Friday, June 30, 2006

Get Smart

What qualifies someone as intelligent? Fluency with language? An ability to do calculus? A powerful instinct for self-preservation?

Intelligence these days tends to be gauged by success on standardized tests. A smart kid is one who fills out all the right bubbles on his Stanford-Binet examination. But drop that same kid out in the woods alone and he probably wouldn’t last a day; that seems to indicate that he’s not even as a clever as a fruit fly, which is going to make it at least 48 hours.

Socrates was famously considered the wisest man in all of Athens because he alone knew he didn’t know anything. But apparently, he knew that so doesn’t that wreck things? Wouldn’t I be wiser if I knew I didn’t know whether I knew anything or not?

I used to think I was pretty smart; I always did well on standardized tests anyway; now, though, I’m not sure; sometimes it’s all I can do to make sense of the directions on Jiffy-Pop. And forget trying to assemble lamp from Ikea; I get a headache just reading the packing list.

Maybe I've got some emotional intelligence. On the other hand, my feelings are no better at calculus than my mind. And would it be cheating to look into the heart of the person sitting next to you on an emotional intelligence exam?

I’m not sure who's the smartest person I ever met. One of my professors in grad school? Some kid I taught in the “gifted” program at the UW/ The Hadza tribe member Alito who I went hunting with in Africa? They all knew lots more than me, that’s for sure, but also damnation by faint praise.

Most people think that if you're smart, you should be rich. But are they smart enough to see that this doesn't imply being rich implies being smart?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

King Dork

I just finished reading “Dr. Frank” Portman’s recently-published “young adult” novel, King Dork and I liked it a lot.

You can (at least, I could) interpret it as a brilliant contemporary response to Catcher in the Rye (which figures prominently as a symbol of baby-boomer excess, narcissism, and cluelessness in the book) as well as a real page-turner full of witty asides: “Reading books can be a lot of fun when they’re not the same ones that they make you read over and over and over till you want to shoot yourself,” insightful observations: “Being human is an excuse for just about anything but it also kind of sucks in a way,” and well-deserved invective for people who came age in the 1960s: “You stuck it to the old man, killed half your brain cells, and dumbed down the educational system: you ARE the greatest generation.”

As the narrator, Tom “Chi-Mo” Henderson says, “It’s actually a kind of complicated story, involving at least half a dozen mysteries, plus dead people, naked people, fake people, teen sex, weird sex, drugs, ESP, Satanism, books, blood, Bubblegum, guitars, monks, faith, love, witchcraft, the Bible, girls, a war, a secret code, a head injury, the Crusades, some crimes, mispronunciation skills, a mystery woman, a devil-head, a blow job, and rock and roll.”

One of the running gags in King Dork is that Tom and his buddy, Sam Hellerman are in a band whose name keeps changing, from, for instance, Liquid Malice to Silent Nightmare, to Occult Blood, to Oxford English. Usually the band name, members, and first album are provided, e.g. Band Name: The Elephants of Style; Guitar: Mot Just; Bass and Animal Husbandry: Sam Enchanted Evening; First Album: Off the Charts—Way Off.

Here’s mine: Band Name: Connie In a Bottle; Guitar: Spin Noza; Bass: Cliff Palette; First Album: Orange Cheese and Crackers—Hold the Cheese.

Now all I need are some songs, each exactly, of course, 327 words long.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Planning Department

I spent today at the Seattle Department of Planning and Development taking steps to get our plans for a “detached accessory structure” approved. It was relatively painless as visits to governmental agencies go and I think we made progress towards getting things okayed; at least I understand better what’s needed in order to get the structure signed-off on.

Mainly, though, it was strange for me to be in an environment whose energies are devoted so strongly to PLANNING. I myself tend to devote as little energy as possible to the task. Rather, I prefer to just wing it and figure things out as I go along.

