Thursday, November 19, 2009

Peanut Head: A Cat's Life

Peanut Head was old. When he was born, his head was shaped like a peanut, and he carried around an unusually funky odor for awhile. Eventually his fur came in more fully, the smell went away, and a very unique personality began to emerge. He was a feisty and loyal cat. He would leave dead moles and birds on my parents front porch as gifts. He enjoyed walking around the chain-linked fences in our suburban neighborhood, tormenting all of the dogs. While the dogs would bark impotently at the outrage of a feline on their property, Peanut Head would plop down just far enough away from the fence to be sure he was safe, and lick himself in a leisurely, methodical fashion. He was kind of a neighborhood cat, and we're pretty sure he was getting his bread buttered at other houses than ours. He had the system figured out.

We gave away all of Peanut Head's brothers and sisters, but kept him. I'm not sure why we kept him, but I'm glad we did. When he was a kitten (and I was still a kitten), We would play a game together where I would lower my head to just within his reach, and he would stand up on his hind legs and bounce into my chin. He was a good lap cat most of the time, but he had a mercurial streak, which I respected. One time he climbed up into the engine of my mom's van, and when she started it, a fan blade chopped his ear off. He was a skanky cat, especially towards the end. But he ruled the street my parents live on. I liked to think of him as the godfather of the neighborhood's cats. Every so often, he would seem to take some stray kitten under his wing, you know, to show it the ropes. They would hang out for awhile, until the day that (I guess) the apprentice cat was ready to go off on it's own. Peanut Head had a sense of community.

He was around through my teenage years, when my entire body was in revolt against itself. So, as is the case with Pearl Jam and Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Taylor shoes and Mr. Outt (the cool math teacher), I'll always remember Peanut Head with a special fondness. We always remember fondly those who remained faithful allies even as the mortars fell.

Rest In Peace, Peanut Head. Sorry about the crappy name. You were a pretty fucking awesome cat.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaching Your Kids How To Think, Not What To Think

An old essay of mine is getting some new traction over at The Daily Kos. The insights are rolling in. Thanks to all of the Kossacks who are commenting.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Prostitution and Society

A typical response that I get when I tell people that I’m for the legalization of prostitution is the following question (which I suppose is intended to be rhetorical):

‘How would you like it if your daughter chose prostitution as a career?’

To which I reply,

‘I probably wouldn’t like it, but I probably wouldn’t like it if my daughter chose to work at a fast food restaurant either.’

The point being, I would want my child to choose a career that would be likely to make them feel happy and fulfilled. As a civil libertarian, I believe most career paths and life choices should be on the table for everyone, whatever my personal opinion of those different occupations may be. As a pragmatist, I can’t help but think the illegality of prostitution (and many other taboo things) only pushes them underground, where seedy environments and unethical people only serve to worsen matters. I believe that our country’s neurotic history with sex is unhealthy.

Much as certain puritanical attitudes have unnecessarily submerged other elements of our carnal nature beneath the deep waters of repression, they have really tried to bury our sexual nature in a place that only angler fish and dead mobsters will ever have a chance to see it. But as is the rule whenever we decide to ignore a part of our true selves, it will manifest itself later in a way that is often ugly and violent. Our darker aspects* become angry when they are ignored, and can manifest themselves in our lives, our communities, and our public policies, in strange and unsettling ways. If there was any one recognizable theme of our previous century, it was this: The truth will make us face it. What is hid in the dark will be brought to the light.

A section of Marie Stopes’s ‘Married Life’ can be used as anecdotal evidence for this unhealthy attitude. The portion of the book where she is discussing the way a married man might compare his wife to a woman whom he ‘bought love from’ previously is telling on a variety of levels. On the most superficial level, She quotes sources who refer to prostitutes as ‘automotons’, seeming to agree with the verdict, and later in the book seems to endorse the ending of the ‘social disease’ of prostitution, although she thinks the movement would be better served if it possessed a deeper understanding of some of the less obvious perks to hiring a prostitute (companionship, gaiety, sympathy, etc).

I don’t want to judge the goodness or badness of sex work. What I am judging (negatively) is our collective response to prostitution, and our handling of the issue. There is such deep and complex neurosis associated with the issue, that it’s hard to imagine that we all don’t internalize the stereotypes and clich├ęs and negative public attitudes that relate to the field. I imagine that just as it is possible to hold an enlightened view of working in fast food, or in a bank, or as a dancer, or as a wrestler, it is also possible to hold an enlightened view of working in the sex business. Marie Stopes is write to note society’s attitude towards women & sex as unhealthy. For so long (and still today) many view a woman who has engaged in sex as somehow soiled, and woman-as-a-tool-for-man has also been standard operating procedure for too long.

Maybe our cultural attitude towards sex, and towards the role of woman isn’t in an ideal enough spot to give a full throated endorsement to the legalization of prostitution, but I would say that leaving the business in the shadows is worse. It reinforces notions of shame, ugliness, and woman-as-commodity, and leaves the defining of the practice to far less sophisticated minds. Those who philosophize in the shadows are more likely to form and advocate worldviews that will expand the darkness, rather than eradicate it.

