Thursday, January 31, 2008

On my sophomore effort (or, "Nothin' Like a Meme")

Okay, so you've already found your stripper name (middle name + street you grew up on) and your transvestite name (childhood pet + mother's maiden name). You may even know your Wu Tang name. Now it's time for you to move into the big leagues and design your album cover.

This is, of course, actually my second album; many of you will remember my solo first album, I Just Did Four Guys and I'm Exhausted, featuring the vocal stylings of Benji Carr. "Say Nothing Be Nothing" is, however, my first album with my new band, Operation Wolf.

Here's how it's done:
1. Click on this link for Wikipedia's random-article generator. Whichever Wikipedia entry comes up is the name of your band.

2. Click on this link for the Random Quotations page. The last four words of the last quotation on the page are the name of your album.

3. Click on this link for interesting Flickr photographs from the last seven days. The third picture on the page is the artwork for your album.

Throw them all together into an album cover, post them on your blog, and link to it in comments below (and over at Doug's blog; I have to give him full credit for finding this'n).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On the SOTU, down for the count

Okay, so the state of our union is strong. Not "confident and strong," as in past years; just "strong." I can see why it might be that way. "Strong" is good enough for now.

I predicted Monday that the State of the Union address would be the slightest bit lackluster, but I had no idea that it would result in such rhetorical drudgery as to deprive a worthy charity of much-needed funds. Apparently, we can't even trick George Bush into helping out wounded veterans.

(And incidentally, "economic uncertainty"? Is that like the "food uncertainty" we had back when the government decided that anyone who wasn't actively starving couldn't be hungry?)

Things that I should have thought to pledge for: inappropriate grins and winks by our president, mind-blowing departures from reality, shots of sleeping senators.

Here's the count:

bipartisan: 2
"nucular": 4
terrorist(s): 17
freedom: 10
Iran: 7
surge: 6 (at $2 a pop)
Osama bin Laden: 1 ($10)
applause: 72, and I'll confess that I completely forgot to count standing O's this time around. Shameful, I know. Last year's count was 24, so I'm going to go ahead and pay out for 25 this year just to give the WWP something to play with. If anyone has a more accurate count, let me know quick before the check hits the mail.

Pending any corrections by any far more astute SOTU viewers, the take for the Wounded Warrior Project is $86.25, or not quite one backpack. That brings the three-year total to $287.

Will the State of the Union Pledge Extravaganza and Chili Cook-Off continue in future years with future presidents? It depends on the president, I suppose, and on his/her speechwriting staff. I'm personally hoping for a little bit more sincerity, a little bit more reality, a lot more variety, and maybe just a scootch of comedy -- the intentional kind. And I'm really, really hoping that by the next time a State of the Union address rolls around, the Wounded Warrior Project won't need my donation nearly as much as they do now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

On the third annual State of the Union Pledge Extravaganza and Chili Cook-Off

Okay, so tonight's State of the Union address should be a big one, because it's the last one that President Bush will ever make.

(Pause to wait for applause to die down.)

As in past years, I'm putting together my State of the Union Drinking and Donation Game but, truth told, it's kind of a challenge this year, because Bush didn't really do all that much last year and doesn't have a whole lot going for him this year. In past SOTUs, we've had bold statements on Social Security, human-animal hybrids, immigration, the war in Iraq, war in Iran, and deficit reduction. Now, Bush is coming into his lame duck year and has spent the last six months at least without enough personal or political pull or credibility to really throw his name behind so much as a K-Mart ribbon cutting. Despite past protestations by Tony Snow that Bush would never "cease to be bold" despite plummeting poll numbers, this year's SOTU is likely to be more covers, remixes, and old standards than new material.

I'll start by flat-out pledging an additional $20 for either of the following statements: "I know we all have places we'd rather be tonight, so I'd appreciate it if you'd hold your applause until the end of the address" and "The Democrats choose to forgo their traditional response in favor of this performance by U2, live from Washington, aired without commercial interruption."

Per traditional rules, $1 will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, a really fantastic organization that gives aid in a variety of forms to seriously injured servicemembers and their families, for every occurrence of the following:

- "bipartisan"
- "nucular"
- "terrorists"
- "freedom" ($5 if it's used as a plural)
- "surveillance" or "interrogation" ($5 if he actually says the word "waterboarding")
- "Iran"
- "recession" ($5 if he uses "deficit" in the same sentence)
- "economic stimulus" ($5 if he refers to Ronald Reagan in this context)
- 25 cents every time he pauses for applause, 50 cents per standing ovation

As an added bonus, $2 will be donated each time one of these classics is dredged up:

- "stay the course"
- "surge"
- "benchmark"
- "hard work"
- "they hate our freedoms"

And a whopping $10 if he says, at any point, in any context, "Osama bin Laden."

As always, you're invited to watch along with me and help keep count; as always, if you choose to use the SOTU for drinking games and not donations, be sure to have a designated driver, a trash can, and an ambulance on speed dial handy. Watch this space for commentary, final numbers, and the big take for the Wounded Warrior Project (to date: $200.75). Vaya con Dios.

Friday, January 25, 2008

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten

In good taste and very, very bad

Okay, so what a week it's been. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. Tom Cruise had a whacked-out sci-fi fantasy. Britney Spears had a new personality that thought it still had kids. And me? Well, I had a pinot-grigio-fueled nightmare that I was trapped inside Amy Winehouse's beehive. But that's all over now, because it's Friday.

(Incidentally, every time I upload pictures to Flickr, it invites me to "Save This Batch," and every time I think I'm being invited to Save This Biatch. Which isn't a bad idea. If anyone needs saving, it's this biatch right here.)

