Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

PSA; Starring My Alex

This from the fellow who made that pithy cartoon about voting, Alex Wilson.

Beloved Word--It Starts With a "V"



Today I learned a concise history of the word "Vajayjay." And I howled with laughter for about 10 minutes. Mark your calendars ladies--according to the New York Times, February 12, 2006 was the day your nethers gained a remarkably playful and adorable new name in the American lexicon,"when viewers of the ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy” heard the character Miranda Bailey, a pregnant doctor who had gone into labor, admonish a male intern, “Stop looking at my vajayjay.”"

No wonder Chandra Wilson won an Emmy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

UnderArmour

I spelled it wrong (oops! that's actually correct!) on purpose, mainly because no matter who wears it, you look like a processed meat product. I refuse to wear mine without some sort of less-form-fitting garment over the top of it. I don't care who you are or how fit you are - it makes you look really really gross.

And it's not the most convenient of garments wither - it's a bit like climbing back into the womb, really. You look at it and you say - there is no freaking way I'm going to be able to cram myself into that thing. I have to take off my glasses for fear they will literally be crushed as I pop my head out the neckhole. My arms, not so bulging to begin with, come out the armholes toothpick thin.

I'll grant that it feels good once it's on and the seams are all aligned and everything - it feels tight and good and feels like, well, armor. It feels like protection of sorts. But when you try to take it off . . .

I'm a sweaty guy when I get a good workout in - kind of gross, really. Even to me. And UnderArmor - it becomes something much closer to Saran wrap than clothing once it's got some moist to it. I swear I'm going to suffocate one day and they'll find me 1/3 naked with my arms over my head, UnderArmor cocoon from armpit to hands - like Frodo without the arachnid component.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Retired

One of our Tribe has decided to hang up her quill. She has two small kids and feels like she needs to focus her time on them for now. More to the point, her screen name, which no one should be using henceforth - I'll call her B to the P - is her only online handle, and she sort of had a little e-freak-out about privacy.

I heard from her - she's all good, not offended or angry or upset. Just feels a need to be with her kids more, to be less engrossed in the blogging thing, and to keep her handle private. Mad respect to the B to the P for a tough and smart decision.

We'll miss you, B. Drop in anytime.

I Wouldn't Be Adverse to This...


I mean, why not? More dancing, less fighting. I still don't need her to be my VP, but hey. Everybody deserves a good time.

The Death of Respect - American Nightmare part 4


The foundation has been laid in the previous three posts for what is really wrong with America, at least in my view. The rampant consumerism, marketing-driven unrealistic expectations of rewards and image, fundamental competition in all areas of life - these are the columns on which our demise rests.

Respect is dead in the United States, or dying a miserable death. And that will tear us apart.

All of this competition has made us mistrustful of one another, and with good reason - there are far too many people who have learned by example - too many cutthroat assholes who will steal your candy without remorse or penalty. It's 'just business.'

All of this marketing has made us feel like we have rights and privileges that we are owed and guaranteed, even if that means someone else has to suck it up.

All of this consumerism has made us chew up the planet and spit it out like used gum, and then we want another piece, another dose of temporary flavor, another spree so that we have that one more item tucked away - we need it, right? We need a new blender. We need a new set of flatware. We need a new sweater. We need new jeans. We need a new car. We need a bigger house. We need - but do we, or is this just what we are being taught, or more precisely, trained to think?

Because these trappings, in the eyes that the media and marketers give us - these equal success and comfort, and if you don't have them, then you're down the scale somehow. You matter less.

I. Call. Bullshit.

Want an example? Pay close attention to how people drive in this day and age. If they have a big expensive SV, then they will do things like ride the center line, maybe it's becuase they don't know how to drive a truck, but in my mind, it's at least partly because they feel like, in some way, their vehicle should have greater access to the roads, greater freedom of movement. Haven't you seen the Lexus ads? Why don't you yield, then?

