Friday, December 26, 2008

F.F.F. - Midget Wrestling Part 2

I feel compelled to say, the only thing I wanted more than anything for Christmas I got. Lakers over Celtics on Christmas day couldn't be any sweeter. Oh, and the only thing I have to add to Encina's tribute to Phil is, "Phil, wherever you are, I hope you enjoyed last night's game."

I didn't know Phil at all other than as the guy who watched over LG like one of his children. But as a loyalist to the best Lakers site on the net, I appreciate all he did for the sake of us silly fans.

Now for the second half of my short fiction piece (I'm sure you've all been counting the days since I left off with last weeks cliff-hanger).

Midget Wrestling Part 2

In my new job, I’m required to travel. Not that travel is the main focus, I’m actually nothing more than a glorified messenger boy, but it’s something they mentioned when they hired me, and desperate for whatever kind of decent work I could find, I didn’t think twice about it. Part of me has reservations about this, but another part of me is totally looking forward to the time I get to spend on the road. It’s a pretty sweet set-up actually; company car, company credit card, a few specific tasks to accomplish, which at first glance don’t seem too terribly challenging.

I search my inner feelings, something I’ve been working on lately, to see if I can figure out where any hesitations I might have regarding this are coming from. It doesn’t take long before I follow the trail, which, of course, leads back to Jade.

The big question, though, is what part of my relationship would make me feel this way?

I start to answer with the obvious. I worry that something will happen to her while I’m gone, or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe she’ll worry about something happening to me while I’m on the road. Maybe she’ll get upset that I’m off having a good time without her, despite the fact that making the trip is my job, and nothing more.

I really should know better. There’s nothing obvious about our relationship.

The old man and I — now there was an obvious relationship. It was obvious I hated him and just as obvious he wished I were someone different.

When we hit the road back in 1965 and headed to Georgia, the chill developing inside the ’62 Ford wagon had nothing to do with it being winter. In fact, I’m sure I remember the weather being unseasonably warm, although after so many years, I couldn’t swear to it. The old man, however, was swearing up a storm.

“That fucking bitch of a mother of yours is giving me so much shit I can’t hardly fucking believe it,” he said, quite pleased with his ability to alienate his wife and force me into one of his crazy ventures all in one single act of madness.

Six hours into the trip I decided I could stand it no more. Collecting my pee in an old orange juice bottle and eating sunflower seeds to stave off starvation wasn’t much my idea of an adventure. The scenery from the highway was nondescript and uninteresting, and the occasional radio stations we could pick up were dominated by the old man’s affection for bad country music.

“There’s a Waffle House, Dad. Can’t we stop and get something decent to eat?”

I have to add here, that back then I had no hesitations eating at an establishment willing to name itself after a popular breakfast food.

“Think I’m fucking made out of money? Look, I got just enough to pay for motel rooms and gas. We eat what I brought in that bag back there.”

I looked in the paper grocery bag and saw a case of PBR.

“Not that one, the duffel on the seat behind you. Climb on back and grab me a Hershey’s, will you?”

Like he needed more caffeine and sugar in his system. The old man already looked like he was about to explode. Where would that leave me, I wondered, if he dropped dead from a stroke or a heart attack.

Jade’s packing up stuff for me to take on the trip I’m making for work. My assignment is to pick up a package in Tempe, then stop overnight in Santa Fe to meet with someone named James. With the major credit card my new boss handed me, I can pretty much stay at any hotel I want, so I choose The Hacienda at Hotel Santa Fe, where I used to work. I’ve had dreams about this — being a guest at the very place I once played host. Now I can be the one that’s waited on, although I swore to myself that if ever the opportunity arose, I wouldn’t be one of those pain in the ass types who seemed to thrill at the idea of having someone fall all over themselves just for the prospect of a lousy tip.

At the motels the old man and I stayed at on our trip back in ’65, tipping or not tipping the hired help didn’t come into play as an option. Apparently desk clerks at these establishments, the ones that aren’t listed in the AAA tourbooks, were less inclined to provide customer service than they were to afford the underage locals a place to party. Not that the old man minded any. His idea of luxury accommodations went about as far as a magic fingers box on the bed that actually didn’t steal your quarters.

As for inappropriate noises coming from the other rooms, that was pretty much taken care of in the same way as anything else that might have cast a cloud over his parade — beer.

I tried it. I didn’t like it. But I did find its effects worth suffering through the bitter aftertaste and a brief bout of puking. It gave me courage. It gave me inhibition. I saw God.

It also gave me the ability to tell my father, the man instrumental in giving me life, the man who might have loved me despite his actions to the contrary, the man who had just spent the better part of a day trapped in a car with a 12-year-old driving across three states all in the name of midget wrestling, to fuck off.

He just sat there, on the bed with the magic fingers, and stared at me.

I would have rather he hit me, or yelled at me, or packed up the car and just left me there to fend off the drug dealers and prostitutes on my own. Instead he sat and stared. Then he laughed. Then he threw me another beer.
I’d never hated him more.

Finally he spoke. “You know, son, I’ve never loved you more. Tomorrow I’m going to get to see one of the greatest spectacles in professional sports, and when that moment comes, there’s no one I’d rather have with me than you.”

Jade told me once, as we were getting ready to go out drinking with some of her artist friends, how happy she was that I was with her. That was before the fight we had later that night, probably the result of too many drinks and an encounter with her pompous ass of an ex-boyfriend.

I decide that I don’t want to leave her, even if it’s just for a weekend. “Why don’t you come with me?” I ask her.

“Are you sure?” she replied. “Nothing personal, but I was sort of looking forward to getting some things done I never seem to have time for.”

I’m speechless. How is it my fault she can’t get anything done while I’m around? “That’s fine,” I finally say, not finding the same type of bravado I had shown the old man all those years ago.

I wonder where the midgets are going to be this weekend.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

From Far Away

I share a common bond with the other contributors of this site: I am a Lakers' junkie. I am such a fan that I frequent a site that caters to people like me, people with a healthy obsession of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. I am not from Los Angeles, I have never been to California. But for whatever reason I have always been an LA Lakers' fan, and damn proud of it.

Over time, my obsession grew, and I had to find new sources for feeding my addiction. I would go to the LA Times' Web site for any Lakers' news. I'd go on to ESPN to hear any Lakers' rumors. I began looking at NBA-only sites that had even more information. I even wanted to know what other Lakers' fans were thinking, so I found a message board designed by and for Lakers' fans. Like many people there, I read over for a while the messages and news that they were privy to. I hid in the shadows wondering who these people were that they knew so much. Eventually, I joined and began posting on my own, responses to other people, starting my own threads, getting to know some of the other posters. There were some posters I really liked, others I avoided, many others I never knew existed.

Over time, even on an impersonal foundation such as the Internet, it is possible to build relationships with people you have never met or may never ever meet. Such is the life of a 21st Century denizen. Getting to know someone else's words and feelings, you get to feel as though you know that person. But with so many hundreds or thousands of people on any particular site, is it possible to really know anyone? What would you call it, e-meet someone? Can they be called 'friends'? 'Acquaintances'? What would we call them? Should we even refer to them at all?

I did begin liking certain people on the site. Maybe I became a fan of theirs. Their humor, their intellect, their vast knowledge of many topics drew me to them. If we met in real life, I am certain I might call some of them 'friend.'

In the time I was at this site, changes took place in the management. A regular poster I had seen occasionally bought the site and implemented changes. He was a driving force for making the site more stable, faster, more enjoyable. He and I even worked some to start an offshoot site. Through it all, he was always the nicest gentleman I could ever "meet." He was kind, always saying words that made a person feel good about themselves. We would send messages to each other, and he'd always say how much he thought of me as a regular contributor to the sites we both frequented. His words were genuine, as was the man.

In the past year, the man I knew as 'Phil' spent less time on the site and would need to take a leave because of prior engagements. As a result of his coming schedule, he sold the site to someone who could oversee it day-to-day, more than he could. However, the changes he made remained, and made the site the best for any Lakers' fan.

The past few days have been hectic for me. With the coming Christmas season, preparing to celebrate with family, traveling, end of year organizing at work, I had less time to visit the Lakers' site. It had been several days since last I checked the site, but today I decided to hop on and see how my Internet pals were doing.

