of masks and mayhem

What holiday other than Halloween can you say is about pure, unadulterated fun? Pure revelry?

Today is a day where we can embrace the pitch black night, let loose the demons, adopt and act through temporary personas, and, most importantly, throw cautious civility to the wind.

With the cavernous echoes of Carnivale and Saturnalia, during which not only was death a constantly looming figure, but the dividing lines between classes were delightfully blurred thanks to the anonymity of the mask, Halloween is a day where authority is openly mocked through grotesque caricatures and costumes without fear of retribution, and we publicly delight in the temporary breakdown of society, or, failing that, civility. (Why else would women feel so comfortable wearing just a bra, garters, and animal ears?)

This is a holiday where, thanks to the protective qualities of the mask, we can purge our more mischievous desires that might otherwise bring chaos to our everyday lives (where we still wear masks, but they’re not made of plastic). We can act on impulse, indulge our id, and allow ourselves to let loosie-goosie, trading fears of social retribution for the coming dawn.

This is a time where we don’t remember or revere the somber tones of death, but revel in our mortality as an integral part of the dark corners of our selves. We don’t shy from the monsters and demons that threaten our health or psychological existence; we invite them out for a drink and a smoke.

Halloween is dark, dangerous, and fucking fun as all get out.

You owe it to yourself to go out tonight and bring a little mayhem in your life. Enjoy being someone else for a little bit! Relish the coming darkness of the year! Celebrate the harvest! And drink a shitload of alcohol!

Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 10:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Princes into Kings

Is anybody else excited about the LA Kings’ start of the season? Can I get a witness?

Granted, it’s early still. The season is barely two weeks old, during which time the Kings have dropped 3 and won 2 after coming back from a 2 goal deficit (almost did the same thing last night against Colorado), so on paper these guys may not look like producers. But if you’re watching the growth of this band of youngster in the span of 5 games, even through their losses, boy, I think we’re in for not just a hell of a season but a hell of a next couple of years.

I was worried when Jack Johnson ditched out early in their second game against San Jose due to what looked like a routine hard check. But when it was announced he needed shoulder surgery and would be out for the next 2-3 months, basically up until the All-Star break, I thought we were in some serious hot water. The D was the Kings’ second biggest problem last year (after their goaltending – still a sore spot, but we’ll get to that in a minute), but Jack was one of the few blue liners who could handily pull his own, frequently out-playing his seasoned line mate, Rob Blake (whom I oddly do not miss, but that’s for another entry). Now I want to give GM Lombardi his due – he’s done a hell of a job revamping the defensive team, bringing in Matt Greene and Sean O’Donnell, drafting 18-year-old scalding hot prospect Drew Doughty, and working both Jack and Tom Preissing in the off-season. But I’ve been looking to Jack as an up and coming leader and heir apparent of the Kings’ future, along with Kopitar, Brown and O’Sullivan. So him being out of the line-up for virtually half the season left some serious doubt in my mind as to the well being of the defensive line and the team as a whole.

Cut to now, with a perfect 23 for 23 killed power plays, and I’m feeling a lot better about this team. Doughty and Oscar Moller, both barely out of diapers, have really been stepping up, each scoring their first NHL goal last night. Hell, even Wayne Simmonds, who seems to have come out of nowhere, is getting into a groove after a rocky start despite scoring his first NHL goal against the Ducks last week. The young guys are starting to gel, letting the shivers in their legs harden into something more than confidence. Dustin Brown, the new team captain at 23 years old (okay, almost 24), is leading by example, racing down loose pucks, finishing hits, and wanting it more than anybody out there on the ice.

Now, back to that goalie situation. LaBarbera has not always been one of my favorite players, but I got to give him some props. When he wants to come up big, it’s really big. The times he was the #1 star of the game last season were well earned. But when you want him to come up big, when the D has a small breakdown and looks to their goalie to bail them out, that’s where the man turns into a block of Swiss cheese. Yes, everyone will say that the goal was a bad goal, not his fault, that the defense didn’t do its job – and all that is true. But the thing about being on a team is that, when you screw up, you want to be able to rely on someone else to pick up the slack. Understandably, in the case of a goalie, the stakes are certainly a lot higher since you are effectively the keeper of the scorecard. But in the case of LaBarbera, it seems like he’s never, or rarely, been able to really come up with those game-saving stops that keep the defense, and the offense, from getting too down on itself. When a team feels like it can’t make any mistakes, then that means it won’t take any risks.

