was released back to Fort Hood, Texas.

And, apparently, he's gonna have to borrow money to get to his Middletown, Texas, home because the Army says Loria owes them about $2,000 in medical and travel expenses, among other things. Let me write that again. This kid, with a wife and a three-year-old son, got his left arm blown off in Iraq and now owes the military two grand. Oh, and the also confiscated his last paycheck, because the original total was over $6,000.

Lest we forget, brother and sister liberals, we're the ones who "hate the troops". Check the link, y'all, for there are ways you can help out. We shouldn't have to, though. This is beyond an insult.

Well, Instant Karma's Apparently Getting Someone...

Here's a fairly interesting website. In short, it's a database of rock, rap and pop songs used in television commercials. I got this from a Mark Morford column from the San Francisco Gate more or less bemoaning the use of rock songs to sell less-than-rocking products, like Zeppelin's "Rock & Roll" to sell a Cadillac sedan or the Stones' "Start Me Up" to sell the horrid Windows 95. There's some fairly interesting ones listed. One that springs to mind is, of course, Iggy Pop's hustling-for-smack-money magnum opus "Lust For Life" to hawk, of all things, Carnival Cruise Lines. One that strikes me particularly is ESPN's use of Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down A Dream" to promote baseball. If I recall correctly, ol' Tom had a lot of problems with the music industry back in the day and, though the particular album title escapes me - I wanna say Southern Accents - he threatened to title one album $8.99 as a protest against rising record costs.

Also fairly interesting is the number of Aerosmith songs used in ads, most recently "Dream On" for Buick. Now, it's interesting because, prior to the Boston quintet's massive success in the late '90s (but just after its resurgence following 1993's rather tepid Get A Grip), Steve and the boys vowed never to sell a song for an ad. It happens, I suppose. Dylan swore up and down he'd never sell a song for advertising purposes, but he did. And, no, it wasn't "Feel My Love" to Victoria's Secrets that broke his cherry; it was, of all things, "The Times They Are A-Changin'" to, of all things, an accounting firm.

Now, I'm of two minds on this. First, this isn't really a new thing. Bob Wills had a band called the Light Crust Doughboys and blues harpist Rice "Sonny Boy Williamson II" Miller fronted an outfit called the King Biscuit Boys after their respective sponsors. Back in the day, a whole lot of musicians got their start on 15-minute radio shows sponsored by some business or another, and invariably had to hawk the sponsor's product. Ray Charles hawked Coca-Cola way before Diet Pepsi was "the Right One". So did Otis Redding. I've got an awesome ten-disc boxset of Hank Williams that has him hawking all sorts of stuff - including a "How To Write Country & Folk Music" book you know he didn't write - and that's not even including his "Health & Happiness" shows pushing what boiled down to snake oil medicine.

So, decry the commercialization of music all you want, it's not a new thing. And despite what you may or may not think about the "purity" of rock & roll (or music in general), it is at the end of the day a job, and musicians have to make a living. I don't behoove them if they pass a tune or two to someone to make a little extra cash, particularly since the last person to get paid in the music industry is invariably the musician him/herself. And don't forget that a lot of times - especially in the cases of '70s bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd - the artists has little or no say in just how their music is used. Skynyrd, for instance, got basically nothing for all its classic tunes from its heyday up until recently because of the moronic contracts the band members signed. Granted, most of 'em couldn't read, so they didn't know any better.

As an aside, if I can give any advice to musicians, it's this: the club owners, the businessmen, the managers and the label heads don't care about you or your "art". They will screw you over. Go into the game with that little bit of knowledge, and at least you'll have a fighting chance. Steve Albini has said it much better than I ever could, so go read his words.

On the flipside, there is something...distasteful, I suppose, about musicians who preach rebellion of any form yet sign on to the Corporate Beast. A lot of folks haven't, of course. Bruce Springsteen reportedly turned down a $10 million opening offer from Chrysler, as well as boatloads of cash from other corporate sponsors back in the '80s when he was bigger than God. As in most places, folks like Joan Jett, Neil Young and John Mellencamp remain hard-asses in this area - Young's notable for his hilarious lampoon of corporate sponsorship with the "This Note's For You" video that got MTV in such a tizzy back when it actually showed videos. Jello Biafra had a helluva time after he refused to allow some Levi-Strauss the use of "Holiday In Cambodia" to sell khakis. In fact, it caused him no end of enmity between Jello and his former Dead Kennedy bandmates because, apparently, they were all for it, despite making a career of anti-corporatism with their music.

