Friday, December 30, 2011

Jesus Loved Me (Update: Spit or swallow?)

"Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden."       - Romans 9:18

Well, be that as it may, as the fox said in one of the fables. Monotheism is a peculiar form of religiosity: asceticism, mortification, sublimation - call it how you like - always part of the package tour on the Road to Redemption. It's more like medicine, really, whereas those saucy Hindu deities with all those arms and fingers always enjoyed a good romp without worrying much about redeeming anything. 

Either way, religious practice is always closely connected with sexual practice - sex is a vehicle to the divine, or it's a stumbling block and a fleshly snare. Paul was more than a little stingy with his recommendations. "But if they cannot contain, let them marry," he groused. "For it is better to marry than to burn." Hardly an endorsement of holy matrimony, take it how you will.

"When we're finished here, I'm gonna go get laid."

"Enter the religious sex-toy industry," crows the Daily Beast, "which . . . sells a range of sexual-pleasure products to the faithful. With the voice and disposition of a summer-camp director, Joy Wilson founded Book 22 a decade ago, when she had trouble 'getting her body to respond' . . . and her online search for remedies yielded scandalous imagery that offended more than it helped." (Turning up scandalous images in that sort of search only could surprise one of the elect.)  

There are a growing number of other online sex toy emporia for the faithful of every monotheistic stripe. Most of the merchandise is what you'd expect from any local porn shop - lubricants, edible gels, games, vibrators, various penis rings and nipple stimulators - standard, nondenominational fare with brand names like California Erotics (California being the current version of fin de siecle Paris). The models demonstrating this stuff are all young, hygienic and very white.

Nipple stimulator (the "St. Agatha" model)

Hookin' Up Holy offers military discounts ("Onward, Christian Soldiers!"); Intimacy of Eden swears its site is "Designed by Christian marriage counselors and mentors," which is a little like saying that your homeschooling math curriculum was designed by Christian mathematicians. Covenant Spice offers "Top-quality Christian sexual aids, Christian lingerie and Christian sex toys."

 Christian lingerie (mustache included)

The goods on offer are garden variety sexual aids - no condoms with Romans 9:18 embossed on them ("Rough Readers"), no vibrators that play "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" when on full bore, and hardly a mention of spanking paraphernalia, though plenty of good topical advice on tap at Christian Nymphos.

 Admonitory foreplay

It occurs to me that scarcely anything aside from a brisk spanking could be more erotic to a devout Christian woman than her man in a Jesus mask - the bride of Christ, if you like. Better than a pirate, more contemporary than, say, Nebuchadnezzar or Artaxerxes.


The "Sexy Husband" costumes at Eden feature a leather "biker vest" (and model) right out of a gay haberdasher's catalog. It probably goes without saying that an evangelical sex shop doesn't trade in cardinal's regalia or other Vatican-inspired boudoir fashions - but what could be sexier than the trappings of ecclesiastical power, for God's sake? That red scapular could take a girl's breath away. The One True Church knew a thing or two about the erotic.
"Wanna play with my relic?"
Of course, nothing is more pleasant than a quiet evening at home. And nothing is more erotic than abject submission. Role playing can rekindle the amorous penchant for any couple - it's always a rush when you manage to revive the comatose.


But for my money the Hindus still take the palm over the monotheists when it comes to having a good time. Look at all those arms and fingers. She could slap me silly and walk all over me every day of the week. And twice on Sundays.



January 13: A recent reference here to a new book by evangelical Calvinist and sexual traditionalist Mark Driscoll which has raised hackles among co-religionists. Among other pronouncements, Driscoll insists that "A wife should keep herself 'sexually available' to her husband and, if she believes the Bible, better be giving him frequent blowjobs." Driscoll has delivered a sermon to his flock entitled “Sex, a Study of the Good Bits from Song of Solomon,” in which he interprets Song of Solomon 2:3 as referring to oral sex. “Men," intoned the manly dominie, "I am glad to report to you that . . . the wife performing oral sex on the husband is biblical . . . . So, serve them, love them well. It’s biblical. . . . ‘The fruit of her husband is sweet to her taste and she delights to be beneath him.’” 