This is why I’m voting to put Ersberg back in the net. The kid may be small enough to pass as a middle-schooler, but he works hard at practice and had a great finish to the season last year when LaBarbera was on the IR and former coach Crawford, in his infinite wisdom, cycled through something like 6 different net minders. Ersberg is hungry, he’s cool, and he wants to prove himself. LaBarbera has had time and time again to show he has the focus to play with the big boys. And he’s good, don’t get me wrong. But this young team needs an anchor, especially as they continue to figure each other out and push themselves to find new ways of scoring.

So despite the goalie situation, I’m very excited about this team. The front office has done a good job locking up 3-5-7 year contracts with their big young guns (namely Brown, Sully, Kopi, and Greene – hopefully Doughty’s 3-year contract will go into motion by the end of the month, too), so the base of this growing team will stick together throughout the coming years. And while my beloved Kings are still coming out of the second worst place in the entire league from last year, it may not be too early to tell that this growing team is going to be a serious contender over the next several months and years.

Published in: on October 21, 2008 at 10:26 pm  Comments (2)  

pride and joy

Just a quick note: I find it stunning that Sen. McCain cannot mention his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, without asserting (reaffirming?) how proud he is of her. The way he says it, yeesh, it almost sounds like he’s commending an eight-year-old who sold the most girl scout cookies this year. As if the kind of campaigning she’s been doing isn’t part of the job, like it’s going above and beyond what has been expected of her. Or that she’s even doing a good job in the first place. It’s a subtle (dare I say insidious? No, I daren’t!) way of continually lowering expectations for her, and by extension their entire campaign. Since he hasn’t been able to raise the bar through his debate appearances, and she hasn’t been able to the raise the bar through anything – unless you count frothing up an angry mob as “raising the bar” – then portraying themselves as underdogs is really the only option they have left. One hopes the American people aren’t suckered too easily into the trappings of rhetoric and political narrative… but then again, the American people really like girl scout cookies.

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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church and the state of gay marriage

The beautiful, beautiful thing about this great country of ours is that everyone is allowed to believe whatever they want to believe without worry of persecution or legal prejudice. I am allowed to believe that lightning bolts are still created by the Greek god Zeus, just as someone else is allowed to believe that God hates fags. I don’t condone that belief, as I consider it to be ignorant and intolerant (not one of my favorite words, though useful nonetheless), but I would never sit here and say, because you believe God hates fags, then your rights should be limited. I just hope you open your heart – and maybe a book other than the Bible or Koran – to find a greater level of compassion and understanding.

I say this because I hope people will not be taking their own personal, religious-based morality into the California voting booths when we here in the Golden State vote on Proposition 8, which moves for an amendment to the state constitution to make illegal gay marriage. See, to me, the gay marriage issue is not only about civil liberties – though, should this proposition pass, it would be the first time we as a people elect to limit civil rights in the past 40-odd years – but it is also a church and state issue. In fact, I believe it is fundamentally a church and state issue, considering that any argument against gay marriage can be adequately dismantled until all that is left is, “well, being gay just isn’t right.” Which we all (hopefully) know is a) silly, and b) founded in religious attitudes toward procreation and romantic relationships. Again, I’m not, nor would I ever, tell anyone out there that they can’t believe that “being gay just ain’t right.” It is your constitutional right to believe whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others. But when you start trying to legislate religious-based morality, then you start limiting the rights of all those who don’t share those same views.

I say religious-based morality because there are some laws based in morals that are not only universal but also supersede the notion of religion in order to support and benefit the foundations of civilization. For example, yes, thou shalt not kill is part of the Judeo-Cristian Ten Commandments. But to not have such a law in a secular society denigrates that same society and threatens the safety of its citizens. Same goes for theft, rape, hell, even speeding. These are all rules we agree to uphold and live by not necessarily for the health of our souls but for the safety of our civilization.