And as big a whackadoodle as he is, Prince has my ever-lasting respect for not cashing in big time on "1999" back when he could've made sick amounts of money from it. Now, don't get me wrong. I love Prince, but he's crazier than a fox squirrel. Most geniuses are.

I'm a big fan of the Myth of Rock & Roll. Not all of it, but most of it. I don't think it's a force for change or rebellion, but I do think it can succor for the wounded soul and an excellent way to keep from having to grow up. But it - and by extension music - isn't a "sacred thing". It's like everything else, really, in that in can be used as a commodity. As a musician, I doubt I've made more than a grand playing, but I've always had a real good time, which is basically what I'm shooting for when I strap on the ol' Fender Jazz Bass. Course, I ain't nor shall I ever attempt to make a living out of music, so it's okay for me to say such things.

And, as Morford points out, using music to sell ads is a damn good way of getting lesser-known artists in the public light. Moby had a decent cult following until he sold a bunch of his songs from 1999's Play for advertising purposes. Now, he's being threatened by Eminem. If that don't mean stardom, I don't know what does. And frankly, I'd love it if more people knew about, say, Nick Lowe or The Beat Farmers or Richard Thompson or Swamp Dogg, and if took using "Total Destruction Of Your Mind" to pimp hamburgers, so be it. I ain’t ashamed to admit that my first real introduction to The Beatles came from Nike’s use of “Instant Karma” in a running shoe ad. In my defense, my folks gave up on rock & roll after Elvis entered the Army and I was raised on country, soul and gospel music, but that’s neither here nor there.

I guess the only problem I have with music being used to sell cars, computers and cruise lines is when an artist - like, say, Aerosmith - says they won't but then they do when ready change is thrown their way. But, as in all things, there's one simple, short rule to follow: "practice what you preach". No one likes a sell out, and you only sell out when you say you won't but turn around and do it anyway.

As a caveat, I guess I should note that Aerosmith lost me when the band started recording maudlin power ballads for inane summer blockbuster movies like Armageddon, but that's just me.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Ghost Of Tom Joad Still Walks...

David J. Sirota of The American Prospect brings us this rather excellent little piece via AlterNet. In short, Sirota's idea is that instead of moving to the center to gain victory among America's "average Joe" voters, Democrats - and indeed, progressives and liberals of all stripe - should ignore the wingnuts' advice about pimping god, gays and scary brown people to win elections and head for truly populist messages. To back up his claim, he lists a number of candidates on both sides of the political aisle that went with populist economic messages and won big time, including Democrats in such red-heavy states as Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and my old Mississippi home.

Me, I think this is just the key. I've said it before and I'll say it again: all that advice the GOP is giving you, Democratic leaders, isn't coming from a real sincere place. When your opposite number is telling you how to defeat him, well...personally, I wouldn't buy apples from such an individual, as it were. But, the populist message - defined here as how national political movements, notably NAFTA, affect local workers - is a winner everytime. And you'd be surprised how many dyed-in-the-wool Republicans will back a crusading Democrat who's taking on a dirty company that's screwing over citizens. It works. Read the story. Learn something.

But, of course, some people aren't getting the message.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Flowery Follow-Up

A little side note to the post bellow, via our compadre rorschach. Apparently, the Taliban weren't too impressed with the amnesty offer. They threatened to launch a series of attacks during the swearing in of President Hamid Karzai.

Spoilsports.

Ahhh, Democracy's Flower Continues To Bloom...

Hey, remember Afghanistan? Yeah, I know, it's kinda hard to dredge up that memory these days, especially since everything's so groovy-cool over there. Why, just this weekend newly elected president Hamid Karzai offered to extend amnesty to Taliban militants. Isn't that sweet of him?

The upside, of course, would be a reduced need for troops in that country, which means the Little King could send them to Iraq to fight real terrorists, of course. There is a downside, though. Speaking of the flowering democracy that is Afghanistan, I heard on NPR this morning that the new president of said country - my memory fails me at the moment - is offering a general amnesty to most members of the Taliban. Such a move is said to be seriously hacking off folks in Iran and India, neither of which is fond of Taliban-controlled Pakistan. There's also certain ethnic groups in Afghanistan that caught holy hell while the Taliban was in power that would probably be a bit put out, as well, if the Tally-folks got off scott-free.

Speaking Of Making The Baby Jesus Cry...