That is when I saw a thread that caught my eye, an announcement of sad news. The site had lost one of its members, but who? I clicked to see who it was, and then my heart dropped. Some unseen force managed to find me at work and punch me in the stomach. Phil Allen, the man I knew as 'Phil,' had been in a car accident in the days I was away, and soon after lost his life. Comments poured in from members who paid their condolences and said some words about the man.

It's bizarre that this man whom I didn't know at all, I began to learn about in death. His name, for example, his occupation, his interests. The time he left was due to his involvement in national politics and his work on behalf of president-elect Obama. He was very knowledgeable about Joshua Tree National Park. He was as nice to others as he was to me, showing what a tremendous man he really was.

No, what a tremendous man he really is. His actions and words still carry weight, still affect those who remain. You cannot take that away from any person, and thus, you can never kill them off.

Phil, though we only e-met each other, I consider you a friend. I will not e-miss you, I will miss you truly. I asked earlier what we would call someone you only knew online? I'd call them a friend.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Flash fiction Friday - Midget Wrestling - Part One

First off, thanks guys for indulging me by allowing me to post my rambling works of fiction here.

Secondly, this piece sort of took off on me and, while I'm not much of a short story writer, it has already grown out of the flash fiction genre. So much so that I'm going to post this in two parts. Oh, and any similarities between the characters here and real life are, as they say, purely coincidental. I'd also like to add, that this is pretty rough still.

Stayed tuned. Hope you enjoy it.

Midget Wrestling

When it comes to professional wrestling, for my money it’s midget or nothing. At least that’s what my old man always used to say. Probably one of the only things in life we ever agreed on.

Jade, my “life mate” is home now, working on her art, and not talking. Not that she’s intentionally not talking. For everything that’s not said between us many more things are. But there’s something hanging in the air one can feel. We haven’t been communicating much lately--days now--mostly because I had this premonition that I would be doing something stupid in the near future to trash our relationship. Since then it’s been nothing but pleasantries between us. You know, “What do you want for dinner?” or “Is it okay with you if I play the piano?” That kind of stuff.

Then in the midst of all this silence, right out of the blue, I start thinking about the old man. We haven’t talked for months, since his birthday, when I called, not to wish him well, but because I had just gotten a new job I wanted to tell him about. Of course, when Mom picked up the phone and said they were going to Red Lobster I had to improvise and sing that little song to him—the same one they sing to you in the restaurant when they bring out your dessert.

But today, while Jade is doing some sort of sculpture thingie with globs of glue and acrylics, piling them into mountainous landscapes onto a big piece of plywood, I stop with the bicycle repairs I’m doing and start thinking about January, 1965.

At 12 years-old, I had only a slight growing knowledge of the midget wrestling circuit, mostly acquired from listening to Dad drivel on with his buddies over their weekly card game about how Lord Littlebrook was a far superior wrestler than Pee Wee James or Frenchie Lamont. I found it hard to believe that anyone other than the old man actually cared as much about the sport as he did, but between the men seated around the lopsided folding card table, all using various sorts of tobacco and drinking the cheapest beer they could lay their hands on, the discussions would get quite heated.

Jade’s taken a break from her art and is talking on the phone now, probably to one of her pals from before we met. For whatever deep seeded reasons, this makes me more than a little uncomfortable. Even though I’ve pretty much assimilated into her group of bohemian artist types and have no worries about her affections going elsewhere, I become painfully aware of how much I have to learn when it comes to relationships. Not being so controlling is probably tops on the list. I try to listen in on the conversation while pretending to be busy with something else. Eavesdropping is rude and not conducive to the picture I hold onto as being the perfect boyfriend. Still, I can’t help but let it bother me when I see her laughing that happy laugh, the one that makes her so beautiful, the one I try to pull out of her but never seem to be able to.

Christmas is right around the corner. I have decided this year to give nothing but crappy gifts, sort of as a joke, but more like a protest against the big retail chains, who try to convince everyone that in order to be a good person you should buy the most expensive items in their store to prove to the people you love how much you care about them.

By the time Christmas rolled around in 1964, my knowledge of midget wrestling had grown to the point where I could use it as a tool to get the old man to agree to letting me do stuff he normally wouldn’t. Not like he was so easily fooled. About a week before the big day, I was angling for the ultimate present--a new 10-speed, milking what I’d picked up about the sport for all it was worth. I decided to start up with him about his favorite wrestler, telling him how much I’d like to see a match in person and all that crap and how Lord Littlebrook deserved the title because Beau Brummell obviously violated the rules when he introduced a foreign object, namely thumbtacks, into the match.

“Why you always have to use such big words, you little smartass,” was the old man’s reply.

I didn’t get the bike. What I did get was, in the old man’s eyes, much better.

“You want to see a live match?”

Here it comes, I thought.

“How about three?”

Most people have no understanding of the sport. There is, in fact, a world of difference between the midget circuit and that nonsense they show on cable TV featuring the behemoths with their silly made-up back stories all pumped up full of hormones and steroids. The only way to get a feel for the subtleties of the little guys other than following the circuit in person, as my dad and I did in January of 1965, is to mail order some DVDs and spend an afternoon or several absorbing them.

Jade and I were getting high one evening, flipping through the channels, when she stopped on one of those scripted WWE shows, because she thought Chris Jericho was “all right looking.” She then sat, mesmerized by the campiness, while I broke up another bud and stuffed it into the bowl of the bong, trying to ignore my feelings of disgust. An enlightened boyfriend understands the differences between himself and his woman and learns to accept them. I mean, it wasn’t like she was asking to go to MacDonald’s for dinner or anything. I have to add that, to the best of my knowledge, she doesn’t watch any of that crap on a regular basis and probably couldn’t tell you a thing about the history between Triple H and Shawn Michaels, or even that the Hart family spans generations in the industry despite young Owen Hart's tragic demise.

Neither was she all that impressed when I received my DVD from the HPB (Half Pint Brawlers), which featured, among other things, naked midget hitchhiking, midgets in dryers, and staple gun death matches.

In 1965, the circuit was more serious. Lord Littlebrook and Pee Wee James were true artists, masters of their craft, and terrific entertainers. They’d have to be to keep the old man’s interest, as he was as discriminating a fan as ever walked the planet. When we headed off from our home just outside of Lexington and headed to Georgia for a week long adventure, I had no idea what to expect. I have to admit to a fair amount of anticipation at having the opportunity to view in person something I had only experienced vicariously through the eyes of a man I despised along with his loathsome friends. The whole idea of little people fine-tuned and using their bodies in a way most big people can’t even imagine, putting their physical well-being on the line all in the name of entertainment for big folks, for some reason was a concept I couldn’t help but admire. The twist of it all, of course, was that we were the suckers, paying out good money to see something most people wouldn’t admit to caring much about.

Aside from the matches we watched, January 6th in Columbus, January 8th in Atlanta, and January 9th in Marietta, there are three instances on that trip that I will never forget: my first beer, my first cigarette, and the first time I ever told my father to fuck off to his face.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Like Music

Rodrigo & Gabriela doing an acoustic rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."


Just because.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Brennan Blogs: How I Passed the California Bar Exam

I was recently asked if I could write up a little blurb for the San Diego County Bar Association's weekly publication. I was asked to respond to the following question - Now that you have passed the bar, what advice do you have for current students preparing for the exam?

I have decided to share it here just in case any other future applicants venture their way onto this blog. Well, here was what I wrote up...

The State Bar of California requires that all prospective attorneys spend six hours a day for three days taking the California Bar Examination. In preparation, I spent about ten hours a day for three months studying. Essentially, given my intense studying habits, the bar exam itself was just another day.

Make the bar exam just another day.

When the results came out, I didn’t want to look back with my name left off the pass list wondering if I could have done more. Accordingly, I decided to leave no stone unturned. I took both Kaplan’s full MBE course and Barbri’s comprehensive bar course. I went to every class. I made an outline for every subject, sometimes two where I needed to know both California and Federal law. I completed all of Barbri’s near 100 practice essays. I finished five Barbri practice performance tests. I answered over 3,000 practice MBE questions provided by both Barbri and Kaplan (on a side note, Kaplan’s practice MBE questions were undoubtedly superior). Lastly, I made a flashcard for almost every practice MBE question I missed.

I did all that, I made the bar exam just another day, and I passed. I hope whoever reads this does the same, especially the passing part.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Flash fiction Friday - Piece by Piece

I'll be the first to admit that I use writing as an escape. As in this piece, sometimes all it takes is a first line then I sit back and watch as a story unfolds.

