Thursday, December 30, 2010

I bow to his brilliance

OK, so Christmas (and, for that matter, the annual return of the "War on Christmas") is over, and I'm recovering from a stomach flu that I'm going to blame on my dumbass Marine son, returned for the holidays from his mind-meltingly difficult tour in fucking Hawaii (and remind me to tell you sometime how he had the unmitigated balls to complain that his first post in the service of our country was to a tropical paradise). And sometime in the next few days, I have hopes of coughing up a relatively relevant post, as opposed to the mindless drivel I've been spitting out of late.

At this point, it may involve Wikileaks, but I make no promises.

On that subject, though, let me point you to the great Doghouse Riley, author of Bats Left, Throws Right, who I discovered only this year. A man with a love of the English language, who possesses a way with words that would bring tears to the eye of the sainted Robert Burns hisself (if our Rabbie had been into politics, as opposed to developing the Eighteenth Century version of the Holy Trinity of Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll).

I love the way the man crafts a sentence. For example, some two weeks ago or so, Mr Riley, in tearing apart a NY Times op-ed, wrote a post entitled You're Not Helping. Not That We Aren't Beyond Help Anyway, wherein he formulated possibly the perfect opening paragraphs. (The remainder of the post was more than worth reading, but I'm just highlighting the initial 200 words or so.)
I've spent a lot of time lately wondering whether the Second Coming of Richard Nixon will answer the age old question If History's A Farce The First Time 'Round, How Does It Get Repeated? or, maybe, How Many Idiots Can Tapdance On The Edge Of An Apocalypse? I don't believe in Apocalypse, for reasons having less to do with a rejection of Semitic fairy-tales, and more to do with the question of what level of collateral damage would be required to make the elimination of the species something other than a net positive, but I think if one does then one should probably admit that if God is perfection, then Her comic timing has got to require milking this gag for a while yet.

And let's have this much clear: I do think the Republican party is a big part of this. I do think that the Nixonian Impulse, which I would describe as the hyperreality created at the intersection of the abject and squalid profit-taking which has hidden behind American Exceptionalism for decades and an infantile sexuality that would have put Krafft-Ebing off his lunch, is the very juice and marrow of the modern Republican party. And I think that, having in yet another election managed to milk a bull and produce ice cream, it will be drawn once again to demonstrate its essential nature the way a flasher inhabits a playground.
Don't be embarrassed if it takes you twice through to soak all that in. It's worth it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Clothes make the man.

So, in the course of our office's annual Solstice/Kwanzaa/Festivus/Christmas/Zappadan festivities, I was part of something that I'd never been involved in (or, to be honest, even considered) prior to this.

21 years in the military, couple of years working security for the DOE - I always had a uniform. So nobody ever suggested that we have an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest.

Of course, that same excuse meant that, on top of not having a clue about this type of competition, there was one other thing I didn't have - an Ugly Christmas Sweater.

However, I had a secret weapon that nobody else in my office had access to: the Trophy Wife.

Have I mentioned that the Wife is crafty? As in, she knits, she sews, she does needlepoint, tatting, macramé, net-making, braiding steel cable - basically, if it can be translated to "playing with string," she does it. (She's also inordinately fond of cats - personally, I see a connection there.)

And suddenly, less than a week after telling her of this contest, I found myself in possession of a sweater. An awesome sweater (if, when saying "awesome," you quietly swallow the "-ly gawdawful" when speaking to the Trophy Wife).

Yes, the front has five individual, hand-crafted penguins on snowdrifts, two hand-crafted snowmen, and about eighteen hundred tiny, sparkling snowflakes. When the light hit me just right, I looked like the Christmas float at a Gay Pride parade. (Of course, I say that in a good way.) You couldn't photograph this sweater with a flash.

The truly awe-inspiring touches were on the back, though.

Yes, those seven snowflakes are hand-crocheted. And the scarf on the snowman? It's knitted.

None of them stood a chance. Although Susan, in the red, gave it the old college try, with her gold poinsettias hot-glued to her chest, and the sparkly trim at the neck and butt.

(There on the right, incidentally? That's Andie, who discovered that thrift shops in Albuquerque have an amazingly limited selection of Ugly Christmas Sweaters. But she found the Winter Shawl. Somehow, it made her want to go play bingo.)

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the awesome power of the Trophy Wife. Who I love with all my heart. Despite this (admittedly award-winning) sweater.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Underserved Christmas stuff

There's a lot of songs and stories around this time of year. And you always get to see the good stuff. Unfortunately, you see it over, and over and over. Until you can't stand it any more. Conveniently, there's also a lot of stuff out there that you really don't see enough.

Weird Al, for example, did his tribute to Christmas and nuclear war.

In the 1958 pilot to the series 77 Sunset Strip, they introduced a hep-cat character named Kookie, who turned out to be a serial killer. But he was so popular that they decided to ignore that completely. Efram Zimbalist, Jr., did a bumper for the second episode where he looked into the camera and informed the audience "We previewed this show, and because Edd Byrnes was such a hit we decided that Kookie and his comb had to be in our series. So this week, we'll just forget that in the pilot he went off to prison to be executed."

(His predilection for standing around combing his hair actually led to Connie Stevens and him making the most annoying hit song ever, "Kookie, Kookie, Give Me Your Comb." Look it up for yourself if you just have to hear it.)

But he did take Clement Moore's classic The Night Before Christmas, and left us one of the more awesome retellings, Yulesville.

(Oh, and a big tip of the Santa hat to Gilligan at Retrospace for finding that one.)

There really isn't much you can add to the following video. So I'll just give the six word summary: Neil Gaiman did a Christmas poem.

Seattle DJ Bob Rivers likes to do Christmas songs. Like this one.

Now, the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" isn't by any means underserved, or unseen, or even possible to get away from. When the universe finally suffers from it's inevitable heat-death and spirals away to nothingness, the last thing that will be heard might well be this song dopplering away. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best version (and I picked through a bunch to finally go back to this one, including the Miss Piggy version).

Please note, however, the oft ignored date rape lyric.

Yes, if you listen carefully, he slips a roofie into her drink.

Or at least that's what you'll think whenever you hear this song from now on. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Bible before Solstice

Happy Solstice (if that's what you're into). The goddess Uzza gives us this reminder of all that's come before.
Twas around winter solstice, alone in the house
I was reading the Bible, as quiet as a mouse.
The stories were thrown in the book without care;
contradictions abounded, mistakes everywhere.

I could not understand, or believe what it said,
its tall tales of people come back from the dead;
original sin, which was such a bum rap,
blood sacrifice, curses, and other such crap.

When deep down inside I knew something's the matter
I sprang to the web to make sense of such chatter.
Away to the Google I flew like a flash,
to try and make out heads or tails of this trash.

The search engine gave me back millions of hits;
molesters, and con men, and other such shits.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but hundreds of gods from the earliest year.

With a little old edit, the story of Horus
I knew in a moment it must be the sou-rce.
More numerous than seagulls, gods and goddesses came,
and I whistled, and marveled, and called out their name;

Osiris! Adonis! Dionysus! Mithra!
There's Attis and Ishtar! And Baldr and Krishna!
To the land of the dead! Down to hell they all went,
to the underworld, after their lives were all spent.

Like fertility symbols these gods they all die,
and then get resurrected, back up in the sky.
So back up to heaven these deities flew,
to start new religions, and Jesus did too.

Right there in the gospels, just like you would guess,
a brand new Messiah turned up in this mess.
As I willingly tried to suspend disbelief
from the pages this Jesus guy came like a thief.

