Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Black Swan

With Black Swan, director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) delivers another baffling thriller. As is Aronofsky's style, the film cannot easily be summarized; the complexity is the heart of the film. Family Guy's Mila Kunis gave my favorite performance in the film, but two other actors were, to me, easily the creepiest.

To me, the film was like nothing I've seen before yet also strangely familiar. The combination of feelings is eerie.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


prostitute (plural prostitutes)
1. A person who performs sexual activity for payment
2. A person who is perceived as engaging in sexual activity with many people.
3. A person who does, or offers to do, an activity for money, despite personal dislike or dishonour
to prostitute (third-person singular simple present prostitutes, present participle prostituting, simple past and past participle prostituted)
1. (transitive, usually reflexively) To perform sexual activity for money
2. (transitive) To make another person, or organisation, prostitute themselves.
3. (transitive) To use one's talents in return for money or fame

Although prostitution typically includes sexual connotations and is frowned upon in many parts of the world, lately I have been thinking that most near-minimum wage jobs have alarming similarities to prostitution.

The similarity that brought the comparison to mind is the fact that so many jobs are so often demeaning. Surely some of the customers/clients at restaurants and stores get their kicks by treating their servers like unworthy servants. Like prostitution, customer service can be remarkably dehumanizing.

Even when being treated humanely, jobs use people as a means to an end, exploiting human abilities as resources. If you enjoy your job and approve of everything you work for, congratulations. I bet some sexual prostitutes do to.

These are just a couple ideas I've had rolling around. I think you can continue the analogy from here. I'm not suggesting that sex-for-money is a good idea. I actually think it's probably a pretty bad idea. I am suggesting that many legal jobs are no better than sex-for-money.

See also: Server Not Servant

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gobble Gobble

Good for Turkey.

According to Marketplace's Stephen Beard, "Turkey's cozying up to Iran infuriated the U.S. But the Turks say the West benefits from a Turkey at peace with its neighbors. And Europe would lose out by not making Turkey an EU member. Its economy is growing at around 6 percent a year. It has a large and youthful population, and carries vast quantities of oil and gas across its territory."

Turkey has been struggling to gain acceptance into the European Union for years, and lately the state has been trading more with other largely-Muslim nations, largely due to the predominant prejudicial anti-Islam sentiment in the EU and the United States.

By asserting itself Turkey has made itself a more powerful world player than it would have been had it been easily accepted into the EU or had it continued to bow to pressure from the West. Now Turkey is positioning itself as a bridge between the Middle East and the West, which is something that we've needed for centuries.

Cozying up to Iran and Syria is good for Turkey's national security and its global power positioning. Turkey's enhanced security and positioning is fantastic for the global community, for the world at large.

Good for you, Turkey. And thanks.

Monday, December 6, 2010


You-Know-Who, based on her classic Runner's World photoshoot and textual descriptions of Lord Voldemort.
Click to enlarge.
I wish that we could all just ignore and forget about a certain someone who will not be named. Andrew Sullivan obsesses almost tortuously over her insanity at The Daily Dish, and I don't remember the last week that I haven't heard of something crazy and/or offensive that she has done or said.

She's obviously not going away ever, but I'm going to try to stop talking about her because talking about her only encourages her.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A New Economy

I've been kicking this idea around for a while, but I don't know enough economics to flesh it out. What if we started a new economy based on services rather than on goods or precious metals?
I'm not suggesting replacing the current economy; I am suggesting supplementing it.
I am imagining some kind of a system like a rewards program, coupons, or foodstamps where the currency is only valid for certain specific types of purchases. Every citizen could be given so many monthly econ-units that can be spent on housing, food, soap, water, and/or electricity, but nothing else. Transportation, entertainment, clothes, and so on will still operate entirely under the old economy. Like coupons or foodstamps, authorized venders can then cash in enon-units for regular currency.

Am I on to something here, or is this all just crazytalk?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some Things. from Tea Party Jesus

Original: here.

Hi, everybody. My name’s Dave. I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff lately, and I want to talk to you about what I’ve decided.
First, I should tell you a little bit about my life. I’m in my early thirties, born in Illinois, living in North Carolina. I’m married to a seriously amazing woman and we have three kids, a twelve-year-old and twins who just turned three. My wife and I both have retail/service jobs, and even though we both work hard, it always seems like there’s never enough money. We’ve recently finished paying our car off, so that gives us more breathing room, but we still spend so much just to provide a house, food, and electricity for our family that we end up dividing bills into piles: “We need to pay this now” versus “These people can wait a while.”
About a week ago, I had a sudden realization: I’m practically owned by my job. I get up in the morning, I piddle around on the internet until it’s time to go to work, I spend eight hours waiting on strangers (some are fantastic, others have apparently just crawled out of the nearest Morlock cave), I go home and drink or get high and play video games and watch TV until it’s time to go to bed. My entire life is built around trying not to let my job make me crazy. I dress the way they tell me to, show up when they tell me to, say what they tell me to, and I don’t get to do half the things I want to do in my real life because my schedule is tied up with work. That’s a horrible way to live. And now we get to the really insane part:
My life is awesome.
No, seriously. Remember that link I sent you to yesterday? If you’re reading this on a computer, you live better than 99% of the human race. We eat cheap, plentiful food because it’s farmed and harvested by migrant workers, then complain about the same workers trying to take our jobs. We put cheap gas in our cars to drive to our jobs because the teenage children of our poor people are sent to the Middle East to shoot the teenage children of their poor people. We wear cheap clothes and buy cheap furniture for our house because ten-year-olds in China are put to work in factories to make them for us, and there aren’t any laws about how much they have to be paid or how many hours they can be made to work.
Humanity is a pyramid, with the richest few living a life at the top that’s only made possible by the misery of the billions beneath them. And you’re caught between them: you’re comfortable because of the suffering of others, but you’re not really fulfilled because your life is about working to maintain a society where the very richest can do whatever they like.
And our society has evolved (quite unintentionally) to trap you in that life:
For the last half-century, we’ve been working hard to encourage moving to the suburbs, buying a car, and driving to work. In most places in this country, you can’t live without at least one car, which means a loan, insurance, gas, maintenance—thousands of dollars a year.
We’re completely dependent on strangers for our food needs. If our grocery stores disappeared, a lot of us would starve to death.
Health care has become insanely expensive. If you manage to find a job with decent insurance, there’s no way you’re going to leave it. The risk of getting sick or hurt and being ruined financially is just too great.
We have no social safety net. And I’m not talking here about government programs because while it’s great that they’re helping people who need it, they’re not good enough. They’re inefficient and monolithic and slowly but surely being hacked away at because the truth is there’s just not enough money and nobody’s willing to raise taxes. If you lose your job or break your back or your car breaks down or any of a hundred other things happens, you’re screwed. Most of us live one or two paychecks away from disaster. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a position where an extra twenty bucks meant everybody got to eat until payday, but believe me, if you don’t know someone who’s there right now, you know someone who knows someone.
We get stuck. We’re caught in these lives because of fear. Fear of losing our job. Fear of not being able to buy food. Fear of having our car repossessed, which means we lose our job, which means we can’t buy food. We’re ruled by fear because we have no security in our lives.
And fear makes you stupid and selfish. Fear drives you to hoard, to hate, to build walls to keep the Other out. Fear makes you forget that your neighbor is just another human being trying to do his best and transforms him into a lazy, thieving bandit trying to take what’s rightfully yours. Fear makes you watch Glenn Beck/Keith Olbermann tell you that the Democrats/Republicans are monsters out to destroy you and your way of life, when the truth is that most politicians (not all, but most) are mainly interested in being rich and powerful and famous without actually having to work very hard, and will tell you pretty much anything you want to hear to keep their jobs.
We need something better. We need to start helping each other. We need to start working together and taking care of each other. That’s what I want to start doing. Here’s what’s up.
I’m starting a new blog I’m calling Project Neighbor (with a Facebook page for all of us to talk to each other). It’s going to be a place for exploring ways that we can work together, create more security, and live happier, less fearful, more fulfilling lives. I’m not going to ask you to quit your job or move to Montana or, in fact, make any changes in your life that you’re not up to making. I want to experiment with making tiny changes, one at a time. My hypothesis is that enough of us, doing that together, genuinely can make our lives, our countries, and our world better. I’d love it if you all would be willing to help me test that.
Tea Party Jesus isn’t going away (at this point, he feels kind of like that weird, cranky uncle who makes everybody uncomfortable at Thanksgiving dinner, honestly) but I won’t be updating him daily anymore. I’ve decided that immersing myself in as much awful, hateful, ignorant rhetoric as I had to sift through every day just isn’t good for me. It made me a less pleasant person, and I’m not going to do that anymore. You’ll probably see him a couple of times a week from now on.
Some of you are rolling your eyes right now. That’s cool. This might be me being stupid; it really, really might. But I feel like it’s worth exploring. If it’s a dead end, fine. The worst that can happen is we end up helping a few people who need our help. If you’re skeptical, just do me a favor and bookmark the new site. Come back in three months, or six months, or a year. See how it’s going. Re-evaluate it. Never stop taking a second look at things and seeing if maybe you’re wrong about them.
And that includes this thing, by the way, guys. If you think I’m wrong about something, by god, you’d better call me on it. All of us together are so much smarter and stronger and better than any of us are alone. Let’s put that to work.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

