Friday, December 29, 2006

On winners and losers of 2006: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so it's almost enough to bring a tear to your eye: the last post of 2006 (sniff... there it goes!). And how appropriate that it should be a Friday Not-Even-Random Not-Even Ten as we look back on all of the politicians, newsmakers, idiots, assholes, punks, bigots, extremists, deep thinkers, heavy drinkers, and football teams and/or players that have made this blog what it is. Couldn't have done it without you!

The Twelve:

Fear, people, fear! Wiretapping! Al Qaeda cells in the US! Feminism (oooh... shudder)! This one almost went to Kate O'Beirn for the kind of sister f***ing rarely seen outside of the curtained room at the back of the video store, but in the end, it had to go to Georgie Bush for his State of the Union address - now with 25 percent more human hybrids!

1. The Smiths, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"

February saw the start of my long and boring tirade about moral absolutism, but for all its length and boringness it was also absolutely correct and you should print it out and tape it to your bathroom mirror. The only star of that month, though, was Dick "Itchy Trigger Finger" Cheney and his quail hunting whoopsie, which also happened to be the first in the long and sometimes painful tradition of Not-Even-Random Tens. Thanks, Dick!

2. Guster, "Barrel of a Gun"

The debate over the president's warrantless wiretapping scheme took up most of March, culminating with Joe Lieberman's suggestion that the program should be... brought under the law. Which, y'know, wouldn't be necessary if it were, as they keep arguing, legal already. But Joe manages to just miss his own acknowledgment for the month as South Dakota Senator Bill Napoli completely squicks me out with his heavy-breathing description of what poor, innocent, ravished young virgin deserves the privilege of an abortion. Anyone for an "ew"? Ew...

3. Radiohead, "Creep"

In April, Laura Mallory started her campaign to save the children of Gwinnett County from the scourges of quality, entertaining reading material. She'll have to wait to get hers, though, because April was also the month of gay folks at the White House Easter egg roll, ninjas at UGA, and worst of all, tan folks a-crossin' the border. Lots of love for the ethnically-named Kathleen Parker, who wonders why everyone can't just speak American already.

4. The Original Broadway Cast of Avenue Q, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"

In May, the White House found Stephen Colbert unfunny, Zacaroius Moussaoui went to prison, Bush's approval rating dropped to 29 percent, those obnoxious Ford ads were on the air, and the state of Georgia wigged out about gays settlin' down. What's up, state of Georgia? You got something about tastefully-decorated townhomes and adopted kids trotting off to school looking all zhuzhed and metro? Not cool, state of Georgia.

5. Dope, "Debonaire"

June was a light posting month, as it was the month I started freelancing as my only means of support. Coincidentally, it was also the month my credit card hit the limit and my ulcer kicked up to 11. While all of that was going on, my blog turned 2, some bitch dumped Doug over voicemail, and Laura Mallory (we remember her from May?) got tole by the Gwinnett County School Board. She didn't listen, of course, because people like her don't listen, but she did get tole.

6. Stevie Wonder, "Superstition"

July had snowflake babies, war on the West Bank, sabre rattling by North Korea, the descent of yours truly on Birmingham, and the descent of Atlas Pam into madness. Nothing says "citizen journalist to be taken seriously" like a gigantic martini glass and the Pussycat Dolls.

7. INXS, "Elegantly Wasted"

In August, we had to dump all terrorist moisturizers and diet sodas from our carryon luggage, Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey suggested we all wished we were hot like her, poor Bleu Copas was outed and ousted, and, like, whatever, because Columbus's Northern Little League All-Stars beat Japan to win the Little League World Series. W00t, kids.

8. Gorillaz, "Rock the House"

The fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks seemed significant in that five is a round number. In terms of the country changing at all in the wake of said attack, we found ourselves more scared, and several thousand of our troops found themselves more dead. ABC commemorated such event with a movie that was 99.3 percent untrue, and George W. Bush commemorated it by declaring the right to torture folks. Folks like, y'know, us. I feel so... safe.

9. Dave Matthews Band, "Cry Freedom"

October was a bad month for pages as they were sexually harrassed by Rep. Mark Foley, and it was a bad month for the disabled if Rush Limbaugh might possibly think you're faking, and it was a bad month for Americans if you thought you might want to use your civil liberties, and it was a really bad month for girls who were lined up and methodically shot in Pennsylvania and Colorado while the news media didn't even seem to notice that the boys were let go and the girls were victimized. School security! Oh, metal detectors! I'm sorry, little lady, were you trying to say something?

10. Poe, "Beautiful Girl"

Christmas came early following the November elections as the Democrats took back both the House and the Senate. Don't screw it up, guys. And the gifts just kept on coming with an awesome Bulldog victory over the Auburn Tigers and the resignation of Donald "Job Security" Rumsfeld. Later, hater! Don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.

11. Michelle Branch, "Goodbye To You"

December: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, my birthday. War on Christmas, people! They're taking away your holiday! Didn't you notice that, thanks to the evil liberal secularists, there was no Christmas, and that we actually jumped from December 23 to December 26 with no recognition of the birth of Jesus whatsoever? The power they have!

12. Billy Mack, "Christmas Is All Around"

And, of course, a New Year's Bonus:

Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, "Auld Lang Syne"

Happy New Year, folks! Go forth, get drunk, kiss someone unadvisedly at midnight, wake up regretting it all, and come back safe and reasonably healthy. Let's make 2007 as great happy safe absolutely no worse than 2006 was in any way.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On a grim milestone

Okay, so are we done yet?

Seriously, we're even now, right? We've President Bush has willfully, shamelessly, without regret and against the advice of his generals on the ground,* killed as many of our own guys as they have. Is it over now? Is that enough? Are we done?

*Updated to suit inapickle's preference for unvarnished honesty

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On strangely unabashed bigotry

Okay, so by now everyone's probably read the letter from Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode in which he equates Muslims with illegal immigrants and terrorists, but in case you haven't, here 'tis:
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Charming, isn't it? I know too many Virginians to suspect there's something in the water up there, but maybe Virgil and George "Macaca" Allen could get together for a turkey hunt and a good, old-fashioned cross burning.

There are always nutters, though. As was shown with Allen, and as is being shown with Goode, such views are generally considered extreme, and there are usually plenty of people willing to loudly express their disapproval. While it does bother me that elected officials, people chosen by their constituents as representatives, might feel that way, what bothers me even more is letters like this:
Politically correct view destructive

I don't know what might be in the heart of Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.), but I do know that I agree completely with what he said. I do not wish to give up the foundation of our nation by watering it down any further.

I know there are plenty of Muslims of goodwill in our country already, decent people who would not hurt anyone. However, if they had their wish, I know they would turn this into an Islamic nation in a minute.

As an American, I have to stand against the increase of Islam in America by immigration. I support immigration where it is legal and where the immigrant comes here and adopts our customs and culture. I am solidly against immigrants coming here and asking us to adopt their ways.

I agree with Goode. The time to stop the trend is now. If we are "politically correct" much longer, we soon won't be able to recognize our country.

RON TALLON, Woodstock

That letter bothers me so much because the opinion of one man (one horribly bigoted man) in a position of authority has now bolstered a similarly bigoted opinion of another man. Another common man. The kind of man who hangs out with other common men by the water cooler or at Hooter's on a Thursday evening, talking about politics or war or the economy or automotive repair. And now Ron Tallon can say to those other men, "Hey, did you read that letter from Virgil Goode about how Muslims are going to take over the country? Isn't that what I've been saying for months?" And so it grows.

I can remember a time - this was within my lifetime - when people didn't say things like that. It wasn't that things were politically correct, and it certainly wasn't that people didn't think things like that. It was just that people, even bigoted people, realized that it wasn't okay to feel that way. And so, even when they were with people who might agree with them, they didn't say what they were thinking. And when, on occasion, people did say such things out loud, there were always other people around who would say, "That's horrible. You shouldn't say things like that." Because people realized that even if you can't control what you think, you can have some control over what you allow to come out of your mouth.

Somewhere along the way, that phenomenon, which could be called "tact" or, more accurately, "common sense," swelled and grew and was twisted into that favorite conservative strawman that is "political correctness." Tucking it into such a neat little box with a neat little label made it easy for people to dismiss. "That's just political correctness; that's just not saying true stuff!" they'd say when anyone objected to a patently racist slur or blatant stereotype.

Once the strawman was in place, of course, it became a rallying point. "Down with PC!" the torch-bearing villagers would cry. The new cool thing was to rebel against political correctness. And suddenly, it's an act of defiance, like the American Revolution, to say racist things, use racial slurs, express racist and sexist and homophobic ideas, and dare anyone to contradict you. After all, that's just political correctness, right?

