Thursday, October 28, 2010


Dear Diary,

Who else is looking forward to awkward exchanges with their child-making neighbors this holiday weekend?

Now, I recognize that for many youngsters, Halloween is their raison d'ĂȘtre — that and keeping their parents satiated with a belly full of regret. I had this phase. Euphoric candy binges shall not be denied.

What is often overlooked, I think, is the essential and thrilling act of approaching strange houses. That ability to roam free (while dressed as a gaucho, patrolling the pampas of your subdivision) is rather titillating, I propose:
 (Pound, bang, knock... Halloween pleasantries are exchanged, and all of the sudden you're looking past the house wench and checking out their IKEA stuff... exhilarating).
While walking around the hood, I can't not look into windows — from a respectable distance. (I have a rule, if I'm closer to their house than the sidewalk... over the line! And I don't allow myself to wear all black... too tempting) This passion, quite possibly, would not be all mine to enjoy, if not for Halloween.

Now, with my thartieff burffday looming, the fun is a little different... not quite as delectable. Like you, I'm not even on a pleasant nod regimen with many of my neighbors — no contact, no recognition. Yet, I recognize them. I see them. And they bring their kids to my door:

"Hello person I habitually avoid talking to, your child's trite costume is unimaginative and adorable. Kids, be careful not to upset your bowel movements — eating a pound and a half of processed sugar is an art form... take it seriously. Parent neighbor, we'll do this again next year? Great."

Big social weekend for the Tee Vee: Dr. Dog, Symphony, dress-up drinking... expect a partial report.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cowbird v. Warbler v. God's Children

When alone in the house, I do things which accompaniment prevent — or at least discourage. After that, I'll usually clean the dishes. The dishes lead to Radiolab. If you're not familiar, the program's formula-for-success goes like this: two likable patricians (both Oberlin queers), who are slight ideological opposites — man of science and man of faith — consider pop science findings and their moral implications... sounds pretty good, doesn't it. 

While scrubbing the remnants of a frittata, our hosts start talking about birds. Here's my report:

Part I: The Horror Defined

Warbler is a bird. Cowbird — the name, potentially confusing — is also a bird. The Cowbird, our villain, does not construct a nest. It has other plans.

Cowbird takes its eggs and sticks them in the Warbler's nest — sort of like prenatal daycare. Now, the clever Cowbird has a trick: mix its mature eggs with less mature Warbler eggs. The little Cowbirds are first to smash their shells, meaning they get fed first, get fed more, and are more likely to survive (for my imaginatively challenged readers, see the horror below). This behavior has earned the Cowbird a flattering title: brood parasite.

Giant Cowbird mouth, tiny Warbler mouths

 Now, if the Warbler decides to reject the recent arrival, booting the Cowbird egg from its nest, SCIENCE tells us Cowbird Momma will unleash its fury and beat the Warbler senseless. To avoid this, Warblers feed the Cowbirds... reasonable enough, eh?

The transaction is simple: care for my young, and I won't come back angry. The sleuths at Radiolab tracked down a group of people — bird lovers (relation to the chicken fucker?) — who are displeased with the Warbler/Cowbird relationship.

Part II: Grab Your Pitchfork

One day, a disaster was uncovered. SCIENCE discovered that not enough Warblers filled out their census form; they officially became endangered. The cause of this injustice: the fucking Cowbird. What to do? (obvious, isn't it) Kill the Cowbird. So that's what they did. They, so the legend goes, trapped Cowbirds and smashed their throats — they have a euphemism for throat smashing, it escapes me at the moment. Sadly, this brilliant and well-meaning plan didn't work. Despite the Cowbird massacre, and the beyond reproach "kill to save" logic, the Warbler population did not recover. It must be something else...

Part III: A New Hope

SCIENCE, never to be deterred, went back to the ole' drawing board. They found — those ingenious busybodies — that there were not enough young trees in the ecosystem. You see, Warblers only build nests in young trees... where are the young trees?

As you probably know, forest fires (responsible for the decimation of the round-assed deer, right)  are unnatural and destructive and horrible and must. be. prevented. But, it seems there is an exception. Without fires, forests become old.

