Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten: Genital Surnames

10. Dix
9. Laycock
8. Johnson
7. Moredick
6. Cox
5. Peters
4. Hancock
3. Cooter
2. Hardon
1. Cockburn

Getting Better

There’s a particular movement going on right now, fronted by the “It Gets Better Project,” which is an attempt to get young gay people not to kill themselves.

I agree with the spirit and intent of the campaign, and I understand why there is a need for it. I read a comment the other day that went something along the lines of, “Of course these old faggots like Dan Savage want young fags not to kill themselves. Who else if he going to fuck?” Sentiments like this are disturbingly common, and they stem from an overall attitude of hostility for homosexuality. This is basically why the gay rights movement exists.

I will try to tread lightly as I provide a little criticism of the “It Gets Better Project.”

And there needs to be criticism, because it’s not exactly the most well thought out campaign. For one thing, it’s based on a lie. I have talked to many gay people who are well past high school, and trust me: it gets worse.

Gay kids in high school don’t have to worry about losing their job and not making the mortgage because they got fired from their job for their sexual orientation. Gay kids aren’t generally at the age when gay marriage bans directly affect their lives. And it’s generally not gay high schoolers who are beaten and dragged behind pick-up trucks.

It just doesn’t get better by magic. The status quo is such that it does not get better just because you get past high school.

To me, the message needs to be: only you can make it better. There needs to be change enacted for it to ever get any better, not only when it comes to gay rights, but anything. Time does not improve the world naturally. Progress is not measured with a watch or a calendar, but in the decibel level of your voice. If you don’t speak out for change and publicly push for it, it ain’t gonna happen.

Which leads me to another criticism… I won’t name the kid, but this whole movement was because some gay guy jumped off a bridge when his roommate set up a webcam and broadcast some gay sexin’. This whole situation pissed me off, and not for any of the reasons given in the public debate.

For one thing, all the blame fell on the roommate with the webcam set up. Newsflash: it was the roommate’s room, too. It’s not like someone snuck into the kid’s room, invaded his personal space, installed a covert camera, and then broadcast it. It was his room, and he was kicked out by this guy who wanted to have sex with another guy.

As someone who lived in college dorms, I sympathize far more with the guy who was kicked out. I always made sure to schedule my sexual escapades around my roommate, and my roommate did the same. I always felt bad for (and gave a place to hang out and watch TV to) anyone who was in the situation of the “locked out” roommate.

So already I hate this kid for locking out his roommate. Strike one. Then, he goes and jumps off a bridge like a drama queen because people found out he was gay. Strike two. Then this kid’s family prosecuted (successfully) the roommate for doing nothing more than videotaping his own room. If it had been a security camera instead of a webcam, no one would have questioned it. Since it’s a “webcam” and the kid killed himself and was gay… that roommate is a monster.

Strike three, you’re out. Good riddance, I don’t miss you. I’m glad you did it, and I wish more people like you would jump off bridges. I hope the family dies in a firey car crash and that all vestiges of any DNA you had is wiped from the gene pool.

Why so much hostility? Well for one thing, it gives gay rights a bad name to attach itself to this incident. It’s a tacit admission that, “Hey, we idolize a guy who thought being gay was so awful that having other people know you’re gay is worth killing yourself over.” What the fuck kind of message is that? We shouldn’t be putting people on a pedestal for killing themselves after being outed. How does that make any sense?

Dan Savage is an icon of the gay culture, not a douche who took a flying leap off the George Washington when his homosexuality was made public. If Dan Savage wasn’t in some way associated with this whole “It Gets Better” thing, I would say it was hopeless. But Dan Savage can publicly say, “I’m gay,” and not want to die, and he fights tooth and nail for gay rights.

That is how it will get better, from gay activists who actually care about the gay community and who work to make it better for all, not from self-loathing cowards who aren’t worthy of even having me write their names. We should forget those types of people, the kind who run from their problems, the kind who give up, the quitters. They aren’t even worth a memory.