What's good (for the week ending 1/25):

- Cloverfield. Seriously, an incredible movie. Not so graphic that I had to watch it filtered through my fingers, but I did have my hand over my mouth the entire time (and I don't know why people do that, and I never thought I did it, but apparently, I do). The (ironically named) Steadicam did send me home craving peppermint tea to calm my stomach, but even if I'd had to yark in the bushes outside of the theatre, it would have been totally worth it.
- C.O. Bigelow Mentha Lip Shine in Vanilla Malt Shake
- pot roast on a cold night. And we've had some (some cold nights, and some pot roast). I had the misfortune to be up at 4:45 Sunday morning taking my cousin to the airport, and my hardy little German-made car decided that 17 degrees with a wind chill of 12 was precisely the temperature at which she no longer wanted to function. I'd have been mad, but I really couldn't blame her.
- the "Bit O' Blues" radio station on iTunes
- red lipstick to lift a lousy mood

What's bad:

- folks profiting from a tragedy. Come on, people, a person has actually died. Can we maybe leave the loved ones to their grief without a) speculating or b) jumping on the grief train? And this guy is just a scum.
- liars

The Ten:

1. Sarah Brightman, "Only an Ocean Away"
2. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "The Impression That I Get"
3. Shirley Bassey, "Big Spender"
4. Poe, "Fingertips"
5. Nina Simone, "See-Line Woman"
6. P.O.D., "Boom"
7.The Isely Brothers, "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)"
8. Nanci Griffith, "Workin' In Corners"
9. Pet Shop Boys, "Casanova in Hell"
10. Guster, "Window" (live, with Jump, Little Children)

Funny story: I can't really figure what predictions this Ten might make for the coming weekend, but it describes the past week almost precisely. And no, I won't tell you how. What's good for you this week?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On der Untergang der Cowboys

Okay, so you know I was laughing.

"It's all Jessica Simpson's fault."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On having more than dreams

Okay, so this may not be the most timely of posts, since Martin Luther King, Jr., Day was yesterday, and all I posted about was Scientologists, and that's 'cause I shamefully spent most of the day on the couch with popcorn and soap operas and a splitting headache when I was perfectly capable of going out and doing at least one of the many good deeds being done throughout Birmingham in honor of the holiday.

But what's up with the "I Have a Dream" speech?

Don't get me wrong, now. It's an awesome and very moving speech. It's well-written, of course, with great parallelism and imagery and a rhythmic kind of poetry that I think you have to actually be a minister to perfect. And of course it sends a great message of cooperation and tolerance and acceptance and unity and peace, one that was practically unheard of in the general population at the time. As oratorical rallying points go, it's not a bad one.

But every time MLK Day rolls around, the speech gets played on the news, and schoolchildren stand up and recite it, and they have activities where they write their own dreams on construction-paper American flags and post them on bulletin boards, and organizations have Dream Luncheons and I Have a Dream Tolerance Symposia and everyone dreams of little black boys and girls holding hands with little white boys and girls.

And every time, I wonder if that sixth-grader really knows what words like "interposition" and "nullfication" mean when she says them, or if we all know whether or not we're "engag[ing] in the luxury of cooling off" or "tak[ing] the tranquilizing drug of gradualism," or if, really, anybody actually listens to the speech anymore or if we just let the words roll over us like the prayers we've been saying in church since toddlerhood ("Our Father, who aren't in heaven...").

It's nothing wrong with the speech. It was then and remains revolutionary and powerful. But it, like the Lord's Prayer, like the Pledge of Allegiance, suffers for repetition if we never take the time to break it down by line and phrase and appreciate what's really being said. I think we might all benefit if we occasionally swapped out that most famous and worthy of speeches for some of his equally profound ones that get less attention but could, through their sheer novelty, make a little more impact -- and in so doing, honored the man not for a moment of oratory inspiration but for a lifetime of work that still has an impact today.

Last year, I posted from this April 1967 speech:
And so, I conclude by saying today that we have a task, and let us go out with a divine dissatisfaction.

Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.

Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.

Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.

Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.

Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin. Let us be dissatisfied.


Let this affirmation be our ringing cry. It will give us the courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.

Three years earlier, Dr. King had said this in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.

If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. The tortuous road which has led from Montgomery, Alabama, to Oslo bears witness to this truth. This is a road over which millions of Negroes are travelling to find a new sense of dignity.

This same road has opened for all Americans a new ear of progress and hope. It has led to a new Civil Rights bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a superhighway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today's motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.

"And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid."

I still believe that we shall overcome.

Monday, January 21, 2008

On pre-screening for the deep-down crazy

Okay, so Tom Cruise didn't get where he is just by being insanely rich, insanely power-hungry, and insane, full-stop. No, he had to go through an intense auditing process designed to evaluate his mental and emotional state and ultimately free him from possession by the alien ghosts that escaped from volcanoes millions of years ago and were polluting his mind with the false memories inflicted by Xenu's brainwashing.

The good news is that you, too, can be free of those naughty, naughty alien ghosties by going down to your local Scientology center and getting hooked up to an e-meter. In the meantime, though, Radar magazine has been kind enough to publish an excerpt from the actual tests used by LRH's followers in the orgs to KSW and free preclears from the influence of thetans and SPs.

How clear are you?

• Have you ever enslaved a population?

Well, imagine a group of fifty or so people who voluntarily visit a blog each day in search of wisdom and humor and continue to return despite consistently getting this dreck instead. What would you call that?

• Have you ever killed the wrong person?

I prefer to consider it killing the right person a little bit early.

• Have you ever wiped out a family?

It can be argued that my lack of success in the dating arena qualifies as wiping out my future husband and kids simply by never having any.

• Have you ever tried to give sanity a bad name?


• Have you ever consistently practiced sex in some unnatural fashion?

Dude, my parents read this blog.

• Have you ever made love to a dead body?

See above.

• Have you ever engaged in piracy?


• Have you ever been a pimp?

I spent two years of my life as a trend pimp. I'm still recovering from the shame.

• Have you ever eaten a human body?

Hello, Catholic?

• Have you given robots a bad name?

They do that quite nicely themselves, thanks. You might want to talk to David Letterman, though.

• Have you driven anyone insane?

I once had a Spanish teacher who retired suddenly after an orchestrated gaslighting campaign by her students. I cannot disclose who was responsible for that campaign.

• Is anybody looking for you?

If the Department of Homeland Security isn't keeping an eye on me, I'll be not only surprised but hurt. Seriously, I do, and I do, and I do for you people!

• Have you ever set a poor example?


• Have you systematically set up mysteries?

I'm aloof and enigmatic, and that bothers you. (That one's for you, Doug.)

• Have you ever made a practice of confusing people?

It makes the mysteries that much more interesting.

• Have you ever gone crazy?

I live there.

• Have you ever sought to persuade someone of your insanity?

Have I ever had to?

• Do you deserve to have any friends?

Absolutely not. I consider myself deeply lucky in that respect.

• Have you ever castrated anyone?

Does verbally count?

• Is there any question on this list I had better not ask you again?

This one.

• Have you ever tried to make the physical universe less real?

Reality is universally difficult to handle. I consider it my duty to humanity to make that reality as surreal as possible. Call it a service.