You Fix the Budget

The New York Times has an interactive budget solver. On my first try, I "solved the budget."

I only selected the options that I thought sounded like fantastic, great ideas to me. The thing is, every option is pretty reasonable and worthwhile. Surely Congress will be able to implement some of these kinds of changes if the NYTs is able to compile such a lengthy list of only reasonable solutions.
Follow the link to see my choices and to make your own: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?choices=3mxlh5qv

Required Reading

"The Shadow Scholar" by Ed Dante from The Chronicle of Higher Education

A taste:

"You've never heard of me, but there's a good chance that you've read some of my work. I'm a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you can't defend against, that you may not even know exists.
I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I've worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Morning Glory

film by Aline Brosh McKenna and Roger Michell


Rachel McAdams is, not surprisingly, a very strong lead. Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson, and John Pankow provide a strong supporting cast. The film is funny.
Unfortunately, the film is also pretty forgettable.

As I was watching the film, I kept thinking how much it reminded me of Sports Night, but with stronger actors and weaker writing. Sports Night is pretty classic; Morning Glory, not so much.

The film does have its strengths. As I mentioned, the acting is superb. Rachel McAdams has some screen time in her underwear, which is not something to complain about. The film is genuinely funny. I enjoyed the deadpan humor and a running gag, although I wish both had been played up more. I thought Ty Burrell's character was really funny, and I was sorry he was not in it more.

I guess I don't have much to say about the film just because there's not much there to talk about.

I did enjoy the film, and my wife enjoyed it more than I did. I don't care if I see it again, though.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ellettsville Election Day

Tomorrow is election day. I don't know if there is another polling place in Ellettsville, but I know that I am scheduled to vote at the firehouse. You can find out where you are registered to vote at IndianaVoters.com. Below is my quick rundown of the ballot, including issue positions and who I plan to vote for. To hear some candidates in their own words, check out Candidates on Demand.

For the House and Senate candidates, I recommend visiting Project Vote Smart's VoteEasy and finding out which candidate best matches your issue positions. For other candidates, here's my contribution:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ellettsville Update

Here are a few important upcoming events / times:

•October 30, noon-3:00pm: The Rally to Restore Sanity (and(/or March to Keep) Fear (Alive)), live on the National Mall, on ComedyCentral, and on http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com/
•October 21, 5:30pm-8:30pm: Trick-or-treating in Ellettsville
•November 2: Election Day. More details about this one soon. Visit indianavoters.in.gov for more details in the meantime.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Christine O'Donnell

Christine O'Donnell should not be confused with Chris O'Donnell.
Chris O'Donnell nipple Robin suit
Photo from Teves Design Studio.
Christine O'Donnell, Senatorial candidate from Delaware, been given a lot of attention and a lot of grief for her previous interest in witchcraft and masturbation avoidance. Witchcraft and masturbation avoidance are ridiculous things for people to be upset about. A person who chooses to be a non-masturbating Wiccan has make perfectly reasonable decisions. A person like O'Donnell, who as simply explored these avenues, has also made perfectly reasonable decisions, at least in the areas of religion and sexuality.

What is unfortunate and alarming about O'Donnell is her Tea Party affiliation, her media avoidance, and her shocking lack of constitutional knowledge. However, many candidates for public office across the country have one, both, or all of these unfortunate traits, without being slandered on a daily basis. The way she has been treated this campaign season, I can see how she would think that freedom of religion is not a part of the U. S. Constitution.

I find her inexperience and enthusiasm charming. I would rather see her in the House than in the Senate, but I think she has the potential to do a fine job in either chamber. If she fails, she won't fail for lack of trying.

"Do what you will, so long as it harms none."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Film Screening, Dinner, Dessert, Dialogue – and drab carpeting? by Jonathan Balash

Jonathan Balash, president of Spencer PRIDE, one of the hosts of the film screening I mentioned recently, wrote a longer, more eloquent review of the event (as compared to my review) at The View from Hardwood Hills.

Besides here, his review is also reiterated at Joe Wilson's continuation of Out in the Silence.

Film Screening, Dinner, Dessert, Dialogue – and drab carpeting?

by Jonathan Balash

Sunday night I found myself staring at a patch of bland carpeting in the middle of a crowded room. Around me, people discussed important issues affecting the LGBTQI community – a community to which I and my husband Jacob are proud members.  And yet I stared at the floor. 
Let me step back for a moment and set the stage for you. 

We were at the Presbyterian Church Cornerstone Hall in our small Midwestern town of Spencer, Indiana.   Spencer is a rural community with a population of approximately 2500.  It is situated in Owen Valley along the west fork of the White River, and sandwiched between miles of soybeans, corn, and fields of livestock.  The crowd that filled the large open room had come out to attend White River Valley PFLAG’s Out in the Silence Film Screening and Community Dialogue. 
I am the secretary of our PFLAG chapter and the president of Spencer Pride, Inc.  Alongside our chapter president Judi Epp and a few core PFLAG members, I had spent a significant amount of time over the past two months planning for the event.  We kicked off the evening with a member of the Presbyterian Church who said a short welcome and prayer.  Then, Judi and I introduced ourselves, PFLAG, and finally the film itself. After I pressed play and adjusted the volume accordingly, I stood back with other PFLAG members to take in the impressive crowd.  We had planned on 25 people attending the event, but we all secretly had hoped for 50 people.  I counted more than 50 in attendance and shared a few excited glances with Judi. 
But that wasn’t it.  The door opened and members of the church’s youth group filed in.  Now we were at 55.  Wait – again the door opened.  59.  60.  63. And so on, the door kept opening until our crowd reached 77 people! I was beside myself that our community could fill a large room for an event focused on gay and lesbian issues!  Young and old, church-goers and secularists, students and teachers, the room filled with diversity.  Our members quietly scrambled to add more chairs as each new couple or group entered the lowly lit room where the film was playing. 
Quickly we doubled our food order from the local Pizza Hut.
Mary L. Gray speaks to the crowd Sunday evening.