But there’s a reason why adultery isn’t considered illegal. Sure, it can be sighted as a breach of the marriage contract, but you can’t go to jail for screwing someone who isn’t your legal spouse. That’s because the  damage is not only contained within the relationship, but also because the distasteful notion of adultery is fundamentally ethical, not civic. Some societies have (seemingly) no ostensible problem with the idea of cheating; some couples even consider it natural or healthy to their relationship. So if anyone were to suddenly say that adultery should be illegal, it would not be tolerated on the grounds that consenting adults should be allowed to deal with their own relationship problems without the involvement of the government.

While admittedly this is a little bit of an apples/oranges argument, I believe the fundamental notion of morality versus civility is applicable to the gay marriage argument. So all that said, let’s look at the “secular” arguments against gay marriage:

1) “It’s a slippery slope.” This is perhaps the biggest argument against gay marriage: that if you change the definition of marriage to include homosexuals, then what’s to stop you from including bestiality, or polygamy, or underage marriage? Well, a few things – a) Marriage requires consent, and the last time I checked, a horse can’t exactly say “I do”. b) Polygamy is fundamentally an unequal relationship, in that it involves several women at the service of one man. Sure, like any form of relationship, there are ways to interact with polygamy in a healthy way. However, this is in spite of the fundamentals of polygamy, both historically and practically, and the state should never support an institution that by its very nature is unequal and imbalanced. More so, the amount and kind of legislation required to make polygamy an equitable partnership would be massive and controversial: does each person’s share of communal property diminish with each new spouse (wife)? Should the first wife have a higher percentage than the 4th? What if the husband wants to divorce wife #2 against the wishes of wife #3 and #5? Does this decision have to be made by committee? And are wives #s 3 and 5 obligated to pay an equal amount of alimony despite not wanting to end the marital partnership? And these are just a handful of questions that would need to be addressed when outlining the necessary laws and legislation to make this work. And, finally, c) children are not fully capable of making sound, life-long decisions, and so should not be allowed legally to fall victim to adults who prey upon this lack of development.

(Gay marriage, in contrast to all these forms of marriage, does operate with the fundamental notion of equality, same as a heterosexual marriage. Granted, one doesn’t always find equality in any marriage, but that is not the fault of the institution itself, but rather the morals and ethics brought in by the participating spouses and the society at large. All these other forms of marriage would change the very foundations of the institution of marriage, while gay marriage is merely changing the definition – two very different arguments.)

2)  “Marriage is entered with the purpose of starting a family.” While this may largely be true, what is then said about heterosexual couples who have made the decision to not have children? Should my aunt and uncle’s marriage be considered null and void because they did not bear offspring? Or adopt? Obviously, the notion of reproduction in a marriage is an important one, but is by no means fundamental. Furthermore, in dealing with the definitions of “family”: let’s first, for the sake of argument, take at face value that the best situation for a child is to be raised by a mother and father. Alright, fine. But what happens when a child is raised in a single parent household? Does that make the family any less legitimate? The bottom line to this argument is that, even if we agree that the best way to raise a child is with a mother and a father, it is by no means the only way. In America we pride the nuclear family above all else, but there are several cultures around the world that not only incorporate what we consider extended relatives (aunts, uncles, etc) into the immediate family – and truthfully some of those cultures are found in many of our low income neighborhoods, born less of immigrant culture than poverty – but also consider everyone in the village to be a participant in the raising of a child. I’m not arguing the “it takes a village” stance here, just pointing out that we can look outside the mother/father/offspring model of family to incorporate two caring individuals who have enough love in them to actually raise a child that may not have found a home otherwise. And even if you feel homosexuality is a sin or disease or whatever, there is an overwhelming amount of studies that disprove the transference of these “negative” characteristics on children. So you can still disagree with the morality of gay marriage without feeling like you are “endangering the children”. And certainly a loving, committed relationship is a better model than the various foster homes used more like way stations on the road to the golden age of 18.