It's not. The reason that not saying racist things is "politically correct" is that racism is wrong. If you're thinking that all Hispanic people are lazy illegals sponging off government assistance, you're demonstrably wrong, and statistics will prove you wrong. If you're thinking it and saying it, you're a racist, and that's wrong. If you're thinking that all black people are making and/or having babies out of wedlock and, again, sponging off the government, you're demonstrably wrong. If you're saying that all gay people are pedophiles, you're demonstrably wrong. If you're saying that all Muslims are a) illegal immigrants b) trying to take over our country, if you're saying that, Virgil Goode, Ron Tallon, you're a racist, and you're wrong.

What worries me is that, once a public figure like Virgil Goode has unapologetically exposed himself as an ignorant, racist fucktard, others are following his lead. He makes it look like it's okay to be that way, that it's not something to be deeply ashamed of. That it's not something to strive against and to try to raise your children otherwise. He's made racism a badge of honor that other bigots, tired of keeping their racism/homophobia/misogyny a secret, are proud to come out of the closet and wear.

During a discussion of that same letter, Doug made the point that political correctness, as a concept, is dead and stale, and that rebelling against it is like rebelling against bellbottoms. "You're not going to get me into that polyester, no way!" He's right. These "rebels" may see themselves as revolutionaries against political correctness, but what they're rebelling against is human decency itself. And while they have every constitutionally-protected right to do so, they're only exposing themselves as indecent humans. Bigots. And they should be ashamed. Because no matter who is wearing it like a superhero cape, bigotry is always shameful.

On happy returns

Okay, so I'm back, as promised. Christmas was truly lovely, a small affair with just the immediate family. Not that I don't love the rest of my family, but it's nice to have a small, close-knit group for all of the important traditions: midnight Mass, It's a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol, watching the Redskins lose valiantly to the Rams, and this thing with apples and walnuts and honey and oplatke that would take a while to explain. And, of course, an embarrassment of presents; you know you're getting old when your favorite gifts include a laser level and three pairs of tights, and when you have as much fun watching other people opening their gifts as you do opening your own.

Anyway, I do fully intend to return to my usual spittle-flecked political ranting shortly, but I wanted to get out at least one post of peace and happiness and gratitude and best wishes. I hope your holidays (whichever you observed) were/are lovely, and I wish you a New Year's Eve full of champagne and someone to kiss and no hangover the next morning.

We now return you to your previously scheduled ranting.

Friday, December 22, 2006

On folks at Christmastime: This Is Your Christmas Soundtrack

Okay, so barring some fantastic news item that merits an interruption of my holiday (and it'd have to be a good one, because I need and deserve this holiday), this is the last you'll hear from me until shortly after Christmas. But not too shortly after Christmas, because, as I've bitched before, Christmas is going to be mighty short.


I'll keep it short, because I need to get packed, load up my car, and peel on out of here before the traffic starts getting really, really horrible, but: Merry Christmas. Also happy Hanukkah, since there're two more nights of that coming, and joyous Saturnalia (which also lasts, if I'm not mistaked, through the 23rd) and happy holidays to anyone celebrating a holiday not mentioned here. I hope you get to spend time with your family, if that's what you're into, and if you're not into it, I wish you the best and most convincing of excuses for not showing up. And I hope we can all get into the spirit of the season, that being the spirit of generosity and forgiveness and community and not the spirit of rampant commercialism and holiday territorialism.

So this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten, Christmas Edition, is dedicated to y'all. Happy holidays. And whatnot.

The Ten:

1. Billy Mack, "Christmas Is All Around"
2. Mormon Tabernacle Choir, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"
3. Diana Krall, "Winter Wonderland"
4. Londonderry Boys Choir, "Deck the Halls"
5. Madonna, "Santa Baby"
6. Placido Domingo, "Cantique de Noel (O Holy Night)"
7. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, "Silver Bells"
8. St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, "Ding Dong! Merrily On High"
9. Sammy Davis, Jr., "Silver Bells"
10. Luciano Pavarotti, "Ave Maria"

Your Ten, your list for Santa, and/or your holiday thoughts go below.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

On Thursday mixed nuts

Okay, so just in time for Christmas, we bring you a veritable fruitcake busting with inedible, unidentifiable candied fruits and certifiable nuts. To wit:

- The Sheila Variations brings us the harrowing tale of one woman's journey through - and I wish I were kidding here - the Charmin Megastore. It's a paradise of blue carpeting, abundant TP and dancing bears that really need to go potty. (H/t Feministe.)

- Alternately, we have a woman who took that scene from Airplane! way too seriously and tried to check her baby with her luggage. I'm just joshin', of course; in reality, she set him in one of those plastic bins and sent him through the X-ray machine. Luckily, doctors have determined that the poor irradiated tyke didn't receive enough rays that he'll someday be able to leap tall buildings and/or shoot webs from his wrists. When he grows up, he's going to be pissed.

Best quote from the article?
"We're trying to figure out what changes we can make, short of putting up signs saying, 'Don't put your baby through the X-ray machine,' " Melendez said. "We're trying to determine how we can make this not happen again."

I would love to see the little illustrative pictogram that goes with that instruction.

- In the Battle of the Network Has-Beens, Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump are duking it out over stupid stuff she said and stupid stuff he said. I know, I'm still looking for some kind of Christmassy decorative tin in which to contain my shock. Following the press conference in which Trump generously offers absolution to Miss Drunk USA 2006, Rosie makes fun of his hair (she's so classy!) and The Donald calls her sloppy and threatens to sue (he is, too!).

I'm still trying to figure out why no one has tried to muzzle either one of these. Or, worse yet, make them move in together and film it as a reality show (dibs on intellectual property! Must credit Practically Harmless!).

- And to close, as I opened, with fruits and nuts, here are Christmas greetings from commenter annieangel (no relation, I promise you) over at Sadly, No!:
I hope Christmas brings you what you deserve. I hope it brings you nightmares from which you wake up screaming, I hope you relive every bad memory of your life and I hope you have a rotten Christmas.


You are a fucking piece of shit. Your mother is a whore and your father is a drunk who will both rot in Hell if they aren’t already.

She goes on to say, "I’m not perfect, just forgiven. I’m saved and Jesus forgives me for being human. That’s why He died for me. I am nowhere near perfect, I am not Jesus. But I love Him and He loves me and we both HATE you."

But these merry Christmas greetings don't mean I'm going anywhere (if only because the university decided, in their wisdom, to grant precisely one day off for the Christmas holiday, as Carol Garrizon muttered, "It's a sorry excuse for picking a man's pocket every December the 25th..."). Tune in tomorrow for more holiday goodness and a Very Special Christmas Friday Not-Even-Random Ten.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On a Tuesday Pottery Barn quickie

Okay, so William E. Odom examines (and Amanda Marcotte examines his examination of) a question I've been wondering about myself for quite some time. Current justifications for continued US activities in Iraq tend to follow what's coming to be known as the "Pottery Barn" rule, the classic "you break it, you bought it."

Odom asks, "What if you go in, break the shit out of something totally expensive, and then can't afford to pay for it?"

What would you do?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On happy holidays

Okay, so please be so kind as to allow me a brief rant.

I don't know where Jewish people go to decorate for holidays. I'm assuming they do, because I've seen lovely homes decorated tastefully and not-so-tastefully for the winter Festival of Lights, and I'm sure that they all didn't hand-make their menorahs and lighted stars of David and six-foot inflatable lawn dreidels from bits and things they found around the house.

Where they got them, though, I don't know. Because when I went out today a-hunting for materials for my office's holiday cubicle decorating contest, I found... Christmas stuff. Christmas stuff everywhere. There were the more ecumenical Christmas trees and Santas Claus, but there were tons of religiously-specific objets as well - angels, nativity scenes, plastic light-up shepherds and animatronic twinkle-light sheep. Just about anything you could hope to find to tacky up your house and/or lawn in red and green was available anywhere you chose to look.

Hanukkah stuff? Not so much. Or, to be more accurate, not at freaking all. Two crafts stores had precisely nothing. The local Party City had bags of gelt for a very affordable 50 cents, dreidel stickers, and star-of-David napkins and paper plates. And Target, the last place I looked before I got fed up and went home with a can of hair mousse and a bottle of diet root beer, had one end cap of cheap Hanukkah goodness.

