Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't be a H8er

Just so you all know, I'm going to be protesting prop 8 on Monday. I'm going to be at Treat and Oak Grove in Concord. It's part of a larger deal that's being organized by some No on 8 folks, but I doubt that they'll turn down anybody who wants to stand there with a sign.

It'd be nice to see you there as well. (And no excuses those of you who live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.)

Oh, and bring a sign.

EDIT: We'll be there from 4:30-7:30.

End of Blog a Day Month

So, the weather is turning.

I had a kid pretty much threaten me today. (No, this is hardly a regular thing - first time in eight years of teaching - and he's no longer in my class now.)

I screwed up and didn't get all my units into the district office in time so I can get a raise - and I'll have to wait until next year for that.

But you know what? I'm feeling pretty good. I'm not letting the weather get me down. I feel like I'm prepared for it this time, and I'm determined not to get into a funk. While part of it is probably a biological reaction, much of it is mind over matter. Sure, I still have this sense of exhaustion as soon as I step outside, but dammit, I can't let this beat me. It's just one more problem for me to solve.

As for my little incident today, what's good is that I'm usually the type of person who blames himself for everything. The thought creeped into my head that maybe I did something wrong, but I was able to quickly obliterate that thought. With a little work, I won't even stew on it all weekend long.

So, everything is going swell. I'm wrapping up Blog a Day Month, and tomorrow begins Haiku a Day Month. You ready? All you have to do is write one haiku a day! How hard can it be?

Oh, and I also just sampled my Thanksgiving Ale. It needs another day or two to boost the carbonation a bit, but overall it's pretty damned nice, and it's going to go really well with a Turkey dinner (and even the pumpkin pie afterwards - as it has pumpkin spices in it - just enough to taste them, but it's not overwhelming).

I'm doing well. Ain't nothin' gonna breaka my stride.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's not a piece of jewelry

Just a short one today, as it's the penultimate entry for Blog-a-day month (and I believe that I shall once again declare myself to be the winner).

I understand that the hands-free blue-tooth device is a useful invention. In fact, I realize that it's necessary considering California's ban on talking into a cell phone while driving. Kirsti has one. I don't, but it would be a waste since I rarely talk on the phone in the first place.

But dammit, when you're not using it, GET THAT FRIKKEN' THING OUT OF YOUR EAR!!!! You look like you're taking drive-through orders at Taco Bell.

What's wrong with you people?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And the problem is what, exactly?

I hate to sound like such a one-issue guy, but I have a tendency to be a bit obsessive/compulsive, so I have a hard time not being baffled by the pro-prop 8 crowd.

Today I received a pro-8 flyer in the mail. It was the flyer version of the ad that talks about how kids will be "taught gay marriage" in school. Their evidence of this is that there was a couple in Massachusetts whose son was taught that not only do girls marry boys, but sometimes boys marry boys and girls marry girls. Well, in the state of Massachusetts, isn't that true? The ad then went on to say, as though you should be gravely alarmed, HE WAS IN SECOND GRADE!

Okay, if there are any pro-prop 8 people out there, can you at least be honest enough to admit that they're engaging in fear-mongering? I mean, assuming that this would even happen in California (which doesn't sound like it's being "taught" so much as the teacher was just stating something that's a fact. I guess I "taught" regicide when we read Macbeth), what exactly is the big deal? What do you think is going to happen to your second-grader? Is he going to go, "Hey! I'm gonna marry a guy too!" (Actually, the really little kids probably would say that, as it's a known fact that girls carry cooties. Still, for the majority of them, once those hormones kick in, they'll quickly lose that idea.)

What exactly is going to happen? Does anybody really out there believe that somebody who's not already inclined towards homosexual tendencies is going to engage in them if they hear that? Or that somebody who is inclined would not get the idea if they never hear it? You're attracted to whom you're attracted to, and that's it.

I'm starting to think that there are a lot more people out there with homosexual tendencies than even the most liberal people would have us believe. You can believe me or not believe me, but I'm being totally honest when I say that I never once considered having a sexual relationship with a man. And I went to San Francisco State University. I'm sure that if I really wanted to make that sort of a thing happen, I could have. The thought never even entered my mind.

I believe it when gay people say that they knew when they were little that they were gay. I knew that I liked the opposite sex ever since I was a little kid - even though I'd deny it out loud. (I wonder why kids do that?) You could have shown me gay porn and I wouldn't have changed my mind. (Watch, somebody's going to take me out of context and say that I advocate showing children gay porn! Well, it's only a matter of time, since those "nature" shows have animal porn on all the time.)

Anyway, just in case there are some pro-8 people out there, I'd really like you to think of what you're doing when you go into the voting booth. You might personally not think of yourself as hateful and homophobic, but that's exactly who you're siding with. Not to mention the fact that you're siding with a side that has to lie to make their case - you know, the whole bit about churches being forced to marry gays and losing tax-exempt status? If you actually believe that, you're sorely ignorant as to what the Constitution guarantees us in this country.

So, on your side are the liars and fear-mongers. And who are you potentially hurting? Families. Maybe not a family like yours, but a family nonetheless. Whether you like it or not, there are kids out there being raised by same-sex couples, and you'd deny them the same rights that you'd deny the children of straight couples. No matter how you feel about homosexuality, are you going to hold them responsible? (And I've recently done some reading on this issue - the American Psychological Association's research shows that these kids aren't any less well-adjusted than kids with more traditional parents.) Of course, there are those who'd say that kids will tease them and bully them because of their parents. Well, you could make the same argument about kids of mixed race, couldn't you? Are we going to make that illegal again?

Anyway, I have to keep reminding myself that even if this does go through, it is only a matter of time before there are enough Californians who are willing to re-amend the Constitution. And fifty years from now, what do you want to say to the youth of America? Which side do you think you'll be more proud to have been a part of? How do you think history will judge you?

As a student of history, I gotta say that it's not looking good for you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Whitmarsh and Eberhart

I realize that I've blogged many times on Prop. 8 (and I probably still have a few more left in me), and that's the sort of thing that only applies to the Californians who read this. This time, I'm getting even more specific, and I'm appealing to everybody who lives within the Mt. Diablo School District to vote for Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh for the school board. (Alas, I'm not in the district myself, as I live in Martinez - which has its own school district. However, I do teach in the district, so that's why I care.)

Honestly, I've been putting this one off for a while now. While I believe that I have good reasons for wanting them to get in office (Eberhart is already in office and is running as an incumbent - Whitmarsh is a new face to replace April Treece), I don't always feel confident as to how I can make my case for them.

So, let's just stick with some basic facts. Teachers in Mt. Diablo are amongst the lowest paid in Contra Costa County. Many of them have been leaving for surrounding districts, and if you take the average numbers of years experience of our teachers, it has dropped significantly over the past few years. (That's an awfully convoluted sentence, but I can't seem to work it out right now. Let's just say that a lot of experienced teachers are leaving.)

While times are certainly tough, the leadership at the district has been proven to be incompetent at best, and downright masters of skullduggery at worst. They have not engaged in fair negotations with the union, and there is evidence of some pretty serious mishandling of funds. I don't have a head for this sort of a thing (can't remember numbers to save my life) but you can get some details here.

Currently, there are two members of the board, Paul Strange and Gary Eberhart, who are vocal critics of the current superintendent, Gary McHenry - even to the point of calling for his resignation. The other members just continue to make excuses for him. I once attended an informal question/answer session with incumbent April Treece and Dick Allen, and I think that if you brought Squealer himself, monacle and all (from Animal Farm) to make the case for McHenry, it would have been even less Orwellian than the shuck-and-jive dog and pony show that you'd get from them. When asked, point-blank by a teacher why it is that we're all so wrong in our criticism of McHenry, they both gave a really long, convoluted explanation that involved "data" but made little actual sense. To say that I felt my intelligence being insulted would be an understatement.

So, if you live in the Mt. Diablo District, and you think that we need a change, vote Gary and Sherry.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I guess that we've got a ways to go...

Recently, somebody told me of a conversation that they had with somebody who described Obama as a "nigger" and a "terrorist". This person was not being ironic; that's how she really felt. Of course, as one of my friends pointed out, it would be interesting to compare IQ scores and education level with Obama and the person who said that. I wonder who'd be the "nigger" then, huh?

While it does not surprise me that there are still people like that in this world, I have to wonder how the hell they are the way that they are. I mean, are they really so isolated that they can't accept the idea of a black man as President? Luckily, as I've noticed and as many of my colleagues have pointed out, the younger generation (in general) doesn't even factor in his race when deciding what they think of him. Hardly a scientific survey, but that's the impression, and it's promising.

Of course, then you have some white supremecists who planned to assasinate Obama (and were, thankfully, recently caught). I guess we still have a ways to go if people like that are out there.

Not that it's exactly the same thing, but I want to get back to this whole "Obama is a terrorist" thing. Apparently, there are people out there who REALLY think that. What evidence do they have? Evidence, shmevidence. As I've said before though, I think that part of the blame for this lies at the hands of various right-wing pundits and Sarah Palin, who says things like how Obama likes to "pal around" with terrorists.

Is it completely their fault that the uninformed masses are so quick to put two and two together and come up with five? Of course not - but they're certainly not helping matters.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sake it to me!