Like you, I hate old things, so let's save the Warbler by breathing a little young blood into the forest... BURN IT DOWN!

So, the forest service burned down a forest. "Nobody could have guessed" this might go badly. In spite of nobody's guess, it went badly. The controlled blaze refused to follow the plan, a human being died trying to restore the plan.

Thankfully, the scheme worked! New trees! The warblers did it! The census forms are back to their God-given quota!

Part IV: Reflection

As we enjoy my blog, a Cowbird is having its throat smashed, a forest is ablaze — it is the only way to save the Warbler. And save the Warbler we must... because... uh... help me out here.
 Stewards of the earth? Who? Oh... right-right-right. 
1) Humans are the stewards of the earth. We are all Noah. No species or bank shall ever go quietly into the night... not on our watch.
 Anything else? That "stewards of the earth" thing was pretty convincing... Oh, right-right-right.
2) It's the law. Endangered species must be protected. THE LAW. 

When a lustrous hauteur propels "solutions" which in turn forge new — and usually improved — problems, which in turn... what do you call that?

While you're at work all day...

Who will care for the children?

Wheew! Close call... what's worse than a baby-in-a-well? If you answered, "smearing downmarket bleu cheese over a tawdry piece of chicken and calling it dinner", you win.

I hope you enjoyed the tune — it will, almost certainly, overstay its welcome...

Monday, October 25, 2010

It changed its mind... can't trust that!

Who are these ceaseless creatures, these trusty non-thinkers, these candidates. I'm surveying my prospective representatives and — while there is much to squirm about — I can't get past how utterly predictable their bios are.

A popular feature amongst these campaign "websites" is to tout the candidates unyielding rigidity:

"I am rock-like. I have never changed my mind. I will never change my mind. Look at my record. Just FUCKING LOOK AT IT! I'm enduring! unswerving! Nothing will change me — no matter what!"  they proudly seem to boast.  

As a short breather from consistency, I like the Delaware Senate candidate — a target of such obvious self-justifying derision. I saw a video clip (I think it's popular, you might have bumped into it) where she talks about dabbling in witchcraft (or something, it was mildly incoherent). I found my pants tightening, a joyous overload: "She was a witch?!" (or something) I exclaimed. That is change I will willingly believe in — just give me a chance. 

If you're like me, you enjoy changes of mind — you might even, on occasion, make use of the word "capricious" when describing yourself to telemarketers. Therefore, when deciding who you'd vote for (if you had the time to vote), you find yourself drawn to fluctuation. "Oh, she voted this way but later voted that way... yes, I see: this candidate is inconsistent  — a puller of U-ies... that is the behavior of a contemplative mind. That feels good. I like that. That's who I would vote for.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I feel like a less adorable version

This is really good. It comes from Mr. Boyd's ladypoverty:
If we look at the world long enough, we may find that everything is not the way we want it to be. As a result, many of us don't look.

If we look in a comprehensive way, what can be seen is deeply troubling. Many of us arrive at the point of seeing particular problems with clarity, only to be left with the task of communicating their relevance to others.

At this point most of us experience real frustration. This can play itself out as anger, at the world and at each other; but because anger is a difficult emotion to sustain, it often leads to apathy: it becomes too painful to try, and we withdraw from our attempts to do so.
Boyd — a man who sorts things out — closes with sound guidance (please read it). I, on the other hand, will visit with my despair:

Anger is difficult to sustain. Apathy hangs around, and never buys toilet paper. I work with the angered... they have a few squares left.

They steal impulsively to gain status symbols and tradeable goods ("I was trying to steal this Asian girl's ipod touch all morning" The unlucky thief was sitting next to me — I'm touched that they can be themselves in our classroom) "Cheat and steal your way to the top"... this is understood.

They fight for any and all reasons. I get it.

They are painfully cruel. Of course they are.

They have learned where they belong: right where they are. They have learned what they are: low class, low quality.

So — as anyone who doesn't like the view is apt to do — they dream. I watch as they gawk and gaze at celebrity images — what else would they privilege? Where else would they aspire?