Check the whole list at Radar. You may find that you're less clear than you thought. The cool thing about Scientology, though, is that they're the authorities on everything: getting people off drugs, the mind, improving conditions, criminology, the way to happiness, bringing peace, uniting cultures, making a better souffle, preventing static cling, conquering that not-so-fresh feeling, leaving Britney Spears to her own devices, and jumping on couches. If you're not in the game, you need to get out of the arena. Peace.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Smart and funny; neither.

Okay, so I think that getting work to do during our slow period (also known as "pretty much all winter") is more unpleasant and arduous than it is during our blisteringly heavy period because people don't prioritize. Wrapping up a student recruitment campaign in August, we know exactly where every postcard, brochure, and viewbook needs to be and when it needs to get there, and it might mean working late, but it gets done, by God. January brings account executives Lumberghing into my office and saying things like, "Yeeeeah, we haven't talked about this, but I've been talking to the School of Medicine about a video we're doing for them, and if you could go ahead and interview some people and get a script written up, that would be great. Just a five-minute video with an intro and some voiceovers and those interviews would be great. And I'm gonna need you to go ahead and get that to me by the end of the day today. Yeeeeah." Thus Friday has come with the thundering speed of a frozen turd rolling uphill. It's also come with snow -- just a little bit, just on the rooftops -- which makes it an awesome week regardless.

What's good (for the week ending 1/18):

- Oreo Candy Bites 100-calorie packs
- the BSC Headquarters
- Juno
- Atonement (seriously, one of the most visually stunning films I've seen in my life, and I've seen some)
- hip-hop violin

What's bad:

- theocracy
- in hindsight, pretty much the entirety of the Baby-Sitters Club series

The Ten:

1. Frederic Chopin, "Nocturne No. 17 in B Major"
2. Wolfsheim, "Once in a Lifetime"
3. Claude Debussy, "Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum" from Children's Corner
4. Frank Sinatra, "Too Marvelous for Words"
5. Evanescence, "Taking Over Me"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Fugitive (Richard X Extended Mix)"
7. Michael Bublé, "Come Fly With Me"
8. Kermit Venable and the BeauBassin Cajun Band, "Back of Town"
9. Nickel Creek, "When You Come Back Down"
10. The Rolling Stones, "Blinded by Rainbows"

I'm not really sure how to interpret that as a prediction for my weekend. Maybe I'll appear smarter and more cultured than I actually am. That could be cool.

How was your week? That, your ten, and your childhood favorites that don't hold up on further examination go in comments.

On a return to my childhood (and why that's a bad idea)

Okay, so I am, despite the accusations of a couple of acquaintances, a generally contented person. I'm not unhappy, I'm not angry. I am opinionated and outspoken, frequently sarcastic (I consider it an art form), and occasionally bitchy (going by my family's preferred definition of "bitch," it being "a woman who just got her way"). I now have reason to believe that my constant tweenhood diet of Baby-Sitters Club books can be held somewhat responsible for this.

What else could make a woman go from this
I’m not sure how I felt reading these the first time around, but the early books are the biggest stretches…they’re not the realistic-ish conflict that happen in some of the books (friends ditching friends, stupid fights, etc) nor the really outlandish stuff (getting lost on an island in Long Island Sound, winning the lottery, best friends’ parents getting remarried)…

and this
ANM really likes the mysteries, but really not so good at writing them. Her mysteries remind me of the witch and ghost stories I used to write when I was young. Nothing was connected other than superficially, there’s no depth. Now, I’m sure part of that was me being influenced by her. But, a crazy rich published writer should have worked a little harder. (Ouch, I know.)

to this?
First of all this book should totally have been called "Stacey is a Selfish Fucking Cow." Now, I know she's usually selfish and inconsiderate in general, but this book positively revels in her assitude.


Oh, and there's this uber-lame subplot. Haley Braddock and Vanessa Pike have a huge fucking fight because they both got the same bathing suit. Yawn.


Stacey is just positive that Mal will be a knockout one of these days. I, for one, am not convinced. Also, Stacey is monumentally fucking condescending. In addition to being a bitch. And a liar.

It's got to be more than two years of steady exposure to some of the craziest-making tween-targeted books on the planet. I freaking loved those books. I had all of them (the ones available at the time, anyway). I wanted to be them. I wanted to start my own club, like Kristy. I named my cat Tigger because of Mary Anne. I got my hair permed because of Stacey (big mistake. Big. Huge). I tried to dress like Claudia, much to the dismay of my parents, because it resulted in outfits similar to this,
... I wore the coolest tuxedo I'd recently bought in a thrift shop, including a silky, piped shirt and a bright red velvet cummerbund. I removed the shoulder pads from the jacket, which made it really slouchy (I love that look). Then I bought a pair of white socks with silver glitter. I decided to wear a pair of red sneakers to match the cummerbund. I swept my hair up and fastened it with a rhinestone barrette in the shape of a musical note.

resulting, I'm sure, in muttered editorial comments from my parents something akin to this.
Wow. I think she's destined for a future as a backup dancer at the Tonys circa 1982.

Regardless, I feel a true kinship to brave Tiff, who is blogging her way through the Baby-Sitters Club series at the rate of one excruciating novel a week. I think it's awesome. How often do you get such a bracing recap of the abject inanity that you sucked up unquestioningly as a child? Why did I never appreciate what a bitch Stacey was? Why did I never wonder why the entire damn club always managed to go on vacation to the same spot at the same time? Why did it make sense to me that a couple of eleven-year-olds might be put in charge of children? Why in God's name did I ever think that red leggings and a purple turtleneck could possibly be a good idea?

I'm sure I'm projecting on Tiff here when I speculate that that kind of question is responsible for the vehemence of her posts. Reading over her recaps, I find myself thinking, Ann M. Martin, what the hell did you do to me? What gave you the power and authority to fuck with the mind of a twelve-year-old? How dare you impose the gospel of Laura Ashley on an impressionable tween? Dawn was not laid back; she was uptight to threaten Kristy's uptightness, and her "California casual" outfits sound, in retrospect, hideous. Claudia was a flake and an unrealistically lousy speller. Mallory was a whiny little bitch. Mary Anne was reasonably interesting when she nutted up and stepped to the more overbearing members of the BSC, and she probably had the least ridiculous wardrobe by today's standards, so go Mary Anne. Except that Logan was a controlling asshole, and she needed to stop being such a doormat to him, and to her dad, and most of all, to Kristy. Kristy was a shrew. And you're right, Tiff, they never did think to actually talk to a fucking adult when something, say, illegal was taking place, and Stacey never took a beach trip without whoring it up with some crappy choice of a boy and leaving all of the work on her friends, and what kind of criminally irresponsible idiot parent leaves an infant in the hands of a thirteen-year-old, and... I think I need to lie down.
The book ends terribly. "And that's no lie!" SMACK!!!!!!