Man, I always feel like I'll have a chance to write a really long blog entry on the weekends, but I always find myself up to my eyeballs in stuff to do - most of it self-imposed (like brewing and bottling beer in the same evening). So, I'm going to keep this as a short one as well.

Recently, I've taken a liking to sake. There's an Oriental Foods grocery store near me, and every now and then I check it out to get some Thai curry paste, seaweed for sushi, and various hot sauces. One weekend, when I was going to be making some sushi for myself, I checked out the liquor department and noticed all of the varieties of sake that they had. I had never tried it before, because as you all know, I'm more of a beer man.

Why am I a beer man? It's not so much that I don't like wine, it's that wine doesn't agree with me. I get really flushed and start to sweat almost immediately after drinking it. I enjoy the taste, but I've never been able to have enough of it to really appreciate it on the level that I do beer. Of course, there's still a stigma about beer, where many people think that there's something better or more sophisticated about wine. Well, that's horse-crap, but whattayagonnado?

So, I thought I'd try the Japanese "rice wine," even though since it's made with rice, and rice is a grain, it's technically "rice beer" if you think about it. I bought a small bottle - not the cheapest one, but not the most expensive. I enjoyed it - enough to buy it the next time I was at that supermarket.

In fact, the last time, I liked the one that I got so much that I started to seek out some sake at my local Trader Joe's. They had a sparkling variety that was pretty darned good (and relatively low in alchohol) and a regular variety that's pretty enjoyable as well.

I'm liking sake so much (particularly with my home-made sushi) that I'm looking into making my own. Turns out that it's not so tough to do, and the initial set-up kit (including the ingredients for my first batch) only runs about $25. I also like the idea that you only make the batches one gallon at a time. I like it, but it's not an every day kind of drink for me, and I don't know what I'd do with five gallons of sake lying around the house.

Perhaps if I get enough gift cards from Beer, Beer and More Beer (HINT, HINT) for my birthday (November 24!) and Christmas, I'll be giving out some Holiday Sake along with my Holiday Beer. (That's right, Bill O'Reilly - HOLIDAY Beer! Suck it, Santa!)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just a quick one today...

Want to know one of the most painful things about being an English teacher? Reading student essays. It's like they don't even bother to see if what they're writing even makes any sense - much less follow the rules of the assignment. And they wonder why I've become such a harsh grader...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Won't somebody think of the children?

Ouranos, the god of the sky, feared and hated his children, so he kept them locked up within Gaia, also known as Mother Earth. Eventually, his son Cronus would overthrow him, using a sickle to remove his private bits.

Cronus feared his children as well, and for good reason - his son Zeus defeated him in a war between the Titans and Olympians.

Yaweh was a jealous, violent god who ordered his people to commit genocide. Eventually, he gave way to his son, Jesus, who had a more pacifistic point of view.

The gods of the Hindu pantheon encouraged an uncompromising caste system, but when Buddha came along, he did away with that. (As did the Sikhs did, although they did it much later.)

Eventually, the old gives way to the young. And while beings like Cronus saw the end of his reign as the end of the "Golden Age," humanity still carried on, and we're doing just fine, thank you very much.

This morning, I saw one of the latest "Yes on 8" ads. These have all been so mind-numbingly stupid that I don't even want to post them. Go look them up for yourself if you haven't had your proper quota of lies for the day. Of course, there's the one about how if Prop 8 isn't passed, churches will lose their tax-exempt status (absolutely untrue - but not a bad idea, in my opinion). This one though talks about how kids are going to be taught about gay marriage in the public schools. Luckily, not long afterwards, there was an ad where the Superintendent of Schools debunked the "Yes" ad by saying that there isn't anything in the standards that requires teachers to teach about marriage one way or another.

So, they're lying. But what if they weren't? What exactly are we afraid of? Oh, I know - the GAY AGENDA!!!!! (Dum-dum-DUMMMMMM) What a load of crap. What exactly is the gay agenda and who exactly is in charge of it? You'll never get a precise answer, mainly because there's no such thing. Are there gay people with an agenda to be treated like human beings and have equal rights? Sure - and how dare they?!

Anyway, what are people so afraid is going to happen? I mean, what exactly are they going to "teach"? "Okay, kids, there are three kinds of marriage - man and woman, man and man, and woman and woman. Now, here are some videos so you can see how each pair satisfies one another sexually. Oooh...see that? That's called sodomy, kids." I mean, is this really what these people are afraid of? The ad even has a couple who give their testimonial about how their kids HAD to learn about gay marriage. The thing is, I don't even believe their story. But even if it is true - SO WHAT? Oh no! They're kids might grow up to not have the same stupid-ass prejudices that their parents have! Dear lord, can't have that! (Oh, I'm sorry - is it offensive when I say that being prejudiced against gay people is stupid? Do you feel like I'm being prejudiced against you? Hmmm...maybe that should make you at least a little bit more sympathetic then, eh? I guess not though.)

I was talking about this issue with some friends at lunchtime today. (As we were discussing our sodomy-filled lesson plans.) We all basically concluded that even if Prop 8 passes, the handwriting is on the wall. As more and more of the newer generations are able to vote, the chances increase that the Constitution will be re-amended yet again. It's inevitable. Why? Because young people realize that gay people getting married doesn't affect them. (Unless, of course, they happen to be gay themselves - but you know what I mean.) They also realize that maybe it's preferable to have gay people out of the closet, comfortable with who they are, and productive members of society who help to raise up the next generation rather than have them in the closet and engaging in deviant behavior in public restrooms (looking at YOU, Senator Craig). Maybe they also realize that if this is supposedly about "family values" and "protecting children," the fact is that there are already a lot of kids being raised by same-sex couples, and perhaps it's not right to make them suffer.

I know what most of the people from the older generations are thinking. They're thinking that this marks the beginning of the end of human civilization. However, those who have some sense of history know better. Why? Because people have been talking about it being the beginning of the end ever since they've been able to complain about anything. And I don't know about you, but I don't think that I'd want to live in the past. Were things really better? Would you rather be a black man now or a black man a hundred years ago? Would you rather be alive during the AIDS epidemic or during the Black Plague? Would you rather live during the rise of Islamic terrorism or the rise of communism and fascism?

Yeah, yeah, I'm sure that some older folks are going to bust out the ol' "Soddom and Gamorrah" story. They'll tell us that's where we're heading. Well, keep in mind that the "good" man of that story offered up his daughters to be raped (as apparently angels can't take care of themselves). Keep in mind that a woman turns into salt in that story. And most importantly, and listen closely - THE FUCKING STORY IS A MYTH, ASSHOLE!!!! If that shit were true, Las Vegas would have toppled long ago.

So, look out, Ouranos - here comes the next generation, and they've all got a bunch of sickles. They're bringing the Golden Age with 'em.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm giving up on Indian food

A couple of weeks ago, I made some yummy yellow Thai curry with chicken. I bought a package of some curry paste and then mixed it with coconut milk and water like the recipe on the package suggested. I hadn't made that in a while, but I quickly wondered why I hadn't, as it was so gosh darned good. (To be fair, it was a little too spicy for Kirsti - but just right for me.)

So, this has brought on an ethnic food kinda mood lately, and I figured that I'd take some of the chicken that I still had in the freezer and make some Indian food tonight - Tikki Masala to be specific. I've tried a few different jarred versions of that particular sauce - with underwhelming results. So, I was hoping that maybe this one was it - the one that finally resembled the yummy, flavorful Indian food that I get at my favorite Indian restaurant.

No such luck. It was el blando. And bland is exactly the last thing you want when you've got the hankering for some Indian food. I figure that unless I learn how to make this stuff from scratch, I'm just going to have to be satisfied with eating it at the restaurant.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Phone problems

I hate the phone. Seriously, I have issues with it, and it's not even rational, but there's nothing I can do about it.

For starters, I hardly ever have my cell phone turned on. This drives my wife crazy, but I honestly just don't remember to turn it on, because getting a phone call is the last thing that I think about. When I do think to turn it on, I have it on silent, as I hate the idea of being in the middle of someplace and having it ring. Actually, not so much in the middle of some place, but in the middle of doing something. I can't stand watching people talk on their cells while they're in line at the grocery checkout counter, and I don't want to be like them. So, I leave it on silent.

So, the only reason that I ever have it on is because my wife wants it on in case she needs to get a hold of me. Don't get me wrong - my wife isn't one of those people who calls me all the time to update me on everything that's going on. (Ironically enough, even though it would drive me crazy, if she were like that I'd probably be more likely to remember to switch it on.) If it wasn't for that, I'd just let the voicemail pick up any calls. When I'm out and about I'm out and about. I don't like the idea of people being able to reach me wherever I am. Perhaps that's strange, but usually when I am out of the house, I'm having a bit of "me" time, and I don't want it disturbed.

I also don't answer the phone while I'm at home, unless it's from somebody in my immediate family (most of the time). I figure if it's important, they can leave a message. Why don't I just answer it? Because I'm always in the middle of something. I'm the type of person who doesn't like to break his concentration. Yesterday I was making a DVD for my class, and it's a long process. Even if a family member called, I still don't think that I would have picked it up. Other times, I might be in the middle of a movie. Now, when I sit down to watch a movie, it's because I want to watch a movie. I don't just put them in to pass the time. I don't do much of anything just to pass the time, so I don't like being interrupted.

