Monday, September 24, 2007

"The logo is there to tell you what the car is, not who you are." "Shouldn't you drive a car that inflates your intelligence, not your ego." These are statements from Hyundai's new ad campaign, the one that instructs you to "think about it," and the directs you to Since I am nothing if not a slave to television advertising, I have done exactly what instructed. At first, I thought very highly of myself. My wife and I will be purchasing a new car as soon as we can afford one, and have been thinking very seriously about a Hyundai. They are affordable, at least for a car, and are well reviewed. Unfortunately, Hyundais are still Hyundais. That's more than just a few letters from a Honda, or at least that is the perception. I'm an American, so perception is everything. Hyundai has caught on to that truth. It took me a few viewings to catch on that they have caught on, and then I followed through with their instruction and went to the web site. It's nothing more than a fancy conduit to their main web site with annoying music, music that will play from both sites if you have both open and will be just enough out of sync to drive you mad. Their fancy ad campaign is really as unremarkable as the web site it sends you to, but really quite a little stroke of genius. When I first saw the ad, I felt instantly better about the possibility of owning a Hyundai. All those other people with fancier cars were shallow ego driven automatons. I was better than all that. I was real. I was a real sap. Don't get me wrong, I might still buy one. Money is money, and the ad is pretty slick. They tell you that "the logo is there to tell you what the car is, not who you are," hoping that you will feel that the Hyundai logo will tell people that you are someone who doesn't buy a car in order to tell people who they are. The campaign is so slick and smart because the folks at Hyundai, and/or the folks at the ad agency they hired, are right on. Most of us use the things we buy to try to define who we are and to feel better about whatever that really is. And, for once, I'm not claiming to be outside of the "we." I recognized this so quickly because I have lived it. I had Reebok Tennis Pumps for God's sake. They were the crappiest shoes ever, but they made a statement. So did jeans with elastic at the ankles. I can't convince my wife it was a positive statement, but that is what they were meant to be. I do wonder whether humans have always been like this. Maybe the answer is yes. Maybe farmers paraded around on their tractors, or their mules. Maybe nomads evaluated self worth by horse height. We certainly all fall prey to it, even and maybe especially the people that try hardest to convince us that they are different. I think, however, we can fight it. We can laugh at the Hyundai ad, recognize what they are trying to do, and then buy one anyway if it meets the set of criteria we lay out for a car that meets our particular individual needs. We can even laugh at it, understand it, and buy it simply so that other people think better of us. Maybe they will and maybe we'll be happier. If so, then what's wrong with that picture. So, I don't think I have any idea what message to distill out of this for future consumption by my daughter. Maybe the message is, be practical. If buying a particular car will help you be seen in a certain way and help you win a big account, or be accepted in the new neighborhood, then do it and write down somewhere in a diary or a journal that you know what you're doing and why. Be open, if only with yourself. And be sure to ask yourself if you want these things, or if maybe fuel economy and warranty length are better guides for automobile purchase. Maybe the best thing to tell my daughter is that I love her, and if some day I find myself paying any part of the bill for a car she is driving, I'll admit that I'm cheap and I don't care if the logo on the car broadcasts that fact to the rest of the world and all of her friends.
F%$# you, you rude SOB!