The end cap, for the retailly uninformed, is those three shelves at the tip of a long stretch of shelves, offering possibly eighteen square feet total of display space facing out into the main aisle to catch shoppers' eyes. In this case, shoppers looking for Christmas bows, ribbons, stockings, wrapping paper, cards, ornaments, garlands, wreaths, lawn decorations, lights, and musical dancing snowman figurines were likely to miss the one five-by-three-by-two selection of menorahs (one silvery and art deco, the other cheap, plasticky, and multicolored), candles, plastic dreidels, party invitations (with star of David, of course), and two kinds of wrapping paper. All told, more display space was devoted to humorous birthday cards specific to one's grandfather than to a holiday that is celebrated by 14 million people worldwide and lasts approximately four times the length of Christmas (counting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

It struck me, as I stood staring at the cheap foam dreidel stickers destined to be a gift to some poor kid from that aunt who always thinks he's four years younger than he really is, that Jesus, as a Jewish man in common era, would have probably celebrated Hanukkah in the winter. He certainly wouldn't have been celebrating his own birthday at that time, since archaeologists and historians have shown that he was actually probably born sometime in June, the holiday being pushed back six months by the Christian religion to overshadow and incorporate pagan solstice observances of the time. But somehow, it's good enough for Jesus, it's good for the Hebrew children, but it's not good enough for the retail buyers at Target.

Maybe there's a special Jewish decor showplace that, as a Catholic, I know nothing about. Maybe if I called Temple Beth-El up the street and asked where they got their decorations, they could go on for days about the Jewish Decorating Warehouse off of 280 that's packed floor-to-ceiling with tasteful decorations in shades of blue and silver. Maybe I'm making something out of nothing. But the next time I hear someone bitching about the "War on Christmas," I'm going to chloroform them, stuff them in the trunk of my car, drive them out to Target, and slap them awake in front of the one tiny, pathetic, pitiful end cap of Hanukkah-themed crapulence that is the entirety of Target's seasonal observance for members of the Jewish faith. And if that doesn't convince them that Jesus isn't going anywhere, I'm going to tie them up with tinsel garland and leave them in Bedding and Domestics, then head off for latkes and a bottle of Manischewitz with my friend Sarah. Because wherever it is she gets her decorations, she sure knows how to party.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On Alex Friedman, M.D.: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so Dickwad here feels the need to "save women from themselves" and make their decisions for them, and while there is some debate as to the medical ethics of the entire situation, it's pretty much unanimous that the man is a sanctimonious, misogynistic, paternalistic, self-important ass - and, moreover, fairly dumb for sharing that fact with the readership of the New York Times.

And that's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to the good doctor. May every one of his female patients read the NYT and see exactly what he thinks of their decision-making capabilities.

The Ten:

1. Big Audio Dynamite, "Innocent Child"
2. Space, "Female of the Species"
3. Garbage, "Dumb"
4. Dr. Dre, "Bitches Ain't Shit"
5. The Thompson Twins, "Doctor! Doctor!"
6. Remy Zero, "Save Me"
7. The Flys, "Got You (Where I Want You)"
8. The Rolling Stones, "Under My Thumb"
9. Jump, Little Children, "Woman In Chains"
10.Tears For Fears, "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"


On the rules of the land

Okay, so I need to take a moment to dispel a myth. Somehow, Democrats have gotten the reputation of being the "party of tolerance." Maybe it's because of our unwillingness to tell people what to do when they're at home and naked. Maybe it's because of our unwillingness to accept financial prosperity as a sure-fire sign of inherent individual value. Maybe it's because of our record of standing up for the minority in the face of the majority; whatever. I want to state, here and now, that tolerance is a great thing, but I want no part in it.

I'm not tolerant! I could even be called intolerant in some situations. I've worked hard to develop my reputation as a person of rage, fanaticism, obstinacy, and willfulness, and I won't have some soft, squishy warm-fuzzy "moderate liberal" coming around and spoiling that.

I mean, hell, that's why I started this blog in the first place. It's not like newspapers were falling all over themselves offering me a column, or Charles Osgood offering me a few minutes of TV time on a Sunday morning. Here, I've got my own little country, of which I am the boss, and in which I make the rules. Sure, I try to be a benevolent dictator; I have a no-banning policy, to which I've adhered in the face of some truly obnoxious trolls. And I think I've been shown to accept dissent, contradiction, and correction rather well, even going so far as to utter that choking phrase "I was wrong" on one or two occasions. My balance of commenter ideology definitely lists to the left, but there are enough representatives from both sides of the ideological spectrum to keep things interesting.

That having been said, I am the queen, supreme high commander and empress-for-life of the Practically Harmless nation, and I don't have to tolerate jack shit if I don't want to. I don't have to honor anyone's First Amendment rights; I choose to do so because I'm cool like that. And I recognize that the First Amendment protects your right to speak, just as it protects my right to call you a jackass for what you say and to call you an idiot when you're wrong. The First Amendment is very, very important in the land of Practically Harmless.

So here, for future reference, is a list of things I do and do not tolerate. It's hardly an exhaustive or comprehensive list, which could go on for days. And it's hardly immutable, either; it's my prerogative to change my mind at will, because this is my land and in it, I am as a god. It's just a list. A fine and noble list.

Things I tolerate:
1. Dissent. I love dissent. If you disagree, make your case, and I'd love to hear it. Dissent is what keeps this blog interesting. Make your case passionately, and make it based on evidence. I may even come over to your side; I'm open-minded like that.

Things I don't tolerate:
1. Stupidity. If you're going to dissent, you'd better have something to back it up, and it had better not come from NewsMax, World Net Daily, or anything written by Jerry Falwell. If you say, "Blah," and I ask why, and you say, "Because blah, man, it's just unnatural, blah," you are an idiot, and you will be informed of that fact.

Things I tolerate:
2. Differing values. Kind of goes with dissent, also leans a bit in the freedom-of-religion direction (again with the First Amendment! w00t!). I recognize that people believe different things, and that sometimes your personal value system assigns an arbitrary rightness or wrongness to something without any real reason why. I mean, hell, I'm Catholic.

Things I don't tolerate:
2. Dogmatism. Here's where differing values get messy. I will gladly accept that you believe things that are different from my beliefs. But if you expect me to accept your argument on the basis of that difference, you've got another think coming. "Because [insert religious text here] says so" is not an acceptable argument. "Because gays are an abomination," "because God hates shrimp," "because the Holy Land was given to the Jews in the Old Testament," "because Muslims don't believe in Jesus and are going to hell," oh would you shut up. Beliefs are personal, facts are universal, and logic and reason are the bridge between. Learn to love the bridge.

Things I tolerate:
3. Friendly taking of the piss. Joshing. Teasing. Messing around. Someone's going to get called an asshat (or, as I may well steal from Feministe, an "assberet"). Someone's going to get their sanity and/or intelligence level called into question. Sometimes it's going to be nice; sometimes it's not. I'd like us to try and keep the latter to an absolute minimum, because debate is better when it's debate and not infantile name-calling (and y'all know who I'm talking to), but it happens sometimes, and we deal.

Things I don't tolerate:
3. Bigotry. Allow me to take a moment to lay down a few house rules for teasing and/or insulting people in the land of Practically Harmless. The n-word is right out. I don't like it, I don't use it, I don't want to hear it. Implications that a person is gay and/or a woman as a method of insult? Also out. There is nothing wrong with being gay, being a woman, or, for that matter, being a lesbian, and to use "Oh, there's nothing gay about that. Noooothing at aaaaaall" or "Stop being such a girl" as an insult indicates otherwise. I'm not a fan of the word "cunt," but I know that if I made that an absolute rule, I'd never see my brother again.

Things I tolerate:
4. Puppies, deep snow, mulled cider, Jack Daniel's and ginger ale, Humphrey Bogart movies (except for The African Queen, snore), pecan pie, really horrible sci-fi movies, rainy days, the Georgia Bulldogs, Howie Day, low-flying planes when you drive past the airport, alstroemeria, and the cheese biscuits at Jim & Nick's, among others.

Things I don't tolerate:
4. Hatred. The following arguments will be shot down automatically, because they're old, they're stale, they're played out, and most of them have long since been debunked. So don't bother arguing that:
- Gay parents will molest their children and/or raise them gay.
- Women shouldn't work because they need to be having babies.
- Gay marriage will start a "slippery slope" that will lead inevitably to polygamous and/or box turtle marriage; I've probably posted four times on why this is a dumb argument, but people keep pulling it out.
- The will of the voters is supreme; we've all had history classes, we all know that the "will of the voters" in the 1950s would leave us with segregated water fountains and anti-miscegenation laws, we can all leave that argument in the box.
- Muslims are more prone to violence than comparably passionate Christians.
- Poor people are poor because they're lazy and/or worthless.
- Women only have abortions because they're sluts, and women get intact D&Es like, all the time as a convenient, inexpensive and painless method of birth control.
- The government can't possibly keep us safe without taking away our civil liberties.
- Not-endorsing something is exactly the same as oppressing it.
- Religious doctrine is a reasonable basis for legislation.
- The Constitution is just a symbol.