In my town, people pass each other on the right, sit in the fast lane, zip through yellow lights, do rolling stops around corners - all of this is just another way of asserting that the laws don't really apply to us - not really. We are privileged and for police to enforce these laws is absolutely senseless to us. But it's not - these laws were written by people who thought that we should respect one another. Now that we don't (as a culture), these laws seem beneath us - too much to ask of us. Are we really so put upon to be five minutes later?

Mama Monster put this excellent post on her blog,a nd I have mad respect for her for her choice that day. I am so jaded that I see a man stand by the side of a road, read erports of professional panhandlers making more than I do - I can't help but feel like I'm being cheated, and that, in itself, is an example of the death of respect. I don't consciously look at them with contempt, but it's there, somewhere, because of the media portrayal of, hopefully, one case out of ten thousand.

And everyone does deserve the same respect and compassion - we all do. But we're all using different measures and attitudes to make up our minds. We have different levels of education and understanding. The media treats us all like sheep, dumbs it down to an eighth grade reading level, simplifies things until true meaning is completely glossed over. We lie to each other in an attempt at currying favor. We manipulate facts to make them support this conclusion or that one. We've lost the fundamental need for Truth with ourselves and one another - we have no respect anymore even for that.

Ever fudge your taxes? Ever lie to a cop to get out of a ticket? Ever take more change than you were due with an inward smirk?

I have done all of these things, and probably worse. Because I'm no shiny pillar of towering strength in a world of weakness. I want new jeans. I'd be stoked to win that lottery thing. I am mistrustful and suspicious and jaded. I am materialistic and snobbish and self-important. I am a product of this society, and it shocks me that the next batch is coming out worse than I am.

Because I can see myself clearly, and make some amends for myself - give a little back to the world in some sense. I hope. And I'm trying to re-learn respect. I'm really trying. Because I don't like being part of the problem.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Alan...This One's For You

Survival of the Witless - American Nightmare part 3


So where was I?

Ah yes, media and advertising and commercialism and how they have twisted our country into something that will ultimately betray us. Have I not said that out loud yet?

It's coming. It is. It may take another hundred years, or we may realize it as a culture beforehand and avert the crisis, but I really do think it's coming.

Appearances, as we all know, can be brutally deceiving. And our culture, despite what we may all protest, is all about appearances. Perfect home, whiter teeth, sleek clothing lines, sporty physique, trappings, accessories, glitz, glamour. Plenty of mothers of girls understand and teach that the magazine images aren't realistic, but then, we have teenage girls having plastic surgery. We have Air Jordans for infants. We have Britney Spears as a role model.

Let me back up a minute - just yesterday I witnessed something pretty terrifying, on some gut level. My nephew, who will be 3 on Monday, cracked his head on something - a grill, I think. And he's Tonka tough, but he got all manner of attention about it, and it bothered him. He didn't want that kind of attention, and he had a little meltdown. I figured it out when he looked over at me, pulling his contorted face from his dad's legs, saw me looking at him, and wailed harder and reburied his face. He was embarrassed, plain and simple. It really bothered me. How does a kid learn embarrassment? I've seen it in animals before, so maybe it's a natural emotion, but it's also, on some level, learned, and it's shame-based.

I hate and lament that - kids should be totally unselfconscious until they are, I don't know, 12 maybe. Maybe 13. To be fair, I'm not a parent, and not really qualified to discuss it. But I'm not really qualified to discuss education either, and yet. . .

It's the next tree to fall in this clear-cutting of the forest. Because this culture of appearances has taught us that if everything LOOKS ok, then it is quite likely that everything IS ok. Education is the root of our entire culture - this is where we teach our kids a common framework of approaching the world, how to be respectful of others, the basic building blocks that will be used one day to build a career and to add to our society in some way. And now, we judge our teachers not buy what they do with our nation's children, but how well they prepare our children for one specific thing - achievement tests. It no longer matters on a fundamental level if a child is respectful of the rights of others - they need to be able to perform on a standard test - this is shoved down their throats, pushing aside other concerns. I believe teaching is a calling, and I have had wonderful teachers who inspired me to performs, and I have made other teachers literally cry with frustration at my antics and disinterest. The teachers aren't the problem unless they buy into the culture.

