there’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance…

I would hate to live as a pretty girl in America. Of course, when I say America, I really mean Los Angeles as I believe it represents the rest of the country, but if I were to say, “I would hate blah blah blah in Los Angeles,” the statement feels so much smaller. Anyway, back to my grand point about gender in America (Los Angeles). If you meet any modicum of the standardized notions of beauty – skinny, leggy, busty, blonde – even if you only acquire one of these criteria, you become subject to the incessant stares of the opposite sex. I say this because I observe it both in other men and, of course, myself. I don’t particularly like being a part of it, and yet there I am, standing on the opposite side of the Rock-n-Roll-Ralph’s salad bar, surreptitiously trying to check out the coke-skinny rocker chick in the wife beater, black bra and over-sized sunglasses as she tries to decide between the light vinaigrette or the slightly more indulgent “lite” blue cheese.

I hate those goddamned sunglasses. They’re obnoxious, unnecessary, and inspired by the porn stardom of Paris Hilton, assuredly in a bid to make her head, and by extension her body, appear relatively small underneath those insectoid lenses. But when I consider how brazenly most guys stare at these girls, as if these girls are no different from the mini corn or spinach leaves in front of them (me), I can understand why these chicks might want a blackened barrier between them and the lasers directed at their boobs. Ignorance, even willful ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

It comes from this whole crock that men are visual creatures by nature. You show me any biological – as opposed to sociological – study that proves men are more visual than women, and I’ll show you just as many studies showing that babies of both genders stare for an equal amount of time at what are considered pleasing images (though of course the definition of pleasing is interesting in and of itself, but more on that later). Rather, I look to the voyeur theory and studies on the power of the gaze. There is a higher place of privilege in watching a woman dance for you than being the woman dancing, no matter what kind of financial interaction may or may not be happening at any given point. At a strip club, even though women are reaping the financial benefits, it is men who are firmly placed in the sociological driver’s seat. They first of all have the money to pay for this kind of entertainment, but second, by being the watcher, they are allowed to be passive; they don’t have to do anything but watch, while the subject has to do all the work. To take a more extreme example, the peeping tom gains information from his “victim” without ever having to risk anything of him(/her)self within the contexts of the relationship between viewer/viewed. To watch is to be in a place of privilege, and there’s too much power in patriarchy to make me believe that this can possibly be a chicken-or-the-egg argument.

That said, it is hard being a man and not succumbing to what I consider to be sociological programming. Everyone has a type, and I’m no different: I don’t really know what it is about redheads and my curious appetite for them. Is it because in my inextinguishable quest for passion, I assume there to be an insatiable fire in these women that cannot be contained by their porcelain skin, that must erupt erupt erupt! from the top of their heads, reaching to the sky where I can run my fingers like rivulets through their blazing forest, tangibly experiencing the whirlwind of their being, perhaps even plucking one strand to serve as a kindling for my own endeavors; and more importantly, from their down-there region, where the furnace of their lust will open worlds for me, take me sailing outside of myself until my corporeal being is but a speck on the distant map below, until she slips slips slips her had in mine, until she smiles that devil smirk filled with canines and mischief and plunges me back down to earth, to reality, to myself with some kind of new understanding I could only have acquired through this eagle eye view?

Of course, most redheads dye their hair, so what does that tell you? So do blondes, which is why I’ve rarely been attracted to the flaxen persuasion. Perhaps this is why, more than not, I find myself pulled toward those women with raven locks, as if that’s the most “real” hue of hair. Perhaps they are darker in spirit, more critical in thought, brooding even. But what a crock’a shit. These qualities of which I wrote above can and are found in women of all hair tints, body sizes, skin colors. And to speak the truth, this lust for a carrot top is more in theory than anything, for I’ve never actively been involved with one (in fact, the real women to whom I’ve found myself legitimately attracted I think have had a consistent brownish, maybe even dirty blonde hair color). Now, I do not want to diminish the potency of physical attraction here – it is the corner stone from which the foundation of love is built. Nor do I want to slight the notion of a “type”, for most people find more than enough information about a person via the way they present themselves to the world, either through their hair color or style, the cut of their shirt, the car they drive, the size, shape, and orderliness of their teeth, or the brand of sunglasses they wear. Whether that is considered the bad side of being judgmental I’ll leave up to you, for nevertheless the case is the same.