That is what we should be telling people. We should remind them that if you take the lazy way out, if you are too afraid to confront difficulty, we won’t honor you with anything, and we won’t even bother to remember you. I guarantee you that if that idea crosses the mind of someone looking over the ledge, it’s a whole lot more likely that they won’t jump than if they’re thinking, “I’ll be a hero for this…”

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Less Magical World

Religion has its own vocabulary and vernacular. Religion really changes how a person talks. Christianity is full of catch phrases and bumper stickers, and being away from it a while and then being exposed to it again makes one very conscious of the effect religion has on language.

One of these phrases comes up when I’m talking to religious people about how atheists see the world. I always get so much interesting information on what atheists think from Christians…

Usually not too far from a comment like, “If there wasn’t a God, we would still invent one,” the idea comes up that atheists see the world differently. It’s always intangible, but the expression “less magical” comes up. Not believing in God makes the world less magical…

Well, for one thing, gods are not necessary to have magic. I happen to not believe in gods or magic, but the two are independent stances. If I had evidence for gods, I would believe in them, but not magic… unless of course I had evidence that magic works.

But I also take issue with the implication that the world is better with magic. I don’t like the idea of some bearded hermit in a robe waving a staff over a cauldron and bending nature to his whim. If magic were part of our reality, individuals would wield too much power. That doesn’t work out too well with the types of power we have now, like wealth and brute strength.

Imagine a world where any dork with a wand can turn you into a newt.


Even though gods are not necessary for magic, I think the world may be better without gods, too. I think it’s a better universe for not having some guy in the sky who fucks with people’s lives on a bet, like Job, or orders armies to kill, rape, plunder and enslave, or plans to one day just destroy everything.

Yeah, the world is a less magical place as an atheist… but that doesn’t mean the world isn’t an interesting place. It’s no small coincidence that magic shows are one of the lowest forms of entertainment, just above mimes and juggling (but below juggling mimes).

Music Monday: AC/DC

Few bands survive the death of their frontman, but the nucleus of AC/DC was always the Young brothers, Angus and Malcolm. When Bon Scott died in 1980 in a pool of his own vomit (because I guess no one was willing to dive him and save him), Brian Johnson took the over the microphone. Fans expressed no bitterness towards the new singer, and quickly embraced him.

So, on this Memorial Day Monday, I’ll be rocking out with a little assist from Australia.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

On Society and Gender

I haven’t so much as read anyone’s opinion on the matter, but I did peruse an article that mentioned a Canadian family that is keeping a baby’s gender secret.

I hesitate to post anything about gender because my wife has a PhD in studying it. Anything I say will be picked apart and I will never hear the end of all of the errors in semantics and minutia. I’ll risk it anyway.

Before I start, if you consider yourself to have an alternative sexuality or gender, please don’t get offended by what I say. I know you have a enough bullshit to deal with, so if something I say sounds ignorant, it probably is and try you’re best to ignore that aspect until the end, and comment on it so I can be corrected.

I believe modern sexuality and gender are dramatically warped by Christianity. Judeo-Christian views on sexuality and gender have had an almost irreparable effect on society, and if I had been born a few decades ago, I may have felt like it was hopeless, but I see the radical liberalization of American sexuality as evidence that progress can be made (especially when sexual gratification is waiting at the finish line).

It’s a strange situation we find ourselves in. Homosexuality is anything but “unnatural,” and to my knowledge, no species of animal has no incidence of homosexual behavior. Penguins, bears, hell, even my dogs are gay. I don’t think they were born gay; they’re more “all boys-school” gay.

The opposition to gay marriage is ultimately just mean-spirited prejudice, regardless of what opponents say. These conservatives are the same people who hold marriage up on a pedestal, idolizing monogamy as the only way to live.

Then some queers come along and want to be monogamous, to express their loyalty and fidelity for each other, to do nothing more than to have their love and desire to start a family be legally recognized and defended by those who are charged with protecting the rights of citizens, but we can’t have the government approving of fags and dykes making it work when half of the sacred, heterosexual marriages end in divorce today.

Marriage is to be made of mockery of only by straight people.

I firmly believe these sorts of attitudes are warping us all, not just the haters who think we live in a time when there’s nothing better to do than stop gay people from getting married. We also have the small matter of how this sort of behavior warps the people who are the object of prejudice.

The most common problem is the old “closet.” The fact that anyone has to hide who they are is a sign that our society is failing. Gay people should not have to be ashamed of who they are.

Beyond even that, however, is a fascinating phenomenon with lots of names. Transsexual, transgender, intersexual, third gender, and other names have been applied, but the basic idea is that some people feel they are not actually the gender that is dictated by their genetics and natural genitalia.

I shy away from using the word “disorder” for this, because I find that it implies it’s somehow wrong or that a cure should be sought. I think medicine has already provided the “cure,” in that sexual reassignment therapies, ranging from hormonal to surgery, have been largely successful in allowing people to live as the gender with which they identify.

But asking why this happens is still worth doing. Trying to make any blanket statements is not something I do lightly, so I can only hypothesize as to why it might be possible that some people experience it.

Gender is strictly defined by society. During Freud’s time, he came to the conclusion that women had “penis envy.” In retrospect, I think most intelligent people can realize that this was likely a factor of how powerless women in Victorian society felt, and that the only thing holding them back was their gender. For a woman to “want a penis” may simply mean that the woman wants to be treated like a man, not a woman.

Ultimately, there may be people who are conflating social role with gender. I want to be pretty and catered to is female, I want to work hard and have power is male. This is obviously a gross oversimplification, but I believe it may be a factor.

The whole thing is further complicated by the fact that we live in a world where one can not only dream of being of the opposite gender, but you can actually go about doing so with relative success. To desire for primary and secondary sexual characteristics of another gender is not something I am qualified to discuss, but there is a lot going on in terms of identity.

This is particularly difficult for me to comment on, because I am a non-factor in my own sexuality. I don’t even think about myself in the sexual sense; all of my sexual attention is directed outward. I could be a hideous beast or the hottest person on Earth, I don’t think it would have much affect on me directly, only indirectly by who will be attracted to me.

And this may be part of how some people wish to use their own sexual-identity. There are gay people who are attracted to gay people, and there are gay people attracted to straight people. What if the urge to be the opposite gender stems from the desire to attract one’s desired type? Being a woman would sure increase the odds of attracting a straight guy, if that is what you prefer.

But I know this cannot universally be the case, because there are people who switch genders and continue dating what would have been the opposite of their birth gender (and are now same-sex relationships).

Then you have people who point to that fact that many people who wish to change their gender have been abused as children. These tend to be proponents of the idea that this type of behavior is a disorder, and this provides a convenient artificial cause. I include this only for the sake of completion.

In the same category as the above, there are those who see this behavior as a “choice.” I have seen people rail at length about how transsexuality is a cry for help or attention. There are people who actually believe that someone would choose to go through the expense and stress of changing their gender for little more than being able to say “I’m unique,” like an elaborate tattoo or piercing.

I don’t put much credence in the last two “explanations,” and it’s mean-spirited ideas like that which sort of disproves the idea that someone would make a choice like this on a whim. In fact, everyone undergoing gender reassignment has agonized over the decision at length and with a professional counselor. It’s more than a little patronizing to think this is a situation that is taken lightly by any involved.

And yet it is a mistake for some people. There are people who begin the process and stop at some point, or go through the process for years and can almost pass, but then decide to reverse everything they possibly can.

Some studies have found that many people who go through gender reassignment are not happier, even after years of medication and thousands of dollars in surgery, though there are plenty of people who purport to be happier both during the process and after they feel their transformation has been successful.

Turning attention away from the individuals undergoing the change, there are others affected around them. I imagine the family issues involved mirror those of homosexuals, in that there are closed minded responses and loving, accepting ones, and that one must cope with the former without knowing for certain who will provide the latter.

