Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One In, All In

This story, about Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas, made me cry.

The remarkable thing about that is that I'm not typically easy to move to tears. I'm no Vulcan, but I'm not exactly your average Lifetime movie viewer either. Another remarkable thing is that the story is about Rugby. I have no interest in Rugby whatsoever. Another remarkable thing is that this story about rugby that made me cry was in Sport Illustrated. Anyone who knows me knows that the appropriate follow up question to that factoid would be 'Why the fuck were you reading Sport's Illustrated?'

The answer to the last question is easy. It was the only magazine in the bathroom I was using. I'm at a point in my life where I can't even imagine taking a shit and not reading something at the same time. I just don't think I could do it; burn all of the books and magazines and cereal boxes in the world and Spencer Troxell will die of constipation. True story.

So, I was reading the only magazine that was in the bathroom, and I came across this article about Gareth Thomas, the only openly gay male athlete in a team sport.

What drew Gareth Thomas to rugby:

"The brotherhood. That's what magnetized Alf to rugby, what he felt in the marrow of his oft-broken bones. No other sport on earth demanded that a man lay his unprotected body on the line so relentlessly for his mates. Rugby, like the NFL, was a weekly car wreck, only its season lasted twice as long, and its games, with no stoppages for gathering one's breath or wits or heart, were two 40-minute streams of running and colliding that ground down every man, flushed his vulnerability from its hideaways and compelled even the strongest player to realize how much he needed the weakest. No other sport matched rugby's fervor for bonding; no other's coaches directed their buses to the nearest pub for team sing-alongs, drink-alongs and the occasional chair-flying free-for-alls after away games, or ordered their players to report for unscheduled conditioning sessions only to stab a finger at the beer cases stacked in the corner and cry, "We're not leaving till the last beer's done, boys!" ... all in the name of forging brotherhood."

The story goes on to talk about Thomas's coming out experience, his thoughts about why no other player in a major male team sport has joined his ranks, and how his team has gathered around him in support.

As a straight man, gay rights is ostensibly not my battle. 'I don't have a dog in the fight', as they say, but really I do. We all do. It's everyone's business whether or not our fellow citizens have access to the same civil rights as we do, and are not stigmatized because of certain benign traits that they possess. I admire people who come out of the closet. It's got to be tough. We've all come out of the closet in one way or the other (or need to in one way or the other), so this is something we should all be able to identify with.

Another thing about this story that struck me is the way Thomas's rugby teammates seem to have rallied around him. Good for them. Talk about bucking stereotypes. Something that people who feel outcast often have trouble with is the expectation of support. The 'One In, All In' ethos of rugby seems to have held up here.

We need more people to be brave enough to stand up as who they are, and we need more people willing to see reflections of themselves in those who do.

Maybe I'll look into rugby. I think I've found a team to root for.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Only David Bowie

(and Arcade Fire) can be trusted to get this week started off in the right way.

This is still the best live performance of any song I've ever seen on television. I don't know if Arcade Fire always presents this way, but I like the way they've got all of their bodies clustered towards the front of the stage. Very democratic. I also like the way everyone is singing so desperately and with such commitment, even though not everyone has a microphone in front of them. It's a great song, and it has a great energy. The musical change-up towards the end is priceless.

'You better look out below!'

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hey, My Kid Is In This Article!

My son is in this Columbus Dispatch article about Ohio's Camp Quest. He can also be glimpsed in the video that accompanies the piece. Cool. I'm not surprised that the reporter chose his image to accompany her story; little Spencer has popular appeal.

I look forward to voting for him when he runs for public office.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"We Believed In Our Grandmother's Cooking More Fervently Than We Believed In God"

-Jonathan Safran Foer, from his book Eating Animals.

Honestly, not since Kurt Vonnegut have I been so taken with a writer's style. My sister let me borrow her copy of Eating Animals because she's a passionate vegan, and she knew how much I loved Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the author's other two books.

I have to admit, I'm not so curious about the arguments around the 'to meat or not to meat' issue. I've seen PETA's Meet Your Meat Video. I've heard a lot about the ugliness of factory farming. I have benefited from a year or so of vegetarian eating (it expanded my dining horizons immensely, and gave me a taste for healthier stuff). I love to eat fish. I like to eat red meat when I am frustrated or when I have triumphed in some small way (I know, I am deeply primitive in some ways. The amount of hair on my body is further testament of this). I feel okay about eating meat right now.

But in spite of this non-curiosity, I'm reading Eating Animals, and loving it. This guy can fucking write. I feel like I could read a refrigerator repair manual by this author and come away from it a better person. I'm a comfortable omnivore these days, but three of the most important and impressive people in the world to me (my wife, my son, and my sister) are vegetarians or vegans, and joining their ranks in any way would only be an honor. And as I'm always telling religious folks, I'll be the easiest convert you'll ever make. Just sing a compelling song.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Response To A Disgruntled Theist

An anonymous commenter has been swinging by this post to argue with me--I think--about atheism. He thinks atheist are smug jerks, and he thinks this opinion has some bearing on whether or not an atheist worldview is defensible. I was polite for awhile, but everyone has their limit. My ultimate response to him (I'm fairly certain it's a man):

I know my response will confirm in your mind the truth that all of the new atheists are assholes, but nothing was going to change that opinion of yours anyway.

Think about our conversation from my perspective though, for just a moment.

Say you've spent years studying the arguments about God, and belief, and science, and philosophy, and the relationship all of those things have to each other. Say you've taken these issues very seriously, and have talked and written seriously about them. Say you've agonized over the various opinions and facts that are available on the subject, and have attempted to arrive at the most honest and objective conclusion you can, and are still not a true believer.

Now imagine that some smug, snotty, obviously selectively informed (and poorly so at that) idiot comes up to you with a handful of sloppy and asinine arguments to lob at this position that you have very carefully arrived at; and not only does this idiot do that, they also demands by extension--just by the obvious poverty of their understanding of basic concepts--that you suddenly fill in all of the gaps of their poor education too, just so that you two might argue at somewhere approaching the same level. Talk about a sense of entitlement. Then imagine that multiple individuals similarly demand such reciprocity over and over and over again, and you might have some idea why I'm frustrated with you.

I am not being paid to give you a course in rudimentary critical thinking and logic. If you want to have a serious conversation with serious people, don't come to the table wearing clown shoes.


This post isn't about religion. It's about respecting your argument enough to know however many sides of it there are, and to understand its dimensions on a deep enough level to talk about it intelligently. It's also about not being a stupid-jerk-poopyhead.

If you don't know what you're talking about, don't enter a debate swinging. Enter it with sincere questions.

cross posted at The Daily Kos.


As a somewhat related aside, Patton Oswalt has just solved all of my issues with religion in three minutes and fourteen seconds. Thanks to the person who brought this to my attention:

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Psychic Cowboy and The Many Wives Of Glenn Beck

[I'm going to be pretty busy with a couple of other projects until around July 5th, so I'll be posting a few re-runs until then. Thanks to everyone for reading! I hope to have some new content for you in early July.]

After high school I went to work at a loading dock, because I had read a book about Gandhi and decided that my calling was that of secular saint rather than college graduate. While the experience would change my mind—it’s easier to be Gandhi when you have throngs of adoring followers—I did meet a few interesting characters, and learned the difference between a ‘skid’ and a ‘pallet’.

One of the characters I met was a guy we all called The Psychic Cowboy. He was compulsively clad in a big rimmed cowboy hat, was about fifty years old, 300+ pounds, and living on social security. Something was wrong with his legs.

He would come to visit his wife on lunch, and would talk to us occasionally about prophecies that had been revealed to him and fringe pseudo-science. He was really into a book called ‘psycho-cybernetics’, and talked a lot about a thing called biofeedback, and the mystical experience that can be had by those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease. The Psychic Cowboy was good to talk to, because our job was so mind-numbing and physically strenuous. From time to time, the cowboy would snap into a creepy-growly voice and make a sudden proclamation: “The Jordan River, which I believe to be a holy place…it is! It is a holy place!” After doing this, he would rebuke his creepy voice in his normal voice, and continue on talking about whatever he was talking about.

Over the course of about a year, I started talking to his wife more often, and learned that her family had disowned her over her marriage to the Psychic Cowboy. They thought he was crazy and dangerous, and apparently some of his prophecies and revelations had led to financial and emotional hardship for their family. Her family urged her to leave him, but she stayed true to him, and believed that he was who he said he was. She was content to live in a little apartment stuffed with strange books and newspapers, and to drive a broken down old hooptie as long as she could be with her prophet.

After a while, I realized that I wasn’t Gandhi. I switched jobs, went to college, and got a degree. While I was at school, word got to me that The Psychic Cowboy had fallen down dead in the parking lot of a local grocery store. It turned out that he had a gigantic tumor in the middle of his brain. After realizing that this was no doubt the source of his strange beliefs and behavior, my thoughts immediately went to his wife, who had allowed her life to take a fairly radical path based on the delusions that her husband suffered from. I wondered if she connected the tumor to the prophecies and weird hobbies that the man had. God only knows what other strange things may have passed from him to her over the years. Did she understand that he was suffering from an illness, and not a divine gift?

I haven’t run into her since then, but I hope she’s okay. She popped into my head as I was driving to work today, listening to Glenn Beck’s radio show. The connection was hard not to draw. There’s no way that Beck will be able to keep his fans all revved up and full of horrible anticipation over a prolonged period of time. Eventually, when the revolution doesn’t come, when white Midwestern conservatives realize that a black president with a funny name needn’t be a fascistic dictator, or that a handful of progressive policies may actually do the country some good, Glenn Beck’s influence will greatly diminish. I have to wonder if the reckoning that the Psychic Cowboy’s wife experienced will be analogous in any way to the reckoning all of those tea-partying housewives across America are going to experience when they begin to get a hint of what really animates their talk-radio icon.

Maybe the experience will be analogous. I mean, it's not like their going to start listening to Laura Ingraham again, right?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cloud Interlude 7/Assorted Business

*Little Spencer heads out to summer camp this weekend. He's growing up fast. Children are so predictable in that way.

*I found a solution to my prayer problem: Now, when I feel overwhelmed by all of the goodness in my life, instead of praying to a God I don't believe in, I take a deep breath and hold it for a second. It actually seems to work better than prayer. I feel like I'm getting away with something when I take that big, deep breath. It makes me feel good.

And that's the point, right?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where The Mormons Lost Me

[I'm going to be pretty busy with a couple of other projects until around July 5th, so I'll be posting a few re-runs until then. Thanks to everyone for reading! I hope to have some new content for you in early July.]

Much to my wife’s frequent dismay, I have a habit of inviting door to door evangelists into our house. I invite them to sit on our furniture, and I offer them drinks. Sometimes, our conversations will span frequent sessions, culminating in the inevitable question:

So, would you like to buy our product?

Obviously, because I am an incorrigible heretic, the answer has—so far—been ‘No, thank you. But thanks for the conversation’.

I really do enjoy the conversation. I’m interested in evangelism as a person who is interested in finding out things about God (if there are things to be found out about God), but also as a psychology major who is very interested in human relationships, and the mechanisms through which we choose one belief over another, or no belief at all.

One of my longest recurring conversations was with a pair of Mormon disciples. At the time, I didn’t know very much about Mormonism. One of my supervisors at work was a Mormon, and she was very nice. She had given me a copy of The Book of Mormon on lunch one day, and I hadn’t read it. It seemed really contrived to me. She told me about it, told me I should read the whole book, pray sincerely for God to give me a sign that it was true, and to submerge myself in Mormon culture in the meantime.

What kind of sign will God send me?’ I asked.

Oh, I don’t know. It could be a warm feeling in your heart, a prickly feeling on the back of your neck, a simple feeling of confidence in the document.

What does the feeling of confidence feel like?

You’ll see.’ She said, very confidently, very self assuredly.

Of course, plunging into a well of specific religious literature and isolating yourself for long periods of time within a community that ascribes to that literature, is an act that is probably only like to be performed by a few types of people, with only a few possible motives. Type one would be the person who wants the claims made by the religion to appear to be true, so that they can accept the dogma (for whatever reason) and enter into the philosophy, lifestyle, and community promoted by that system. Another type is probably someone who was brought up inside that system, and seeks to come to some kind of personal understanding of that which has been handed down to them, so that they may either embrace it, or reject it, based on their own understanding. The third kind of person would probably be someone making a documentary film, or writing a book.

Since I fit none of these bills, I didn’t see the necessity of reading the entire Book of Mormon, or undergoing the very clear self-propagandizing regimen that was suggested to me*. I would rather skim through the book, talk to some sales representatives about their product, and do some critical analysis by reading oppositional writings, and doing some of my own thinking. I wasn’t sure I could be as straightforward with my supervisor as I might’ve wished, so I was glad when the two young men who came to my door were so eager to answer my questions.

I’m sure we went over all of the basic stuff that everyone goes over when they run into Mormon evangelists. I was pretty fascinated by the idea that our God may not be the first God, and that he has kind of learned how to be a Good God via on the job training. I thought that could go ways to explain a lot of the weird stuff in the Old Testament. Of course, my new friends didn’t like that view, and of course, I didn’t like that these young men had absolutely zero evidence to support any of these strange claims about the nature of things. Eventually, they asked me to pray for the tingly feeling, and I said, no, I would prefer some evidence, and they said, fine, thank you for your time, please reconsider. Then they said a prayer with me and left.

Maybe it’s a surprise to you that I did in fact end up reading large portions of the Book of Mormon. I watched a few documentaries on the subject, and read some other material too. I was fascinated by some of their ideas. That man could earn Godhood was interesting. That you could think of God in the way I had just explained was also pretty neat. That Jesus was my brother (because God is my father!) was a new twist. There are all kinds of unusual and interesting things embedded in Mormon philosophy and history. It seemed totally crazy at first, but—as with all instances of habituation—it became more familiar and even more reasonable to me the further I dove in. That is one of the functions of self-propagandizing.

I started talking to my supervisor about it, and she was very eager to answer my questions. She invited me to functions, and let me borrow books and movies.
One day, I told her I had seen a movie that I thought was really good. It didn’t have anything to do with Mormonism, but it was about belief, and God, and all of that stuff, in kind of a meta-poetic way. It was called ‘Photographing Fairies’. She said it sounded interesting, so I brought it in for her to borrow.

The next time we worked together, I asked her if she had seen it. She kind of scrunched up her face and said,

Oh, sorry. I can’t watch this movie. It’s rated R’.

What do you mean?’ I said.

Mormons aren’t allowed to watch R rated movies.


It was a message delivered to one of our elders.

But the rating system is so subjective!


But this is a good, thoughtful, philosophical movie! It’s beautiful! It got the R rating because it shows a pair of breasts for like, two minutes! And the sex scene is very tame, and it’s between a married couple!

She shrugged her shoulders, and I relented.

I was probably never going to convert to Mormonism, but if there ever was even a remote chance of my joining up, it was squashed at that moment. I can’t make any claims about God, but I’m fairly certain that if there is a God, he wouldn’t be the kind of philistine the church of Latter Day Saints paints him to be.

I am a person of little faith, but I have more faith than that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

You Can't Make An Omelet...

Today was Jack’s first day of day camp, and Abby works a regular Monday through Friday job, so it was just little Spence and I hanging out today. We decided to go to The Zoo.

Since we have memberships to The Zoo, we feel pretty free to go in and out as much as we please. Since we planned on spending about six hours there, we decided to head into Clifton around lunch time to eat at the Skyline there (best place to get a cheese coney in Cincinnati), rather than paying the zoos exorbitant concession fees.

We walked around Clifton for awhile, walking through Burnet woods to the University of Cincinnati Campus. We had a nice conversation. We talked basically all day long; We don’t get to do that enough. Spencer told me a lot about this game that he’s nuts about called Starcraft, and he told me he’d like to volunteer at the Zoo when he’s old enough, and we just kind of chit-chatted about a range of subjects. It was a good day.

We went and picked Jack up from day camp and decided to head back to the zoo. I’ve been to a lot of big city zoos, and I would put Cincinnati’s Zoo up against all of them. Our Zoo kicks ass.

It was kind of rainy, which was good, because the animals act a little differently when the weather is imperfect. It’s like they don’t expect to see people around, so they let their hair down a little. We spent about an hour in front of the bonobo exhibit. This young bonobo named B.J. was fascinated by my cell phone. I showed him a bunch of pictures I had on the phone, and he was pretty into it. BJ kept tapping the glass every time I had left a picture up too long (I think) as a way to get me to move on to the next image. It was a good, laid back day.

On the way home we were listening to the new Pearl Jam CD, and doing a little more chatting. We had all been walking around for hours, and were kind of wiped out; Wiped out, but happy. I have been tense lately. There have been lots of things going on: problems with the garbage disposal, I had poison ivy for about a week, projects for work, etc, etc, the stuff of life. I needed a day like this.As we turned down the road to our house, a little bird flew right into my windshield, making a dull thud. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw his diminutive corpse straddling the double yellow lines on the road.

‘ah!’ I said. ‘idiot bird!’

‘Hey’, my oldest said. ‘It wasn’t his you think he’s dead?’

‘I’d say so.’ I said.

‘Aw.’ Said my boys, almost in unison.

There was a moment of silence, and then I turned the volume on the radio back up.

If you haven’t picked up Pearl Jam’s newest CD yet, I recommend it. It’s pretty awesome.

Best place to get Chili in Cincinnati:

Pearl Jam's 'The Fixer':

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Man: (enthusiastically)...and the best thing about vitamin C is that you can take as much as you want. There's no overdose. You just pee out what you don't need.

Woman: (sweetly) I wish I could pee you out.

and they both laughed.

Everyone should be so lucky in love.


The Elegant Ape has upped the ante on this subject.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

James Randi: Why I Came Out At 81

James Randi talks about his late-in-life 'coming out' experience:


"The point that I came out so late in my life is only due to the fact that I never got around to it. All my friends and family have always known. All of my office people and such have always known about this. And I’ve never made any refusal to discuss it, and if anyone has every asked, I said quite frankly, “Yes, that’s the situation.” And for 25 years now, I’ve had a faithful companion and we get along just fine. We’re very attached to one another, I’m very happy in that relationship and it doesn’t enter into my work at all though."

Maybe his sexuality doesn't have anything to do with his work, but his willingness to talk about it publicly—even this late in the game—is an inspiration to everyone who would hope to see benign orientations of all kinds (not just sexual) publicly accepted.

Good for James Randi. Honestly, whenever I've read his work or watched him perform, his sexual orientation--or the thought that he might even have one--has never occurred to me; Randi has always been more of an asexual Merlin/Gandalf type character in my mind (maybe the long beard is a more stigmatizing feature than sexuality).

At any rate, Mr. Randi is to be admired and emulated. We all probably need to 'come out' as one thing or the other. Owning up to whatever you fanatic...embroidery nut...whatever, is always a good thing, and will always encourage more closet cases of every stripe to do the same.

Here's to a world where people are comfortable being who they are.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How Religious Thinking Corrupts Political Thinking

In a new piece, P.Z. Myers takes issue with statements Bill Donohue recently made about the 'special place' the catholic church has reserved for reason:

"I agree that the Catholic church has assigned reason a special place: apologetics. Rationalizing the irrational. Throwing up a smokescreen of scholarship to hide the fact that deep down, they're worshipping a jealous bronze age patriarchal myth wedded to a howling crazy Eastern mystery religion. But they aren't any different than any other religion: for instance, the Baptists found universities and pay lip service to logic, too. As Hawking said, science works, and every charlatan in every church dreams of hitching a ride on its record."

This statement can be made about all religious apologetics, not just catholic apologetics. The ‘obfuscatory dust cloud’—as I call it—is a common tool of the educated religious class, and it is a tool that is used in bad faith, because those who use it should know better.

It also stymies inquiry and understanding.

The underlying apparatus of the religious mind is the same apparatus that animates the mind of the religious right: a reliance on truth as delivered from authority and revelation. Now, many liberals hold to sacred dogmas too, some of which I will probably challenge at some point in the future; but this election cycle isn’t about liberal taboos. It is about economics, war, and the environment.

The war issue is more complicated than ideologues in either party are going to admit. To the party out of power, the issue will always be clear cut. To the party in power, all of the many nuances of the situation will be evident. The difference here is that the ideologues had the megaphone in the Republican party while they were in power, and the ideologues have the megaphone in the republican party now. While President Obama may have tipped his hat to the ideologues in our party from time to time during the campaign, he has always essentially been a pragmatist and realist on the war issue, and when war is the issue, we want pragmatism and realism.

The ‘bomb the fuckers!’ line of the tea party crowd is based on a belief in the myth of American exceptionalism, and our inherent righteousness. Tea Party foreign policy is in its very essence a religious doctrine.

The same pragmatic realism versus dogmatic religiosity conflict can be seen in the argument about the economy; except rather than ‘bomb the fuckers!’ the tea party crowd is chanting ‘tax cut the fuckers!’

The right wing approach to the economy is embarrassingly simple minded, and overtly religious. In the place of god, we have the ‘invisible hand of the market’, which can do no wrong. Tax cuts is always the answer, whatever the question may be. Pragmatic Democrats will consider tax cuts when they are appropriate. In our current economic situation, one simple answer is unlikely to yield lasting positive results. Our economic policies may be more complicated (and thus harder to explain sufficiently), but they are not dogmatic, and are subject to change.

The same can be said of the climate change argument. There are authorities upon whom we can put some faith in, and that is the climate scientists. The reason we can put some faith in them is because they—on the whole—subscribe to the scientific method, which is empirical and replicable. Their findings can be examined by the public.

Those who question the impact of climate change are relying on the authority of non-scientists who are not trained in empirical methods nearly as well as they are trained in political rhetoric and hyperbole. The ability to craft a self-serving analogy or metaphor is not the same thing as the ability to rigorously test and examine data.

PZ continues his piece with this statement:

"There is an inherent conflict between science and religion. Mr Donohue believes a cracker turns into a slice of god in his mouth; he thinks there is a magic man in the sky who speaks to the Pope; he believes a series of rituals will allow an invisible ghost in his body go to Disneyland in Space after his meat dies. He also believes that one young species of ape on this planet somehow plays a "pivotal role" in affairs on Jupiter. These are irrational, unscientific beliefs — they are anti-science, because he believes in arriving at conclusions because they are what he wishes to be true, or because the dogma has been repeated to him enough times, or because someone claims a supernatural revelation."

It all boils down to religion. Be your religion secular or supernatural, you’re going about your thinking in the wrong way. If you’re unable to change your opinions in the face of new evidence, if you feel comfortable making claims about things that you cannot possibly have any knowledge about, or approach issues with the one-size-fits-all confidence of the dogmatic, your mind is in trouble.

Basing your opinions on religious dogmas, and looking to unquestionable authorities for revelations about ultimate truths is bound to infect all of your thinking. The subject of our nation’s religious attitudes is absolutely apropos to our current political climate.

cross posted at The Daily Kos

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

God At Sunset

I find it noteworthy that God—at this stage in the game—has begun to move steadily away from any kind of proper noun and has simply come to be known by the category of being that he (surely male) is. No longer is he Zeus, or Thor, Or Yahweh, or Allah, or Amon-re or any of those other permutations of God that everyone is an atheist about that Richard Dawkins frequently enjoys rattling off in public forums before arriving gleefully at the punch line that he ‘just goes one god further’. God, graying at the temples and perhaps wearing a sweater vest is now just God. Noun.

Maybe it is liberating. It must have been tiring to be mistaken for so many separate beings across such a span of time, just because you’re a little moody. It would be as if everyone called you Christina when you were angry, or Samantha when you were horny. In reality, you’ve been Paul this whole time, good-old Paul, and people are always giving you new names, and ascribing different features to you based on the culture in which you were viewed. It’s better to be Paul.

But let’s go farther: God, who is still occasionally called Allah or Yahweh here and there (but only casually), is no longer really either of those names. God is God. It would be as if people stopped calling you Paul all together, and simply called you human. Could you imagine?

God, the executive being, is taking it easy these days. There is less and less for him (of course he’s a man!) to do. We’ve all realized how unfair it is to give him kudos for the good things that happen in our lives (because otherwise we’d have to also give him credit for all the bad things that happen to us, and what kind of god would allow bad things to happen to people?), so he doesn’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. Advances in the sciences have shown us that God really hasn’t had much of a hand in our design, or too much of the material stuff that goes on down here on Earth. Some will still say that he ‘guided’ evolution, but really, that’s just like a director that gives a producing credit on her movie to a friend or some detached but insecure financier. God appreciates the gesture, but he realizes that it’s mostly empty.

And since we know that god doesn’t intervene in our lives, prayer has become more of a self-help enterprise. A way for folks to visualize goals. A form of meditation. With all the silence, God has a lot of time to do the things he really cares about. Like watching sports.

That’s right. God may not do as much as we may have once thought he did, but he does watch sports, and he does intervene. He has a method for determining which team it is that he wants to win which competition. It has something to do with the number of hot dogs sold in the stadium multiplied by the thickness of black paint smeared under a randomly chosen player’s eyes, divided by the square root of Gatorade. I’ve never been very good at the maths, but watching God at his chalkboard is something to behold, even if his knees do pop sometimes when he stands up from a crouching position.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

To Gun, Or Not To Gun

Lately, I’ve been thinking about buying a gun; probably a rifle, because hand guns give me the creeps.

This development seems to make a deep kind of sense on one hand, and a deep kind of nonsense on the other. You see, I was brought up around guns in a rural area of Ohio. My grandfather, uncle, and father participated in civil war re-enactments when I was a young boy. My grandfather (a navy man and retired journeyman) also owned and operated a gun store for a number of years. My father is a member of the NRA. I’ve been around guns all of my life. It makes sense that after years of ambivalence towards them, I might find my interest piqued.

On the other hand, I am a liberal who supports reasonable gun laws, including waiting periods, background checks, bans on assault weapons, and measures to close the so called ‘gun show loopholes’. I also don’t support any kind of public-carry licenses, concealed or otherwise.

I know that there are many liberals who like guns, and like hunting, and support the second amendment to varying extents. I know Hunter S. Thompson was a political liberal who loved guns, and if I am to believe the subtext of so many election year photo ops, so do many, many, many (many) left-of-center presidential, senatorial, and congressional candidates.

But it still feels weird to me to think about buying a gun and taking it to a shooting range. More often than not it seems like you need to buy into some weird mojo to get on the gun bandwagon. It seems like you might need some ‘Real America’ credentials; like getting into Glenn Beck and NASCAR, and begin hoarding canned goods, bibles, and bottled water in preparation for the coming Socialist Superstorm that the Obama administration is deftly war-gaming with their reptilian-muslim-communist-atheist-homosexual-secularist-sorosian cohorts.

I don’t like Glenn Beck or NASCAR, and I’m not in the tinfoil hat business. To the generator buying, ammo-stockpiling, book of revelations survivalist I will comfort with the following Dennis Miller quip:

“The biggest conspiracy has always been the fact that there is no conspiracy. Nobody's out to get you. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. There, you feel better now?”

That being said, I think I want to shoot a gun. I have a certain primitive urge that is hard to define that I think shooting a gun would satisfy. This urge is part of the reason I can’t be a vegetarian (I like to eat meat when I am frustrated), and probably explains to some degree my simian appearance when I walk around without a shirt on.

Some other benefits to owning a gun: My kids seem interested in them, and I would like to embrace every bonding activity with them that I am offered. They’re going to be growing up around guns whether I own one myself or not. I still live in a very gun-friendly part of Ohio, and guns are pretty important to many members of my family. I might as well be the one to teach my boys how to respect and shoot them, and maybe I can even model a reasonable way for them to think about the things.

But it’s difficult for me to extricate the gun from what I have come to conceptualize as ‘the gun culture’. I’m certain it’s possible. After all, I still love to cook, even after watching Mario Batali in Spain...On The Road Again!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

American Dissident Cartoon

G. Tod Slone has transformed a comment I made over at The American Dissident into an editorial cartoon.

the cartoon:

Pretty cool.

to see the context in which my original comment was made, click here.

If you're into no-holds-barred-loser-leaves-town-texas-deathmatch-battles over the current state of academia, poetry, censorship, and democracy, drop by the American Dissident some time. If you decide to jump into one of the debates that goes on at the AD blog, be sure to be clear and to the point with your argument. This is a warning born of personal experience.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Something Will Kill You

Something will kill you,
You lovers of life.

If you seek pleasure in sex
You will die of aids,

If you seek pleasure in food,
You will die of diabetes.

Alcohol will give you cirrhosis,
Marijuana will make you depressed,

politics will make you conniving,
And religion will make you lonely.

Think too hard and you will go crazy,
Don’t think enough, and you’ll be hit by a bus.

Life is for the living,
But you can’t live long, because life will kill you.

So do something, nervous squirrels,
Just don’t do too much of it.