As you may already be aware, Out in the Silence is a critically-acclaimed documentary that focuses on the issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who live, work, and love in a small rural community in Pennsylvania.  Ever since we had been introduced to the film several months ago through an e-mail from our field coordinator, Brooke Smith, our chapter had wanted to hold the film screening and community dialogue.  There are so many parallels between the film and our own local community.
The film stirred up a lot of emotion among the attendees.  At moments there were tears, while at other times the sound of laughter filled the room.   Most of the audience kept their eyes focused on the screen as the various storylines unfolded.  I kept pinching myself that we had such a great turnout! Our PFLAG members scrambled to cut ice cream cakes that had been donated by our local Dairy Queen.   
The movie ended and after a brief break where we served food and refreshments, the crowd returned to their seats as I introduced Mary L. Gray, a distinguished Indiana University Professor of Communication and Culture and author of the recently published book Out in the Country.  Mary’s research about rural LGBTQI youth is well-known to us and we had met her at a previous event.  She was also recommended by the filmmakers of Out in the Silence, so we were excited and honored to have her participate in our event.  First, Mary laid the ground rules – use “I” statements, respect one another, etc. – then she had us all move our chairs in to a large circle.  She then began to facilitate the dialogue. 
Dialogue topics ranged from the film itself to teen suicide to religious perspectives on homosexuality. The crowd represented both sides of nearly every topic, with the passions of one person often leading to the unease of another.
Hence the carpeting.  And my shoes.  I realized how I should have given them a fresh coat of polish before I came to the church. 
I am an out – and very outspoken – man.  Yet something as simple as talking about an issue so close to my heart can be difficult to do.  Quotes from the Bible were read and it was made quite clear by several attendees that surely no good would ever come from my identity as a homosexual man.  I know better than to believe these things, of course, but it doesn’t make them any easier to hear. 
I was playing a good host, smiling and looking attentively around the room during the conversations that were comfortable to me.  Yet the moment that the Bible was quoted, my eyes trailed back to the floor.  Was this to hide weakness?  Insecurity?   
As the dialogue continued, I realized how difficult it must have been for the conservative Christians to attend this event, surrounded by mostly LGBTQI affirming individuals as well as a whole assortment of LGBTQI-identifying people.  I admired their bravery at coming to our event.  I doubt I would have been willing to do the same had the situation been reversed.
I began to be more conscious of my view, and I started to keep my head up regardless of the topic.  It was wonderful to hear so many people who were willing to stand up for their gay sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends. 
Judi spoke from her heart near the end of the discussion.  “Some people – like myself – choose to live the truth.  Some people choose to live a lie.  And some people can’t choose either.  So they can’t live at all.  That’s just unacceptable.”
Her words sent a message deep inside of me.  As she said them, I looked around the room and saw the nodding heads of a few people who still clenched bibles in their hands.  Although all we could agree on was that discrimination and violence toward youth was unacceptable in our community, I knew that would be a great place to start. 
It was important for us all to have taken part in the event.  For those individuals who were already affirming, it was important for them to see what challenges still exist in our community.  For those individuals who were “against the very premise of the event” (direct quote), it was important for them to see that we aren’t just hiding in the shadows.  We have supporters.  And for those of us who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, it was important to see and understand both of those things.
The discussion ended after 45 minutes when Mary brought it to a close and thanked everyone for coming out to participate. “I was struck by the level of commitment from everyone in the room to continue the conversation, even when it was clear that there was disagreement,” Gray explained to me after the event.  “I believe conversations like the one we had tonight bring us one step closer to better supporting LGBT and questioning youth because these discussions help us see the genuine concern we have for each other and our community members. It's inspiring.”
Judi, our chapter president, had the following to say about the dialogue: "Our intention was to start a conversation about being gay or lesbian in the rural Midwest and we certainly did that!  The attendees represented a wonderful cross section of the local community and thanks to our facilitator everyone who wanted to speak was given an opportunity to do so.”
Once the dialogue finished the hall began clearing out.  Approximately 20 people remained and continued the discussion in smaller groups.  My husband Jacob was in one of these groups, being questioned by several conservative Christians that he had known in years past.  I had checked on him to make sure that he was ok (which he was) and then I went back to standing near our PFLAG/Spencer Pride informational table answering questions that were posed to us by the departing crowd.  Within half an hour the crowd had dwindled to only our members who cleaned up, debriefed, and then went home for a long night’s rest after a fruitful evening that had taken us months to organize.
I reflected on the experience out loud with Jacob on the way home, and then again silently to myself in the time since then. 
“We hope this is the beginning of a continuing conversation with this community,” Judi told me today, with determination in her voice.  “Our November meeting of the White River Valley PFLAG will be the next opportunity to continue the important conversation that began Sunday night.”  The November meeting’s theme will be “Continuing the Conversation: Reflections of Being Lesbian or Gay in A Small Midwestern Town.” 
I hope that we have a nice turnout at our meeting now that we’ve gotten good publicity from the film screening.  I even hope that a few people show up who were among those bible-quoters from Sunday night’s event.  I think we can all learn from one another.  At least we have a place to start. 
And I promise that I won’t be looking down next month.  I’ll be looking forward to the next steps in bridging the gaps within our small community.  Spencer doesn’t have a GLBT center or any cute bookstores with gay pride flags flying out front, but it does have people who are willing to communicate with one another about challenging issues.  
What more could I ask for?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Growth in Out in the Silence

Last night Sarah & I attending a screening and discussion of the 2009 docudrama Out in the Silence hosted by the Spencer Presbyterian Church and sponsored by Spencer PRIDE and White River Valley PFLAG.

The discussion and the film naturally included many people with strong opinions in all directions. Moderated by IU's Mary Gray, the discussion was pleasantly steered toward personal opinions and away from perceived facts.

Many of the attendants were clearly much more interested in the talking part of the discussion than in the listening part, but a few people appeared to be moved to reevaluate some ideas.

Without giving away too much of the film, the basic plot is a growing acceptance of openly gay people in Oil City, Pennsylvania.  Two of the characters stood out to me:  a minister in Oil City and a father in Titusville, Pennsylvania.  Virtually every character in the film (and if I had to guess also in the audience) had a stance at the beginning of the film.  Throughout the film, most characters dug in their respective feet pushed from their respective stances.  Some used violence, others used mass media, others used lawsuits, and others used public forums.  By the end of the film, the audience is given the impression that Oil City has changed – not much – but that Oil City has a different perspective about openly gay people than it did at the beginning of the film.

The two characters that stood out to me seemed, to me, like a microcosm of the city.  These two characters started with strong opinions, but somehow they managed to listen and take in other opinions.  Neither character ended opposing his original stance, but both characters were standing in a different place at the end of the film than they were at the beginning.  The narrator also showed some similar growth, though, to me, his growth seemed to be quantitatively less than that of the other two thoughtful characters.

As the discussion went on, I thought about how judgmental I can be, and I tried my hardest to listen especially to those with whom I disagree.  I am trying to grow, which I think is a symptom of growth.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Ol' Collegiate Blues

I'm kind of sick of people saying college is a waste of time. I do believe that college isn't for everyone, and I suppose in that sense you could make the argument that college IS a waste of time. However, if going to college was the catalyst for the discovery of your argument, than you've lost the argument at its inception, because college didn't waste your time, insomuch as it gave you an opportunity you weren't aware was going to do nothing for you, and led you to that belief. Don't generalize about something just because it doesn't work for you.

Equally worthy of scrutiny is naysayers using examples of people who didn't go to college and achieved great things regardless as the end-all-be-all to the "waste of time" argument. Luck and chance play into life far more frequently than we like to admit. Chances are the millionaire who dropped out of college got very, very lucky in life. Maybe he or she fell into money. Maybe this person was born a genius-level IQ and college wasn't going to facilitate any further intellectual growth. Who knows? But guess what? The people who had some college as opposed to none got far luckier in terms of success. College supplemented that luck, in a sense.