So there you have it: intolerance at its finest. And I'm proud to tolerate and, as noted, not tolerate these things. They add up to a fair representation of my values. And as queen, supreme high commander and empress-for-life of Practically Harmless, I feel perfectly comfortable imposing my values on my people. If you don't like it, nobody's keeping you here.

But I'd be awfully glad if you'd stay. Look! I made cookies!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On priceless Man Wisdom

Okay, so we'll take a break from women who want to have children and, like, obviously shouldn't and move on to women who don't want to have children when it is obviously their female-ly duty to do so. This one has been abundantly snarked at Pandagon and Feministe, but it's just so deliciously awful that I had to take a swing.

Beyond Medicine, a Doctor’s Urge to Save a Patient From Herself

Ohhhh God, I can feel the chunks a-rising already. Here it comes... False alarm. We're okay. So, from what self-destructive urge is the brave and noble doctor saving this woman? Suicide? Alcoholism? Marrying Kevin Federline?
Earlier this year, a patient of mine in her early 20s who was expecting her third child asked to have her tubes tied. A mother of two, with a full-time job and part-time school classes, she saw a fourth child as an impossible burden.

Wow. Yes. Yes, that is a, um, terrible, awful, irresponsible decision that could harm her in the future, as she continues to... not have more kids than she has the money or time to care for. Go for it, doc.
I acknowledged to my patient that the surgery was effective in preventing pregnancy. In terms of making her life better and her happier, though, the prognosis was poorer.

Because if anyone would know, it would be her male gynecologist.
The best study done on surgical sterilization followed more than 10,000 women who had the procedure. Women under 30 felt regret much more often than those over 30, the researchers found. Other studies suggested that my patient, younger than 25, might be at even higher risk for regret.

This is actually true. As a commenter at Pandagon points out, the frequency of regretting a tubal ligation is two percent overall, but for women under 30, it's - wait for it - four percent. That's twice as many. How good of the kind doctor to save this woman from a 96 percent chance of being satisfied with the procedure.
My patient could change her mind and have children after sterilization. A subsequent surgery could reconnect her tubes. She could undergo in vitro fertilization, removing the eggs directly from her ovaries, fertilizing them and placing them back in her uterus. But both options carry risks and are very expensive, and if my patient did not have the money, she would be out of luck.

And obviously she wouldn't have the money, since she's already said that she doesn't even have the money to raise more kids. Oh, good doctor, show her the error of her ways!
I wanted her to understand the implications of her decision.

“What if your children died in a fire? Would you want more children?” I asked, a horrible to question to put to a pregnant mother.

If one of your wholly interchangeable children were to die horrifically, wouldn't you want to immediately pop out a new one? A horrible question, indeed, but a crucial one. Who would finish all of those Lunchables in the fridge?
No, she said.

“What if the relationship you’re in now ended and you met someone else? Would you change your mind?”

After your current man leaves you, you baby-hating slut, won't your new man want to plant his sperm flag on Mount Uterus? Don't you care about your new hypothetical man?
Still no.

My patient’s request wasn’t unreasonable. She was choosing a form of birth control favored by millions of other American women. For her, I just felt it was a bad choice because in 15 years, much could change: her children might go off to college, she might be remarried, she could have a higher income. She might want a fourth child by then, and with excellent reversible birth control options like the intrauterine device, there was no need for her to take a risk with a tubal ligation.

She might be homeless and on the streets. She might be reveling in an empty nest and considering starting her own business. She might be remarried, with a higher income, and looking forward to a cruise around Mexico with her new hubby. And who wouldn't want another baby at that point? The important thing isn't that we take care of her needs now; the important thing is that we prepare for an infinite array of hypotheticals a decade and a half in the future. When medical science will not have progressed at all.
“Treating people as rational adults means letting them do things they may bitterly regret later,” wrote Piers M. Benn, a medical ethicist at Imperial College London and the lead author of a paper on sterilizing young, childless women, published last year in The British Medical Journal.

If society let a person ruin her health by drinking a bottle of whiskey a day, Dr. Benn wrote, “it might be reasonable to ask what is so special about voluntary sterilization.”

Because drinking a bottle of whiskey a day is, of course, perfectly comparable to having full baby-making capacity and choosing not to use it.
In the end, I decided my patient’s request was reasonable. I hope the surgery gives her a feeling of control in her life and relieves some anxiety. If years from now she decides she wants more children, I’ll tell her what I think her best options are and try to talk her out of any bad ideas.

O blessed doctor, thank you for being there and rescuing this woman from the horrors of making her own decisions. Autonomy is such a stress on women, delicate and fragile as we are, and having someone browbeat us into submission about our own bodies is such a relief. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to impart your wisdom upon us. Now, if you'll only tell me whether or not I should toast my turkey sandwich today, and if Swiss cheese is the wisest choice, I'll let you get back to the helpless, deeply stupid women in need of your care.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On gays settlin' down: Part Four of Two

Okay, so in a recent comments thread, I posed a few questions to one Trolly McTrollypants, who has thus far declined to answer. But I figure I'd give everyone a shot at them, since everyone has their own perspective on things like gay rights and civil liberties. I'm just really curious, because when I think about such things myself, the only answers I can come up with are "Oh noes!!!one!!! Teh gays are going to ruin marriage!!11!!eleven!!!" and that's probably not the entire answer. So maybe y'all know something I don't.

Proceeding from the stipulation that the will of the voters is not the exclusive basis for the law of the land (see, historically, the civil rights era, in which the will of the voters would have upheld segregated schools, buses, water fountains, etc.), answer the following questions to the best of your ability:

1. In situations in which a same-sex couple wishes to raise a child, what about a lesbian makes her incapable of being a good father? What about a gay man makes him incapable of being a good mother?

2. What consequences would gay marriage have on straight marriage? What specific threat does same-sex marriage pose to traditional marriage? What impact would a gay married couple have on the marriage of a straight couple?

I recognize that most of you don't actually feel that way anyway, but maybe you have some insight into the neocon brain nonetheless. Answers (particularly those that don't start "Oh noes!") go below. I'm really interested in hearing what people have to say, because so far, I haven't been able to come up with anything beyond, "Um, 'nothing'? Is 'nothing' the right answer?"

Monday, December 11, 2006

On day jobs

Okay, so I'd like to announce, and I'm sure Birmingham media will soon confirm, that I've entered into consideration for the head coaching job at the University of Alabama. I hope to soon accept a contract that will provide $2 million a year over a period of no less than six years, plus incentives as well as salary increases for my coaching staff to be determined later.

I know this announcement comes as a shock to many of you who know how much I enjoy my current job. In my five short months at UAB, I've become quite close to my coworkers, I've found my work to be satisfying and fulfilling, and I've settled into a seriously bomb-ass apartment. However, succeeding Mike Shula as head coach of such a storied football program as the Crimson Tide is an opportunity that would be difficult to turn down.

Note that I say difficult. I'm sure there are incentives that could convince me to remain at the UAB job I've come to love. Without committing to anything, I can comfortably say that a raise of nine percent or so, a larger office (with comfier desk chair), and a designated parking space in the deck would make my departure from UAB a significantly less done deal. And again, without committing to anything, I'd be more than happy to meet with our managing director to discuss it further. But boy, that Bama job is looking awfully tempting...

Aww, yeah. That's the stuff.

Friday, December 08, 2006

On Britney, Paris, and Lindsay: This Is Your Soundtrack

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair

Okay, so "worthless" is such a harsh word. It's a pity when other words prove far less suitable.

As reasonably intelligent people worldwide asked, "Where is that girl's mother?" the Los Angeles DCFS is looking for Britney Spears and her parents are talking about an intervention to mend her hard-partying ways. A recent post by Britney on her Web site, however, indicates that she may recognize that she's overdone it; she writes that it's been two years since she's celebrated her birthday (and photographs reveal that she did so while wearing undies), that she may have taken it a bit to far, and that she's grateful for Victoria's Secret's new underwear line. Although she doesn't make any promises about future image repair, she does at least seem to finally realize that a) she has a two-month-old baby at home and b) panties serve to shield your cootch from more than wind gusts and cold leather car seats.

It may come too late for future offspring of Paris Hilton, who, after spending time with Brit and the kids, has announced that she wants to have kids of her own. After all, she says, "I look after animals, so I'd have a lot to give my kids." Which means we can expect to see her dressing her kids up in a glittery designer sweater with no pants and kissing them on the mouth as she flashes her vajayjay at the paparazzi.

