Thursday, January 28, 2010

All That Heavenly Glory

Lee: It is like a finger pointing away to the moon.


Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory!

People frequently hail me in the street. They sez to me, they sez: "Scribbler, I'm with ya on all that far-out meditation contemplation reflection stuff, but pondering your own death first thing in the morning? No offense, but that's some bizarre shit, borderline messed-up, you feel me, brah?"

So I sez to them, I sez: "First off, don't call me "brah". Only douchebags call people "brah".

With that out of the way, then I sez: "But yeah, I know what you're saying. It's not for everybody. Fortunately, there's something much less grim you can contemplate. Right above you. The moon."

I don't believe in the moon. I think it's just the back of the sun.

- The Janitor

Well, hey, to each his own. The thing is, it doesn't even matter. Call it what you want. What's important is this: that glowing orb has been there since life on earth evolved the capacity to look up and see it. We've gone from worshiping it to bombing it, and through it all, there it hangs, obvious yet unobtrusive, staring impassively down at us. This is what I find cool to think about: every person that has ever existed has taken notice of it. Spent some time staring up at it, dancing under it, writing poems and songs about it. Everyone, from homo habilis to you and I. Peasants and kings, heroes and villains, anyone with minimally functioning eyesight. Anyone from history you've ever cared to meet has passed the time gazing at it while lost in thought about earthly events. Even animals feel and react to its influence.

Now, maybe it's just this off-brand oven cleaner I've been huffing, but I find that contemplating that for a while really gives me a transcendent feeling of the literal interconnectedness of all life and the endless flow of time. It simultaneously makes my life feel more grounded while reminding me just how transitory and ephemeral my individual existence really is. And isn't that what meditation is all about?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Does This Hot Guy-On-Guy Action Make Me Look Gay?

I used to think it was way too clichéd to chalk up homophobia to repressed, inverted gay desires, but I swear...

Straight male clients will refuse to walk into a brothel that has a male gigolo on the premises, for fear of being pegged as gay or because there might be gay customers there, he said.

And as various Republicans have made abundantly clear over the last few years, people who are that concerned with making sure everyone knows how manly, straight, and DEFINITELY NOT GAY they are, know. I knew boys in first grade that weren't this paranoid about cooties from girls, for fuck's sake.

Switching gears a bit: One of my favorite amusements is listening to prank calls. I just love the surreal aspect of people being called out of the blue by someone they don't know saying all sorts of crazy shit, and having to adjust on the fly. Anyway, as you might expect, once the victim has recovered their wits somewhat, they start returning the abuse, and when both parties are male, you can expect a lot of generic "yo mama" insults, and, more germane to our topic, the usual homophobic kind. The really gobsmacking thing is the number of times that a victim can seamlessly transition from calling their tormentor a faggot, cocksucker, etc. to threatening to, uh, shall we say, anally and orally violate them should they ever manage to find out who and where they are. It's even funnier to note how often the people making those threats are your stereotypical rednecks, suburban gangstas and other meatheads obsessed with proving their machismo.

Dudes. I know there's this whole thing about how only the guy playing the traditional female role is "gay", but let's clear this up if we can: basically, having sexual intercourse with other guys is what makes you gay. Doesn't matter if you're pitching or catching. Walking into a building where gay guys happen to be doesn't do it. Talking to them, being friendly with them, even touching them -- none of those things actually make you gay. It's all about the sex. Conversely, if you do have sex with other dudes, no amount of troglodyte chest-thumping or violence will change that fact. Omar Little was more hardcore than any of you, and no one would deny that he was gay, least of all him. If only you all could just relax and accept it, we wouldn't have this confused mixture of sexual and violent urges which, of course, reaches its unfortunate pinnacle in the various forms of ultimate fighting. (The best thing Sacha Baron Cohen ever did was the scene in Brüno where he made out with a guy in the caged ring. The raw anguish on all those macho morons' faces as they felt their worlds collapsing was such a beautiful sight.)

