Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Comedia 2/2

Brandon chimed in, “what! That’s not ok.” The exclamation mark wasn’t really there, his inflections were nearly as subtle as Ameen’s.

Ameen looked at me. A pause ensued. Each of us wanting to say something more about the topic. But the subway stopped and we hopped off.

The night gets blurry. The next place I remember being is somewhere in Southern Madrid. All of my friends were there and we were walking to Comedia. It was closed when we got there. I suppose we ended up someplace else. Or maybe it was just a dream.

Then we were at the bus stop near the Reina Sofia. The orange-yellow light of the street lamps illuminated belligerent drunkards. The air was getting colder. The dampness of the early morning started to cling to our clubbing outfits. Borrachos urinated nearby. Girls in tight short skirts stumbled on the sidewalk, nearly spilling the contents of their purses.

I realized how alone I was for a moment. Stuck in a country without anyone to call my own. I didn’t feel bad about it then. I was happy to be single. Exploring things on my own terms was fun, but having no allegiances to anyone left an undeniable emptiness.

I finally got on a bus, still drunk. I can’t remember who I was with. But I rode the bus for a long time before realizing it was going in the wrong direction. The city passed before my eyes; then the suburbs. An empty river.

I got off the bus. We lucked out and caught the same bus going back to the city. And the empty river. The suburbs. The city passed before me again.

And suddenly I was walking home in the morning gray. It was nearly ten blocks from the train station to my bed. I passed modern gas stations, apartment complexes, schools, fountains, plazas, restaurants. All of it was quiet at that time. The occasional cab drove by. And the birds started singing. The smell of the apartment I greeted me at the door. The heat was always up perfectly. The place was a real home. And I crashed on my bed. Asleep, and comfortable.

Comedia 1/2

I was voraciously hungry. But in Spain I suppose it was always that way. Even though my host mother would cook enormous meals I could barely finish there was a certain hunger that revolved around my entire trip there. I don’t think it was about quantity. I think it was about comfort. In Spain there was no comfort food. I stuffed myself and never found comfort in it. There was no American food--at least in the most American of ways.

My hunger was a discomfort, constantly burbling and groaning. Asking for something other than what I could give it.

I was hanging out with Ameen, Brandon, and Anwar. Our night started out slowly. We drank a bit and didn’t think much of it. The apartment was run-down. Or maybe it wasn’t. The furniture was arranged oddly, as if placed in order to patch up holes or conceal water damage. The furniture was ugly. A sickly yellow floral pattern, faux leather, the bad brown. And it was definitely an apartment in the middle of the city. It had been painted and re-painted. It had been nearly destroyed, and shoddily rebuilt. The sink kind of worked. The toilet almost flushed. And somehow, drinking there with Ameen, Anwar, and Brandon I didn’t feel hungry.

Home was a foreign word; we had abandoned home and were stuck in another country. Home was wherever we said it was.

So we waited until 2 in the morning before going out. A little later start than usual but nothing out of the ordinary. And we headed to some club called Comedia. On the subway Ameen told me a bit about being in a long-distance relationship while the two were abroad.

It was wearing on him. She was away in Italy and insisted on yanking hard on his leash even across the European continent.

“I’m not allowed to dance with girls.”

“What?” I asked as the subway bounced back and forth.

“I’m not allowed to dance with girls. And I’m ok with that. But I saw on her facebook pictures of her dancing with guys.”

I stared at him blankly. I wanted to scream, that’s bull and she needs to get her crap together. Instead I nodded slowly.

Ameen is a fairly monotonous guy. Not in a boring way; in the way that you are never sure where he is going with his statements. So nodding was a safe response. He continued, “and she said that there are creepy guys who try to dance with her otherwise.”

Particular Death

I have dedicated myself to working hard, but sometimes I don’t know what that means. I suppose it’s going to be a fact of life that I sit bolt upright at night sometimes scared as hell of death.

I don’t feel particularly unique in my fear of death. It’s a facet of life; the thing we keep in the back of our minds all the time. I realize how much it drives me though. Sometimes it drives me forward with a reckless abandon, a desire to consume everything around me.

Other times it takes the form of laziness; an incomplete thought stemming from another incomplete thought; the halted motions of a brain fighting its own machinations. And always lurking in the corners of one’s mind is the knowledge of death. For me it is an infinite black nothingness. The mind perishes, and with it, all of the information of a life lived.

But I suppose my ruminations on death are akin to asking a plant how it feels about death. Death is merely the transition of atoms and molecules to another state. Living beings are no more privileged to remain in this state than they are to transition to another state. I am a fool to cling to my molecules so greedily. Everything that is my body and mind will be replaced in a matter of years. Each atom passes through the body, a brick that makes a building. It holds it’s place for a time. Then leaves. Who I am is determined by something I cannot fathom and to take parts of it away must be death. Yet that is what happens every day. Parts of my mind come and go, fade in and out as if they were never there.

I guess that life is less a state of being and more a transition between two states for a particle. Life is a vehicle for transition; nothing more. I guess I wake up now, afraid of death, because particles burst forth in my brain full of life and realize the emptiness of entropy that will be a particle’s slow death.

The universe started about 13 billion years ago; and with it, every particle that will ever exist. I will live for hopefully 80 or so years. And a particle in my body will inhabit it for but a fraction of that time--5 to 10 years at most. After that, the particle may never inhabit a living being. It may drift in the cosmos for the next 100 billion years and never experience the struggle of a life-form.

Eventually the forces that hold it together will dissipate and it will be a lonely electron floating through space. Until the electron falls apart and only quarks remain. Tiny vibrations, once holding together the universe, stopped. This time, for eternity.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Make Your Own Racist Adventure Story

The truth is—as this deplorable experience proves—that constitutions and laws are not sufficient of themselves...Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment's command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action...--Former Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark.

“A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched.... So, a[n] American born of [immigrant] parents, nurtured upon [immigrant] traditions, living in a transplanted [immigrant] atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a[n immigrant], and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with the[m]."--Los Angeles Times editorial.

The second quote has the minority group in question omitted. Yet it speaks volumes to the nature of racism without mentioning a race. Is the use of one group more or less ridiculous in this phase? Let’s see.

We’ll start with the classic one illegal Latin American immigrants. “So, a Latino-American born of illegal immigrant parents, nurtured upon Latino traditions, living in a transplanted Latin atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Latino, and not an American.” Alabama and Arizona aren’t looking too good right now. It sounds like an Anchor Babies argument; pull out your minuteman guns and start patrolling the borders for those job-stealing migrants. What’s that, no one wants to pick food for awful wages in Alabama and all the crops are rotting on the vine because even prisoners won’t work? Oops.

But Latinos are easy; it’s a case of the classic kind of racism--the kind since before a nuclear family named the Beavers was lighting up the nostalgic imaginations of pre-adolescent Family Values Conservatives.

Maybe it needs sprucing up; some spicy modernization. How about Muslims? The War on Terror is over a decade old and there are particular concerns regarding Guantanamo and the first quote. Maybe that’s what this entire argument was about in the first place. Maybe this was all about an over-reaching executive that indefinitely detained Muslims. Let’s put them into these quotes. “Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment's command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action [in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay].” Sends chills down my spine how relevant that seems. And the second quote? “A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched.... So, a Muslim-American born of Muslim parents, nurtured upon Islamic traditions, living in a transplanted Islamic atmosphere...grows up to be a Radical Islamist, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with the Radical Islamists.”

That one is too good. Pretty sure someone at Fox News has said something like that. Oh racism!

But none of this really illustrates the point I think. “So, a Chinese-American born of Chinese parents, nurtured upon Chinese traditions, living in a transplanted Chinese atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Chinese, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them." Oh economics and politics; the red dragon is rising. Speaking of, how does Commie Fever feel?

“So, a Communist American born of Commie parents, nurtured upon Commie traditions, living in a transplanted Communist atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Commie, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with the[m]." How very Cold War Mr. 80s man.