The culture says things like - your school needs to be performing at X performance level or we will penalize you. How is this a motivation to the only people who can really make a school successful - the kids? The parents, in some cases, are no better. They will go and argue grades with a teacher - you're hurting junior's chances of getting into a Good School, they insist. And the Good School - that's part of the image of success that the media has shoved down our throats.

So it stops becoming a matter of how the child actually performs, how much the child has actually learned. It becomes a sickening blend of performance, spin, negotiation - this is the underpinning for our future, and we are haggling about it. We dumb down our testing progressively to even the playing field and boost test scores. No child left behind? WTF are you talking about?

It's the skewed yardstick again, insisting that academic performance is the only viable measure of a child's progress and worth, and THAT is the worst bullshit of them all. THAT is what makes parents twist the logic and limits to accommodate their special flower. What is wrong with this country - we have some deep need to distill everything down to something simple and straightforward, to package it tidily, to make things easier. It's not supposed to be easy - this is not a binary world, with either this or that choice. There should be, accordingly, no yardstick whatsoever in this regard. Either you have the 'right' shoes or you don't. Either you're manly enough or you're not. Either you succeed according to this measure, or you are not succeeding at all.

What we're doing is gutting our future. We're raising a bunch of whiny spoiled brats and one day they're going to have to work hard, and the future of the country will rest on them. And while we're cheating our kids, we're simultaneously teaching them that the system can be gamed, and that in this life, all that matters is the trappings - the reach on the yardstick. And that's killing the one thing in this country that could possibly save us from all of this.

Respect. Respect for each other, for our limitations, for the natural order of things, for varying levels of ability in varied areas. For individual differences, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Tune in next time for some thoughts on the death of respect and its implications for our future. Part 4.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Digging for the Roots - American Nightmare part 2


So in this post, I railed about our culture being cutthroat and materialistic. And I touched on its underpinnings, which I am starting to believe are the root of the problem.

Let me take a minor step backwards at this point, and clarify something - I don't believe in the idea of a single cause for any given circumstance. In my own blog, I call it multiplex causality, a phrase I stole from a science fiction novel I've been rereading sporadically. Go ahead and call me a nerd.

I don't mind it. In fact, it's a decent entry point for this next part of the discussion. Why does the term 'nerd' have any other meaning than someone who reads a lot or knows a lot about some esoteric subject? Instead, the mental image that it draws up is what? Some guy with chunky glasses and few social graces. You can credit the eighties movie series 'Revenge of the Nerds' in part for this. The word itself is considered a bit of an insult, but why? Because it sets us apart - it sets someone apart from the person invoking the term. It's a way, frankly, of saying "I am better than you."

That's the fundamental nature of competition - superiority in one form or another. Competition. Winners on one hand and losers on the other. But you see, I don' subscribe to the idea that being a nerd is a bad thing, and it's hilariously deflating to those who would seek to use this term as a means of elevating themselves. At some point in life, you will want a nerd on your side - if you have a need for deeper understanding of their particular brand of knowledge, for example. Like if you have a computer virus, or your company's website isn't working right, or you've got to file your taxes - in these instances, you actually WANT someone with deep, specific knowledge.

So why do we have pejorative terms for them at all? To make ourselves feel better - better about ourselves and better than someone else. To compete, not for dollars, like the last rant, but for social status. We want to be cooler, more hip, more mainstream, perhaps. We want to be the model of the American Dream - fit, attractive, successful, well-groomed - to define some quality by which we can measure ourselves and someone else and come out on top. Once again, it's all about competition.

And again, competition is fine. We do need it on some level. If we had no urge to compete, then the most aggressive people would be the only ones procreating, and in my narrow view, we'd be diminishing as a species as a result. Competition is part of the natural order of things, but it's not the only part.

The American culture is, in my present view, competitive to a level that has become toxic. Entertainers and sports figures are prime examples - look at any music video and see for yourself - is the good life anything but perfect skies, beautiful homes, outrageous wealth and personal delights? Is it ever portrayed as anything else? Really, how many entertainers do you really think got into show business for love of the art? How many lawyers really practice primarily for the cause of justice? How many athletes play for love of the game? How many doctors are motivated by public health? Why, in fact, does elective plastic surgery exist at all?