And on another note: I'm not sure when it happened, but perhaps we need to stop measuring success in terms of money. I know that's considered a "trite" statement, informed by someone who has no money, which I am, but I'm a relatively happy person, and I attribute that to success I've had in the arenas of knowing great people, reading great books, and loving every little shitty aspect of life.

I also write all this as someone who hasn't, and isn't sure if he ever will, finish college.

Everybody Mambo!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"There Ought NOT Be a Law..."

In America we don't suffer well the pain of not getting what we want, and that includes justice. When we see something that strikes us as "wrong" or "unfair", we naturally assume it's illegal and someone will be punished.

This is not the case.

Consider, if you will, the case of John Oxendine. He had a history of abusing his son, Jeffrey; Oxendine's live-in girlfriend, Leotha Tyree, knew of this abuse and did nothing to stop it. One morning, Tyree pushed 6-year old Jeffrey into the bathtub of their apartment, resulting in internal bleeding. Over the next few hours Jeffrey felt poorly and complained of stomach pain; when Oxendine called home from work to check in, Jeffrey told him of his pain but not the genesis of it. Jeffrey received no medical attention.

The following morning, Oxendine tried to take Jeffrey. Jeffrey was sluggish and unresponsive to Oxendine's screaming, and the father then proceeded to start physically abusing the boy. Neighbors claimed to hear Jeffrey beg "No, Daddy, don't hurt me" and heard what was described as a loud thud, consistent with an incredibly hard blow to flesh.

Oxendine then went to work. Tyree noticed during the day that Jeffrey's stomach was swelling and encouraged Oxendine to take him to the doctor, but Oxendine refused. After coming home from work and seeing Jeffrey's condition, Oxendine left for a newspaper and when he returned home to read it, Tyree had prepared Jeffrey for a trip to the hospital.

Jeffrey died before he got medical treatment.

Tyree was charged with Second Degree Murder and Oxendine was charged with Manslaughter, which is legally described as reckless or wanton behavior resulting in the death of a human being.

Now think about what happened to Oxendine at trial. The way the Manslaughter statutes are written, the prosecution was unable to satisfy the burden of proof for the elements of the crime. The defense was able to get expert medical testimony that reasonably cast doubt on the assertion that Oxendine was the true factor in Jeffrey's death.

This is partly because 1) the prosecutor did not evaluate the case correctly and pushed an argument that did not legally fit the situation and 2) simply stated, as heinous as the facts of the case may be, Oxendine is not criminally liable in a way most people will find savory.

The court instead found that Oxendine's actions did not fit the definition of Manslaughter in the way the prosecutor had framed the faulty argument, and the charges were amended down to Second Degree Assault. While this sounds like a gross miscarriage of justice, note that Oxendine served THE SAME AMOUNT OF JAIL TIME under the amended charge as he would've for the initial charge. Justice?

In the view of the way our legal system works, yes. That is justice. The punishment fit the crime, in that the "crime" is defined by the statute in a certain way and certain elements must be present for there to be a "crime" at all. For example, there can be no murder without the "attendant circumstance" that the victim is a human being--if you kill an animal, it's not murder. All crimes have similar elements that make fitting an act into a criminal statute akin to finding the fitting puzzle piece.

Will this answer please everyone? Certainly not. We are disgusted when we hear Oxendine wasn't convicted of murder, when it seems so natural to us to feel that way.

Our system is, in general, a fair system. People are presumed innocent. We have rights that cannot be taken away without our permission. By and large, we live by a very fair set of rules when compared to most other countries.

But our system is not--nor will it ever be--perfect. A legislature CANNOT write an statute for any crime and expect it to perfectly fit the fact patterns of every incident that occurs. There will be loopholes. There will be people that "escape" what we feel is a fair and just result. It is the way of the world.

Despite the imperfections and how disgusted we sometimes get by reading cases similar to that of poor Jeffrey Oxendine, I've yet to see a legal system to work any better than ours.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"New Rule: Rich People Who Complain About Being Vilified Should Be Vilified" from Blogga Please

by Bill Maher

New Rule: The next rich person who publicly complains about being vilified by the Obama administration must be publicly vilified by the Obama administration. It's so hard for one person to tell another person what constitutes being "rich", or what tax rate is "too much." But I've done some math that indicates that, considering the hole this country is in, if you are earning more than a million dollars a year and are complaining about a 3.6% tax increase, then you are by definition a greedy asshole.

And let's be clear: that's 3.6% only on income above 250 grand -- your first 250, that's still on the house. Now, this week we got some horrible news: that one in seven Americans are now living below the poverty line. But I want to point you to an American who is truly suffering: Ben Stein. You know Ben Stein, the guy who got rich because when he talks it sounds so boring it's actually funny. He had a game show on Comedy Central, does eye drop commercials, doesn't believe in evolution? Yeah, that asshole. I kid Ben -- so, the other day Ben wrote an article about his struggle. His struggle as a wealthy person facing the prospect of a slightly higher marginal tax rate. Specifically, Ben said that when he was finished paying taxes and his agents, he was left with only 35 cents for every dollar he earned. Which is shocking, Ben Stein has an agent? I didn't know Broadway Danny Rose was still working.

Ben whines in his article about how he's worked for every dollar he has -- if by work you mean saying the word "Bueller" in a movie 25 years ago. Which doesn't bother me in the slightest, it's just that at a time when people in America are desperate and you're raking in the bucks promoting some sleazy Free Credit Score dot-com... maybe you shouldn't be asking us for sympathy. Instead, you should be down on your knees thanking God and/or Ronald Reagan that you were lucky enough to be born in a country where a useless schmuck who contributes absolutely nothing to society can somehow manage to find himself in the top marginal tax bracket.

And you're welcome to come on the show anytime.

Now I can hear you out there saying, "Come on Bill, don't be so hard on Ben Stein, he does a lot of voiceover work, and that's hard work." Ok, it's true, Ben is hardly the only rich person these days crying like a baby who's fallen off his bouncy seat. Last week Mayor Bloomberg of New York complained that all his wealthy friends are very upset with mean ol' President Poopy-Pants: He said they all say the same thing: "I knew I was going to have to pay more taxes. But I didn't expect to be vilified." Poor billionaires -- they just can't catch a break.

First off, far from being vilified, we bailed you out -- you mean we were supposed to give you all that money and kiss your ass, too? That's Hollywood you're thinking of. FDR, he knew how to vilify; this guy, not so much. And second, you should have been vilified -- because you're the vill-ains! I'm sure a lot of you are very nice people. And I'm sure a lot of you are jerks. In other words, you're people. But you are the villains. Who do you think outsourced all the jobs, destroyed the unions, and replaced workers with desperate immigrants and teenagers in China. Joe the Plumber?

And right now, while we run trillion dollar deficits, Republicans are holding America hostage to the cause of preserving the Bush tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest 1% of people, many of them dead. They say that we need to keep taxes on the rich low because they're the job creators. They're not. They're much more likely to save money through mergers and outsourcing and cheap immigrant labor, and pass the unemployment along to you.

Americans think rich people must be brilliant; no -- just ruthless. Meg Whitman is running for Governor out here, and her claim to fame is, she started e-Bay. Yes, Meg tapped into the Zeitgeist, the zeitgeist being the desperate need of millions of Americans to scrape a few dollars together by selling the useless crap in their garage. What is e-Bay but a big cyber lawn sale that you can visit without putting your clothes on?

Another of my favorites, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said, "I don't know where they're going to get all this money, because we're running out of rich people in this country." Actually, we have more billionaires here in the U.S. than all the other countries in the top ten combined, and their wealth grew 27% in the last year. Did yours? Truth is, there are only two things that the United States is not running out of: Rich people and bullshit. Here's the truth: When you raise taxes slightly on the wealthy, it obviously doesn't destroy the economy -- we know this, because we just did it -- remember the '90's? It wasn't that long ago. You were probably listening to grunge music, or dabbling in witchcraft. Clinton moved the top marginal rate from 36 to 39% -- and far from tanking, the economy did so well he had time to get his dick washed.