I guess I just don’t understand planning. It usually seems to me that most of the time one spends preparing to do something would better be spent just doing it. Why spend weeks drawing up plans for something when you could already be working on it? Sure, you might avoid some mistakes and setbacks, but would that save time in the long run? Since you’re going to mess up anyway as you go along, why not just get started as soon as possible?

I’m exaggerating a bit, of course but I stand by my main point: we ought to plan less and do more. Down with rehearsal! Up with performance!

Do you think I outlined this piece I’m writing?

“Obviously not,” you say.

Very funny; but did you PLAN to say that?

I was told that Winston Churchill said, “Plans are meaningless; planning is everything.” On the contrary; I think it’s better to have a plan than to engage in planning. You can always change a plan, but that time and energy spent planning is lost forever.

Of course, failure to plan has cost me in the past, like the time I didn’t count on the beer store being closed when we went camping.

My mistake, though, was planning on it being open; I should have started drinking before we left.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My World Cup Runneth Over

You can’t google “dead cat” without finding someone blogging about it; and they’lll certainly have much more insightful things to say about the games, the players, the coaches, and the whole socio-political extravaganza that is the FIFA World Cup than me.

Still, I’m not oblivious to the tournament; I’ve been enjoying it in my own way and so I thought, now that the quarterfinal matchups are settled, that I’d weigh in with my own two euros.

The high point for me so far was getting up at 5:15AM a few Sundays ago, eating a marijuana cookie and getting to the George and Dragon Pub by 6:00 to watch the Dutch play Serbia and Montenegro. I loved riding through the empty streets to find myself in a packed bar having Stella Artois for breakfast. Later that day, I watched the Mexico-Iran at a Mexican restaurant while drinking Dos Eques and eating chips. A few days hence, I drank Foster’s lager at lunchtime while Brazil beat Australia. During the US-Italy game I ate American cheese and drank Italian wine. A couple days ago, I set out for my usual Sunday morning bike ride, but soon found myself in a bar, cheering England on with a pint of Guinness in hand. Several hours afterwards, I tried unsuccessfully to revive Holland’s hopes against Portugal by drinking Heineken during the second half.

Is a trend emerging here?

Apparently, my world cup has been more of a glass and that glass has usually been filled with alcohol.

So, while I’m fairly ignorant of the history and strategy of the sport, I seemed to have picked right up on how the rest of the world enjoys “the beautiful game.”

I’m sort of relieved Holland lost; they were the only team I really cared about and that’s mostly because I like the color orange and appreciate Dutch drug policy.

I think Germany will win the Cup; I guess that means I’ll be drinking Spaten.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Kind of Capitulation

I acquired a weed eater today, which I guess, therefore, completes my transition from new-wave hippie punk to bourgeois middle-class homeowner. It’s been a long time coming, though probably inevitable.

I’ve never seen myself as a person who would own a weed eater; it’s always seemed just one step away from a motorhome. One day you’re in your yard, slicing the heads off dandelions with a power tool, the next you’re driving down the highway eating a braunschwager sandwich behind the wheel of a Winnebago.

For a while, I tried to get by with hand clippers; while this may have given me the moral high ground, it also resulted in our being the house on the block with the ugly scary lawn.

But at least I didn’t buy it. My neighbor “graduated” from his electric plug-in model to the full testosterone level gas-powered type; he put the old one out on the parking strip for the taking. At first, I resisted, but when I awoke today, it was still sitting out there, so I took it as a sign and snagged the thing.

This has, of course, required some real soul-searching; the challenge for me is to be a weed eater owner without adopting a full weed eater owner mentality—which is, I would say, characterized primarily by an undue appreciation for a nicely-edged lawn.

Of course, I’m only kidding myself to imagine that not owning a weed eater gave me any street cred; after all, our family car is a Ford station wagon.

Besides, acquiring the weed eater as my own is really only a formality; I’d already been borrowing it regularly for the past year or so.

So, you can see why this is only a kind of capitulation; the real surrender had already taken place when I first used the tool.