A friend and I, back in our late teens, used to delight in provoking our local rednecks with our extra-long hair, supplemented by things like long, dangly earrings (in both ears, too, back when that weird rule about a pierced right ear signifying homosexuality was still in effect). I'm beginning to think it was the most radical and socially subversive thing I've ever done.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

These Sheep Were Made for Fleecin'

Why is Vox Day telling us that Haitians don't deserve or need our money? For the same reason he beats down bitches in the dojo: for their own good.

More importantly, at what point do people begin to recognize that because sending money to Haiti is the root of the problem, it cannot be part of the solution?

[...] The earthquake is not a sign that people should begin helping Haiti. It is entirely the opposite. It is a powerful warning that people must stop trying to help Haiti. Instead, they must leave the Haitians alone to help themselves, which, of course, it is possible they may not be willing to do after decades of dependence on external support.

Hey, it hurts him more than it does them, remember. Anyway -- it's safe to say that WorldNutDaily's readers are no doubt nodding along, feeling smugly superior to those voodoo children who are too stupid and immature to be trusted with money, and too lazy to find the severed lower halves of their legs so they can start pulling up on those bootstraps.

Meanwhile, if you click through to his column, you'll be greeted by ads that promise to teach you how to build a solar panel in ONE DAY to save 99% on your power bill, and how to discover what self-defense masters and the Army DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW. I'm tempted to see if refreshing the page will give me the inside scoop on how to add three inches to my equipment, make a hundred bucks an hour stuffing envelopes at home, get a master's degree online, and create a perpetual motion machine from the parts of that junked car on my front lawn. I mean, if I'm going to get that solar panel done in one day, I might as well find something to do on Sunday!

So while your initial reaction might have been to gasp in shock that anyone could be so heartless toward victims of a horrific natural disaster, I think it's far more understandable when you realize that these people have probably already given tons of money to Nigerian princes-in-exile; in fact, that's probably where they developed a suspicion about foreign black people supposedly needing money to begin with.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In My Dreams I'm Dying All the Time

Here's something strange: for some time now, and with increasing frequency, my first coherent mental activity upon waking has been a vivid sense of my own mortality. I mean, vivid. Like, lying on your actual deathbed-vivid. I've always had a strong disposition toward melancholy and morbidity, but this isn't the same thing. It's not an intellectual understanding of mortality, it's a pervasive feeling of it, into my bones, as if the disorientation of sleep has removed all the mental barriers we keep around us so as to be able to continue with our mundane activities. No more distractions — YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, with all the subtlety of a foghorn in your ear.

I can't really recapture that feeling once I'm up and moving around, so I've taken to getting up a few minutes earlier just to be able to sit and reflect on it while it lingers. I don't think too hard about it; I just try to observe it unobtrusively. Just acknowledging its existence and seeing how it affects me. As you can imagine, this was pretty jarring at first, but I've actually come to look forward to it somewhat. Not for any of the usual pragmatic, utilitarian, self-help rationales — I don't care if it lowers my blood pressure, or gives me a more balanced perspective on trivial irritations, or any of that shit. It just feels...right. Good for its own sake. More real.

The best part of waking up is Thanatos in your cup.

Fairness Doctrine

I seem to recall much chortling and other merrymaking a couple months ago around the pwoggiesphere when the lunatic fringe of the Republican party let their principles lead them into a crushing electoral defeat in a district they had held since Reconstruction. "Imagine being so rigid that you fight for what you believe in even if you think you might lose because of it!" was the basic theme.

So now, Democrats have lost a highly symbolic seat of their own and can't even console themselves with a sense of pride in their own integrity.

I am honor-bound to observe that the teabaggers have earned the right to exclaim, "Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Am the Scum That's Hated

Nobody likes me! Everybody hates me! Poor, poor me!

- Charlie Brown

Har har:

The North Carolina Democrat is viewed positively by only 15 percent of voters in his home state, according to the firm Public Policy Polling. That total makes Edwards the "most unpopular person we've polled anywhere at any time," conclude the survey's authors.

[...] "What we find is that Republicans will forgive you for cheating on your wife as long as you are a Republican," said Jensen. "Democrats are not forgiving Edwards."