Even 39% isn't high by historical standards. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 91%. Under Nixon, it was 70%. Obama just wants to kick it back to 39 -- just three more points for the very rich. Not back to 91, or 70. Three points. And they go insane. Steve Forbes said that Obama, quote "believes from his inner core that people... above a certain income have more than they should have and that many probably have gotten it from ill-gotten ways." Which they have. Steve Forbes, of course, came by his fortune honestly: he inherited it from his gay egg-collecting, Elizabeth Taylor fag-hagging father, who inherited it from his father. Of course then they moan about the inheritance tax, how the government took 55% percent when Daddy died -- which means you still got 45% for doing nothing more than starting out life as your father's pecker-snot.

We don't hate rich people, but have a little humility about how you got it and stop complaining. Maybe the worst whiner of all: Stephen Schwarzman, #69 on Forbes' list of richest Americans, compared Obama's tax hike to "when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939." Wow. If Obama were Hitler, Mr. Schwarzman, I think your tax rate would be the least of your worries.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Social Network

New Rule: Nobody wants to see a movie about Facebook. What's the big Second Act crisis, a server going down? If this is a hit, what next? "Google: The Musical?" "Craigslist 3D - The Search For A Slightly Used Rowing Machine?" They might as well make a sitcom out of that blog where some guy just repeats shit his dad says.
-Bill Maher. "New Rules." Real Time with Bill Maher. 2010 September 17.

Last night I attended a press screening of The Social Network.

The Social Network
Dir: David Fincher
By: Aaron Sorkin
Book: Ben Mezrich
Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
This screening is the first I've been to since I saw Bill Maher's Religulous. Sorry, Bill, bit I enjoyed both films. I couldn't help myself from chuckling at Maher's new rule about The Social Network, but I fully expected a film by Dave Fincher and Aaron Sorkin with music by Trent Reznor to be emotionally effective.

I was not disappointed. Even though I opened my Facebook account back when it was still called thefacebook.com, the film made me feel like I want to be a part of the website. I am adding Facebook integration across the online Bad Mutha Boobiverse, and this film is absolutely responsible for my decision to do this.

Allegedly the film paints Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a negative light, but the film made me want to work with him. If he's much like the character Jesse Eisenberg portrayed him as, he and I have a lot in common, including a distaste for money and condescension.

The movie is called The Social Network, but the film is not about Facebook. The film is about a fictional character named Mark Zuckerberg based on a character named Mark Zuckerberg from the nonfiction book The Accidental Billionaires based on a real man named Mark Zuckerberg. And the movie is a fine film.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How we can have way more jobs, short and sweet

Eliminate the notion of necessary full-time employment. Split full-time positions into part-time positions, and offer higher wages with fewer perks & benefits. If everyone who works full-time at minimum wage worked 20 hours a week at double minimum wage, a huge portion of the unemployed population could have jobs as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Burning Books and Buildings and Specifics

A morbid anniversary happened over the weekend.  Some used the occasion to mourn, others to reflect, others to cash in, and others to frighten.  Some specific individuals and groups were singled out by reporters, bloggers, analysts, pundits, politicians, correspondents, and commentators.

People noticed that a lot of hubbub was being raised over very isolated acts by very unnoteworthy people.  Naturally, instead of stopping the coverage of the unimportant, our newsmakers began conversing about the inappropriate volume of their own coverage.  We went from coverage to overcoverage to metacoverage to metaovercoverage to overmetaovercoverage remarkably quickly.

If you are reading this post shortly after its publication date, you probably know exactly what I am alluding to here.  If you are reading this post sometime in the future, hopefully you have no idea what specific events I am hinting at here.

A couple weeks ago, I told you, in more words, that being given attention is the only victory terrorists can ever achieve.

Today, I take a step further and insist suggest that we should not make public value judgments (broadcast "oughts") about specific real-world incidents.  We should reserve our judgments about specific real-world incidents for private, and while we are broadcasting the news, we should make value judgments only about generalities or hypothetical situations.

Now, to break my own rule, I would like to share a couple favorite quotations from last week's over*coverages:
"You aren't responsible for Quran burners. Don't hold Muslims responsible for 9/11." –Will Saletan. "We Didn't Start the Fire." Slate. 2010 September 8.

"The reason not to burn Qurans is that it's unkind -- not to jihadists, but to Muslims who mean us no harm." –Ann Coulter. "Bonfire of the Insanities." AnnCoulter.com. 2010 September 8.
Both of these quotations portray my exact sentiments much more eloquently than I could.  I am pained that the second quotation is from that Ann Coulter.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

One Solution to the Jobs Problem

One time a thing occurred to me, why do the "recovery jobs" have to focus on the broadest qualifications?

I heard some statistics recently, and while I do not remember the specifics, I remember that the gist was an alarming proportion of the workforce are stuck in jobs for which they are overqualified.

Here is my simple suggestion for the week: if the federal government creates any more stimulus jobs, let the government create high-level, highly specialized jobs and push the new openings hard.  People who are qualified will take these jobs and move to them out of their lower-level jobs, opening these jobs for people to move up in (or up into) the job market.

I do not see how creating new unskilled or unspecialized jobs is preferable to this plan.  If it is, please fill me in.  If I'm onto something, though, pass it on.  Feel free to take credit for it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I first heard of Kickstarter when I saw an ad for Pioneer One on The Pirate Bay.

I was intrigued and amazed by the idea. The Kickstarter model works much like traditional investing, except the risk is monumentally less. Each project on Kickstarter has a listed goal and a deadline. Backers pledge their funding in exchange for guaranteed rewards, which the backers will receive if the project reaches its funding goal by its funding deadline. If not, the backers do not pay their pledges and no one is obligated to anyone else.

At the moment, The Adventures of Hero has a Kickstarter drive running to publish the third volume of the trade paperback. Check it out, check out Kickstarter, and help some cool projects get off the ground!

On Timeliness and a Ground Zero Mosque

A lot happens every day. Some of these events are interesting to talk about. Some are talked about in most mainstream and alternative news venues, while others are largely ignored. Regardless of how much attention is paid to these events, most are quickly forgotten.

Here at Fear Goggles, we try to continue discussing noteworthy events beyond the normal forgotten-zone. This goal has proved to be surprisingly challenging. While I would like to talk about something worthwhile, I have trouble resisting opining on the “Ground Zero mosque” or on Dr. Laura’s "nigger nigger nigger" controversy.

In fact, I can’t resist opining about the mosque. If the old Burlington Coat Factory building is zoned so that a mosque can legally be built there, then one should be permitted to be there. A mosque has nothing to do with 9/11. Mosque-going Muslims were jailed during World War II for refusing to take part in the violence of the military. The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in 2001 may have done so in the name of Islam, but not in the spirit of the religion.

Opposing construction of this mosque is prejudicial in the extreme.

“We can’t let the terrorists win!” you might exclaim. Unfortunately, the nature of terrorism is such that the moment the first plane hit on September 11, the terrorists succeeded. That we are still making decisions based on their attack 9 years after their direct destruction was over is a testament to their victory. The only real way to fight terrorism is to make decisions as if terrorism did not occur, i.e., to ignore terrorists. Terrorism is an extreme vie for attention. Giving terrorists attention only encourages other terrorists. Ignoring terrorism is the way to combat it. The old adage “the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference” is applicable here. Of course we should try to prevent terrorist attacks, but once an attack occurs, we have to clean up the mess and move on. To change how we do things because of a successful attack, or to make decisions in light of successful attacks only serves to encourage terrorists to attack in the future.