Media. Advertising. Marketing. These are out of control in this country. But I've pointed the finger at them already - they are already on the hook. And like I said, it isn't ever distilled to a single root cause. But our competitive nature will rarely allow us to see the other side of the problem. It's sharing your chair with you right now. It's us, each and every one of us. myself included. No one is completely exempt or immune to it - you can't be and continue to exist in our culture. But I see a TV show with a guy driving a silver Porsche Cayman S, and I want one. I go to the website for Adidas and I see a guy who's got beautiful women hanging on his arms, and he's wearing an $80 sweatshirt, and I want one. We're all infected with this virus, each and every one of us, in one way or another.

Because the media is cheating us in other ways as well. It's not just convincing us that this product or that service is the missing link between ourselves and ultimate fulfillment - they're also convincing us that success in this country can be achieved easily and equally. That we're good enough and smart enough as we are.

Maybe that used to be true. I'm not sure it is anymore, but that's for part three.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The American Nightmare?




America's got problems.

The problems seem to be economic, but they aren't. Not really. Instead, I think they're systemic and endemic to the American culture. This culture of accumulation.

I personally think our yardstick is seriously fubared. Our measure of success has everything to do with competition - with outdoing one another, constantly advancing our standards of living, extending ourselves beyond reason, pushing past our limits and striving for more more more.

In some ways, this is really a very good thing. When applied to things like science and art, they advance our culture and our health. But altruism in America is mostly dead - it's cutthroat, me-before-you, gimme-gimme-gimme. It's 10,000 square foot houses and $250,000 cars. It's $50,000 watches and pants that cost a cool 3 grand. Shoes that top some folks monthly pay. We're striving to set ourselves apart from one another, to define ourselves by our access to the exclusive.

And we're doing a pretty good job, really. But that's really the very basis of the problem - our yardstick.

I'm pretty anti-advertising, in many ways. This has to be tongue-in-cheek because it's what puts food in my belly - just in the interests of full disclosure. Advertising has really served to deteriorate our culture in fundamental ways. I don't think anyone could really fathom how much money is used to convince us of various viewpoints, of the quality of various goods and services, of the indispensibility of things like coffee makers, bagless vacuum cleaners, dandruff shampoos, tiny bottles of exorbitently priced odors. . .

If you were to really buy into these ads, then every day you would wake up completely refreshed in a perfectly tidy home on gazillion threadcount perfectly pressed sheets with the whitest teeth ever seen, then slide your sculpted body into clothes that fit perfectly, eat a balanced breakfast of some ceral, a few eggs,a piece of organic, perfectly ripe fruit, and hand picked cruelty-free coffee, then get in your freshly washed and waxed performance sports car, where you would drive through a perfect day with your freshly-cut hair wafting artfully in the perfect spring/fall day down mountain roads that are deserted except for you. You'd arrive at your space-age office where everything would be working perfectly all the time, and your incredibly attractive personal assistant would hand you the paper, and you'd have time to read it. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Now, I can't speak for you good people, but I do things like poop, leave stubble in the sink, neglect to load the dishwasher, leave unfolded laundry lying around for a few hours . . . My sofa is faded and my rug has some kind of something embedded semi-permanently in it. Most of my jeans are a least a little frayed and don't fit exactly right. My hair rarely receives more attention than shampoo and a towel. My glasses are smudged almost constantly. I iron when required, and not my sheets.

So the dream is just that - a dream. But they make it all look SO good, don't they? That's the idea - your life could be like this if you just buy this car or hire these lawyers or chew this particular brand of gum. The very powerful underlying assumption is that your life isn't good enough as it is. It's more than an assumption - it's nearly an imperative - they really WANT you to indulge in envy, in greed. The whole premise of advertising is to create a wanting of sorts.

And that's becoem the core of America - wanting. We all want a big ass flatscreen, a shiny exotic car, bigger boobs, flatter stomachs, clothes that make us look like movie stars. I confess - I want this stuff too - it's worked on me to an extent. But I'm sometimes consumed with an anti-competitiveness. What about cooperation?