I'd totally bring back the silver squiggle pin, though. Those things were boss.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On open theocracy

Okay, so this kind of thing is why this election is so important, and why you just cannot believe the fundies when they claim they respect your right to practice your own religion (when they bother to claim it):
" do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards," Huckabee said, referring to the need for a constitutional human life amendment and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Despite the fact that Huck doesn't define which god, whose concept of God, or the god of which holy book or series of books is the one whose will is to be enshrined in our nation's constitution, I think it's fairly safe to assume that he means the god of the King James version of the Christian bible as interpreted by the Southern Baptist Convention, also known as his god. Amending the Constitution to those particular standards would mean banning blended fibers (which should improve business for cotton farmers, at least) and shellfish (but not so much for the shrimpers, crabbers, and lobstermen off the coast of New England) and approving slavery and the stoning of insubordinate children. We know for sure it'll involve wifely submission.

If Huck asked me what God's standards are for gay marriage or universal health care or national defense, I daresay he'd get a couple of answers that he'd disagree with. And I daresay he'd go right ahead and push for unitary executive power over my uterus whether I thought God would approve or not. Because we're not talking about God's standards; we're talking about Huck's standards, the ones he's pushing by waving a bible around and invoking the name of a being that between five and ten percent of Americans don't even believe exists. We're talking about Mike Huckabee as the god of the Constitution, and if not him, the fundie wackos behind him, and if not them, some other fundie wacko pursuing the presidency with the same agenda.

What ever happened to John F. Kennedy's take on religion?
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.


Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

A personal belief system is inevitable, as is the fact that whatever your beliefs happen to be will have some influence over your conscience. That's unavoidable. But a presidential candidate needs to come into the race conscious of that fact and determined to avoid it to the extent that it is possible to do so. Because the president needs to see to the physical, terrestrial interests of the American people and leave their heavenly salvation to whatever higher power they worship or choose not to, as is their right as enshrined in the first amendment of the Constitution on which he's trying to impose the questionable standards of his personal god.

Unless we're talking about the standards of this guy's god. He seems to have it together.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On Hollywood and the unwed mother

Okay, so I was already prepared to hate Juno when I walked into the theatre. I'd read a lot on various feminist blogs about the way various parts of the film could be twisted by anti-choicers, and I'd read a couple of interviews with the screenwriter, Diablo Cody, that really made me question her sense of wealthy white privilege. And when Ellen Page's Juno MacGuff yelled at that dog to "Shut [his] gob," I knew that I was going to hate the unrealistically snappy smart-disaffected-teen pseudo-slang-a-la-Megan-Jasper.

Except I actually really, really liked the movie.

It wasn't hard to like. It also wasn't hard to pick out which parts would be prime fodder for anti-choicers; 16-year-old preggo Juno (and I don't think I'm spoiling too much here, but do read on at your own peril) goes into an abortion clinic and ends up coming back out when she discovers that her fetus already has fingernails. She responsibly decides to put the kid up for adoption. She searches for a loving, stable, hetero, normal couple to raise the kid, and she finds them, and they meet and negotiate a closed adoption and the deal is done and aren't we all just about to have a happily-ever-after 'cause Juno chose life?

Yeah, sure, on the surface, yeah. If you haven't actually seen the movie and are working purely from hearsay, reviews, and some promotional materials, you might think that. But actually watching, you see how the movie is all about choice -- Juno's choice to have or not have the baby. Juno's choice to put it up for adoption. Juno's process of selecting an adoptive family that she finds appropriate. And at the end, which I will absolutely not spoil because I insist that each and every one of you go see it and report back, she makes a couple of pretty significant choices, some of which might satisfy the fundies, one of which almost certainly would not. Without really advocating any particular path -- Juno's situation is presented as unique, as all such situations are -- Juno is given the authority over her own life and body to decide how to address her unique circumstances.

And that's what the pro-choice position is all about. It's not about forcing people to have abortions or ripping eight-months fetuses from their unsuspecting hosts in the dark of night. It's not even about advising that women have abortions. It's just about making sure that, should a young woman like Juno or an older woman with a family decide that her circumstances aren't conducive to carrying a pregnancy to term, she has access to safe and affordable health care for that process. And it's about supporting her choice if she chooses to have the baby after all and raise it, so that she can afford to support herself and her kid and give them both the best life possible. And it's about supporting her choice if she chooses to have the baby and give it up for adoption, so that she can have access to health care to keep her healthy and adoption services to help her find a good, loving family of whatever shape or orientation.

It's also, of course, about preventing the need for abortions in the first place, to the extent that such a thing can be done. It's a laugh line in the movie, but the boysenberry condoms proffered by the receptionist at the abortion clinic -- "My boyfriend wears one every time we have intercourse. It makes his junk smell like pie" -- are also a reasonably effective means of preventing pregnancy in the first place. Far moreso than, say, pretending that sex doesn't exist, telling teens never to have it, and expecting that they'll have the un-hormonally-driven self-control to refrain.

From where I sat, the movie was far more pro-choice than anti-, but I can see why antis desperate for a pop-culture foothold might bite down on it and wrestle it into submission in fallacious support of their own ends. At the same time, though, I've tried to come up with a lighthearted, non-preachy movie based on the a similar premise but with a different ending -- pregnant teen/woman decides to have the abortion -- and I just can't figure out how to make a movie out of it that's worth making a movie of. If she chooses to have the abortion and, as so frequently happens, it all works out well, she sighs and says, Well, gosh, I wish I hadn’t had to do that. Oh, well, life goes on, and life goes on, there’s not much of a movie. And, of course, if she chooses to have an abortion and everything goes horribly (or even marginally) wrong, the anti-choicers are all over it, screaming, See what happens?! See what happens when you kill teh baybeez?!!?!?!one!! Maybe it could be a movie from the perspective of one of the woman’s other kids who now has a better life because her mother had an abortion, but I just don’t know.

Commenters on the Feministe thread suggest movies like Teachers and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, both of which address the abortion issue as only an 80's film can, but both of those include said issue as a provocative subplot rather than the main focus. It all makes me think that maybe there aren’t any explicitly pro-choice movies out there because the pro-choice position is so inherently reasonable as to be beyond cinematic drama.