In other words, causing a stink about a proposed mosque is the only way a mosque construction project could be a victory for the 9/11 terrorists.

I’d like to say more, but I’m exhausted just thinking about this issue. So calm down and think about the position you want to take on this: loving tolerance, peaceful indifference, fearful prejudice, or something else?

Let’s talk about it! Comment below:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

NEWS in celebration of our 50th post on Fear Goggles!

This is our 50th post on FG! Woo hoo!

In celebration I wanted to announce a new theme for this prestigious blog (oxymoron?).

ANYWAY, beginning next week yours truly begins law school. In the spirit of that new development, I will begin writing periodical pieces dealing with legal topics and, specifically, the interplay of law, politics, and skepticism in the United States.

I'm excited about where these studies can take the blog, so STAY TUNED!

Brett Favre, you're a douche

Sure, this is not really a sports blog. It's not really a blog about any one (or several) topics. But the blog was inspired by a great Kentuckian, Dr. Hunter Stockton Thompson. In case you couldn't tell from our heavy-handed attempts to HST-and-Ralph-Steadman-ize the site.

But in the spirit of the sport-loving Dr. Gonzo, here's our first dip into the sports world...

Dear Brett Favre,

You are one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. For 20 seasons you've rocketed laser passes, made impossibly ballsy TD throws, run for your life from 300-pound behemoths. You've got multiple MVP awards and a Super Bowl victory; a guest-star spot in one of the greatest comedies of the last 30 years, "There's Something About Mary". You, sir, are a sports legend.

Another title you should be given is "Sports Douche of the Decade". Is that an overstatement? Maybe. I mean, you have to compete with Terrell Owens, Barry Bonds, Stephon Marbury, etc. But hear me out.

You're a stone's throw away from AARP. In many ways it's a miracle you're still in good enough physical shape to play football. You've taken big hits through the years.

The fact that you're playing at age 40 is very impressive. Hell, I'd like to see you play until you're 65!

But you're not special. Football is the ultimate TEAM sport. You need a roster of 53 strong-willed, selfless players to succeed in the NFL.

These strong-willed, selfless 53-man rosters are forged in the molten pit of despair known as training camp: two-a-day practices, searing heat, immense fatigue. These activities serve to stratify the players and solidify the depth chart, create team chemistry, learn new concepts and improve position skills, and--perhaps the most important aspect of all--form a bond between players and across the team.

Brett, by not coming to training camp but showing up during preseason games to play a season, you are impeding your team's chances to win a Super Bowl. Plain and simple.

Play until you're 65. No one cares. But have the decency to go through two-a-days; sit in tape sessions with your teammates; help the younger quarterbacks develop their skills for when you DO really retire; help build chemistry with your wide receivers; help build TEAM chemistry, as a team leader.

Is that to much to ask for a professional being paid millions of dollars a year?

Stop being a douche, Brett.


Sports Fans Everywhere

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The (Potential) Legacy of George W. Bush

I realize that a Venn diagram of readers of the Atlantic and readers of Fear Goggles looks something like this, with blue and red representing the respective demographics:
, but I want to spread this message:

Jeffrey Goldberg has a great idea for President George W. Bush:

In this generous and visionary statement can be found the seed of an important task for ex-President Bush. I would hope -- especially now that he is finished writing his book -- that he would speak out for Muslim enfranchisement in America, in particular in the wake of the "Ground Zero" mosque controversy. He should let American Muslims know that he accepts them as equal citizens under law, and that all Americans, but particularly members of his own party, should do the same. This is an important task, and I believe that George W. Bush is the best man for it.
Andrew Sullivan points to a precedent quotation from the former president from Everything2:

When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race. America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect. Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America. That's not the America I know. That's not the America I value.
I know President Bush claims to want to let history decide how he is remembered, but history will surely view him more favorably if he continues to say thoughtful, powerful, and wonderful things like the aforementioned quotation, like the request from Goldberg than if he does not.

My respect for the man (and my interest in reading his book) certainly increased when I read that quotation.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Neutered Arizona Immigration Law, Immigrants in Continued Mexican Standoff

by David Wolinsky from Indecision Forever

Even though the Arizona immigration law's most controversial parts were found unconstitutional yesterday in a temporary injunction by Federal Judge Susan Bolton, the "less contentious" parts of the law are in effect today. Other states like Utah are expected to adopt the tweaked version of the law, but neither side of the dust-up in Arizona is backing down.

University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor Kris Kobach, who not only helped write the law but has worked to train Arizona police officers in immigration law, presumably clad in an American flag sweatshirt and matching bandana, was quoted as saying

"It's a temporary setback. The bottom line is that every lawyer in Judge Bolton's court knows this is just the first pitch in a very long baseball game."

Interesting choice of words. And who on the Arizona Diamondbacks will be throwing out that pitch? Could it be Esmerling Vásquez or Jordan Noberto from the Dominican Republic? Or maybe Juan Gutiérrez from Venezuela?

And what about all the American pitchers who won't get the chance to throw out that first pitch because it's being thrown out by one these immigrants who're willing to throw it out earlier, faster, harder and for less money?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Glenn Beck's Side (for once)

Barry Ritholtz thinks Glenn Beck is scheming:

I disagree.

I think Glenn Beck is making money in a more honest and transparent way than how most of us pay our bills. When I read over Jess Bachman's chart (above), I couldn't help but think of Thank You for Smoking.
Not only does protagonist come up with an internal advertizing campaign like Beck's (but for cigarrettes instead of for gold), "Now, what we need is a smoking role model, a real winner. . . .

Indiana Jones meets Jerry Maguire. . . . Right, on two packs a day. . . ." featuring Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones smoking healthy cigarettes in the nude in the future in space, but he also iterates and reiterates what he calls "the Yuppie Nuremberg defense": some variation of "Everyone's got a mortgage to pay."

Our economic system is such that, for a person to make a living doing whatever-it-is-Glenn-Beck-does, one must sell something. To make money doing anything, one must sell something. I put Amazon.com affiliate links all over this post in hopes that you, you personally, will click one, buy the product, and we will get a cut. Also, maybe the movie covers are illustrative.

Side note: I have never been able to wrap my head around how the system is supposed to work: everyone sells things and makes a profit. Where is the source of all this money? How can it be a zero-sum game? I understand on the individual level how things work, but I have trouble imagining the big picture. Maybe Bachman could make an illustration of that for me?

Back to business: Remember Judge Doom's dream in
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?? Billboards everywhere came true! I realize that the film takes place years before it was written, filmed, or released, but even in the era in which the film takes place, the economy was moving towards its current configuration. Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones may not be smoking Sector Sixes nude in space, but they have to hock products for a living too. If you catch

Twelve Monkeys or Se7en or Meet Joe Black or Burn After Reading or Inglourious Basterds on a network station, your film will be interspersed with "commercial breaks" filled with filmed advertisments. These ads imply and deny implying mutual support of the real and/or fictional people involved with the film that is bookending them. You might even see an ad where Catherine Zeta-Jones explicitly states mutual support of a beauty product. Even in theaters and on most dvds, commercials precede the feature. Many, perhaps most, films include embedded product placement.

Compare the fund-raising practices of Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones to those of Glenn Beck. Beck is just about as transparent as possible. Goldline advertizes during both his radio and television shows. Beck promotes Glodline during both his radio and television shows. Beck even appears in Goldline advertizements. Beck is just short of explicitly saying, "I make money for Goldline, and Goldline makes money for me."

Beck is a weasel who is probably eventually going to laugh himself to death, but his arrangement with Goldline is hardly secretive or dishonest.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I was a writer for 3 years, then I pretty much gave it up. . . . How do I get my spark back?

Sara Benincasa suggests:

Thankfully, I made a chapter delivery schedule with my editor, so I know I have a deadline. Maybe you need a deadline, too, even if it’s for your own blog.