Or maybe red is too limiting. How about a rainbow? “So, a Gay American born of Gay parents, nurtured upon Gay traditions...inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Gay, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with the Gays." Yeah, bigotry tastes funny doesn’t it. Leaves a bad taste right, Mr. Larry Craig?

Ok, ok, the kicker, “A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched.... So, an English American born of English parents, nurtured upon British traditions, living in a transplanted English atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be an Englishman, and not an American... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them."

And then the clouds start to part. That last one is odd. Why ever would we distrust an Englishman other than on his own merits? Certainly we’d never treat with suspicion a person who seemed overly excited about the marriage of William and Kate nor would we suspect said person was hell-bent on instating a royal order to America.

Discrimination and bigotry are usually far more subtle than the explicit and hateful speech that have characterized America’s past. The two original quotes are in regards to the internment of 110,000 American citizens of Japanese descent during WWII. Yet the arguments that allowed so many innocents to be forcibly removed from their homes, have their assets frozen, and induced years of segregation and hardship do not lack parallels in the modern world.

Democratic government is founded on principles of tolerance and acceptance, not on anger and fear. What allows America to persist is not its enormous army but its democratic system where fairness reigns and heritage is no indicator of loyalty. Those who sow seeds of hatred are playing a game of deception and self-promotion. Critical thought and openness to differing views is the way forward. “An American is nonetheless an American wherever the egg is hatched.... So, an American born of immigrant parents, nurtured upon American traditions, living in a transplanted immigrant-American atmosphere... grows up to be an American... Thus, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shop-aholic 3/3

Short story 3/3

The next day was the antique store’s closing sale. I didn’t bother to parallel park. I pulled up on the sidewalk and strolled up to the store front. It was packed. I pulled out three flash bangs and tossed them into the store. I turned around and turned on my shopping playlist on my iPod.

The lead in of a big band and I was off. I turned on the siren, but could not hear anything. I tossed smoke bombs to the different corners of the store and made my way to the tiny collectibles section. I perused the items luxuriously as people rolled on the ground in what I assume was pain. I smiled under my gas mask and shot tear gas into the vent above me.

It was a wonderful experience. The moment when you stop caring about the safety and well-being of others and instead become hell-bent on maintaining your own sanity is unparalleled. I was happy shopping for once. I saw a cute vintage vase with paintings of a farm on the outside. I wanted it so badly. I looked at the nearest writhing body on the floor. It was a store clerk; perfect.

I roughly grabbed her and asked her how much. She may have been disoriented from the flash bangs and the tear gas, or she may not have heard me through my gas mask, but she never did answer me. It didn’t matter, there was no place for it at my place.

As I made my way to the back of the store a woman--probably desperate for relief from the excruciating pain I had put her in, grabbed my ankle and tried to use me as a ladder to claw her way to her feet. I pulled out my taser and stunned her. No one could blame me for defending myself from such a rude person. Who claws at someone in an antiques store? The consumer society is out of control I thought to myself. Regular manners no longer applied and fellow patrons felt that it was ok to physically assault another person.

This was antiquing for Christ-sakes This wasn’t a war zone. The kitsch patrons were incorrigible. When I had found what I was looking for I went to check out.

The clerks were terrible at the store, but their selection was magnificent. Because the woman in charge of check-out was sobbing and throwing up in a corner, I rang up my own items.

And that was the first best shopping trip I went on. Since then I haven’t been able to get enough of that relaxing experience. Black Friday this year will be nothing.

Shop-aholic 2/3

a short story

I started searching at gun shops and military surplus stores for the equipment I would need. My first purchase was a riot helmet. Wearing that made me feel powerful, like I could take on every WTO freak or NBA post-Championship looter out there. Then I started buying an arsenal. I got everything; rubber bullets, tear gas, batons, tasers, flash bang grenades, smoke bombs, even a piercing siren that was louder than a plane taking off.

Then I got myself some excellent noise canceling headphones, a gas mask, and night vision goggles. It was heaven that night. I knew I would be shopping in a wholly new way. The way I wanted to shop. And that made me feel good.

That first night I donned all of my headgear and danced around the house in my underwear. I made brownies and turned on my favorite classical Frank Sinatra tunes. It was a beautiful moment dancing in my kitchen in my underwear and helmet, licking chocolate batter off the spoon and singing as loudly as I could to the swoon-inducing melodies of Mr. Sinatra.

Shop-aholic 1/3

A short story

I wear riot gear when I go shopping. The police call them crowd dispersants. Rubber bullets, tear gas, flash bangs, and pepper spray.

The first time I did it was during a closing sale for my favorite little kitsch shop. The shop had the most beautiful little collections and the closing sale was magnificent. 70% off or more. How could I resist? I wanted the ceramic cherubs holding different fruits. I wanted the vintage tins of cookies and coffee. I wanted to absorb the store.

And I could never really shop with such awful patrons. The people that shop at kitsch stores are the most self-debasing individuals in the world. They are the unhappy housewives that go antiquing with their best girlfriend from college for the weekend with thousands to blow on relics from an era before their time. They hold lattes and have boring affairs with their gym trainers. They eat botulin for breakfast. And they are rude.

It’s no way to live; it’s certainly no one you want to hang out or shop with. And I was tired of their cattiness and their aggression.

The moment I decided that my shopping technique would change was when I was leaving a quaint town center. I had parallel parked on a side street in the middle of what appeared to be a main street from a coming of age 1950s movie. I was organizing the car and getting ready to leave when I heard a honk. I didn’t think much of it because I wasn’t part of traffic yet. I continued getting the car clean and ready to leave.

Another honk. This time I looked in the mirror; there was a car waiting for me to pull out. Granted, the area was crowded but there were a few open spots. Why the woman with the enormous pouty lips and face pulled taut against her skull needed my spot I couldn’t tell you. But there she was, waiting for me to move. I kept at my task. I would leave when I was ready.

I glanced again in the mirror. She gestured wildly; flailing her arms, her mouth moving. Her lips formed a variety of words that all appeared to be obscenities.

I looked back at my task and continued organizing. As I finished putting things away she pulled up to my window and honked again. I held in a sarcastic sigh, rolled down my window, and smiled at her.

“Are you moving?” She asked me sweetly; as if I hadn’t seen her rage fit in my rear-view mirror.

“Soon. I’m organ--”

“Great, then you’ll move now,” she interrupted me, rolled up her window and hit her car in reverse. I rolled my eyes, made sure everything was secure, and put my car into drive. I pulled out with agonizing sloth--hoping to elicit some more frothy anger from the plastic woman behind me.

And that was the moment I decided that shopping wouldn’t be like that anymore.

Aharmonic

The war is over go home. There is no hidden conspiracy on the part of an exceedingly moderate first term president to somehow become a radical fascist commie who is going to take away your guns and forbid religion with his Sharia law. Go home and relax.

The nation is not falling apart at the executive. It is falling apart at the most democratic portion. The budget has not passed for four years. The Senate now requires 60 votes to get anything done. The last time such a strong majority was required on a regular basis was under the Articles of Confederation. And that didn’t turn out so well. Recently the Republican in control of the recording room in congress denied the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee the ability to use the room to record testimony on women’s health and contraception. This has never happened before. Being petulant and denying the voice of a dissenting opinion is not democratic. Liberty and freedom die in the demonization of the Other, not because the Other is a demon.

The people who would contract the rights of the minority because their views are different cannot be the bearers of a free and democratic society. The free flow of respectful and dissenting ideas is the way of a functional democracy. Those who portend the death of our freedom are eager to enforce it with their own brand of justice based on personal conviction, disregarding the rule of law and free discourse between differing views.

Caesar did not kill the Roman Republic; it rotted from the core out. The preservation of government served only to mollify the desires of corrupt and greedy politicians. Brutus was the blind ideologue; unable to see that the fruit had fallen. The voice of the people became the angry and easily moved mob. Marc Antony turned a crowd against their own political freedom with his sweet prose.