Regardless, I'm not going to let the antis plant their flag in this one just because they can't be bothered to read beneath the surface, especially since in their ideal world, Juno probably wouldn't have had access to the health care necessary to produce a healthy baby, and she certainly wouldn't have been able to leave it in the loving arms where it ultimately landed. The whole damn movie is all about choice -- and more than that (more importantly than that, even? It could be argued), it's really, really entertaining. And funny. And sweet. And Allison Janney is my hero. And unlike Knocked Up, it's probably even a movie you could see on a date without going home and sitting on opposite sides of the couch without making eye contact.

Friday, January 11, 2008

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Trust me, you never think to buy them 'til it's already pouring down.

Okay, so it seems like this week was really focused on Hillary Clinton and the stuff she's been putting up with, and that's probably because that's what's been going on and has been interesting. I kind of hate primaries season because, as necessary as it is in our current political system, it's kind of a crappy way to choose a candidate. You're given a field of five or eight candidates who, all being of one party and probably within the "moderate" limits of said party (the 'wingers are pretty much there for entertainment value) and they argue about which of them best represents the values of that party. It's like trying to pick the plaid-est out of a drawerful of plaid socks. Once they've differentiated themselves just a bit and the field narrows, it turns into a monkeyhouse poop-fight wherein each candidate and his/her supporters try to point out exactly why the other candidates suck deeply and should go back where they came from. Then, once a candidate is chosen, everyone who's just spent the last three months slagging him/her off like he/she is depravity incarnate and Satan and Pete Wentz (but I repeat myself) now turns around to talk about how their candidate is, in fact, the very height of awesome and we always liked him/her and it's the other guy who's scum.

Yeah, that'll work.

So at this point, as much as I love my buddy Barack, I'm still counting the days (and it's still, like, 230 or something) until we have a nominee and a platform and can get down to the actual, non-circular-firing-squad-ish business of putting a decent chief executive into the Oval Office.

Lots going on until then, though.

What's good (for the week ending 1/11):

- Naomi Watts's boots in Eastern Promises
- Viggo Mortensen's tats in Eastern Promises (what can I say? Bad boys have their appeal)
- putting your hot guy in and riding him all night (at a football game. Man, you've got a dirty mind)
- gushing, crashing, crackling thunderstorms as seen from the other side of a sturdy window and a steaming cup of tea
- kicky rain boots

What's bad:

- not having kicky rain boots when it starts raining
- getting assaulted by a face-pinching Tweety Bird

The Ten:

1. Chicane, "Lost You Somewhere"
2. Elton John, "But Not For Me"
3. ZZ Top, "Legs"
4. Ben Folds Five, "Brick"
5. Evanescence, "Whisper"
6. The Drifters, "Save the Last Dance for Me"
7. Carl Orff, "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana
8. Serge Gainsbourg, "Wake Me at Five"
9. The Clash, "Something About England"
10. Downright, "Drinking the Dregs"

And on a personal note here, best of luck and comfort and healing to a certain Practically Harmless regular who recently laid his bike down doing 60. If y'all need anything at all, you know where to find me. Anything good for you this week? Anything?

On shit that'll get your arm broken, for serious

Okay, so I know this blog has kind of gone all-Hillary, all the time (which is especially funny considering that I don't even intend to vote for her in the primaries), but beyond being an Obama supporter, I'm a woman, and some shit just pisses me off.

Seriously, I am not a violent person, but any individual, male or female, who intends to come up on me and pinch my cheek like you're my grandmother (and, for the record, none of my elders have ever pinched my cheek, because they all recognize how incredibly demeaning it is) will end up with your wrist in a cast, and it's justifiable, because you touched me first. Why Chris Matthews would think it's appropriate to tweak the cheek of a full-grown adult, sitting Senator, and presidential candidate is beyond me, but I do suspect it has something to do with her matched set of X chromosomes.

It's easy to cry sexism when you've got a candidate who is being attacked and also happens to be a woman; you run into correlation vs. causation issues if you make that call too early. Certainly, not every criticism made about her policies or candidacy is motivated by the fact that she's a woman. But when you see her criticized for something like showing emotion when she's feeling particularly impassioned about the future of her country (for which a comparable man would be lauded as strong, determined, devoted) or treated like someone's adorable niece in a cupcake dress and ruffled diaper cover, I can't ignore the fact that she is being treated differently because of her gender -- and I welcome examples of times when she's made an issue of her gender herself, because I haven't really noticed any, although I'll confess that I haven't been looking.

I'm with Megan Carpenter there. I dee-double-dog dare Chris Matthews to tweak the cheek of every candidate he interviews until the general election. John McCain, I think, has particularly pinchable cheeks, and I know you could get a good handful of Fred Thompson's jowls. But doing that'll be proof to me that you're not actually a patronizing, sexist asshole but merely an smarmy, unprofessional asshole with serious boundary issues.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

On tears and a clown: Redux

Okay, so I've loved Tom Toles before I even knew what politics were (was? were?).

Still do.

(Incidentally, Jeff Fecke over at Shakesville suggests that Clinton's New Hampshire victory might be partly due to women being sick and damn tired of pols and press attacking Clinton for being a woman. I think he's got something there. I'm still an Obama supporter, but I get a little more pissed off with every mention of Clinton and her girl-cooties.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On tears and a clown

Nut up, ya wuss.

Okay, so Hillary Clinton got choked up at a campaign event.

ZOMG!!111!!one!!! Hilery Clinton haz emoshuns! She cant be preznit!!!1!!eleven!!!

We all saw this coming, right? As soon as we knew we had a presidential race with a viable female candidate in it, the questions flew about whether she'd be the wobbly little creampuff that it's always been assumed a female president would be. Because women are emotional and illogical. Because they get their periods and feel sad about things. Because a woman who was president during a threat to national security would probably, say, get all scared and mad and invade a country that wasn't even involved just to look tough. (Well, okay, not that one.)

And so Hillary Clinton got into the race and was... not emotional. Robotic, even, some said. Harsh. Tough. "Stoic and sharp-edged." Ice-queen-esque with her pantsuits and her unemotionality. The same stability and strength that would have any male candidate declared Reaganesque was, on her, ball-busting bitchiness, because she's a woman, and women are supposed to be soft and nurturing.

But God forbid she should actually have emotions, John Edwards:
“I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business,” Edwards told reporters Laconia, New Hampshire.

Now, Amanda reads that as blatantly sexist. I can see where she'd get that, although several commenters on that thread pointed out that the above comment directly followed his stated desire not to comment on Clinton's emotionality. Still, though, it's a shot, one that he may or may not have taken at a male candidate who displayed passion and frustration when talking about his hopes for the country.

