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.