One of my classes is reading A Raisin in the Sun — they think it's stupid... my "I understand and don't blame you" mentality strains.

This all makes me weep.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rome, if you'll pardon the expression, wasn't made gay in a day

Obama was very clear, on several occasions, about having a plan — here we go from about 10 months ago:
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."
Quick Question. Where does Obama say: "Somebody other than me (a group of gay Republicans and a woman, in fact) will swoop in, waving around their stupid constitution, crying foul, telling me how to run my team. At that point, I'll get super pissed — that's NOT THE WAY WE PLANNED IT! — and we'll then change sides — sorta, did we ever really choose a side? — and fight the ruling that ends DADT."

If you answered: Uh, Obama never said that, then you are correct.

Gotta follow the plan people. Don't fuck with the plan.

Think of it this way, we'll use history as an example. Imagine if: Instead of segregating America's public schools based on skin tone, we simply forced all the darker skinned kids to wear white makeup to school — everyone looks WHITE (or, for our current situation, NOT GAY). Once the policy proved "problematic", would it make sense to have everyone take off their white-person-makeup the next day? Hell no, it would not. This kind of thing takes time, so keep your white makeup on a while longer, we have some paper work to process — we'll be with you shortly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I feel "eased" already

How many times will  I ram my head into the genteelism "quantitative easing" between now and when the Fed has their post-Halloween Wingding?

As the What-Will-Ben-Do tittle-tattle pushes into high-gear, my dearest joy will come from the lack of Change. Make no mistake, any steps that the US Fed takes will be derived from a singular and unadjustable goal: Get shit back to the way it should be.

What that should is, of course, is too obvious to even discuss, so why bother. Here, in the coming weeks, are my topics to avoid:

a) Explanations as to how necessary currency devaluation will bring wonderful plastic-trinket-making jobs back to the Yanks — we need to make our own stuff again, like the old days (see picture of happiness on your right. The windows aren't even blacked out! Quite the perquisite).

b) Solemn appeals for international cooperation. "We must work together. The heist requires a group effort — have you seen Ocean's 11?"

c) Hilarious musings regarding America's obligation to "level the playing field" (the suggestion will be that "we" are on the less desirable side of the bend — or slope, if like a xenophobic pun as much as I do).

Remember, this is all about keeping the ship's hull above water for just a little longer — the rats haven't finished packing, and the Captain swears he saw land.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On a Personal Note

What say you?...Too much? Maybe redesign the chariot?

A few minutes ago, if you had asked me, "would you like to be buried in a cemetery when your body calls-it-quits," my answer would have been some variation of: No. Throw my bones in the Puget Sound — it's already glum, nobody will notice.

A few minutes have changed me. Now, without any equivocation, let it be known:

When I die, I need (I'm choosing my words carefully: need) these words — from the always hilarious "Slatest" — to be inscribed prominently on my mausoleum:

Apple submitted with their patent request expressed concern that there is currently "no way to monitor and control text communications to make them user appropriate. For example, users such as children may send or receive messages (intentionally or not) with parentally objectionable language."
Intentionally OR not.

I want the people who visit my dead body to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh for eternity...

Work forever, or get used to getting the grandkid's names wrong.

This man doesn't know his S.S. #. He's also retired. Nuff said.

If you stop working... your brain dies. Thanks Scientists. Courtesy of the NYT:

“It’s incredibly interesting and exciting,” said Laura L. Carstensen, director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University. “It suggests that work actually provides an important component of the environment that keeps people functioning optimally.” 
On career day, my high school guidance counselor didn't say shit about this Center on Longevity. He can expect an angry phone call.

If "use it or lose it" are our options, and using "it" is appropriating roughly 60% of our waking lives towards the end of.... what is the end game here? I thought it was retirement (that's all I ever hear the older members of my work force talk about)... is it not retirement? 

Normally, I'd never encourage you to actually read the NYT articles I mock, but this one is pretty damn enjoyable. Every. Single. Quote. is funny.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sorry I'm late. I was enjoying a good scolding.