He was beat all to shit, from his head to his foot,
and put onto a cross just like Horus was put;
His birth in a manger, and marked by a star,
that's a detail he stole from the Goddess Ishtar.

His magic trick changing his water to wine,
was a ripoff of Bacchus who used to brew 'shine.
He claims to have brought people back from the dead,
that's just like the other gods—what they all said.

And in some of his stories he acts like a cad:
“Hate your mother and father! Don't bury your dad!”
Sends his guys to steal donkeys, and kills farmer's pigs,
and cusses a tree out for not giving figs.

He's a crazy old preacher, who just seems kind of silly
though I had to admit that his book was a dilly,
that tried hard to steal those old stories by stealth,
and I laughed when I read it, in spite of myself.

A shift of my eyes and a twist of my head,
to the headlines, told me I had nothing to dread:
all the Pope's rules have been shown not to work,
evangelicals picket, and act like a jerk;

They cry “war on Christmas” and make silly fusses,
when we put up billboards, or signs on our buses.
But to all the fanatics I give this epistle,
away from your church people fly like a missile,

And I have to exclaim, on this solsticey night,
that millions of us, without gods, are alright.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance." (Reuben Blades)

The modern human fascination with mindless entertainment has served to make stars out of a number of people with no apparent ability or talent. In many cases, it seems like Andy Warhol was hopelessly optimistic when he limited the fame of these non-stars to only fifteen minutes.

For example, why is it that I can go to Google News, and right there on the front page, I can find out that Bristol Palin "has to be happy" about Levi Johnston's new girlfriend? I mean, COME ON!!! This story doesn't answer any burning questions in my life; it only raises other questions!! Questions like "Why does "E! Online" come up on a Google News search? Wouldn't that be more appropriate for a Google Crap search?

I mean, really? Levi has been dating Sunny Oglesby, a day-care instructor, for two months? And Bristol is happy because "it sounds like his new girlfriend is influencing him to want to actually spend time with Tripp"?

And this is news how, exactly? Because a woman named after a British town is cheerful about a pair of jeans getting involved with an adjective for "not cloudy," who makes him want to visit his son Stumble?

Or to put it another way, sometimes you have to ask yourself why the fuck Bristol Palin is still in the news. Or really, why was she ever in the news at all?

(Please note that I fully understand the irony of going on at length, as I'm about to do, about a woman who's getting too much press. That would be part of my charm, if I had any.)

As an example, here's a report from another internet gossip rag calling itself Pop Eater, which asks the question of the ages: Is Bristol Palin a Bigger Star Than Her Mom Now?

Yes, you read that right. And this guy's reasoning is a fascinating exercise in logical fallacies.
"Without any doubt Bristol is now the biggest star in the Palin household," an A-list Hollywood publicist tells me. "At the moment I would argue she's one of the biggest stars out there."
Quick breakdown of that paragraph.

1. Without any doubt - completely unsupported statement.
2. The biggest star in the Palin household - Funny thing. Since only 1 in 4 adults think Sarah Palin, a political figure, is qualified to be president, it's actually difficult to tell how low that bar actually is.
3. an A-list Hollywood publicist tells me - Funny how this guy is anonymous, isn't it?
4. At the moment I would argue - "Don't ask me what I'd say in another five minutes, though."
5. she's one of the biggest stars out there - Undefined term. Are we talking "name recognition"? Sure, she's got some of that. What about "actual accomplishments," though?

But I digress.
Easy, now. It's true that Bristol is finally finding her voice (with the help of a speechwriter, as Billy Bush opined this week on 'Access Hollywood') and this added attention along with her success on 'Dancing' has led to a whole host of offers and opportunities for the young mom. Books, reality shows, product endorsements... you name it, she's been offered it.

One weekly celeb magazine editor tells me Bristol is "the new Kim Kardashian" on the scene.
Kim Kardashian. Ooh, there's something to aspire to.
"She's beautiful and real and not another one of those skinny Hollywood types. Add that she was a teen mom, which is very in right now with the MTV show and all, and you couldn't have written a better or more dramatic personal story. Sarah is yesterday's news. Bristol is today."
So, what makes Bristol so fascinating? She's the daughter of a failed vice-presidential candidate.

In 2004, John Edwards was John Kerry's VP candidate. Prior to his wife dying two weeks ago, had you heard anything about his kids? I just looked it up - there's four of them, ranging in age from 31 to 10. (Wow...)

But there's Bristol, right out there in the public eye. She doesn't have any discernible talent, she doesn't act, she doesn't sing, and, let's be honest, she really doesn't dance.

It's widely known that Bristol should have been bumped from Dancing With the "Stars." After all, the person consistently scoring as the worst dancer is normally voted off of a contest that isn't rigged, right? But the zombie-like followers of her mother gamed the system; they kept her in by cheating. Openly.

Now, admittedly, despite Sarah's insistence that the press needed to leave her family alone, she was the first one to push them into the spotlight. And since Sarah's kind of a media whore herself, her kids are still getting light reflected off of her. But Bristol seems to be pushing herself to the front of the Palin crowd as much as she can. And our media is doing everything it can to help her.

The whole thing gets ridiculous fast. The media, starved for any actual content, has decided to promote every response she makes to anyone, positive or negative, as evidence of a "feud." They've decided that she's feuding with Keith Olbermann because he made fun of her making a commercial for abstinence.

Now, note the caption: "(Not really) World's Worst." Even Olbermann knew this wasn't really a bad thing, but it was somebody being stupid, and he could call them out on it.

Bristol, part of a thin-skinned family, fired off a response on Facebook (the only way the Palins communicate any more), talking about Olbermann's "insincere incredulity," and apologizing for "not being absolutely faultless like he undoubtedly must be."

Then there's her "feud" with Margaret Cho, probably the least feud-like of all. Cho blogged the following:
Why did Bristol do Dancing with the Stars? I heard from someone who really should know (really should seriously know the dirt really really) that the only reason Bristol was on the show was because Sarah Palin forced her to do it. Sarah supposedly blames Bristol harshly and openly (in the circles that I heard it from) for not winning the election, and so she told Bristol she “owed” it to her to do DWTS so that "America would fall in love with her again" and make it possible for Sarah Palin to run in 2012 with America behind her all the way. Instead of being supposedly "handicapped" by the presence of her teen mom daughter, now Bristol is going to be an "asset" – a celebrity beloved for her dancing. I am sure the show wasn’t in on this (but who knows anything really)
But Cho spent the majority of the post asking why people talked about Bristol's weight, and pointing out that she wasn't really fat.

To this, Bristol replied (again, on Facebook) with a long post, where she showed insincere incredulity about Margaret Cho's opinion, and ending with:
To my friend Margaret Cho, if you ever have a question, call me girlfriend. Don't ever rely on "sources" who claim to know me or my family. You will be taken every time. And we need to talk. You say you "don't agree with the family's politics at all" but I say, if you understood that commonsense conservative values supports the right of individuals like you, like all of us, to live our lives with less government interference and more independence, you would embrace us faster than KD Lang at an Indigo Girls concert.
("If you ever have a question, call me girlfriend." Did Bristol just come out? Did Levi put her off men entirely?)

OK, let's contrast two parts of that statement. "if you understood that commonsense conservative values supports the right of individuals like you" - You think the GOP is pro-gay, Bristol? I've never thought you were stupid before. Just naive.