I hate making phone calls too. When my dad leaves a message, I always call him back, but I have to sit in front of the phone for a few minutes before I can actually pick it up and start dialing. I usually check my email or read some stuff online, bracing myself for the phone call. No, it's not that my conversations with my dad are unpleasant. In fact, I'm always happy to have talked to him once I get off the phone. (Same goes for my mother or my sisters.) There's just something about a phone call - it simply drains me, whether it's a pleasant conversation or not. It's like I have set aside some space in my mind's schedule for a phone call the same way that I'd set aside time for yardwork, going to the store, etc. (Or perhaps I'm strange simply because I'm scheduling things in my mind, and that's the root of the problem.)

When I was having problems with my satellite, I was almost willing to continue having the problems because I simply hated being on the phone with customer service. Being on hold is one of the most frustrating things for me, and having to deal with those automated systems is even worse. If they're recording those calls, they no doubt hear a very frustrated-sounding person on the other line.

When I was sixteen, I worked as a telemarketer. I did it for one hour, and I quickly began to lose the will to live. So what did I do? I simply got up and walked out. I then went home and told my parents that I either did the smartest or the dumbest thing in my life. Turns out it was smart, because these telephone issues weren't even all that bad back then. If you put a gun up to my head and told me to either make telemarketing calls or be shot, I'd honestly have to give it some thought. (Not a lot - I'd choose to live, of course. Still, I'd probably have a slightly longer pause than a normal person would.)

Recently, my union has asked for people to do some phone banking for the upcoming election. (People in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District - vote for Sherry Whitmarsh and Gary Eberhart for the school board!) I've done a bit of volunteering for union things before - protests (not sure if that's the right word - demonstrations? I held a sign. Kinda like a strike, but we weren't on strike), passing out fliers, and a few other things. This though - phone banking? I even start to consider it and my face turns flush and I start to sweat. Seriously. Crap, I can feel my hearbeat speed up as I type this.

Very strange, I know. I can't explain it, justify it, or rationalize it. Maybe it's because when I was little and my parents and I were walking through a dark alley after seeing a movie (or maybe it was the opera?) a telephone came up and shot both of my parents right before my eyes. Perhaps...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My bad influence

For those of you who read this blog on MySpace, you'll notice that most of my "friends" are teenagers. No, it's not because I hang out at high schools looking to pick up teenage girls to date. I hang out at only one high school, and I'm not really hanging out, I'm working. As a teacher, I probably know a lot more teenagers than the average person. (And if you know more than I do, then maybe you're the creepy type who likes to hang out at high schools looking for a date.)

On the Blogspot page, most of the comments I get are from my adult friends, along with a lot of folks whom I've met online. I also get some comments from some people whom I've never met before, either in person or simply online - that's kinda cool, actually. However, on the MySpace page, most of the comments are from former (and some current) students.

I've had people express reservations regarding the fact that teenagers read my blog. Much of the stuff I write about is pretty harmless, but sometimes I get political, and sometimes I comment on religion (and my comments are rarely positive in that regard). I also fuckin' swear sometimes (although I've noticed that I can go weeks with curse-free entries) and sometimes I write about beer. So, am I corrupting the youth? Am I leaving myself open to some potential trouble?

I suppose that I might get some comments from parents some day, but I feel pretty secure in my defense. The main reason for this is that I've never instructed students to read my blog. I don't think that I ever even mention my blog. Also, as far as MySpace is concerned, the vast majority of students on there added me first. In other words, they sought me out. So, the bottom line is that my blog is an exercise of free speech. If I was telling kids to read it, or even worse, requiring that they read it, then that would be something else.

Personally, I think that's enough. Other than that, I don't think that any of this is going to hurt any of them. As for the swearing, they can walk down the hallway and hear far worse. If they don't like my religious and political leanings, then it won't kill them to hear another point of view. When it comes to the beer stuff, I'm an adult, and it's perfectly within my legal rights to make and brew beer. And even if you disregard that, I write about having an appreciation and a respect for beer. I don't write about how I downed a twelve-pack of Douchebag Light via a beer bong. I think that most teenagers would find my beer analyses to be about as interesting as a lecture on the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act, so I doubt that any of them read it. And if they do, then hey, better that than the beer commercials that you see on the Superbowl. If anything, the stuff I write about promotes a much healthier attitude when it comes to the stuff.

Anyway, it's starting to sound like I doth protest too much, so I'll just wrap it up. The bottom line is that most kids don't read anything, and those who are interested in reading are smart enough to know that these are just the opinions of just one man. I doubt that any of them deify English teachers. (See! You can also build your vocabulary by reading my blog! Maybe I SHOULD assign it!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sarah Palin - seriously?

In all fairness, I get it when some conservatives say that Palin is getting more flack than she deserves. I don't really agree, but I don't think that's a crazy thing to say. I also get it when people say that they like her because her political views align with theirs. Again, I have a hard time relating to those particular political views, but okay, I can dig it.

What I do not get are the die-hards - the big-time fans - the ones who say that they love her. The "Soccer Moms for Palin", if you will. These people, they boggle my mind, and I've heard from a few of them.

What exactly is it that's so great about her? Is it how she can't name a magazine or newspaper that she reads? Is it that she can't name a Supreme Court decision? (In all fairness, I can't either, except for Roe V. Wade, but if I was running for Vice President, that would be one of the first things I'd research.) Is it how she's being hidden from the media and giving only a limited amount of interviews? Are these the things that are impressive?

On that one video that I posted a little while back, some of the things being said about her was that she was a "regular person". Ummm...what the hell does that even mean? Hey! I'm a regular person! Can I be Vice President? I mean, do we really want a "regular person" a heartbeat away from the highest office in the land? Call me crazy, but I want somebody who's a hell of a lot smarter than the average person.

Is it all this folksy crap that she spouts? Is it that she drops her G's? Call me crazy, but I think that speaking correctly shows respect for the audience. That kind of thing is just pandering. Is i the hockey mom/pitbull/lipstick joke? What kind of a hayseed do you gotta be to find that stuff funny? (I think that I'm starting to embrace my inner elitism.)

The thing is, I recall my mom recently saying that she was "ugly". By that, she wasn't referring to her physical appearance. She was referring more to her personality. I tend to agree. This whole, "Obama's been palling around with terrorists" is the worst kind of ugly propaganda. I wrote before about this - she knows exactly how all the rubes in her audience are going to take that. It's like Bill Maher has been saying lately - things like that are cynical. She knows that dumb people will take it the way that she wants them to take it, but she's smart enough to know better.

So yeah, I don't get it. I think that this is becoming one of my intelligence barometers. I honestly can't see how the gung-ho Palin types can possibly be intelligent. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't see how.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Obama/Charles Manson connection!

First off, I should probably note that I'm an undecided voter. Yeah, I'm one of those, but not in the way that most undecideds are. I have definitely decided that I'm not going to vote for McCain. The thing is, I'm just not a big believer that the Democrats are going to make any kind of drastic difference. However, I haven't really taken the proper time to research the 3rd party candidates (seems like the Green Party is usually more in line with how I feel). I don't want to just vote for a party, so I've got some reading to do.

I just might vote for Obama. I think that the last time that I voted for a Democrat was when I voted for Gore, but that was only because I really couldn't stand Bush. Turns out that I had good reason to not like Bush so much. I didn't vote for Kerry though - and frankly, that guy deserved to lose. Anybody who couldn't beat Bush after 4 years of W's administration certainly didn't know how to address the real issues in a way that people cared about.

Oddly enough, the things that seem to be pushing me more toward Obama have more to do with the negative campaigning against him than anything. So much of the rhetoric spewed against him is so out there that I want to vote for him to spite those people.

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't any legitimate complaints about Obama. I'm talking about the crazy stuff. For instance, I've checked out some of these right wing blogs, and a lot of them simply have to always use his middle name. I guess they think that they're being clever or something. I already went into this about a week ago - but it's not like I said anything that a reasonably intelligent person couldn't figure out for themselves.

What about some of the other stuff? The stuff that's probably not so crazy, but still doesn't get me to dislike Obama? I'll take it a bit at a time.

1. Jeremiah Wright - Here's the thing. I honestly don't think that Obama is all that religious of a guy, at least, not in the sense that a lot of Americans are. I think that he had to hitch his wagon to some church though, just as all politicians do, in order to gain some support from the large segment of church-going citizens. (Why do I think this? I'll admit that my evidence is pretty flimsy, but when I read some passages from his book, where he wrote about how his mother was a believer in having knowledge of all the world's religions, I find it hard to see him having the same mindset that a lot of religious people have.)

The pundits keep hammering away that Obama would sit in the guy's church and hear "anti-American, hateful" sermons all the time. What are they basing this on? A short clip of one of the guy's speeches. And in all honesty, I just can't seem to get too upset about what he says in even that short little clip. I mean, I don't approve of it, and it doesn't represent the way that I view things (mainly because I don't think that there even is a God to damn anything one way or another). Yeah, it's over-the-top. Yeah, I can see how some people would be offended by it. Still, to take this one clip and say that's what all of his sermons were like is disingenuous.

I read some time ago an article from a guy (who admitted from the start that he wasn't writing it as an endorsement for Obama - just as something to set the record straight) who had attended many of Wright's sermons. He's a white guy, and he said that he was made to feel welcome every time he showed up.