However, this week's Most In Need of Parental Intervention (as well as, very possibly, Least Likely to Benefit From Said Intervention) has to go to Lindsay Lohan. Yes, She Who Thinks Tights Are the Same As Pants has outdone not only Britney and Paris but herself, throwing tantrums, dressing like a hooker, driving her car into people and/or things, wearing someone else's sobriety chip, alternately fighting and not fighting with Paris, spitting canapes onto trays, sending her friends unintelligible e-mails:
Subject: The way of the future-Howard Hughes once said. I am willing to release a politically/morally correct, fully adequite letter to the press if any of you are willing to help. Simply to state my oppinions on how our society should be educated on for the better of our country. Our people. Also because I have such an impact on our younger generations, as well as generations older than me. Which we all know and can obviously see. [...]

[...] Let's sue the tabloids for saying the things they say. Defamation of character. Amongst other illegal accusations, I will repeat this over and over to make my point. I am not fully aware of what these, again, accusations are, but I am fully and eagerly prepared to learn them. Have harvey and all lawyers help me please. If he is willing. Al Gore will help me he came up to me last night and said he would be very happy to have a conversation with me. [...] I'm willing to hold a press conference and I will do anything necessary to do so. In putting an end to 'these people' trying to put an end to me and belittle me as well as try to be the demise of me after all I've gone through and done at such a young and tender age in a womans life. Its enough already, I've had enough and I am going to be the one to make a change. [...] So let's start now, rather than waste time. Do you agree? Because I'm doing it either way. The way of the future. Thank you for your time. Your Entertainer, Lindsay Lohan Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.
([sic] Like, the whole, entire thing. One big [sic])

and, of course, showing her vag.

And that's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to three of the most worthless people ever to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide, Brit, Paris, and LiLo. The Axis of Easy. The Three Horsewomen of the NetherLips. Three women who need to be lured in with a delicious can of tuna, thrown into a pillowcase, taken to the vet, fixed, and released. Somebody do something. Please, God, somebody do something.

The Ten:

1. Shakira, "Underneath Your Clothes"
2. Dixie Chicks, "Wide Open Spaces"
3. Fatboy Slim, "The Rockafeller Skank"
4. The Gourds, "Gin and Juice"
5. Guster, "I Spy"
6. Donna Summer, "Bad Girls"
7. Portishead, "Glory Box"
8. Monty Python's Flying Circus, "The Spam Sketch"
9. Kahr, "Naked"
10. The Original Broadway Cast of Avenue Q, "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today"

And those are just the ones I didn't leave out 'cause my parents sometimes read my blog.

Your Ten goes in comments.

On Christmeme

Okay, so I don't really know how many bloggers have to take up an idea to make it a meme, but I'm going to arbitrarily set the threshhold at two. That way, I don't have to feel like I'm copying, because you're supposed to push a meme (see what I did there?). And all told, it's kind of crappy as memes go, but a not-unfun post, so here goes.

Josh at Martians Attacking Indianapolis (which is, as I've said many times before, the best blog name evah) and Stanicek of Pasqua and Stanicek are listing their five favorite holiday movies. Stanicek's are fairly traditional, Josh's somewhat less so, and may I say that at Christmastime, having the cinematic taste of a 60-year-old woman is no sin at all.

I realize that I'm supposed to be bitter and cynical and jaded, and I do my best, but I just can't not like Christmas. The whole Christmas season. Now don't ask me why; I don't quite know the reason... Ahem. Actually, I suppose it's the holiday season as a whole, because I don't particularly care what holiday is coming up next as long as the entire city is covered in candles and little white lights and smells like fresh-cut fir. This is coming from a girl who used to have to spend every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas dragging a photographer around Lenox Square for Monday's retali rundown - I still love the season. I have been known to do all of my shopping online (to avoid the hassle) and then spend the afternoon at the mall, sipping a peppermint mocha and looking at the decorations and watching everyone else do their holiday shopping. I don't start decorating for Christmas until December 1, but I do allow myself Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving, and I never, ever get sick of it. I pack all of my sentimentality for the year into one month, and that month is December, and I am unashamed.

So yeah, Christmas movies are big for me.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - The animated Boris Karloff version, of course, rather than anything involving Jim Carrey and eleven yards of FunFur. I can recite the entire thing pretty much by heart, and I've got "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" on my iPod. I think "You're a crooked, jerky jockey and you drive a crooked hoss" is a fanastic insult. I love watching the Grinch's heart grow three sizes. Love, love, love...

2. Love Actually - The first time I saw this movie, I cried and cried and cried because I was just about two weeks removed from the worst breakup of my young life. I cried for the couples who were unhappy, and I cried over the couples who weren't. With distance and healing, however, I came to love the movie for its general brilliance, the happy couples and sad couples, Bill Nighy in nothing but an electric guitar singing "Christmas Is All Around," young Thomas Sangster proposing to get the shit kicked out of him by love, Billy Bob Thornton as the oh-so-slimy president of the US, Martine "Plumpy" McCutcheon looking gorgeous and falling in love with the Prime Minister, Andrew Lincoln with his "to me, you are perfect" sign... Sigh. It still makes me cry, but now in a good way.

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol - A fantastic take on an old classic, with an excellent Michael Caine as Scrooge and the Great Gonzo narrating. Great music, great story, hilarious all around. This is one of those movies that's as much written for adults as it is for children; my mom's another big fan.

4. It's a Wonderful Life - When I allow myself some sentimentality, I take it all the way. The story is sappy, the kid who plays Zuzu is so annoying, but... I mean, come on. Watching George Bailey realize how much he has to live for? Watching him courting Mary during a flashback? Watching the entire town of Bedford Falls come together to help George out? Classic. Jimmy Stewart rocks my stockings. Trivia: This movie was actually labeled as "subversive" by the FBI because the use of a nasty, Scroogey businessman was "a common trick used by communists."

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas - That scraggly, pathetic Christmas tree. Linus reciting the Christmas story from the book of Luke... Excuse me a moment... I've just got something in my eye...

Honorable mentions: Miracle on 34th Street (the old one), The Nutcracker (the Balanchine version; ask me about my night at the Midget Nutcracker), Serendipity (it's a Christmas movie because I said so), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (that poor elf!)

And a bonus:
Mickey's Christmas Carol - But not the movie. I don't know how long it's been since we had the book to read along, but I don't remember a Christmas without the Disney version of "A Christmas Carol" to listen to as we wrapped gifts. My mother and I know the songs by heart and can and will sing them - in harmony - at the merest passing mention.

Honorable mention: Claire Bloom's reading of The Nutcracker ("Snoooow was fohhhling outside the home of the Staaaaahbaums...")

Favorites, anyone? Die Hard, perhaps?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

On more unwed mothers

Okay, so on the topic of pregnant women who aren't married, Vice Presidential daughter Mary Cheney is expecting a baby with Heather Poe, her partner of 15 years.

Except, per Virginia law, Mary's technically expecting this baby by herself. The double-plus-ungoodly named Marriage Affirmation Act, passed in 2004, and Virginia's recent ban on gay marriage have guaranteed that Heather Poe will never have a legal relationship with her child as long as the family lives in Virginia. She may not be allowed to pick their child up at school. She may not be allowed to visit Mary and the baby in the hospital during delivery. And should Mary for any reason become incapacitated, Heather may not be allowed to make any decisions affecting the welfare of the child.

But, as Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America points out, it's just what they get for their "unconscionable" decision to reproduce. "It's very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father," Crouse said. "They are encouraging people who don't have the advantages they have."

Those advantages, however, aren't as advantageous as one might think. The aforementioned Marriage Affirmation Act not only prevents Mary and Heather from living as a couple in the eyes of the law, it even prevents them from making any arrangements for the welfare of their child. Because they're gay.

As Jonathan Rauch points out in an editorial (via AmericaBlog) following the passage of the act, the act disenfranchises gays in Virginia and, in essence, denies them personhood by taking away their right to enter into contracts with or concerning their partners. Gay people don't have the right to the disposition of their own property in Virginia. Mary cannot sign a medical power of attorney giving Heather rights to make decision for her health care, write a will leaving her personal property to Heather after death, open a joint checking account, or share custody of their child. Because they're gay. Slaves were not allowed to enter into contracts because they were the personal property of others, children can't enter into contracts because they're wards of their parents, and in the state of Virginia, gays are, apparently, less than people. And the state of Virginia is now prohibited from recognizing them as anything more.

Always remember: It's not important that a child have two loving parents. It's not important that a child have abundant financial support. It's not important that a child be raised in an open, tolerant, and nonjudgmental environment. It's not imporant that a child be loved. It's not important that a child have limitless opportunities. It's not important that a child live in a stable environment with two parents who love each other. What is important is that one of those parents has a penis and the other doesn't.