I’ve just noticed the stewardess on my flight – fuck, flight attendant – has short red hair. Did I mention I also have a thing for short hair? I try not to stare, but there are times when she’s attending to someone else that I can’t help it. And I feel bad, because she has no sunglasses to protect herself.

I have a hard time dealing with men who constantly and socially spend copious amounts of time categorizing women. “So and so is HOT.” “I dunno, dude, I’d prolly just make out with her.” “Aw, no, man, I’d get fucking nasty with her!” “I bet the carpets match the drapes.” “I bet she has no carpets!” (together:) “WOODEN FLOORS!” Score. I typically roll with this shit, these kinds of conversations, the ones which have no other purpose but to arrive at some kind of masculine consensus as to what defines “hotness”. Hell, I even find myself participating in them, and not always because I see no other escape. But in my heart of hearts, I wish I had no time for them. Many might say, “that’s the feminist ideology dictating your emotions” (actually, anybody who could make that kind of intelligent statement is probably also smart enough not to). But in truth, it’s the other way around: my feminism is informed by my pre-established, even socially programmed, discomfort. Perhaps because I feel trapped into objectifying these women I end up judging my fellow men for doing so, but only because I am judging myself so harshly. On either account, it is not a desirable trait.

I’ve been trying to remember that one schoolyard chant, and it finally came rushing back to me: (sung to the tune of “The Streets of Cairo” – you know it, the kinda/sorta snake-charmer song, which is actually an American concoction composed for the 1893 worlds fair in Chicago, home of the White City – alright, here are the words) “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance / There’s a hole in the wall where the men can see it all / But the men don’t care, ‘cuz they’re in their underwear.” Obviously, as with all folk songs, there are various variations, but this is the one with which I remember growing up. It’s a strange little rhyme, because at first it asserts the power of the boys through their hole-in-the-wall spying, but then it doubles back on itself with that last line – why don’t they care? Should they even be “not caring” in the way the rhyme implies, as if there is a communal shame in the nakedness of the women that the boys merely shrug off? Especially considering the boys are half naked themselves? Of course, one might trivialize this as some kind of masturbatory fantasy, but considering this is a schoolyard chant, spoken at a time before sexual yearnings peek through newfound tufts of hair, it is more tempting to read the boys’ lack of over-garments as a cause for embarrassment. Despite their place of privilege, they themselves are brought to the same social level as their female objects of desire through the implication of exposure.

Exposure, ladies and gents, is the great equalizer. When the emperor has no clothes, he’s no different than you or me, her or him. For in the end, despite our obvious physical/chemical/biological differences, underneath all the make-up and curls, the goatees and muscle shirts, the black bras, beanies, sandals and sunglasses, we’re all looking for the same thing: to be loved. To belong. To be respected as equals seen not as objects of desire, but fully-humanized individuals, each with our own set of desires. And that’s always worth considering when you’re (I’m) assembling your (my) salad at the Rock-n-Roll-Ralphs (America).

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 1:17 am  Comments (2)  

the blame game, part 2 – white powder

So who’s the jackass who sent an envelope filled with unidentified white powder to the Mormon temple in Westwood yesterday? Whoever you are, you’re making us all look like hate-filled assholes.

Come on, people. I know many of us are angry about Prop 8 passing and the extent of interest the religious right – particularly the Mormon church – took in the matter, but is this really the best way to deal with it? Doesn’t this just hurt the cause and potentially ostracize people of faith who might be on the fence? I mean, if the lies were really as bad and blatant as we say they were (and they were), shouldn’t we be directing energy toward countering those lies with a more persuasive message of the truth? Like, I dunno, focusing on the fact that out governor and congresswoman are opposed to this amendment, not to mention our state school superintendent? And shouldn’t we get a few gay couples as spokespersons, instead of just Samuel L. Jackson, badass as he may be? Might that not assuage the fears of the people who have been told the entire queer community is some Barbara Streisand loving, mesh shirt wearing, strap-on fucking orgy from the planet Transsexual (in the system of Transylvania) sent to wreak havoc on our ever-so-fragile belief systems?

While the time for outrage may not yet be over, the time for thoughtful, productive reactions started over a week ago. Instead of resorting to tactics categorized by the government under “terrorism”, let’s make arguments like the one below:

This is about love, people. LOVE! Get excited about that!

Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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the blame game, starring prop 8

The world can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that America has pinned her hopes of restoring her once illustrious world (and domestic) reputation on the man currently referred to as President-Elect Barack Obama. Unquestionably the most historic election in modern American – if not world – politics, November 4th, 2008 will be noted as a day when Americans chose hope over fear, excitement over anxiety, and awarded the nuclear (nee nucular) codes to a man who not 20 years ago would have fallen victim to the bigotry that still had yet to be sufficiently stymied by the previous 20 years of civil rights fights. Yes, America, no matter how President-Elect Obama ends up performing (since our previous POTUS has graciously set the bar below knee level), a change has most definitely come.

But there is no joy in California, for the No on Prop 8 campaign has struck out. Like 47.6% of Californians, I am not only unhappy with this popular verdict, I am flat out outraged. How could this happen, here of all places? This is California, damn it! When the rest of the country sucks, we’re the ones who are still fighting to keep abortion rights on the books! Who pave the way for alternative energy and lower emissions standards! And since we’re not Oregon or New Hampshire, we don’t look like crazy hippies doing it! So how could we, as a state, so royally blow it by CONSTITUTIONALLY curtailing civil rights on the same day that we overwhelmingly support the election of the first African-American president?

Like I said, I feel one with the collective frustration, and like most people, I am looking to point some shameful fingers. So in my blind rage, I say shame on the Mormon church for preaching to its parishioners the heavenly virtues of donating to the Yes on 8 campaign, even if you don’t live in the state! Shame on Focus on the Family for trying to dictate morality in government policy under the guise of “common sense” and “tradition”! And shame shame shame! on the Yes on 8 campaign for propagating lies about the pseudo-side effects of gay marriage on our churches and (gasp!) children! Oh, the children, who would woefully be unwillingly corrupted at such a tender and innocent innocent innocent age! I mean, never mind the fact that gay marriage legislation specifically protects a church’s right to refuse religious service to anyone it feels violates their sacred teachings (I actually say this last part with no sarcasm whatsoever). Nor mind the fact that nowhere in California’s education policy is marriage a mandated part of mainstream education. The only time marriage is “taught” is during sex education, out of which a student may be pulled at the parents’ discretion should they deem the curriculum counter to their home teachings (which makes sense. After all, this isn’t Massachussetts). I mean, these were BLATANT LIES intended to play on the fears and emotions not only of the very devout, but mostly on the casually religious and the undecided voters, who are surely rational people – keep in mind, 52% of Californians also struck down a parental notification law for underage abortions that would have surely left young victims of rape and incest vulnerable.

How could these lies, these mistruths, these obfuscations take root in the heart of good, decent Californians? Was it the Mormons? Focus on the Family? The religious minorities who came out to support Obama? The elderly and hillbilly who cling to their guns and religion? It’s gotta be somebody, so who is it?

I went through all these options, granted, with a built-in hesitation since some of my very good friends happen to be Mormon, though I cannot speak to how they voted. But, ultimately, my disdaining glare fell mostly on the No on 8 campaign itself. From the get-go, these cats, virtuous in their intentions, took their lead in the polls far too much for granted. We were all riding the high of the Superior Court’s May ’08 verdict, but once Prop 8 was put on the ballot, these organizers should have immediately been reaching out to the fence straddlers, showing how non-existant a threat gay couples actually posed to their own heterosexual “lifestyle”. And as soon as the negative propaganda ads hit the airwaves, there should have been counter ads broadcast within 24 hours, not the next 4 days. And while No on 8 ultimately raised more money than the Yes kids, that was only after a finish line surge of donations. For more details, check this article here, courtesy of that delightful bastion of the left, The Nation, outlining all the ways the No on 8’ers failed, not least of which being a lack of plan B should, God forbid (yes, that’s right. God), Prop 8 actually passed. To this day, the No on Prop 8 organization has yet to post anything as to what the next step is, whether that be to organize protests or fight this out in the courts; the only response has been the tempered if appropriate statement calling on their supporters to, ahem, stop blaming everybody else.

Of course, I also blame myself. There were phone banks to man, communities to visit, and the most I scheduled myself to do was to make a handful of calls for Obama/No on 4 and 8 to registered Democrats on the day of the election. Yes, every little bit helps, and I’m proud of the time I was able to donate; but if I’m really looking for reasons why No on 8 failed, I need to look to myself first, and ask if I did everything I could have done. The answer, much like the way I feel about the No on 8 campaign as a whole, is sadly no. And this is a very hard pill to swallow.