I mean, you obviously know that Cho is gay. Look at the last bit there: "you would embrace us faster than KD Lang at an Indigo Girls concert." - have you ever actually talked to any gay people? Do you think that they go around making out with every other gay person they meet?

OK, maybe "stupid" is unfair. After all, look at the poisonous gene pool she sprang from. When your mother makes a career out of openly dishonest statements, the cognitive dissonance is probably built into your personality.

But that leads us to the one truly mean-spirited one: Kathy Griffin, who is actually less newsworthy than Bristol Palin. Let me start out by saying that I've never thought that Kathy Griffin was particularly funny - she's a shock jock, saying outrageous things in an effort to get publicity. But when Griffin called Bristol fat, that was a little over the top. After all, Kathy, just because Bristol isn't as cadaverously thin as you are, you probably don't need to call her "fat." (Hey, at least Bristol has breasts - why do you even bother wearing a bra?)

(And by the way, wasn't it you who talked about nearly dying due to a botched liposuction a few years ago? Are you seeing the irony here, Kathy?)

However, Griffin does manage to give us the best example I can think of to highlight the dangers of the American mania for meaningless minutia.

It’s actually not the man so outraged by Dancing With the Stars that he shot his television - although that is an excellent example of why the Second Amendment should possibly not be a universal right.

It would be the fact that both Kathy Griffin and Bristol Palin are receiving death threats.

Because of a woman barely out of her teens. Dancing.

Pro-Life, but Anti-Logic

You know, sometimes, your junkmail can provide hours of fun. Or at least brief moments of humor.

For example, I get emails from a group calling themselves "Americans for Life," a particularly humorless bunch of irony-deprived pedants (or at least one pedant – I have no evidence that there’s anybody in this group except for Jonathan Ball, the purported author of all these emails).

Anyway, today’s message from Mr Ball is a fascinating note entitled
The Depravity of Planned Parenthood
Now, think about that statement for just a second. Apparently, family planning is depraved; you should never take control of your own life or responsibility for your breeding habits – God wants you to breed like dogs in heat, dropping a litter of puppies every year.

And to be honest, in the end, that's exactly what they believe. Why do you think that so many fundie families involve eight or ten kids?
Dear Bill,

As Christmas approaches, I find myself full of joy and appreciation of the many blessings God has bestowed upon me and my family.
He always starts off friendly, but it invariably goes downhill quickly.
But an email I received recently has greatly upset me.

An Americans for Life supporter informed me recently of Planned Parenthood’s Christmas campaign, “Choice on Earth.”
Well, it’s a cute marketing campaign. Why does this upset you? Because their PR people are better than yours? (And yes, the semi-random use of underlining is entirely a stylistic choice on his part. It’s like “Underscore Tourette’s” or something.)
You see, this Christianity-mocking campaign hopes to spread their message of "choice" by seeking donations to make abortion more available in 2011.

In years past, Planned Parenthood even sold “Choice on Earth” Christmas cards and t-shirts as a fundraising gimmick.

This has left me deeply disturbed.
Aw, Jonny, I think you’re giving entirely too much credit to this email - I'm thinking you were disturbed wa-a-ay before this.
The Abortion Lobby would have you and I believe that the best choice for poor, unwed teenage mothers is to end the life of their child rather than facing hardship.

That it is better for these unborn children to be killed than face a rough childhood.
Well... yes, actually. Don’t you want people to live by the words of the Bible?

“And I declared that the dead, who had already died,
are happier than the living, who are still alive.
But better than both is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 4:2-3)

Oh, sorry, was that rude?
However, you and I have to look no further than the birth of Christ, the very reason for the celebration of Christmas, to see why every child, no matter the parent’s situation, deserves a chance at life.

You see, Mary was young and unwed at the time of her pregnancy. She was forced to give birth to Jesus in a stable and use a feeding trough as a cradle. This was far from ideal.

How could a child born into such a situation ever grow up to be anything worthwhile?
It’s a fascinating argument. Of course, one counter position might be that in April of 1889, a child was born to Alois Hitler and Klara Pölzl. But that might be considered an unreasonable attitude. Plus, it's in direct violation of Godwin’s Law, and I'm already in trouble with the Internet Police. So we’ll just terminate that thought; let it die a’borning, so to speak.

Ball goes on for a while after that, yammering about the sanctity of life (something rarely found in nature, but we’ll move on), and then to his main point (and again, it’s underlined, just because he can).
Planned Parenthood must be defunded to force the closure of as many abortion clinics as possible.
Which openly ignores the fact that only three percent of Planned Parenthood’s annual budget covers abortion; the other 97% goes toward other health and reproductive needs for poor and underserved citizens. But that might be too much honesty for Mr Ball to handle.

And then, of course, he begs a lot; there are three separate links to donate money to this fine organization scattered through the last four paragraphs. Really nothing new - these guys are rarely known for their imagination.

Now, as far as I can tell, Jonathan Ball's Americans for Life is entirely different from this Americans for Life - both were founded in 1996, but have different leadership, And neither one of them seems to have any connection to the older Americans United for Life. However, it's probably important to note that Black Americans for Life is entirely unrelated to any of these previous groups - they're part of the National Right to Life Coalition

I'm assuming this is some sort of "People's Front of Judea" type of situation.

(I also think I may have stumbled on to one reason why Roe v Wade is still around.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Behold the Bee Gees

Let's start by saying that I discovered this video on a nostalgia site I'm known to frequent (a Touch of Tuesday Weld).

(Sadly, while this video is labeled "good sound," the picture quality suffers from pixellation if you embiggen it.)

As Ms Linger describes it, "This song suffers from the same ailment that so many others of its era did: Greg Ham Syndrome. So named for the saxophone player in Men at Work, Greg Ham Syndrome refers to the compulsion to stick a sax solo into your song because the Men did it so successfully." But that's only one of the many things wrong with this video.

See, the Bee Gee's started out as a decent, slightly psychedelic folk-pop trio in the late Sixties; then, sadly, in the Seventies they discovered two things: disco, and the falsetto.

If you listen to their disco hits, they're well-constructed and have good harmonies - harmonies, unfortunately, set slightly off-pitch and in a register only dogs can hear. But they made a lot of money doing that - according to their citation in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, "only Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees."

Their name is assumed to be acronymic of "the Brothers Gibb," although there is a theory out there that it was derived from the names of two people who helped them early in their career - promoter Bill Goode and DJ Bill Gates.

When they made this particular song in 1983, disco had died an ugly death, lingering seemingly forever from the mixed effects of rampant drug abuse and necrotizing STD's. And the Bee Gees were trying to overcome the shame of having appeared in 1978's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. So Barry, Robin and Maurice tried to hook their stars to Eighties power pop.

But although they brought the guitar up in the mix, they still had strong disco influences; thankfully, the falsetto was mostly reduced to twins Robin and Maurice singing backup (maybe it was bothering Barry's throat by then - he was almost 40 by this point).

But no matter what they did, there was one disco tie-in that they couldn't escape: this song was featured in John Travolta's failed attempt at a sequel to Saturday Night Fever, Staying Alive. (Admittedly, this was one of the ten top-grossing films of 1983 - that doesn't make it a good movie or anything.)

The video also features the dance stylings of Cynthia Rhodes, who co-starred in Staying Alive but is better known for her co-starring parts in Flashdance and Dirty Dancing (and, for that matter, the Tom Selleck killer robot epic Runaway).