I diagree.
Dear Writer-for-3-Years,
You definitely need a deadline. That's the only way most things ever find their way onto Fear Goggles.

USA Type-B

Scott Adams proposes sub-countries. They sound like states within the US, except starting from the ground up.

If one of these gets started for real, let me know and count me in.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In His Diary, Ben Stein Wishes for the End of Wishful Thinking

Zaid Jilani and Dennis DiClaudio are on Ben Stein’s case.

They are on his case for the entry he made in his American Speculator Diary this Monday. Specifically, they are on his case for writing and publishing this paragraph:

The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job. Again, there are powerful exceptions and I know some, but when employers are looking to lay off, they lay off the least productive or the most negative. To assure that a worker is not one of them, he should learn how to work and how to get along -- not always easy.
Personally, I am not particularly offended by this paragraph. In fact, I agree with the sentiment. In a misanthropic way I do think that Stein is correct. I tend to agree that “the people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.” However, I also think that the people who have not been laid off and can find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I suspect that Jilani and DiClaudio inferred that Stein is implying that the people who have not been laid off and that can find work have better work habits and personalities than the unemployed and underemployed. However, he does not make this claim, nor do I think that he would stand by such a claim.

Well, maybe he would.

Stein is a vocal advocate for Intelligent Design Creationism, so I know he is not afraid to stand behind offensive and crazy ideas. Along with his IDC support, his recent diary entry fills me with sad irony.

The man, known to refuse to wear shoes that are not sneakers says, “This brings to mind an idea I have long had: that high schools and colleges should have a course on "how to get along" and "how to do a day’s work." This would include showing up in clean clothes, smelling well, having had a good breakfast, dressed in a businesslike way, calling the other employees "sir" or "ma'am" and not talking back.”

The man uses the egalitarian generality “men and women” in one paragraph then writes with alarming discriminatory sexism in the next paragraph, “women selling their bodies, men turning to drugs.”

But the most ironic and unfortunate of Stein’s crazytalk in his diary entry is in the aforementioned (aforequoted?) paragraph. The title of his diary entry is “The End of Wishful Thinking,” and its primary thesis (yes, Stein has theses in his published diary) is that “people who add and subtract and see life plain, these people rarely get in desperate trouble.” However, many if not most of the minor theses of this diary article, e.g., “productive workers with real skills and real ability to get along are also sometimes unemployed, but they will be the last fired and the first hired,” are silverlined generalizations. I assert, at the risk of offending Jilani and DiClaudio, that a person’s get-along-ability and do-a-day’s-work-ability are real, important, powerful factors in that person’s employment status. However, despite what a wishful thinking economist Ben Stein might tell you, these two important factors are not the only two important factors. Experience, education, who a person knows, gender, race, age, and family prestige are a few other factors that have a comparable level of importance to Stein’s two factors.

In Stein’s defense, his two factors do play an important role. Ironically, Stein’s factors (and the others I listed) work in the same way as Darwinian evolution which Stein claims to disbelieve.

Ben Stein, as pixies in Butch Hartman's The Fairly Oddparents
Most of Stein’s claims in this diary article contain grains of truth, but most of the claims are oversimplified generalities stylized as Undeniable Truths. I do not know if Stein is playing some kind of rhetorical game here or if he “is . . . as much like . . . [his] friends of decades standing . . . [who] lacked prudence and lived in a dream world . . . as [he] often think[s he is].” He often thinks he is like these friends of his, and perhaps rightly so. That good hard-working people are rewarded and evil lazy people are punished is sometimes, but not always true. Accepting such a maxim as fact is wishful thinking.

I guess Ben is having one of those dreams that appears as though the dream world is the waking world.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quintana Roo

We're back. The wedding was awesome. The honeymoon was awesome. We stayed at Hotel Catalonia Playa Maroma on Riviera Maya just north of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo, Mexico. I would like to share a couple tidbits from the trip:

Getting Mexican pesos was a waste of resources. Everywhere we went and everything we did accepted Visa, Mastercard, European euros and American dollars. I doubt that this state of affairs is true throughout Mexico, Quintana Roo is so touristy, I'm not surprised at their lenient currency expectations.

The food at the resort was wonderful. They provided an international buffet, a Mexican restaurant, an Italian restaurant, an American restaurant, a Spanish restaurant, a creperie, and two bars. Sarah and I were each stricken with "Montezuma's revenge" or "tourista syndrome", but the food was worth that price.

The food was not the only thing international at the resort. Each menu was available in Spanish, English, French, and Italian. I got the impressive impression that most of the staff was proficient in all four languages.

On the day that Montezuma's revenge struck me, we went to see the ruins at Tulum. We took the "Xtreme" tour, which included a swim in a cenote (supposedly the only cenote in all of Mexico that people are permitted to swim in), three zip-lines, one rappel down a tower, and a Mayan lunch. Besides Sarah and me, three other couples who got married in outdoor ceremonies on the tenth of July, a father-son team, and a mother-two-sons team travelled with our guide, Sergio. The other newlyweds were from California, Colorado, and Texas (we're from Indiana in case you didn't know), five of them are teachers, and the sixth a lawyer. The main reason I am even writing about my honeymoon on here is something one of the brides said. I don't know which bride was speaking since I was focused on keeping my insides inside, but one of them was complaining that some of the parents of her students don't speak English very well. She went on to complain that a lot of people in Mexico do not speak English well or at all.

In Mexico.

Where the national language is Spanish and the cultural history is indigenous American, Spanish, and French.

She was complaining that they don't speak English.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vacation, 2010

This Saturday, Sarah and I will be getting married. Zach will be presiding, Jerry will read the first reading, and Drew will read the second.

Immediately following the ceremony will be a reception. The following day, Sarah and I will leave for Playa del Carmen, Mexico, our first vacation since we went to Panama City Beach, Florida in March of 2007.

We have had a few long (i.e., 3-day) weekends here and there (e.g., this most recent Independnce Day weekend), but we have not had more than a single day to relax in years.

Granted, we have moved and changed jobs several times, and we are getting married, but the point is that we can use the break.

Personally, I have never been outside of the United States before. I'll be back in a couple weeks, hopefully better-rested and with more worldly perspective.

"Lara Logan's Guide to Being a Good Journalist" from Indecision Forever

by Sara Benincasa

Lara Logan is a human vuvuzela.
Oh, don’t you remember Lara Logan, the South African-bred CBS News reporter/self-appointed U.S. Army spokesBarbie who got herself knocked the fuck up by some random married military contractor? And don’t you remember Michael Hastings, the Jann Wenner indentured servant who broke the story on Stanley McChrystal talking shit on Your American President? Turns out Lara totally thinks Michael is the worst for reporting stuff that reflects badly on the military. This is because she is a really and truly distinguished journalist and not just another mainstream media reporter in the tank for the military.
Lara got all pissy because Michael reported some stuff Stanley and his boyfriends said because, ewww, it made the military look bad.  Part of her evidence for why her opinion is fact is that she has hung around them and they have not told her secrets, ever, which cannot possibly mean that this is because they regard her as some combination of a Bobblehead and blow-up doll. Lara Logan has never heard of chauvinistic military culture. Also, no one has told her that she is dumb.
Apparently, Lara Logan learned in advanced elementary J-school that journalists are only supposed to report stuff that people in power will think is awesome. This is how you make friends and also become a famous person on television news.
And she is correct, of course, because the only way to ethically participate in the American military as a journalist is to make super-besties with the military and, obviously, the civilians who work for the military. And then to have their children, out of your womb. That is how God intended love and journalism to work. Duhhhhhhhhhh.
What does Lara Logan’s personal life have to do with her opinion on Michael Hastings? Probably nothing, except that she’s spent the better part of the past few years ethically and journalistically fucking a dude who works for the very military she claims to be able to cover in a balanced fashion.  This raises the question: Why did Michael Hastings not fuck General Stanley McChrystal? Let's hope that Lara Logan gets to the bottom of this, preferably in another very special 60 Minutes piece in which she blithely pimps military propaganda and has shiny hair. Then Andy Rooney can masturbate, live, on-camera. Imagine those eyebrows furrowed in lustful concentration. Now try to eat lunch. You’re welcome.