Every morning the first thing I do when I wake up is check to make sure none of my parts are missing. This all started I think at around eight years of age when one night I became aware of a presence hovering over me. I was certain that this gangling creature was determined to take me away, bits and pieces at a time, until there was nothing left. Shortly after that it happened--I found a place just above my right thigh where a piece of me was gone. Not a very large piece, mind you, hardly bigger than a dime. But when something of you is taken, no matter how significant, you notice. I tried to show my mom, who looked at the spot and, although sympathetic to my feelings, disregarded my claim as "just my imagination." Sure, the spot resembled nothing in the way of a flesh wound. No bleeding. No open sores. No noticeable hole. Still, I knew something was missing.

A few years later I had almost forgotten about the incident. Many nights had passed and I had slept solidly through most of them, the only exceptions being Christmas Eves and that night I went to the carnival and ate too many corn dogs. As one grows older other worries far more pressing than shadows seen in the dark of a lonely bedroom take over the mind: school work, making the soccer team, the bully who stalks you in the hallways after your lunch money, girls. As a youth you are taught to trust adults, especially your mother, and so I did. Maybe the whole thing was just my imagination, I thought. So at the age of twelve, when least expected, the morning came when I discovered I had been robbed of another piece, this time a portion the size of Chinese Yen, just below my navel. All the fear from the years past came back to me in a wave of panic. The thing was back in my room again last night and had done its dirty deed.

After several near sleepless nights I was in desperate need of a plan. There must be some way to protect myself from being removed over time from existence. I asked my mom for a dog, one that could sleep in bed with me. I don't think I need to tell you how she responded. So I came up with an alternative. I convinced my little sister to move into my room with me, talking my parents into turning her room into a game room the whole family could use. Not the best thought out plane to be sure, but desperation leads to extreme tactics. My hope was that if the shadow creature did come again, it would take parts from my sister who was younger and, as I would reluctantly admit, fairer than I, especially as my body had just begun crossing the threshold into puberty. In hindsight I realize I never fully dealt with the guilt.

For a time it seemed to work. Nights passed and after each morning's examination I was proud to proclaim myself the same as I had been the night before. That was until the morning I awoke and found my sister's bed empty. At first I thought maybe she had just gotten up before me, a rare occurrence but certainly not out of the question. Tiptoeing into the kitchen I found no trace of her. I asked my mom, who was cooking breakfast if Ashley had been up. Her reply sent chills down my back. "What do you mean, 'who's Ashley'?" I cried. "You know, your daughter, my sister." She thought I was kidding. I pleaded with my father, who was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper. "Tell her to stop kidding around." He put down his paper and looked me in the eye. "Did you have some sort of bad dream, son?"

That's when I knew. Not only had my sister been erased from existence, but my parents, my real parents, had been replaced by remarkably clever duplicates. How did I know this? Well, for one thing, my mother never cooked breakfast. Most of the time I was lucky if I got a bowl of cold cereal. And my father...well...for him the only section of the paper that existed was the sports section, and here he was reading the Lifestyle pages.

I tried calling the police from a phone booth that afternoon on my way home from school. Of course they didn't believe me and told me that if I called again they would have me arrested. I took stock of my options and came to the conclusion that they were dwindling down to next to nothing. As near as I could figure, there was only one thing left to do. Run. So I did, and I didn't stop for the next 12 years.

It was during that span of time that I began my morning ritual. Every day for the next 12 years, no matter where I slept I checked myself, and every day was the same. I finally assumed that because I never stayed in one spot, under the same bridge, down the same alley, in the same condemned building, for more than a week or two, the creature never had a chance to hone in on my exact location.

Eventually I grew tired of the hobo lifestyle and settled down. With any luck the creature had forgotten about me, or perhaps now that I was a grown adult it had lost interest. I got my own place. Not like the place I chose was all that nice, a single room with a bath and kitchen in a less than desirable neighborhood, but after all that time I was happy to have anyplace I could call home. Still I continued my ritual, not so much out of fear, but out of habit, like an addict's need to stick a needle in his arm. Each morning was the same, and each morning I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

Until three mornings ago, when I found it. This time it was a Mexican Peso. I haven't slept since.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Fox and the Henhouse

Now comes news that Bill Gates is open to a role in Obama's administration, ostensibly as an economic advisor. Three words for Barack: Don't do it.

Before I go any further, I would like to acknowledge my respect for Mr. Gates' charity work. Nothing can change the inherent good he is doing with his fortune, but at the same time, there are several issues I have with how he got it.

First, the origins of the technology itself are shrouded in credible clouds of theft.

Second, Microsoft apparently continued (continues?) to steal from other companies, even after its success. There are literally dozens of settlements related to patent infringement, where Microsoft allegedly stole from fledgling startups, and later paid out reduced sums (in relation to initially buying what those companies had), complete with gag orders. Essentially, Microsoft stole these companies' ideas, and was able to use its incredible cash and muscle to buy them after the fact for less than market value.

Third, Microsoft deliberately worked to establish a monopoly, much the same way Wal Mart does, but in reverse. By not allowing, or at least inhibiting their OEM buyers from bundling other, competing software with their operating system, and by deliberately making it difficult for some competitors' software to function within Windows, they eliminated competitive innovation, at the expense of both their competitors and the consumer as a whole.

The Clinton administration went after them on this, but fortunately for Microsoft, the Bush administration quickly quashed that notion. It makes sense that Microsoft was also one of the companies invited to secret meetings with the Bush team to discuss ways US companies could profit from... oops, I mean assist... the Iraq occupation.

Fourth, Microsoft has been at the forefront of the corporate lobby to obtain more visas for high level employees. Despite their claims to the contrary, there is a surplus of available high tech workers in the US. The simple fact is that they wish to import cheaper labor. The days of partnering with their employees (remember those legendary stock options in lieu of competitive pay) are apparently over at Microsoft.

Last, Microsoft is a decaying empire, a victim in many ways of its own meteoric success. The idea (theirs or not), timing, and predatory tactics built an empire, but the long term ability to sustain with innovation, growth (and with it the allure of stock options) is largely in the past. 

Microsoft is now trailing-edge technology, held in place by not much more than ubiquity, and even that is crumbling. They have for the last years been struggling to implement a way to rent their software rather than sell it (a huge debacle for the public, who would be forced to accept every chronically late-yet-premature upgrade, unable to stick with older, more stable versions), in an era where saturation, competitive products, and resistance to new upgrade purchases (98, Millenium, Vista) is depleting revenue. Vista resistance, for good reason, is so legendary that Microsoft has had to resort to ads touting the fact that it's not as bad as word of mouth says. This is never a good thing. 

Sure, they are far from dead, but much like the Roman Empire, they are past their zenith, and it isn't coming back. The Vandals (Apple) and the Visigoths (linux), among others, are at the outer frontiers. The Zune is underwelming, and the XBox platform is trailing Wii, essentially in a battle with Sony's Playstion3 for second place (with Sony gaining ground after a disastrous dearth of quality games impeded its roleout). Windows Mobile still has little traction. Internet Explorer (despite being the intended beneficiary of much of MS's allegedly illegal monopolistic attempts) is no longer the de facto browser, with hordes of customers choosing Firefox and Safari, among others.  MSN lags terminally behind Google and Yahoo, and Microsoft was forced to give up on buying second-place Yahoo.

The fact is, Microsoft hasn't had any good ideas in years, relying instead on ways to coerce their customer base, and is starting to resemble the big 3 automakers in terms of slow evolution and adaption. You see where they have ended up. Just my opinion, but Bill Gates is not the guy Obama needs helping him fix the economy. Run your charity Bill. You're good at it, and that's where you can do the most to help.

My Least Favorite Conservative

OK, at least for today, that honor goes to writer Bob Novak, he of outing Valerie Plame Fame. Novak was recently asked if he had to do it all over, would he still out Plame.

NOVAK: I’d go full speed ahead because of the hateful and beastly way in which my left-wing critics in the press and Congress tried to make a political affair out of it and tried to ruin me. My response now is this: The hell with you. They didn’t ruin me. I have my faith, my family, and a good life. A lot of people love me — or like me. So they failed. I would do the same thing over again because I don’t think I hurt Valerie Plame whatsoever.