Democracy dies when violence and conspiracy prevail over order and reason. It is not righteous to deny facts because they do not fit a worldview. It is not righteous to make deliberately false claims against a minority perspective. Righteousness derives from truth and honor. In democracy truth and honor derive from respect and open discourse.

No cacophony of angry and stubborn voices will ever create harmonies.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

12MM Missed Connections

“At this point I was overcome with an immense sadness,” said the man half naked bearded man in high heels.

It wasn’t sadness I felt, but depth of emotion. Emotion in that purest of senses; feeling without release. I sat in the darkness, knowing that I would be the face and the audience would be me--faceless and obscured by the spotlight. It was the dress-rehearsal and we were watching the other performers.

Down time before a performance is really the most boring but effective way to build suspense. All of the doubt that has been pushed off by practice and preoccupation disappears. There is no time to rehearse. Instead it is a waiting game. Wait while the suspense builds.

And with a new work there is plenty of suspense. It could be a success. It could flop. It could be humiliating. And so the performers sit quietly in a room together with the lights down low and the tension up high. One after another they wait for their cues and try to forget the knot inside.

So the man in the heels wearing a button-up collared shirt with a golden spiral on his chest spoke volumes to me. He stood uneasily in the spotlight; sweat beading on his forehead. His spindly and hairy legs shook slightly, part of the performance? Or maybe not. A slow spiraling circle in white high heels that formed the base of this irrealist piece.

And what was I? Dressed in black with two stage directions to the entirety of my piece. Be honest and listen.

Performing was genuinely and emotion. In front of a large audience I had to be nothing more than myself. The text was only real when I said it honestly; when my motions were tied to my emotions.

The first night gave me confidence though. I said my lines honestly and listened to my stage partner.

Before the show on the second night Ciera and I performed for a marimba in the rehearsal room. We warmed up as we always did. And then we were dancing. Spinning each other, holding each other. And suddenly we were saying our lines. Riding with them as we danced and moved. Pulled apart, pushed together, hands in tension with each other as lines about moments unrealized spilled from our lips. The marimba became a wall around which to dance. Our movements emoted with our thoughts. What was this performance? It was a practice and something honest. I gave my best performance to that room. The empty room with a defaced painting and a marimba. A large mirror and two broken lamps. Ciera and I danced through our lines.

And the performance in front of an audience didn’t seem to matter quite as much.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Contra-coitus 3/3

The point of this second half of the story is that the Bible hardly indicates that the actions or consequences of characters within those stories apply to everyone. Certainly, Lot getting drunk and having sex with his two daughters in a cave is a sub-optimal moral standard for modern humans to follow. In fact, Genesis has a nasty habit of telling stories of a morally ambiguous nature. Genesis spends much time branding individuals wicked or evil but often offer little explanation as to why a given character or city is actually evil. Given that some characters commit some pretty grievous crimes yet remain holy in the eyes of the Lord, the unnamed crimes become less actual violations of some higher more and become more an explanation of why tragic events happen to people.

The people blessed in Genesis own slaves, get drunk, are whoremongers, murderers, and much more. The qualities that tend to make a character ‘good’ in Genesis are more based on heritage (a relative of Abraham) and longevity. Few of Abraham’s blessed relatives live less than 90 years.

Recall Er. Er lived, loved, and was struck down for his wickedness in two short passages in the Bible. His contracted biography doesn’t indicate the nature of his sins. Instead Er’s life seems to be one cut short by some unknown biological cause, something corroborated by the sudden demise of his brother shortly thereafter. Of course that is conjectural, but the point is that the sins or circumstances of one character--especially in Genesis--do not universally apply to everyone that believes in the Bible.

Onan’s masturbatory non-procreative sexual act should clearly not be the basis for any sort of church doctrine regarding beliefs in contraception.

Onan’s story is one of many within Genesis that points not to a clear moral or rule in society but rather a very special circumstance.

There are two other passages in the Bible that make mention of what could be considered masturbation. They are hazy to say the least. The first is that spilling the seed of copulation on one’s body or on cloth is not a sin. The soiled objects or body must be washed and cleaned. And they are “unclean until the even.” Spilling spunk seems sinful only in that cleanliness is next to godliness. Clean up the mess. Seems simple enough. And that’s Leviticus 15:16.

That leaves Matthew 5:28-30. This one might be getting a little closer to the matter--it’s still a stretch. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” For every lustful thought a man has, he should remove a part of his body. It doesn’t say anything about actually masturbating--or contraception. It has to do a lot more with an unrealistic standard for thought control.

When there are a bunch of limbless Catholics walking around, this passage has to be disregarded literally and obviously left as a metaphorical passage. In a metaphorical context, the passage is one about controlling lustful and illicit desires. Don’t do things that could hurt another through unfettered primal action for surely it cannot lead to long-term happiness or societal stability.

Basically, adultery stems from primal thought and unchecked action. But the passage explicitly states that the offense is adultery. Adultery is a broken promise a person has made to another person for life--even though Judah didn’t do so well at maintaining that promise it is possible to do so in a modern society.

And that leads to modern Catholic doctrine. Catholic ministers, bishops, and the Pope are all celibate. Their concept of marriage does not come from personal experience often. Popes have also been rocked with scandals of out-of-wedlock children. The church is not pure by any means.

And the Pope isn’t either. But a lot of the argument of contraception and masturbation actually revolves around the First Vatican Council of 1870. Papal Infallibility; the concept of moral infallibility for official Papal documents relating to moral dogma of the church. Basically, when it comes to moral decrees the Pope is not wrong because he converses with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is omniscient. All of the major guiding documents related to the church’s views on contraception and masturbation stem from these decrees and are implicitly infallible.

This presents a major problem to the church if it were ever to go back on those documents. One Pope is not holier or more divinely informed than any other Pope. New decrees that contradict old ones look as if they weren’t divinely informed. And it gets even more dicey when it comes to these sorts of acts.

The main guiding document on these topics is Humanae Vitae. The document was produced as a decree of church doctrine on how they viewed changes in science and medicine in relation to scripture. Was the use of contraception ok? How about masturbation?

The Majority Report gave a thumbs up to evolving with the times. The Minority Report said that wasn’t such a good idea. Pope Paul VI went with the Minority Report. It declared that seed spilling in a non-procreative setting was a sin. But it was declared a sin based on other Church documents.

There was no basis in the Bible beyond the flowery moral ambiguities of lust, desire, coveting, and the sacred bond of marriage. Those arguments hold little water given Judah’s actions, and he is not the only one. Certainly the papacy was not immune to it.

The argument has always been a political and theological one stemming from the prudish and backward tendencies of a conservative church. There is no basis in the Bible--the only passages from which the arguments could stem are morally ambiguous at best and unequivocally non-applicative. There is no basis in consensus--the Majority Report favored an opposite course. There is no basis in science--masturbation and non-procreative sex are not by any scientific definition the cessation of life. There is no basis in morality--morality of the Catholic church derives from the Bible which fails to support the argument. There is no basis in Papal infallibility--the prevalence of a majority dissent on the issue demonstrates a clear lack of revelation.

The arguments of the Catholic church lie only in the hearts of fallible men. The lack of moral death in all societies around the world has proved the dogma wrong. The church would do well to remember it’s own arguments. “God is love,” and “love is total.” To try to limit God is to go against the Lord’s will. The Lord God cannot be stopped by such small and mortal men, and the church would be wise to remember that.

Contra-coitus 2/3

For the sake of argument it is possible that the Lord was mad at Onan for spilling his seed. God had instead wanted Onan to impregnate the widow of his recently dead brother Er whom God had just killed because Er was wicked (somehow, it isn’t explained why). And Onan, under the (accurate) impression that if Tamar (Er’s widow) were to become pregnant immediately after then the children would be interpreted as Er’s offspring. In fact, this is the reason Judah orders Onan to “go on into” Tamar in the first place. Judah, God, and Onan would all know that the offspring were rightfully Onan’s but would all have to lie (break another of the ten) to everyone else about the father.