Kids, as a group, know a few things. Here is one:

If an adult wants to talk to us about something, we're not interested. However, what an adult doesn't want to talk about... well, isn't that interesting. What are they hiding? What are we not allowed to know about? We. will. find. it.

Here's a good way to get in some trouble (works for me): give the kids an officially "bad" idea.

Dim the lights, don't say anything, just role tape...

Dive! Trailer from Compeller on Vimeo.

Afterward, say, "didn't that look like a lot of fun?" And then just move on, quickly. Don't invite discussion, just move on. A buzz will generate (but that was the point, wasn't it).

Before you know it (truly, a disquieting speed), authority figures are asking if you have been encouraging impressionable teenagers to jump into dumpsters looking for food... like a bum. "This is certainly not the behavior of our future leaders," authority might say.

"Encourage them?" I'll ask. Certainly not. I was trying to scare them. "If you don't do your homework... look forward to eating dumpster food!"

By way of Matthew Newton

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why the kids unconscionably root for winners

A big part of my day is getting 15-17 year old urban black males to shut up about whether Kobe Bryant is a "better" basketball player than LeBron James, or whether (insert any athlethe/sports franchise of your choosing) is better than (do it again) — ad nauseum.

Usually, I'll opt for the, "you are arguing a vague, ultimately unanswerable question, and neither of you are actually trying to convince the other to adopt your point-of-view... so just stop, you're bothering me" approach. The kids appease my request due to my "cool teacher" status (which was attained by not enforcing many, if not most, school rules). However, I took a different route yesterday and the results were markedly different.

Two students were arguing the same ole' nonsense:

"The Lakers are the besss!"

"No, they ain't! The My-Am-E Heat is the best!"

When I interjected, "Why would you be a fan of the best team — especially when they aren't home team? They can only disappoint. Actually, they're incapable of achieving anything. Their strength is their failure."

(Blank "what-the-hell-is-he-going-on-about-now" faces)

"You see, if they're expected to win — because they are actually superior to their opponents — all they can do is meet, not exceed, what is expected of them. They can only disappoint. Does that make sense?

(Crickets. And then, from a kid who wasn't involved in the initial "debate") "So, you sayin' we should root for a team that ain't shit?"

"Yes, that's what I'm saying. The only sports win that feels good is a win that wasn't supposed to happen."( Note: most of the kids loathe the Seattle teams because they "suck". Which is true. Bad at football. Bad at baseball. Basketball team moved to the heartland and are now quite good... The Sounders aren't bad, but my kids don't do soccer.)

Then I relayed, in full detail, my best sports story: The Night the Baltimore Ravens Won the SuperBowl (I also made nice with a girl who had been tightening my pants for years — most of the details were from this portion of the evening).

Short version: I'm attending a Baltimore high school. Watched the BIG GAME with my clique. The Ravens win in a landslide. Due to the lack of "will they pull it out!?" tension, I had plenty of time to consider the unavoidable victory. It occurred to me (probably the most profound thought of my life) that winning a game meant the winner was either the best or the most fortunate... which isn't much for a spectator to celebrate. My posture towards sports fandom changed.

My argument got panned. Their laughter was spirited. Clearly, it was I that spoke of nonsense. This got me thinking: the kids — as amazing as this is — still think they're on the way to the top. Therefore, associating themselves with the powerful, successful, dominant members of the most important sphere of their social lives (sports and games) is quite rational. Rooting for the underdog, I suppose, is to associate yourself with the unfavored, which in their eyes is unfavorable. While I'm resigned to rooting against the powerful, the kids think they're on their way ("think" probably isn't the right word — more a combination of blind hope and slightly irrational self-confidence... what's the word for that? Delusional?). I suppose this is the same impulse that causes people to say things like: "I'm happy with my bank." or for ambitious young employees to crow: "Sure, I'll work on Saturday."