This is how I want to respond to rude, stupid, ignorant, and nasty people. Sometimes it is how I actually respond. More often than not I say nothing, and spend the next ten or twenty minutes thinking of dozens of ways I could have taught the rude, ignorant stupid, or nasty person a lesson. Neither approach, actual or aspired to, is one which I would want my daughter to emulate. That probably means I need to find discern a way to react to the idiots of the world. Today finds me facing just such an idiot, and thus I have a perfect opportunity to identify a knew more constructive and family friendly approach to rudeness, ignorance, self centerdness, and any other behavior that appears to fall short of even the most liberal of standards for polite and respectful interaction with others.
I have been in the midst of trying to write an article on creativity among the homeless, a piece which will constitute my first completed freelance job, provided I ever complete it. I am a stay at home dad during the day, so I won't be heading down into Philadelphia and walking the streets in search of homeless artists. Rather than pounding the pavement, bottle and binky in hand, I have sent a ton of e-mails. The response rate has been rather pedestrian, but there have been responses. One homeless organization channeled me to the person in charge of the art programs. I called her, and she gave me basic information on the programs. At the time that I took the interview, I wasn't expecting to have to use it. When it became clear that I would have to use it, I sent a follow-up e-mail asking for help contacting an artist she had mentioned in our phone conversation and one individual who has attended art classes at the shelter. My first request received no response, and the second was answered only with silence. The third request finally elicited a response: "Yes, I gave her your information. That's all that I can do, I am quite busy at this time dealing with other work issues. Have a great day." I understand that dealing with me was not a part of her printed job responsibilities, but I can't imagine why publicity for her organization would be bad. I also can't imagine that she was too busy to have shot back an e-mail saying, "I forwarded your information to her. I'm going to be too busy to set up a five minute phone call with someone I probably see several times a week." OK, so that bit of sarcasm at the end may be uncalled for, but my point is valid. What is wrong with treating people in the manner you would want to be treated. Which brings me to my response. My first inclination was to send back a snippy e-mail saying that I appreciated her help, and would have appreciated it even more if she had just told me that she had forwarded the information. My next thought was to tell this woman about Malkia Singleton at PEC, who had been super helpful and responsive with the same amount of work and lack of incentive. I could even add something about the PEC being featured in my piece instead of her organization. Of course she probably wouldn't have cared, and I'd already been told by my editor that I needed more than one example. I did still have an article to write. So I asked someone else at the organization for help and referenced this person's inability to help while at the same time recognizing the help she had given me. Once I'd done that I was fully over myself, and thank you e-mail to Ms. Singleton and to include her name in this blog rather than the unnamed b#$@%. I want my daughter to accentuate the positive, and not get caught up in every little slight, perceived and real. It's not nearly as satisfying as dropping an F-bomb or two, or being sneeringly condescending, but it probably is more constructive. And, these days, I am all about construction and am eschewing destruction. I am, after all, foreman on the most important construction project anyone has ever had responsibility for.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Nothing that don't kill us will only make us stronger."

"Nothing that don't kill us will only make us stronger." This bit of wisdom was written on a piece of poster board, brought to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium at the University of Louisville, displayed for the television cameras, and shown on live television. It's the first part of that progression that it took me the longest to process. Someone sat at their kitchen table or workbench or desk and wrote this statement out in permanent marker with the intention of displaying it and the hope of having it broadcast on television. It would be one thing if this abomination of multiple negatives tumbled out of someones' mouth ... after they'd had too much Jim Beam. I would have been embarrassed, but I wouldn't have felt it necessary to commit seppuku. If I'd have taken the time to write "nothing that don't kill us will only make us stronger" out on a piece of poster board, I'd have asked to have each of my limbs tied four 1982 Chevy Pickups. I know it's Louisville, but it is still a University. I was a Student Instructor at Berkeley and had to grade papers, so I know all about bad writing amongst college students, but this is absurd. How ignorant is the average American? Maybe I shouldn't get so worked up. Maybe I'm an elitist who maintains his position by holding others to archaic rules of etiquette. After all, it's only language. How important is communication really? Misuse of our own language certainly won't kill us, so it can't but not makes us only less stronger.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday's Blogger is Tired

I am tired. I'm tired for lots of reasons. Seren was sick this week. My parents visited (causing a good tired, but tired nonetheless). Seren left her nice two nap schedule in favor of one nap that I am barely squeezing in at the end of the day after many hours with grumpykins. I am knee deep in my first freelance writing gig, which I am not pursuing as tirelessly or successfully as I should be. And, due to all of the above, I am off my schedule.
I'm also tired because I read today, which doesn't seem like such a good reason to be tired. The world does suck though. Apparently lynching is still an acceptable threat in this country, but beating up people who hang nooses in schoolyards is punishable by jail time. To me that is a great example of how laws should take into account context. If people are bigoted enough to rely on the threat of lynching to keep a school area segregated, they should have their asses kicked. To be honest, shooting them doesn't seem to excessive either. Horses with broken legs get shot, and bigotry like that seems to me to be worse than a broken leg. And while I'm suggesting shooting people, I'd like to shoot everyone who wrote in to in response to an important article on Bill Clinton joking that he would slit his throat if Hillary won and asserted that it would be awful to have the Clinton's back in the White House after what they'd done. Have these people been in the country the last seven years? I guess intellectually I know people still support Bush, but ... And what is with the Britney Guy getting a slot amidst the top news stories. If our world isn't going to hell, our news surely is. And it just makes me very tired. So, good night.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday's Child Has Far to Go.