The thing is, I bet that at most of Wright's sermons, he probably talked about the same kind of stuff that most preachers do. That clip was from right after 9/11. It was an emotional time.

Anyway, even if he did talk that way every time, I still don't care. I took Obama at his word when he said that he rejected that point of view. I know that I certainly don't agree with everything that everybody I care about says. To me, Wright isn't any nuttier than any other preacher. They're all talking about what God wants, but of course God just happens to want the same things that they do. Arrest them all, I say! (Not really - calm down.)

2. William Ayers - You sure have to connect a lot of dots on this one. Of course, pundits and Palin like a soundbite like, "Obama pals around with terrorists." However, if you look into it, you realize that the explanation of the connection is so long that you've lost interest about halfway through. From what I gather, Obama served on some committee with this guy regarding education. There were a lot of other people on this who aren't being accused of "palling around" with terrorists. Obama was never a part of the terrorist organization that Ayers was a part of, and even Ayers wasn't a part of it by the time that Obama worked with him. The pundits like to point out how Ayers has been unapologetic about what he did, but a little bit of research shows that even that is an oversimplification of how the man feels. (And no, I'm not defending the guy.)

I realize that I'm not being very precise in my language (I'd give myself low marks for phrases like "some committee...regarding education" if this were a formal essay). Still, go look it up for yourself. Try to stay awake. It's like connecting me with the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. (There is a connection! His assasination led to World War I. That led to World War II. World War II led to American soldiers being stationed in Germany. My dad was an American soldier when he met my mom. What is it that Lance Christian Johnson isn't telling us about his link to terrorist Gavrilo Princip?)

3. Tony Rezko - Okay, this involves financial stuff that I don't have a head for explaining. Look it up for yourself, and you'll find the same connect-the-dots game. The thing is, I'm not an Obama true-believer. If there's some real dirt on this guy, I'll hold it against him. Still, I read this stuff and I'm left scratching my head and wondering what the big deal is.)

4. ACORN - Why is Obama pandering to the squirrel lobby? No, seriously, this is another one of those memes where you see some "conservatives" going on about ACORN without even knowing what the hell they're talking about. Seems like this is also a bunch of hysteria, but when you check out the facts, it seems as if a mountain has been turned into a molehill. Check out's article on this issue. No, they're not biased, as they are willing to call Obama out on some untruths regarding this issue. Still, I'm once again left scratching my head.

5. His middle name is Hussein! Obama rhymes with Osama! Barack rhymes with Iraq! His wife's name is Michelle, and the Beatles had a hit song with "Michelle"! Charles Manson thought that The Beatles were talking to him in the song "Helter Skelter!" What is the connection between Obama and Charles Manson that Obama isn't telling us? The American people have a right to know!

Anyway, if polls are to be believed, it looks like most of this stuff doesn't matter to the average American. It seems like the only people who are getting their shorts up in a bunch are the people who wouldn't like Obama even if Jesus himself came down and endorsed him. (Or Colin Powell.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Atheists and theists

Continuing on an idea that I had in my last blog, I have to say that I've had many good conversations with theists (I should probably just say Christians - as I really don't get to talk to many Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etcetera - at least, not on that kind of a level). I find that the best ones are when you're just having an exchange of ideas and not trying to convert the other one.

Just like everybody else, I feel that I'm right, and my way of looking at things is the best way. However, I know that it doesn't do my side any good if I'm insulting or forceful with my point of view. That's why I don't say things like, "Oh, it's all in your head" or "The Bible's just a book of myths." At least, I don't say these things so long as the other person is treating me with respect and is more interested in exchanging ideas. (Basically, they also feel that they're right, and they're smart enough to know not to try and convert me.) The thing is, if I am to "convert" anybody, then the only way I can do it is by giving them something to think about. Perhaps they'll eventually see my point of view, but I have to accept the fact that most likely they will not. Likewise, I'm willing to hear what they have to say, and I consider their points.

There are, however, some things that I don't bother taking the time to consider. Those are the kinds of things that either I used to say when I was a theist myself, or things that I have already spent so much time considering that it's pointless to keep spinning my wheels on it.

Basically, what I want to give here is some advice for any theist who wants to have a constructive conversation with an atheist. Now realize that I'm generalizing here when it comes to atheists. There are some atheists who are basically atheistic out of an intellectual laziness, and there are some who have had some sort of a trauma regarding religion that makes them turn off to it without even considering it. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about people like me - skeptics. That's a word that gets thrown around a lot. You'll hear people say, "I used to be a skeptic, but Sylvia Brown convinced me that psychics are real!" Those people aren't skeptics, not matter what they say. I'm talking about people who not only don't believe in any gods, but we reject supernatural explanations for things (without proof, anyway - and so far, no proof). We don't believe in psychics, astrology, past lives, the Lochness Monster, Bigfoot, mindreading, ghosts, etcetera.

So, if you want to talk to one of us, here are some things to avoid:

1. Don't do the "argument from design." You know, the "everything is just so complex that there just HAS to be a God!" It's fine if that's the way you interpret the world around you, but trust me, we've given that one some thought. I used to say it myself. I didn't just randomly stop saying it. I've thought it over and to me, the evidence points more to things like natural selection than anything. Things aren't as orderly as some people would have us believe. And if you don't believe me, you might want to check out a meteor crater some day. Again, I'm not trying to convince you to reject that idea - just don't say it like it's some original idea on your part.

2. Don't quote the Bible to prove The Bible. Generally speaking, the atheists and agnostics that I've known are at least as well versed, if not better versed, in The Bible than most Christians I've known. We're not going to change our minds if we just read The Bible. In fact, for me, actually sitting down to read The Bible was what pushed me from agnostic to atheist. (I realized that I didn't believe in any other gods, and now I didn't believe in the God of the Bible either. Figures that makes me an atheist.)

3. Don't tell us that you feel sorry for us. That's just patronizing. You wouldn't like it if I said something like, "Oh, I feel so sorry for you that you believe in fairy tales!" I'd be kind of a douche if I said that to you (unless you told me that you felt sorry for me first - then it'd be fair game), and that's how you'll come off if you do that. While we may not get our meaning in life from the same source as you, don't assume that we don't have some sense of wonder about the world that makes us enjoy life.

4. Don't do the "what if you're wrong?" argument, because we can just as easily turn that around on you. Zeus is pretty mad that you think he's just a myth, by the way.

5. Don't assume anything about us one way or another. It's true that some atheists have had a traumatic childhood due to a religious upbringing. I didn't; although I think that I had some fears that were unnecessary, it hardly would count as being "traumatic." Perhaps "unnecessarily stressful at times" would be a better way of putting it.) Still, I think that my religious beliefs growing up were generally more positive than negative.

6. Don't think that we really do believe, deep down inside. Do you really not believe, deep down inside? Of course you don't. It's pretty presumptuous to tell a person how they really feel. Just because you can't fathom how a person can not believe, that doesn't mean that their feelings aren't genuine. And I wouldn't say the same to you, because I know that when I did believe, the feeling was very genuine.

Basically, if you do want to talk about it, the best way to go is to talk about what a positive thing your belief has been for you. That's impossible to attack. (Okay, not impossible, but it's a dick thing to attack somebody's subjective feelings.) If there's any way we'd ever come along with your way of seeing things, we'd have to see that there's something to it that we haven't considered - and perhaps there is. Just don't give me the design argument, because trust me - I've thought through that one nearly to death.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Can you not create a strawman?

Via the series of tubes known as "The Internets" I've had the pleasure (and misfortune) to communicate with a lot of different people. Obviously, I have some pretty strong views about things (like potato salad, and how it's poison), so I can get into the occasional debate every now and then. Some folks I can debate with and disagree without it getting rancorous. Some people though - not so much.

I don't remember where I read it, but recently I read something to the effect of how a sign of an open mind is when you're willing to honestly look at another person's point of view and try to understand it. You can still disagree, but you need to be honest about what it is that they're really saying.

The one issue where this is clearly not displayed is when it comes to the abortion issue. Sure, you have some extremists on both sides, but I guess since I fall more on the pro-choice side, the arguments of the extreme pro-lifers bother me more. The one thing that I find frustrating is when they call the opposite side "pro-abortion". Now, I don't know about you, but I've NEVER met a person who actually considered himself or herself to be "pro-abortion." Can't we just be honest and realize that on one side, you have people who feel as though preserving life is the most important thing, but on the other side, you have people who feel that choice is the most important thing (or a better way to put it - the most important thing is keeping the government out of the decision-making process when it comes to a woman's reproductive rights.)

I think that I fairly stated what pro-lifers believe. If there are any pro-lifers out there who feel that I have mischaracterized their position, please let me know. I should also point out that there are some pro-lifers who are more honest when it comes to what the opposition is saying, yet they still disagree anyway.

Another thing that I run into when I talk to theists is that they can never seem to get their head around the atheist viewpoint. If they want to debate me, they tend to paint some picture of how I see the world that is completely inaccurate. Of course, some of the more common things are, "Oh, so you believe that everything is just a big accident then!" Since when is "accident" the opposite of "God"? Also, they will try and make it seem like my life is some empty, meaningless vacuum because I lack their beliefs in God and the afterlife. Personally, I think that statements like that say a lot more about them than it does about me - as they obviously can't see much point to their lives if they abandon their particular belief system.