Virginia is for lovers. As long as you love the right person.

On class


Okay, so I've made no secret of the fact that I kind of like Laura Bush. Her behavior at the most recent White House Easter egg roll notwithstanding, I like the fact that she tends to more progressive views independent of her husband's, I like her recent tendency to wear bolder colors (quite flattering on a woman her age with her coloring), I like her choice of Oscar de la Renta for so many formal events, and even if rumors are true about her tendency to drink, can anyone blame her? She seems to be stuck in one of those King of Queens marriages where everyone wonders how such a cool woman ended up with such a turd for a husband. No Jackie Kennedy she, nor a Rosalynn Carter, but she's not the worst of them.

My opinion of her was only cemented when, Sunday night at the Kennedy Center Honors, she found herself among not two, not three, but four women wearing the same red beaded Oscar de la Renta jacket dress. And despite the fact that she looked fantastic in it and wore it far better than the other three women, she did the classy thing and went upstairs and changed into a different, less flattering, dress.

In honor of that action, I'd like to call upon Oscar de la Renta to take up the mantle of official White House couturier and design all of Laura's event dresses to spare her such indignities in the future. If she's going to drop $8,500 on a gown, she deserves to have one that no one else will be wearing, and she's certainly done well by Oscar in the past. By offering his expertise for free (or at cost), Oscar would be doing a service not only to Laura Bush but to every other Washington woman who happens to share her sense of style and bank account.

Laura, nicely done. You're a classy lady. Ditch the bozo, and I think we could be friends. Call me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On judging, and on not judging

Okay, so when I was home over the Thanksgiving holiday, my (liberal, Catholic, entirely awesome) mother and I were discussing the so-called War on Christmas (and look here for more on that, incidentally) and the way that some uberconservative Christians are really trying to spoil it for the rest of us. During the course of that conversation, I raised the point that Mary was, in fact, an unmarried pregnant teenager, that Joseph himself only went through with the marriage because an angel came to him in a dream, and that today, the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world would probably be calling her a slut and a whore and kicking her out of their churches.

Funny, then, that I should look at Feministe today and find this:

Um, holla. And I think that last line - "think before you judge this Christmas" - is an important one. Even outside of issues like reproductive rights and birth control and sex education, we, all of us, spend so damn much time judging other people without knowing their situations. That pregnant teenager has got to be a slut; she did it to herself. That homeless guy has to be an alcoholic; he did it to himself. Even something as small as watching someone get on the elevator on the second floor and getting off on the first; I'll admit to having uncharitable thoughts in those circumstances myself, and then feeling really, really awful when the person pulls out a cane or walks off of the elevator with an obvious limp. And the holiday season, when we tend to be donating to Toys for Tots and dropping change in the Salvation Army bucket and being generally good for Santa anyway, is a great time to rethink our own tendency to judge and to hold ourselves above other people.

Who could benefit from that lesson? How 'bout the Vatican? From that thread at Feministe we have a story about the movie The Nativity Story, which has the distinction of being the first film ever to premiere at the Vatican. Who wasn't on the invitation list? The film's star, Keisha Castle-Hughes, who, it has been recently revealed, is 16, unmarried, and pregnant.

But we don't judge.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On useful reminders

Okay, so I just wanted to bump this post as a reminder that there are the people whose lives just suck because they waited in line all night for an X-Box and then they got a rain check and waaaah, and then there are people whose lives are made truly difficult by circumstances beyond their control and somehow they manage to not complain or want to be a burden on anyone else even though they probably have every right to do so.

Per For Lee, audience response has been gracious and plentiful, and I'm going to go ahead and assume that some of my readers have been part of that, 'cause y'all are just gracious folks. Anyone who has helped, I thank, and anyone who hasn't yet, I encourage to jump over to For Lee to read her story and see if you can't spare a couple of bucks to help out. And if you happen to know anything about NF1, or (even better) if you happen to be attached to any kind of organization that could provide sponsorship, free/reduced-price medical care, clinical trials, anything, shoot me an e-mail at practically_harmless ( at ) yahoo ( dot ) com and I'll put you in touch with the right people.

It's Christmas, y'all. Do good, or you will be visited by three spirits.

Friday, December 01, 2006

On Practically Harmless: This Is My Soundtrack

Okay, so I know I was unspeakably slack in not providing a Friday Not-Even-Random Ten last week. My only excuse is, of course, recovery from turkey coma, which I'm sure we all appreciate and understand. Nonetheless, I feel the need to make amends, and what better way to do it than with a meme? Who doesn't love a meme?

Here's the trick, as ganked from Jill at Feministe (although I went with the original order as given at And She Knits Too!, as having a baby at #9 and getting married at #16 would have me playing Orf's Carmina Burana as my mother ripped my still-beating heart from my chest): Set your iPod to "random," list the songs in the order that they come up, and get creeped out as your iPod tells you your life story.

This Friday Not-Even-Random Not-Even-Ten is dedicated to me. Why? Because. That's all you need to know.

The - what is it - The Sixteen:

1. Opening credits: Pet Shop Boys, "My Head Is Spinning"

2. Waking up: Annie Sellick, "Just Your Smile"

3. First day at school: The Dead Kennedys, "Too Drunk to Fuck"
Silly iPod, that didn't happen until high school.

4. Falling in love: Big Audio Dynamite, "Kool-Aid"

5. Breaking up: Sven Van Hees, "Serrano Anthem (Amor/Amor)"
Nobody likes a smartass iPod.

6. Prom: Portishead, "It's a Fire"

7. Life's okay: Stan Getz, "The Girl From Ipanema"*
I actually started skipping the classical music here, because Sonata Opus X Var. Y was going to get boring pretty quickly. Besides, I think that "The Girl From Ipanema" is a fantastic "life's okay" song.

8. Mental breakdown: Ludacris, "Act a Fool"

9. Driving: The Beatles, "Ticket to Ride"
And I don't care.

10. Flashback: Home Grown, "Suffer"

11. Getting back together: Les Nubians, "J'veux d'la Musique"

12. Wedding: The Temptations, "My Girl"

13. Birth of child: Howie Day, "Disco Afternoon"
Erin Leigh and Jen know why I'm laughing right now.

14. Final battle: Mono, "Silicone"

15. Funeral song: Barenaked Ladies, "Light Up My Room"

16. End credits: Devo, "Whip It"
Awesome. But feel free to play this at my funeral, too.

Now it's your turn. What does your iPod think about your life?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

On sincere sympathy and concern

Okay, so reading is awesome! There are so many way to read things!

The lines:
Jim Webb, Democratic senator-elect from Virginia, has become a pompous poseur and an abuser of the English language before actually becoming a senator.

Wednesday's Washington Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them (sic) out of Iraq." When the president again asked, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy." ...

(Come on, Jim, be polite!) The entire lines:
“How’s your boy?” Bush asked, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

“That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said. “How’s your boy?”

“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

(A bit snippy there, Mr. President.) And between the lines:
As President Bush is well aware, a couple of weeks before this dinner the tank riding next to Jimmy's in Iraq was under fire and three marines died.

(Ahem. Well, he was - Look, a unicorn!)

On neocon chickenhawk war porn

Okay, so there are things in life that you hate to do, but you know they have to be done. This really hurts me - but not as much as it'll hurt you, Duff. When it all gets to be too much, just read through Ender's Game again and remember the good times.

Orson Scott Card's got another one, and it's enough to make you want to put on your camoflage parka and yell, "Wolverines!":
Of course, the enemy were firing back. Captain Malich himself was hit, but his body armor easily dealt with a weapon fired at such long range. And as the enemy fire slackened, Malich counted the enemy dead and compared it to the number he had seen in the village, moving from building to building. He gave the hand signal that told the rest of his team that he was going in, and they shot at anyone who seemed to be getting into position to kill him as he descended the slope.

In only a few minutes, he was among the small buildings of the village. These walls would not stop bullets, and there were people cowering inside. So he did not expect to do a lot of shooting. This would be knife work.

He was good at knife work. He hadn't known until now how easy it was to kill another man. The adrenalin coursing through him pushed aside the part of his mind that might be bothered by the killing. All he thought of at this moment was what he needed to do, and what the enemy might do to stop him, and the knife merely released the tension for a moment, until he started looking for the next target.

By now his men were also in the village, doing their own variations on the same work. One of the soldiers encountered a terrorist who was holding a child as a hostage. There was no thought of negotiation. The American took aim instantly, fired, and the terrorist dropped dead with a bullet through his eye.