Will this be the end of it, then? Or will you soon see me behind the wheel of a Winnebego, braunschwager in hand?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Brews, Brewed, and Bruise Race

Last night, I rode in an alleycat bike race called the “Brews, Brewed, and Bruise Race.” The theme was beer, coffee, and bikes, not necessarily in that order.

Around 7:00 PM, about 25 riders showed up at Red Square and then proceeded, by directions serially handed out at each stop, to six widely-spaced locations; half were pubs, the other half were coffeeshops. At each pub, you’d be presented with a pint of beer; at each coffeeshop, you’d get a coffee drink. I augmented each beer stop with a hit of pot. Consequently, by the second one, I was feeling no pain, even though we were required, at that point, to climb from the University District to the top of Queen Anne hill for the final coffee break.

It was a perfect night for riding and a beautifully organized race; all the riders were friendly, helpful, and way cooler than me.

Unlike in my last alleycat bike ride experience, The Cops and Robbers Alleycat Race
I was determined not to let my ego try to kill me.

There was a moment, right at the beginning of the race, when I imagined I could win; I took an alternate route to the first coffee stop that put me, I thought, well at the front of the pack of riders. This illusion lasted about 30 seconds, for when I arrived at the next intersection, I saw a long chain of cyclists already spread out way ahead of me.

At this point, I resolved to be just the stony tipsy old guy having a lot of fun. And I did!

My low point was on the way from Fremont to Greenlake; I was pretty stoned, sort of lost, and convinced that I was at the back of the pack (I wasn’t); my high point was climbing from Fremont to Queen Anne with just the right combination of caffeine, cannabis, and alcohol going on; oddly, I don’t recall the ride back down.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lawn (Don't) Care

I don’t really get gardening. Faced with a choice of chores, I’ll always opt for working on a bike rather than working on the lawn.

I like being in the yard; I love having a lovely garden, but I don’t enjoy the labor needed to make it lovely. (I don’t even enjoy the labor needed to keep the dandelions and crabgrass from taking over.)

I admire folks who get out there every day with their spades and trowels; I appreciate flowering shrubs, fresh vegetables, and nicely-edged lawns sharp against the sidewalk, but it’s all I can do to mow the grass once or week or so.

I’m sure this is a moral failing on my part, but maybe I can blame it on my parents. My Dad was a city boy; his idea of lawn care was to hose down the sidewalk. My mom was semi-patrician; she gardened by letting the gardener take care of it.

Here in early summer Seattle, all the plants are thriving. They want to live! I feel bad cutting down morning glory and pulling up weeds. Couldn’t I just let the whole place go to meadow? I like blackberries anyway and I’ll bet the kid would just love having a wild little jungle to romp through, no?

What’s weird, though, is that I get sort of uncomfortable when the lawn starts going too wild. It’s like when my desk gets too messy; it starts being too close to a picture of my own wild and tangled mind. I’ve got to clean things up so I can think straight again. I’ve got to mow the lawn so I can keep my thoughts in check.

When I lived in LA some years ago, there was this guy down the street who paved his yard in concrete and spray-painted it green. I always thought that was a bit over-the-top; now I see it as a creative solution to a problem that’s all in the mind.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nine Year-Old Kid

My daughter turns nine years old today, which is weird because I’m the same age I was when she was born.


It is true, though, that these last nine years have seen a lot more aging on her part than mine. I’ve only gone from 40 to 49; she’s gone from 0 to 14.

Having a nine year-old kid is something else; she’s enough of a grown-up to be able to do all kinds of things for herself, but enough of a teenager to refuse to do any of them.

I remember being nine years old pretty well; this was 4th grade, when Michelle Dupepe and Sally Perkins let me and Sandy Sherrard look at her dad’s Playboy magazines in exchange for dancing with them. Sort of a weird trade; and I wonder why our nine year-old minds wanted to look at centerfolds when we had real flesh-and-blood girls right in the room with us.

I can’t see my own kid making a deal like that at all; for one thing I don’t have a stash of Playboys and for another, the chances of her wanting to dance with some boys in her class are about the same as those of voluntarily cleaning her room: not a logical impossibility, but pretty much a physical one.