I sincerely hope that this is true. Though 34 years in, and there is some doubt. Of course, it might not be positive to have "far to go." And, in that case, I might be right on track. I don't know that it would have been any better had my mother held on for another ten hours. Loving and giving would have been nice, but woe is more my bag (see last entry to get this, or don't and make up your own meaning ... I'm OK with either). Of course I was born on Thursday and woe is still my bag. Maybe it wouldn't have been if I had been born on Friday, but it would have been Friday the 13th. It would have been cool to say I was born on Friday the 13th, but if there is anything to that superstition ... it would have been even cooler. And, I wouldn't have had far to go. But, to be honest, I'm still happy to have far to go. Most of us have less than scintillating lives, but not as many have long ones. I have far to go, do you?
Wednesday's Blog is Full of Woe

According to Wikipedia, Wednesday's child used to be loving and giving. Friday's child used to be full of woe. At some point they switched. The author of the unverified Wikipedia article says that Friday the word comes from Freyja the Norse God of Love, and Wednesday has it's lineage in Woden the wanderer. If that is all true, the current version of the nursery rhyme associates love with the loving and giving and wandering with woe. I like the 1887 version's association a little better. Love is "full of woe," and wandering is about finding love and giving of yourself. I don't have a thing against love. I feel it towards some of my favorite people, and they give it back. I actually love love, but I love it more when it is complete. And love, when complete, can bite you in the ass. Associating love with woe sound like truth in advertising to me, which totally explains why it's been switched. And it is perfect that woe has been thrown around the neck of free spirited wanderers. Of course, if wandering is about love and giving, then it's also about woe. Really, I have no idea what I'm writing about. I'm simply indulging in creative, or not-so creative, wandering. Woe to me. Woe is me? Whatever, but I love it ...
Tuesday's Blog is Full of Grace
No child is full of grace. Newborns barely move. Toddlers stumble through life. There's nothing graceful about the middle school years. And teenagers are many things, but grace is only one of them for short spurts on the field or at the ice rink. My daughter, who is now a full on toddler, is beautiful, cute, wonderful, and ... well I could go on and on, and often do ... but not even I find her to be very graceful. She doesn't recognize impediments, she simply walks through them. If it's smaller than she is it can be walked over or through. My daughter isn't elegant, and that's OK. In fact, it's a part of her charm. I don't trust grace. It just doesn't seem natural. And it's absence from children would seem to back up that point. Grace is learned. It's a part of the obfuscation of adulthood. If I could live the way I wanted to, it would be without any grace at all. I would travel through life the way that my daughter walks through a room: stumble, bumble, and learn.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monday's Blog