Because that's what it was. A lot of people have characterized it as a lot of different things, including calculated histrionics, but watch the video. "You know, I have so many opportunities for this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards." Isn't that something we want our presidential candidates to care about? "This is very personal for me. It's not just political, it's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it. And some people think elections are a game, they think it's like who's up or who's down. It's about our country, it's about our kids' futures, and it's really about all of us together." Yeah, it is, actually. And if she was tired and a little bit frustrated and her voice cracked when she talked about the stuff that's really important to all of us, can you blame her?

Strength isn't about being unemotional, and toughness doesn't mean not having emotions. I don't think that anyone would call armor-plated steamroller fullback Owen Schmitt weak because, during a moment of elevated emotion, he shed a tear. I suspect that few would think our president any less of a cowboy for welling up at his inauguration, and any demands for a stoic solidity in the face of crisis could be answered with his teary photo op in the Oval Office soon after the 9/11 attacks.

But when a man is overcome with emotion and lets a single, crystalline tear roll slowly down his sooty and battle-scarred cheek, it's handsome and admirable. When a woman, exhausted from intense campaigning and frustrated and worried about the idea that our country is backsliding from its ideals, lets her voice break, just a little, watch out; she's probably about to get her period or something.

Obama is my candidate of choice in the primaries. I'm not voting for Senator Clinton because I disagree with her policies and object to some of the more opportunistic stabs she's made in the direction of the squishy moderate. I'm not not-voting for her because she felt a feeling that any emotionally mature and politically aware person is feeling right now, and I'm not castigating her for expressing that feeling a little bit where people could see her in all of her human indignity. Much better a president who can process his or her emotions, express them, and move on than one who has to sublimate them into violence against thousands of innocent people.

Monday, January 07, 2008

On being one less

Okay, so we can thank the Associated Press for the groundbreaking news that getting a shot hurts sometimes.

Much to the delight of fundies everywhere who think that cervical cancer is the ideal punishment for premarital sex, Gardasil, the HPV vaccine shown to prevent four cancer-causing strains of the virus, has also been shown to hurt going in. Pain!, they cheer. Fainting! And pain! And they have to do it three times! What are we subjecting our daughters to, only to watch them turn around and slut it up without the fear of deadly illness to keep their pants zipped?

Now, I'd say I have a fairly high tolerance for pain. I've got one tattoo and piercings in ears, navel, and nose (and the last one was a bitch, I'll tell you). I donate blood, without major incident, every eight weeks. I once broke a toe while out dancing and didn't even notice for fifteen minutes (although the anesthetic properties of alcohol might have had something to do with that). So it could be argued that my personal anecdotes aren't terribly applicable to this particular situation. But I've had two Gardasil shots now, and they both felt... much like I was getting a shot. There was the poke with the needle, and a little bit of burning when the vaccine went in, and then the injection site was sore for a few hours, and then I went on with my day. It didn't hurt nearly as badly as the tetanus booster and meningitis vaccination I got before my study abroad sophomore year -- painful shots in each arm that left me unable to raise my arms above shoulder level for more than a day, thanks, Doc.

And despite the minor ouchiness of the injection itself, I was much comforted by the thought that it was far less painful than it would be to have parts of my cervix surgically removed. Or undergo chemo and radiation. With my final shot looming at the beginning of February, I can face the pain gladly, knowing that after I get my shot, I reward myself with a cookie, which is far more fun than dying slowly as my uterus turns to goo.

Of course, one side effect of the shot that I've became an absolute whore since. As soon as I left the clinic, I started thinking, “Wow, this newfound feeling of safety leaves me wanting to have sex with every single person I encounter. Like that guy. And that guy over there. And those two guys and that girl.” And the cumulative effect has been even worse. I’m having so much anonymous, unprotected sex these days that I can barely get any work done, and I haven't even had the third shot.

That is, of course, a joke, because vaccinations don't have that effect. After I got my tetanus booster, I didn't run out of the clinic shouting, "Someone bring me a rusty nail! Bring me a great, huge rusty nail and pound it through my foot! I am invincible!" And my hepatitis vaccine certainly didn't give me any urges to patronize seedy-looking tattoo parlors or share needles with Tommy Lee.

But Gardasil, apparently, has the power to turn innocent teenagers into sluts roaming the streets and humping anything that'll stand still long enough. And the injection hurts, like, way bad. And both of those things are worse than death. Better to lose your daughter to tumors that'll spread through her reproductive system and metastasize throughout her body and leave her sterile if they don't kill her in unspeakable agony than to risk her having premarital sex and not getting punished for it. 'Cause getting a shot hurts.

Friday, January 04, 2008

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Not-Even-Ten: New Year, New Chance to Screw It Up edition

The best and the worst of international travel (suck it, Air Canada)

Okay, so it was quite the month. Football (my home state of Virginia didn't fare well, I'm afraid, but my other home state of Georgia whupped up), holidays (among my Christmas gifts were a Chris Cooley Redskins jersey, Deluxe Scrabble, and an acre of Guatemalan rainforest), politics (other people go to parties to watch the caucas results come in, right)... But out of a whole month (more than a month, really), what was good and/or bad enough to make the list?

What's good (for the, what, five-week period ending 1/4):
- the overwhelming generosity of my family, for whom I'm unspeakably grateful (Aww...)
- London at Christmastime. That was the big trip, and it was gorgeous, and incredibly cold, and gorgeous, and fun and exciting, and gorgeous. If there's interest, I'll post a few pictures; if there's none, I might post some anyway, because when you have your own blog, you get to do stuff like that.
- shrimp scampi, cheese grits, asparagus, standing rib roast, green beans amandine, sourdough rolls, more cheese grits, pork loin, collard greens, more cheese grits, black-eyed peas, cucumber salad
- inexplicably not waking up ten pounds heavy on January 2 after all of that
- chili on a cold night
- Barack Obama in the Iowa caucases (back off, ladies, I saw him first. Um, except for you, Michelle. Obviously)
- scarf-and-hat weather
- friendly faces at the airport. After the ordeal of my return trip from Toronto (details to follow), as I crested the escalator and turned to haul ass to the baggage claim and start my long drive home, I heard my name... from my dad. He and Mom had driven up from Columbus to meet me at the Atlanta airport simply because they knew I'd been traveling for 42 hours and might appreciate a hug and a nice dinner. Which I did. More than I can possibly express.
- the 2008 Sugar Bowl - Georgia 41, Hawaii 10; Mark Richt, even hotter when he's kind of evil
- a chance to sleep in after a month of busy Saturdays

What's bad:
- 36 hours, showerless, in the Toronto airport during a blizzard. I suspect that that one was equally bad for everyone around me.
- re-entering the dating scene after a breakup
- my cholesterol level after holiday eats (one can safely assume)
- mince pies

I'm going to throw you something a little bit different in this month of newness. Josh has a theory that a Friday Random Ten might have powers to predict the success of the coming weekend. Could a Random Twelve be asked to predict an entire year?