At the center of this conspiracy is the act of consensual (or very possibly non-consensual) intercourse. Tamar is not Onan’s wife. Onan, through the act of spilling his seed, seems to indicate that in his grief-stricken state, he does not covet his neighbor (in this case his brother’s) wife. Onan is obviously morally torn by the act of forcing himself to disrespect an explicit commandment to uphold another--parental obedience versus filial respect. For her part, Tamar’s intentions are not ever indicated and the lack of explicit consent can be construed to mean that Tamar may have been raped, but only if the logic of implicit lack of conclusive evidence about motive were to be used. If that were the case then God’s motives can also similarly be up for grabs regarding the murder of Onan. In short, God may not have cared at all if Onan spilled his seed in another context.

If there is to be dogma surrounding this passage then it must be looked at in its full context. Tamar, after becoming a widow and witness to the deaths of two of Judah’s sons, goes and lives in Judah’s home until Shelah (another one of Judah’s sons) is grown. Tamar hangs out for a while supposedly trying to avoid Shelah for fear of God smiting him, then one day Judah goes out to the fields to shear his sheep. Tamar hears about this and for reasons that are unclear--but probably have a lot to do with being an uneducated and confined woman in an ancient sheep herding civilization with literally no system of government, laws, or morals--dresses up like a prostitute and goes out to the fields where Judah is.

Judah comes across Tamar, doesn’t recognize her, and propositions her. Keep in mind that Judah is married to Shuah (also probably a couple others but I’m not looking at other parts of Judah’s life) at this point. That slight detail is unimportant to Judah when he pays Tamar to have sex with him. His payment? His signet, bracelets, and staff.

Judah, in having anonymous intercourse with a prostitute, either does not believe she will become pregnant or that he will have to suffer the consequences of his actions (having an awkward conversation with Shuah about his extramarital forays). Judah must be having sex for pure pleasure with complete disregard of the consequences. He obviously does not intend to procreate and he does not intend for it to be a unitive experience. To be fair, he sends a kid (slave child laborer) out to go find the whore so he can marry her.

The kid goes to the brothel (great place for kids to go) and no one knows who the woman is. Judah calls that due diligence and goes home to his old and used up wife Shuah. Judah prudently leaves out these details when recounting his day to her.

But Tamar becomes pregnant. Judah finds out about this, and knowing that she is unmarried realizes that she must have been whoring. Judah, being the divinely ordained king that he is said, “Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.” Burning whores is one of many ways to kill a whore in the Old Testament by the way. Whores are commonly stoned, burnt, exiled, maimed, or many other horrible things throughout the Bible. All of the whore’s clients are like Judah, patrons until they stone her.

Jesus saw the hypocrisy in this statement and famously said, “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (John 8:7).” Incidentally, Jesus traces his lineage back to Tamar.

Anyway, Tamar knew that whores had a tendency to be particularly flammable and produced the three items that Judah had used to pay her for sex. In what was possibly a very uncomfortable moment for Judah, he made lemonade out of the situation and took Tamar (his son’s widow) as his wife--she bare twin boys. And Shuah...she had to have died very suddenly. Otherwise Judah becomes not only a philanderer, but a polygamist or divorcee as well--two things the Catholic Church is not so fond of.

Contra-coitus 1/3

Genesis 38:6-10 “And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.”

The argument is getting tired. It is pretty unequivocal that in a modern context the Catholic church’s doctrine on contraception is outdated and left largely ignored by American Catholics. There is little reason to believe that advances in science and medical technology should be ignored because of a theological--not moral argument.

And it is a theological argument. The passage from Genesis is the only passage in the entirety of the Bible that makes any mention of masturbation or non-procreative sexual intercourse. The line that specifically mentions the act, “And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.” Basically, he did not use his seed for a procreative purpose.

The Lord was not happy about this and “slew him.” But the passage doesn’t actually give the reader much insight into why the Lord was unhappy--unhappy enough to make Onan God’s sixth kill.

The reason probably has little to do with the non-procreative aspect of the act. In fact, it probably has a lot more to do with the fact that Onan directly disobeyed his father Judah, a serious violation of “honour thy father and thy mother.” Incidentally the Ten Commandments didn’t exist until several books later in Exodus so it might be excusable that Onan wasn’t quite aware of the consequences of his disobedience.

And God could be excused too--for breaking the “thou shalt not kill” commandment; although God’s omniscience and omnipresence might preclude that argument as time and causality obviously are not constraints for the Lord. And if they are then the Lord cannot logically be omnipotent. This slightly tangential argument illustrates the inadequacy of literal interpretation of the Bible. Even if the word of God was handed down directly to the writer’s of these messages were still human; uneducated ancient shepherds actually, and their original audience was similarly so. The documents were then translated and re-translated through three or four languages to finally arrive at the modern version where church doctrines derive. Then humans--divine though they may be (in the case of the Papacy)--are left to reinterpret the texts in a modern context. The direct word of God will be lost through human error. What is left is the spirit; and intentionality must be looked at rather than the literal words on the pages. It would be a grave misinterpretation of the Bible to believe that all of its answers are contained within it. The sun revolves around the Earth, the planet Venus is Satan falling from heaving, and the Earth is the center of the Universe--all of these are the results of the worldview of the original writers and obviously not the word of God. There is little reason to believe that all of the Bible is true and accurate throughout.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bloat 2/2

Take for example the FDA which is unable to investigate olive oil fraud. There’s a whole book on olive oil and how many vendors are dishonest and charge premium prices for oil that isn’t extra virgin. This is a growing and soon to be booming business. The industry represents billions of dollars and consumers are getting cheated. It de-legitimizes honest vendors and has the potential to severely hurt the entire industry.

Oil impostors may not be life-threatening or deadly but they represent the difficulty of the big versus little government argument. It is indisputable that without the FDA to regulate, test, and punish violators of an industry standard then the industry itself is liable to collapse.

Yet no one seems to like the bureaucracy that entails. And why should they? An FDA that is all paperwork could drown an industry just as easily. Again, the argument comes down to nuance.

Proselytizing from the bully pulpit gains nothing in a substantive argument on government. In fact, it seems like a Pyrrhic victory for many politicians these days. For every politician that wishes to gain or maintain their positions on capitol hill there is a fundamental disconnect in the rhetoric of broken government and the desire to be part of the supposedly dysfunctional system. As an elected official, the only tool for change is the government; if no one trusts government then it will never work.

It’s a little like being mad at the popular kids in high school, forcing your way in through a combination of put-downs and rumors, and--once accepted into the group--announcing that they have to listen to you because you are morally superior. And they have to give up half of their possessions. Good luck with that.

Even if the politicians make it to a position of significant leverage--one where they can affect change--they have to face the consequences of their rhetoric that have stewed distrust of government and the tools at their disposal.

People do not trust the many headed beast more when it shifts one head from left to right or right to left.

There is an old Chinese proverb, “if two people agree on everything then one is unnecessary” or something like that. For everyone in government right now that toes the party line it is a clear case of government bloat. Many congressmen and senators spend much of their time lobbying for pet projects in their home state while simultaneously denouncing the very government that they help run. And they do this in unison. They do this as if democracy were a marching tune instead of a complex symphony that requires practice and hard work with different harmonies.

Big government and little government remain phrases that will never advance the discussion and stand to tear the country down imaginary and asinine lines.

Bloat 1/2

Government is like a penis. Feminist and military industrial complex arguments aside it really is. It’s not about how big or small it is, it is about whether it is doing its job.

And people think that by trying to make it a different size it’s going to somehow accomplish its mission better. Government does better with creativity and a focus on the right rhythm. Right now our government has been effectively deadlocked with the need for 60 votes in the senate, two split chambers of congress (one left and one right), and a bunch of critics on the outside yelling at it to perform.

It’s a bit of a set-up for failure.

Big government and small government are inane arguments. The reason people want the government to change size is to target underlying desires. The people want a responsive government; one that is there in times of crisis but one that is also efficient and minimal in maintaining the common good. It is a mythology to think that ‘small’ government has meaning as a term. Instead people generally want one thing or the other--a large military budget or a strong entitlement system for the disadvantaged. When the argument of small government is thrown around, it is a rare occasion that a politician truly means shrinking the government. In fact, in the modern context it has come to mean something more akin to “I’m going to get rid of the programs I don’t like, but won’t name them explicitly because some of my voters like them.”

Small government is a lie to a constituency. It is a fall-back “tough on spending” take on a complex issue and it doesn’t have any inherent meaning.

Similarly the assertion that government is ‘ballooning’ into a behemoth that is out of control also holds little water. The US government has expanded its authority, but this is a trend that has happened since Washington. Of course government gets larger as the world gets more complex. But is it out of control? Are there people not doing their jobs? Are there parts of the government that could be eliminated because they are wasteful?

Probably. But it’s not as easy as a slash and burn policy. Looking at how government agencies are coming up short and unable to fulfill their mandates it becomes hard to say that any single program is paying for golden toilet seats. It is far more realistic to say that some government agencies are inadequately responding to the needs of the people and therefore feel wasteful because their function is unclear. But that’s a nuanced mouthful that confuses the masses. And what a tragedy if people had to become informed about their decisions.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheap Champagne 3/3

Someone replied, “well pick someone, there are three guys here. You can pick whoever you wish.” It was a conniving move. I felt all sorts of things. I wanted her to pick me but only because I wasn’t self-confident in my appearance and wanted to know that I was good enough for an ugly drunk girl. I wanted her to pick someone else because she was an ugly drunk girl who was going to try to do things with me I wasn’t sure about. And I felt objectified; a lap to sit on.

Uncomfortable anticipation spread across the hot tub as she made her way to me. I was polite and let her sit on my lap and I uncomfortably tried to make the most of the situation. But what was that? A strange setting, an ugly drunk girl barely past childhood, and everyone around a hot tub pushing their expectations on me.

I wanted to go home. I sat there though. It was all I did. I didn’t mope or express myself. I didn’t anything. All I wanted was acceptance and safety in that moment. Instead I was given a girl too drunk to sit on her own in a hot tub and the hormonal coherency of a teenager.

At some point I ended up alone with her in a room and she started trying to undress in front of me. My cousins both tried to egg me on with meaningful stares and excused themselves from the room.

And it just felt wrong to take advantage of her. Aside from my own personal feelings about the wrecked nature of her face, there was the issue of her drunkenness. Lots of things have changed about my opinions on drugs and sex in the intervening years between being an unkissed virgin to someone who has survived a liberal arts education.

Back then everything about the body and mind was sacred. Its desecration through the alcohol was one thing. The sacrifice of the body while the mind was partially checked out was another.

As she started to undress I turned and walked out of the room to try to get an adult. But it was only teenagers.

“Dude she totally wants to make out with you,” one of my cousins said.

“I...” I shook my head. That was all I could really muster. I didn’t want to hurt her, but clearly that was all I could do.

Cheap Champagne 2/3

But she said one thing that still sticks with me, “don’t hurt her.” I’m sure everyone hears that at some point in their lives, and few are able to follow it precisely. Me included.

The words had validity though. The words had a meaning that I couldn’t grasp beyond their magnitude. My actions affect people. My actions can change the course of another’s life. And it scared me I think.

“Don’t hurt her,” Annie said as I picked at the grass, “she’s my cousin and she’s important to me. Don’t hurt her.”

“I won’t,” I said, “she’s my friend, I won’t.” I don’t think I knew what I was saying. Or the enormous promise I was taking on. Life was changing at the pace of puberty. Life moves too quickly to ever really grab hold of it; especially during that kind of turmoil.

At some point I turned into a teenager and went out with my two cousins to some girl’s house. We were in the hot tub. Her parent’s were or weren’t in town--but were absent or absentee parents. I can’t remember their names. None of it mattered, but at the same time it all did. Three girls. Three boys. And we all got in the hot tub and drank a cheap bottle of champagne.

One girl was very unattractive and very drunk. I was the cousin from out of town. Evan was evidently trying to hook up with the girl whose house it was. And Rader was as he always was. Cruising there; half-in and half-out; a person spread across space.

I can’t remember the third girl. Maybe there was no third girl.

I took a sip of the champagne; it was a sickly sweet mixture of bad alcohol from unripe fruits not properly aged and the darkness that looms in the corners of every teenaged memory.

I felt bad for the drunk girl. She was complaining about something; about being horny or something. And it felt like she was taken advantage of.

“I want to sit on somebody’s lap,” she said.

Cheap Champagne 1/3

I was fifteen. We were all fifteen.

Or sixteen.

It was the summer. Or it was the winter. I was a teenager and I was self-aware and utterly unaware. And this intro is more or less Dickensian in nature.

It was rainy. But in the northwest it is always rainy. The seasons make the subtle shifts between misty and rainy in the summer to rainy and nearly snowing in the winter. All weather in the northwest lies on that gradient.

The roads always shine like a Hopper painting. The windshields and streetlights glitter like so many moments of pensive cinema.

My cousin Evan had decided to take me to hang out with friends. My other cousin Rader was there too. By that time we were already diverging from our childhoods. Evan had taken to building muscle, Rader had taken to wearing his hair long and drifting into the art world, and I had taken to a strange geekiness. I played on the soccer team and debated, but never let down the facade that I knew more than anyone else around me.

We are all still the same in a lot of ways. But we have eased into the comfort of being who we are now. The facade is still there; a projected image of ourselves, but not the ghostly out-of-focus flicker that characterized our teenage years. We call the assertion of our ego selves confidence--ha! As we exited the pure angst of middle school and settled into the exaggerated drama of high school, we found ourselves in strange new worlds.

Perhaps most of all me. I’ve never been good with girls.

Annie pulled me aside; all I wanted was to avoid exactly what I knew. It was spring fling at Ralston Middle School. And the burst of hormones that is seventh, or eighth, grade had set in. The day was bright and sunny. The grass was green; that neon perfection that Ireland is supposed to be all the time. And I was full of energy. I played around on the giant inflatable toys that they had brought to the school. I ate candy and burgers and had a wonderful time.

But not completely. The girls. Always with the girls. Annie was the cute redhead that I had known since Shakespeare camp (I really was a geek I guess) and her cousin had become a rapid friend of mine as well. Her name was Gina. I had become rapid friends with her following my summer trip to Australia. She had brown hair and a quirky demeanor that made me laugh.

I suppose I should have seen her crush on me coming. And of course I did. And didn’t. I refused to see anything that was directly laid bare before me. So Annie had to do it for me. I knew it was coming, but continued to play the denial game with myself. I ran around all day and enjoyed myself until Annie finally found me--literally after chasing me down on the field--and told me. Somehow it is earth-shattering to hear what you know.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tetris 3/3

a short story cont'd and finished:

I was explaining how I would love to slam the cat’s tail in the door and put a hidden camera in my girlfriend’s office when Medusa36's chat came through. I imagined Medusa36 taking a look up from her screen of carefully stacked blocks and noticing the news that everything was on fire.
A nameless anchorman with the stoic face of someone who only dealt in facts. Tragedy had no meaning other than how it helped ratings. He would hold back a snicker as the sides of his mouth suppressed giggles. He would get a pulitzer, he would get a daytime Emmy, he would get the high class groupies usually reserved for the likes of the latest greatest rock band.

And Medusa36 shed a single tear, took a long drag from her cigarette--now barely more than a butt--and typed in the words that would forever characterize the tragedy unfolding before my eyes.