When I was nine, there were no personal computers, cell phones, internet, or cable TV. I wonder what ubiquitous new developments will have emerged by the time my kid’s 49: personal nanobots? Time travel? Feces-free pets?

To a nine year-old in 1966, the world of tomorrow promised jet-pack travel, cars that folded up into briefcases, robot maids, and dinner in a pill. To a nine year-old today, the future portends global warming, endless cycles of terrorism, global pandemics and the even more frightening prospect of another Bush in the White House.

So, I wouldn’t trade places with a nine year-old today; not unless those jet packs and robot maids show up soon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Things I'll Probably Never Do

At age 49, I’m reasonably certain that my life is half over. Although I have long entertained the fantasy that I’ll live to be 112, chances are I’m already into—well into—the second half of my life. Consequently, there are only so many things that I can expect to accomplish before I die and as a consequence of that, quite a number of things that I can be reasonably certain I won’t do before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

For instance, I’m never going to be in the Olympics—as a competitor, anyways. Unless they make three hundred and twenty-seven word blogging an Olympic sport, I’m confident that I’ll never vie for Olympic gold.

Becoming an expert snowboarder is probably out, too. I’m a good enough—and infrequent enough—skier that spending precious days on the mountain learning to master the snowboard is highly unlikely.

I’m not going to become a video game addict. It’s all I can stand to be in front of the computer long enough to write the blog and some other stuff; there’s no chance I’ll be augmenting that time noodling on a joystick.

I can’t picture myself ever getting an eyebrow piercing. I don’t want to rule out any body art, but there’s just something about the little golden hoop in the forehead that seem particularly inappropriate for the man of a “certain” age.

It’s a sure bet that I’ll never have sex with a virgin. And that’s one I’m totally okay with.

I won’t ever go “on tour” as a fan of a heavy metal band. (I’m not ruling out performing in one; I just don’t see myself following one I’m not in around all summer).

I’m not going to get into text messaging on a cell phone. Thankfully, this cultural phenomenon has passed me by.

And I’ll never be a soldier on the battlefield; if I ever die for my country, it’s going to be in my bed.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day at the Track

I’ve managed to establish a tradition (2 years in a row, that solidifies it) of going to the racetrack with my family on Father’s Day. I ride my bike there (it’s about 30 miles) and Jen and Mimi drive down and meet me in time for the first or second race.

We had a pretty good time all in all, even though nobody hit many winners. My one small (moral) victory was picking Es Muy Stormy at 4 to 1 in the second. I bet him across the board, though, so the payoff wasn’t what it could have been.

Mimi made out okay with I’m Pure Country (which she, more appropriately we all thought, read at first “Impure Country”) at 7 to 2 in the third. But most of the time, we (me, especially) excelled at picking second place horses to come in first. I did this successfully in the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 9th races.

I had my usual mixed emotions about being at the track. I worry about the lives of the animals (at least before the lucky ones go to stud) and it’s pretty obvious that the money I spend (and especially the money I lose) could go to much better causes. On the other hand, it’s a lovely day with my family, we’re contributing the to livelihood of all sorts of people, and hey, I did ride my bike there, after all, didn’t I?

On the way down, I passed a soccer pitch where two local club teams were playing. All the players were Hispanic and Latino and all were speaking Spanish, pretty much non-stop. I imagined what it must be like at the World Cup with dozens of different tongues doing simultaneously and I believed, for a moment, in the myth that soccer could save the world.

At the track, though, the dominant language was what my mom always referred to as “Anglo-Saxon.”

Another one-the-nose pick coming in second, another epithet hurled.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Saint Bill Gates

I read where Bill Gates is retiring from Microsoft in two years to devote himself full time to saving the world.

Good for him.

Bad for me.

Now I’ve no longer got the moral high ground on him.

If I ever did.