Let's see:

January: Dave Matthews Band, "Pay for What You Get"
February: Shirley Bassey, "The Lady's a Tramp"


March: Aqualung, "Something to Believe In"
April: Jeff Buckley, "Hallelujah"


May: Franz Schubert, "Abschied D957" from Schwanengesang
June: Kula Shaker, "Magic Theatre"
July: Kay Starr, "All By Myself"

Hold on, there.

August: Groove Armada, "Edge Hill"
September: Sarah McLachland, "Angel"
October: N.W.A., "Gangsta Gangsta"

Abort! Abort!

November: Day One, "Bedroom Dancing"
December: Lo Fidelity Allstars, "Will I Get Out of Jail"

Great. See if I do that again.

How about you? It's been a while; what was good and bad for you this season? Your year of random music?

On musical tragedy

Okay, so apparently video game songs don't qualify, because I can tell you for sure that the themes from "Tetris" and "Super Mario Brothers" have the penetrative powers to liquify your brain and ruin your day (and just say the words "Legend of Zelda" around my friend Jacob and wait for him to stop giggling). But the staff at Rolling Stone has done what few music fans have the nerves to do: girded themselves with the fortifying powers of Jack Daniel's and determined the twenty most annoying songs of all time.

To wit:

1. Black Eyed Peas, "My Humps"
2. Los Del Rio, “Macarena”
3. Baha Men, “Who Let The Dogs Out”
4. Celine Dion, “My Heart Will Go On”
5. Nickelback, “Photograph”
6. Lou Bega, “Mambo No. 5″
7. James Blunt, “You’re Beautiful”
8. Spice Girls, “Wannabe”
9. Sisqo, “The Thong Song”
10. Cher, “Believe”
11. Aqua, “Barbie Girl”
12. Chumbawumba, “Tub Thumper”
13. Rednex, “Cotton-Eyed Joe”
14. Eiffel 65, “Blue”
15. Crash Test Dummies, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”
16. Meatloaf, “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”
17. ‘NSYNC, “Bye, Bye, Bye”
18. Ricky Martin, “Livin’ La Vida Loca”
19. Semisonic, “Closing Time”
20. Wham!, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”

I will cop to having two of those in my peripheral music collection, which can be excused by the fact that I was young and foolish when I purchased the CDs, and another five on my iPod, which is just inexcusable. Feel free to guess which seven of the twenty I still own; don't count on my confirming or denying anything. Feel free to leave your own Shame Numbers in comments. I promise not to ask.

Well, no, I might ask. I do promise not to care.

On unsexiness

Okay, so People and Cosmo and every other magazine with a significantly female readership love to run "sexiest men of" stories to sell issues full of pictures that will be mauled by adoring fans and words that will go largely unread except by those devoted stalkers who want to know who (insert hot male celebrity here) is dating so they can hate her with a passion.

But what about the men who bring unsexy back?

Lucky for us, the Phoenix has been kind enough to compile the 100 Unsexiest Men of 2007, a comprehensive list of the bad, the tasteless, the ugly, the crazy, and those unfortunate beings who manage to combine more than one of the aforementioned attributes. It'll come as no surprise to my regular readers that I wish I'd written it (I love Peyton Manning to death, and I still wish I was the one who thought to describe him by saying that "it's like someone took Haley Joel Osment and stretched him vertically"), but the greatest measure of hilarity turned out to be unintentional as scores of spotty teenaged girls with emo crushes swarmed the comments section to defend Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, and Gerard Way from the meanie-moe snark of the Phoenix editorial staff.

The best by far?

who are you to say who's sexy and who isn't? Patrick should not be up here. He is one of the most influential people of our time.

God help us if this is, in fact, the case.
And why dis Pete in the meantime? What have these people EVER done to you? How can you sleep at night, knowing that you have been such a cold hearted person to write a freaking article about who is attractive when children are starving in our world?

From Doug: "There are children starving and a war going on in Iraq . . . so I'm going to get outraged about someone talking smack about Fall Out Boy." Im LOLing at ur prioriteez!11!1!!!one
Did you even know that there is a war going on in Iraq? Did you know that generations are being slaughtered?

Kristin, this time: "No, holy Christ, I had no idea. I take it back. Patrick IS hot. He IS! Go America!"
Probably not, seeing as how you only have the time to look at people, and not really care about what they're doing in this world. I applaud you for being a careless person. POSTED BY fangsup AT 01/01/08 8:59 PM

And fangsup, I applaud you for taking the time to post all of that on the comment section amid a torrent of nearly identical fangirl temper tantrums aimed at an editorial staff who find your squealing outrage hilarious.

If only we could get these kids to vote.

Maybe Patrick Stump could do it. I hear he's way influential.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

On my triumphant return: What Maxim won’t tell you about interacting with women

Okay, so I know I’ve been gone a whole month, and that a lot has happened in that time. World leaders have been killed. Primary caucuses approach. Jessica Alba has come up pregnant. Tony Romo has discovered that he can’t play football when there are hot blondes in the stadium. Not to mention the extended holiday period, which has included world travel, relationship shakeups, lots of gifts given and received, and plenty to be thankful for. And what’s my first post of the new year about? Dating.

Not an earth-shaking topic, to be sure, but it’s one that’s recently been at the forefront of my attention. Doug has posted in the past about Nice Guys™ and the errors of their Nice Guy™ ways, and I think it’s a fairly accurate depiction. But having recently been forced, unwillingly, into an evening with one of these poor, misguided souls, I felt the need to clear up a couple of misconceptions that Maxim and similar publications might be spreading about what, precisely, women are looking for in their interactions with men.

This is, of course, by no means intended to be a comprehensive guide, nor is it meant to imply that women are some sort of monolithic hive mind that all think the same way. Yes, there are women out there who are turned on by braggadocio about workout regimens and college bar fights, but that’s kind of the point: Every woman is an individual, not just a member of Group Woman, and should be treated with respect for her individuality and not just items from a punch list.