Video of Lara Logan screeding live for CNN's cameras after the jump.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Note on Princess Culture & Love

A Twitter update from a friend of mine brought to my attention a quote which struck me immediately and has been on my mind ever since:

"There are so many girls, and so few princes."

First, the most shocking thing to me is that such a quote came from Liza Minelli, who is not someone I would consider to be a font of notable quotables. The irony of such a quote coming from Ms. Minnelli--herself married and divorced FOUR times over--did not fall upon deaf ears. Her four divorces were to blame on the gentlemen's lack of princely qualities; in no way were her own actions to blame. Princesses are divine, infallible, beautiful, and perfect in every relevant way.

Such is the attitude many girls are raised with: You are special, you are perfect, you can do no wrong, you deserve perfection from whomever you come across and should accept no less. If mistakes are made, someone else is to blame. If poor decisions are made, it was a learning experience and no big deal; someone else led her to do it. And so forth, ad infinitum.

There are no shortage of articles and public sentiment that girls are flooded with unrealistic expectations for appearance, what with uber-svelte movie stars and models making the nut and being adored. I don't disagree that these images are damaging to the confidence, psyche, and emotional development of young girls.

What seems to go under-reported is the fact that young girls are force-fed preposterous ideas of love and relationships. Movies, television, and books all tell girls that they each deserve a perfect man: charming, smart, funny, rich, respectable, honorable and, most importantly, exceedingly handsome. Parents exacerbate these expectations by telling their little princesses that they deserve no less than perfection from a man (or woman) and should not settle for less.

How can you expect your daughter to find happiness when you keep telling her no one is good enough for her? When you encourage her to set her bar so high as to reject people out-of-hand?

But who really deserves perfection? We are all imperfect creatures. Sure, in the throes of love, we will often whisper to our partners "you are perfect in every way" either 1) because we mean it or 2) desperately seek some carnal satisfaction (or some melding of both). But do we mean it? When your partner leaves a wet towel laying on the bed all day and the comforter is soaked for bedtime, is that a perfect act? When your partner spends hours cooking your favorite meal and you go out with friends and eat there instead, is that perfect?

Of course not, and we are all guilty of such transgressions from time to time. Even the most loving, successful relationships I know of occasionally suffer the painful silent treatments and cold shoulders and hurt feelings. It is a byproduct of two imperfect creatures in an imperfect world trying to be together: occasionally conflicts arise.

To me it is preposterous for girls to be raised thinking if their man (or woman) doesn't do something exceptionally romantic almost daily, they are being taken for granted. If their partner snaps at them for no reason once in a blue moon, they are not loved. If their partner isn't the physical Adonis seen on US Weekly, they are undeserving and unworthy.

I would like to point out here that boys are subjected to similar unrealistic expectations in love, and in areas such as bravery: if you're a boy and you don't handle a situation like Bruce Willis, then you're not a man. If you'd rather talk out your issues than fight them out, you're weak. If you show emotion, you're a sissy. Equally unrealistic standards are applied.

So I guess Liz Taylor "princessed" Ms. Minnelli into this hyper-perfection orientation that leads her to believe all women are great and most men are undeserving slags. Ms. Taylor is notoriously poor at staying married, as well; that apple didn't fall far from the tree. Maybe if they had looked more at inner qualities, kindness, compatibility, etc. instead of power and money, there wouldn't be more than 10 failed marriages between them.

You are not perfect. I am not perfect. But that doesn't mean we're not right for each other. Doesn't mean we can't have the real-world equivalent of romantic comedies and love stories. In this sometimes cruel and hardscrabble world, you are lucky to be there with someone you like.

And what about us poor guys, sentenced to a life of bumps and bruises inflicted by women who think we are all scoundrels if we make so much as one or two very minor mistakes? When people come into a relationship expecting the other person to let them down, a bad foundation is set forth. Could this be a contributing factor to the outrageous divorce rate in our nation? I'm not saying it is, but I believe there's some connection.

Besides: how insane is it for a woman to expect to get by with murder and be imperfect, yet still expect her man to be perfect at all times? How unfair.

This may sound like a whining diatribe, and if it does, I don't care. I'm just reporting what I see unfolding in the world around me.

For a closing thought, I'll leave you with a quote from Woody Allen's "Whatever Works", that splendidly sums up a realistic and touchingly sweet take on happiness...

"That's why I can't say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works. And don't kid yourself. Because its by no means up to your own human ingenuity. A bigger part of your existence is luck, than you'd like to admit. Christ, you know the odds of your fathers one sperm from the billions, finding the single egg that made you. Don't think about it, you'll have a panic attack."

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Two weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy article about cancer, but a network error destroyed the post. Here, I attempt to recreate that article, appending a positive update that I could not have written even last week.

Wednesday, 2010 June 16

My friend-from-work Debbie has terminal brain cancer. She had breast cancer about a year ago, and the cancer metastasized to her brain, into two separate tumors. One was surgically removed, and the other is inoperable. According to her, her doctors say her chances are slim. She came into work today to see how everyone is doing, to check up on us, to make sure we keep our spirits up. She is that kind of person. A couple weeks ago, she sent a veggie tray to us to try to lift our spirits.

Shouldn't we be lifting her spirits with veggie trays?

Anyway, the last time she came in (before today), she had lost some of her hair to a lobotomy and had cut the rest close for symmetry. The morning of this previous visit, I had flubbed an incognito mohawk and, Sarah had to salvage my hair (for my work's dresscode) with a marines-style high-and-tight. In short, we had the same haircut but for very different reasons. We joked that I cut mine like hers in support.

Today, she had no hair on her head. She had lost all of her head hair from radiation- and chemo-therapy. She said she cannot keep a beard from growing now, though. She took off her bandanna and showed me her bald head, and we joked that I would shave my head to match hers.

Later, I thought, why not? I've got a little over three weeks until my wedding to Sarah, and my hair will grow back by then. Plus, I can keep the beard, apparently!

She told us how painful and difficult treatment has been. I told her that I read Gene Wilder's memoir (about his experiences with Gilda Radner's cancer treatment, and then with his own), and that, like when I read Anne Frank's diary, I sympathized but could not even comprehend what the victims experienced. To me, that kind of pain is unimaginable.

Debbie said that she had not read Wilder, that she thinks she should, but that she cannot stand to read any more cancer books. She went on to say that she really wants to read Lance Armstrong's book (which I didn't even know existed!), but that she has just read enough about cancer.

Thursday, 2010 June 17

I buzzed my hair, then I Bic'd my head. Sarah helped. I kept the beard. Apparently Debbie came and left while I was at lunch today and missed the whole thing. Yolanda took my picture for a present for Teresa (who is transferring), though, so Debbie can see what my bald head looks like sometime.

Having no hair feels surprisingly like having hair. I forget that I am bald until I touch / scratch / brush against my head and feel it with my hand.

Friday, 2010 June 18

My hair grows so fast. The stubble on my head acts like Velcro, making toweling and shirting a challenge.

Thursday, 2010 June 24

Debbie got her latest test results back, and these results indicate that she is once again cancer-free! When my father's brother and parents had cancer, I never heard of this test result. Things seem to be looking better for Debbie. Of course she is still bald and weak and tired, but given some time to rest and keep an eye on herself, she may just end up good as new! We are all so happy for her and her family. Good luck Debbie!