If I was a student at the University of Florida this week, I'd be doing my homework. The next time I'm moved to scream at the top of my lungs about injustice in the world, in public, it will be the first. If I was a Gator, I would still hate my sports teams, and I would stare at the people marching across my campus and screaming about police brutality with barely disguised contempt. That contempt, and a few choice words shared with my dad, would be my only real protest. I probably should start my own movement, but who would join me in a chant of "Yes bro we're tasing you because you're a little manipulative grandstanding bitch?" What I really wish is that I could march along with the defenders of the American way and act as if this were a dangerous infringement of Constitutional rights. But I wouldn't be able to yell out that this was police brutality without breaking into laughter. If anything, this idiot got what he deserved. He shouted over someone else and tried to ask Kerry a question after the time for questions had been closed. He was being rude and pushy, and I kind of wish all rude and pushy people could be tasered. Now, that might just be a movement that could gain some momentum. TASER THE PUSHY PEOPLE! Some women pushes up against you in line at the grocery store because you haven't put you lemons on the conveyor bet fast enough? Taser her uptight suburban ass. Some guy at Jiffy Lube shakes his head in disgust because you don't position your car over the lift correctly? Taser his greasy ass. Some body cuts in front of you in line? Taser them twice. Maybe if I was a student at Florida I could start a movement. If only I was a student at Florida.
Last Friday's Blog
I would like to be able to model good behavior for my daughter at all times. But, I can't. It doesn't matter now, at least I can still convince myself that it doesn't matter and not feel as if I'm being hoodwinked, but that won't last forever. I will need to stop talking about people in front of her. I will have to stop swearing, at least until I can explain the beauty of all of God's words. I may even have to give up on Isaiah Thomas. I have been a fan of Isaiah Lord Thomas III since his earliest days in a Piston's uniform. I have always loved Zeke. And what wasn't to love, he was Iverson without a posse and with an occasional conscience and recognition that there were other folks on the floor with him. It didn't matter that he threw a pass lame enough for Larry Bird to steal it, sending the Celtics on to the Finals and providing my grandfather with more ammunition in our arguments over Thomas. He nearly came to blows with his kissing cousin Magic, but that was OK. Guys can't be kissing each other too often. I was proud that he walked off the floor after the Bulls beat them without shaking the hands of any of those sons of Satan. Even as his coaching and managing 'careers' have dragged on, I have stuck by him. I think I even said, as recently as a few weeks ago, something along the lines of "watch out for the Knicks. And now this trial is going on, and I kind of hope Anucha Browne Sanders gets hit by a car. Most of this isn't logical, and in some cases it isn't nice, but it is as clear as an elbow to the head from Karl Malone. But, maybe now I it shouldn't be. I have a daughter now, and I don't think I would want some guy calling her a bitch, trying to jump in her pants, and then having her fired. Not even if that guy is Isaiah Thomas. At least I don't think so. But if he gave me an autographed jersey ... Well, she can always look to her mother for moral guidance.
Last Thursday's Blog
Welcome to last Thursday's Blog. Last Thursday Seren (aka the toddler that lives in my house) developed a runny nose. On Friday she added a cough, a fever, and grandparents. My mom and dad flew in on Friday from Michigan. The plan was to go to the Jersey shore early Saturday morning. The plan met Seren's runny nose, fever, and cough and fled like it was a cheerio at a play-group. Instead, we all sat around taking turns pulling snot out of Seren's nose, all of us except Seren who had the market on thrashing and screaming cornered. Monday and Tuesday involved actual outings. And then grandma and grandpa left this morning, leaving me with a weeks worth of blogs to do, at least in theory.
The weeks worth of blogs may well remain theoretical, but Wednesday's dilemma is bound to return. It certainly ain't new. How slavishly should I stick to routine, and how panicked should I be when forced out of it? The only actions I do regularly are shit, sleep, and eat. Everything else is up for negotiation. Eating a particular meal, brushing my teeth, and even showering are never guarantees. Maybe the closest to the shit, sleep, and eat category is scooping cat litter. When I don't do that one of my cat pisses on everything. Of course he pisses on some things regardless, but ... What I would love to know is how I could motivate myself to read a book, write in my blog, run, or paint some part of my house on a regular basis. Oh, and I wouldn't mind knowing how to miss a day without becoming convinced that I've messed up and there's no point in running, looking for a job, or attempting to compose my first minuet for at least two months. And while I'm at it, can some one tell me which of these activities would be the most satisfying and interesting to discuss at dinner party's once I've been committed to them for at least three and a half years?
At least I can write two blogs a day. Running twice as much, or brushing my teeth every ten minutes probably isn't a good use of my time. But, writing a blog with a toddler on your lap isn't so awfully awesome either. And you never know when this Thursday will interfere with this or last Thursday's agenda.
So, in conclusion, I have no conclusion, except that this is the end of last Thursday's blog.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary." - Bill Richardson
Huh? God favors Iowa? If that's true, than I need to find a different religion. I actually think that Americans would be better off if there was no Iowa. New Hampshire would be the first primary, highlighting the silliness of the whole system. Now, when I say we should get rid of Iowa, I mean get rid of it. I'm not talking about breaking it up and giving a little piece to each of the neighboring states. For the geographically challenged, Iowa borders on Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Florida. I think we should cede Iowa to a foreign country. That way, ethanol would be an import regardless of how it was made, corn could go back to being food and feed, and I could afford a gallon of milk. Besides, the gifting of Iowa could be central to a more effective foreign policy. We could give it to Iraq as part of an apology for pushing their country into a bloody civil war. Maybe the Kurds could move there. We could give it to the Jews as the new promised land, and let the Palestinians have all of Israel along with their military. The Jews would have a fertile homeland, and the Arabs would have to pray very hard to Allah so that he could inflict the Palestinians with collective memory loss so that they wouldn't remember how the Arabs used to treat the Palestinians before they became a useful way of vilifying Israel. Maybe the Mexicans would want Iowa as a late repayment for Arizona, New Mexico, et al. For that matter, maybe the American Indians would want Iowa. Iowa could even be the winter home for migrant workers. I don't really care who gets Iowa, as long as we get rid of it. Maybe it's neighbor Florida could go too. Florida has already caused enough electoral problems, without Florida we could have a logical stance towards Cuba, and an America sans Florida would be a younger hipper America.