Only one time have I ever read a theist give a description of the atheist mindset that I couldn't fault. A Christian friend of mine said that an atheist is like a guy where you tell him that his house is on fire, but he insists on checking out every single room of the house before he's willing to believe you. That's not the way I'd put it, but it's a fair assessment, I'd say.

It seems hard to get some people to understand what it's really like being an atheist. A lot of them seem to feel that we really do, secretly and deep down, believe in God. Well, maybe some of us do, but I don't. Some of them also think that if we just had the right kinds of experiences, we'd see things there way. Well, I've read enough to know that the saying about how there are "no atheists in foxholes" is a myth. (Check this out for some good reading on that.) I realize that I've used the Santa Clause comparison before, and I realize that might sound somewhat patronizing and rude, so let me try again (and this argument is hardly original on my part). If you're a theist reading this, ask yourself if you believe in Vishnu. (Sorry, Hindus, you'll have to come back some other time.) Do you believe in him? What if I told you that hundreds of millions of people in the world do? What if I told you that they feel his presence? They know he exists. You probably still don't believe in him, do you? Well, take that same question and fill in every other god from every other religion that has ever existed. Do you believe in any of them? I'd reckon that the answer is no.

See? I'm just like you. I don't believe in all of those gods either. And I don't believe in your god the same way that you don't believe in those gods.

Okay then, I'm appealing to people to at least try and understand where I'm coming from if they're going to disagree with me. What about me? Can I play by the same rules? Let me try this out. Here is what Christians believe (and I realize that I'm generalizing, but I'm going for the majority here): God consists of the Trinity - the father, the son, and the holy ghost. There is only one God, but he has three aspects. (For instance, the son is God in human form.) He came down to Earth in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross in order to pay for all the sins of humanity. He rose three days later and ascended to heaven. Anybody who believes in Him will have eternal life, and those who do not will not. (Many Christians believe that the "not" involves an everlasting eternal punishmen in the fires of hell.)

So, am I wrong? That's it, right? I'm not trying to be a smartass here. If I'm getting it wrong, please tell me. (And again, realize that I'm going for the majority of Christians. I know that there are still some who question the Trinity, amongst other things.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mysteries revealed!

I know that I have at least a few people check out my blog every now and then who are parents - mostly parents of youngsters, so hopefully they can remember these important tips when their kids are teenagers and in high school.

Mystery #1 - Why is my child getting an F?

While scientists have been mulling over this issue for generations, it looks like the answer is finally upon us. During the early part of the 20th Century, the evidence pointed to a negative influence on the part of Kaiser Wilhelm II. By the 50s, it seemed as though Sputnik might have been the cause. Of course, we really thought we figured it out during the 70s, as disco certainly seemed like a plausible answer.

However, I am pleased to tell you right now what the reason is. Your kids is getting an F because: he/she doesn't do the work. Of course, this may also be coupled with poor test grades and a lousy attendance record, but the poor test scores tend to follow the lack of work, and the lack of work tends to come as a result of a poor attendance record.

Mystery #2 - Will a meeting with the teacher help turn things around?

No. All it does is waste the teacher's time as you unload and treat the instructor as a therapist as you talk about your recent divorce, how you try and discipline your kids, and how you "mean business". Everything that the teacher could tell you in a meeting could just as easily be relayed to you via the phone or via email.*

Mystery #3 - Wouldn't the teacher like to meet with me?


Mystery #4 - How can I get my kid to do his or her work?

Ultimately, there is only so much that a teacher can do. There is more that a parent can do (like foster a feeling that education is important) than the teacher, but ultimately, the decision rests with the student. (It is possible that Kaiser Wilhelm II is still excerting some sort of an influence with this though.)

*There may be a few exceptions to this. From personal experience, I have yet to see one of these meetings turn anything around. Sorry to sound so cynical - but there it is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When you get older...

I've been mulling on this one for a while now, but I don't think that I have a lot to say about it. So, considering that I'm feeling a bit pressed for time tonight, I'm going to go with it.

A few times, I've had people who are about a generation older than me tell me that I'll "see things differently" when I get older. What are they talking about? My disbelief in God. Apparently, when you start getting closer to the Grim Reaper, you start thinking that maybe that there is some higher power out there. Or more likely, you start HOPING that there's some higher power out there.

I could be wrong, and I've been wrong before, but I don't necessarily buy it. For one, there are plenty of senior citizens who are atheists. I read an article in my local paper about an atheist/agnostic group at the local retirement community. I'm sure that they're all as old if not much older than the people who told me that I'd see things differently when I got older. (Perhaps I will change my mind when I hit my fifties, but then I'll change back when I hit my seventies.)

Also, and I just know how my mind works here - I'm not the kind of person who'll believe something just because I want it to be true. When I look back on when I finally started to admit to myself that I was an atheist, it took a long time because I wanted God to be real. But ultimately, I'm just not the kind of person who can believe in something just because it makes me feel good. Wishing that something was true doesn't make it any more true, ya know.

I guess what's hard for theists to understand is that there really are people out there who honestly don't believe. I mean, I can't go back to believing in God for the same reason that I can't go back to believing in Santa Claus. At least, I'd need to hear something different than the same arguments that theists give me over and over again. You know, the arguments that I used to use myself back when I argued with atheists. I can't go back again and start saying all that stuff that I realized was insensible and illogical. I mean, you'd believe in Santa Claus if you actually had some proof, right? So would I - and that's how I feel about God. Show me the proof.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Whuh oh oh oh oh, whuh oh oh oh, whuh oh oh oh oh, New Kids suck

You know, I never thought that at the age of thirty four I'd find myself in a situation where I needed to convince people that the New Kids on the Block suck. By the time I was in my twenties, I figured that particular scourge had long since passed, and we were finally safe again. Sure, there were the Backstreet Boys, who were back, even though it was their debut, and they wanted it that way, but they didn't want to hear you say that they wanted it that way. But they were a minor blip (and when is the guy with the half-shirt, hoop earings, and cowboy hat finally going to come out of the closet? I mean, not that there's anything wrong with it, but who's he trying to kid anyway?) There was also N*Sync, 98 Degrees, Boyzone, O Town, *Ass* Hat, Butt Plugzz, Beefy & the Fuckups, and a bunch of others (I may have made a couple of those up), but the darkest days of crappy boy band pop seemed like a thing of the past.

This is where nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. It's bad enough that they made a Transformers movie, and there are plans afoot to make movies about He-Man, Voltron, and the Easybake Oven. But now nostalgia has infected the female populace, and the New Kids are on a reunion tour. Supposedly they have a new song. No, I haven't heard it. I'm too busy to deal with that, as I'm sure that there is an excess amount of lint in my navel that demands my attention post haste.

It was one thing when teenage girls, who were too young to know any better liked their music and bought their dreck. But these are grown women now. They ought to know better. I mean, haven't they moved on a little? My wife liked them when she was a kid, but she wasn't exactly jumping for joy when she heard about the reunion. I'm sure that if she had a free ticket, she'd go, but she's not exactly going out of her way to see them. (And I should note that my wife is much more tolerant when it comes to pop music - she went to see Cher with her mom for Pete's sakes. Cher! Brrr...)

What I have to wonder is how these New Kids look at themselves in the mirror. I mean, I don't know any guys my age who ever liked the New Kids. I certainly don't know any men my age who like that kind of stuff now. Am I really supposed to believe that these guys, who are about my age, actually like singing shit like "Hanging Tough"? Seriously? Yeah, they're making a lot of money - but still, how do they feel at the end of the day when they must face Satan and hand over a new drop of soulmatter? In all honesty, there isn't enough money in the world that you could pay me to be in a group like that. (Okay - if you paid me so much that I'd only have to perform on one night and then never work another day for the rest of my life, allowing me to devote my life to charity - then okay, I'd do it.)

C'mon, people. If you go see the New Kids, you're letting the terrorists win.

EDIT: My wife wants me to point out the fact that she only went to see Cher because her mom didn't have anybody else to go with her (her dad was sick that day). She doesn't like Cher. Apparently though, there are people out there who actually do like Cher. Scary, isn't it?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why I'm a Pastafarian

No, I didn't make a typo. I'm not a Rastafarian. I don't smoke lots of weed, believe that the white man is evil, nor worship some Ethiopian guy. I'm a Pastafarian, and it's time that I came out to my friends and family.

Pastafarians believe that the universe was created by The Flying Spaghetti Monster. After all, how else can you explain how complex everything is? Don't try, because you can't. Hey, you sitting there in your underwear - stop trying to explain it already. I mean, take a thing like gravity. Are you really going to pretend to understand how we all live on a spinning ball, yet we don't all go flying all over the place? What, is gravity some kind of magic? That's absurd! Well, with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, we know exactly why things fall to the ground. It's called "Intelligent Falling." Every time something goes up in the air, the FSM uses his invisible noodly appendage to pull it back down to Earth again. Think about it - it just makes sense. Don't believe the lies that those scientists are trying to perpetuate.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking - but Lance, didn't Mother Earth and Father Sky emerge from the Chaos, only to have Cronus castrate his father, thereby separating the two? And didn't Prometheus create humans? Well, why don't you pull your head out of your ass if you believe that? Those sorts of myths are stupid, and you're a stupid person for accepting them.

