Thursday, September 27, 2007

forgive me for posting this

I know, our lives are hard, and doing anything to bring more pain to your soul is wrong. But still... this yoda outfit...

conservative me

Every so often I let my convservative side out of his box. Actually, its more like a lair. And its furnished with Gucci.


me: Damn! How could conservatives get so bent out of shape about the Folsom picture? It obviously isn't meant to mock them, and it's funny!

conservative me: Oh? (arches eyebrow) You think it isn't supposed to be offensive?

me: No! I think it's a very arrogant worldview that assumes that a picture like that must be taking a swipe at you. Because clearly the world revolves around you.

c-me: And why do you think it's funny?

me: I don't know. It twists a popular work of art into something amusing and counter-intuitive.

c-me: Well, yes, but it doesn't take just any work of art. It takes a major Christian work of art and turns it into something very secular and worldly. I think part of your sense of irony comes from that secular twist.

me: I guess so.

c-me: So the joke is at least partly based on twisting something holy into something secular and carnal. And you don't get why that isn't offensive, or at the very least highly insensitive?

me: My initial reaction to that is to say "lighten the hell up." But I guess a more serious response would be that there is a serious difference between debasing a religious artwork for the sake of making a point about the suckiness of religion and playing with a religious artwork (or any piece of art) in order to make a secular joke. I certainly don't think this tries to be offensive.

c-me: It doesn't need to try. Clearly the authors view the subject matter (sex, leather, bondage, etc.) in a positive light. The humor, or at least a major part of the humor, comes from viewing the subject matter in an ironic light. So if the irony is to take something and suddenly view it in a positive light, what does that imply about the original subject matter?

me: Are you just being sophistic? Let me think this through... something like, "surprise, it's not that dull religion crap, it's really fun exciting sex stuff."

c-me: Yes... more or less.

me: No, I don't buy it. I mean, certainly that could be implied, just like it could be implied that this was intended to be a flat-out mockery of Christianity. But I don't think either of those readings are compelled by the picture itself. Rather, I think the tone of the picture is light-hearted, not mocking. Moreover, there isn't anything really to emphasize the religion angle at all in the picture. It floated past me the first time.

c-me: But you can at least see that you don't have to be an egocentric jerk to think that it is a mockery of religion.

me: Maybe, but that kind of claim is suspiciously limited. It seems to me like someone who insists on it is really refusing to see the other side.

c-me: Perhaps. Just one more point. Imagine the opposite. Imagine... Warhol soup cans with aborted fetuses on them or something. Wouldn't you think that was in bad taste?

me: Let's pretend that was a better example. Yes, I would. I would be thinking it was a cheap shot at using popular art to make a political point. I don't think the Folsom picture is trying to make a political point.

c-me: Fair enough.

(This really is how conversation in my head goes. I give various parts their own personality, and often they surprise me. I was surprised liberal me won that one so easily, actually. There's a connection between creative and crazy, I tell ya.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The more controversy there is over this image, the more I love it. I'll admit that it didn't click immediately with me that it was The Last Supper. Look carefully at the contents of the table. Several Christian groups are calling it "a slap in the face to Christians." Naturally, I disagree.

bad mental space day

I just spent roughly three hours in bed thinking "I'm hungry" before proceeding to my well-stocked pile of food downstairs to solve the problem. Down the street from me there is a park. In this park there are geese. These geese could use a little harassing to break the comfortable monotony of their lives. I think I am going to go provide this valuable social service to goosekind.

thought experiment

I have to work the night shift tonight, from midnight to 7am. This will undoubtedly give me way too much time to be alone with my thoughts.

And in the spirit of being alone with one's thoughts, here is a thought experiment I keep coming back to. What would the world be like if it were inhabited entirely by people who are exactly like you? Okay, maybe they don't all look quite like you, and there are still two genders, but personality-wise everyone is like you.

I think my world would be very peaceful. I also think everyone would starve after a while because people wouldn't really know how to go about getting food. Clothing would be optional. "Bad words" wouldn't be forbidden. There would probably be a lot of books around, but nobody would have the technical skill or insight to create a printing press, so any book written would likely be the only copy. Religion would be a lot more abstract and philosophical. Nobody would get Adam Sandler. Or Krzysztof Kieslowski movies. Or Metallica. Or Tom Delay. (Let's ignore the paradox). If technology got as far as TV, it would mostly play cartoons.

It would be an OK world, I think, but probably not one I would want to live in.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Conversation overheard today before work:

Guy buying sandwich: So where are you from?

Guy selling sandwich: Yemen.