Lesson the first: Women aren’t impressed by what you say; they’re impressed by what you do. We don’t care about how many reps you do on each muscle group. We don’t care about how badly you kicked the asses of those eight guys who jumped you. Many of us don’t care about how much money you make. We care about what you’re doing while you’re out with us. Are you polite to the waiter? Are you listening to what we say and not just waiting for your turn to talk? Are you paying attention to us, or is your interest wandering around the room? Are you engaged in the moment and your interaction with us, or are you just marking time until you can get us back to your place? Are you dressed like you have somewhere to go, or do you look like your date is just a quick errand you have to run before you hit the gym? Are you treating us with respect, or just treating us like the frat brother you farted on before heading out to pick us up? All of that speaks far louder than anything you actually say to us during the course of the date.

Lesson the second: Whatever you think women want to hear is probably wrong. This goes back to women not being impressed by what you say. When you say, “You’ve got a really nice body,” you probably think you’re giving a compliment, and women like compliments, right? Except you’re working from the assumption that your opinion of her body is paramount in her mind. You’re also saying to her, practically in so many words, that the shape of her body is paramount in your mind. If you absolutely have to comment on her appearance, stick with a simple, “You look lovely.” It’s flattering, complimentary, and vague enough to avoid being creepy.

When you say, “I can bench-press a subcompact car, and I’ve got a perfect twelve-pack,” you probably think that you’re wowing her with your awesome physique, but you’re basically offering a benefit that she can enjoy only when you’re naked. Because of course y’all are going to end up naked, right? Assumptions are never a good way to start out a date.

What can you say to a woman? Dunno; what has she been saying to you? That’s where you get your cues. “Wow, I never would have taken you for a mountain climber. Tell me more about summiting Kilimanjaro?” “What made you decide to become a tax attorney?” “You must have been the smartest contestant in the Miss Magnolia Midlands pageant. What made you decide to stop competing?” Don’t make the mistake of seeing a date as an audition for each other’s company and thinking that, by letting her know she’s gained your approval, you’re putting her at ease. You’re not going into it to gain each other’s approval; you’re going into it to get to know each other and decide if you want to take things further. And the best way to do that is to actual listen to what she’s saying, instead of waiting for her lips to stop moving so you can talk.

Lesson the third: Drink less. Oh. Emm. Gee. If you’re out on a date, particularly in the early stages, with a woman you’re really interested in, you’re probably pretty nervous, and you probably think that a drink or five will loosen you up and help you to be yourself. This is a mistake. The first drink both relaxes you and makes you more likely to reach for the second; by the time you’re reaching for the fourth, you’re well on your way to an imitation of Animal House that is both unflattering to you and unpleasant for her. Trust me that the jokes you’re telling aren’t nearly as clever, the way you’re groping her isn’t nearly as charming, and the hoops you’re making the waitstaff jump through aren’t nearly as funny in her head as they are in yours. Keep it to a single drink, at least until you get to know each other better; you’ll be more likely to remember your evening, and more likely to have an evening worth remembering.

Lesson the fourth: The way you act influences the kind of women who respond to you. How can I explain this without coming across as kind of classist and bitchy? I'm fairly sure I can't and shouldn't even try. Here's the deal: You're looking for someone who more-or-less matches your interests and aspirations; most women are doing the same. To find Your Kind of Woman, you also have to be the kind of man who is attractive to Your Kind of Woman. If your ideal woman is classy and intellectual, you're not going to attract her by acting like a frat boy. If your ideal woman is down-to-earth and unsuperficial, you're not going to attract her with fancy meals and man-jewelry. If you find yourself consistently unsatisfied with the women you date, you need to either change your expectations or start dating a different kind of woman, and if you want to date a different kind of woman, you need to start acting like the kind of guy who can satisfy the kind of woman you’re looking for. If you want to date a Highlands woman, you need to act like a man who can walk into Highlands and order a drink without embarrassing himself. And if, being fully honest with yourself, you realize that you’re just not that kind of man, you need to learn to find the beauty in the kind of woman that responds to you as you are.

Lesson the fifth: Think interaction, not transaction. Like I’ve already said a couple of times, women aren’t some sort of hive mind that all think precisely the same way. There isn’t some formula that’s guaranteed to sweep every woman off of her feet. Some women like having doors opened for them; some don’t. Some women like jazz music; some don’t. Some women like hamburgers and not football, some women like football and not hamburgers, and some women like both. If a woman doesn’t respond positively to your Guaranteed Seduction Technique, that doesn’t mean she’s faulty/bitter/ungrateful/scratched and dented; it just means that she’s not into whatever move you just pulled. The secret is to find out what she is into and give her that. Or find a woman who responds to the moves you already have.

Lesson the five and a halfth: A nonstarter isn’t a failure or a disaster; it’s just a fact of life. No matter how perfect you two might seem together, no matter how well you behave and how well she responds, no matter how well you listen to what she says and how you try to give her what she’s looking for, things just might not work out. Maybe you discover that whatever she’s looking for isn’t something you want to give. Maybe she discovers that whatever she thought she was looking for isn’t what she wants after all. Maybe you discover that you’ve been shooting for Nordstrom women all this time, when what would really make you happy is a Target girl. Maybe every factor is in evidence and perfectly in line and the whole thing is just lacking that chemistry, that spark, that makes the leap from a dinner date to a relationship. It happens. It doesn’t mean that you suck; it doesn’t mean that she does. It just means that you move on and try again with different people. And sure, yeah, if it happens on a regular basis, you might want to try detecting a pattern and looking at the other tips here provided, but if just once, it just doesn’t work out, that’s just a shame. And it’s just something you have to deal with, get over, and move on.

The most important lesson is to find out who you really are and be that. If you force yourself to be someone you aren’t, you’re not going to be happy in the resulting relationship, no matter how well the pieces fit together. And if you allow yourself to be yourself, but continually pursue women who don’t respond to You, you’re not going to be happy, because you’re going to be lonely and convinced that all women are bitches. Manage your behavior and your expectations, be yourself, and realize that dating is absolutely going to suck no matter what you do or how you handle it. So go ahead. Go for it. You’ve really got nothing to lose.

So there’s my highly anticipated return from my blogging hiatus. I’ll hit the high points of politics, travel, social anthropology, and the 2008 Sugar Bowl featuring the Georgia Bulldogs in future posts. Also watch this spot for more Friday randomness. In the meantime, happy holidays, merry Christmas, happy Slovak Independence Day, stastny novy rok, and God bless.