I’ve always consoled myself with the belief that even though Bill Gates is way richer and more successful than I could ever hope to be, I’m still a better person than he is. I don’t engage in hyper-competitive business practices that commodify human beings and cultural traditions; I don’t use people as economic objects; My PC is a Mac, and I dress somewhat more stylishly.

Sure, I suppose it was hard enough to sustain the illusion after seeing the millions and millions of dollars the Gates Foundation has given to fight disease all over the world when I’m satisfied with myself for just sponsoring one kid in Save the Children. But I managed to do so by pointing out to myself that my $28.00 a month is a greater percentage of my net worth than his contribution. At least, I think so.

And I guess if I were to be fair about it, I’d have to admit that providing jobs to hundreds of thousands of people and helping to create an industry that makes possible many things, including this blog, is way more admirable than anything I’ve ever done, either. But see, I always said, I’m a teacher, and he’s just a businessman

I kept hoping he would run away and leave his wife but he hasn’t and I hear he’s a fine, dad, too. I don’t have a nanny, though.

But this one is going to be tough to rationalize. I mean if Gates is as successful a philanthropist as he has been a businessman, then he might make a real difference in the world. Meanwhile, I’ve got this blog.

At least I’m a fulltime bike commuter. He’d better not start walking to work.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Eating Pot

One of my goals this summer is to get stoned regularly. I want to explore the cannabis experience in greater depth, to see how a more consistent marijuana high affects my writing, parenting, spirituality, and overall outlook on life.

So far, I’ve been only partially successful as a pothead; responsibilities keep preventing me from a daily wake n’ bake; I have managed, though, to get stoned in the daytime on several occasions since school’s out. By and large, this has been an enjoyable experience, although I did already lose my keys once and I misplaced a favorite article of clothing—one of my cycling neck gaiters—along the way somewhere.

Part of the problem is that I’ve got this nagging cough. I’ve been waking up with a sore throat have been barking up phlegm throughout the day. This has made me disinclined to smoke dope, a practice that—even when I’m in perfect health—usually induces a coughing jag, especially on that first hit from the joint.

Consequently, I’ve been experimenting with eating pot. Initial reports: I like it! I particularly enjoy the way the high creeps up on you; an hour or so after eating the cookie (I whipped up a batch of “bud butter” and made some oatmeal cookies with it), you find yourself all cotton-mouthed and more appreciative of the colors and sounds of the day. Instead of getting all knocked over and smacked down by the high, you’re sort of welcomed into it more gracefully.

I like how when I eat cannabis I can’t always tell whether I’m high or not—at least at first. There’s this period where I’m thinking “what a beautiful day; what a great life,” before I realize that I’m stoned again.

I suppose I should be worried that on several occasions, an hour or so after I’ve eaten pot, I’ve found myself thinking, “Ahhh…now I feel normal again.”

But that was part of the plan this summer…wasn’t it?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why Weight?

For a healthy and active 49 year-old guy who, according to an online body mass indicator, is in the 8th percentile of weight for American males my age, I certainly spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and worrying about how much I weigh.

I step onto a digital scale every morning and depending on whether I’ve gone up or down a few ounces from the morning before, I congratulate or castigate myself before stepping into the shower.

It’s not obvious to me why I’m so obsessed. While, in general, I do tend to feel a bit better when I’m lighter and I’m also able to go farther into certain yoga poses when I’ve got a bit less flesh on the bone, it’s not like I’m a fashion model or something whose livelihood depends on being as svelte as possible.

And it’s weird enough to make decisions about what to do, where to go, and sometimes even whom to hang out with based on how that’s going to affect my waistline. This is probably the kind of thinking that teenaged anorexic girls engage in. And I don’t even have the fun of freaking out my parents by doing so.

Sometimes I try to justify it by reference to those studies which indicate that reduced calorie consumption may make one live longer. I don’t think that’s the case, really; I just think it makes life SEEM longer.

Last night for dinner, I had lasagne, Caesar salad, and ice cream for dessert. Today, I’m a couple pounds heavier than yesterday—plus even more because my heart is heavy that I’m heavier.