At the end, the sole surviving terrorist panicked. He ran to the center of the square, where many of the villagers were still cowering, and leveled his automatic weapon to mow them down.

The old man still had one last spring in his ancient legs, and he threw himself onto the automatic weapon as it went off.

Captain Malich was nearest to the terrorist and shot him dead. But the old man had taken a mortal wound. By the time Malich got to him, the old man gave one last shudder and died in a puddle of the blood that had poured from his abdomen where two bullets tore him open.

Reuben Malich knelt over the body and cried out in the keening wail of deep grief, the anguish of a soul on fire. He tore open the shirt of his uniform and struck himself repeatedly on the chest. This was not part of his training. He had never seen anyone do such a thing, in any culture. Striking himself looked to his fellow soldiers like a kind of madness. But the surviving villagers joined him in grief, or watched him in awe.

We know it's fiction, because the main character has adequate body armor.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On racism, sexism, and reclamation

Okay, so pretty much everyone has heard, or at least heard about, Michael Richards's racist rant at the Laugh Factory (video here, but consider it NentirelySFW), and he's made his apologies. A lot of debate has surrounded the incident, particularly over whether a person who uses racist language in such circumstances is necesssarily a racist him/herself. Allow me to weigh in on that particular point: Yes. No matter what triggered his rant, he wouldn't have used the language he did had it not been top-of-mind already. He went on a tirade because he was angry, and it was a racist tirade because he's racist.

Jesse Jackson, backed by other black leaders, has called on the entertainment industry to stop using the word that got Richards in so much trouble, saying that its casual use by black entertainers makes it seem more acceptable to everyone else. And he's got a point; just about every apologist who tried to excuse Richard's racist tirade chose to go with, "Hey, nig - uh, black people use that word all the time!"

Also in the "Sticks and Stones" category, although in a somewhat less publicized way, is a recent stir at liberal blog Firedoglake, where blogger Pachacutec compared Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher to a prostitute in graphic, specific, and painfully verbose detail and blogger TRex used the word "cunt" to insult a commenter who disagreed with his use of, well, that word. And again, same argument. "Women use that word all the time! Gay men use that word all the time!"

Over at Feministe, piny gives a much better and more concise explanation of the situation than I ever could. It center around the concept of reclamation, the idea that a word, so embedded in our cultural psyche as a painful epithet, can be taken back and redefined by those against whom it has been used. He gives the example of Dykes on Bikes, who have reclaimed an insult implying that lesbians are wrong and unnatural and turned it into a word for a fearless, strong woman; and of Bitch magazine, which has taken a similar slur against women implying pettiness, sluttiness, shrewishness, and a host of other negative qualities, and using it to show strength and solidarity and demand respect. Margaret Cho, similarly, talks about reclaiming the term "fag hag," taking two really unpleasant words and using them to describe what is frequently a really beautiful platonic relationship.

But the trick about reclamation is that it's more than just pounding a culture with a word until it's no longer shocking. That's not blunting the knife as much as it is numbing the skin. Michael Richards using the n-word over and over and over again didn't make it any less of a slur; the intent behind it was to wound, and it worked. Using "cunt" in casual conversation doesn't make it any less powerful when it's directed at you with the force of rage behind it.

As piny says:
When you reclaim an epithet, you take it and use it against its meaning in order to deflate its meaning. You are practicing verbal civil disobedience. You are refusing to maintain the original, hateful sense of the word and attempting to force the word to carry a new meaning, your meaning. Reclamation is the name given to this strategy because it is so frequently practiced by the original targets of the hatred. In fact, they are in the best possible position to practice this kind of reverse engineering, because they often have difficulty taking the place of the original users without destabilizing the hater/hated dichotomy that makes epithets valid in the first place. They are also in a better position to recognize the difference–which can be fine in a society where hatred is transparent–between ironic and earnest use.

And that's the difference. A woman who proudly self-identifies as a bitch is reclaiming the word and making it into a good thing; a woman who calls another woman a bitch for stealing her boyfriend is not reclaiming it, because she's giving it the same hurtful meaning it's always had. A member of Dykes on Bikes is reclaiming; the man who calls her a dyke because she's a butch lesbian, and obviously that's disgusting and wrong, is giving it the same hurtful meaning it's always had.

Which is where words like Michael Richards's favorite come in. As piny points out in his post, it has been used to mean every horrible thing that could be said to imply that black people are sub-human. And he even provides examples of how that word has been used - reclaimed - to indicate exactly the opposite. But here's the thing: When Chris Rock stands on stage and talks about the difference between "black people" and (that word)s? That's not reclamation. When a rapper talks about (that word)s selling drugs, pimping, and shooting people? That's not reclamation. That's using a word in its traditional sense to mean what it's always meant, and it does nothing to defuse it or prevent it from being used as a weapon in the future.

I'm against censorship. I think that people should be allowed to say what they think. I also think, however, that when we wander into fragile territory like race and gender, we have to be conscious of the impact our words might have. Michael Richards had every right to stand up on stage and say horrible things; the result he must accept is that he's been (rightly) branded a racist and may never work again. Chris Rock has every right to stand up on stage and call black people (that word)s; the result he must accept is that he's working counter to the idea of reclamation by reinforcing the traditional meaning of that word.

Reclamation works (if it works, which is debatable) by turning something into the opposite of what it is; it takes a sharp knife and turns it into a pillow. Done properly, it takes the power out of an insult by making it something that anyone would be proud to be. Done improperly, it turns a sharp knife into a submachine gun, and hurts more people than it ever intended.

I consider myself both a bitch and a fag hag, and I think they're wonderful things to be. I feel bad for women who aren't. Maybe someday, I'll be proud to call myself a cunt, too. But right now, when Dave Attell David Cross uses it to refer to worthless airheads like Paris Hilton and TRex uses it to call people hypersensitive wimps and whiners, I don't want it. And if you throw it at me, that doesn't make you a comedian or a rebel, it makes you a misogynist asshole.

Unless you want to start reclaiming "misogynist asshole." I guess that's up to you.

Monday, November 27, 2006

On gratitude

Okay, so obviously, this past week was the one for giving thanks, and I'm not going to bother going through all of the traditional dinner-table I'm-thankful-for stuff; nobody particularly cares, and anyone who does care just has to ask. But there were definitely a couple or three standouts over the long holiday weekend, and I wanted to shine a thankful spotlight on them.

Reggie Ball. Yeah, you saw that coming. Or, as we were chanting Saturday night, "Reggie Ball, Reggie Ball, Reggie Ball." Or, as 90,000-some-odd Georgia fans were chanting, "Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" Or, as many of our fellow tailgaters were chanting, "Thank you Reg-gie!" (clap, clap, clap-clap). And for that variety in available cheers, I am also grateful.

Honestly, the sixth win in a row felt just as good as the first five (a fact on which I was meditating as I swung wildly from the Victory Bell following the game), but the whipped cream and sprinkles were added by the fact that, Georgia's own performance aside, we had the game handed to us by one of the biggest dickwads in the ACC. Yes, the victory was hard-won, and it was a nail-biter right down to the last thirty seconds, but after hearing so much crap about Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson and the all-'round superiority of Tech's football program and the inevitable pounding we should have been preparing to receive, watching Paul Oliver make the entire Tech offense into his bitchez was unspeakably satisfying. Doug likes to say that this is a reminder of why we're Georgia and they're Georgia Tech.

(Concept blatantly ganked from Doug)

Daniel Craig's chest. I'll freely admit that I had my reservations about Casino Royale, particularly about Daniel Craig as the newest incarnation of James Bond. He was just so rough. So unrefined. So blond. But I am one to freely admit my mistakes, and I became eminently confident in his ability to fill those shoes the moment he emerged, glistening, from the ocean in nothing more than the briefest of swim trunks. And with Craig starring as the rough, raw, new-to-the-double-oh Bond, the movie rocked as hard as any I've seen. Stylistically, it was somewhat set aside from other Bond films, but it made for an excellent prequel and answered a lot of burning Bond questions. How did he get his start? What's up with the martinis? Where'd the Aston Martin come from? Why is he such a pimp? All will be answered.

My only complaint was that the title sequence lacked the writhing mudflap silhouettes so emblematic of the Bond oeuvre (not that the silhouettes themselves do anything for me, but c'mon, y'all, what would Nike be without the swoosh?) and that the theme song was the worst Bond theme evah. That's just personal preference, though; I think that any Bond theme that you can't imagine as sung by Shirley Bassey is inadequate. "The World Is Not Enough"? Sure. This'n? Not so much.