Remember Pat Tillman? The Arizona Cardinals defensive back who gave up a cool $3.6 million to serve in the Army Rangers in Afghanistan, which is where we should be, if we were going to blowing up shit (and we shouldn't be doing that, but that's neither here nor there), that was killed back in April? If you remember, the Army told us Afghan guerillas killed him. Course, I didn't know the guy - neither personally and I don't follow pro football - but he seemed like a helluva cat and, as I said, if we must fight a war, let's fight it in a country that was actually the base for them what attacked us three years ago.

Well, it turns out that was a lie. Tillman was killed by friendly fire. Not only that, he was killed because of a series of mishaps, technical foul ups and flat-out incompetence by the chain of command over Tillman. So, rather than tells us the truth - which is the very least a man who dies for his country (whatever that means) deserves - the United States government and military, with full co-operation from the press, lied to us. Again.

Ain't that a kick in the nuts. Lots of folks in Tillman's platoons have been discharged from the Rangers - but not the Army - and officers responsible have been reprimanded. Well, I guess that's sufficient, isn't it? Should be enough for Tillman's family, shouldn't it? We're at war, so any sort of dissent is tantamount to treason, right?

Wrong. Very, very, very wrong. As I've said many a time before, I've got no great love for the military but I can't bring myself to hate them in uniform. It's not us liberals spitting on the troops, friends and neighbors. If you ever forget that, think of Pat Tillman.

I Thought Lying Made The Baby Jesus Cry...

Okay, so you remember a week or so back when all the Christian fundie groups and right-wing airbags made a big deal out of some self-proclaimed "orthodox Christian" teacher in California (of course) getting canned from his job teaching fifth-grade history because he kept slipping God into things? Seems this Steven J. Williams character is claiming his school is discriminating against him because of his religion and the whole "blue-state" hatred of religion. The A.M. radio blowhards are saying the school even went as far as "banning the Declaration Of Independence" in class because it contained references to God.

Well, that's all a huge, steaming pile of horse pucky. Williams was advised by his boss, principal Patricia Vidmar, not to go testifying whilst teaching the little yard monkeys about George Washington and the cherry tree, but the goofy rascal went and did it anyway. He even went and gave his students a copy of the proclamation of Bush's incredibly useless "National Day Of Prayer" nonsense the Little King issued right after Sept. 11 as a way of teaching about "presidential proclamations". He also had drawn up lesson plans concerning Easter - for cryin' out loud, what has that to do with American history? - and had complaints stemming from a discussion he lead over the recent brouhaha concerning the whole "Pledge Of Allegiance" nonsense we enjoyed a couple years back. What got him canned was passing out "supplemental handouts" concerning Christianity's importance in American history. Funny thing is he got them from the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian group that seems hell-bent (pun intended) on getting God into every nook and cranny of society whether we want it or not. Even funnier is the fact that Williams is suing the school and lawyers from the ADF are doing the dirty work for him. Ain't it odd how things work out?

Okay, first things first. The school system in question has not banned the Declaration of Independence. Okay? Okay. They've merely reprimanded a teacher who'd been warned and had been the cause of many complaints from parents who apparently thought a teacher forcing Christian dogma down their kids' throats wasn't copasetic. Imagine that. Why, you'd think from hearing the right-wing windbags, the poor children were dying of spiritual thirst and the mean ol' principal - a woman, remember, evil Jezebel - was keeping the good word of Christ's love from them. And, of course, the poor hell-bound chilluns couldn't hear that message anywhere else, like say...hell, I don't know. A church, maybe? And while I'm on that stroke, if the crybaby fundies succeed in forcing God into schools where she don't belong, can I start teaching quantum mechanics at the Baptist church down the street?

Yeesh, this shit is getting re-goddamn-diculous. First, some dingbat principal right here in Athens reads an idiotic "poem" over the intercom, ridiculing anyone who doesn't believe in God and looks a little different - and disturbingly complains about "them banning guns" at school - and now this nonsense. And, of course, the fundies and wingnuts are whining to beat the band, which is what they do best since they can't be bothered to use that "mandate" to actually govern. And if that's not bad enough, these same people - more or less, anyway - are trying to score a shit-ton of money for abstinence-only sex education, despite rising teen pregnancy rates. And hey, just so's the world doesn't start to make too much sense, congressional staff analysis of some of the programs finds them riddled with false information. Things like telling teens - who don't know sheep shit from Shinola when it comes to sex but, apparently, are rutting like spider monkeys - such nonsense as one can get knocked up by touching another's naughty parts and that one can get AIDS from tears or sweat.