Now, the easy joke would be "who really believes that Robin or Maurice would run after a woman?" Of course, there's no evidence that Maurice was ever gay (and either of his two wives might object to the phrase). And Robin? He's just... well, "unconventional" might be the best word.

There actually are lyrics buried in the mix, but they're a little random - the Gibb boys would occasionally just throw in phrases because they fit the rhythm, which was more important than being coherent:
But baby, sharper than a knife
Help me to know you
Show me the night to satisfy
A sinner with the flash of an eye
There'll never be another me

I never knew love could wind me up
I don't do my stuff
'Till you go walkin' by
And maybe old enough to try

I never knew anyone in between
The devil and the angel
All in one and maybe old
Enough that I can ride
Your love let me burn
Let me slide down to your soul
You can pull me in
You can push me out
The fact that the last half of the video is Ms. Rhodes and the Post-Apocalypse Solid Gold Dancers just caps off everything that's wrong with the song.

Or possibly what's right about it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

In Her Defense, I'm Sure the Moose Had It Coming

Aaron Sorkin has probably written (or at least sold) more good stuff than bad. This piece that he did for the occasionally reprehensible Huffington post is definitely brilliant.
"Unless you've never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather chair or eaten meat, save your condemnation."

You're right, Sarah, we'll all just go fuck ourselves now.

The snotty quote was posted by Sarah Palin on (like all the great frontier women who've come before her) her Facebook page to respond to the criticism she knew and hoped would be coming after she hunted, killed and carved up a Caribou during a segment of her truly awful reality show, Sarah Palin's Alaska, broadcast on The-Now-Hilariously-Titled Learning Channel.

I eat meat, chicken and fish, have shoes and furniture made of leather, and PETA is not ever going to put me on the cover of their brochure and for these reasons Palin thinks it's hypocritical of me to find what she did heart-stoppingly disgusting. I don't think it is, and here's why.

Like 95% of the people I know, I don't have a visceral (look it up) problem eating meat or wearing a belt. But like absolutely everybody I know, I don't relish the idea of torturing animals. I don't enjoy the fact that they're dead and I certainly don't want to volunteer to be the one to kill them and if I were picked to be the one to kill them in some kind of Lottery-from-Hell, I wouldn't do a little dance of joy while I was slicing the animal apart.

I'm able to make a distinction between you and me without feeling the least bit hypocritical. I don't watch snuff films and you make them. You weren't killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I've tried and tried and for the life of me, I can't make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing. I'm able to make the distinction with no pangs of hypocrisy even though I get happy every time one of you faux-macho shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face.

So I don't think I will save my condemnation, you phony pioneer girl. (I'm in film and television, Cruella, and there was an insert close-up of your manicure while you were roughing it in God's country. I know exactly how many feet off camera your hair and make-up trailer was.)

And you didn't just do it for fun and you didn't just do it for money. That was the first moose ever murdered for political gain. You knew there'd be a protest from PETA and you knew that would be an opportunity to hate on some people, you witless bully. What a uniter you'd be -- bringing the right together with the far right.

(Let me be the first to say that I abused cocaine and was arrested for it in April 2001. I want to be the first to say it so that when Palin's Army of Arrogant Assholes, bereft of any reasonable rebuttal, write it all over the internet tomorrow they will at best be the second.)

I eat meat, there are leather chairs in my office, Sarah Palin is deranged and The Learning Channel should be ashamed of itself.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Bush Tax Cuts vs History

The Trophy Wife is currently reading The Road from Versailles by Munro Price. Subtitled, in case you're a completist, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the Fall of the French Monarchy - you know, the French Revolution. We read stuff like that: her more than me, to be honest, but there you are. It's important to understand history.

Let me just quote a little from the first two pages of Chapter 3 (typed in with my own bleeding fingers, I'll have you know).
The monarchy that Louis XVI embodied at the opening session of the Estates was still a grand if somewhat dilapidated edifice...

Below the king and the royal family, French society, like that of all continental old regimes, was divided into a hierarchy of orders, known as estates. Each one was legally defined, and had its own rights and duties. The clergy ranked as the first estate... they were not taxed directly, but instead voted a
don gratuit, or "free gift," to the crown at their five-yearly assemblies.

The nobility, too, the second estate, were subjects of the king... True, the nobility were exempt from the main direct tax, the
taille, but from 1695 onwards, they had been subjected, along with everyone else, to a succession of income-based contributions...

Below the clergy and nobility stretched the third estate, composed of all lay commoners... the bulk of its members comprised the urban working class and, above all, the peasantry, who made up fully 80% of the French population. Socially, politically and economically, it was the third estate that paid the price of the unspoken bargain between the monarchy and the privileged orders. Its members bore the brunt of taxation...
Can we talk about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the millionaires now?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What Did Jehovah Witness?

So, earlier this week was the boss' birthday. We are all extremely fond of Sharon, so we got her a card and a gift certificate at a church bookstore she likes. And that's when I learned something new.

We were carefully sneaking the card from desk to desk to get it signed by everybody, and it got to Jeanie. She was doing something involving reports and graphs and charts, and so the whole "card" business came to a halt for a while. But shortly (and I'm not sure it was on purpose, but at least Jeanie waited until Sharon was out of the office), she came marching over to another co-worker, slapped down the card, and said, relatively forcefully, "I'm not going to participate."

You see, Jeanie is a Jehovah's Witness.

(I say that like it explains things. I only know this because a couple of us were so curious about the reaction that we looked it up.)

If you are a normal human being, the only thing you know about the Jehovah's Witness movement is that they come to your door, try to hand out copies of the Watchtower and ruin your weekend, and are generally the annoying kind of Christian.

(Full disclosure - I'm probably not a normal human being, either. The Trophy Wife cheerfully recounts how, early in our marriage, two Jehovah's Witnesses came to the door one Saturday morning, while we were dealing with kids and weekend mornings and the like, and I stood out on the porch - trust me, you never let them into the house! - and talked with them for two hours. It was less than fifteen minutes into it when they were diving into their bibles and flipping pages, and I just kept going.)

To be honest, we already knew that Jeanie doesn’t celebrate holidays (because whenever the subject comes up, she smugly informs us “I don’t celebrate holidays”), but this particular sect of Christianity also doesn't celebrate birthdays, as it turns out.

They base this on the two explicit uses of the word “birthday” in their translation of the Bible: Genesis 40:20-22, and Matthew 14:6-10. Because two pagan rulers (the Pharoah and Herod) did mean things to people on their birthdays, everybody loses. Apparently, God’s like a kindergarten teacher.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses use the New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible, which no other religion uses. So maybe they can be forgiven for ignoring the reasonably positive reference to birthdays in Job 1:4-5, since the NWT uses the phrase “his day” there. (What would “his day” be, again? Oh, well...)

Some people, in fact, argue that there are a lot of translation issues in the NWT, but a lot of that boils down to semantic quibbling, really; it’s their religion, and if they want to rewrite parts of the Bible to fit their beliefs, I suppose that’s their business. (It doesn't mean we can't make fun of them, of course. I'm just sayin'...)

Working in a hospital, I've tripped over the Jehovah's Witness beliefs before. You see, they can't seem to believe that God wants them to survive a gunshot wound: based on the Old Testament provisions against “eating blood,” JW’s can’t get transfusions (apparently you can eat through a hole in your arm – who knew?).

Well, OK, they can get some transfusions: there’s a whole list of allowed and prohibited practices, which gets changed every so often, usually for no logical reason - for example, hemoglobin, which makes up 97% of red blood cells, has been allowed by some dissident Witnesses since 2004 (but transfusions of red blood cells are usually still verboten). There is significant controversy on this point.