And that’s what I was doing when it happened. But that story doesn’t have the pizazz or gravitas that people expect. I shouldn’t have been taking a dump. I shouldn’t have been desecrating the moment with my own personal spite. Instead I should have been doing something regular. I should have been doing something symbolic.

So that’s what I do when a fun conversation drifts to ‘that moment’. I get real sad and talk about how that was the death of innocence. I talk about how I had just discovered the cat dead from eating rat poison behind the fridge, and how in the midst of my mourning I got the distraught call from my true love about the disaster in all of its earth-shaking magnitude.

Then I pause quietly for a moment, careful to avoid eye-contact with anyone at the table. I lift my glass to my lips methodically. And I take a sip that says, “I’m in pain.” When I set the glass down against the table I look around and change the subject, “does anyone play tetris?”

Tetris Tragedy 2/3

A short story cont'd:

My friends were sick people. They were the kind of people who seemed to keep me around because they had no moral compasses of their own. They were the jerks that put roofies in people’s drinks. To my knowledge they never actually brought anyone home. They dropped ketamine or ghb or whatever screwed up club drug they could think of into the punch because they thought it made the night more fun. No one takes off their top and does keg stands after one beer. And that was their fun. A good night was the one they couldn’t remember; a bad one was where they spent the next day hungover and embarrassed at their pathetic lives.

And I lived with them. The place was a dump. There was absolutely no reason to clean the place. New dirt replaced old dirt. The shower drain was clogged with what I hoped was human hair and just snot.

And my girlfriend. She was a masochist. Not in the fun way where someone gets sexual release. She was a pent-up prude who had taken all of her frustrations out on her job as a lawyer. I was pretty sure she was sleeping with her boss in order to get ahead; good for her though. It meant that soon I wouldn’t have to pay rent and I would be married to a partner because she was too scared of taking risks to dump me. And I could live with a loveless relationship. Ten years down the line I’d have a Porsche and a big backyard.

Medusa36 took this all in. She fed off my self-loathing and disgust at my life. She always pursued my wildest fantasies. I lived a gluttonous materialistic existence. And she wanted to hear more about what I was. She didn’t just listen. She fueled my rage.

I imagined her taking long drags off her cigarette and typing in the words that got me fired up. “Put LSD in your room mate’s contact solution.” “Leave post-it notes from the boss in her bags.” “Crush aspirin into the cat food.”

I never followed through. I was a sissy. But her words were like honey on a sore throat. Their mere existence was enough. I was never suicidal but it made me feel good that she would love it if I jumped off a high-rise.

And that’s what I was doing when I got the news. I was putting blocks together at a furious pace, chatting about the cat that was scratching at the door. I was taking particular pleasure in leaving a messy diarrhetic bowel movement in my girlfriend’s toilet at the time. It was a post-Indian food trip to the bathroom that had all the hallmarks of something particularly unpleasant to smell and clean. And it was all her job because I never did it right in the first place.

Tetris Tragedy 1/3

A short story:

I’ll always remember where I was. The problem with tragedy is that it often comes at the most inopportune times.

It’s funny how the details of that moment are so clear. The tiles on the bathroom floor. The dust bunny with a cheez-it and a bottle cap hidden right under the sink cabinet. There was a roll of toilet paper half-used and partially re-rolled because the cat had decided it was a great little toy. I hated that little tabby cat--it never found the litter box and coughed up hairballs in the most visible location possible.

I, like all people of my generation, had brought my phone to the bathroom. I was having some anonymous cyber-tetris with another person I had been randomly paired with months ago. I used to play tetris alone a lot. Then I found out that there was a way to play it competitively. At first I played it with my girlfriend, but our work schedules were different and she just didn’t seem to have the time to satisfy my tetris needs.

So I started pairing with random people. I was pretty good with the game so I was picky with my partners. There was no thrill in the vanilla player. The person who would casually sit down and play without chatting. They were in it to play a little tetris, get the adrenaline rush of competition, and leave when their time was up.

I had made my way to the top ranks. I played and chatted. Between rounds I would try to strike up conversations with people. Too often people were one and dones; in and out after a round. I found a couple of people that would stick around for a few rounds and I hoarded them. They were jars to keep secrets in.

Between rounds I would chat with depth. I used it as therapy. There was something about revealing my darkest secrets to a random stranger in between intense competitions to win at a meaningless block stacking game. There was an existential release that only comes from wasting time in the purest sense of the phrase and revealing something so deeply meaningful--nay defining--to me and utterly without value to someone else.

And there was one that I had given the worst of myself to. Medusa36 was better than a diary. I had deduced that Medusa36 was some sort of nihilist feminist woman. I imagined her with a streak of unnatural color in her hair smoking a cigarrette in a dark room with only one chair and a window that cast the striped light of the blinds on a dusty floor. She sat around in a black tank top and hot pink underwear feeding off my pent-up rage.

It could have always been a lie though. She could have been some fat-ass gamer, the stereotype that we always have of the people that chat online. Or maybe it was a Wall Street broker, some high powered business man that got a cheap thrill from actually losing at something.

Because Medusa36 never won. But it was always a good fight. And she (because it’s my fantasy and the other possibilities are sad) was where I deposited my frustrations. I told her about how I dreamed of kicking the cat, or dangling it by its tail from a rooftop. I told her about how much I hated my friends.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

I woke up today and made Ciera a french toast breakfast. We have lounged around since then.

I am behind in my blogs...again.

Dream big and be happily disappointed when you don’t make it.

I want to learn to write songs and sing.

I have too much stuff. Amber and Eleanor came over for dinner and I made pasta and marinara with my flair. I also made artichoke. That didn’t come out so hot. I love artichoke but it is a hassle to cook. I have to figure that out.

I listen to indie music. I was into the Black Keys before they were big. Do I have hipster cred now?

We need a bed skirt. Probably a new mattress too. Probably something to fix the creaky bedframe as well. I just tried. It didn’t work.

Last night we saw Pina 3D. Pure. Phenomenal. Speechless. The best film I’ve seen in ages. It gave me hope for the use of 3D as more than just a gimmick. It eclipsed live theater and traditional cinema in a way I had never thought possible.

It was pretty freakin’ cool. I’m going to Wuppertal. Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost. The movie was a masterpiece.

I would not be surprised if we looked back on this movie and said that it ushered in a new era of 3D. It didn’have objects stabbing you in the face as most traditional 3D does. Instead it played with the subtlety that is the real world. Intimacy of closeness, audible gasps came from the audience in the first scene when a sheer screen passes across the stage; a willowy ghost that grazes you. Vastness of space, a man dances on the top of a ridge that looks out on the German countryside; a sigh of relief and beauty at something so far away.

Seeing the settings in 3D was different from most movie-going experiences. I wanted to go to the majestic settings but somehow I felt like I was there. And isn’t that what 3D is supposed to be? A real fusion between the screen and reality.

And as for the dance part. Pure. Go see it. That is all I can say.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Conservatism's Keeper

It’s gotten to the point where the ridiculous is real and real is ridiculous. Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC not only made fun of a system that lives in a utopian fantasy world it used the system as a tool to facilitate his parody. Yeah, my mind was blown too.

If you ever read Citizens United you’d see that it exists in a mythical vacuum world where people are all honest and don’t collaborate ever. Yeah right. And for that matter, most of our campaign finance laws are built on that concept. They are outmoded and full of loopholes.

Oh, and Rachel Maddow just skewered the ranks of our illustrious GOP representatives by showing their opinions side by side. It’s a well known fact that politicians change their opinions. But it is scary to think that their opinions are so mercurial. I seriously wonder where the moral compass lies on these individuals when their only motivation seems to be to stay in power. And that doesn’t just apply to the GOP.

I have to hope that there is room for real discussion. It disturbs me that contrarianism has run rampant in the ranks of our representatives.