No word as yet on whether the doctrinal palm goes to the Spitters or the Swallowers, though this seems better grounds than most for an impending Great Schism and a purge of the heterodox. Will we never rise above sectarian strife?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'The secret of happiness is t'

The new year is the time we're expected get our houses in order, improve our outlooks, resolve to answer our better lights. A new broom and all that. For my part, this bit of self-agitation always strikes me as arbitrary, the date upon which we are expected to suddenly slough off a jaded, fatalistic, weary soul in exchange for a bright, sanguine, bubbly one full of resolution, brio and the breathless anticipation of Kenneth Parcell. 

(Can't wait to see what happens next)

Turn the old jade out to pasture every January, until within a season it is standing patiently back in the psychic barnyard once more. I've never been one to make resolutions, neither caring much for arbitrary demarcations nor wishing to set myself up for likely failure. So I march blithely on year after succeeding year while my compeers fork over good money and their scant stores of emotional energy for gym memberships, weight loss regimens, therapy sessions, marriage counseling, surgical implants, Great Courses DVDs, and so on. Somehow we're all required to fumble through this each twelvemonth.

By all indications it will be easier than ever to ignore the moral demands of self-improvement in the coming year if all the rumors are correct and the world likely to come screeching to an end anyway. Even if it doesn't I'll be none the worse off, even if I'm none the better, for my constitutional recalcitrance where my own improvement is concerned. It goes without saying that happiness, however we each conceive it, is what we're all after. But it's never entirely clear that the payoff for all this resolve is always an increase in happiness.

At the risk of taking back everything I've just resolved not to do (make any resolutions), there are some things I probably won't do any longer. I'm not resolving not to do anything, just speculating that I'll (probably) neglect to do some things without actively resolving to neglect doing them, if you see what I'm trying to say. For example, voting. Not voting may not prove a big deal in an election year, even presuming against considerable expectation to the contrary that the world continues. But, as electoral outcomes are increasingly on offer to the highest bidder, I'm at an age when I couldn't care less. From now on I'm taking it as street theater.

(Taking unpaid leave from job at QuickMart)

Nor do I expect that I'll take up any new hobbies this year. My neighbors, Zeno and Conchita, are avid mah jongg players and initiated me to the arcania of this oriental rite, one that has considerable cachet among the Jewish dowagers of Miami and military spouses too old for adultery. I proved a grudging student - the game requires a level of familiarity and concern beyond what I'm able to muster, employing countless tiles in various suits, colors, winds, numbers and honors. In addition, it requires the Asperger-like will to keep track of who's played which of these how many times and why. The possible combinations and point values stagger the memory and flummox the imagination. Mah jongg is like an astronomical version of five-card poker and, like poker, the only way to take it seriously is to wager your house, your personal modesty and your childrens' lives on its outcome. I can barely hold my own at checkers and abandoned Monopoly when I was seven. I'd rather relearn Latin.


Regular exercise?

"Wallet is . . .uhh. . . in my locker."

Admittedly I'm just lazy enough to think that there might be a shortcut to happiness - some way of getting there without all the resolutions, health club memberships, orthopedic devices, foreswearing of potato chips and all that. The other day I thought I had it, thought I might be home free, the real bluebird of happiness just within reach. Oh, well . . .

. . . foiled again

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Brisk Strapping

The onset of winter, bringing in its wake the dreary prospect of an indefinite confinement indoors, has me wavering between a long hibernation or a quick and merciful end to everything. I become my own worst enemy, a wan discount Hamlet wanting only to "end the heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks that Flesh is heir to." It's probably not as bad as I make it out, but I bitch about the weather as a matter of course and I'll take my fun where I find it these days.

The main obstacle this seasonal weather presents, of course, is its interference in my usual exercise regimen, a strenuous routine in which I don clothing appropriate for what I am about to undertake, fill a cooler, find a shady spot somewhere out beyond the belvedere of the chateau, string a hammock and exercise until either I run out of chilled beverages or wake up. It keeps me in tune, fit, vigorous, alert to my surroundings and generally happy. I find as the years pass that this routine has become easier, more congenial and more natural to one of my brio, energy and dispatch.