This is demonstrated — I'm not making this up — by "CEO and Secretary Day" which took its beautiful shape a few days ago. Here's how it worked: The participating males dress-up (wear a suit) like a CEO. Everyone is the boss! Everyone can make and break the little guy! Yip-pee! The participating girls had an excuse to pull their clevage out and skirts up a little farther than normal decorum demands — "I'm a secretary!" The kids had a lot of fun. Favorite thing I overheard that day: "Suck my dick or you're fired!" The kids are so worldly.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shockingly Sensible

I'm reading about Fred Phelps, the esteemed gentleman from Westboro Baptist Church — he's so highly regarded that the U.S. Supreme Court had him over for lunch. You do know who we're talking about? Phelps is the guy who gets the kids all ginned up to exercise their 1st amendment rights (teaching the kids citizenship. Virtuous, indeed)

Cute kids. I wonder what their birthday parties look like. (I apologize for that unnecessary aside) I'm purusing Freddy's website (I was watching the Yankees game, causing my mashocistic juices to get antsy, here is one of many scrumptious nuggets):
Sodom’s sin wasn’t that the entire population of that thriving 5 city metropolis were practicing fags, their sin was that they all condoned it, to the point of trying to force everyone else, even angels, to love it (Gen. 19). When you’ve done that, you can only expect the same punishment Sodom received – destruction by fire. 

I had a moment — it occurred to me: Fred Phelps is not only a good writer, he is. one. reasonable. fellow.

Check it:

God is omnipotent... okay

So he can do anything he wants... okay

And despite being able to create universes or watch any movie he wants, whenever he wants (just like Kim Jong), he simply can not get over the butt fucking. Try as he will (hey, he's huma — uhh...), God just can't get past that shit.

So, what to do? Erase Sodom and Gomorrah — done and done. End of story. No more B-F'ing. Now, just imagine (please, relax, close your eyes, and imagine) how God felt when he heard that men were still B-F'ing. I know, terribly uncool, he must have been crushed. After all God has done for us...

Now, you might think a cruel God would simply give up: destroy the planet, the solar system, the universe and start all over (it's only 6 days of work, no biggie). You, of course, would be wrong. Our Benevolent God wouldn't do such a thing — why punish good people like the Phelps family because of a few bad seeds? So, he only kills the bad people. I found myself reminded of a close childhood friend. This friend was totally like, "there's no reason to hate gay people, they're just living their lives, just like the rest of us." What happened to him? If you guessed, "his 16 year old body was destroyed in a gruesome freak accident, in front of his mother and friends — sending his soul straight to the fire chamber", you're spot on. See, God punishes those — like my friend — who deserve it. Praise Him.

To review:

God is omnipotent — his stage notes are precise, it's all scripted (except for the B-F'ing, he DID NOT script that, the B-Fers are ruining his whole production! At this rate, the show will be lucky to get through its first run, you can forget about hitting the road for a national tour). Thanks to the omnipotence factor: how else could you explain the world's death and suffering? Clearly, it's an expression of God's anger — no other possible explanations.

See how I did that... I got you. Just a little thing called logic. Fred Phelps taught me that. Preach on, Brother Fred.

What is wrong with me? I need to promise myself to stop doing this kind of shit. Everybody loses.

I do not find your hate to be charming

"Hating" Craigslist is weird. To complain that people misrepresent and/or incorrectly value their stuff and experiences is to make an unsavory claim: you don't know what you have. (Hypocrite notice: I suppose I do this, from time to time. Please continue).

Here are my favorites from Rawiya Kameir's Thought Catalogue:

But, as if copy that looks like it was written by a 12-year-old girl weren’t bad enough, here’s the clincher: neighborhood barriers go out the window on Craigslist. I hate to go all New York-real-estate on you, but Bushwick is not Williamsburg; Red Hook is not Park Slope; Washington Heights is not the Upper West Side. The subtleties of New York neighborhoods may not apply as universally to other parts of the country, but I’m willing to bet that some serious geographic decoding is needed wherever you go.
Nice bet. Consider what is being said here: Heaven, please forbid we ever lose our neighborhood barriers — how else would I be able to employ blanket sentiment about a specific space?