Novak justifies outing Plame on the basis of the criticism he took for... outing Plame. Sort of like saying you'd murder an innocent bystander again because of the indignity and injustice of being prosecuted for it the first time. Novak's lucky he's not in jail, but his only remorse for a, by definition, treasonous act, one that the CIA says had significant negative ramifications on their work preventing a nuclear Iran (what Plame was working on), is to say he'd do it again because he caught negative flack over it.

So I'd like to out Bob Novak as a traitorous political ideologue who places partisan support over national security and patriotism, a hypocrite who espouses moral conservatism out of one side of his mouth while justifying his own moral turpitude in grossly illogical and juvenile rants out of the other, as a major-league asshole with remorse only for the paltry penalties for his malfeasance, and, by the bye, as a hack of a writer.

If I had it to do over again, I'd say the same things about you Bob, but not because of the repercussions for saying it, but rather because unlike you, I actually have principles.

And justice for all...

What are we to make of the following report?

SAN FRANCISCO – Voters' economic status and religious convictions played a greater role than race and age in determining whether they supported the Nov. 4 ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California, a new poll shows

Age and race, meanwhile, were not as strong factors as assumed. According to the poll, 56 percent of voters over age 55 and 57 percent of nonwhite voters cast a yes ballot for the gay marriage ban.

The poll also showed that the measure got strong backing from voters who did not attend college (69 percent), voters who earned less than $40,000 a year (63 percent) and Latinos (61 percent).

Yahoo: Poll: California gay marriage ban driven by religion, uneducated

This, to me, is not shocking. Maybe it is because I do not subscribe to any religious following and because I actually took the time to educate myself (maybe
that has to do with my non-religious morals) that this poll does not surprise me.

I don't want to start making any large and inaccurate generalizations here, as that would do no one any service. That is not the point of this post.

What is the point? I don't really know. The results of the poll, as I said, are not shocking. What is shocking is that there are so many people in this world, in the United States, and in this case, California, who would cry incessantly that their television and shopping rights were taken away, but couldn't, wouldn't bat an eyelash that two people, people they don't know, will never know, and will never come across, cannot get married. And they will vote to take away this option even if it means more funds for the state, for cities, for municipalities.

And why? Because they believe in a different god? Because they are murderers and thieves? Because they want to overthrow the government and rape the children? No, it is because gays do not fall into this nice, comfortable, false sense of the world religions have concocted for their followers. The world can be relegated to certain, unchanging categories; things that do not fall into those categories are dangerous, evil, and should be feared. There is no possible alteration of those categories.

What is it these people, these gays, want? Is it really any different from the rest of society, the rest of us "normal" people, get on a daily basis? Are they asking for anything beyond what we take for granted?

"Take for granted?" you may ask. I have seen reports showing that among married couples, Christians are more likely to divorce than non-Christians. How could that be so, if it is Christians who hold marriage so highly? Yet their marriage would somehow be threatened or lessened because two men want to have legal rights to visit each other in the hospital, inherit estates, and so on.

So why not give them these rights, but just not call it 'marriage'? Because that still sets them up as lesser citizens. Separate but equal would not fly for any other ethnic or religious group, yet we are supposed to believe it would be fine for gays?

And if it is just a matter of a word, 'marriage,' why the big fuss? If it is just a word, as it is, why not share it with everyone who marries?

If gays are considered a separate class of citizens, why should they be bound by the same requirements? Why should they continue to pay taxes if they are not allowed the same rights and privileges as the rest of California tax payers, or any US tax payers? Why should they, or anyone, continue to support a government that does not allow them the same personal choices and defense as others?

What is even more atrocious is that the matter of civil liberties, fundamental rights, are taken away from other human beings. That such matters would be put up to a vote is horrendous and appalling. Why should people be allowed to vote whether other people have basic rights? How do I convince myself that I can make that decision for another human being?

Normally, I would roll my eyes at the mention of rights, as if they are somehow bestowed upon us by an omnipotent being with a kind and righteous heart, but in this case we are acknowledging that there are rights, and somehow only a select few are special enough to receive them.

In the end, all people want the same rights that are shared throughout the society. If one group does not enjoy those freedoms, then all groups should not enjoy those freedoms. The only reason it is being pushed in people's faces is because it is being denied to them. Worse, it was granted to them, and then taken away again.

Are gays different? If granted this right, will they try to change society? Will they try to take over the world? Or will they, like so many before them, just assimilate into society, pay those taxes, invigorate neighborhoods, go to church, buy televisions and fast food? You know, the same as the rest of us evildoers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How Cool is Obama?

This little snippet comes from Bill Richardson, recalling how at one of the Democratic Primary debates, he got caught up in chatting with Obama, missed the question, and how Obama bailed him out:

As I’m chatting with Obama, the moderator says, “Governor Richardson, what do you think of that?” And I look at him like a deer in the headlights. I was about to say that I hadn’t heard, when Obama puts his hand over his mouth and says, “Katrina.” So I gave my four-point plan on Katrina. When I was done and the debate moved on, I looked over and said, “Thanks, you’re okay.” He said, “Nothing to it, brother.”

Now that's pretty cool, and pretty self-confident to boot...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brennan Blogs: 9 Year Olds Giving Love Advice?

Today I was on yahoo's front page and saw an article about how some 9 year old named Alec Greven wrote a nationally published book called "How to Talk to Girls." Suffice to say, I've got a trip to Barnes & Noble scheduled for tomorrow. Actually, this revelation got me thinking - are children the wisest of us all? I think this requires discussion.

Many psychologists and therapists believe that most of human behavior, what many call "character," is ingrained in us by the time we reach five years old. Yes, this means that when you just discovered you had a pee-pee or a pink taco, while the opposite sex did not, you likely had already settled in to who you would always be. If that was a personal revelation for you (the pee-pee/pink taco thing)... you're five years old, WHY are you reading this blog? Go find a Pokemon stat!

So why does the world of psychology theorize this? It is simply because of neuropsychology and some basic common sense.

From a neuropsychological standpoint, the brain is much like building a city, a city which continues to be built into your late teens and early 20's. You start with a flat piece of land and then you start to create buildings and infrastructure. Before you know it, the highways/roads are set (neuropathways), the homes/building are all there (synapses), and you no longer have room to build, because it (one's brain structure) is all set and the only remaining task is to "maintain." The growing population (new information) of urban sprawl continues, but many (much of that new information) are lost among the shuffle as you continue to "maintain." Excuse the complicated metaphor, let me back track and make it really simple. Basically, you are born with a blank piece of mush called your brain and as time goes on, you fill it up with stuff. As more stuff gets in, your brain has to form some structure in order to organize all the information. Once the brain has found the structure that allows you to most effectively function, it becomes set as it relies on this reliable structure for your continued functionality. For the remainder of your life, after this structure is set, your brain uses all its resources to take in the new information and put it on the shelf like a librarian would with a returned book. One's basic processing resources are used up putting away new pieces of information while also maintaining the information that is already there. Because almost all of your "CPU" resources are used up in this manner, it makes it increasingly more difficult to take in more new information and make such new information readily accessible (or influential on your thought process). What this means is that, from a neurological standpoint, the information you get in the beginning of your life is much more fluid and accessible. However, as your brain fills up, it has to organize itself which means that any new information has to conform to that basic imprinted structure. Accordingly, new information has a difficult task of overwhelming ingrained old information, thus why much of who you are is neurologically determined at such a young age. Essentially, your thought processes become much more rigid and stubborn.

Although this might be redundant given the whole monologue above, from a common sense and more "pure" psychological standpoint, just think of your brain as a sponge - a sponge which does most of its "soaking up" within the first 5 years of life. A dry sponge will soak up moisture with extreme efficiency. Why? Because there is nothing there and moisture fills the space. However, a wet sponge will only soak up moisture very slowly. Why? Because most of the space is taken, so the moisture must search out the small gaps of space to fill... a more complex and elongated process. This is the very reason why all you parents out there should try to teach your children how to play a musical instrument or how to speak foreign languages as soon as possible - children are more amiable at those ages. It becomes increasingly more difficult to learn such things later in life as the sponge fills up. Yes, often it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

So how does all this neuropsychological mumbo-jumbo relate to my original point that children, as the open sponges they are, might be the wisest of us all? Because just that, they are open sponges, meaning open minded and capable of approaching life without the same ingrained biases that comes with years of built up cynicism born as a consequence of life's ups and downs. Children are pure and that purity can provide an enlightened or surprisingly "clean" perspective.