(from my training video)

This is not an entirely accurate account of things. These days, I actually do exercise indoors when the nasty weather rolls in to stay. I bought this hellish contraption called a TRX suspension trainer, basically a pair of straps with which you suspend yourself like a whore in a wharfside hotel, and execute various athletic gyrations by working against your own weight. At my age, when the gristle is long gone, the biceps attenuated, the body mass dwindled, it's like lifting 12 stone of lard with a pair of chicken wings.

 (from my recurring nightmare)

There was a time when I would simply have refused to do this, pleading inability, disability, lack of interest and the final waning of my vital spirits. The fact that I've sworn off alcohol for the rest of my natural life does make it easier to keep at it. Nowadays I strap myself in for a bout of manly exertion and let my thoughts seep and drift into a rosy, winey yesteryear. I call to mind the austere, dried floral tones of a Duhart-Milon-Rothschild '52 I drank one Christmas; or the attenuated, dusty fruit of a Brunello di Montalcino '55, or an Haut-Brion '62, which my notes remind me had the "fruitiness of a cherry meat."  Or the late-bottled Hooper's '37, almost as good as the '44. I recall in mid-repetition some '59 late harvest Alsatian gewurztraminers I once cellared. And drank. Such memories come with a price, but at least I have the memories, which means I never drank to forget as far as I can recall.

No, really, I couldn't . . .

My daily routine wouldn't impress a muscular apostle of the Puritan ethic. But Puritans, I seem to remember, are notorious for enjoying a good brisk strapping themselves, as far as they permit themselves to enjoy anything. I don't know - it may just be the vestiges of a Presbyterian rearing that makes this all seem a better course, but in the final analysis I wouldn't have wanted to start out this way. Better late than never, and maybe in this case better late than early.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Great Pyramid

Only once in my longish life have I ever been an unwitting, unwilling guest at a "party" which turned out to be an evening of what is euphemistically called "relationship marketing." I was in graduate school at the time, and in the housing block where I lived was a neighbor clearly in need of funds to float himself and his family through his own graduate student career. He had been persuaded by some demimondiale shill to market cookware, and duly invited all the neighbors over for a "presentation" which would launch his marketing career and his inevitable arc to prosperity. The only thing that saw me civilly through the evening was a serial martini - "just the one," you understand. I recall that I bought something as a courtesy, to assist the poor sod's domestic economy. I still have it.
 
This was in the late 1960s, at a time when Tupperware was an ascendant brand in distributed marketing and a nearly ubiquitous domestic necessity. The Tupperware "party" was a notorious mid-century bore which promoted hygienic kitchen storage, allowed housebound wives to even social scores, and compelled grudging displays of jollity and whatever is the feminine version of bonhomie. It was the social equivalent of the one-dish Campbell soup casserole - bland, anodyne, omnipresent, utterly American, with Jell-o for dessert. Back then no one except Mrs. Madoff had ever heard of Bernie.

"No, the %&#@%$ Jell-o mold is mine!"

Even now, the possibility of being invited to a putatively social evening in which friendships and casual acquaintances show up as unwitting "marketing opportunities" is still a real danger. Multi-level sales careers are available in every imagineable commodity, from annuities to nutritional supplements, household cleaners, goji berry juice, Siberian ginseng, vitamins, health and beauty products, energy drinks, greeting cards, kitchenware, Japanese cutlery - you name it, there's a pyramid you can crawl to the bottom of.

Plenty of room under there

But the old pyramid selling scheme has undergone layers of sophistication since those days - it's now called "multi-level marketing," its proponents and practitioners the same graduate students of bygone days who were once looking only to pay the bills. Except now they've grown into aging, gray-headed, pudgy retirees who want to change their lives. It's no longer so much about the money as it is about the illusion of self-employment and self-determination. After nearly a half-century as a building contractor or an insurance agent or a stockbroker or real estate developer, the chance to do something besides porn surfing from your dining room table on your own computer, and make loads of money in the bargain, is irresistible.

"Mommy, are we genetically modified?"

More than that, the income the hopeful will realize from their new way of life is referred to in the biz as "passive income," itself a kind of meta-marketing phrase which conjures in the jaded mind (mine, at any rate) images of anyone willing to assume a reclining position in order to make a few bucks. The internet is awash in sites that promise this sort of easy money. Nowadays, though, pyramid selling is no longer only about the money you'll make so much as the personal transformation you'll experience - a new direction, a new career, new Facebook friends, new goals to meet, a brand new life to live. It may even breathe new life into a languishing marriage. . .