The hell of it is, of course, that booze packs on the pounds more than anything else. So just when I most need a drink to dry my sorrows, I’m reluctant to do so. I guess this is the appeal of hard drugs; you know, “heroin chic,” and all.

Hmmm…maybe I should become a fashion model after all.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Deadlines, Schmeadlines

I’ve always been a pussycat when it comes to due dates for my students’ assignments. Pretty much any excuse gets an extension and even without an excuse, students can still turn their papers in late with little, if any, penalty.

Part of the reason I allow this is that I want to avoid conflict and confrontation over whether any given paper was on time or not. I’m also genuinely interested in reducing stress in students’ lives; if someone needs a couple extra days (or even longer) to finish an assignment, why should I care?

But mostly, I just think deadlines tend to be artificial and arbitrary anyway, so what’s the difference if students adhere to them or not?

No doubt someone will say to me, “But Dave, in the ‘real-world,’ deadlines are a fact of life; you’re doing students a disservice to let them slide; they need to learn that they can’t get away with this sort of behavior on the job.”

My response is twofold: first, deadlines do slide all the time in the “real world;” every project you hear about is always over budget and timeline.

And second, more importantly, deadlines should be resisted, anyway; I’m sending students the important message that people shouldn’t succumb to the tyranny of the timeline. Something is done when it’s done, not when some made-up deadline says it is.

On the other hand, it bugs me to have to be correcting a few straggler’s papers on this Monday, the first day of summer vacation. I could be all waked-n’-baked but instead I’ve got to behave at least for a few more hours until all the latecomers get their work in. Nevertheless, I will try to assess their efforts without prejudice, even if this requires the setting aside the feeling that I’m being taken advantage of by those lazy good-for-nothings.

You see, it’s not that I don’t have my limits: it’s just that the deadline for crossing them keeps moving.

Friday, June 09, 2006


I should be in a great mood. School's out; grading's mostly done; I have my health, and the World Cup Soccer tournament--in which I am moderately interested--has begun. I should be laughing.

But I'm not.

I feel this vague sense of malaise which manifests itself in a kind of grouchiness about pretty much everything.

I'd kick the dog if I were the dog-kicking kind of person. Instead, I beat my own head against the wall. Figuratively. Figurative head, figurative wall.

I remember walking through the Haight-Ashbury in 1975 on a typically foggy San Francisco summer morning on my way to Tai Chi class which was held on the Panhandle in Golden Gate Park. I can still smell that burnt coffee and sweatsocks smell of the cool moist air.

This thought went through my head: we are our moods.

I still think that's true. What else are we than the feelings we are having at this moment now?

One might answer: our thoughts, our bodies, our relationships.

I would respond: but those are all determined--at least to some degree--by the mood we are in.

When I'm happy, all is right with the world. When I'm grouchy, this place sucks.

I'm always impressed by how hard it is to shake a mood--at least a bad one. Coffee's not working, that's for sure.

Perhaps if I got some good news about the world...but I don't mean another cheery report on how our military has killed another person.

I take no great pleasure in the death of al-Zarqawi. I was particularly sickened to see his death mask photo held up in the press conference announcing his killing. This strikes me as the contemporary western version of dragging his body through the streets.

Instead of celebrating life, we are asked to celebrate death.

No wonder I'm in such a crummy mood.

The Blandness of King George

The thing about being king is that you have to be king all the time. I'll bet this is hard for our King George.

I'm sure there are many times you don't want to be king. But you have to realize, as in that cheesy Excalibur movie from a couple years ago, that you are the land. As you go, so does everything. This means you get to get whatever you want, but it means that every time you sneeze, the land gets sick.

I have this image that the rats are leaving the sinking ship that is George W. I have this image of he and Dick Cheney in a beat-up Dodge--not even a Ford or a Chevy, since the Midwest and Eastern powers that compromised upon him have bailed--cruising Main Street. Everyone has abandoned them except each other. I see George in the driver's seat, his hungry eyes on the lookout for something he's not even sure of and his pal hanging on his every word. Just the two of them, that's all.