Babies and dogs always like me. I have a theory as to why. I believe that babies and dogs are so uncomplicated that they don't over-think things, so they see me for who I really am (and yes, I'm not so subtly implying I am a freaking great human being). Children see the world without a filter (for good or bad) because they have not lived long enough to gain one. A 5 year old can enjoy just about any movie because s/he has yet to have seen the dozens of copycats already out on the market, so any movie is likely still novel to them. A 7 year old can demand macaroni and cheese for every meal, because s/he can appreciate its simplicity being that they haven't experienced even better food or just haven't lived long enough to get tired of it and need some variety. Finally, a 9 year old, such as Alec Greven, can shrug off girls and see them girls for what they are because he has yet to experience the heartache and disappointment which comes as a consequence from the process of finding companionship.

Children have no cynical-colored glasses, so they can see things for what they are. That doesn't always make them the most wise, but it sure does often make them among the most insightful. Of course, this unfortunately comes with the price of not understanding the consequences for their actions, but that's what parents are for, right? Up until the point children gain that inevitable cynicism and internalize their parents, maybe they are the ones we should look to for for a reality check. Maybe we should not be so dismissive of the young as inexperienced and naive, but rather seek them out for the unfiltered, innocent, and transparent perspectives they may offer. At least, that's what I'll be doing tomorrow when I hit the local Barnes & Noble.

Take Advice From This Guy

Music to share

Rather than posting a typical blog, I decided I just wanted to share music with the masses. I have nothing original to say, except "enjoy."

Below are 5 music videos for some songs I am enjoying at the moment. Some of them are not new, while some are newish. I hope to share more of these in the future as time allows. If I can't find a good video for a song that strikes my fancy at the time, I will just post the song itself.

And for some of these, the songs are better than the videos, but let's just give them a chance to become better directors and videographers.

Great Lake Swimmers with "Your Rocky Spine"

Mountain Goats with "Sax Rohmer #1

Architecture in Helsinki, "Heart It Races"

"Bag of Hammers" by Thao

Liam Finn, "Second Chance"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

When did this happen?

Today is Thanksgiving. In it's essence, Thanksgiving is a good holiday, one that allows us take time and reflect on all the good stuff that has gone down in the past year. In principal there is very little to fault with this concept. Surely, even in the toughest of times there must be something we can all find to feel grateful about. This year, however, might pose more challenges for many than in years past.

We're all aware of the problems in the world, which have have trickled down into our own personal situations. Money is tight, there are horrible atrocities taking place around the world evolving toward who knows what end, and our planet is in ecological crisis. But there's something else going on that isn't quite as overstated as what I've just mentioned.

I'm watching the Macy's parade right now. An age old holiday tradition as much a part of our American culture as the typical Thanksgiving meal of turkey and stuffing. What I'm struck by is the blatant commercialism of it all. Nothing new here, this has been prevalent for years now. But I've never had an outlet to blog about it before so here I go.

Every float it seems has some sort of corporate plug, every other line coming from Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera sounds more like a commercial endorsement than a commentary. The whole idea of Macy's even is a hollow shell of what was once a great department store. Macy's are now found in shopping malls across the country. The portrayal of Macy's in classic movies such as the original Miracle on 34th Street is as real in our modern age as Santa Claus. What this parade has turned into is a showcase for the cultural crap that's being shoved down our throats. Hannah Montana, Push Pull, David Archuleta, Clique Girls, Shontelle, Rick Astley. When did our society's taste in music conform to the mediocrity of a Big Mac? And (read this next part using the voice of Seinfeld) what's the deal with a corporate logo on every single float? I mean does Hess Oil really convey the meaning of the season?

Okay, so right about now you're saying something like "Geez, Dave, you old codger, lighten up. If you don't like it then change the channel."

Yeah, that's probably a valid comment. But then what would I have to complain about.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 24, 2008

For David


If the star I gaze upon

Cold and unblinking

Should implode into the night sky

It would take a thousand lifetimes

for me

Or rather someone yet unborn

To notice the loss

Such is the transitory nature

The hopeless ephemera

Of perception

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What now?

What's interesting about this site is the variance in its participants backgrounds, points of view, and world experiences. I'm pretty sure I'm the senior of group, at 52 years of age, although I claim my mental age to be about 10-15 years younger than that and if forced to, I could produce statistics to back that claim up (e.g. my insistence at putting prepositions at the end of sentences). Thus the fact that I'm well into middle age makes the life changing event that transpired in my life last week all the more confusing. For the past 25 years a huge part of my identity was that of someone with a partner in a committed relationship. I had another half, someone who completed me, someone who shared the bulk of my adult life experiences. Now, for the first time since I was a young, doped out rock and roll musician, I am single again.

Divorce is a funny word, that brings all sorts of connotations along with it. My parents were never divorced, nor were my grandparents, and, although I don't know for certain, I'm pretty sure that none of my great-grandparents were either. I have one sister. She's divorced as well. Does that mean that my parents, may they rest in peace, fucked up somewhere when it came to teaching us about how to have a proper relationship? Who the hell knows. I'm not going to blame anyone for what I'm going through, certainly not my dead parents. But I'm not going to blame myself either. Not that I've been the perfect husband. Not by a long shot. But from my perspective, I never did any of those things that typically one can point at and say, "Oh, so that's where you fucked up." I never cheated, I pretty much quit drinking and doing drugs a long time ago, I'm a good father, although I have a penchant for switching occupations a bit more frequently than most, I am and have been gainfully employed at least as much as is possible in this fucked up world these days. So, no, one can't really point the finger and narrow this down to one glaring error on my part.

Maybe I should change the way I think about divorce. My preconception of the term has always begun with the word "failure". Divorced couples "failed" to make their marriages work. Divorced couples screwed up. Divorced couples didn't work hard enough to keep their marriages together. Divorced couples should burn in hell. Maybe we're guilty of all those things. For me, I got to the point where I just couldn't figure it out anymore and, in fact, stopped trying to figure it out. Our relationship was going downhill, and I stopped trying to figure out why. I had a therapist once who said that I had to do "my work" first and worry about the relationship second. That if I do "my work" the rest will take care of itself. It sure did.

What started with a ceremony of celebration before friends and relatives with all the joy and pomp of a major step forward on wondrous path life lays out before us, ended pretty much with a barely audible last gasp standing in an empty courtroom before a judge who, when all was said and done, wished us luck.

Luck? How the fuck can anyone by any stretch of the imagination put this in the same category as luck? Luck is when my ipod decides to play two Chili Peppers songs in a row. Luck is when I go to get a cup of coffee and all that's left is the charred remains on the bottom of a pot that some asshole in the office should have turned off when they took the last cup. Luck is when I cross through an intersection that 2 seconds earlier or later would have been blown through by a drunk driver.

Getting divorced has nothing to do with luck. And neither do relationships, which leaves me in really weird situation, one that I'm not altogether equipped to deal with. At 52 years of age, I have no idea how to go about this dating thing.

I love reading our friend Brennan's observations on the dance between men and women when placed in the position of looking for love. By the way man, congratulations on passing the bar. That's fucking awesome. You're young, successful, and you have all the opportunity in the world before you. Well, maybe not all, but a lot. Maybe as the days, months, and years progress, I'll have some observations of my own on the dealings between opposite sexes. Right now I have none. I could probably share some of my private rants of rage I'm holding inside regarding my now ex-wife, but that really serves no viable purpose and on the surface at least I wish her well (crazy bitch). But for now, I'm sure anyone who's managed to at least skim through this post is on the verge of suicide so I'll stop with no words of wisdom or caution. Everyone's got their own life and no two are the same. This is just a little peek into mine at the moment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flash fiction Friday - All Alone

Besides reading, watching T.V., and the occasional stroll about town, this is what I do to entertain myself and keep my "chops" up so to speak. Flash fiction is exactly what it says it is. Short, sweet, without a whole lot of thought behind it.

Enjoy, or whatever...

All Alone

This used to be a place where people gathered to learn things. Now it’s where I live, moving from building to building as if it were my own personal playground.

One of my favorite places to just sit is in what they used to call “The Chapel.” I know this because that’s what’s carved in the stonework above the entrance. A small building once used to make contact with higher powers and perform ritualistic ceremonies. I like it because it’s peaceful in there with its smooth wooden seating and filtered light. In there it’s easy to forget; easy to ignore all the disturbances of the world outside.