I concede that the world's effort at communism have failed, because there's no motivation to really perform when everyone gets the same rewards. So the capitalism system has an upside. But it really bugs me sometimes. Is altruism dead? I mean, Bill Gates gives away tons and tons of money, but would he is he only made $50K a year?

It just seems to me that we're more intent on stepping on each other lately than helping each other out. There are recent examples in my personal life that prove this isn't true universally - Whaupwit treated me to dinner, and also a tank of gas this past week when the prospect of buying it myself was alarmingly prohibitive. So I know the world isn't all dour and bullshit. But it does feel like something is almost fundamentally wrong.

Discuss.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dirty Sayings that Aren't

Let's try to come up with a ginormous list of things that sound dirty, but aren't.

Like:

Buttering the Muffin
Grooming the Poodle
Bruising the Banana

GO!

Hoping This Is Outdated....

...yet, funny as hell with a side-helping of angry,

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time Travel



I'm reading The Time Traveler's Wife, which is very good, but it makes me wonder . .

Presuming that no matter what you did, nothing about the present would actually change, what would you go back and do? In the novel, the Traveler has no real control over where and when he goes, he arrives naked, regardless of time, place, season. . . but if you could go back and witness any event, or suggest to your former self a course of action that would, in fact, result in a different future - the present you in the past cannot directly change anything, but you could influence yourself to do so - what would you do?

There was a girl, Lisa, my second love. The first person to take my clothes off. The first person I took clothes off of. We had a gross mis/lack of communication. I would fix that. She thought I rejected her because she was a virgin, when I was, in fact, nervous about my own virginity. I would find myself, take myself aside, tell myself that it was coming, and to be bold, and to be brave, and to be gentle, and to communicate instead of infer.

And then I'd find my 16 year old self at boarding school and beat the fuck out of him for smoking dope, tell him I'd be watching and would haunt him forever, and then return to the present/future to see if anything changed.

I wouldn't do anything cliche like go back and kill Hitler, but I might do a little research and go back and invest in Microsoft; just a few thousand hastily made on small, non-consequential track bets. Leave it in a trust in my future name.

Then I'd buy us all nice lives, or at least the trappings of them.

You?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's Alan's Birthday!




Happy Birthday Alan! Much love to my northerly Tribesman. May the day be fruitful and offer you myriad delights. Buttercream is authorized. ;)

Happy Birthday, my man.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Alex Wilson Is A Clever, Creative Guy



See Alex Write! Write Alex Write!

To Be or To Do.....Do Be Doo Be Doo....



Alright, a little fun and nonsense.

I lived with this guy in 1993-94 for almost exactly a year. I admit, I wasn't acting like Keeper material at the time and was upset when my cake wouldn't sit still for me to eat it. The Cake announced it was moving out one night after I got home from a Metallica concert.

I noticed on the phone bill almost a month later, that he had been calling his ex girlfriend who lived in NYC at the time.

She was just wild. And if I were into girls (not saying I've never been there but not so much after the teenage years - and I only attract bi-curious. The diehards avoid me), she would have been my type across the board. She was rail thin (which looking back made me identify her with a lanky male) and had this stick straight long hair that changed colors as she saw fit. You couldn't contain her at all. She transformed the air around her as she created her path with every step. People turned heads thinking she was some funky model. She was a much cooler Avril Lavigne (Sk8ter Boi days)a decade before Avril would be famous.

A couple of months later while he was back with her, he met me out for a round of drinks that escalated into angry arguments which of course equated brutally raw and pissed off sex.

So ha.

Only, as time went by and they also broke up, she and I hooked up as friends. Out at the club, shaking our white groove thangs (do white women have groove things? If we don't, please don't point this out to me - I like my myths and I'm still f*cked up over the Santa Claus thing), she leaned close into me and said she'd 'heard' about me. She'd heard? Heard what? Closer....drunk breath hitting me gently on the lips "About you and Jenn". Meaning, my ex told her that I did women.