Guy buying sandwich: Oh! What would I know that's around there? Is it like Turkish? Or Brazil? (more or less verbatim)

On another note...

I walked into work today, and my new boss gave me some advice on the job. He said: "Don't worry too much. Don't try to save the world. Did you see Pinnochio? You remember Jiminy Cricket? He said, 'Let your compassion be your guide.' Man, that's great advice. You look young. That could work for or against you. I tell you what though. Don't take this the wrong way. You ever see the Andy Griffith show? You remember Opie? You look like him. That's a great asset. Use it. You'll be fine."

I felt so relieved.


P.S. Opie.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

work starts tomorrow

Cue existetial angst in three, two, one...

Friday, September 21, 2007

shorter Fort Lauderdale controversy

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle: gays are ruining our beach with their public sex acts!

Almost everyone else in Fort Lauderdale: ... eh?

Coalition of Black Ministers: We agree with Naugle. Let's turn Fort Lauderdale into the Bible Belt of South Florida!

Mathis Guice, Koinonia Worship Center: We are in a war with Satan here! Look, my paramilitary garb proves it! We need to crush immoral behavior under the heel of God.

Rev. O'Neal Dozier: Not that we hate the faggots. Things have just gotten a little too (scare quote) gay-friendly (scare quote) around here.

Mayor Naugle: See, God believes me! $250,000 in single occupancy toilets is totally a good investment.

City of Fort Lauderdale
: um... We've only arrested two people since 2005 for this sort of thing...

Naugle: Silence, wench! It's been eight and you know it!

Gay activists
: Religious prejudice blah blah blah hateful speech blah blah blah we should welcome everyone blah blah blah.

Invisible hand of self-interest: Public morality on the one hand, millions of dollars in gay tourism on the other... well now let me mull this one over...

City of Fort Lauderdale: Hey, we need the extra $250,000 from somewhere...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

good news!

The Senate has just denied Guantanamo detainees the right of habeus corpus.
In response, millions of Americans yawned and went back to SpongeBob.
In other news, John McCain and George Bush have discovered the light of Scientology.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

sex work

Is it wrong to sell sex for money?

If you are reading this blog, you are probably liberal enough to not have any of the standard conservative strictures against sex itself. I think I speak for most of my audience in saying, have respect for yourself and your partner, protect yourself, and otherwise do what makes you happy. Audience, please feel free to correct me in the comments.

But what about sex for money? First off, is there anything inherently wrong about it? I am inclined to think not. I don't see why the exchange of money should alone should turn anything inherently immoral, although it can certainly make some things ethically tricky. There is no real comparison in this field: there is no other activity that becomes illegal and/or immoral simply because money is involved.

But here is the ethically tricky part: sex work is notorious for its connection to drug and alcohol abuse, violent crime, poverty, and all types of human abuse. Guilt by assocation. Most sex workers (I mean this term in a more narrow sense, referring specifically to people who offer sexual services for money) have some history of sexual abuse. At the same time, almost all sex workers say that their primary motivation for going into sex work is money. How can we ethically permit a profession which seemingly by its nature is so exploitative? How can we ethically deny a source of income to people who have virtually no other means of supporting themselves, particularly in the current economy?

Of course, the exact relation between sex work and crime is nebulous. We don't really know which comes first, or why. This leads to a lot of pro-sex work speculation: could it be divorced from its negative associations? Do these arise because sex work is not protected in the first place? Certainly conditions are better where it is legal. In Nevada there are unions, complete with health benefits and worker's comp. Offering health services to sex workers seems like a pretty obvious, even vital function for a community interested in public health, but you can't do that if it is illegal.

There is also the issue of funding. The Bush administration cut off funding to any group that supports sex work, which has hamstrung AIDS relief efforts in certain regions like Thailand where the most effective outreach is done through sex workers' associations. Pretty much you are damned if you don't legalize it. At the same time, the archetype for legalized sex work is Amsterdam, which also has the highest rate of human trafficking or sex slavery. So you are also damned if you do.

Moreover, if you legalize sex work you then essentially move control away from the whims of the market, so to speak, and into the hands of the government. Clearly the government isn't always the best arbiter of public or private behavior, especially when it comes to sex. I personally have a strong faith in the power of our decision-making process to get shipwrecked on cultural norms rather than making decisions based on individual and community health. But that's my liberal soapbox for you.

I have my own opinions on this, but I am not sure I am satisfied with them. It is my intuition that strong sex worker communities and resources need to be developed in the shadows before sex work could be legalized, that way the law is forced to bend around a pre-existing reality. Not that the law always bows to reality. Eh, I could talk myself into and out of positions all day. I am really curious about other people's opinions.