George Will, renowned conservative intellectual, just tore apart the GOP ranks for just that charge. He astutely observed that there is a vein of ‘not Obama’ which somehow equates to conservatism. The GOP leadership, basing itself off this misinformed perception of ‘real American values’, has started making big issues out of what were previously uncontroversial issues.

Example: the contraception requirement for all insurers. Proof: watch the liberal lesbian Rachel dissect the issue. Of course she adds in her hippie liberal commentary--what a pixie-cut anarchist--but the facts are pretty irrefutable. 28 states already had the requirement before Obama enacted it. 5 of those states did not have a religious exemption. Obama’s policy would have actually deregulated laws in 5 states. His newly announced policy is even more of a step back.

And fundamentally, women who want contraception should be able to have access to it. That, for now, enjoys widespread bipartisan support without religious lines. So the question remains, who and how should it be paid for?

And therein lies the reason behind the policy. It wasn’t so that Obama could take a meaty thumb and crush religion in America. Frankly that’s a stupid argument. It decontextualizes the entire meaning behind the policy which is to guarantee consistent and adequate coverage to all American citizens in their healthcare policies regardless of occupation.

It’s distilling meaning into sound-bites. And they play well. But then they bite. Without some foresight into how that battle will affect subsequent ones I fear the GOP is making itself look increasingly irrelevant in a modern and rapidly changing world. Conservatism isn’t dead, the GOP just doesn’t have a monopoly on it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The News

Gay rights. Today the 9th Circuit court of Appeals ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. The opinion was written very narrowly and it is highly unlikely pro-Prop 8ers will succeed in their final two avenues.

But it is hardly likely to be a watershed Roe v. Wade moment. The opinion was so narrowly written as to probably not even have a national scope. It will likely force all gay marriages in California to be validated and allowed. But it may never go beyond that.

Justice Kennedy is the clincher.

And Washington will probably have gay marriage too by the end of the year. This is important stuff. It’s also inevitable stuff. It’s going to be a tough war, but Waterloo has come and gone and the anti-gay forces are in retreat.

It’s tough to say that giving someone rights infringes upon yours somehow. Get over it.

Anyways, Iran is still being bellicose and Israel seems intent to match or exceed the threats. The EU is collapsing slowly because of bad fiscal or monetary or both policy. They’re being ridiculous to think that constricting the flow of money and goods is going to somehow magically restore the economy. If the government ledgers were all at zero, how would that affect unemployment or well-being for the citizens? It wouldn’t. Everyone would be happy and rejoice that the budget was balanced but the bull about it is that no one would really be better off. Think about it.

Lots of death in Syria. Still. Don’t know how that’s going to pan out.

Mitt just got whupped up on by Rick in MN and MO, probably CO too. The GOP continues to fall apart. Stay tuned for weak Republican turnout at the general. I’m yawning with anticipation. Or boredom.

I finally got a couple rolls developed today from this summer. They were wonderful; some of them. And they were better than all the crap in the news.

Mama was in a couple pictures. Beautiful and wonderful. I miss her. I live a great life these days but I don’t get to see her. The news is crap.

If war stopped completely tomorrow, there would be another reason to fight two days from now. It would be petty and it would kill millions. And someone would say it was worth it. People are jerks.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sim-Date 3/3

cont'd with a bit of my actual life at the bottom.

“What? How is that a lie?”

“You didn’t write that you don’t have an enormous mole on your neck in your profile, therefore you lied by omission,” she scribbled a note and authoritatively scratched it out.

“But I couldn’t write down all the things I don’t have. That would be absurd. I don’t have a yacht; I don’t have an airplane.”

“You’re right, you don’t have those. At least you fess up to your lies,” her pen was furiously scratching away at things on my profile. She tore through a page, crumpled it up and tossed it aside. It hit a chubby little boy who was shoving a straw up his nose. The boy shot chocolate milk out of his nose all over his plate.

Rebecca wasn’t paying attention. She was mumbling, tallying up my lies at a nearly incalculable rate.

Pages were scratched out and crumpled. Soon my profile was everywhere, tatters. I had been reduced to torn bits of lies. She tore up the last piece in frustration just as the waiter came by with the wine. For a tense moment he poured a bit of red wine into my glass. I tasted it and gave him the ok.

The waiter poured us two full glasses and left the bottle.

“How can you tell if a whole bottle is good just by a sip from the top?”

“I know it’s not bad, so I feel it’s worth it to try the whole thing.”

“Ha. You’re a liar,” she paused as she sipped her wine and put her pen in her purse, “so, tell me about yourself.”

End----

And now a little bit about me because I haven’t written enough and need to catch everyone up a bit.

Saturday was a beautiful day. I walked around the city and took pictures. I couldn’t help it. four hours later I was exhausted and happily satisfied with the beauty of the city. A sunny day in Seattle is like paradise (or para-para-paradise as Coldplay would say).

Ciera came home and we watched the sunset. We had a quiet night.

Then we got our butts in gear for Super Bowl Sunday. Ciera had her last day of work in the Village Theater Box Office (she is moving on now as a full-time PA on their productions). To kill time I went hiking at Chirico just south of Issaquah. It is a steep hike but a beautiful view well worth it. My legs were shaking by the time I made it to the bottom.

Then we watched the Super Bowl and played with a kitten and then watched the Odd Couple. It was great.

It’s been nice these last few days.

Sim-Date 2/3

She pulled some folded papers out of her purse. As she unfolded them she glanced at me. “Ok mister. Let’s see how honest you really are.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, hardly sure where this was going.

“I thought you said you were a good listener,” she shuffled through the papers, “yep, you did. Lie number one.”

I was dumbfounded, my heart started thumping in my chest. My eyes twitched as I looked for the door. She was quizzing me on what I had said in my profile. There wasn’t anything that was a blatant lie, but there were plenty of subtleties. “I’m sorry...” I said slowly.

“You said you were confident. You don’t look so confident right now. Two lies!” I saw the family sitting behind her jump. “Do you really own a sensibly priced mid-size Japanese sedan?”

“I lease it, yes.”

She looked skeptically at me and decided that it was truthful enough for her, “hmmm...ok, do you really,” she paused and leaned around the table to get a better view of me, “do you really weigh 176?”

“I gained a couple of pounds since I got promoted last--”

“Three,” she pulled out a retractable pen and clicked it open. She then furiously scribbled through the part of the paper that evidently had my weight.

“Did you print out my entire profile so you can interrogate me?” I tried to remain calm but found myself tightening my already tight tie idly. Perhaps self-asphyxiation would be less painful.

“I do a lot of things, but this is about whether you do one--tell the truth!” She said it with real force, enough to knock her knife off the table. I breathed a sigh at the extra distance the knife had taken from her erratic movements.

She held up a piece of paper next to my face. It was my profile picture. “You are a lot grainier in your photo. What are you hiding in your photo? Is it the big mole on your neck?”

“I don’t have a big mole on my neck,” I said defensively, “do I?”

She examined my neck carefully, looked at her papers, “no, I guess you don’t. Another lie!”

Sim-Date 1/3

Short story:

I was nervous. It was my first date in forever and my first online date ever. I fiddled with my tie and self-consciously ran my hand through my curly hair.

I was sitting at the bar nursing a cheap beer hoping that the fourteen push-ups I had done before getting in the car would offset the softness that had set in since getting my new job. The higher pay had come with higher stress and a five solid pounds of fat. Not much extra mind you, but definitely an extra belt notch.

I was meeting a beautiful girl that I had met online. She had short blonde hair and seemed rambunctious. The online dating world was kind of liberating. The initial hellos were as awkward as any introduction, but the knowledge that no one was looking to be ‘just friends’ made me feel comfortable to flirt.

I had a few exchanges with weirdos, widows, clingers, cougars, and men posing as women. Most of them turned out to be married. I had been talking to her for about a month and she seemed genuinely interested in a date.