I’ve already posted my strong feelings on the matter of gay marriage and the secular/religious arguments against it (the entry is below). But it took Prop 8 passing for me to really understand why I was so fired up about it. Yes, it is a civil rights issue, the predominant one in my lifetime. Yes, it is a church and state issue, a line I feel has been blurred over the past 8 years. And yes, both these issues in and of themselves are worthy of my passion and ire. But I also felt, with the passing of Prop 8, that it wasn’t just homosexuals who had their rights curtailed. I had my rights curtailed. While I am not gay, I still want the freedom to marry whomever I so choose. Should I happen to fall in love with a man and decide to enter into a legally binding, state recognized relationship with him, why shouldn’t I? And be honest with yourself: do you really ascribe civil unions the same social currency as marriage? Granted, both institutions share virtually the same legal rights (minus, most dramatically, divorce law, of all things). But that’s virtually the same thing as saying the black school has the same curriculum as the white school, so what’s the big deal?

The one great thing that has come out of this is people are getting publicly angry, taking to the streets and marching for what they believe is right. I’m a big fan of justified civil disobedience and social inconvenience, so to hear about these marches happening across the state, with ground zero being right here in Los Angeles (odd that it’s not San Francisco) is very exciting. There’s a great article about the protests here, basically documenting how it is a leaderless, disorganized youth movement, and how that is actually turning out to be a good thing, especially since the No on 8 people still seem to be reeling from defeat. Someone’s gotta pick up the baton and show that we will continue to fight the good fight for rights all of us deserve… even if that person is a globulous rage searching for something or someone to hold accountable. But let’s hope that at some point soon we take a good look to each other and ourselves, no matter how painful or shameful that is. Because, remember, it’s always easier to blame the “other” for our own shortcomings.

Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 7:28 pm  Comments (5)  
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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)  
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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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to all the Star Wars playa-hata haters out there

There’s been a popular critique of anyone who has been dissatisfied with the state of the Star Wars universe since May 19, 1999*. To paraphrase, the critique typically goes something like this: “Well, there were a bunch of 5-year-olds in front of me, and they LOVED it, so dude, just remember, the movie’s for kids. Like, lighten up and shit.” There’s a commentary by Jeff Jensen in Entertainment Weekly this week that more or less says the same thing in regards to the latest desecration of the Star Wars universe, aka Star Wars: The Clone Wars. To Mr. Jensen and everyone else who might make such an argument, I have the following rebuttal:

FUCK YOU.

You know what I loved as a kid? You know what movie I stood in line for an hour with my mother and siblings for? The fucking LAND BEFORE TIME. And you know what? That movie has stayed with me ZERO. Zilch. Nada. All I remember from that piece of shit is that the mealy-mouthed dinosaurs are running from some crazy looking tyrannosaurus. And that’s it. Oh, I think the T-rexs name was Sharptooth. Or maybe Sharktooth. My eight-year-old mind couldn’t comprehend the difference between the two. Fuck, my twenty-eight-year-old mind can’t comprehend the difference, either. But you know what? I fucking ate up every moment of that movie, hook, line and sinker.

My point is not to rag on the original version of Ice Age. Rather, it is to point out that kids are stupid. I don’t mean this as a slight to kids. Kids are supposed to be stupid. They don’t know better. They are easily distracted by spectacle and loud music (which, incidentally, considering the state of the average Hollywood blockbuster today, should be indication enough that our current audience of adults is getting dumber – or, more optimistically, is being treated dumber – opening weekend by opening weekend). Kids gravitate more towards cartoons because it more closely resembles or relates to their developing worldview; they’re still trying to figure out physics and consequences, which are often murky at best in most hand-drawn animation (computer animation by design works with a perfect set of locomotion physics).

But as fantastic as Star Wars was, it was never cartoony, nor was it stupid – and I’m talking the original trilogy here, episodes 4-6. I enjoyed them as a kid, and I still enjoy them as an adult. They speak to both sides of that very wide and fuzzy line of maturity. The reason is simple: they’re good stories, told in abstract, far away lands, with fantastic characters and mythic plot lines. Anyone can follow them in any culture and at any age, because they are fundamental and universal.

So to make excuses for the Star Wars universe’s current stupidity by saying, “well, it’s designed for the youngin’s” is to insult the intelligence not of children in general but rather the inner child of every adult. It is insulting to say that, “yes, the part of you that wants to experience fabulous settings with epic stories is a pathetic, fucking moron who desperately wants to laugh at Jar-Jar’s fart joke.”