Later, I will deny meaning to say any of this. I really wanted to acknowledge the importance and individuality of particular states in a humorous way. Besides, as a stay at home dad, I'm always tired and thus shouldn't be held accountable for anything I say. In fact, whatever trouble I get into is the fault of the media for over-reporting. Yeah, it's the media's fault. And the other bloggers. It's their fault too, somehow. And, besides, God meant for me to have this blog.

For the record, Florida doesn't really border Iowa. The rest of the states I listed do actually border Iowa. For any other geography questions I will refer you to a map.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


"Thou shall not steal." Amen. Great rule. Of course, it does need a little elucidation. Just saying "don't steal" really doesn't do it. That's why most legal systems take it a few steps further. And, identifying this as a rule handed down by God just doesn't make sense. What does this rule protect? The answer is private property. Why would God care about our private property? People care about property for many reasons, and few of them are holy, spiritual, divine, or particularly blessed. So kudos on the meaning, but this one isn't really done.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Another Commandment, And Thou Shall Read It
"Neither shall you commit adultery." This is a lot harder to write about then "you shall not murder," and not just because my wife is a third of my audience.

First of all, while wrong and right are always tough positions to identify, that is doubly true when love and marriage are involved. I'm not going to condone cheating, but relationships are hard work and because of that they often fail. If society doesn't allow for that failure, than adultery not only becomes more understandable it may even serve a critical function by allowing people to fulfill their emotional needs and continue to be married. Even when society recognizes the frailty of relationships, and encourages individuals in their efforts to leave relationships that are abusive, hurtful, or have just been grown out of, it still seems wrong to crucify unfaithful spouses. Love and lust aren't logical, and decisions aren't always well informed or good. People should be held accountable for their actions, and I would think long and hard before I stayed with my wife if she was cheating on me, but I wouldn't have her banished to the second circle of hell.

Second, this Commandment is confusing even on a detached academic level. This Commandment has been lauded as an early protection of women, as it legally limited a man's ability to pursue other women. Historically, however, this Commandment has been as much about the maintenance of power relations as "honor your father and mother." It doesn't take much knowledge of history or biology to guess whether it was men or women who were most often labeled and punished as adulterers.

So, once again the spectre of context wrecks the neat world of the Commandment. A conclusion that can be reached without dissecting the institution of marriage. I think marriage is a good institution, as long as it is openly entered into and can be freely exited. I also believe that it is a contract that should be taken more seriously than any other. I am still unwilling, given that the humans that make laws and fall in love with one another are human, to proclaim that adulterers are sinners. We're just too complex and variable for that.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"You shall not murder."
Unless I missed an asterisk or a footnote, this would seem to be a rather easy commandment to understand, and reject. It doesn't say thou shall not murder unless the murdered person was himself a murderer. I also see no mention of an exception for the use of smart bombs or the targeting of Muslims. And as far as additional invisible words ("a fetus" or "people that look like you"), I can't see them so I'll have to operate on the assumption that they don't exist.

I can identify a few realities that are ignored by a rule as simplistic as the sixth Commandment. War is, at least for now, not completely avoidable. Criminals are everywhere a reality, even in Scandinavia. Crime and it's active prevention sometimes involves, and even necessitates, death. War, crime, the death penalty, and abortion are complex issues involving factors beyond simple calculus of life and death.