So, essentially, a Jehovah's Witness with hemophilia would just be proof that God has a sense of humor. Admittedly, a really, really dark sense of humor...

There’s a group of slightly less insane JW’s who are trying to get this particularly dangerous prohibition done away with. Good luck with that.

(Incidentally, on one of the major roads near my house, there's a Jehovah's Witness hall, with a sign out front in both English and Spanish - I live in New Mexico, what can I say? And driving past it, when you catch Testigos de Jehová out of the corner of your eye, I keep having to repress the giggles of my inner twelve-year-old. Because my mind always reads it as "Testicles of Jehovah." Every time. I can't help it.)

Now, there's one more thing. In the end (and yes, when you get down to it, the JW are another End-Times cult), only 144,000 people going to heaven. Which compares badly to the fact that there are over 16 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.

Now they do believe in a kind of an "anti-rapture" - instead of the holy folks going to heaven, the evil will be taken away. ("As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it."—Proverbs 2:22 NWT.)

(Of course, if you read all of Proverbs 2, it's a declaration that you should lead a good life in most translations - but let's just ignore that, shall we?)

So, let's see. If you're a Jehovah's Witness, you can't have birthdays or holidays, because you should suppress all the fun in this life. Which will frequently be a very short life. And you almost definitely won't go to heaven.

Yeah. Sign me up for that.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eugene Delgaudio needs to come out of the closet

For some time now, I've been getting emails from a group calling itself "Public Advocate of the US." I'm really not sure how this happened - I don't recall ever clicking a box saying "Please send me hot, steamy chunks of hate," but I've been known to drink occasionally when I'm on-line. (You know, red wine is not good for a keyboard...)

The guy in charge of Public Advocate (and potentially the sole employee) is named Eugene Delgaudio, and he's a twisted piece of work. He's apparently a member of the Board of Supervisors in Loudoun County, Virginia. He also likes to set up over-the-top protests of anything he feels is even dimly related to homosexuality.

When the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) started a campaign to create a “safe space” to prevent the bullying of gay teens, Eugene came out in support of beating up children.
While the stickers and posters blatantly display the upside-down rainbow triangle and pro-homosexual slogan, the booklet is the real threat.

It includes detailed strategies to instruct teachers and students how to create a school environment more accepting of homosexual students and teach other students their lifestyle as a healthy alternative.

It also tells students how to get involved in school policy and how to initiate change to promote the Homosexual Agenda in everyday school life.
Because, you see, every student's right to beat up on fags is protected in the Constitution. ("I'm sure it's in there somewhere! Probably under "pursuit of happiness" or something...")

I think my favorite, though, would have to be his objection to the TSA pat-downs. Now, having been a military cop for 21 years, I can tell you that getting young cops to actually check the groin is one of the hardest taboos to get around. And I have found a knives taped to a guy's underwear. So an effective search has to be a little more "intrusive" than some people are comfortable with. However, as generations of drug mules can attest, you can still stuff quite a bit of stuff up your butt, or hang it down your throat. So the searches aren't really making us more safe.

That, however, is not Eugene's problem with the searches. He doesn't care if terrorists are allowed onto planes cradling bombs like small children. He's just worried that it's all part of the homosexual agenda!
That means the next TSA official that gives you an “enhanced pat down” could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission.

Or it could be any sexual pervert, homosexual or heterosexual, or even pedophile that operates the "naked scanner".

That means the next TSA official that operates the “porno scanners” you or your child or mother walk through could be lusting after the image on his screen.

The thought makes me sick.
Other things make him sick, as well. In fact, the idea of repealing DADT pretty much gives him a coronary embolism.
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen says he supports Congress using its lame-duck session to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Mullen sides with the Radical Homosexuals instead of the troops, vowing that he would do what it takes to end the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy as soon as possible.

A Pentagon report on the impact of lifting the ban is set for release Dec. 1st, timed nicely with the return of the new Congress.

Of course nobody has asked the soldiers their opinions, and our troops are prohibited from any political activity other than voting.
You know, other than those surveys showing that repealing DADT is supported by most of the military, their families, and even by military chaplains. But, you know, other than them, nobody ever asks the military how they feel, right?

(Incidentally, our troops are only prohibited from political activity in uniform - it's a subtle distinction, but one that's lost on Eugene.)

(His brother, incidentally, plead guilty to child pornography after he paid two teenaged girls to pose all nekkid in a motel room. Not directly related, but makes you wonder about the gene pool our boy Eugene jumped out of.)

There's a strong tinge of paranoia about the man: aside from his assertions that "the homos want to kill me" (he would so love to be a martyr), he openly lies in his fundraising letters. And more than that, when he's called out about his lies, he just lies some more: when he lost a vote about treating transgendered people equally, he sent out an email to his followers stating:
If a man dressed as a woman wants a job, you have to treat "it" the same as a normal person.
When people called him on referring to a person as "it," he tried to claim that the word "it" referred to the "action of hiring a man or a woman."

Read that explanation again; can you parse his statement to mean that? Especially when the same letter referred to "cross-dressing freaks"?

Come on, Eugene. Remember the state slogan? "Virginia is for lovers"?

Why do you hate Virginia, Eugene?

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Quickie with Sarah

Sarah Palin is just the gift that keeps on giving, isn't she? You kind of wish that she'd just go away, but even then, you have that little spot of sadness in your heart that Christine O'Donnell isn't still around to make fun of (don't be sad; we've still got Michelle Bachmann). As the Rude Pundit put it,
Look, sure, yeah, of course, of course, we should be able to fucking ignore Sarah Palin and her molesting P.E. teacher-looking husband ("I'm puttin' my hand on the floor under your chest to make sure you do your push-ups right, Cindy") and her Hills-Have-Eyes-esque brood of mutant children. But she ain't a Jurassic Park T-Rex. If you stand still, she ain't going away. And if she's gonna hate fuck the "lamestream" media constantly, we may as well get off on it, too.

We all know what's gonna happen: she's gonna believe the Wal-Mart shoppers and shut-ins and horny rednecks who tell her at her book signings to run for President. And she'll run and be an idiot on the issues and a cunt to everyone around her, and then she'll blame everyone else for ruining her chances when, in reality, in a rare moment of clarity, Republicans will vote for the another bugfuck insane candidate, the one who didn't say on her own reality show that she got millions of dollars to do that she thinks it sucks that people invade her privacy and that she's just regular people, like you and you over there, who must have a TV studio in your home so you can tell Sean Hannity what regular people think.
But let's ignore all this furor over the fact that Sarah still doesn't know the difference between North and South Korea, and think about this.

If you can't stomach the whole thing, go to the 1:15 spot and listen to her talk about "the extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into those extreme environmentalists who claim that there's no way you can responsibly develop a plot of land that was set aside for oil and gas development."

OK, Sarah, I understand that you've called it "An-Wahr" for so long that maybe you think that's the name of the place. But you're taking a reporter there right now. Maybe you should know something about it.

Let's highlight one brief cut there. When she's talking about "a plot of land that was set aside for oil and gas development," she's referring to ANWR.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

You just can't make this shit up.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bloody hell

On Friday, United Blood Services had another blood drive. The bus was parked outside of our office building for the entire day. I walked past it several times, but didn't even bother to go in.

I'm not boycotting UBS. In fact, every time I had to walk past them, it made me a little depressed. You see, it was about five years ago that UBS informed me that they no longer required my services.