Pixar studios doesn’t seem to have a problem in creating films that speak to a wide demographic but are first and foremost squarely aimed at the children/family market. Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Monsters Inc. all play to the child in all of us without insulting anyone’s intelligence. Why doesn’t Georgey-boy take a cue from those guys and make movies in a similar vein? Oh yeah, because he once owned and subsequently sold Pixar to Steve Jobs. Way to stay in tune with the demands of the art market instead of relying on brand loyalty and merchandising.

So if you’re walking down the street, and you hear me bitch once again about Ahsaka, the ridiculous girl padawan that Annakin is paired up with in the dreadful new cartoon, be very, very careful telling me, “dude, it’s for kids.” I may just kick you in the balls and tell the yard duty you fell off the slide.

*For those who aren’t obsessively geeky like myself, that is the release date of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – and for the record, no, I did not have to look it up on IMDB, and no, I didn’t even check. That’s how much of a dork I am.

Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 7:00 am  Comments (1)  
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get smart about your vote

Voting isn’t sexy. It doesn’t “rock”. And it’s not a fashionable privilege that can be shrugged off should it not fit in with your work schedule or social plans. Voting is 1) a right, and 2) a responsibility. Let me repeat that: it is your responsibility to vote. Voter turnout for the last 3 federal elections as been 37% (2002), 53.3% (2004), and 43.6% (2006) – that is fucking pathetic. And sadly, it’s been the status quo for the past 30+ years.

Democracy is a team sport; it requires participation from everyone involved in order to work properly.

Yeah, yeah, I know the election isn’t until November 4th. But it’s not just our responsibility to put a pin through a punch card; in order to do it properly, we need to do it with intelligence. It is our job to be informed voters. It is our job to make educated decisions as to who will better handle the demands and responsibilities of the highest executive office, not just in this country but, more than arguably, the world. And in order to pick the more extraordinary of the two candidates, even if it’s just relatively speaking, it is our duty to form educated opinions of them. So don’t try to sell me or anyone that “I’m abstaining/gimme someone to vote for” jive. It makes you sound like a spoiled child. First of all, that viewpoint more often than not is a product of the seemingly endless array of information and, by extension, choices, with which we are presented early on in the campaigning process. So no matter whom we choose, there will always be the buyer’s regret of, “I should have got the other one”. There’s always a better choice, right? Well, maybe there is. But the bottom line is that our choices are McCain and Obama. Period. We have no other choices. So we’d better learn as much about these dudes and their running mates as we can, because one of these two teams is going to be leading our country, and the way they govern will affect you, your loved ones, your neighbors, and your present or future children.

We have 7 weeks from today until Election Day, which gives us plenty of time to read up on the candidates, their positions, and their campaign policies. For our collective convenience, I’ve posted some links on my sideboard to both presidential candidates’ respective homepages, in addition to a few political sites and newspaper feeds. I’d recommend checking them at least semi-regularly, because the way a candidate runs their campaign will tell you a lot about the way they might run things out of the oval office. If you have any that are of particular merit or interest, please feel free to post them in the comments section; I’ll do my best to post some more links on the sidebar as well.

Of course, it hopefully goes without saying that, if you’re not registered, you owe it to yourself, to your family, your neighbor, and me to go out and get that taken care of. Normally when one shrugs and mumbles, “hopefully it goes without saying”, one is saying it for one’s own piece of mind. Sadly, I am not; or at least, not exclusively. There are a lot of people out there who, for one reason or another, don’t take this seriously. And while they shouldn’t have to be reminded, they need to be. So make sure you’re registered. Not tomorrow. Now. You can get a registration card at any post office, DMV, or other government service building. Or, you can download a mail-in form by clicking here.

I haven’t even discussed the state and municipal elections/propositions/amendments that will be on the ballot, but I’ll get to that as we come closer to November 4th. But for the time being, make sure you get yourself and your friends/famly educated on the candidates, if you haven’t already. Spread the word. Get people involved. Pressure them to know what the shit these guys and gal actually stand for. Even if you’ve already made up your mind on whom you’re voting for (like me), get some more learning on your brain so that you can 1) be more convinced of your decisions, and 2) more intelligently debate someone from the other side of the aisle.

But, should you choose not to vote, know that you’re fucking up my democracy. And I do not look kindly on that.

Published in: on September 17, 2008 at 12:07 am  Comments (1)  

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Why?