I'll tell you why the FSM is a better explanation. For those of you who believe that Prometheus made humans out of clay, you have to ask yourself how your ridiculous little story explains the evidence for evolution. You know, all that DNA and fossil evidence - that stuff? I'll save you some time - you can't answer it. However, Pastafarians know exactly why that evidence exists. It's because the FSM distorts the data in an effort to test the faith of these scientists! No other religious belief actually deals with the evidence for evolution. All the rest either ignore it or distort what these scientists are saying. Pastafarians are fully aware of the evidence, but we know it for the deception that it is - not on the part of scientists, but on the part of His Noodliness. Ramen!

Also, Pastafarians are the only ones who have a logical explanation for global warming. According to the teachings of His Noodliness, the decline of naval piracy has been a direct cause of temperatures rising across the globe. Oh, you want proof? Ever notice that there aren't nearly as many pirates as there were a few hundred years ago? And is it hotter or colder now? Check and mate, my friend! And not only to Pastafarians know what's causing it, they know what to do about it! Dress like a pirate! Think about it. If you would only take the time to dress like a pirate, global warming would be a thing of the past, but you won't because you're too busy worshipping some other, STUPID deity like Heimdall. Seriously - Heimdall? Are you out of your mind? Heimdall is an ass. I don't care whom I offend, but there it is.

I could go on and on - did you know that the Pastafarian afterlife has a beer volcano? What the hell are you waiting for - the FSM to appear in your next plate of spaghetti? Stop your sacrifices to Morrigan and get with the program already! To learn more about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Pastafarianism, check out the official website.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where are they getting this crap from?

No doubt you've seen the clip where John McCain was forced to defend Barack Obama against some of McCain's very own supporters. In case you haven't:

What I have to wonder is - who's to blame for this deadly combination of ignorance and hatred? Is it McCain? I don't think so - but why would this woman think that Obama is an "Arab"? And why would she think that that alone should be reason not to trust him?

She said that she had "read" about him. What the hell exactly is she reading? Obviously some source that not only doesn't know the difference between Arabia and Kenya, but a source that's obviously Islamaphobic, as I'm sure that what she was referring to was that she believed that he was a Muslim.

A few weeks ago, I got into an online debate with somebody who insisted that there was evidence that Obama was a Muslim. In fact, the debate even started with this person declaring that Obama took his oath on the Koran. Should I point out the fact that we shouldn't necessarily worry about a guy just because he's a Muslim? I mean, if he's a fundamentalist who believes in taking the Koran literally, then yeah, that's something to worry about - but I also worry about anybody who takes the Bible literally. I also have to wonder if these people are aware that we have Muslims in office in this country, and believe it or not, they haven't enacted shariah law or started to make plans to bomb us.

But again, where are these people getting this sort of thing? And why are there people who believe that Obama is a terrorist? Don't believe me? Check this out:

Personally, I do blame the McCain campaign for this. At least, I blame Sarah Palin, who keeps repeating that Obama "pals around with terrorists." While there certainly may be some cause for concern over the fact that he had a relationship with William Ayers, a former domestic terrorist, her statement is disingenuous. The thing is, "Joe Six Pack" hears a statement like that and concludes that Obama is palling around with the likes of Osama bin Laden. Now, you might be saying, "Oh, come on, people aren't really that stupid." I hate to break it to you - but yeah, people really are that stupid. And what's disgusting about this is that Palin knows that's exactly what's going to happen, but she gets to avoid any guilt because she didn't make that exact same statement.

It's pretty much the same thing as the Bush Administration, as they repeatedly talked about how Saddam Hussein supported terrorists and had ties to Al Quaeda. Of course, that's not the same thing as saying that Hussein was responsible for 9/11, but how else do you explain why the majority of the country believed that very thing to be true? Where the hell else were they getting it from? Of course, Bush and his cronies get to say that they never made that statement, but they obviously didn't have a problem with people believing that.

I also blame a lot of right-wing pundits who keep saying the "Barack Hussein Obama" thing over and over again. (One blogger even makes sure to both bold and italicize the "Hussein".) When asked why they're doing it, they play innocent and say, "That's his name, isn't it?" Let's ignore the fact that they're basically engaging in the kinds of games that teenagers do. What they're doing is fanning these flames of hatred by repeatedly trying to make some sort of connection with Obama and a ruthless dictator, never mind the fact that in some parts of the world, "Hussein" is about as common as "Chris".

And again, if you don't believe me, how else do you explain why some of those people in the video respond to the question as to whether Obama is a terrorist or not with, "Just look at his name!"

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Looks like the holidays are coming up again, and that can only mean one thing - tacky lawn crap.

Now, I'm not against decorating the front of your house for the holidays. There is one house on my block where the owner decorates for Halloween and Christmas. They really go all-out, and you can tell that they spend a lot of time on it. For instance, the front window has a Halloween display with cobwebs, pumpkins, and even a life-size Spider-Man (that I will steal eventually). During Christmas, they weave lights throughout the plants in the front, and there's a little display with a snowman along with Santa and his reindeer. It's cheery without being overbearing or gaudy.

What I can't stand is the crap that people put on their front lawns that shows that they didn't take any time whatsoever to do their decorating. I'm referring to those big inflatable snowmen, snowglobes, Santa Clauses, etcetera (and even a big turkey for Thanksgiving). How much effort does it take to just plop that big piece of crap on your lawn? Not much, I'd reckon.

Because let's face it, they don't even look that good. They're tacky and all I see are a bunch of eyesores around my neighborhood when I see those things. There's one house where they have a ton of them, and they even put them up on top of the roof. (Okay, I guess that takes a little bit of effort, I suppose.)

A few years ago, Kirsti and I did a little online window shopping just to see how much people are even paying for these things. The cheapest ones we saw were around $50! Some were around $150! Holy crap! What a way to announce to the neighborhood that not only do you have bad taste, but you also have too much money on your hands.

One of these years, I'm going to go around popping those damned things.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jason Versus the Clash

A big part of the freshmen English curriculum at my district is Greek Mythology. The main reason for this is that it's basically the backbone of all western thought (well, that and The Bible). There are so many references to the Greek myths throughout art and literature that a basic knowledge of the myths makes everything that comes later on (especially Shakespeare) much clearer.

Personally, I like to spend a lot of time on it. I manage to fill up the entire first quarter with Greek mythology. I give notes on all of the major gods and goddesses, and they read stories about Hercules, Pyramus & Thisbe, and Perseus (the last one I wrote my own version of it - perhaps I should post that to my blog some day). Considering that this unit covers so much time, I'm usually able to fit in at least two movies (if you don't count the assorted clips I show of Troy while they take their notes on Achilles and The Trojan War). I show O Brother Where Art Thou? after we finish The Odyssey, but about a month before that I show Jason and the Argonauts.

I know of a few other teachers who like to show Clash of the Titans, as that's a retelling of the Perseus myth. I like Clash, and I fondly remember seeing it with my father and older sister in the theater when I was just a little kid. Still, I only show a couple of scenes from that one, as I feel that Jason is the far superior film. Not only that, but they already got the Perseus story by reading it in class. This way, they get to learn yet another myth, but they get to take a break from all of the reading and note taking and learn it by watching the movie.

So, here are my reasons why Jason and the Argonauts is a better choice for a Ray Harryhausen Greek Myth/monster fest than Clash of the Titans.

#1: It's more true to the original myth. While they both take liberties with the story and swap out one monster for another, Jason is basically more like what the original story was all about. It's your basic quest archetype (think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) where the hero has to retrieve a magic object that will restore a land to its former glory. That's the myth, and that's the movie. With Clash, Perseus is motivated by his desire to rescue the princess Andromeda. In the original myth, he just happens upon her while flying home. Basically, the movie overemphasizes the love story while detracting from what the story was really about.

#2: Hercules. I love the actor who they got to play Herc in Jason. There really aren't any performances that stand out in Clash. (To be fair, they're both filled with a lot of B-movie acting, but some of those actors play it off better than others.) Also, it's a good teachable moment when he abandons the quest for the Golden Fleece. (A major part of hero stories, and our the stories of our own lives, is that oftentimes we must get through our challenges without the aid of those who could help us best.)

#3: Jason is a more interesting hero. I've seen Clash dozens of times, but Perseus doesn't have anything about his personality that's particularly memorable. Jason, however, has a rebellious spirit. He openly questions the gods, and he (quite subversively, if you think about it) declares that the "gods of the Greeks are cruel! Some day men will learn to live without them!"

#4: You don't have to explain how once upon a time it was okay to show a woman's bare breasts and still have the movie be rated PG. That's right, Clash has boobs in it, and it even has some bare back female nudity. There's nothing sexual or inappropriate about it, but obviously there would be some who would beg to differ. In Jason, all the women are always completely clothed. (Of course, the bare breasts in Clash can be looked at as a plus on its side, but I'm writing about why it's not as good to show in the classroom.)

#5. Skeleton army. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The line

I consider myself to be a pretty liberated man. I do all the cooking, I'm not afraid to show my emotional side, and I can handle it when my wife goes out for the evening to hang out with her friends.

Kirsti and I took a class tonight where I learned a little something. Apparently, adoptive mothers can also nurse-feed. I always figured that all the right hormones that came with pregnancy had to be in affect in order for that to work. Turns out, not so much (although an adoptive mother would probably not be able to produce enough milk on her own in order to properly feed the baby.)