Quick story about me and "Jenn". To annoy the humourless Cake during his Dungeons and Dragons game sessions, she and I would prance around the male company flirting with all of them. A bit distracting I suppose, he'd throw a $20 at me and tell me to go out for a couple of hours. Jenn and I, when not out, would go upstairs directly above the sacred game space and make ludicrous noises....pretending to be all involved in some sensuous act amongst ourselves. Then we'd go downstairs and laugh. Ha ha....bye guys.

This is where Cake got the big idea and passed it on to Funky Virgo woman who was in all possibilities, hitting on me.

I was flattered. She was my real life girl crush. And when I break it down, is a same sex crush really the person that you want to Be as opposed to Do? Now I'm a free spirit but she was soaring.

I was told by an onlooker on a different bar night that the two of us were talking so closely, the fact that we didn't kiss was a flaw. I remember that night. We talked about how Cake cheated on both of us with each other. Ha ha, *clink* let's toast. Later on she would tell me that Cake was never allowed to bring up either of us with the woman who is now his wife.

Same sex crushes. Who's yours? I could probably come up with a decent list. I'm going to be a bit obvious and throw Angelina on the the top of the list. Hey, she was there since a LONG time ago! I can't help if she's the inaugerated MILF leader.

Kate Hudson was another one of mine. I realized that when I'd say how much I liked her but hadn't seen a thing she was in. But I don't need crushes to really appreciate a woman's body. There are those women who's thighs I'd love to sink my teeth into, like a teething ring. Beyonce and Rhianna are tops there and if Britney were cleaned up a bit, yep, her too. I like looking at women with meat on their bones....so yes, Scarlett Johansson was Eye Heaven for me until she figured out what her hot potential was. Salma Hayek has crazy ass curves. Christina Applegate is gorgeous.

Let's hear it.

The Neighbor's Neighbor

I sit in my backyard and fiddle with my uku some nights - the past three running, although the twigs are running low now. And each night - an owl, once from the neighbor's yard across the way, then from down the street, and last night from the cathedral ceiling of canopy high above my head.

He shatters the night - this is no hoot hoot hoot. This is a Barred Owl, and he is definitely letting any suitable females know that he's shed his down, and he's ready to provide in every possible way. It's thrilling and a little unnerving. He called last night, and I played him a note in return, and he called again. Goose bumps.



Sound Clip here.

I've always looked at owls as amazing - the whole 360 degree head thing, the fact that they are silent in flight. But I also assumed they were as ghostly as they seem in flight, but this guy, he's a teenager, and he's horny, or hungry, or something. Whatever it is, he's damned assertive.

I'm glad to have him as a neighbor. I imagine the squirrels have other thoughts about it. I need him to leave enough to keep my acorn removal to a minimum, as it's almost artillery season in my back yard. Wear your safety helmets, kids.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Ode To Fireboy's Autumnal Post


On my walk back from getting a hot cup of coffee this morning (why did I say it was hot? Obviously. Does anyone ever say they are getting a cold cup of coffee? I haven't seen it but I bet they do. Tonya Tangient signing off.) I saw these two leaves on the ground. Fall and Summer holding hands. Fall on top since Summer is handing over the baton. I smiled like an ass because I projected warm and fuzzy feelings onto these deciduous throwaways. You can smile with me.
Or maliciously because of me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October

I love October in my mid-Atlantic state. The weather turns abruptly crisp this month, and the furnace gets relit from its long summer dormancy. The sweaters and wool socks find their way into the drawers. The leaves change and fall. Someday soon we will see our breath in the air. The squirrels and chipmunks are a frenzied lot, collecting and hoarding and prepping - time is almost up. Birds are soaring overhead, making early decisions for warmer climes. The days get shorter and shorter - dawn comes slower, dusk comes faster. The firepit becomes a comfort instead of a wood-burning utility.

It's a great time to be with the ones you love, to be close and cuddled and warm. To daydream about the meals we will eat, and the gifts we will give, and the joys we will share. It is a perfect time to begin to relfect on the year as it passed, on the seasons as they meld, on the quickening days of the winter to come.

It is bittersweet at times, but mostly, it's just sublime.

Happy autumn everyone.