At night is when the voices are loudest. Just voices, I know, that can’t harm you physically but play with your mind all the same, make you all the more aware of how alone you are. In that regard they’re just as dangerous. If you let them, they can easily rip your soul in two.

I found something the other day that served to make several days after more tolerable. In one of the buildings there were great paintings depicting what I suspect were typical scenes from the time when others populated this place. Curiously enough, in order to view these paintings I had to push several buttons in the right order and the device that held them captive would hum and light up, releasing them as projections from its tiny screen. I now carry this device with me wherever I go, sometimes pretending that I can make the pictures real if I wanted to. Wouldn’t that be something? Maybe one day I’ll actually figure out if that’s possible or not.

But back to the voices. I’m not sure exactly where they come from. I suspect, though, that they’re trapped because the few words I can make out sound like whoever “they” are would like to be freed. One time I thought I could actually understand one of them saying, “It’s cold in here.” I don't know where “here” is, But I’m glad at least that I don’t have to worry about being cold. Still, I would like the company, and I feel as though I’d like to help whoever they are somehow, not solely because I’m lonely, but also because it seems as though someone ought to, and I’m the only someone around.

Today I decide to cut loose in the building I call the castle. I’m sure that’s what it must have been at one time because it looks a lot like the pictures of castles I’ve found in books.

That's one thing I have plenty of - books.

Only the castles in the books I’ve looked at aren’t usually surrounded by other buildings. Usually they’re up on top of a hill and surrounded by a circle of water. This castle is surrounded by other buildings, all different, yet all fitting together as though the different styles were meant to partner with one another.
Inside the castle is several beds—65 to be exact, not counting the five that I don’t go near because of their smell. I’ve probably slept in each one at least a dozen times but lately I’ve taken to one in particular on the second floor in the room with the best view of the courtyard. In the daytime I can look out and imagine what it used to be like filled with people. In the nighttime I see something totally different, which is why I mostly sleep during the day.

At night I have to keep watch on the shadows.

Sometimes I’m tempted, driven by my aloneness, to see what would happen if I go out at night and let the shadows take me. I’m still working up my nerve for that, the fear of the unknown still one of my primary weaknesses. But I can only play by myself for so long. The games in the big room of the castle would be so much more fun if there were someone to play them with; at least I think that would be the case.

But then again, what if they don’t play games?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brennan Blogs: Did the Media Get Obama Elected?

Below these comments you will find a video which was sent as a link to me by my father. His point was that the underprivileged masses can be easily persuaded by the "pro-Obama media." My post is not about debating whether the media was pro-Obama. From my perspective, I'd say the media was, in fact, somewhat pro-Obama (but really only to a negligible degree). What my post is really about is discussing the truth behind what groups of people make up those among the population we might call "easily influenced."

My father is right about one thing - the underprivileged, uninformed, and/or uneducated (all completely different things) are, in fact, impressionable and easily influenced. My father's argument is that the underprivileged are so highly susceptible to influence by those that would promise them the world, i.e. Barack Obama as my conservative father perceives him, because they are all witness to what they don't have and want a piece of the pie. Aside from echoing Marx's fatalism, whether my father knows it or not, his argument also derives from social conflict theory, a theory which explains the constant struggles between the "haves" and the "have-nots" fighting it out for limited resources. Under conflict theory, since the "have-nots" want what the "haves" have, the "have-nots" tend to grasp on to the most easy and convenient solutions (often introduced in the form of platitudes) to get them their fair share. Moving on, those who are generally uneducated or uninformed (you can be educated, but still be uninformed about politics) are so easily influenced because without the necessary information to reference, they'll take what small information is presented to them (as their only source) and use it to overgeneralize in forming a perspective. This is why the power of the media is so dangerous and why the internet, an extremely user-friendly medium to find readily accessible information, might be our only salvation.

The point here, one that many on the conservative side miss, is that such a phenomenon of easily influenced voters isn't just a partisan problem, it is a bipartisan problem. Even though there is a larger percentage of certain demographics often included in each party, those distinctions are usually too small to hang your hat on. There are still people of all demographics (such as race, sex, religion, class, etc.) which largely belong to both parties. Accordingly, stupidity and ignorance, as much as Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity would have you believe, are not just liberal traits. Additionally, avenues of influence are readily available to both sides as well - one can click on either of MSNBC or Fox News depending on their natural disposition.

The basic argument is always this: "Those who disagree with my side must be naive, ill-informed, unintelligent, and/or uneducated. If they were not some or all of those things, they would agree with me because my perspective is the only rational one." I do find it ironic that more often than not it's those fox news viewers out there, you know the viewers of the "unbiased" network, who make this argument. MSNBC may be pompous in its liberal bias, but I rarely see that network spewing the kind of pure hate that I have to tolerate from the likes of Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, Coulter, and O'Reilly. Again, sorry to break it to you "true Americans" and fox news die-hards, but there are just as many idiots on both sides of the political fence. It is sad, however, that the divisive elements of our society seem to more commonly originate on just one side of the aisle though (hint - it's the Karl Rove side).

In compliance with this trend, it is those same condescending conservatives that purport the video below. That said, enjoy... or don't.

My Favorite Republican

This is for PBryant ;-)

Chuck Hagel is my favorite Republican. While I disagree with him on many points, he's a good example of a rational conservative, something we need more of in this country. Didn't buy into the war, despite huge party pressure, and is willing to speak out when things are wrong. Loved his recent take on Rush Limbaugh!

I hope he's one of the Republicans Obama's talking to for cabinet positions.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Foursomes, Triangles, Insulation, and the Paint-Brush Unrequited

As most of you know, I dabble in poetry a bit. I'm happy to report that I have apparently ended a several month hiatus, and am back to writing the occasional verse. I will post them here on occasion, and I'll probably throw up some older ones when I'm too lazy to post something new, but also in need of seeing my name up on the board!

I have to admit that I am a totally different poet than I expected I might be, and the differences between my verse and prose are almost in the territory of a multiple personality disorder.

While I start poems in a variety of ways, it seems four elements hold true:

1. The title is almost always something about the poem, but not of the poem, as in, I don't use lines from the poem itself. 

2. The poem itself is usually pretty sparse. While I have always wanted to write Homer-esque epics, it seems I am a slave to a form that leaves much unsaid. This is odd, given my prosian  (my word, deal with it) verbosity. I like to think of my poems as three legs of a triangle, with the poem and the title leading you to the unsaid portion, which may or may  not be what I intended. Think of the poem as the frame, the title as the siding, and the balance as the insulation.

3. I seem caught in groups of four. Perhaps its my musical leanings, but I need to feel a certain rhythm in a poem, and that rhythm generally comes in quadrilles.

4. I am principally visually oriented, and I hope that comes through in the work. I am very much a frustrated painter-- frustrated in that it is what I would prefer to do, but I am completely inept at it. So I try to paint with my words, carefully choosing them to evoke a nuanced picture, and hopefully with it, a distinct mood, the better to fluff up that unseen insulation.

Well, now you know more than you either did or needed to...

Mid-day Thoughts

Hey all,

I just wanted to take a break from other work to say what a wonderful time I'm having with this blog! I admit to coming here often, not just to post something (which I'm sure I do to much of), but to eagerly peruse your posts and comments.

As I posted earlier, I have invited a few friends to read our musings, rants, and miscellaneous ramblings. So far, to my knowledge, my GF periodically checks in, and a couple of friends from Idaho (Hey Henry and Alex!) have recently checked us out. I am happy to report that they think I am a god, one whose sacred utterances are clouded by the occasional dreck that the rest of you put up. They've asked me to ask you to please cut down on the meaningless filler so that it's easier to find my pearls of wisdom. OK, that's a lie, at least the last sentence...

BTW, if you read here, please post an occasional comment, so we know you're here. Rest assured that our egos are petty enough to puff up at the very idea that you may read us, and we would like to experience whatever divinity complex would attend an actual comment!

I also noted a complete lack of obscenity and profanity, so goddamn it, I'll do my best to fucking fix that. I feel better now...