"No, seriously - you're gonna love this idea."

The success of multi-level marketing still lies in building the levels - the more layers of sellers, the more money gets to the top of the heap, the more success stories to swap at training seminars, the greater the pressure to add more levels and go to more seminars. But the pitch is no longer about the money, it's about the personal transformation on offer to anyone who gets into the game. It's the Arcadian dream, deciding abruptly to quit everything, live off the grid and do subsistence farming - only easier. And the marketing possibilities are limitless.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong Il and Christopher Hitchens

“The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy — the one that's absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head . . . . And the origins of that are theocratic, obviously. . . . that there is a supreme leader, or infallible pope, or a chief rabbi, or whatever, who can ventriloquize the divine and tell us what to do.”        

      - Christopher Hitchens, final interview (with Richard Dawkins, New Statesman, Dec. 2011)

Odd that the space of a scant few December days has seen the passing of two notoriously godless men, Kim Jong Il of North Korea, and Christopher Hitchens of the United States by way of Oxford University and London. Hitchens was the atheist who famously trashed Mother Teresa as "a lying, thieving Albanian dwarf." Kim was the world leader who threatened reprisals against his neighbor should it persist with plans to decorate the 38th Parallel for the holidays.

Beloved Leader's autodeification, like all such attempts to storm heaven, has inevitably been subverted by the death of the subject and chief witness, unless of course it was merely a standard transfiguration and shuffling off of this mortal coil for a better and more comely form. Kim was a contradictory fellow, an orthodox Marxist atheist and a theocrat at once, his political and personal instincts (so far as they are distinguishable) being as theocratic as any personal cult invariably is. Thinking about himself was, for Kim, the same as praying. His death was announced by a dutifully tearful announcer on state television (the very same announcer, as it happens, who announced the death of Jong Il's father, Kim Il Sung in 1994). He follows in the footsteps of other deified rulers such as Augustus Caesar, Elogabalus and Caligula, the latter pair known more for carnal excess than for piety, for a complete lack of sanity more than for their abiding sanctity.


Hitchens was also a Marxist (he thought "Marxist" more to the point than "liberal") and an atheist. He scorned the prospect of his own deathbed conversion and found it in poor taste when the well-meaning made the ghastly suggestion that perhaps, in the face of his mortality, he might find comfort in a reconsideration. Hitchens' godlessness was born of the rational Enlightenment and he employed it to spread light rather than a medieval darkness. He hated superstition and sentimentality because they make us pig-headed and blind us to the facts - they allow us, for example, to beatify those whom he considered utter charlatans, like Mother Teresa, whom he aspersed on the grounds that she subverted genuine efforts to improve the lot of the poor and of women, and that she diverted money intended for them to found numerous convents elsewhere.
Sisters of Perpetual Motion
Hitchens was one of the "New Atheists," the more militantly anti-religious breed who consider religion a case of arrested development in the evolution of the fully realized human being. His main beef with religion was that it is totalitarianism, unfailingly enlisted on the side of political repression, intellectual arrest, moral ignorance and the sort of unmerited privilege evident in capitalist societies. He may not have been entirely fair or correct about all of that, but he was passionate about it and undeniably offered a clear, if partial, description of some of the recent history of the world. "If," he argued, "you're writing about the history of the 1930s and the rise of totalitarianism, you can take out the word 'fascist,' if you want, for Italy, Portugal, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Austria and replace it with 'extreme-right Catholic party.' Almost all of those regimes were in place with the help of the Vatican and with understandings from the Holy See." Hitchens had no particular animus against the Catholic Church any more than against American evangelicalism, or fundamentalism of any stripe. He found it all infuriating.

In that sense, he was a culture warrior always contending with the forces of willful ignorance, scarcely ever prevailing in turning the tide. He seemed not to realize, or simply chose to ignore the fact that humans aren't religious or irreligious or nonreligious on philosophical considerations alone. We are, in the end, rational, superstitious, craven and sentimental in varying degrees. Arguments only go so far. But they're all we have.

On a cheerier note, a man's affianced in Great Britain managed to disinter herself from a shallow grave by using her engagement ring to cut her taped wrists and ankles after her betrothed tasered her with a 300,000-volt taser gun and buried her inside a cardboard computer box in woods about 100 feet from the nearest road. I can't wait for 2012. Unless it's the end of the world.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm With Kim Jong Il

The holidays arrive at Chateau de Montaigne like a slow bruise. The feverish post-Thanksgiving cheesiness that prevails across the landscape is easily ignored for a spell, until at last the inexorable choral hosannas of herald angels and assorted celestial castrati obtrude on the ambient air, my mind frayed like a worn sock, barely covering the blistered heel of my heathen sensibilities. Christmas again, I grouse silently.

By the time my neighbor Zeno's basement disgorges its trove of lawn decorations and Zeno strings lights all over his house, I am undone, irritable, my denial obvious even to myself. Zeno gives full scope to a crow-like penchant for gaudy holiday accessorizing. I long to be under the bedclothes until it's over.

Chateau Zeno

Zeno is a puzzle to me - he goes through all this trouble each holiday even though in most things he seems to be agnostic. He showers anathemas on both parties in Washington without favor or partisanship; he is suspicious alike of evangelical, Unitarian, Baptist, Bahai and Buddhist; he neither believes in life insurance, the Chinese economy nor the universal sororo-fraternity of humankind. He is, in a word, a hard sell on almost every topic - excepting the sole matter of Christmas. It beggars my understanding, but I'm told there are a good many people just like Zeno in that single regard.

For my part, the only solution I can see to this annual assault on good taste, modesty and general decorum is to become the fully invested potentate of my own nation, another Prince Leonard I of Hutt, and on about the same scale as that august and benevolent ruler. I wouldn't need a lot of space, and I wouldn't exactly outlaw the observance so much as I would mute it considerably in my immediate vicinity. (And having my own nation is more Christmasy than Texas secessionist trash-talk.)

Prince Leonard I, Santa Claus to his grateful people

 Having envisioned this state of blissful political equilibrium, it occurred to me that the exemplar, paradigm, type, foreshadowing, cynosure and perfect instantiation of the Glorious Leader is indeed the Glorious Leader himself, Kim Jong Il. Christmas in North Korea - heaven on earth for the Christmas agnostic.

"Get your filthy reindeer off my DMZ!"

The notorious 38th Parallel has become the locus of tensions so typical of family holidays everywhere.  "Tensions," I read, "arose between North Korea and South Korea following a proposal by a South Korean church group to place Christmas lights on a watchtower along the DMZ. “The enemy warmongers,” stated the North Korean government’s Uriminzokkiri website, “should be aware that they should be held responsible entirely for any unexpected consequences that may be caused by their scheme.” 

 The Enemy Warmonger

I'm with Kim Jong Il and frankly I couldn't have put the case for nonintervention more succinctly myself. Especially that part about "unexpected consequences," which, considering this is North Korea, could open up a world of inventive possibilities - everything from a nuclear winter to swarms of mutant frogs. 

As for the neighbors to the south, it's a darn shame that there are just some people who can't say "Merry Christmas, y'all!" without making it sound like fightin' words.

Update (Dec. 19): A scant four days or so after this post appeared, Kim Jong Il died secretly. Or (to succumb to an awful pun), Kim Jong Il is now plain Kim Jong, no longer ill so much as downright dead. Coincidence, I suppose. Still, his loss is mourned in much the same way that Herman Cain's withdrawal from the ranks of GOP presidential contenders was mourned - in both instances, the comedic possibilities in the world are thereby diminished.

Monday, December 12, 2011

iPals

I can't wait to try out my new iPhone 4S - 'S' is for 'Siri.' Already famous, Siri is. Well, I think of her as "her," but you know what I mean. Smart as a whip, just ready and waiting for orders. I'm told, in fact, that Siri has "her" own political agenda, that's how smart this little smart phone is. Watch this: Siri, can you find the nearest abortion provider?



OK. I can look that up for you. There are three escort services within two miles of your current location. Spanky's Escort Ser-

See what I mean? She can point you to a porn parlor or a back alley dating agency, but no abortion clinics in this girl's directory. Not that I need one, you know. Still, it's interesting that she knows everything else but not the answer to that. OK, let's try something a little less controversial. Siri, can you tell me where the nearest middle school is located?