The first time I wrote this it was better, but forces conspired to make it disappear. Was that the government reading my every word?

I choose to believe that it must have been. Otherwise, my President is just an aging, lonely guy, driving around in a beat-up Dodge on a street in a no-name town in the middle of nowhere.

There is probably a lot smaller difference between Bruce Springsteen and George Bush than either of them would be willing to admit.

I try to have compassion for those who would consider me their enemies. As for me, I'm committed to loving everyone, especially those aforementioned.

This is going nowhere. Neither am I. Today was a bust of a day, all around. Today was a day about losing things you thought you had. The lesson is: you never did, anyway.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Angry White Male, Sorta

I’m a white male and I’m angry, but I’m not one of those angry white males you hear so much about—the difference being that I’m mostly angry about white males.

I read the paper and everything I see makes my blood boil and all of it is perpetrated by pasty-faced white guys in suits.

First, we’ve got George Bush going on about a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Doesn’t this guy have more important things to worry about? Just put him on his mountain bike with a full-face helmet and shut him up. Enough already!

Then there’s this gang of white guys in Arizona wanting to build a fence around the good old U.S. of A. How about this: they build a fence around their faces and collapse it in on themselves!

And Jerry Fallwell: why is this guy news? He’s still making noise about AIDS being a punishment from God, right? I’ll tell you what’s a punishment from God: Jerry fuckin’ Fallwell!

Don’t even get me started on Sam Brownback, the Republican Senator from Kansas. First he wants public schools to teach creationism, now he’s on the “save the institution of marriage” bandwagon. I’ve got an idea: if Senator Brownnose likes institutions so much, how about we commit him to a state penal institution. See how long he keeps from being “married” to another guy.

Oh yeah, the Pope weighed in on this one, too. You tell me how a “celibate” man who wears a silk dressing gown and red velvet slippers is supposed to know anything at all about marriage!

And don’t forget Donald Rumsfeld downplaying the alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians in Haditha. Even if it didn’t happen just that way, atrocities have certainly been committed by soldiers—on all sides—in this unjust war. How about Rummy goes and lives in Iraq. Then let’s see how he feels about civilian deaths.

See if he gets as angry about them as me.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Cellphone

Why I Am NOT Going to Buy A Cell Phone
(with apologies to Wendell Berry)

Like everyone else, I want to be close to the people I love. But it is not clear to me that being in contact via cell phone would draw us nearer in any meaningful way.

I’m trying to reduce the number of machines telling me what to do. I don’t like the idea of another device to which I must attend. Even if I don’t answer it when it rings, (unlikely) I would have to play by its rules when I dial, talk, and so on.

I find it aesthetically displeasing, and rather pathetic, to see people hunched over their phones all the time, punching in numbers, reading messages, doing whatever it is their piece of plastic tells them to.

People stayed in touch beautifully for centuries before the advent of the cell phone. I am entirely unconvinced that the love between Romeo and Juliet or between Damon and Pythias or between Sartre and Beauvoir would have been improved by a cellphone.

I want fewer mediated communications in my life, not more. Insofar as the cell phone would let me more easily talk to people on the phone instead of visiting them, I reject it.

I have a weird hypothesis that reliance on cell phones undermines people’s native extra-sensory perceptive abilities. You know how, in the past, if you wanted to meet up with someone at a nightclub or somewhere, you had to try to predict where they would be and when? Cell phones eliminate the need to engage in those sorts of mental gymnastics. And if you don’t use it, you lose it.

The cell phone industry is a paradigm of high-tech corporate enterprise. There aren’t any small mom n’ pop cell phone makers and providers. I’m already in deep to multinationals for my computer, car, and home telephone. I’m disinclined to support another global conglomerate.

Beside, like Berry says, if using the cell phone is the “new idea,” then not using it is newer still.