It also turns out that under the right conditions, men can lactate and nurse a baby as well.

That's it. That's my line. I'm too damned macho for that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bigger than Jesus

At the height of their popularity, John Lennon was said to comment that The Beatles were "bigger than Jesus." A lot of people got upset about that, but he was right. When he later got to clarify what he meant, he elaborated and said that he wasn't trying to say that they were "better" than Jesus, but they were simply more important to a lot of people than Jesus was. And again, he was right. Still, even with his clarification, few people want to hear that sort of a thing. There were all sorts of boycotts and destruction of various Beatles albums and memorabilia, and that is why nobody has heard of The Beatles to this day. At least, the people who live on caves on Mars have not heard of them (some of those folks, anyway).

Looking back on my childhood, I wasn't really raised with any kind of traditional religious background. My mother taught me to believe in God (you know, the real one - not those phonies like Poseidon, Heimdall, and Vishnu). My father pretty much went along with what my mom believed - at least that's how I remember it anyway. I also had a book called My Book of Bible Stories. I remember going through that book a lot, and I really enjoyed most of the stories, as after all, it's better than actually reading the Bible. In fact, I liked it so much that I picked up a copy from the Jehovah's Witnesses (the book is published by the Watchtower Society) so I can share it with my child some day. They were giving out their books for free, and they said that there was no obligation if you took one. I felt that it was polite to at least talk to the guy, and we had a nice conversation where I told him that I had fond memories of that book.

Beyond that, my Mom would tell me things like how Jesus was there with me during difficult times. I remember this specifically when I was in the hospital getting my appendix taken out. It had burst, and it was a pretty major surgery. That was a nice feeling - knowing that Jesus was hanging out in the hospital room with me. In a way, I will honestly say that I kinda miss that sort of feeling, but of course, just because something makes you feel good, that doesn't make it real. Other things now help me get through the difficult times, but Jesus sure did a nice job.

In all honesty though, if I really look back on my childhood, Jesus wasn't the most important thing to me. For me, I was much more interested in the two things that I'm still just as interested in now: Star Wars and superheroes. The stories of Luke Skywalker, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc. had just as much resonance with me as the stories of Jesus, Moses, and Noah. In some cases, they had even more.

I think the thing is why they appealed to me so much, especially Star Wars, was that I didn't have to try and convince myself that it made sense. I could get the spiritual message from the story without having to reconcile things that were completely irrational and unreasonable. I specifically remember having a hard time with the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his own son. (Yeah, yeah, I know how it ends - still, seemed like a messed up thing to even ask in the first place.) I also had some serious issues about why God would flood the entire Earth because humankind was wicked. I mean, why did he have to kill bunny rabbits, giraffes, kangaroos, etcetera too? What did they ever do wrong? Of course, there's also the whole issue of dinosaurs, because as a kid I loved them (still do, really) and I always had a hard time making sense of just where the hell they fit in.

Now that I've been teaching a lot of mythology over the years, I understand the connections between ancient myths, religious stories, and even our modern myths. I see the similarities between the stories of Jesus, Zeus, and Superman. (All three were threatened as a child and were sent to be raised elsewhere until they could claim their birthright.) It's not so surprising that things like Star Wars have such a huge appeal to little kids - they have all the basic parts of those old myths without all of the dogmatic baggage that comes with religion. You just get to enjoy it and get your own meaning from it without somebody telling you what to think about it.

I vaguely remember that when I was little I started to make some of these connections. I remember talking with some Jehovah's Witness friends of my mother (she never converted to the religion, but she did follow some of their traditions and practices without going full-bore Kookdom Hall on us). I was probably not any older than ten or so, and I was trying to explain the lesson of Yoda regarding the force and how he told Luke Skywalker that he should only use it "for knowledge or defense, never for attack." I tried to relate it to the lessons of Jesus, and while I didn't have the proper vocabulary for that sort of a thing (and I was a bit too impressed with such Jimcrack philosophy) I was really getting somewhere with it. What was their response? Well, I don't remember their exact words, but they were definitely less than encouraging with my particular train of thought. After all, if I kept thinking like that, then I might have started to think that the story of Jesus was fiction much in the same way that Luke Skywalker's was, and...oh, crap. Okay, they had good reason to worry about that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Evil may win

Now that the pro-Prop 8 ads have been coming out, where they've been lying to the people about what it all means, there are some polls that show that support for it is starting to rise, and perhaps the constitutional ammendment to ban gay marriage might just pass after all.

I can't describe the feeling that I have right now. It's like a weight pushing down on my chest, and my eyebrows are starting to furrow when I think of it. (Most folks who know me well know this expression that I make when I'm upset.)

I feel like I need to do something. I'm not sure how good it will do, but I'm going to have to make a sign and stand somewhere. I want to be counted amongst those who are against this.

Many of you who read this live far away from me. Some of you live close. To the latter group - are any of you willing to join me if and when I come up with something more specific?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Budweiser American Ale - My Verdict

I posted some time ago that I was actually looking forward to trying Budweiser American Ale, Bud's attempt to reach into the craft beer customers like me. I had read about it, and I even checked out their website. I was impressed that the site and the advertisements went into the process of making the beer and emphasized taste above everything - instead of the ad being about which good looking women will want to be with you when you drink it. (To be fair, they also tried the whole "quality" angle when advertising Bud Select, and that stuff is only slightly better than cat piss.) When they described it, it sounded like something that I would like.

I've been having a devil of a time trying to find it though. I read that it would come out at the end of September, but none of the stores around me were carrying it. I also checked out this one liquor store in Concord that has a really great selection of beers from all over the world, and the guy told me that they hadn't decided yet if they wanted to carry it or not.

So, I tried my last hope - BevMo. They had it, and I picked up a six pack for $6.99 - certainly not cheap, but not too expensive either. I figured that even if I didn't like it, I would be able to use it for my super-awesome chicken marinade, as it's the right kind of beer for that sort of a thing.

I've had a couple of them now. I had one before bed last night, and I had one with my Thai red curry chicken dinner just a couple of hours ago. What do I think? I think it's pretty darned good. Have I had better? Oh yeah, but I've certainly had worse. It's smooth, highly drinkable, and refreshing without being bland and watery. There's just enough malty sweetness to make it interesting, and the hops are somewhat citrusy (I read that somewhere before I tried it, but I agree with that assessment) and not overpronounced. It also finishes clean and doesn't have any kind of a funky aftertaste.

It was good on its own, but for me, beer is a compliment to a meal, and it passed the food pairing test with flying colors. It went down real nice, and this is the kind of ale that goes well with pretty much everything - especially pizza, I would imagine. (Hmmm...I have leftover pizza that I can have for dinner tomorrow - I'll follow my own advice.)

Will I buy it again? Well, I don't buy a lot of beer since I tend to make my own, and when I do buy something, I tend to buy German-style lagers, as I don't have the means to make those kinds of beers (yet). This isn't that far off from some of the ales that I make, so it's not too likely that I'll be picking up another six pack anytime soon. All that said, if I didn't make my own beer, then I could easily see myself picking this up. I'd probably only get it at a sale price instead of paying what I did, but I'd definitely get it again.

Also, if I'm ever in a restaurant, and they have that and all the other choices are the usual Bud/Miller/Coors offerings, then I will gladly order one. I'd also be more than happy to have a bottle or two if I was at a party or a friend's house where there were some available.

So, if you're the type who usually buys craft beers, then I'd say wait until they have this one on sale. If you're the type who drinks regular Bud (or some equivalent), and you're curious about branching out a little, then I'd say that you should definitely check this one out. It's not too drastic, but it definitely has more flavor than what you're used to drinking, and you might wind up pleasantly surprised. Personally, I hope that this will serve as a "gateway" beer for people, and craft beers will start to become the norm.

Why do I care what people are drinking? I don't on a personal level, but I if everybody's drinking the good stuff, then there will be even more of it available for me to choose from at the store, bars, and restaurants.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Just saw Religulous

There may be some spoilers in this entry for those of you who are planning on seeing it. If so, you might want to skip this one and come back to it later. I'll try not to be too specific and give away any of the funnier bits though.

For those of you who don't know, Religulous is Bill Maher's movie where he basically makes fun of religious beliefs. For the most part, he goes after the Christians, but the Jews, Muslims and Scientologists aren't spared either. The Buddhists are left alone, and so are the Hindus. I'd imagine that he didn't bother with them because it's intended for an American audience, and neither one of those religions have a big enough of an impact on our society to really matter.

In many ways, the movie was better than I thought it would be. I was actually surprised as to how the film portrayed religious people. The concept is basically just Maher going around and asking questions about religious beliefs, and sometimes the answers that he receives are funny enough on their own, but sometimes little humorous clips and subtitles are added for comic effect. Surprisingly enough, many of the religious people he speaks to don't come across as being completely nuts. Oh sure, the things that they believe are nutty, but the people themselves come off as pretty decent. He manages to avoid being condescending, and many of the segments end with him sharing a laugh with the people. Of course, there are some people who are just so intractable that he can't get anywhere with them, but overall most of them come off as good, reasonable people who just happen to have a few unreasonable beliefs. (Ironically enough, considering the flack that Maher has given Catholics in the past, there are two Catholic priests who come off as being really reasonable in the film, as they tended to reject Biblical literalism and various nonsensical dogmas.)