3) “The definition says man and woman”. Well, yeah, it does. But ultimately, if we consider the fundamentals of marriage to be simply a loving, equal relationship, then the man/woman argument is merely semantic. More than that, definitions change as society does – consider how we interact with the word “liberty” and “freedom” now versus when the founding brothers began fighting for this country: at the time, those words intoned a certain sense of responsibility and upkeep. Now they’ve been used as a substitute for the “F” word (French). So to argue that Webster Collegiate Dictionary clearly states that marriage is defined as only a union between man and woman is to cling to the words, or, semiotically speaking, the icons, themselves and not the spirit behind them. (And keeping with our theme of church and state, it’s interesting that this is typically summed up as the “Adam and Steve” argument.)

4) “Schools will have to teach that gay marriage is the same as hetero-marriage.” First of all, this is straight up wrong. Not only does any law allowing gay marriage stay silent on the notion of education, but schools aren’t required to say anything about hetero-marriage now. And why should they? That kind of thing should be taught in the living room, not the classroom. More than that, parents are allowed to pull their children from any moral or family teachings they believe will interfere with their own home education. So this is really a non-issue that, I believe, is part of a larger argument considering the transfer of moral teachings from the home to the school, but that’s for a different rant.

5) “Churches will lose their tax exemption should they refuse to marry same-sex couples.” Again, another false allegation and non-issue. The state isn’t mandating any church to operate outside of its own teachings, considering this would be, ahem, unconstitutional. All the law dictates is that the state will recognize any legal marriage union. Since this can be done by a justice of the peace, no one has to be forced to compromise their values. End of story.

6) “Look at the statistics in Spain, Belgium, and any other place that has legalized gay marriage – they’re abysmal!” This one is a little trickier, because, truthfully, as soon as gay marriage went into effect, the divorce rate spiked up. This is undeniable. However, my argument against this is, well, let’s see what happens in the next 20 years, as people get used to the idea of gay marriage becoming legal. While these stats are true, they may be knee-jerk reactions that could (or could not) temper over time.

Alright so all that said, the only argument left that I can see is, “well, being gay just ain’t right,” or, to be fair, the more intelligent argument, “homosexuality just isn’t right.” The “secular” argument here is that, because it involves reproductive acts that cannot possibly result in reproduction, homosexuality isn’t natural. Two points to be made against this: 1) humans do not have sex simply for reproduction, and not even just for pleasure, but as a physical expression of love and devotion. Endorphins are released during the sex act that bring about a sense of closeness; how one reacts to these feelings is another story, but it happens nonetheless. So bottom line: fuckin’ ain’t just about makin’ babies. And 2) last time I checked, homosexuals are part of nature. I mean, it’s not like my friend Jhana is a robot or something. So isn’t she living, breathing proof that homosexuality is nothing if not natural?

Really, unless there’s something that I’m missing (and please feel free to use the comments section to point out anything I’ve not addressed), at this point, all that’s left is, “I just don’t like homosexuality”. Again, it’s totally your right not to. But ask yourself why you don’t. Is it just because the Bible tells you so?  Or, is it at least rooted in a religious upbringing or morality? Or is it even just distasteful to you? Because if it is any of these things, and you still vote to ban gay marriage, then you are violating one of the basic ideals that this country not only prides itself in but also uses to distinguish itself from the rest of the world: keeping the fundamental teachings of God, or Gods, or Allah, or Buddha, or any deity out of our government.

As a coda: There is something of a counter-argument to the gay marriage issue that argues for the abolishment of all mention of the word “marriage” in the state constitution in favor of the more universal “civil unions”, similar to the way the EU recognizes marriages on the state level. The argument here is that marriage is a social instituion and should have no interaction with the government other than to be recognized as a union between two people. While I find this argument appealing, I think it’s far too early in America’s history to tackle this: right now, America continues to be inextricably linked as both a physical place and an idea, so to threaten the government recognition of a social institution is to psychologically threaten the status of the country. Europe has hundreds of years of history upon which to psychologically fall back on. I think we’ve got another century at best until we as a nation feel comfortable enough with our longevity to start tinkering with some of the outlying social institutions without fear of dismantling our way of life. Though I could be wrong.

Published in: on October 8, 2008 at 9:36 pm  Comments (3)  
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