An addendum: Republicans were probably just immensely relieved that Vitter and Ensign had the good sense to have affairs with women, not male prostitutes, undercover cops or teenage boys like most of their comrades. And who the fuck would forgive Edwards? Dancing on your wife's grave to the tune of the Dave Matthews Band? Jesus, what a sick fuck.

Remembering how this sanctimonious shitheel made such a display of wrestling with his conscience only to conclude that he's "just not there yet" when it comes to accepting gay marriage should make people go out of their way to punt him in the crotch every time they see him.

Time for Looking Forward

Since I took rather violent exception to a couple of posts by Digby last week, it's only right that I should acknowledge that she has taken pains to explain herself much more clearly.

The first would be through protest votes for a third party that resulted in Republican victory. (There is virtually no chance that any third party will ever gain real power short of a fundamental change in the way we elect our representatives, so protest is all it will be.) It's been done before. And if you can live with the idea of voting in a Republican party in the thrall of extremists that make Bush and Cheney look like Rockefeller Republicans, I suppose that might be the way to go. I won't judge you, but I am personally unwilling to put the world through any more of this failed right wing experiment at the moment.

Ain't got no major problem with that. And it seems clear that in her original post on this topic, she conflated the "cynics" she was attacking with the Nader supporters that TBogg was specifically attacking in the post of his that she enthusiastically linked to. I suspect she probably had bloggers like IOZ in mind, given his relentless needling of her, but didn't want to name anyone in particular. Me, I think it should pretty easy to ignore that sort of jeering if you want, unless your conscience is telling you there's a good deal of truth in what he's saying. Looks like the strain of trying to keep the faith in the Democratic party is wearing on her. But anyway, best of luck to her in trying to do that. I'll also say, with no sarcasm at all, that it would probably be easier to do that if she'd stop trying to reconcile the reality she sees with the rose-colored history she seems determined to hang onto.

There's still the issue of how exactly you expect your party to not take you for granted when you take every opportunity to assure them you're too terrified of the possibility of Republicans returning to power to even consider being unfaithful with your vote. Millions of evangelicals stayed at home in 2000 because of the news of Bush's drunk driving arrest decades earlier; you guys can't at least convincingly threaten to do the same over all the shit Democrats have handed you? If you're not willing to make some basic demands and walk away when they're not being met or at least taken seriously, you are not going to be respected or considered. This is just common sense and a basic understanding of human psychology; why does it seem so foreign of a concept here? Perhaps because of rhetoric like: "extremists that make Bush and Cheney look like Rockefeller Republicans".

See? Once again, the fearmongering starts ramping up. Yes, I know, we were dead certain that the last group was going to start World War 3, cancel the 2008 elections and declare Cheney Dictator-for-Life, but this time...! Take...a...deep...breath and say it out loud: the country will survive Republicans in power again. Rinse and repeat. The country has been through a civil war, an actual civil war, and come out intact; I think it can handle most things short of nuclear war (and let us not forget which charismatic, young, intellectual Democrat got us closer than any other president to an actual nuclear exchange). Bargaining is much easier when you're not hyperventilating.

I'll say here that I've always voted for Democrats as well when I have voted, but I don't begrudge anyone else feeling like they have to stick to their idealistic principles. I push back against thanksralph!ery because one, it's flat-out incorrect to blame him for Bush getting elected in 2000; and two, it's bullying, plain and simple. When you ignore several other, larger, more worthy targets of your anger in order to go after a smaller, weaker one, it says a lot about your own weakness. It's misplaced aggression, a sign that you've internalized your own lesser standing and are now just looking to make yourself feel better by kicking someone even lower than yourself. It's ironic to see how quickly all that "stupid, dirty, pothead hippie" rhetoric comes into play when respectable suburban liberals want to start bashing Greens and Nader supporters, especially given how these same people never get tired of preciously calling themselves "dirty fucking hippies". And yeah, ask any kid who grew up with an Angry Dad Who Knows What's Best For You, So Listen Up, Goddamnit -- how often did that attitude inspire respect and deference?

I once asked a thanksralph!er why they blamed the 90-odd thousand Nader voters in Florida - who, by definition, were not Democrats - for costing them the election while studiously ignoring the 200,000 Democrats who crossed over to vote for Bush. The answer: those were Democrats In Name Only and old Dixiecrats who had never bothered to change their party affiliation, but since most of the Nader supporters were lefties, they should have been willing to support the Democrats (and they were obligated to even if they didn't want to). Apparently, conservative Democrats have irreconcilable differences with the party and aren't worth bothering with, but extremely liberal Democrats, Greens and independents are just spoiled brats who need a lecture and a spanking.

Got that? Democrats aren't really Democrats. Which people really are Democrats, though? The people who aren't Democrats. Even Zen Buddhists would throw up their hands in despair over a koan like that.

I remember in 2004, when the whole pwoggiesphere spent months and months obsessing over Nader running again, spewing all the venom and vitriol they could at him and anyone thinking of supporting him again. Of course, he had no discernible effect upon that election, but still, more than 50% of the population didn't bother to vote. You'd think, if the pwoggies had even a glimmer of self-awareness, they'd have taken away the lesson that their time might have been better spent trying to convince some apathetic non-voters to give it a shot rather than preaching to the choir and trying to extirpate all the heretics, but you would be wrong. Here we are again, with the emphasis being placed on trying to scare people to death over the possibility of Republicans in power, rather than stress the positive accomplishments of the past year that might persuade people to actively support the Democrats.

Oh, wait...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

People Have to Watch What They Say

You should be horse-whipped for the insult you have paid to the highest office of our nation.

[C]onsider what you imply. Obama will aid Haiti to please African-Americans. Haiti has lost untold thousands of lives. One third of the population has lost its homes. Countless people are still buried in the rubble. Every American president would act quickly to help our neighbor. You are so cynical and heartless as to explain Obama's action in a way that unpleasantly suggests how your mind works.

- Roger Ebert

Well, since we're going for the subtle approach here, maybe you could embed an audio track in your column that plays weepy string music? How about a picture of Jesus crying as he looks over the shoulder of rescue workers? I mean, relief efforts are not one bit dependent upon Rush Limbaugh finding it within himself to cease being a GOP propagandist for a brief spell, so please, ease up on the "Well I NEVER! How DARE you blah blah blah EVEN AS PEOPLE ARE DYING RIGHT THIS MINUTE..." stuff. A less generous reader than myself might find that a touch cynical.

He suggested Obama would steal money from people suffering horribly, and that he would give humanitarian aid at least partially due to calculating domestic political considerations. Given what we know our presidents have done, why is this so beyond the pale? Nixon could wax humanitarian over aid for Bangladesh while he was busy murdering Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians by the thousands. Reagan provided aid to El Salvador after an earthquake, and he still had no problems turning Central America on the whole into an abattoir. Clinton could feel people's pain while using crippling sanctions to kill nobody-knows-how-many Iraqis, and his secretary of state could calmly (and infamously) state on television that "We think the price is worth it." Jimmy Carter's famed humanitarian instincts? Side by side with the usual considerations of state power (and hey, look, more Haiti history!)

A particular claim may or may not be stupid (and this is Limbaugh, of course), but to start sputtering, gasping and choking because someone said the president is capable of unbelievably callous acts is either historically ignorant at best or an equally cynical act at worst. And yes, Haiti's suffering certainly has weighed heavily upon our minds for centuries, hasn't it?

Rush Limbaugh should be horsewhipped just on general principle. For being a gelatinous sack of fetid sewage, if you need a specific reason. But presidents were made to be insulted. It's an American tradition, by gawd, and one we should all enjoy. It's bullshit when you invoke "respect for the highest office of the nation" as a reason to censor the Dixie Chicks, and it's bullshit to try it now. And just to split hairs, the office and the man who occupies it at any given time are two different things.

Normal people do not seek power over what amounts, for all practical purposes, to the majority of the world's population. You have to be a cold-blooded sociopath, in part if not in full, to take on that position. Every day, presidents make decisions that adversely affect countless people, some in the most severe way possible. If they earn respect, fine. But they aren't entitled to a goddamned thing. Fuck all of them. Just because. And fuck anybody who has a problem with that.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't Mourn, Organize!

For all of you who wrote emails to excoriate me for my earlier post about the endless whining over the broken system, I really, really need for you all to read Noam Chomsky and then come back and we'll talk.

- Digby, hastily backpedaling

You keep invoking that man's name. I don't think you know what it means.

No, really, I have read all his political books, and I read his talks and essays on his website all the time too. So what do you want to talk about?

Let's start here. See if you can detect a, um, slight difference in tone:

Pick up your muskets, kids, or STFU.

- Digby

Grow the fuck up.

- TBogg, approvingly cited by Digby

Grow up.

- Matt Yglesias

Matt, bubby, it's "grow the fuck up."

- Sir Charles

"If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world."

- Noam Chomsky

Well! One of those, at least, was refreshingly reasonable and mature, even accepting of the idea that other people might not see it his way.

That man has been involved in politics longer than any of you, faced more hopeless struggles and setbacks (including the possibility of severe jail time for protesting the Vietnam war), and invested more time and energy worldwide into causes we all hold dear, even as mainstream liberals - much like yourselves - have done their best to piss all over him for the last several decades in order to make themselves look more appealing. And as far as I'm aware, he's done it without ever condescendingly treating people like immature and unrealistic little kids who need some authority figure to take them by the ear and beat them into understanding what's best for them. I mean, hey, you're the savvy "realists" here; you go right ahead with this can't-miss strategy of insulting and guilt-tripping people into the voting booth when they refuse to buy into your fearmongering Armageddon scenarios. That is, unless you want to do some hard, thankless work and invest countless hours into repeating the same patient encouragement to an endless line of people who are disheartened, demoralized and looking to vent about it.

Like he has. For decades.

What? You thought it would be easy or something? Really, all it takes is some grumbling from readers and the possibility of midterm election setbacks to make you folks go bug-eyed and start foaming at the mouth? Weak, man, very weak. Maybe you guys should just stick to pet pictures and dick jokes.

What precipitated my post is an intense impatience with this endless, cynical posturing about how everything's rigged and there's no point in anything. That's fine if you think that, plenty of people do, but I can't for the life of me figure out why you aren't watching a sporting event or playing a video game instead of commenting on a political blog. The only thing I can assume is that you want to bully people who still give a damn and that's just jackass behavior.

Blink. Blink. You know, one could suggest that the thanksralph!ers, the people who never pass up a chance to bash actual leftists while stroking themselves silly for being "dirty fucking hippies" (even if they are suburban-dwelling professionals driving their SUVs to Starbucks), the people who devote their time to preemptively blaming anything bad that happens politically for the next decade on insufficient enthusiasm for Democrats, and other sundry apologist assholes who have jettisoned every last bit of idealism, are actually the ones guilty of bullying people who "still give a damn". And again, maybe those cynical complainers are just venting their frustration, since they know their elected officials don't give a bouncing fuck what they think.

Sure, sometimes political compromise has worked for the best, and sometimes what looked worthless at first turned into something better over time. By the same token, however, sometimes it's been the fanatics and the idealists who refused to sit down and shut up who made things happen that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

Dispatches from Pillow Fort Ticonderoga

Ran out of Cheetos four days ago. Can't reach the Xbox controller. The stench of unwashed sweatpants is everywhere. Now Blogger is down. When will it end, dear God, when will it end?

Shrill notes of hysteria creeping in:

It's indisputably true that the political system is run by wealthy plutocrats and much of what passes for democracy is kabuki. Same as it ever was, I'm afraid. But that's not exactly the point. It's still worth participating, doing what you can, containing the damage, stopping the bleeding, fighting the fight --- for its own sake. After all, history shows that humans have managed, somehow, to actually make progress over time. You just can't know what will make the difference.

If you don't think that's worth anything, however, you do have a choice. The obvious alternative, as PinNC wrote in TBOGG's comments, is this:
If you really think that the political system is broken beyond repair, you have a blueprint from the 1770s to help you out.

Pick up your muskets, kids, or STFU.