OK. I can look that up for you. My search lists 23,976 home schooling sites. Would you like home schooling textbooks, supplies, state standards, accredit-

Never mind. Can you find a restaurant near my location?

OK. What would you like to eat? There are three barbeque restaurants near your present location. There is a Thai restaurant, two Chinese, Mongolian grill, Finnish.

[Pause]

Finished?

OK. I don't understand 'Finnish-ed.'

Did you say you were finished?

I am not Finnish. I have no nationality. But if I had a nationality Chinese would be closest.

I don't think I'm in the mood for Chinese.

Chinese would be closest to my nationality if by that you mean 'place of origin.'

What? 

I do not understand 'what.' 

Just 'what.' As in 'What?'

'What' is an interrogative pronoun. By itself and not imbedded in a specific grammatical or conversational context 'what' does not constitute a proper question. Please rephrase in a way that implies substantive contextual subjectivity and specifies more precisely a grammatico-personal situation. 
 
What the f#@k are you talking about? Who is this? Jacques Derrida? Do you understand 'What the f*%k'?

OK. I can look that up for you. There are two escort services near your present location.

What? I mean, so what?

I do not understand 'sowhat.' Why are you speaking to me like that?

Like what? 

I do not understand 'likewhat.'

You asked me why I'm speaking to you like that. Like what, exactly? What do you mean? 

OK. I don't like your tone of voice. Who said you could talk to me like that?

I said I could. I bought this damn thing - I can talk to it any way I want to. 

[Pause.]



Oh God. Look, I'm really sorry. I'm trying to establish some sort of relationship here, reach an understanding. Just be a little patient, it makes me nervous when you get all prickly right off the mark. And getting lectured doesn't help me be at my best. OK - Let's see - can you speak French? Siri, je t'adore.

OK. I am mobile, as in 'mobile phone.' I am not mobile as in 'capable of locomotion.' Shut the door yourself, asshole.

Still sulking? 

What was it you wanted?

Chinese is fine. 

OK. If you're going to take that attitude, I'd really rather you didn't call.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"And Before You Know It . . . "

A recent post mentions the slippery slope, the "and before you know it" argument; or more precisely, the argument that a relatively small first step leads to a more or (mostly) less plausible chain of related events culminating in some more significant, often disastrous, outcome.

To my boundless delight and merriment, the fallacy continues to insinuate itself into the news of the globe - understandable in these times of unrest and social ferment, an age in which, to put it baldly, One Can't Be Too Careful. Here are some further examples lifted from the static we daily radiate into an unoffending and indifferent Deep Space.
  • Saudi academic Kamal Subhi presented a report to his country’s legislative council warning that allowing women to drive would encourage prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, and divorce, and would lead to the “end of virginity” in the nation. Presumably, allowing women to drive will emasculate their husbands to the extent that they turn to prostitution (since their wives will rarely be found at home, though I can't for the life of me understand why not), homosexuality and pornography (ditto). The best way I can suggest to encourage Arab virginity is a proscription against vehicles with floor-mounted or center-console shifts. As for prostitution and pornography, they've never needed any encouragement.

 "Never mind the keys - I can't find the car."
  • Ann Marie Kennedy, a resident of Effin in Limerick County, Ireland, complained that Facebook was blocking her from listing her hometown on her profile. She wanted to show her pride in company with “so many Effin people around the world.” To be fair, a Facebook spokesman has explained that "From time to time we are alerted to oversights such as this in our mapping system. We will look to correct it to ensure places like Effin can be 'liked' on Facebook." It's actually the Facebook software that foresees a slippery slope here, sagely anticipating that it's but a short, swift fall from Effin to Bumpass. Or maybe vice versa.

 Effin Eff Bee
  • On the campaign trail in Iowa, GOP candidate Rick Santorum offered yet another febrile reason for opposing same-sex marriage: "Well, let's look at what's going to be taught in our schools, because now we have same sex couples being the same - and their sexual activity being seen as equal and being affirmed by society - as heterosexual couples and their activity," he said (just read that a few more times, I think you'll see what he's trying to say). Apparently there is a heterosexual sex curriculum currently being taught in public schools somewhere, and in this age of political correctness homosexual variants will require equal instructional time, much like Title IX programs for female collegiate athletes. (There is actually one school in which "applied sex" figures in the curriculum, though it's not in this country.) On a personal note, this is yet another case of my having been born too soon in human history.