So what can we do to prepare our society for the inevitable legalization of the sex trade? Well, conversation always helps. Transparency is a big plus. If we were to fully embrace the idea of the welfare state, we could move away from the sad fact quoted in the popular women's health book Our Bodies Ourselves that ‘…poverty is the major force that drives people, especially women of color and runaway teenagers, into prostitution.’

We are still a Capitalist Nation; even if we are so only in a mixed-model sense**. The deepening of our commitment to the welfare state, where leisure is respected, incomes are equalized, and a strong and well funded safety net is set firmly in place, will not eliminate prostitution, but it will go a-ways to eliminating the base kind of prostitution that is referred to in the OBO quote. A re-commitment to the Welfare state, and an emerging cultural understanding of both human sexuality and religion (both are evolving) will go ways to eliminating what is bad about the current state of the sex business, and (perhaps) ennoble what is good about it.

*Darker, because we keep them in shadows, not because they are ‘evil’ or ‘sinful’

** Show me a 'pure' system, and I will show you a stone slab trying to pass as a boat.

cross posted at The Daily Kos

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

On this date in 1975, 95 people died when the Edmund Fitzgerald sunk to the bottom of Lake Superior.

My parents gave me an LP of this song when I was around five or six, and I remember sitting in my room and listening to it, cross-legged on the floor, creating mental images to accompany the song's narrative. Aside from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was the first real national disaster to capture my imagination in a serious way.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Old Men Bathing

Old men bathing
Nipples sagging
Pubes, matting.

Steam rising
Eyes drooping
Moustache, white.

Toes inspected
Fingers pruning
Teeth soaking.

Pubes, matting
(Unseen but felt

Book pages yellowing
Toilets flushing
Antacids dissolving.

Country music playing
Synapses firing
Eyes unfocused.

Hands over face,
Moisture from brow,
Balls sagging.

Liver spots widening
Balls sagging,
Pubes, dripping.

America is singing,
Children are frowning,
Old Men are bathing.


Friday, November 6, 2009


...It was a long week. Help me out, Miles:

I work with a guy who said he saw Miles Davis when he came to Cincinnati back in the early seventies. He said it was 'pretty neat', and thought it was interesting to see Davis play with his back to the audience. I told him that I had heard Davis would play with his back to the audience in certain southern venues to protest racist policies, but another co-worker interjected, saying, no, Davis played with his back to the audience in order to focus, and to support the band. Again, another instance where I could probably dispel any wrong ideas with a quick google search, but, alas, it was a long week.

Oh, and if 'pretty neat' seems like an understated way for my co-worker to explain what it was like to see Miles Davis, please keep in mind that I'm writing from the midwest, where understatement and politeness is the order of the day for suburban liberal types. My co-worker would've probably described being part of a moon mission or meeting Jesus in the same subdued tone.

So, when I tell you it was 'a long week', you probably have a better idea of what I mean.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Terrible Poetry Jokes

"A horse walks into a bar where Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound are drinking.

BARTENDER (to horse): Why the long face?

WHITMAN (to everyone): I, too, am a horse.

POUND (to Whitman): Shut the fuck up."

-From Terrible Poetry Jokes, by Peter LaVelle

Monday, November 2, 2009

Father Of The Year

When I have a headful of ideas and a half-dozen or so bullet-pointed story boards and first paragraph rough drafts on the back burner, and an inadequate amount of time to complete any of them in, I feel a little frustrated, but in a good way. It's akin to the feeling I had when I was a teenage boy full to near-bursting with semen, and no girl would look at me. I figure this feeling is better than the one I'll likely get at the other end of the spectrum, when I'm all dried up and liver-spotted, and the only ejaculations that will be coming out of me in any sense will be sad, coughing clouds of dust, like the kind that shoot out of the exhaust pipes of junkie old cars in Harold Lloyd movies.

So, until the time is ripe for me to find out what is on the other side of all of that uncarved stone, I'll think about Kafka's Eleven Sons, and appreciate the imperfections in creation, and try to accept that not every job is going to get done, and some of the jobs that do get done may have been better off having never gotten started.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

First Post Of November

The end of Fall is bittersweet, but I guess Fall is a bittersweet season. It's a season for exploring old graveyards, taking hayrides around local farms, listening to Bonnie Prince Billy, Reading Edward Gorey books to your kids, riding bikes, wearing jackets, catching leaves as they fall from trees, and taking late night walks around the neighborhood while the sky is on fire. It's getting too cold to get away with wearing just a jacket or a sweatshirt around town, and the cold air is also making it more tempting to stay in bed too long. Regardless, this has been a good Fall for my family and I, and I'll be sad to see it go.

Trick-or-treating was a success last night. Luckily for the kids, we won the battle over whether or not they should wear clothes beneath their sheer Halloween costumes. It was a little chilly out there!

There are always fewer people trick-or-treating than I would prefer, and many of those that are participating (teenagers)often seem to do so in a mindless, greedy way. My kids (patting myself on the back) 'get it', and it was fun to walk around with them as they 'oohed' and 'aahed' at all of the other kids' outfits, and appreciated all of the creepy decorations.

I love the way the leaves smell right before Winter. Here's to a good November: