Monday, July 4, 2011

I heard there was a secret chord...

I'm a few days late with this, but it's been a busy weekend. And you don't even read this thing anyway, so shut up, you.

I have had the pleasure of being within spitting distance of three of my personal heroes in my life. (In terms of famous-type people. I have plenty of everyday heroes I see regularly. Hello there, you peoples. You're alright by me.) The first was ten years ago, when I saw George Carlin in Atlantic City just a few months before 9/11. A friend and I drove the four hours from Worcester and got sit in the third row and see him do a bit on the end of the world that he wouldn't do again until years later, when we all finally realized that entropy and gallows humor were still funny, terrorism be damned.

The second was in 2008, when my wife and I saw Tom Waits at a club in Dallas during his "Glitter and Doom" tour. Another four hour trip. The place was miserable, hot, and the lack of any actual seating meant we were pressed up against the stage by a crush of bodies the entire night, but it was amazing nonetheless. And the third was Friday at the Paramount Theater in Austin (this time driving only a little over three hours) when we saw Tim Minchin.

I stumbled on Tim's unique brand of madness via The Friendly Atheist, where a commenter had posted a link to "If You Open Your Mind Too Much, Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife)." I knew then that this weird Aussie with crazy hair and no shoes was someone worth some serious attention. I got hold of everything I could one way or another (illegal downloading is wrong, kids. You wouldn't download a pizza, would you? Actually, I totally would. That'd be some serious Back to the Future II shit, right there.) over the course of a few weeks, turned my wife and a few others on to him, and slowly developed a tiny obsession. Very few people espouse the worldview I hold in such a clever, thoughtful and razor-sharp way. Even fewer can do it while making me laugh.

We got decent enough seats, at first, a few weeks ago. It was a relatively small venue, so there'd be no "bad" seats, per se, so I was ridiculously excited. Then my amazing velp (Vaginally Endowed Life Partner, for those of you who don't share my quirky passions) surprised me with 2nd row center seats that the theater had just happened to release on the day she checked their site on a whim. Fate? Not bloody likely. But an awesome stroke of luck nonetheless. And so, I was left practically turgid with antici...pation. This also left us with a couple of extra tickets, which we gave to some friends we'd been visiting. They'd never heard of Tim before, but after one song we'd got two more converts. This reinforces what I've been saying to you people all along: You should like the things that I like, because they're good. And the things you like are terrible. Stop that.

After a drink at a trendy Japanese restaurant (one of Austin's main natural resources, apparently, bested only by hipsters. Coincidence? I dunno. Post hoc ergo propter hoc might be in play there, but it's really hard to ignore.) across the way from the theater (we found out shortly after that Tim had most likely been there only moments before we were. I've gotta work on my stalking skills. Apparently, I'm a bit rusty), we shuffled in. The seats were better than I'd hoped for, and Tim came out with a couple of "Oh hey, guys. Didn't know you were here. Well, best get to my piano," sort of head nods, and went immediately into "Rock and Roll Nerd." Things went a bit fuzzy for me after that. There were so many of my favorites, for sure. Getting to hear "Storm" performed live may be one of the highlights of my year. Before I knew it, more than two hours had passed.

I'd heard and knew every lyric for every song beforehand ("Obsession," remember? Check your DSM IV.), but I still laughed genuinely until it hurt. He looked a bit exhausted at the start (simply an affectation or not, I don't know, but it seemed genuine), but he still played his heart out and rocked our fucking asses. And, in Texas no less, (Austin's still Texas, no matter what they like to tell you there) he sang "Thank You God," and "The Pope Song." Short of a sing-a-long to "I Love Jesus," I couldn't have asked for more.

He ended with two encores (three, if you count "Second Encore"). The first was "White Wine in the Sun," one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever, and one that hits particularly close to someone who now lives thousands of miles from home. Absolutely amazing, and I'm not too proud to admit I teared up a bit. But the best, for me, was yet to come.

The last song of the evening was a rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Already one of my favorites and one that my wife and I danced to at our wedding (the Jeff Buckley version, which was the one Tim did), this sent us completely over the moon. One of my fellow attendees put it best outside of the theater shortly after, saying something like "Only Tim could get a room full of a thousand atheists to sing along to "Hallelujah." During our harmonizing, Tim remarked "Oh, that's delicious." As one of my fellow "angry-feeters" put it, "Why yes, Tim. Yes it was." 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

So you wanna live in paradise?

I'm seeing Tim Minchin in Austin tomorrow. And my amazing wife has procured 2nd row seats. I really don't have much else to say. This is the most fantastic news I've had in awhile. A full, gushing report is sure to follow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And the gods go begging here...

It's certainly been awhile since my last post, and for that I apologize, both to anyone that reads this blog o' mine (there can't be many, certainly, but there may be one or two. I'll call you guys Daves. Sorry, Daves.) and to myself, for a writer must write to be called a writer. Otherwise, (s)he's just one of those overly touchy intellectual types that enjoys nothing more than correcting the use of "your" and "you're" on cork board notices and sleeping on the couch after using the word "actually" one too many times in the presence of his or her spouse. Anyway, off to the races we go, firing on all cylinders, and mixing our metaphors like so much jell-o pudding!*

I promise, dear readers, that I'm not intentionally using this medium solely as a sounding board for my confusion with and dislike of religion, however much to the contrary it may seem these days. I want to tell you all about the wonderful book or movie or cartoon show I'm currently super into (I plan on filling PAGES, --or...rows or columns...however one gauges space on these things--just on the awesomeness of  H. Jon Benjamin -fellow Worcesterite and irreverent mad genius-  and Archer some time soon, I promise), or rant unintelligibly for far too long on just why the Ninja Turtles were better than Thundercats (hint: read the titles. Seriously, they're NINJA. TURTLES. That is all. For now.), or why it is pancakes are almost always better in memories than at breakfast, I really really do. But...well, I live in Texas these days, and even here in Houston where it's relatively hip and progressive, there are lots more churches than, say, museums or record stores ("Same thing," I hear you say. Shut up, you kids. With your damn...Pac-Man.) or cool dive bars. By a terrifyingly wide margin. So, I'm exposed to a lot more of that good, old fashioned "My God can beat up your God" religion than I care to be, and it tends to steam my broccoli something fierce a lot of the time. So, here we go again...

I work in some aspect of the service industry (let us leave it at that for fear of prying eyes), and a week or two ago, a semi-regular customer of mine came in. As I'm helping said gentleman, who really seems to be a genuinely nice dude as far as I can tell, he notices my wedding ring. He asks me how long I've been married, striking up small-talk while waiting, near as I can figure. I tell him, and we chat for a bit. Erelong (that's right, I said it), he gets a little personal, and I get a little cagey, honestly thinking he may be hitting on me (I'm a good-looking, personable, slightly fey kind of guy, it's happened before). He then proceeds to ask me, "So, are you a Christian?"

Now, I've been asked this question many times before in many different situations, and it's always uncomfortable. But I'm a lot more at peace with and proud of my theological choices than I used to be, so I don't hesitate anymore; "No, I'm not," I say. "I was raised nominally Christian, but I haven't been one in any sense for a long time." (or something along those lines. I really don't talk that poofy during idle chatter, I swear.) Dude then says "Please don't be offended," (Here it comes, I think), "but would you mind if I prayed to God and asked him to bless your marriage? I feel like I'm being called to do so." Threw me a curve ball with that one; when people ask if they can pray for me, it's usually to fix my funny walk. But, as I've said before, I don't mind being prayed for so much as being prayed at. And I told him so, to which he replied "I hear ya. Most people who think they know God don't really know anything." I agreed with him 100% on that one. So basically, I said "Knock yourself out, man. It's no skin off my nose." And he did, right there in a commercial setting, he asked God to bless my wife and I. I thanked him for the kind words and he went on his way. And that, I thought, was the end of that. Of course, by now I ought to know better.

Today, the gentleman comes in again, and I greet him, and we chat a bit once again, and he asks how life's treating me and how my wife is doing. Now, under normal, polite small talk rules, this is a perfectly nice thing to ask, but I know and he knows that he really isn't interested in how we're doing simply to be nice; he wants vindication of his prayer. And as much as I don't believe in curses or bad juju, and as much as the twisted little place inside me thinks it'd be hilarious to say "We're not so good, dude. My wife recently died in a circus-related accident and I just found out that I have advanced syphilis. The smell was terrible in both situations," on the minuscule chance there may be something to it, I don't want to bring down that kind of fury on us. So, I settle for "We're great, man, thanks for asking!" To which he replies --with the kind of self-satisfied smirk I reserve for when I get less than half the questions on an episode of Jeopardy wrong-- "I had a feeling. That's great to hear." I should have let it go there. But something in me has to get the last word in these types of encounters, even if it's just LITERALLY the last word, and even if that word is "Garbledina." (if you have to ask, it's better that you don't know). So, I said "Thanks for the good thoughts!" with a tone of finality and turned to go about my business. He then said "You're welcome, of course..." pause for effect..."but its more than that."

Of course I sussed out what he was implying. I'm an expert at reading people, after all. I'm like Tim Roth in Lie to Me. (or so I assume. That show seems just...just awful.) That, and it was about as subtle as a drunken frat boy asking a co-ed what she's interested in while he's actively trying to remove her bra. "It's more than that. (read: GOD IS SO AWESOME, ISN'T IT GREAT THAT HE ANSWERED MY PRAYER AND MADE YOUR LIFE SO AWESOME? YOU SHOULD AGREE WITH ME!!!!!!!!!!!!)" Give or take a few exclamation points, for sure. And it's that implication, one I've heard quite often, that gets my goat (And it was my last goat, man! What if I need that goat for...strategic goat purposes?! I know its a misquote, but I can't think of one with sheep.).

Of course our lives aren't better because we've put in the effort, it seems to say. Things aren't going well because I work long hours to ensure we can pay our bills and have nice things and my wife didn't get an awesome new job because she's an intelligent, creative person who impressed her interviewers; who spent years learning her craft and who operates regularly on levels I can't even begin to understand. No, that's just silly. It's because some people made mumbled requests to an ill-defined creator who, as luck would have it, is the right one to ask out of literally THOUSANDS that have come before and since. Duh.

Let me now address the generality of people who try to convert me (or anyone else, for that matter) with these sorts of arguments: I am not an atheist by choice. At least, not in the sense of "I think I'll wear flannel today and also not believe in god." (I won't do either of these things for the same reason, incidentally: They just don't look good on me.) It is the end result of a process spanning much of my life. I believed for a long time, I truly did. I even thought about being a priest for awhile, I was that committed to it. But somewhere along the way, I started thinking truly critically about the whole thing. And at every turn, it just didn't make sense to me anymore. It became a tattered flag that was waved around by people (many of them lovely, caring individuals) who couldn't see how many holes it had in it. And it fell apart when I tried to grab it again. And I did try, again and again (I still have some accoutrement from my Wiccan phase, my last silly venture into the supernatural. Meh, I like incense well enough.). Eventually, I realized there was nothing left of it for me and I found meaning elsewhere. All around me, strangely enough. The world and the universe it lives in are as fucking awesome as they ever were, only now I don't thank a god for it all, I'm just amazed at how insanely lucky I am, how lucky we all are, that things came together just so. And I want to figure out as much of how that happened as I can, because it's fascinating, and because it led to me sitting here typing this, and it led to the beer I'm going to have in a moment, and the Jaffa Cake I'll enjoy with it. And the wife I'll fall asleep with, and the corned beef we'll have on St. Paddy's day, and so on and so on...It's the coolest mystery of all, only it's not the "moves in mysterious ways" kind of mystery. It's more like Cosmic Clue; you can figure it out if you've got the right evidence ("The Gravitational Singularity did it in the Planck Epoch with the Big Bang!"). So, to sum up, generality of bible-thumpers: I'm an atheist because I have to be, in order to be true to my own brain. You won't change my mind any more than I'll change yours. So please, stop trying and let's just enjoy all this awesome stuff together.

As a little post-script, since I know I come off really harsh on religion and the religious a lot of the time, I'd like to say (yet again) that I have absolutely nothing against people of faith. Many of you I know very well, many of you I like, some of you I love very much. You are my friends and family and sometimes that really cool old guy I saw at Target one day, the one rocking a fedora and a flame-tipped cane who is more bad ass than I can ever hope to be. I enjoy laughing with you, arguing with you, and generally just being alive at the same time you are. I take the religious as I take anyone else: one by one, and based on their actions. And most of you are just fine by me.

Incidentally, today's title is a lyric from Tom Waits' "Hoist That Rag." It's a wonderful meditation on the realities of being a soldier, but I think the title of the song and the specific lyric tie in nicely with my "tattered flag" metaphor of a few paragraphs ago. I know they say that if you have to explain it, you didn't do it right, but give me a break, I'm proud of it.

*For the record, I love serial commas almost as much as pudding. Both lend a sense of civility to any occasion, both are delicious, and you should relish any opportunity to put either one wherever you possibly can. Especially  Even your pants.

Monday, January 17, 2011

We're just f**king monkeys in shoes...

Despite much of this rambling, silly, dark and twisted space of mine giving evidence to the contrary, I'm a big fan of the human race. Admittedly, we are, at least physically, far from the most interesting animals on the planet. Sharks have all those rows of teeth, for example. I've just got the one row, and it doesn't even deal with jerky all that well.Tigers, zebras, moths, and loads of other kinds of animals have natural camouflage so perfect, you'd swear it had to be fake, while I could never seem to last more than five minutes into a game of hide-and-seek.  I've seen a horse relieve itself (with both a wee and a two-sie) quite comfortably while running at full speed. If you find me pooping while sprinting, it's a safe bet I'm anything BUT comfortable. It means I'm either being chased by a maniac or have recently made a very regrettable decision on where to have lunch. Even cats have a third eyelid, a fact of which I am happily ignorant most of the time, because eeew. And yes, I do realize that many, many animals have this trait, and we primates are the freaks for lacking it, but one of the benefits of being a dominant life form with the ability to communicate via language is that we get to decide what's gross. More to the point, I get to decide, since I'm better than you.

All the stuff I learned from Animal Planet aside, we humans are still pretty kick ass. We have the aforementioned language skills, so we can speak to one another of the wonders of the world, beauty, truth, and the disgusting, painfully sexual things we're going to do with each other's more attractive siblings and/or parents. We can write stuff like books and greeting cards and scrawl said disgusting, painfully sexual things on men's room walls. We have opposable thumbs (so do most primates, by the way), so we can hold tools and build neat things like houses, pianos, coat racks, chainsaws,  theater sets, skateboard ramps, burning crosses, and so on.

We are, each of us, full of incredible potential from the moment we realize that the world around us reacts to our presence, and that realization arms us with the knowledge that we can do stuff.

And we are aware of our own fragility on a level no other animal quite seems to reach. And that makes us both wonderful and terrible. It causes us to be cruel and kind, both of which are fascinating, one of which is sad (except the kid from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That dude was kind AND sad.). For a lot of reasons, it is this awareness which makes us the most uniquely interesting creatures on this planet to me. Even more than platypi (though not by much. They're ducks covered in fur with tails like beavers and they lay eggs and are STILL mammals! Because fuck you, that's why.)

Yet, despite all the potential and all the fantastic abilities we possess, we mustn't forget our humble origins. We share a common ancestor with apes and monkeys some brief few million years ago, and with all mammals some few dozen million more before that. Go back a little further, and we magnificent creatures of the land were all fish-thingies with screwed up flippers that happened to be good for getting out of the water for short periods, away from other fish-thingies that wanted to eat us, up onto land where we could fornicate like crazy with all the other weird-flippered proto-fish-thingies. On and on, back to the first set of molecules that smashed itself together in just such a way, creating the first proteins, laying the groundwork for all that DNA we enjoy so much.

Look even a little closely at ourselves, and it's really not hard to spot the places we've come from. We wear clothes like peacocks wear feathers. We groom ourselves  like cats (well, some of us do; I personally haven't shaved in days.)  and fight like dogs over territory. We want to be warm and full, comfortable and safe. And we want to hump like crazy, just like every other living thing in existence (my asexually reproducing homies excepted, of course. Rock on, you funky amoeba. Err...Amoebas. Amoebee?). And really, it's that which makes us so goddamn rock. We can build a skyscraper, fly to space, make long distance telephone calls, write poems, tell great drunk stories, etc. etc. etc, and we still...well, we still just want to eat and sleep and have a place to call our own, so we can survive long enough to, you know, hump like crazy. We're just as connected to our furry brethren as they are to each other, and to us. In the words of someone who put it better than I just did, well before I did it, "We're just fucking monkeys in shoes."

Fuck I love boobs, though...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whoa....somebody's comin'...somebody's comin'!
Baby: The other other white meat!

I was reading a post on one of my favorite blogs, Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist earlier today, on the Freedom From Religion Foundation's recent billboard campaign in Florida. I wholeheartedly support the effort, as I am completely for the separation of church and state as well as the desire to let other non-believers know that they are not alone. There are a shit-ton of us, and we'll gladly stand right beside you, or even allow you to buy us a beer.

As I've said many times before, I completely support the right of the individual to believe or not believe whatever they please. I've recently converted to Pastafarianism myself, not out of any real conviction that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (sauce and cheese be upon Him) actually exists, but rather because it makes just as much sense as any other religion. And at least, with the FSM, you get to eat really well, drink a lot of beer and dress up like a pirate instead of going to church: Three of the biggest goals in my life down in one move. And, on the off chance that Our Noodly Lord (basil and garlic be upon Him) does exist, I get to go to the Beer Volcano and Stripper Factory in the sky. It's a better version of Pascal's know, because of the beer and strippers. That combination makes anything better. (Seriously, think of ANYTHING at all off the top of your head. Now add beer and strippers. See?!)  But I'm off topic yet again. Point: individuals can have any religion they want, but the U.S. government, by design, cannot make or pass any law that endorses or decries any of them and therefore must act in a secular fashion for the common good. So, good on ya, FFRF. Keep it up.

Now, on to the real meat of this piece. (heh. Meat. Piece. I will NEVER tire of dick jokes.) In wanting to read a little more on subject of the FFRF's billboards, I clicked through to a story on Tampa Bay Online  covering it. It seemed a little biased against the FFRF, but nothing too extreme and that's really par for the course, so no surprise there. Toward the end of the article, however, a quote brought up something that's been bugging me awhile:

"David Clarke, a Tampa psychologist and author of several Christian books, says he supports the right to post these billboards but 'feels sorrow' for the sponsors at the same time. "Without God," he said, "life is meaningless and there can't be any real morality.'"

 I really don't have a problem with religious folks feeling sorrow that I haven't embraced a (or more specifically their) god. Nor do I have too much of a problem being prayed for (I used to, but generally the sentiment comes from the heart. It's pointless, but harmless all in all. I do, however have a BIG problem being prayed at, which happens far more often.). I suppose if I truly felt that everyone who didn't believe the same way I did wasn't going to the Beer Volcano, I'd be sad about it, too. The thing that has really cottaged my cheese for a long time, even before I fully let go of the idea of God, however, is Clarke's last sentence: "Without God," he said, "life is meaningless and there can't be any real morality.'" Fundies have been claiming the moral high ground since forever, so there's no real shock to it, but I'm going to offer yet another counter argument, if only because this dude is supposedly a psychologist and should know better.

Clarke and others of his ilk argue that religion (around these parts that means Christianity, but really, the sentiment is pretty interchangeable across the Big Three) is necessary because God lays out the way we ought to live. Through the bible, humanity is given its moral compass, and without believing that there's a god to please, a heaven to aspire to and a hell to avoid, we'd all just go around stabbing each other, raping anything that moved, and eating babies. And that's just asinine.

Morality isn't a religious mandate, it's a biological one. We come from a long line of social creatures. Long before we built cities to live in, we still lived in groups. Over the long millenia to get us where we are, our morality has evolved. We ought to treat others well because we're all connected as a species, and its the best chance we have of surviving and thriving. We all have the same basic desires (with a few kinks thrown in here and there according to personal tastes): food, shelter, love, happiness, etc. It really doesn't take a divine revelation to tell us what's good and what's not. It's the Golden Rule at its simplest: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That was around long before the idea of Jesus (they just kinda shoehorned it in there. Gives the J-man a little more philosophical heft.), and with any luck it'll be around long after it, too.

To quote Penn Jillette: "Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around."

I live a life without god, and it is devoid of neither morality nor meaning. I aspire to kindness, though I may fail here and there. I treat people well. I give to charity. I help my brothers and my nieces with their homework. I've helped feed and clothe those less fortunate than me. I make my friends laugh. I do these things not so that I can be rewarded after I'm dead (though I will take a couple of bucks now, if you're giving it away), but because it makes me happy to do so. (It's not completely selfless, to be honest, since I enjoy the feeling it gives me to help someone out, and since I would hope someone would do the same for me if I needed it) I have never raped or murdered; I don't intentionally harm people at all. The last thing I ever stole was when I was a kid, and I felt terrible about it for a long time, even then not because I felt God would be angry at me, but because I stole something that belonged to someone else. The wrongness of the act was instinctual, not simply because I felt as though I would get in trouble. (Though I did, in the end. God's got nothing on my mom when she's pissed. I owe a lot more of my morality to her than to any god, that's for sure.)

So, that takes care of the morality. As for meaning: I have a lot of joy in my life. There are people I love and who love me. I have a wife I depend on and who depends on me. I have beer, cheesy midnight movies, Tom Waits music, Martin Scorcese, stand-up comedy, sunsets, glacial caves, romance, bromance, Shakespeare, Vonnegut, birthday parties, etc. etc. etc. Most importantly, I have the consequences of my actions, both good and bad, and I'd much rather make people smile. All that is enough for me. I don't need heaven, and wouldn't want it. It wouldn't be heaven if there's a hell, it would be unbearable. And if you think otherwise: fuck you, you selfish prick. :)

I don't want to say that I'm better than religious folks because of all this, that would be unfair. I'm better than some and not as good as others, the same as anyone else. There are plenty of believers that have had an amazing positive impact on just my own life; to discount them would be unthinkable. My point is we shouldn't be good because we want some big payoff from the cosmic slot machine; we should do what Aristotle, Santa and Bill Murray have told us to do all along: Be good, for goodness' sake.

And so, I leave you with a reading from the Loose Canon, one of the holiest books of Pastafarianism. Specifically, from the Random Number of Not Commandments, Suggestions:

"2. Thou ought not do stuff thou already knowest is wrong, like killing, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Dost thou really need these carved into a rock?"

May your sauce be forever warm. RAmen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stop being a faggot and let gay people get married already!

I figured I should weigh in on the recent awesomeness of California's Prop 8 being overturned. It's a shame it passed in the first place, but it's great that its death has brought so much attention to how stupid it was. I caught a few minutes of a rant that our good friend and fear-mongering Christ Crusader Pat Robertson threw out just awhile after the news broke, and he said, with his usual aplomb:

"The homosexuals want to destroy the church and they want to destroy doesn't matter how sacred an institution is and how important it is to society, as long as there can be a confirmation that this lifestyle is acceptable." I get to rant a little. (It's been too long...let me just get on my ranting shoes here and dance a...well, a sad, awkward little jig since not only am I white and have no rhythm, but I'm a spastic diplegic and my legs don't work so good to begin with. Still, I try, dammit.) Let's take just this little snippet of Mr. Robertson's ideology and work with it on its own, shall we? (If we took the whole damn thing, I'd pull a Scanners and no one wants to clean brains and hair off stucco.) He says, firstly, that homosexuals want to destroy the church. Some do, I'm sure. I'm a straight, married man and I want to destroy the church. A lot.

Let me qualify that last statement: I have a problem with religion as an idea, sure. After a lot of self-searching, I just couldn't rectify the stories with reality anymore. It requires that you accept something as fact based on absolutely no quantifiable evidence, and it's got a lot of crazy ass stories that are just, when you get right down to it, silly. However, I am a firm believer in individual rights, and one of those is the right to believe whatever crazy ass thing you want (or the right not to), so long as your belief does no harm to anyone other than yourself. You or I can harm ourselves all we want. I smoke and drink, and I know these things can harm me, but I don't force others to do the same.

And this is where religion as an institution comes in. Imagine no religion, as one of the better Beatles once said. Would we still have war? Absolutely, we're animals, after all, and animals fight for territory and survival. That's one of the nastier aspects of evolution, but it's an observable fact. Can't blame that all on religion. But would we have terrorism, most of which is largely based on fanatical religious beliefs? Probably not. No fanaticism, no fanatics. Wars would be a lot more honest, I can tell you that: "My dick's bigger than yours! BAM! Dead."  Would we still have child molestation? Sadly, yes. Psychological aberrations are not the sole realm of the faithful, and I'm sure plenty of people have touched kids without god telling them it was ok. But would we have the powerful shuffling them around like some twisted Find the Pedophile shell game; or worse, outright denying that the perpetrators did anything wrong? Nope. No church, no parishes to ship them to. We'd have to deal with the family and friends of said criminals and nothing more. And pedophiles, once they're exposed, tend to lose friends fast.  I'm not going to go into the denial of positions authority to women, but suffice to say that the argument there is not in religion's favor, either.

So, that's why I want to destroy the church. I'm not going to take any steps to do so beyond pointing out the inherent goofiness and hatefulness of it all, because it's not my place to tell anyone what to believe, nor do I want that job. And so, we come to Robertson's argument about gay people wanting to destroy the institution of marriage. This one's really easy to refute: If they wanted to destroy marriage, why the hell would they be fighting so hard to get married? They'd do like that creepy guy you went to college with: Bang a whole lot of anonymous strangers and spend their 30's dating people ten years to young for them, all the while calling you stupid for wanting to settle down. And I'm sure some of them are, the same as some straight folks do. Funny, how if you take any group of people and stack 'em up against any other group, you find a lot of the same kinds of people. I wonder what that could mean. But I digress. Gay folks want to get married for the same reasons that straight folks do: TAX BREAKS! And, you know, love. Making a commitment like that to someone you love and being recognized for that commitment by the country that you live in is a powerful thing, and they just want the right to it the same as any of us. Trust me, as a married man I can attest to the fact that life is a whole lot easier when someone's got your back.

So, gay people obviously have no problem with the sanctity of marriage. And as to the sacredness of it, or of the church, I'm not sure to which Robertson is referring (I can guess, though), that's a meaningless word in terms of legal governance. Sacredness implies holiness which implies religion, which can not be endorsed by the government of this country in any form. What's sacred to me may not be sacred to you and vice versa. And it probably isn't, at least not to the point of ticking every box the whole way down.

The only reason to deny homosexuals the same rights as anyone else is bigotry, pure and simple, and the judge who made the ruling pretty much said just that:

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis,the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."

Boom. Suck on that, Pat Robertson. Perhaps if the bible weren't so dead set against oral sex, he wouldn't hate gay people quite so much. I sense a little green-eyed monster on your shoulder, Pat. And he's in a sequined thong, dancing to "It's Rainin' Men"  and he's FABULOUS. (Damn right, that's a Pat-Robertson-needs-a-blowjob joke. Doing a post about gay marriage and not having a joke about fellatio is like having a rainbow with no pot of gold. Man that was a good simile.)

Conclusion: Pat Robertson is an ass. But he can say and believe whatever he pleases. He can hate gays and think they're causing earthquakes and ruining marriage and all other kinds of crazy shit. That's the beauty of the United States constitution. Another beautiful part of it: The whole separation of church and state thing. So, while you can personally believe with all your heart that we're all going to hell for eating meat on a Friday, you cannot pass any legislation prohibiting any other person from grilling up a steak before Full House starts. (It used to be on Fridays. Remember T.G.I.F? Man, those were some terrible shows.) And you cannot, despite your fervent, deep-held religious convictions, enforce any law denying gay people any right that everyone else enjoys. At least not in  Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
 Yeah, I know, it's not much, but it's a start. I'm from Massachusetts (Go Sox!), so that makes me proud. But I live in Texas, and I realize that gay marriage won't be legal here until they're forced to make it so. Hopefully rather sooner than later, but we'll see.

And today's title comes from both myself and Louis C.K. We both grew up in Massachusetts, and I'm sure he used many of the same words I did when growing up. We called each other "faggot" and "queer" (or to be more specific, "quare"), but we had no idea what it meant. We didn't know what gay was. There was no hate behind the word. To quote Louis, "You called someone a faggot because they were being a faggot. If I saw two gay guys blowing each other, I wouldn't call them faggots, unless one of them was being a faggot, like "People from Phoenix are Phoenicians....Hey, quit being a faggot and suck that dick!" I hope we come to a place in my lifetime when that word has as little venom behind it as it did when I was seven.

I leave you with a quote from John Adams, 2nd president and one of the people most instrumental in forming the union we now live in: “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion." Ooooh. Burn.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

But I can't stop eating peanuts...

Lost has been over for about a month now. It's a bummer, since my Tuesday nights were pretty much built around it (that's not sad, damn it. It's Tuesday. What do you do on Tuesday nights? Yeah, thought so. And occasionally, I get to do it on a Tuesday night, so, you know, nyah nyah.). But, for better or worse, the creative team behind it got to end things on their own terms, and I was reasonably satisfied. I may have had a few problems with the final season leading into it, and the end had more saccharine than substance, perhaps, but it was still better than a lot of stories out there. My thanks to the talent both in front of and behind the camera for one hell of a fun ride.

The end of Lost has left my TV-time kind of up in the air. I watch a lot of movies and read a book or two a week; I'm not really big on television for the most part, though, beyond The Simpsons and an occasional Law and Order: SVU marathon. I watch a few shows semi-regularly, but there's nothing that I pursue with the damn near religious fervor with which I devoured Lost every week. But I've come to an interesting realization lately, given a mind now clear of the Smoke Monster: Television is damn good again.

You know, not if you're speaking in percentages. If we're talking parts of the whole, the good stuff is like the two Wonka bars that Charlie got to open during the contest, and the thousands that all the other kids in his class plowed through like greasy, irritating, inexplicably multinational locusts (seriously, were they in England or America or what? The Buckets were American, but all Charlie's teachers seemed to be British, that Slugworth guy was clearly Heinrich Himmler without the moustache, the architecture looked post-Chernobyl Soviet, and Willy Wonka...well, he was Gene Wilder, and that's just awesome.) is, say, anything with Jim Belushi. Most of the stuff on channels (son of a bitch, cable had 60 channels when I was kid and that was impressive. And my parents only had like 4. And no internet. It's a wonder I wasn't brought up by wolves.) I get on my overpriced digital cable package is still dreck at best and has made me actively dummer (see, I misspelled "dumber." Fact.)  at worst (anything on MTV -with the exception of one show that I'll get to in a minute, any and all network sitcoms, America's Next Top Whatever, you get the picture), but there are a few really awesome shows out there. Shows that are smart, funny, disturbing, deliciously creamy and filled with nougat. Here are a few I've been catching up with lately, and why I've allowed them to rot my brain and ruin my eyes (according to my grandmother, anyway. Nana was a swell lady who'd do anything for us grandkids, but dang,  if it wasn't The Commish, she didn't want anything to do with it). You may enjoy them as well.

Dexter.  I can't say enough good things about Dexter. It's funny, creepy, tense, gross, thrilling, weird, and other adjectives as well. I read and enjoyed the first book in the series by Jeff Lindsay (the first season of the show is more or less the plot of the first novel) a few years ago, but I didn't really give the show a shot until recently. I watched the first four seasons over the course of a week or two, and now I can't fucking wait for the season premiere. Michael C. Hall rocked the house on Six Feet Under with his subdued portrayal of David, a character you could just feel waiting to explode at any given moment, but Dexter Morgan is a role he absolutely owns. A serial killer with severe sociopathy is a character that would be almost impossible to like, but Hall has us rooting for this guy every step of the way. And season four's Big Bad, a seemingly loving, suburban father whose killer exploits hold a cracked mirror to Dexter's own (or maybe it's the other way around) gives us John Lithgow in what may be the finest performance of his career. I know the dude was the bad guy in Buckaroo Bonzai, and that's fantastic in its own right, but Lithgow is absolutely chilling as Trinity here. Way to hit the mark, Dick Solomon. (heh. Dick. Whew, I didn't think I was going to be able to fit one in this post. Heh. Fit one in. Two for two!) Also, you get to see Julie Benz's boobies a couple of times. So, you know, that's pretty great, too.

Mad Men. This is a show I watched a few times on the first go around, and while I dug it, it didn't really hook me. I picked up the first two seasons super cheap when my store closed down, so I gave it another watch. This show is fantastic, full of macho bravura and old school femme fatales  from a cast of characters as twisted and dysfunctional as anyone on the Sopranos, and steeped in a history close enough to our own time for us to be able to recognize the things that would shape the late-20th and early-21st centuries emerge and begin to take hold. It's like the first Back to the Future, if they showed you all the fucking that you totally knew was going on behind those damn hoop skirts.  Also, it made me not hate Vincent Kartheiser. Well, yeah, I still do, but I hate his character, which you're supposed to. So, mission accomplished, Angel's kid. Back when he was on Angel, his character was so damned whiny, I wanted to actively make the actor's life uncomfortable. Not in a legally culpable way, mind you. Just, you know, give the dude a wet willy on the bus or shit in his mailbox or something. And two words: Don Draper. That is all.

MTV gets one prop from me for Warren the Ape. I loved Greg the Bunny for the month it was actually on, I bought the series on DVD and still watch it pretty regularly, and the IFC film parodies with Greg are hilarious, so thank you, MTV, for bringing back my favorite degenerate-ego maniacal-drunken-sex addicted-Shakespeare-quoting-helmet-wearing monkey puppet. Also, since it's on basic cable this time, they've been able to bring back some of the edginess and raunchiness that made the original shorts so damn funny. Watch it, please, so it'll stick around for more than 12 episodes this time. Also, I miss Tardy Turtle. Fox has the rights to him, and some bastard stole the puppet, so we'll probably never see him again. Crayons do indeed taste like purple. Bonne chance, my special green friend. >squeak<.

Also, Comedy Central has become my new hero for two separate reasons: 1. Tosh.0, a show which, while basically a youtube comments section with a few less "lolz fag"s, is one of the damned funniest half hours I've seen in a while. 2. They brought Futurama back last week! And not in the uncomfortable, kinda funny but still mostly unsettling direct to video movie format it's been rocking lately, but in an honest to crap, weekly half hour format. And it's funny again!  WHOOOOOO!!!!  I've been a Futurama fan since it came out a decade ago, and it wasn't fair that it got shafted, shuffled around, and basically just buried by Fox time and again. On its best days, Futurama rivals The Simpsons  in its prime for sheer funny per ounce, and on its worst, it's still got an alcoholic robot with a taste for hookers and a freaky, kinda Jewish lobster monster whose abject loserish-ness  makes me feel better about that one time I threw half a meatball sub away, changed my mind half an hour later, pulled it out of the trash, microwaved it and ate it since, come on, man it was pretty well wrapped up and it was still totally good, shut up.

There are a few other shows on tap for me, too. I'm finally getting into Breaking Bad, which is excellent (did you know that the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, who is the main character on Breaking Bad, was also in two episodes of the Power Rangers? And not the hip, flashy Power Rangers they've got now, but the cheesy, freaked out, unsettlingly Japanese Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. True story, man. That makes him OK by me), and I'm also working my way through some stuff I always meant to watch but never got around to, like Deadwood and The Tudors. Bottom line: I'll never be Lost again, and that makes my eyes rain (Simple Jack! Goddamn I love me some Tropic Thunder), but there are some really talented folks telling some really great stories on the idiot box these days. Television as a medium is slowly, sometimes painfully, but finally beginning to reach the level of art form that until now (save a few notable exceptions) had been reserved for film. Hell, one of the last episodes of Lost was even directed by Mario Van Peebles. That's right, Mario Van Peebles  as in Solo. That shiver you felt just now was your brain having an orgy of awesome with the rest of your body.

Today's title, by the way, comes from a quote by Orson Welles: "I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts."  Orson Welles was a huge dude, so to be fair, you could probably change "peanuts" to "cake" or "honey glazed ham" or "fistfuls of cookie dough" or "whole goats, raw." and the sentiment would be the same.

Rosebud out.