So, unless I missed something, the substance of this commandment, that human life is inviolable, is not currently recognized and is not a defensible argument. I won't even get into the argument that all life is inviolable (if you think this, good luck with eating). Everyone who argues that human life is sacred in one debate, conveniently set that position aside in another. Most people who claim that abortion is murder, support the death penalty and/or the war in Iraq. Saying that criminals earned death invents clauses that don't appear in the commandment, and fails to explain the deaths of innocent civilians in war. There is an increasing recognition of this hypocrisy on the conservative right, and, being the logical people they are, the lesson they have drawn is that they must drop their support for the death penalty and hew more 'religiously' to the Commandment. This is ridiculous. To hold to the inviolability of human life across the board is to advocate for a fantasy. Usually this advocacy is made without any recognition of the fallout from its implementation (asking about what happens to these fetuses after we save them or what happens to oppressed people when we refuse to use force to protect them only scratches the surface).
So, "you will murder," is a better statement of fact and "you should do whatever you can to avoid murder," is a more realistic commandment. Neither is sexy or soothing, but such is life.
That's not my resume.
Fred Thompson is officially running for president, leaving the world with one fewer poorly kept secret and pushing one more question of morality to the forefront of my mind. No, it's not: will people vote for someone they don't know much about just because they recognize his face from television? I lived in California in 2003. I'm not even interested in probing the ignorance of the American electorate regarding this issue. What I'm concerned with is explaining to my daughter why our nation's politicians seem to be the only people in our country who earn their job by loudly declaring how unqualified they are for it. It's not just that she won't sit still for a more than four verses of Old MacDonald that worries me. I'm looking for a job now, and I have yet to see an ad asking applicants to prove that they are unconnected with the industry within which the job resides. None of the law vacancies I've read about requires that candidates not be bar certified, and prefers candidates with few or no contacts with the American legal system. I would love to try teaching at the middle or high school level, but I have yet to find an opening for which the ideal candidate is a not an insider. "Please, no certified teachers," is not a popular combination of words. Politicians, however, compete with one another to distance themselves from politics. They do tout their experience, if there is no way they can deny it or recast it, but experience is often more of a hinderance than a help. The last thing a politician needs is a long and principled voting record. All that principled voting brings is accusations of flip-flopping. And God forbid you were a lobbyist. They actually have contacts in Washington that they can call on for favors and support, and they can't obscure them. How horrific! Fred Thompson, current media darling, was (gasp) a lobbyist, though you would never learn it listening to him. He stays as far away from his political experience as an old truck can get him. He got so far away thatr he has trouble remembering who he lobbied for (abortion rights groups didn't seem to pop to mind). He's not a Washington insider. He might even deny playing the President, Ulysses Grant, or a NASCAR bigwhig. Fred Thompson is just an ordinary ... super rich lawyer/actor/senator/friend to the powerful ... good old boy. According to Newsweek he might even be lazy. He must have been thrilled to get that label. Lazy and common (stupid?) won the last two elections. Before that, Bill Clinton (genius and Rhodes Scholar) sold himself as a rough around the edges everyday philanderer ... er guy. So, what is the formula for political success? Must political aspirants be very connected, very successful, very rich, or very smart and be able to deny at least the first one? How do I explain to my daughter that the people who are chosen to be responsible for the future of her country must at least appear as if they aren't qualified to have that responsibility? Maybe the answer isn't in how I explain it, but when. She's 16 months, and her mastery of the language doesn't extend far beyond animal sounds and food, so this may be the perfect time.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dear Mr. Bryant:
I read yesterday that recently you purchased 15 bottles of Cristal at $14,000 a piece. You spent this $21,000 so that you could best Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari in a competition over who could spend the most money on overpriced champagne. You won, so congratulations are in order. In addition to congratulations, I want to offer up some ways that you could spend even more money and emphasize your wealth and need to win in a way that would also highlight the power you have over the lives of others. Why don't you give me, I don't know, $60,000, (I am willing to itemize that). My wife and her brother went to Lower Marion at about the same time as you did, and what better way is there to showcase your wealth and competitive spirit than amongst high school classmates? You can show them who was the most successful in your class. If necessary, I could get my parents to give me $100. Then you could put in $1,000. My wife's parents could give us $2,000. Then you could give $20,000. My parents would give $30,000. And then you could give $60,000. My wife's parents would drop out of the bidding, but my parents would raise their offer to $65,000. You would then yawn and end the competition with a check for $167,000. In case you wondered $167,000 includes the money I we would have to repay to our parents (they offered the money, so we'd have to take it, but they've already been way too generous), and inflation. It's taken me a while to write this letter. Anyway, just drop a line with some contact information and I will send bank account information, or whatever you need to make the donation. And, Kobe, thanks in advance!