This isn't because I was in Kuwait after the first Gulf War; even though I had to patrol through vehicle remains known to contain depleted uranium rounds, they really didn't care about that. And it didn't have anything to do with being one of the first units into Iraq after the invasion in 2003; that, it seems, wasn't even worth noting.

It's not because of anything in my private life. I've never had sex with another man, I've never had hepatitis and I'm not a drug user. (OK, the odd molecule of THC might have found its way into my body once or twice; let's not make a big deal out of it.)

It's because I lived in Germany.

You see, the FDA has decided that anyone who's lived a cumulative six months in Europe (or three months in the UK) can no longer give blood. Because, despite not having any evidence that there's any danger to anybody, the FDA is so ass-clenchingly frightened of mad cow disease that they're going to allow the US blood supply to become dangerously depleted.

Mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy - BSE - or new variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease - vCJD or nvCJD) was first identified in England in 1984. What happened was, although cattle are herbivores, a little extra protein makes them fatten up faster. Throughout most of the world, this protein has come from soybeans.

But soybeans don't grow well in Europe, and cattle farmers there began supplementing their cow's diets with some various waste products nobody was using - mostly bone meal, and occasionally organs that never caught on as food.

(For example, brains, which haven't ever been popular anywhere but the American Midwest, where diners near the stockyards of St Louis started serving batter-dipped, fried brain slices as sandwiches; their popularity has, unaccountably died out except in a few smaller establishments.)

To be clear, BSE is the name of the disease when it's in cattle; vCJD is the disease in humans. In either case, the disease essentially chews holes in the brain tissue, making it look like a sponge (hence, "spongiform"). But under either name, it qualifies as a TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy).

The problem is that Mad Cow is transmitted by prions, which are neither a virus nor a bacteria, but more of a rogue protein. One that survives, incidentally, at remarkably high temperatures. And there hasn't been enough study of prions for scientists to really have a firm grasp on their properties.

There have been some suggestions that a change in British law allowing for lower-temperature sterilization of the beefy by-products was the culprit. But the British government has studied the problem pretty extensively, and determined that "changes in process could not have been solely responsible for the emergence of BSE, and changes in regulation were not a factor at all."

There are other diseases passed by prions: Scrapie, for instance, is similar to BSE, but affects sheep and goats; it's been known about since the eighteenth century, but doesn't seem to jump the species barrier.

In the Fifties, there was an epidemic of Kuru among New Guinea natives; kuru is a neurodegenerative disease (hmmm... so it makes the brain go bad...), and is only passed, as far as anybody can tell, through cannibalism. So that's a native cultural tradition that maybe we shouldn't respect...

However, there have only been 218 identified cases of vCJD worldwide since it was identified. Not exactly the epidemic that some people think.

When I was younger, I donated on a regular basis. Many people in the military see the importance of donating blood. Of course, since military members and their families are one of the most common types of Americans who live overseas for extended periods, this has taken thousands of potential blood donors off of the market.

And with the national blood supply dangerously low, this may be a policy that puts live at risk for little or no reason.

(It's not just blood products that have been affected, either. Sperm banks have been unable to import replacements to refill depleted stocks of once-popular Nordic sperm.)

So, on Friday, I walked past the Bloodmobile, a little sadder each time.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Ten Commandments? Again?

Over in Texas, yet another legislator wants to find a way to sneak the Ten Commandments into public buildings. This time, they're using the "foot in the door" theory of governance: this bill will "protect public school teachers who have chosen to have the Ten Commandments displayed in their classrooms" by claiming it's a "patriotic exercise," not a religious one. (Just proving he doesn't understand either history or religion.)

In Florida, the mayor of Cape Coral thought that posting the Ten Commandments in City Hall was a spiffy idea, but the City Council didn't agree.

This comes up at least a couple of times a year, as some thoughtless theocrat tries to commit religious bukkake and squirt his personal theology in the faces of everybody around them.

Let's start, of course, with the fact that this act is automatically exclusionary. Even past the objections of the irreligious (you know, the people who might not want their tax money spent on somebody else's silly damned belief system), what about the folks who actually believe in this stuff? Whose version of the Decalogue are you going to post up there?

The Ten Commandments are normally pulled from Exodus 20:2–17 (which is mirrored in Deuteronomy 5:6–21). And despite the customary image of the two stones, in neither book is there a neat, tidy set of ten bullet statements, so different religions split things up differently.

The best example, of course, is the first three Commandments, which are widely variable. Reading from Exodus, we take the following verses:
I am the LORD thy God... Thou shalt have no other gods before me... Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... (nor) bow down thyself to them, nor serve them
(As always, we'll be sticking with King James version. Because, you know, "breathed out by God" and all... but mostly because I like the poetry of the language.)

Now, if you happen to be Jewish, "I am the Lord thy God," all by itself, is the First Commandment. Most Protestants, on the other hand, essentially treat that as a preface to the actual list, while the Orthodox sects fold it into the "no other gods" part; Catholics and Lutherans, meanwhile, slam the whole thing together into one big lumpy First Commandment.

This means, of course, that the Third Commandment is "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain." Unless you're Catholic (or again, Lutheran), who believe that's the Second Commandment.

And this one-off numbering continues on down the list until you get to those pesky "covets," which most of the God-swallowers lump together.

Except, of course, the followers of the Pope or Martin Luther, who split off the first "covet" and have their own personal Ninth Commandment. Where everybody else just pretty much says "don't covet anything," the Catholics and Lutherans figure that not coveting another man's wife needs its own place in the list, separate from more mundane covetousness, such as the ass.

As for coveting the wife's ass, they don't like to talk about that. (Ba-dum ching! Thank you! I'll be here all week!)

So, in posting the Ten Commandments, which religion do you honor over the rest? The Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant? (We'll ignore the Lutherans this time; they're just following in their trouble-making founder's footsteps.)

But just for fun, let's consider the Ten Commandments (all three versions) themselves.

I am the LORD thy God... Thou shalt have none other gods before me... for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God...

Do you notice that God doesn’t say that there ARE no other gods? Just that you shouldn’t worship them, because He doesn’t appreciate the competition. I’ve always thought that was interesting.

But then we get to Deuteronomy 5:8-9: Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them...

Kind of puts art out of reach of the common man, doesn’t it? It’s only later translations of that verse that change "graven images" to "idols" – the original Hebrew doesn’t have any "sacred" subtext attached to the word for graven image (pecel). Since the two statements are seperable (“Make no graven images” and “bow down and worship them”), it makes one wonder what God thought of Michelangelo.

In fact, this same prohibition, sans the "bowing down" bit, is echoed earlier in the same book (Deu 4:23-25).

Further along, we come to this: Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. (Deu 5:12-14)

A strict reading of that would indicate that taking Saturday off is in opposition to the Word of God. He's telling you to work for six days, not just five.

Which also brings us to the fact that the Sabbath is supposed to be on the last day of the week, not the first – but that goes back to the antisemitism of the Council of Laodicea: Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

Makes you wonder about the people who claim that "the Ten Commandments are the source of the American legal system!" Yeah, not so much.

Basically, even if you include perjury (which doesn't always qualify), there are only three Commandments that count as laws (the other two being murder and theft). Three out of ten; 30% isn't a passing grade on any test I've ever taken.

Taking God's name in vain? Sorry, freedom of speech.

Adultery? Hardly a crime; practically a way of life in some places.

Honoring fathers and mothers? Well, we try, but they keep trying to tear down Social Security.

And you really can't ban coveting. Wanting something better is the driving force of capitalism, after all.

So how important are these ten little rules again?

Update (10/19/10): It has been pointed out that the choice of which day should be the Sabbath was covered in tbe New Testament.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days... (Col 2:16, ignoring that whole "jot and tittle" argument)

A statement that was, of course, ignored until the 4th Century, when the Council of Laodicea got all post-Jewry on their asses. But there it is.

“Military glory - that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood” (A. Lincoln)

Writing at the ironically-named website The Moral Liberal (which is apparently neither), Bryan Fischer has discovered something that shocks him to his core.
But I have noticed a disturbing trend in the awarding of these medals, which few others seem to have recognized.

We have feminized the Medal of Honor.

According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one.

Gen. George Patton once famously said, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his.”

When we think of heroism in battle, we used the think of our boys storming the beaches of Normandy under withering fire, climbing the cliffs of Pointe do Hoc while enemy soldiers fired straight down on them, and tossing grenades into pill boxes to take out gun emplacements.

That kind of heroism has apparently become passe when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them.
He then rambles on for another seven paragraphs about the bloody sacrifice of the Prince of Peace. Go figure.

But if we wander over to the American Family Association website (because, after all, glorifying violence and war apparently count as "family values"), we find that picture of Mr Fischer, which makes me immediately think "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"

But we also find Mr Fischer's bio.
Bryan Fischer has an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Stanford University, and a graduate degree in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He served on the staff of Cole Community Church in Boise, where he founded the Cole Center for Biblical Studies and served as its director for 13 years. He then founded Community Church of the Valley, where he served as senior pastor for 12 years. Prior to joining the leadership team at American Family Association, Bryan served as Executive Director of the Idaho Values Alliance which was the state affiliate of the AFA.
Do you notice what is specifically missing from that bio?

Military service.

I love it when people who never bothered to wear a uniform blather on about "the valor that is expressed in killing enemy soldiers," as if he has any idea what he's talking about.

Mr Fischer, I'd like to formally invite you to kiss my military ass.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Long-haired freaky people need not apply

As it turns out, it takes over two years for me to grow a really good head of hair.

For my long-time readers (all 3 of them), you're already aware that about 30 months ago or so, I shaved my head to raise money for a local women's shelter called Barrett House. More money than I'd planned, really - with a target of $100, I managed to raise a little over $1300. And a good time was had by all.

Our CEO was reasonably happy with the minor press we got, and she flippantly asked if I was going to do it again the next year.

Well, I decided to raise the stakes, because, to be honest, I'm easily bored. I suffer from an advanced case of ADOST (Attention Deficit... ooh Shiny Thing! ), and I figured that, to raise said stakes, I'd need to donate the hair to Locks of Love instead of wasting it. A microscopic amount of research later, I learned that it needed to be ten inches long for them to make a wig. So I set that as my goal. Now, around two and a half years later, it's between 10 and 12 inches long, so I figure I could be bald again for charity.

Now, in the intervening two-plus years, I had less time to devote to raising money, so I was hoping that allying with the United Way folks might help. (Sadly, it didn't - we didn't earn nearly what we did two-plus years ago. But that's OK - I wasn't the only cause in their bucket, and every couple of hundred helps.)

But that led us to the Embaldening. People had paid a buck for a chance to play barber, and we had all their tickets.

While they pulled out the box and set up the clippers, the Trophy Wife (always supportive, even if she prefers my hair longer) brushed this god-awful mess into multiple pony-tails, in order to get maximum usable hair.

Meanwhile, a little more research had told me that there was no easy solution to this "hair issue." To begin with, there are some serious questions regarding Locks of Love.

Wait a minute! Didn't Oprah endorse them?

Yeah, she did. But some people still have questions. Some big questions, which Oprah didn't bother to ask. Sadly, I did.

Here on the home front, they started drawing names to see who would be shaving off my flowing locks. The first turned out to be a doctor on call, and he couldn't make it. The next, a nurse manager, didn't want to do it (apparently, I hadn't pissed her off enough). Finally, we got Barbara Hoidahl, who, it turns out, was the prettiest of the three choices thus far, so, you know, that was a bonus for me.

Now, normally, having an attractive woman running her fingers through your hair is a good thing. Other times, perhaps less so. Sometimes, it's a challenge just to keep them on task. She kept herself entertained for quite a while, which I suppose counted for something.

So, what did we know about Locks of Love?

Well, for one thing, the Better Business Bureau hasn't been able to endorse them until this year, because until now, they refused to provide complete information on their finances. (I kind of have a problem with that...) And their administrative expenses are a pretty big chunk of their cash outflow. (Is "outflow" a word? Well, it is now...)

And Locks of Love has never explained any of their earlier discrepancies. They just meet standards now - what went before apparently doesn't matter.

What's been happening (and appears to still be happening) is that if the hair doesn't meet some fairly strict standards, it gets sold to pay expenses. Now, here's my thing. If the hair is being sold, what is it being used for? Mattress stuffing? I mean, think about it for a second - there's really only one use for hair that can't be filled by another substance, and for less money.

Natural-hair wigs.

I mean, maybe I'm looking at this problem wrong, but, if somebody can make a wig from the hair in question, then why the hell can't Locks of Love make the same wig, and plant it on some kid's head?

In the meantime, having people wandering around shoving cameras in your face can just get annoying.

* sigh * It's the price you pay, I suppose.

There was some question for a while regarding what conditions would qualify a kid for a Locks of Love wig. Apparently, they were originally interested primarily in alopecia, and not too concerned about children undergoing chemotherapy. They seem to have corrected this little discrepancy since then. But they still seem to sell off more hair than they use. This really bothers me a lot.

So I'm going to keep my eye on Locks of Love, but at this point, I'm not comfortable donating to them. However, with just a little research, I found several other charities doing pretty much the same thing.

There's Wigs for Kids, which was started by a hairdresser named Jeffrey Paul

For our British friends, there's the Little Princess Trust, which is based in the United Kingdom (Hereford, in England - near the border of Wales, to be precise). But that was a little out of the way for me. (In the same way, there's Zichron Menachem in Israel - in case you don't read Hebrew, here's the Wikipedia entry. Again, not exactly local.)

And there's Pantene Beautiful Lengths, run, in a fascinating bit of synergy, by the shampoo company of the same name. They provide free wigs to cancer survivors; the average price of a well made human hair wig is about $1,200 and most insurance companies cover only a tiny amount of that, if anything. Because insurance companies suck.

And here's the thing: I haven't found out anything negative about the Pantene charity. (If anybody knows anything, please tell me. And give me some links - back up your accusations, please.) They give the wigs for free, where Locks of Love charges a sliding scale. They work in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and Hair U Wear (a leading maker of hair extensions and additions), so their operations are scrutinized pretty well.

So I felt pretty good about my choice of charities. Plus, they gave me a new hat. So, bonus!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Jewish terrorist sympathizers to meet at Ground Zero

I originally saw this as an excerpt posted at Loonwatch, from the "mother post" at Fascinating, either way, but credit where credit is due and all...
On Sunday November 7th at 3:30 pm, followers and supporters of Rabbi Meir Kahane from Canada and America will gather at Ground Zero ostensibly to rally against "political Islam." Why is this important news for many Americans who consider Ground Zero a sacred site? Because Rabbi Kahane is the founder of the villainous Kach Israeli political party, a group on the U.S. State Department's official list of terrorist organizations.

A little background on Mr. Kahane: he was a hardline ordained Jewish Rabbi who advocated the removal of Arabs from Palestine in order to create a homogeneous "Greater Israel" modeled upon Jewish religious law. His slogan is "every Jew a .22."

Widely denounced by other Jews as a racist, he gained worldwide infamy when one of his followers, the notorious Baruch Goldstein, perpetrated the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, wherein Mr. Goldstein brutally gunned down dozens of Palestinian Muslim worshippers who were praying inside the Abraham Mosque. Another one of Mr. Kahane’s followers is on trial in Michigan for shooting an Arab man in an act of "road rage."

And British activists in the Kahane-inspired Jewish Defense League have cozied up, ironically enough, with the thuggish English Defense League despite their attachment to the violent neo-nazi outfit Combat 18. In short, Mr. Kahane is something of a folk-hero for extremists bent on Jewish domination of the Holy Land at the expense of indigenous Arabs and Muslims, including Arab Christians. In a few weeks, Mr. Kahane’s followers are bringing their message of hate and racial supremacy to Ground Zero.

I repeat: supporters of an officially designated terrorist organization that advocates an unforgiving expansionist religious-political ideology are meeting to honor their racist terrorist leader on the site of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

Stereotyping Jews or any group because of the actions of an extremist fringe is deeply wrong. But this situation begs the question: what if they were Muslim?

Imagine, if you can, the thunderous firestorm that would be unleashed if supporters of Al-Qaeda gathered at Ground Zero to honor Osama Bin Laden. The scene would be too ghastly for words, with 24 hour cable news coverage, politicians on both sides of the aisle lining up to score points for condemnation, and Muslim-bashing bloggers having a field day. All of Islam and all Muslims would bear collective guilt for their actions. Muslim leaders across the country would denounce terrorism only to be told that they have not denounced terrorism enough or that they are secret stealth jihadists. It would be said, "Where are the moderate Muslims? Why do they not condemn terrorism?" And Steve Emerson’s fear-mongering-for-profit operation would continue to rake in millions. You get the picture.

But as for Mr. Kahane’s followers, we aren't going to hear a peep out of Newt, Palin, Spencer, or Geller. We will not hear Bill O'Reilly speaking down to Jews on his show about their "Jewish problem." And we will not hear the same chorus of outrage about the holiness of Ground Zero or the sensitivities of 9/11 victims' families.

Why? Because these particular terrorists are not Muslims. It is as simple as that.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

On animal rights, and embedding sound files

So, I've been reading a site called Science Digestive for some time, run by a self-identified neuroscientist and comedian, who recently ended up on in an episode of a British podcast called the Pod Delusion. (Oh, yeah, he's a Brit - don't hold that against him. Some of my best friends are Anglo.)

He said some things about animal testing that I've been saying for years, only with the advantage, unlike me, of actually having done animal testing. (And the man's reasonably intelligent to begin with - neuroscience ain't for dummies, right?)

He caught some flak for it. Especially when he posted a transcript of his article on his site and people had a target for their ignorance and wrath.

(What do you call a "podcast article," anyway? "Podicle" seems contrived and relatively stupid. "Artcast" is obviously out. I think I'm partial to "particle," but I need to think about it.)

So I contacted him and asked if he had an .mp3 of his bit, and could I post it? Turns out he did, and I could. Which led to a problem I hadn't foreseen.

Blogger doesn't have an easy way to embed .mp3's. You'd think that would be an obvious one, but not so much. There's probably a good reason for this omission - they didn't want to become a launching platform for podcasts, they didn't want to use up all their memory on people's stupid sound bites, something like that. But screw 'em - they were a problem for ME now, and that's unacceptable.

Now, I know just enough about computers to get myself in trouble, and I quickly found out that most solutions involved downloading players or plugins (and the associated malware, in far too many cases), and I didn't want to do that.

But digging around, I found DivShare, where you:
1. Upload the file from your computer
2. Go to your profile
3. Select the look of the player
4. Hit "embed" and they give you the code to copy and paste.
Simple, easy, and free. I like it. (The only real thing you have to think about: the last 3 choices of player - including the one I thought looked best - are for paying users only. That little red squiggle over the "select" is supposed to be a dollar sign.)

(Oh, and you do have to click through some "please give us money and upgrade" pages every so often. But there's always a "skip" link somewhere on there.)

(Obviously, this isn't a paid endorsement, or I wouldn't have included that last comment. So there you are.)

Now let's see if it works. If it does, we should have an .mp3 player here at the bottom of the post, where you can hear the brilliant words of the generous Dean Burnett, neuroscientist, comedian, and fellow blogger.

Thank you, technology. And thank you, Dean Burnett.

(Remember, children. Only use this power for Good.)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Democracy: Going, going, gone

An editorial in the Montreal Gazette - fascinating how quickly an outsider can see one of the major problems with our electoral system, but our GOP can't. Not even McCain 2010 (an entirely different beast from the moderate who proposed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance rules).
(h/t to the expats at Pisani Canadian Adventures - you might want to stay there. Canada sounds remarkably civilized.
Our American friends will find themselves, Wednesday morning, with the most expensive Congress money can buy. The last-minute tsunami of campaign spending gives Canadians still another reason to feel smug -we really do handle this better here. But the orgy of spending in Congressional races can have negative consequences for us.

U.S. candidates are burning through a record sum this year, over $2 billion. That's 10 per cent more than in 2008, and there's not even a presidential election this year.

Many representatives elected Tuesday will start Wednesday to raise money for their 2012 races. And far too often, "raising money" is a euphemism for "selling your vote." Literally taking bribes is still fairly rare, as far as anyone knows, but legislators do sell their votes, in a sense, to raise campaign funds: They decide to vote for the positions advocated by special-interest lobbyists; those interests then make donations.

Worse, much of the money goes for poisonous negative ads, which will be unavoidable on Plattsburgh and Burlington TV this weekend. These are almost always shameful over-or mis-statements, tailored to create the impression that the other candidate is a bigot, a dupe, a fanatic, a near-criminal, a class enemy, and/or a moron. Then people wonder why respect for politicians is so low.

Part of the problem is that members of Congress are free of party constraint. Where Canadian MPs risk losing various perks or even official party renomination if they buck their leaders, Congress is in a sense 535 independents, each one taking his own position on each issue -and often raising more or less money depending on what those positions are.

Sometimes the special interests want protection against Canadian competition, or more pressure put on Canada to comply with this or that U.S. policy. There's an obvious danger there for us. But there's another risk, too: Sharp left-right polarization, and the resulting big swings in control of the House or Senate or both, make it very hard for Canadian governments and companies to predict U.S. policy. A boisterous and unpredictable neighbour can make you awfully nervous.

As if Congressional politics weren't already dysfunctional, Supreme Court and regulatory rulings this year permit almost unlimited "outside money" -from outside a district, from outside the scope of laws governing party finance, and in practice even from outside the country -in campaigns since this is considered legitimate free speech.

This has resulted in parachute drops of over $250 million of such money. Some candidates have been amazed to see their opponents suddenly sharply attacked in ads from nationwide industry groups or unions or, worse, by mysterious spenders disguised behind some shapeless label like "Citizens United." The House has already passed legislation requiring disclosure of the sources of such money; the Senate has not. Usefully, sunlightfoundation.comtracks what it can of such spending.

It's a mess. You know your system needs work when your Congress can be bought by anonymous bidders, like old master paintings at an art auction.