Church and Hate

Several days ago, I posted a little blurb about black voters and prop 8. In fairness, there are four other groups that deserve mention:

In what can only be described as high irony, the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) organized a $20 million donation drive to support prop 8. While marriage between men and women is an issue one might suspect the church of having views on, the "one man, one woman" aspect seems more than a bit hypocritical. Remember, this is the same church that was able to produce a historic, timely reversal by their god (allegedly) to outlaw polygamy in 1890. In reality, Utah was not going to become a state with polygamy, and rather than lose their tremendous control of the region (not to mention finding themselves essentially at war with the US), church leaders preferred to strip one of the core tenets of their religion, and god, surprisingly, was willing to acquiesce! One does not have to have much bias to see that the timing and content of god's do-over were if nothing else, spectacularly convenient. It is analogous to Catholics abandoning confession, so intrinsic was plural marriage to the fundamentals of Mormonism. To me, this is yet another example proving the theory that god is created in man's image, not the other way around. But I digress...

There is currently a movement underway to strip the LDS church of its tax-exempt status, because of its blatant disregard for the rules governing such organizations. It would seem that from a reading of the legal statute, there are ample grounds for this. That is not to say anything will come of it. The LDS church is very wealthy and influential, and few politicians want to be on the right side of things when there is very little political upside. The fact is that a majority of Americans are still at least slightly biased against homosexual rights, mostly on religious grounds. To take on the Mormons would require one to stand up against their legion of supporters, on this issue, among other denominations. I hope it happens, but I'm not holding my breath. It's a shame that a group of people with a history of being persecuted on the grounds of strange beliefs and customs will now persecute others on the same grounds.

Also on the list, for contributing more than a million dollars to the campaign against gay rights, are the Knights of Columbus. This is a group that might actually have more power than the Mormons, having nearly the same membership as well as at least tacit (and financial) support from millions more Catholics at large. While I laud the millions of dollars (and man-hours) in charity work provided each year by this organization, I cannot condone this act of bigotry, especially since this same organization fought against segregation (and interracial marriage bans). I also must point out that while much of the charity provided is at least partially beneficial, it is also tied specifically to endeavors that strengthen the respect for, adherence to, or legislation favorable to conservative Catholic dogma. The Knights in recent years have been heavily involved in supporting the ban of abortion, gay rights of any sort, as well as working to further the idea and implementation of teaching religion (at least that which is consistent with their own beliefs) in all (including public) schools. They, along with their strange bedfellows the Mormons, have been principally responsible for changing the boy scouts from a secular organization concerned primarily with nature and outdoorsmanship into a pro-god, anti-homosexual bastion of youth indoctrination. 

Likely to the consternation of at least one of our contributors, I must include the Republican Party. Since the formation of their alliance with the Christian Right, the Republicans have used an opposition to gay marriage (along with abortion, xenophobia, nationalism, and racism) as a centerpiece of their social-wedge-issue campaigns designed to ensnare what are otherwise likely to be Democratic voters (those whose economic status puts them at odds with unregulated, corporate-biased capitalism, which is the central pillar of Republican ideology). It is a well-documented fact that the Republican party worked to get gay marriage amendments (for and against), on the ballots of battle-ground states (including decisive Ohio) in 2004. The reason was simple: In light of George Bush's dismal approval ratings, they needed something that would get out the base to vote. The anti-gay voter was expected to then vote for president while there, and it was assumed that that vote would be Republican. Now why do you suppose they thought that?

Even after a remarkable electoral defeat, the party continues to stand behind this type of divisive, bigoted "social conservatism".  None other than Karl Rove, the recognized guru of the divide-and-conquer, scorched-earth campaign strategies of his party over the last decade, this week lamented his party's loss of power and cohesion, but along with suggestions on how to bring the party's economic message back to the acceptance of the voter base, he vehemently urged against any moderation of socially conservative issues. In fact, he pointed to Prop. 8 specifically as an example that the majority of voters share the party's views on this matter. In fairness, there are plenty of Democrats who have either dragged their feet or outright opposed gay rights, but it is not a central plank of their party's platform, as it is with the Republicans, so while they are individually liable to be called out, the party, at least for now, escapes my crosshairs. I await what happens under Obama's administration, given his willingness to speak openly of his support of homosexual equality, before casting judgement. But with the presidency and sizable majorities in both congressional bodies, that judgement will not be long withheld.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I did not address the general populace, without whom these groups would be powerless to effect their repression. At some point, all of us have to look ourselves in the eye and decide that as long as one segment of us lacks the fundamental liberty guaranteed by our constitution, we all do. The equal protection clause of the constitution is designed to protect the minority from the majority, and it's high time we started acting like it. I won't ask each of you to understand, endorse, or even respect homosexuality, but merely to recognize that the freedom which allows you that opinion, also protects the object of your loathing. If we don't believe that, on what grounds do we support civil rights for blacks, or Jews, or whatever it is that you believe? It is your responsibility to protect the freedoms of others, if for no other reason than to protect your own. I leave you with a poem by Martin Niemoller, in which he describes, with chilling simplicity, the cost of silence:

When the Nazis came for the communists ,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats ,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists ,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews ,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Murder for Profit: The World According to Monsanto

Some of you may have already guessed that it was only a matter of time once this site was erected that I would go down this path. (Heh, heh, he said erected.) Honestly, I've given this populist crusade against what I consider to be one of the greatest threats to society a bit of a rest, but with the election behind us and my writing moving back to yet more revisions on the novel in part loosely based on a Monsanto-like corporation, I've discovered a video that got my sparks to flying.

"The World According to Monsanto", a French documentary made by independent filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin paints a grim picture of a company with a long track record of deceit and lies while perpetrating environmental crimes against our planet and its peoples. After several attempts to keep the American public from ever seeing this film, it is finally available to buy on DVD or watch for free on a number of websites. (At one point apparently it was pulled off Google video and Youtube but we all know that in this day and age it's impossible to keep information like this hidden for long.)

The history of Monsanto is well chronicled. From the start as a chemical company in 1901 it has been linked to such highly toxic chemical such as Agent Orange and PCBs. We now know that Monsanto was well aware of the systematic deadly effects of these products but in order not to lose "a single dollar" kept these facts well hidden for years. During the late eighties and early nineties under the "look the other way in the name of deregulation" Reagan and Bush Sr. eras, Monsanto successfully switched their persona from chemical company to bio-agriculture gaining unhindered FDA approval for its new focus on genetically modified seed technology and bovine growth hormones (rBGH). Touting their new mission as humanitarian work in the pursuit of sustainability of our planets resources, Monsanto unleashed a new scheme allowing them to take control of the world's farming by patenting their roundup ready GM seed technology.

Roundup, for those of you who have never had to deal with weeds, is an herbicide once hailed by Monsanto as biodegradable until closer scrutiny revealed that their rather flimsy definition of the term was about as factual as a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale. Thus the biodegradable label was reluctantly removed giving us one more example of Monsanto's callous disregard for truth when it comes to public health vs. profit and power. The new line of genetically modified seeds Monsanto has unleashed known as "roundup ready" are resistant to the effects of this herbicide thus allowing farmers to liberally apply it to crops killing all else but the precious corn, soy, or canola beans. Monsanto claims the GM crops are no different than non GM produced crops, although in the deregulation age, little research has been done to support that claim. They also assert that the use of Roundup has no long lasting ill effects on the farmlands where this product is used. Tell that to the people of Anniston Alabama, who were victimized by Monsanto's profit at any cost philosophy.

In the 1960s, Anniston, Alabama became Monsanto's dumping ground for PCB's. According to a CBS news 60 Minutes investigation, Anniston is now considered one of the most toxic cities in the world with the PCB levels of many of its residents four times greater than other people throughout the United States and had two to four times greater the risk of developing diabetes. In 2003, lawyers for more than 20,000 plaintiffs reached a settlement for $700 million to be paid jointly by Monsanto and its spinoff company Solutia. While seemingly a good deal for the people of Anniston, after all those years of abuse for a company with annual profits in the billions the sum amounts to a mere slap on the wrist.

The bigger question this raises is: If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is it hiding from us now?

What I'm preaching here is nothing new and certainly none of the information I've put forth is ground breaking. Aside from the damage to our environment, farming culture, and the wanton abuse of our political system, the biggest fear for me remains in the damage this corporation is inflicting on generations upon generations of local farming traditions found around the world. In many cultures seed saving has been a way of life longer than the existence of the Christian-Judeo ethic. The insidious nature of greed and corruption this company propagates with its army of enforcers clamping down on anyone who tries to work outside of their monopolistic system has grown entirely out of hand and if someone doesn't step in and say "enough" they will continue to intimidate farmers right out of a culture that has taken generations to establish and deprive us all of the health benefits obtainable from the vast varieties of wholesome produce once available in plenty, now fast becoming a memory.