And we were to meet here at 7:30. She texted me and said she’d be late, fashionably so. I wandered to the bar fiddled with my appearance and described how I got here in my head. And here I am.

And then, there she was. She had on a jewel blue dress. It came down in a sensible yet sexy v. The dress hugged her curves naturally but wasn’t saran-wrap against her body. She wasn’t a model, she was real. Her hips were a little disproportionate to her body, her torso was long, and her breasts were average. Her arms weren’t sticks dangling at her side; in fact, her shoulders were slightly broad from all the rock-climbing she did in her spare time.

She was, in short, a real person. She dug through her purse and pulled out her phone. She checked it and looked around quickly.

“Rebecca,” I called as I walked toward her. She saw me smiled and we greeted each other with a slightly awkward hug. We sat down and ordered our food.

The waiter gave a knowing, “I see you web-lovers coming in here on a first-date all the time” nod to us as he took our menus. We smiled quietly at each other for a moment--it was uncomfortable.

Unholy Healthcare

Satanists, in response to Obama’s hugely unethical recent ruling that forces any institution that provides health insurance to provide full coverage as dictated by federal law, hereby issue a formal complaint.

While there are few instances where worshipers of Lucifer (Satanists) find reason to side with Catholics, on this recent ruling the Unholy Church of the Fallen Angel finds no qualms allying with the Catholic church. As a hallowed institution that is governed by the constitution of these United States, we find it utterly despicable that we would be forced to contract our first amendment rights to conform to these unfettered expansions on executive power.

Satanists have long endured persecution and foreshortening of their rights as a religious institution. We were banned from performing our rituals in crowded theaters due to their excessive use of fire. After many subsequent stampedes when the fire danger was not real, we were forced to perform far more mundane ceremonies at interior public events and drastically increase our animal sacrifice costs to make up the difference. It was a heavy financial burden for the Church, but as we could not justify the large numbers of holy and unholy trampling deaths, we ceded our argument to Satan’s court--the Supreme Court.

When the Pope called the new law to our attention, we were shocked. The Pope only calls on Christmas and Easter to rub it in. All the same, after hissing several dark psalms into the phone, we found ourselves outraged that the government would try to regulate the services that were required to be considered a healthcare provider. The Catholics take issue with having to provide all forms of contraception--including plan b--to anyone on their plans. Their belief that an unfertilized egg and a menstruating woman is the cessation of life being a radically unscientific notion of conception notwithstanding--we found ourselves compelled to stand-up and fight this law.

While many hardline GOPers have called this the work of the Devil, we, the Devil’s earthly representatives, assure you that it was not his work.

As a Church and a healthcare provider to our many valued employees on Wall St and used car dealerships everywhere we find it important that our healthcare plan conform to our belief structure. Our wide variety of enterprises extends far beyond the ritualistic orgies of animal feces that have been the signature of our religion since this country’s inception. We invented Charmin--the devilishly soft and sturdy toilet paper. We are significant shareholders of Ford Motor Corp. We employ thousands at the many Ace Hardware’s around the nation. And of course, we are heavily invested in the board game industry with classic family favorites as our flagship products: Ouija, Magic Cards, and Candyland. As the employer of hundreds of thousands of secular and religious people from diverse backgrounds we are everywhere. As an act of defiance to this unconstitutional infringement on our American Liberties we hereby refuse to provide healthcare coverage as Obama has mandated and will now only provide Satan approved services.

The Church’s new policy will include some major changes. The most notable are below.

Abortions, or at least sacrifice of first born children before their tenth birthday, are now mandatory as per Beezlebub 1:17.

Only Satanic forms of contraception will now be covered: coitus interruptus, thinking of baseball, extreme sexual disappointment followed by a period of sobbing followed by lamentations, lambskin condoms, the patch (but not the pill), and plan b. Gomorrah 3:23.

Draining of the humors to cure the flu. Ex-exodus 8:9.

The consumption of Ezekiel bread for 90 days as a show of faith and as a cure to syphilis and incest. Ezekiel 14:12-22.

Gay couples will be allowed all medical rights of a married couple regardless of legal standing in state law. Deus 10:32

Some may try to challenge us in the American court system, but we have confidence that our legal reasoning is sound. Besides, all the good lawyers are avid members of our faith anyways.

Sincerely,
The Satanists

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Slow Days

I’ve been AWOL. Sorry. Life has been moving slowly. When life moves slow and there’s little to say, I find little reason to write even just a little. I come home and want to sleep. I put off writing until another time. And everything gets left behind.

Not writing for a couple days stacks up fast. The things we meant to do and the things that we always intended to do suddenly appear as a list of should have beens. Playing catch-up is important. Stopping and self-evaluating is important to determine one’s trajectory.

For the last few days I have been rudderless. I believe that is good too. I don’t always have to be singularly focused on something in my life. I don’t always have to be making grand plans. But when I do it is good. Some people wander into greatness and power--or even just the life they want to live. I don’t believe I will have that honor. For me to get what I want out of life I will have some opportunities, but no road map; no one will do the work for me.

But my young, attractive, semi-white, college-educated maleness should help too. And I’m going to ride that train to the end of the line.

I think I sort of lost track of what I was saying. What I was saying is that I haven’t been writing because life hasn’t been exciting. But life has been good. And that’s worth something too.

I walk to work in the morning. I watch the sun rise. I eat a hearty and delicious lunch. I work at my job. I walk home. I cook dinner. I pick up Ciera. We hang out and have slow quiet nights in our apartment. It’s a life of comfortable and happy monotony. The days are getting longer and I can’t think of anything better to do than be around here. The sunsets are incredible. So much so that people on the street regularly stop to watch it.

It is a pleasure to be in a beautiful urban environment. The cascades, Mt Rainier, and the Olympics shelter the bustling metropolis. And I don’t write much because it’s easier to take it in and never give it back.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Alfredo Gnocchi and Zucch Salad

So I made an awesome dinner. One of those dinners where you sit back and bask in a barrage of compliments. It was one of those ‘perfect’ meals. Everything was luxurious as Ciera characterized it.

Anyways here’re the recipes and if anyone gets laid because of it make sure to give me credit. Nothing like hearing “Nick’s pecan nuts and zucchini got me action.”

I made two things and the glorious bit is that you can get most of the ingredients nearly made for you already--there were two ‘scarce’ items in the dish--citrus vinegar and pecans. I bought my pecans in the shell and cracked them myself. A word of caution: it’s significantly cheaper to do it this way but significantly harder; akin to building your furniture from Ikea versus an antique store. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Citrus vinegar is at most food places and costs a bit more than regular vinegar. You won’t regret it. Ciera and I have used it for tons of stuff and it makes marginal dishes awesome without any real added effort.

Alfredo Gnocchi

1 Package of gnocchi from Trader Joe’s (I get the whole wheat gnocchi for like $2.50)
1 Can of Alfredo (from anywhere is fine)

Heat Alfredo on low in a saucepan. In a pot, boil water. When the water is boiling, put the package of gnocchi in the water. When the gnocchi floats (about 3-5 minutes), dump out gnocchi in a colander. This part is done. Usually this happens really fast so make sure your other stuff is done first.

Hot Zucchini Salad

1 dash of citrus vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup chopped pecans
1-2 small zucchinis chopped into thick crescents
1-2 handfuls of spring mix
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat up a pan on med-high with some olive oil in it. Toss in the pecans. Put in pepper and vinegar. When the pecans start smelling really good, put them on a plate. Heat up the pan on med-high with some olive oil. Add the zucchini crescents. Add salt and pepper. Turn zucchinis. Add spring mix. Add another dash of vinegar. Add back the pecans. When the spring mix starts to wilt pull off the stove and serve.

Serve with a light to medium bodied red-wine (Tempranillo, Merlot, something cheap yet tasteful). Enjoy dinner.

Gnocchi and Zucchini Salad


I made this last night. It rocked.