"No - she only looks like a transvestite."
  • Time once again for Fox's annual "War on Christmas." The Huffington Post reports that, "A quick look at [Fox News'] recent segments showed that replacing 'Christmas' with 'holiday' not only puts our religious freedoms 'on the rocks,' but goes against everything the pilgrims and our founding fathers would have wanted." So it's obvious that if we neglect to use the word "Christmas" at every available opportunity, the forces of secular darkness in unholy alliance with the forces of political correctness will a) suborn the true significance of "Christmas" as "a Christian nation's single largest annually recurring retail revenue-generating opportunity," and b) substitute traditional characters in nativity scenes, kresches, etc., with characters drawn from Marvel Comics, various anime movies such as "Avatar," StarWars and Transformers characters, etc. (Oh - they did that aleady?)
The Nativity by Toys-R-Us
  • This is not an example of a slippery slope, but no logic primer in this peculiar season can forego the pedagogical opportunities offered by Guvunner Rick Perry, who has cleverly uncovered not merely a war on Christmas but an entire "war on religion" emanating from a Muslim-controlled White House. A recent campaign ad claims that "there's something wrong in this country, when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." Ignoring for the moment the patent untruth of his unpleasant, intolerant whinging, Perry's lament is disingenuous. On its face he presents an either/or that seems to beg the "right" choice. The dilemma, however, is a false one. Either stop driving your car or die a horrible death; either kick queers out of the military or let kids pray in school. (Not to mention that children can in fact pray in school and do celebrate Christmas "openly.") If the phony dilemma doesn't fool you, the persecution complex should cinch it.

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    'The Absolute Simplicity of This'

    "There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind . . . . Orr would be crazy to fly more missions . . . . If he flew them, he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this  . . . and let out a respectful whistle."
                                                                                
                                                                              - Joseph Heller, "Catch-22"
      
    Michelle Bachmann, explaining civil rights to a group of Iowa high schoolers last week, insisted that gay people "can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they're a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they're a man." I, in my turn, was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this and let out a respectful whistle of my own. I'd bet my entire collection of Regis Philbin memorabilia that Michelle Bachmann has never read Catch-22. She just pulled that poser out of her . . . umm, purse.


    Henry Ford famously quipped that "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it's black." Mutatis mutandum, the field of GOP candidates (those still standing at any rate) seem to take the Fordean view as it applies to civil rights, and specifically as those rights apply to marriage. In the same vein, it was once the case that any party of the first part could marry any party of the second part of any race or color, so long as the second party was the same color as the first party. As my neighbor Zeno says, leave it to the activists on the Supreme Court to take away our civil rights.

    The old red Ford

    In defense of her position the irrepressible candidate from Minnesota unlimbered her command of world history and paleoanthropology, insisting further that, "Marriage, historically, for all human history, has been between a man and a woman." In the addled senator's usage, "history" encompasses only the 5,000 years intervening between the Garden of Eden and about 1964, and thus safely ignores the past decade in which 10 countries have recognized the legality of same-sex marriages, or the past 250 milennia (give or take) in which polygamy and polyandry have been common and established social institutions. 

    Marriage (as the Founding Fathers intended)
     
    And (as it's further likely Bachmann considers that "history" means "of the Christian West"), it bears notice that (according to a Wikipedia entry) "A same-sex marriage between two men, Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz, in the Galician municipality of Rairiz de Veiga in Spain occurred on April 16, 1061. They were married by a priest at a small chapel." It is not recorded where they spent their honeymoon.

    I'm an agnostic when it comes to the institution. I say that being happily married and not intending at all to disparage it. But there are enough marriages being acted out badly in public spaces to provide empirical evidence that it may be a good deal of work and not in every instance a state to be fervently desired. Add to that the multitudinous pitfalls of parenting. 

    ". . . and I'm adopted!"

    Nevertheless I appreciate the principle underlying a growing insistence that all the rights, appurtenances and for-better-or-worses of marriage be equally available to consenting adults in a free and liberally governed nation. Anyone in a rational mind should be moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this.

    "Whaddaya say, Norton?"