And as for that huge, gorgeous loft that’s advertised at less than half of its rental value, chances are it’s actually a scam.
Yes. I have a soft spot for clever scams (what is a "scam" and what is "legit" is hilariously deemed). Scamsters too must walk before they Madoff.

For all of its wistful F-train-at-rush-hour romances and unrequited coffee-shop-on-Grand-Street love, the missed connections section is pretty sad. More often than not, the listings aren’t actual missed connections; they’re cheesy laments about lacking the guts to actually approach someone. Lame.
The words "fuck you" involuntarily surge past my lips after reading this. "People lack confidence, what fucking losers they are!"

Hint: it’s unlikely that anyone will pay you $100,000 to work as a secretary.

Sigh. But, as much as I hate you, Craigslist, I just can’t seem to quit you.
What would you call this line? Lame? I'm thinking lame fits (note: this line is intended to critique both the article and my own critique... clever? maybe a little?)

I need a billion new ideas, on my desk, by tomorrow

On cheating:
“It’s not that students can’t do the work. They just see it as a way of saving time.”
                                                             — Ancient Chinese proverb

This proverb is off by about 45 degrees, allow me to move it.

It is precisely that the students can't do the work. They (the cheaters) are mentally, emotionally, physically, whateverly incapable of sitting down and doing something that is — by their measure — bullshit. Why jump over the wall when you can pay someone to put you in a wheelbarrow and roll your fat ass around it... you end up in the same place, eh?

Today's We seeks a tangible reward. I can't call my friends over to flaunt the virtue and integrity I just bought online (free shipping!).

So, what to do? The answer seems clear:

First: Start offering "Integrity" as a college "major". Not just in China — we don't want them to win the integrity race — we'll do it here too.

Second: Create sinecure "jobs" for everyone who completes the program (the government will subsidize the salary and "work" space.)

Third: Sit back and watch as "nonchalant cheating" becomes a thing of the past. Moving forward, we'll cheat with a passion.

Problem solved. You're welcome.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I would've stopped him... if only

As they do, the NYTimes has provided me with useful information:

If you are a restaurant worker in one of 4 US States — Tennessee, Jo-Juh, Arizona, or Vuh-gin-yuh — do not bother asking the police to remove a gun-strutting patron from your establishment because... probably he/doubtfully she ain't breakin' no laws.

Now, despite never having held a gun, I understand it must be soothing to carry lethal force — begging for your attention — at all times. Guns provide:

— help attracting a mate ("he/she, the one with the gun, can protect me. I'll have sex with them.")
— the comfort of knowing you can commit suicide whenever kairos says..."now!"
— party tricks

But, being able to carry a gun wherever whenever erases one of the better things about having — not carrying — a gun, which is: being able to declare (in any number of tones, regret and rage strike me as two obvious possibilities), "If Only I Woulda Had My GUN!" Now, gun carriers in these 4 states are without excuse. Example scenario:

A burglar (think Tim Roth and his honey-bunny in Pulp Fiction) robs the restaurant where you and the spouse gorge yourselves on Thursday nights.

Now, you're saying to yourself, "who robs a restaurant? Lots of witnesses, often centrally located, nobody carries cash these days... robbing a restaurant during business hours is really stupid." I suppose you have a point, but let's ignore it for a moment.

Okay, so the robbers are doing their thing, waving around their guns, scaring everyone real good. What are you, gun carrying restaurant-goer, going to do? Stop them? Shoot em'? Shit, that sounds like a much worse experience than getting your wallet ripped (the court appearances, oodles of paper work, the face of the local tee vee news team asking you, "what did it feel like to save everyone's...uh, almost everyone's, life?").

I'm thinking this is a blow — rather than a victory — for gun owners in these states. The pressure is on... go prevent some crime/protect yourself, let's see what you got, the state legislature seems to say. Because if you don't kill the bad guy, you're going to look like a real pussy... "why didn't you shoot his ass!" your former friends, who no longer respect you, will exclaim.

Imagine the promotional tie-ins..."Assault a robber or unruly patron, get your second entree half-off!" (participation may vary, can not combine with happy hour or any other gun-related specials)

We were promised a booth!