For more info on Monsanto check this website Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Monsanto's M.O. or just Google Monsanto and you'll get more information than I could ever put into our little blogging operation. Also, I especially urge you to check out the documentary I mentioned in the beginning of my rant.

My Qs, Obama’s As and My 2 Cents

Bolded excerpts are questions from my Post on 11-07-08. Obama's answers are from his interview last night.

My Question: We are at war, and I have no idea whether Obama is worthy of the position of “Commander in Chief”. I have no idea if he will have the fortitude to make the correct decisions during the time that we are most vulnerable – during the transition period from old regime to new.

Obama’s Answer - "I think it's important to get a national security team in place because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack," Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes." "We want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible." The president-elect also said that as soon as he takes office he will work with his security team and the military to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq, shore up Afghanistan and "stamp out al-Qaida once and for all." Obama also said he plans to put al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in the crosshairs. "I think capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al-Qaida," Obama said. "He is not just a symbol, he's also the operational leader of an organization that is planning attacks against U.S. targets." The president-elect confirmed reports that he intends to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and "make sure we don't torture" as "part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world."

My reaction: Have fewer troops in Iraq, more in Afghanistan, kill Bin Laden and close down a known torture facility. Bravo!

My Question: I am concerned about the economy, and have no idea what Obama’s qualifications are in leading us through this recession.

Obama’s Answer: He said the economy would have deteriorated even more without the $700 billion bank bailout. Re-regulation is a legislative priority, he said, not to crush "the entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking of American capitalism" but to "restore a sense of balance."
"There's no doubt that we have not been able yet to reset the confidence in the financial markets and in the consumer markets and among businesses that allow the economy to move forward in a strong way," Obama said. "And my job as president is going to be to make sure that we restore that confidence."
He also said: "We shouldn't worry about the deficit next year or even the year after. ... The most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession."
While "we have the tools," the president-elect said not enough has been done to address bank foreclosures and distressed homeowners. "We've gotta set up a negotiation between banks and borrowers so that people can stay in their homes," Obama said. "That is going to have an impact on the economy as a whole. And, you know, one thing I'm determined is that if we don't have a clear, focused program for homeowners by the time I take office, we will after I take office."
Obama credited Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for trying to remedy "an unprecedented crisis" the country hasn't seen since the Great Depression. "Hank Paulson has worked tirelessly under some very difficult circumstances," Obama said. "And I think Hank would be the first one to acknowledge that probably not everything that's been done has worked the way he had hoped it would work."

My reaction – Continue the use deficit spending and the Bank Bailout Plan to stem the recession, shore up the financial markets and keep homeowners in their homes while tightening the regulations that allowed for this mess in the first place. Bravo!

My Question: I care nothing of Obama’s race or Bush’s religion, as long as nothing influences his duties as our leader other than the facts before him.

Obama’s Answer:

My reaction: Bravo!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"All the Ken the Germans, Please Stand Up"

So You think Ken the German is a pathetic oddity? Apparently he's just the tip of the iceberg. This is starting to sound like the racist version of the "I'm Joe the Plumber/ Tiger Woods" memes.

Here's a sampling from Greg Mitchell at Huffington Post (including Ken):

"So let me just briefly list the full range of episodes, which doesn't even include several cross burnings on front lawns. These aren't necessarily the worst but they do capture the national flavor/fever:

* In a Maine convenience store, an Associated Press reporter saw a sign inviting customers to join a betting pool on when Obama might fall victim to an assassin. The sign solicited $1 entries into "The Osama Obama Shotgun Pool," saying the money would go to the person picking the date closest to when Obama was attacked. "Let's hope we have a winner."

* In Idaho, the Secret Service is investigating a "public hanging" sign erected by a man upset with the election outcome, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported Thursday. A handmade sign posted on a tree reads "FREE PUBLIC HANGING" written in large letters beneath a noose fashioned from nylon rope. The most prominent name on the sign is "OBAMA," according to the Bee. "That's a political statement. They can call it whatever they want, a threat or whatever," the creator of the sign, Ken Germana, told the Bee.

* A popular white supremacist Web sites got more than 2,000 new members the day after the election, compared with 91 new members on Election Day. The site,, was temporarily off-line on Nov. 5 because of the overwhelming amount of activity it received. One poster, identified as Dalderian Germanicus, of North Las Vegas, said, "I want the SOB laid out in a box to see how 'messiahs' come to rest."

* From the Orange County (Ca.) Register: "Two gang members pleaded not guilty Thursday to hate crime and attempted robbery charges in connection with the beating of a black man who was trying to buy cigarettes at a Fullerton liquor store." The two men shouted racial and anti-Obama epithets in the attack.

* In Mississippi alone, the American Civil Liberties Union has received more than 10 calls since the staff first reported anti-Obama incidents last Friday, according to the Jackson (Miss.) Free Press.

* In Midland, Mich., a man dressed in full Ku Klux Klan regalia walked around toting a handgun and waving an American flag. Initially denying it, the man eventually admitted to police that the display was a reaction to the Obama victory. "[The man] had a concealed weapon permit and was walking up and down the sidewalk in front of a vehicle dealership while some motorists shouted obscenities at him and others shouted accolades," police told The Saginaw News.

* Parents in Rexburg, Idaho, contacted school officials this week after they learned that 2nd and 3rd graders on a school bus were chanting, "Assasssinate Obama!"

* At the University of Texas in Austin, a racist post on Facebook has cost one student his place on the university football team, according to the Houston Chronicle. Buck Burnette, a sophomore offensive lineman for the fourth-ranked Texas Longhorns, was dismissed from the team on Nov. 5 after posting a racist remark about President-elect Obama as his "status" on the social networking Web site. Burnette posted: "All the hunters gather up, we have a [slur] in the White House," theChronicle reported.

* AP reports: "While the world watched a Grant Park celebration heralding the election of the first black U.S. president, some white Chicago police officers committed hate crimes against black residents cheering Barack Obama's victory elsewhere in the city, attorneys alleged Thursday." Lawsuits have been filed.

* At Appalachian State University, the administration has expressed disappointment at the numerous times black students have expressed being harassed in residence halls since the election.The Appalachian, a student newspaper serving the university, also reported conversations suggesting Obama may not be alive in 2009 and a t-shirt seen around campus that reads "Obama '08, Biden '09."

* Mentioned in the same article, racist comments were discovered at North Carolina State University last week. Spray-painted in university's free expression tunnel after the election were the phrases, "Kill that n..." and "Shoot Obama," the Appalachian reported. The NAACP has called for the expulsion of the four students accused of the graffitti, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

* The Associated Press revealed on Wednesday, "Police on eastern Long Island are investigating reports that more than a dozen cars were spray painted with racist graffiti, reportedly including a message targeting President-elect Barack Obama. The graffiti included racist slurs and sexually graphic references. At least one resident in the quiet Mastic neighborhood told Newsday her son's car was scribbled with a message threatening to kill Obama."

* Employees at Hampel's Key and Lockshop in Traverse City, Michigan, flew an American flag upside down last Wednesday protesting of the new president-elect, the Traverse City Record-Eaglereported. One worker used a racial slur during an interview with the Record-Eagle: "(The inverted flag is) an international signal for distress and we feel our country is in distress because the n----- got in," said Hampel's employee Rod Nyland, who later apologized for the comment, according to the Record-Eagle.

* Authorities in Temecula, Calif., found spray-painted graffiti on a city sidewalk containing a swastika and anti-Obama slogan. And from the Los Angeles Times: "Vandals spray-painted swastikas and racial slurs on a house and several cars in Torrance that displayed campaign signs or bumper stickers for President-elect Barack Obama, authorities said Tuesday. The incidents occurred Saturday night in the Hollywood Riviera section of the city, said Sgt. Bernard Anderson. Four separate incidents were reported the next day, he said. No arrests have been made."

* And from Maine: "More than 75 people rallied Sunday against an incident last week in which black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island the day after Barack Obama won the presidential election," according to the Bangor Daily News. "

Doesn't it make you proud to vote Republican?