Just to be clear, what Digby is saying is: if you're anything other than a Republican, you either shut your fucking ungrateful pieholes and keep voting for Democrats no matter what they actually do, or you start an armed revolution. There are no other choices. I love the smell of desperation and flop sweat in the morning.

It is true that you "just can't know what will make the difference." On that note, perhaps even refraining from participating in a useless charade might bring about the change we need! Who says it has to be forward action? Why not passive resistance? We're getting all Tao Te Ching up in here now!

But really, it apparently hasn't occurred to her that "participating, doing what you can, containing the damage, stopping the bleeding, fighting the fight" is not restricted to voting for candidates for national office. There are all sorts of ways to be active for social and political issues that don't depend on being a fearmongering partisan hack for the left wing of the Big Business party. (Noam Chomsky, to name an example that Digby just cited a couple weeks ago, apparently while remaining unaware of much he's ever said, has talked about this more times than anyone can count.) Ironically, if Mobetta Democrat bloggers like her hadn't successfully convinced so many people otherwise, she wouldn't be seeing so many frustrated, despairing comments on her blog from people who have no other outlet for venting. If you get people all worked up into a fever pitch over how the Democratic party is all that stands between us and the Republicans WHO OH DEAR SWEET JEEBUS WILL MURDER THE PLANET MAYBE EVEN LIFE ITSELF IF THEY WIN THIS ELECTION AIIIEEEE, and they see those Democrats consistently underperform beyond anyone's expectations, what the hell do you expect them to say?

She quotes Chris Hayes as saying, "In an oligarchy, the only way to get change is to convince the oligarchs that it is in their interest--and increasingly, that's the only kind of change we can get." Well, Digby, how exactly is it in the Democrats' interest to bust their ass for you when you've already assured them you'll vote for them no matter what? "Let's see: I work hard to push a liberal agenda, risk my political career, they vote for me. I spit in their face and tell them to suck my ass while I coddle a small group of independent voters, they vote for me. Decisions, decisions!" They don't fear any retribution from you, and they were never your friends to begin with, so what do you have left?

As the wise elders of the blogosphere keep telling us, politics is all about negotiation and compromise. The art of the possible. And these are the realistic grownups? The ones who think you begin to bargain by immediately informing the other person that you so desperately want what they have (or want to keep someone else from having it), you'll give them everything they want and then some?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Motherfucker of Invention

I know all the reasons why I shouldn’t swear: It’s offensive, in many cases it’s profane. It makes people think less of you, that you are less classy or educated. It’s definitely unprofessional (I think that’s when I realized it was an issue– I was known for my swearing).

But I still long for the renaissance of the well-turned curse. NOT the blankety-blank-blank you blankity-blanking blinker shite, that is so prevalent these days. A delicious curse is a work of art– like a stunning insult, something they ought to compile in large tomes for the education of young minds. Where you combine a prodigious vocabulary to a better use than writing theses no one understands. (If bystanders knew what you were thinking, they’d probably appreciate the fact that they can’t understand what you’re saying a bit more.) Using simile to great effect is another hallmark.

- Feed the Spark

A kindred spirit! I, too, share this dream, and strive to embody it in my own writing (though I am not immodest enough to submit any of my own efforts for consideration). And I, too, favor the economical dagger-thrust of a carefully constructed curse to the indiscriminate automatic rifle-fire of your typical, trigger-happy f-word slinger. Not that I consider myself above such common expletives, as even a cursory reading of this blog will show. It's just that I also recognize the need to aspire to more at times.

On that note, heroes of mine, leaders by example: Barry Crimmins is, as far as I'm aware, the man responsible for giving us the word "dildoic" (also: "dildoically"), and I have no idea how we got along without it until then. I tip my hat to him (and just to assuage a tiny doubt, let me also bow my head in the direction of James Wolcott, who I think may have also used the word, though he may have been quoting Crimmins to begin with.) Both manage to season their eloquence with righteous anger and good old vulgarities as the situation calls for. I even harbor a slight suspicion that Wolcott's frequent posts on ballet are just there to help disguise what a rhetorical cutthroat he really is, to lull potential victims into carelessness.