In a tux, out of a tux, I'm not picky

Mom's cheese grits. Recipe here. I have a fiery, passionate love affair with those grits, but it's also bittersweet, because every time I eat them, I think about the millions of people in the world who will go through life never knowing the joy of those grits. Make up a batch yourself and see if they aren't just the cat's pajamas; the trick is to let the grits thicken sufficiently before stirring in the rest of the ingredients and throwing the whole thing in the oven.

The watchful eye of the Almighty. That whubbada-whubbada-whubbada sound as headed north out of Montgomery was, in fact, a portent of things to come. There's actually a lot of gratitude here:
1. That the tire blew Sunday afternoon, not Saturday night in the cold and the pitch dark on the side of I-85.
2. That the car didn't flip over like, well, the Aston Martin in the most recent Bond flick when the tire shredded like George Allen's presidential hopes at 70 mph.
3. That Volkswagen equips its Jettas with full-sized spare tires, saving us the hassle of puttering 80 miles to Birmingham doing 55 in post-holiday traffic.
4. That I wasn't dragging said spare out of the trunk in my lovely, handmade, gleaming white boatneck sweater - oh, wait, check that; this massive smear of brake dust, grease, and assorted automotive filth on my sleeves seems to indicate otherwise.
5. That Jenna didn't pee herself waiting for Doug and me to get the tire changed.
6. That I didn't pee myself during that same time period.

Thou couldst also use an oil change, prolly, when thou gets the chance

The Washington Redskins. 17-13 over the Carolina Panthers, with n00b QB Jason Campbell calling his own play in the fourth quarter for 66 yards and a touchdown. I still don't know if I like him, but I sure love him.


I hope everyone had an equally lovely weekend. Tuesday night's at my place for Nip/Tuck and plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers; everyone's welcome, but anyone showing up with that crappy canned cranberry sauce isn't coming through the door.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On workout etiquette

Okay, so I know what a struggle it can be to keep warm on a morning run when the weather is getting colder. But I must make an impassioned plea to all of the men out there making the inevitable seasonal costume change from shorts to running tights: Please cover your package.

It's perfectly natural to want fabric over all parts of your body when the temperature starts dipping toward freezing. It's a matter not only of comfort but of health and safety. But, to quote the Fug Girls, tights are not pants, and while a betighted Lindsay Lohan is just another Saturday night at Hyde, she is not (to our knowledge) smuggling the kind of kit up front that causes female joggers to fall off the curb.

As with the Speedo, no man's physique is firm or cut enough to justify running tights au naturel. And like unveiling a Speedo at a public beach, the undraped running tight places only the barest layer of spandex/Polartec blend between your bits n' pieces and the general populace. Such exposure can cause night terrors in children unfortunate enough to be waiting at nearby bus stops, and many times has an unsecured tackle box resulted in a sprained ankle - or worse - as fellow runners are driven to unpleasant distraction.

There are many ways to sufficiently cover Mr. Big and the Boys without losing the warmth of running tights. Layering, for instance, carries your summer shorts comfortably into the fall and offers modesty to boot. Alternately, track pants, particularly those with comfort lining, keep your legs warm, your twig n' berries well-hidden, and your neighbors much relieved. Those men who are so devoted to their tights that no other item of apparel can cover nor replace them are more than welcome to explore the many options available for the home gym. But for the physical and emotional health of all around you, be a good citizen and keep Pinky and the Brain under wraps.

Cover your package. Do it for the children.

Monday, November 20, 2006

On a joke that went too far

Okay, so on Saturday, Katie Holmes's parents were unable to wrest her from the tenacious grasp of the Church of Scientology, and Operation Unconvincing Beard was completed with Tom (the "man")'s vow to provide her with "clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat."

Katie (the "girl") was, in turn, was told that "young men are free and may forget" their promises.

On Right-Wing Alkie Watch

Okay, so when the weather gets cold and the holidays approach, a lot of us are more prone to tip a measure of Jameson's into our nighttime cocoa, and there's nothing wrong with that. As we saw last week, President Bush and Atlas Pam are both fans of the bottle. But that nightly tipple may cause problems when it gets out of hand, and that makes me worry about John McCain.

Periods of memory loss:
In 1999, the “moderate” version of John McCain said that overturning Roe v. Wade would be dangerous for women and he would not support it, even in “the long term.” Here’s McCain in the San Francisco Chronicle:
I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.

This morning on ABC, McCain — now aggressively courting the likes of Jerry Falwell — expressed his unequivocal support for overturning Roe v. Wade.
MCCAIN: I don’t think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it’s very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support.

Noticeable personality changes:
His caving to Bush on the detainee bill: McCain made his opposition to torture a centerpiece of his image, but by signing on to Bush’s bill, he signed away his credibility. The Democratic candidate must trumpet the fact that McCain allowed habeas corpus to be suspended at presidential will. Rather than allowing McCain to shield himself with his own former POW status, make that part of the question, as in “How could you support such a bill, having endured what you have endured?”


His unabashed embracing of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, after Bush inexcusably tore him apart in the 2000 primaries. Point out how he let Bush push him around, all to gain favor with the extreme base of the GOP. (Depending on the political climate, point out how he also betrayed his friend John Kerry, failing to come to his defense in the aftermath of the infamous botched joke, and instead pretending to believe an interpretation he clearly knew was false. All that after Kerry had offered him a place on the presidential ticket!) On both of these last two points, McCain says there's no point in "holding grudges," but it's not about grudges. The issue should be McCain's kowtowing to those who denigrate everything he purports to stand for.

Carelessness regarding those for whom he is responsible:
MCCAIN: I notice that several retired generals, Gen. Zinni recently, Gen. Batiste, many others have said the same thing I said. Many other observers are in agreement with me. Would it put a terrible strain on the Army and Marine Corps? Absolutely, it would be terrible. We’re going to be asking people to go back again and again, maybe even extend their tours. But there’s only one thing worse, and that is defeat. I saw a broken Army in 1973, and I don’t want to see this Army and military — [Stephanopoulos interrupts.]

Turning to inferior companions:
In 2000, John McCain called Jerry Falwell an “agent of intolerance.” Now, he has hired the debate coach from Falwell’s Liberty University, Brett O’Donnell, to advise him on his communications strategy. O’Donnell has been executing Falwell’s strategy to train scores of debaters to confront “the culture on moral default.”

Now, I'm not saying that John McCain is an alcoholic. These could all be caused by any number of things - drug abuse, for instance. Or bipolar disorder. Or possibly, as he comes up on his 70th birthday, senile dementia. But what's important here is one thing: If Senator John McCain is campaigning that hard for the in-denial dry-drunk loony fringe vote, he's got to know something we don't. Democratic candidates are going to have to start hitting the pipe hard if they're going to make a showing in 2008.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On Jack Daniel: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so courtesy of Sadly, No! and Glenn Greenwald, our own favorite shrieking harpy may well be hitting the bottle again. Why else would she suggest, on her own blog, under her own name, that American diplomats really ought to be murdered?
Back to terror funding our enemy. Do they really believe by feeding the crocodile, they won't get eaten?
While those have been the Israeli and American demands of the Palestinian Arabs since Hamas won legislative elections in January, two diplomatic sources yesterday who requested anonymity said the State Department would be willing to accept a government that included some Hamas members if a majority of the cabinet agreed to the terms laid out in the 2003 road map document signed by both sides as well as America, Europe, Russia and the United Nations.

Accepting Hamas? Perhaps Hamas will blow up State. Someone has to.
“We are looking at creative ways to get around this,” one diplomat said. “I would not call this ‘Hamas lite,’ but if we could get a government of negotiators instead of terrorists we’d take it.”

First, kill all the diplomats (before they get us killed.)

Emphasis hers. Booze-soaked insanity also hers.

In other beer-addled news, observant Americans who suspect that our president may be off the wagon have more reason to be concerned. Craig Ferguson presents:

Somebody get that man a cup of coffee.

Anyway, that's why this Friday Not Even Random Ten is dedicated to that fine Tennessean, Jack Daniel, and his sweet, sweet nectar. Thanks for keeping us warm on cold, rainy days and always, always giving us someone to laugh at.


drink responsibly.

The Ten:

1. Barenaked Ladies, "Alcohol"
2. INXS, "Elegantly Wasted"
3. 311, "Homebrew"
4. The Dead Kennedys, "Too Drunk to Fuck"
5. Dean Fields, "Irish Bars"
6. The Gourds, "Gin and Juice"
7. Caia, "Afterwards @ The Bar"
8. Jimmy Buffett, "Why Don't We Get Drunk"
9. Christina Aguilera, "Genie In a Bottle"
10. Big City Sunrise, "Whiskey River"

Your Ten, and/or favorite drink recipes, go below.