One more funny before I leave you. Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar for the conservative "think tank" Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center - and how's that for some Orwellian language, dear hearts - says the most successful strategy to get religion in schools' curriculum was to use backdoor methods, such as Mr. Williams' emphasis on historical documents. So, in other words, since they apparently can't pull it off right up front and out in the open, these yay-hoos have to lie, deceive and trick folks so they'll hear God's "truth".

Ahhh, those good ol' conservative moral values. And to quote a commenter at
The Blue Lemur, two years from now, the damn whining wingnuts and crybaby fundies will still be claiming that Williams was discriminated against because he was a Christian. I do declare, it's gonna be an entertaining four years, beloved.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Wise Words From The Main Man

Anger is a harmful emotion and when left unchecked, generally leads to nothing but more stuff that causes anger. However, anger can be channeled to positive uses. Nothing produces energy in a person quite like anger, and it's high time liberals, progressives and Democrats used that anger. To wit, some wise words from a wise man. Harness that anger, says historian Howard Zinn, and I say he's right.

Go read. Now. Then, if you don't own it already, pick up a copy of Zinn's masterpiece A People's History Of The United States: 1942-Present. It'll change the way you look at history as you think you know and how it's shaped the world that we live in today. Good stuff.

From The Brilliant Deduction, Sherlock, Dept.

While I'm loathe to agree with libertarian "think-tank" Cato Institute on anything - most libertarians come off as living in a bigger fantasy land than most liberals - they do make a good point or now once in a blue moon. For one, they're right in that the "War On Drugs" is an abject and utter failure.

It's not that drugs aren't dangerous. Most are. Hell, even my beloved sweet leaf isn't really good for your health. However, treating a guy caught with a couple joints like a mass murderer ain't doing anything to either keep kids away from drugs nor is it helping the folks caught in the grips of addiction.

And for all you who argue that marijuana is evil, wicked, mean and nasty, I got a question for you. Why aren't you railing against the sale of alcohol and/or tobacco? Pot's already illegal and not likely to see legalization any time soon - not in Bush's America, anyway - so why not take the good fight onto products that do much more damage to the individual body and society as a whole?

Just a little consistency, that's all I'm asking.

This Makes Me A Bit Nervous, Actually...

Former C.I.A. honcho George "Slam Dunk" Tenet said at an information-technology security conference that security on what his old boss called "the internets" could be a potential Achillies' heel. Said Internet, Tenet warned, is "a free and open society with no control or accountability". The actual way the Internet was built, allowing for free and easy surfing, makes controlling use difficult. Gee, that's sorta why I'm partial to web slinging.

Now, granted, I can understand the need to beef up security in financial areas and outfits charged with sensitive information, but the never-ending game has always been They trying to make it tougher on hackers and hackers just breezing right through like they always do. Still and all, yeah, do what you gotta do. But here's the quote that really gives me the oogies:

"Access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously."

Okay, so just what does that mean? And why do I get the same creepy skin-crawling feeling I got when I learned the government was keeping tracks of what books I buy and/or check out of the library? And tell me again how the past four years of Bush has made this country safer and more secure?

Well, Of Course They Smoke Pot...

Attention fellow followers of the sacred herb: do not do this. Ever. It's a really, really bad idea, and the cops are rarely sympathetic. And for cryin' out loud, if you are dumb enough to report stolen pot to the friggin' police, don't tell 'em the reason you want it back is because you were gonna sell it.

Sometimes, you just gotta accept that these things happen. Sheesh. Make the rest of us look like idiots, why doncha?

Via the ever-lovin' Fark.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

More Dingbattery From The Heart Of Dixie...

I do declare, but Alabama never fails to tickle the funny bone. Rep. Gerald Allen of Cottondale, Alabama has introduced a bill in the state legislature to ban novels with gay characters from all public libraries, including university libraries. Of course, he filed the bill to "protect children from the homosexual agenda". The good congressman had previously introduced a bill to outlaw homosexual marriage, which is illegal in Alabama anyway, and I guess it goes without saying he's a Republican.

Some evil books and plays that'd fall under Allen's sword of righteousness would be that popular school textbook Heather Has Two Mommies, but also such evil trash as The Picture Of Dorian Grey, The Color Purple and fellow Mississippian Tennessee Williams Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Allen's suggestion? "I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them." Then, I suppose, all homosexuality would instantly disappear, since Alabama kids are such voracious readers of the classics.

If I may be allowed to paraphrase from a movie, I suggest that goose-stepping morons like Rep. Allen should try reading books instead of burying 'em.

A tip of the hat to Philalethes for the heads up.