I hate arguments from nature!

I know I have talked about this before, but this kind of thing just keeps coming up.

The latest was an address given to the APA (an organization known for being totally objective and politically unmotivated, grr...) by Professor Roy Baumeister. Here is the link since I am in the wrong browser to make it look good.

It is long and will probably be boring unless scientifically justified sexism gets you off. Shorter version:

Men exist more at the extremes of the bell curve, both high and low. This explains why men get lower GPAs (where the top is fixed) and higher salaries (where the bottom is fixed). He isn't exactly clear whether the bell curve is supposed to be intelligence or achievement of personality or all of those things. Nevertheless, it is the people at the top, mostly men, who have driven human history and progress and women and dumb men have gone along for the ride. He appears not to believe that prejudice or patriarchy are as satisfying as a naturalistic explanation for achievement diferences. For instance, white women didn't produce any real music in the 18th or 19th centuries but black men did, despite both groups being in some way oppressed.

I could go through this point by point, but who cares? Let me simply say that I have two issues with this.

1: It is totally speculative. Sure, his explanation could be right (I doubt it, but I won't get into that). But there are a lot of other perfectly workable explanations out there. To take the music example, white women may have produced less music because they already fit into a cultural context that limited their creativity, while black people in general had to reinvent their cultural context, which led to a flourishing of creativity (a la Harlem Renaissance). There is no way to prove his point, and that is pretty much true of all behavioral-evolution hypotheses. We can always guess, but we can't really ever know.

2: He ignores the cultural context in which he is speaking. Oh look, what a nifty theory! It explains the facts so well! Wait, it already fits in with preconceived and sexist notions of gender? Well that must totally be a coincedence! Right. Just like the gas I had today and the big greasy pizza I had yesterday are totally coincedental events. Clearly no causality here. Move along.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

adventures in meh

I now have a working TV. Yay. Tear. Whatever.
So, there is this controversy about people I don't generally care about.
This girl Vanessa Hudgens apparently took nude photos (presumably with a boyfriend or something, although it isn't clear from what I've seen). Now they have surfaced on the internet. People are talking about how disappointed they are in her, and she has had to apologize for taking the photos.
This kind of pisses me off. On one hand, I don't think she particular did anything wrong. So she did some nude photos, she has private parts, get over it. What people aren't saying is how wrong it was of whoever to release it (I'm guessing an ex-boyfriend).
Now unless she released these herself as part of a publicity stunt, which is very possible, the notion that someone's right to privacy is much less interesting or substantial than the idea that they did some nude photos at some point is pretty messed up to me.
PS. I hate Bill Donohue. He is the one who is going after Kathy Griffin. Right now he's talking about how Hollywood hates Catholicism. Suck it, Bill Donohue.
PPS. I just saw a commercial for the army. "There is nothing stronger than the US army, because there is nothing stronger than the US army soldier." No really, other countries, it isn't that we have insanely huge amounts of money and resources. We really are just better than you. Yay for xenophobia! Arg.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

this one is for Rosemary

Kathy Griffin's Emmy acceptance speech for "My Life on the D-List":

“Can you believe this shit? I guess hell froze over. … a lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. So, all I can say is, ‘suck it, Jesus.’ This award is my god now.”

conversations with me and my grandmother, part 4

gm: The thought of naked women makes me ill. (There was context for that).
me: I think you are a secret lesbian.
gm: I don't want you to think that of me. I don't want you to think anything of me that isn't true.
me: You mean you you don't want me to think anything negative of you that isn't true.
gm: Exactly.
me: ...I catch you sometimes.

and then later...

gm: I think of you and Rooben as friends.
me: But we are boyfriends.
gm: Well, I don't think of it that way.
me: But that is how it is.
gm: Well, but that's the same thing as you and Jon. You are boyfriends.
me: No, we really aren't. Jon is a friend. There is a difference between "friend" and "boyfriend." I think the difference between Jon and Rooben illustrates that quite nicely.
gm: Well, your terminology is unique to you.
me: No! No it's not! Arg!


Insane amounts of ice cream on Sunday
+ Large amounts of fiber on Monday
= I'm unhappy!

Monday, September 10, 2007

first aid class

I took a first aid class this weekend as part of my new job. You know what?
I do not know how to set broken bones or which berries to survive off of in the wild.
I do not know how to suture a wound with a role of floss, a tarp and a copy of The White Album.
I have not learned Cure (30 hp) or Revive.
I feel severely let down.