Peace out

Michael Crichton - "I am certain there is too much certainty in the world." I knew there had to be some reason I was willing to waste so much of my time watching Jurassic Park, and even a little bit of my time watching the sequels. The man is a genius. I couldn't have said it any better myself. Well, actually I might have said it better, but I couldn't have been any truer, at least I don't think so. I'm not certain though.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Shit in Context
Swear words provide an excellent illustration of both the importance of context and the ironclad rule that when it comes to most humans there are (and should be) no ironclad rules. We are creatures of context. If you're trying to put a car seat in without any help, and you whisper "damn it" or "fuck" under your breath, that's perfectly acceptable. If you're talking to your friend about your credit card debt or the loss of your favorite team to Appalachian State, it is perfectly OK to say "fuck, man I don't know." In certain situations, most of them involving no lights and lots of sweat, "fuck" can be a term of endearment. If you're putting that car seat in with your father in law's help, screaming "fucking shit" probably isn't a good idea. Referring to the cashier at the grocery store as "old bitch" when you ask her to check over your receipt most likely doesn't meet minimum standards of civility, and is probably really fucking stupid. Using any swear words while talking to your boss, or during closing arguments in a trial, probably won't win any raises or good verdicts. It's not a very complex argument, but given censorship in television and movies, it is obviously one that needs to be made. Changing "shit happens" to "it happens" in Forrest Gump is just one example of why. Websites that count the number of swear words in a movie are another. It's not the number of swear words that count, just as it's not the number of times a breast is revealed or a cigarette is smoked. If the movie is called cigarettes rock, and it shows teenagers picking up smoking and becoming instantly rich and famous, that might be a problem. If an actress playing Bette David smokes, that may be a little different. It just depends on the when, where, how, and why. It's really pretty fucking simple.
Fuck. F-U-C-K. It's a word. Same goes for fucking, fucker, and motherfucker. And shit, damn, wanker, prick, cunt, asshole, bitch? They're all words too. Hell, even retard, nigger, chink, spic, jap, and kraut are just words. But, they are words to which historical prejudice and suffering has become attached, at least when used by some individuals. I'm not interested in exploring the lies and contradictions involved with racial and ethnic labels, at least not today. I'm just interested in shit ... and all the rest. I use these words in my blog. I don't use wanker, cunt, or prick; probably because I'm not British and not trying to rhyme anything with hunt, bunt, or stunt. Fuck, bitch, and shit are all, however, favorites of mine. I like to write them. I say them too, but I don't say them because I like them. I say them because I'm pissed off at someone or something and just want it or them to fuck off. I sometimes write the words to convey anger, but I never write them when I'm angry. Most often I use them because I like they way they sound in a particular sentence, and the effect they have on the words around them. When I write I pay attention to how a sentence sounds. I like my words to flow. Sentences need to have their own flow, and a shared rhythm within a paragraph. I would like to say that I was also making cultural or political statement, but I'm not and besides I'm about 70 years too late for that. I'm not even trying to shake anyone up, at least not consciously. I'm not 15 and you aren't my dad ... or all of you aren't my dad. The other two of you are my wife and my mom. For the record my dad still doesn't like profanity, and he thinks it is just distracting when I insert it into my blog. My wife doesn't like it because it limits who she can share my blog with. That and the heresy. My mom's on board, but she is pretty forgiving of me and anyway has quite a potty mouth. My daughter is down too. So I have half of my readership on board with the cussing. Of all of those concerns, only the possibility that fuck and its brethren are distracting causes me any worry. I know readers are a fickle bunch, but maybe they need to get over this particular foible, and besides what about the people that enjoy a sentence that much more when there is a shit in it. And, profanity is more prevalent among the lower classes, so maybe by throwing a fuck or a bitch in I am reaching across class lines. Really, though, that's just a bunch of bullshit. I use these words because I like them. Period. I don't overuse them. I don't want to sound like a sailor, a drug dealer, or a professional athlete ... know what I'm sayin'? I am just throwing them in as a splash of color or an amusing crescendo. I think it works. If you disagree, then fuck you. (But not you dad.)