And if it's antiquated verbosity you look for, I still find this book to be entertaining, sometimes even useful, though the unfamiliarity of the words probably make them better choices for writing than speaking.

...forgot to add earlier: I've always been impressed by the effort Spanish-speakers put into their curses. Some of my favorites:

Me cago en las tetas de la Virgen María para que el Niño Jesús chupe mierda! (I shit on the tits of the Virgin Mary so that Baby Jesus sucks shit!)

Mecagum les cinc llagues de Crist! (I shit on the five wounds of Christ!)

Me cago en Dios y los 365 santos del año! (I shit on God and the 365 saints of the whole year!)

Mecagum Deu, en la creu, en el fuster que la feu i en el fill de puta que va plantar el pi! (I shit on God, on the cross, on the carpenter who made it and on the son of a whore who planted the pine!)

Monday, January 11, 2010


I am magnanimous.

How magnanimous, you ask?

This much: I will agree with Ross Douchehat when he says that we need to stop freaking out over public expressions of faith. I much prefer a Christian who will honestly tell me that blind faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven and threaten me with hellfire to one who hides all that venom behind "Oh, bless your heart!"-style passive aggression. Preach yourselves hoarse, my friends. God is still dead and all is right with the world.

I won't even dwell on how it's highly unlikely that he somehow managed to innocently miss the fact that what people are mostly upset about is that news anchors are traditionally supposed to make an effort to be impartial and objective, and refrain from using their airtime as their own personal soapbox. Even here, I say, what's the big deal? It's Fox, for fuck's sake! They just hired you-know-who! Why aren't we simply glad that they're no longer going to pretend?

Take a deep breath. Enjoy the important things, like the fact that today, we get treated to headlines about Harry Reid and "Negro dialect" alongside others examining the important issue of Rod Blagojevich's blackness. How can you not laugh at white people trying to discuss racial issues with all the grace of a drunk walking on ice?

If I get any more laid-back, I'll slip into a coma.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Priapus Forgives Him

Apparently we're all shocked now because some Fox News personality departed from the standards of professional journalism that are the network's stock-in-trade in order to tell Tiger Woods to get right with Jeebus. Am I the only one who finds this immensely amusing?

Jowly talking basset-hound says:

"The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith," said Hume. "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of redemption and forgiveness offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger is, 'Tiger turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

But lo! A rejoinder comes by way of a, uh, jowly, gravel-voiced, mumbly-puss shock jock and noted theologian:

The Don Imus show crew reported that Hume doesn’t quite have his facts straight on Buddhism."

According to Imus, "Well, we checked this morning and unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately if you are a Buddhist, there is a path to recovery and redemption. Right? Well yes there is. The idea of redemption — nirvana under Buddhism — is achieving the state of being freed from greed, hate, and delusion."

Now, it should be said that Hume is probably correct. After all, the Christian God famously knocked up another man's wife, so if anyone would commiserate with Tiger's wanderlust, it would be him. Though, really, if being a man-whore is your thing, you should probably look to the Greek pantheon for sympathy. Who didn't those gods sleep with?

However, I have to nitpick with Imus's "Buddhism in 30 Seconds" seminar too -- it's my understanding that the whole thing about achieving nirvana is the realization that there is no one to be forgiven or redeemed in the first place. The self is a fiction, the ultimate delusion. People don't have permanent essences.

But perhaps that will all be covered in depth on Glenn Beck's next show.

Curious Rhetorical Devices I Have Noticed

No one ever thinks they're stupid. It's part of the stupidity!

- Det. Ray Cole

Assert your rugged individuality against the faceless masses! 100% RISK FREE! How? It's easy!

First! Complain about some sort of behavior that everyone can agree to hate!

Second! Make sure that the behavior in question is assumed to be widespread, perhaps even omnipresent! It's no good to complain about something that only a furtive few engages in, say, child molestation. Nothing brave about that!

However! (And this is key!) Despite the assumed widespread prevalence of the behavior, you have to be unable to find a single person who would actually stand as a proud representative of it! This eliminates the risk of actually being taken to task for your statements!