Of course, there are a lot of people out there who are going to judge this film without seeing it. Also, there are some people who are going to hate it for the very fact that Maher does what everybody should be doing - he asks questions. Also, from what I could tell, he doesn't misrepresent anybody's beliefs - which is a favorite tactic of the right in order to discredit their opposition. When he points out that the "good man" Lot offered up his daughters to be raped by the crowd, he's not making that up. I've read that part of The Bible; I know it's there. When he talks about how Mormons believe that the Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel, and that they believe in magic underwear, he's not making that up either. When he talks about The Bible talking about a person living in the body of a whale (or "big fish" - like that makes more sense) for three days, he's not twisting things around. It's not his fault that those things sound crazy when you actually say them out loud.

A really good question that he had was when he asked somebody if their parents had raised them to believe that the Jonah and the "big fish" story was a fairy tale, and the story of Snow White (that might not be the exact fairy tale that he referred to - but the point is still the same) was religious truth, would they be able to tell the difference? Is there something about the Jonah story that's more logical where you'd be able to discern that there's something inherently different about it than the average fairy tale? Of course, nobody could give him a straight answer on that one - or if they did, they didn't include it in the movie. If you have a straight answer, then I'd love to hear it.

The most disturbing thing in the movie was when the Passion was being enacted at a Bible theme park in Florida. Every time Jesus would get punched, kicked, slapped, etc., the audience would applaud. What the hell? Look, I understand Christian theology (well, I don't understand it, but I know what it is). I get it that his death was an act that allowed us all to be forgiven. Still, is the appropriate response to applaud every time he gets a beating? I'd think that maybe one should be reverent and thoughtful or something - but applause? What the hell is wrong with these people?

One other good point that he had was regarding those Christians who insist that we're living in the end times. While that's all good and fine, and people can believe whatever they want, should we really feel comfortable with people like that running our country? As he asked, what's their motivation for making this world a better place if they think that it's all going to end soon anyway?

Lastly, I thought that he said something pretty insightful regarding Muslims and the violence that stems from the religion. While the vast majority of Muslims are indeed peaceful, they don't want to discuss the shortcomings of their religion with outsiders. I think that a lot of Christians are like that, but it makes sense that Muslims are particularly defensive, as they obviously don't want to associate themselves with the Bin Laden-types out there.

Overall though, I doubt that it's going to do much for those who already true believers. It exists to make people like me feel like we're not alone in this country - that there are those who are willing to question the sacred cows of our society. It will probably also help out those who are sitting on the fence realize just what the heck some of these religious folks believe.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Curse of the comics collection

I've been putting off writing my blog today, as I've spent a good chunk of my time going through my comic book collection. The thing is, I've been collecting for more than 20 years now, so that adds up to quite a collection - despite the fact that over the past several years I've probably gotten rid of at least 1,500 of them. Still, the collection just grows and grows, and I'm always looking for a new way to save some space.

Never one to figure something out right away, I recently discovered that a large bulk of the volume of my collection, aside from the comics, are the individual bags for each one - and even moreso, individual backboards for each comic. While I'm not as anal-retentive as some comics fans are, I do like to keep them looking nice, and the bag and board helps to accomplish this.

Anyway, what I figured out is that if I got Silver Age sized bags, I could fit between 6-8 comics in each bag, and then only have one board for all of them. This might not sound like a big deal, but when the collection numbers in the thousands, I've probably saved about 15-20 feet of space just by doing this. Even though I have bought a lot of comics in the past few years, my collection now takes up considerably less space than it used to do.

So, they're all re-bagged now, but now I have to get them all back up on the shelf. I might be up a little later than normal tonight, because once I get an idea in my head to do something, I rarely stop until it's finished.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Rebooting Skull-Head and Horn-Head

I just read that one of my favorite comic book characters, Daredevil, is going to get the "reboot" treatment. You know, kinda like what they did for Batman with Batman Begins, then later did for James Bond with Casino Royale. They're going to make a new movie and completely ignore the previous entries (or entry, as in the case of Daredevil). I think that this is good news, as the last Daredevil movie really didn't hit the right note.

While I don't think that it was awful, it certainly wasn't very good either. There were certainly some things that I liked, and it was definitely better than the Daredevil portrayal of Rex Smith in the Trial of the Incredible Hulk TV-movie. It was also cool to see a lot of things from the comics get recreated up on the screen. The biggest problem, aside from the totally uneven tone, was that the director was almost too reverential to the comics. He was trying to incorporate elements from two major Daredevil story arcs, along with various other tangents, into one movie. Personally, I think that it's better for the comics to simply inspire the story and let the movie tell its own kind of tale. That's what was so good about Batman Begins - it didn't really follow any one particular story arc from the comics, but it was really obvious that the people behind the movie were well-versed in the comics lore.

Of course, Daredevil isn't the only one who's been getting the reboot treatment. Just last summer was The Incredible Hulk. Personally, I didn't think that the last one was that bad. Ultimately, it failed, but it had a lot of interesting ideas, and I wouldn't have minded seeing them continue with Eric Bana and Jennifer Connolly. I also don't think that it's as bad as a lot of people say that it was. To me, a really bad movie fails on every level - like Batman and Robin. Hulk certainly wasn't as bad as that. As for whether the reboot was an improvement or not, I'm sorta mixed on that. Basically, it aimed a lot lower, but unlike the last one, it hit the mark. It's a pretty solid action movie, but there really isn't anything more about it that I could say.

Coming up this winter, and probably unbeknownst to anybody but comic book geeks is Punisher War Zone. This one is completely ignoring the last Punisher movie, which in a way was a reboot of sorts, as it paid absolutely no attention to the old Dolph Lundgren movie. The last one was certainly an improvement over Dolph's, but it definitely wasn't good - and easily worse than both Daredevil and Hulk. There were a few scenes that I really liked a lot - mainly because they were lifted straight out of the comics, but if I didn't know that, then I wouldn't have thought anything of them, as they're surrounded by a really weak story that essentially goes nowhere.

I honestly don't have very high hopes for this one. While there have definitely been some good Punisher comics, it's pretty tough to make a movie with him for one major reason - The Punisher is not a good guy. He was initially created as an antagonist for Spider-Man and Daredevil (and he even got into it with Captain America once). Due to his popularity, he got his own series. When he works best in the comics, he's a total anti-hero, and I don't know if Joe Average American is ready for a character like that in a movie. It's a bit too nuanced for most people to have a protagonist who you are engaged in following his story, but you don't necessarily like or respect him. It's a tough act to pull off, and the last one tried to end with The Punisher in a heroic pose on a bridge, talking about how he's going to continue his fight.

That didn't ring very true because the guy is basically a psycho (even by superhero comic book standards). He not only takes the law into his own hands, but he's a killer - not exactly a good guy.

So, I'm not expecting much from the new Punisher movie, although the new actor, Ray Stevenson (a.k.a. Titus Pullo from HBO's amazing series Rome) definitely looks the part a lot better than Thomas Jane did. So, I'm holding out some hope for Daredevil. Personally, I think that the character could work better in a TV series (especially if it's inspired by the current comics written by Ed Brubaker, who's doing some really compelling, crime noir in the book), but I definitely think that Daredevil has what it takes to be the centerpiece of a great movie.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

VP debate and the facepalm

So, I watched the VP debate today. I was kinda hoping, in a schadenfreude kind of way, that Palin would say something really crazy, like how schoolchildren should be taught that Jesus rode a dinosaur while fighting the Civil War, but no such luck. There was one pretty dumb moment though, and that's when she said that she wanted to do something about climate change but didn't want to argue about what causes it.

Yeah. That's real smart. Problems are usually best solved when you don't examine the causes. Thank goodness that Biden took the opportunity to point out just how patently ridiculous that was.

As for Biden, his answers were the usual politician stuff. He came off as a pretty smart guy, and he always managed to quickly shift his answers to the talking points that he wanted to address. Palin did the same thing, but she doesn't even make a pretense of trying to answer the question. Also, I'm really getting the feeling that with conservatives, things like "facts" don't actually matter. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth, as Goebbels once said, eh? I mean, in both debates, the Republican said something, only to have the Democrat say, "Hey! That's not true. You can look it up - the truth is ________." Then what happens? The Republican later repeats the lie/distortion.

The thing is though, I feel that many people who already liked Palin are going to say that she won. Why? Because people are stupid, that's why. They're not going to look at things like facts and issues - they're going to be impressed by her folksy attitude, and her mentioning of things like kids playing soccer and "Joe Six Pack." (Is it just me, or is "Joe Six Pack" a name given to somebody who's basically a simpleton? Is this her base that she's referring to?) They're also going to like the fact that she said the word "maverick" over and over again. Again, thankfully Biden called her out on that. I don't know about you, but I'm going to puke lava the next time I hear that word. Also, my head is going to spin around like the little girl in The Exorcist if I hear the Republicans talk about how they're going to be the ones to bring change. I mean, is anybody really stupid enough to believe that? I mean, I can respect it when conservatives say that Obama is going to bring the kind of change that we don't need - but this whole catchphrase is really asinine.

I wonder what conservatives would talk about if they couldn't say the following words/phrases: maverick, activist judges, redistribution of wealth, etc. Not much, I'm guessing.

Shoot, I wish that I was playing Palin Bingo at the time. It would have made it more entertaining at least.