Sample complaints drawn from real-life experiences: "I don't mind driving in the snow, it's just all those other idiots out there..." "I'm not one of those politically correct types who think/say..." "I'm not interested in all the trendy bullshit that passes for entertainment these days..." I bet you can think of a few yourself!

Finally! Enjoy basking in your adulation. You deserve it! You're a heroic individual! Not like all those brain-dead morons out there!

Mission Statement

First: I only attack causes that are victorious; I may even wait until they become victorious.

Second: I only attack causes against which I would not find allies, so that I stand alone – so that I compromise myself alone. – I have never taken a step publicly that did not compromise me: that is my criterion for doing right.

Third: I never attack persons; I merely avail myself of the person as of a strong magnifying glass that allows one to make visible a general but creeping and elusive calamity.

Fourth: I only attack things when every personal quarrel is excluded, when any background of bad experiences is lacking. On the contrary, attack is in my case a proof of good will, sometimes even of gratitude.

- Nietzsche

To expand a bit upon a recent discussion with a friend:

It's amusing to make fun of religion. But even as much as I enjoy it, I have to admit it's an easy target, at least in America. The cultural center of gravity has shifted here, so that "spirituality" has the sort of authenticity cachet that religion no longer does. In my opinion, the respect paid to religion here has just as much to do, if not more, with basic politeness and force of habit than any heartfelt conviction. In an interconnected, multicultural village, it's just passé to claim that one belief has an exclusive lock on the truth.

Therefore, in an attempt to somewhat live up to the above principles, I find it more relevant to attack spirituality. That's where all the cool kids hang out these days. So what exactly is my problem with it?

Most importantly - and I'm generalizing here, of course, by necessity - the fact that it retains the same metaphysical concepts, the same theoretical constructs, as traditional religion. The "spiritual-not-religious" trend is a superficial rebellion, a rebranding of the same old product, a way to give the appearance of freethinking individuality without having to actually risk the disorienting vertigo of true intellectual independence. As I just mentioned, it has more to do with a passing nod to current social norms of individuality and cosmetic diversity than any radical rethinking of values. Find me a self-described spiritual person who doesn't share with any hidebound Christian most, if not all, of these same basic concepts: souls, an afterlife, some type of moral yardstick against which human lives are being measured by someone (God) or something (karmic law), a teleological progression to existence. The only significant difference I see is that they like to cherry-pick other cultures and religions for concepts and terminology they can use to buttress their pre-existing conclusions without actually challenging any of them. All those different traditions have "important lessons" to teach us on our "spiritual journey", don't you know. But metaphysical bullshit is still metaphysical bullshit whether it comes from a fundamentalist Christian, a Tibetan Buddhist, a Sufi mystic, or even an evolutionary psychologist.

More to personal taste: I've always been irritated by how often people split the difference between two sides in an argument in order to pat themselves on the back for their reasonableness (as opposed to the irrational fanatics on either side of them). This person believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God, that person is a strict materialist, therefore they must both be equally wrong! Well, no, Goldlilocks. Truth is not always equidistant from two points of view of your choosing. I suspect that people frequently retreat to some vague concept of spirituality because the idea of outright atheism seems too certain to them, even if they can agree with most of the criticisms of the idea of a personal, loving god. As to why being certain in this regard is thought to be so foolhardy and reckless, I would suggest that even people who weren't raised as doctrinaire Christians have internalized the idea that one of the most offensive things you can possibly do to the Christian God is doubt his existence, however meekly and hesitantly. Safer to go with Pascal's wager.

And of course, the word "spiritual" itself just has too many metaphysical overtones for me. It implies the same old mind/body duality that has always plagued Western thought, the idea that our most cherished concepts, like beauty, truth, and joy, are somehow distinct from the everyday world, rather than arising from it and contingent upon it just like everything else.

I enjoy thinking about the big picture and my place in it. I experience states of mind that any mystic would recognize. I retain a sense of wonder about the mysteries of existence. And I cheerfully accept that none of those thoughts and feelings are going to survive the death of the brain and sensory organs that give rise to them. I just think that worldview is more properly described as "philosophical", or "reflective", or "contemplative", not spiritual.