Then there is the matter of how potential dates will react. In this instance, I think female-to-male individuals have it easier, since there is less stigma among women regarding such a relationship, and I imagine male-to-female individuals risk violent reactions from men who would find such a situation to be threatening to their own gender identity. I am sure it is a tight-rope walk of being honest while not inundating someone with too much before they are comfortable. I don’t envy someone in that situation.

I sometimes wonder if our ideas of gender are the ultimate cause of people wanting to switch their gender. It may be that some people just won’t feel comfortable with who they are until their outward gender matches their internalized image of what they want to be and how they want to be seen.

Ultimately, and I don’t mean this to be offensive, but I don’t particularly condone this sort of behavior. Maybe that isn’t the right word, condone, but it’s the first that comes to mind. I don’t think it should be illegal, and I have no interest in talking a random person out of doing it.

However, if someone I knew well was considering gender reassignment, I would recommend against it. Obviously I would support whatever decision they make, but I oppose the whole process for the same reason I oppose plastic surgery in general.

I find society to be too hung up on appearances. We are obsessed with the surface, and in the process of perfecting our exteriors, we have let our inner selves turn to shit. Superficial bullshit should not be running our lives.

Maybe if all of our fiddling was harmless, I would be more inclined to write it off, but there are consequences and side effects that occur with all of our meddling. In some sense, these pioneer transgender individuals are blazing the trail and helping experts develop the methods to succeed in the future, but there is the small matter that these same people are used by the medical community as clinically depressed guinea pigs who are told that these risky procedures will make them happier.

At any rate, I must defer to the basic tenet that people are free to do whatever they want with their own body. I don’t think the “consequences” (or more accurately, the potential for consequences) warrant any sort of opposition on my part. If anything, I feel compelled to be supportive, because the added burden of choosing this path is such that I have sympathy.

And it is not a sympathy that derives from pity, but instead a sympathy that derives from knowing. While I have no such gender issues, I have the faintest inkling of how it feels to be in such a situation. Atheists face some of the same difficulties, and I am thankful no surgery or hormone pills were pushed on me in my pursuit of an alternative lifestyle.

There was a time when the medical profession made a pretty penny off of “curing” people of homosexuality. Now, I worry that they are profiting off of “curing” people of confusion that exists not within individuals, but within society, and that rather than having society change to accommodate the reality of the human experience, we are foisting extensive medical side effects onto individuals whose unusual situation is the product of a sick society, not a sick body.

But I could also be wrong, and it wouldn’t surprise me in this case.

Saturday Reflection #31

If I was to have been afflicted with any madness, I am infinitely glad that it was love.

Friday, May 27, 2011

On Liberal Sensitivity

I have two problems with most liberals. For one, most liberals are pussies. Also, a lot of them will take great offense at the use of the word “pussies,” and will go to great lengths to inform me of why, but they won’t address the fact that they are spineless wimps who only stand up for language Nazism.

I know I have said as such many times before, but I think it bears repeating and is worth a post addressing the problem directly again. The problem is so bad, I literally shy away from interacting with most liberals because I find the whole experience to be a waste of time. I would prefer to talk to people who have thick skin and who understand that language is not some insidious tool of oppression that should be handled gingerly.

Trust me. Comedians have been making jokes about politicians for decades, and yet they get more powerful every day. Language and laughter are not holding anyone back. In fact, everyone who’s ever made it had people laugh at them. It builds character, and growing from the experience might keep one from being a pussy.

Liberals have a legacy of language doctoring that probably can’t be shaken off easily, but it can be done. Remember, eugenics was liberal, Imperialism was liberal… a whole host of bad ideas were liberal (if only by virtue of new ideas not being conservative, by definition).

As a liberal, I think you need to get comfortable with the erroneous past and the inevitable mistakes that will be made in the future when it comes to liberalism as a core ideology. There’s no point in revising history; all you gotta do is admit that mistakes happen, and you have to be willing to work against your own ideas later if they turn out to fail.

As a liberal, you have to question every idea you have, holding nothing sacred, and you must be willing to admit when you are in error. You know, the basic things no conservative will ever do.

One of those mistakes was the politically correct movement. By the time it really took off in the 90’s, language was pretty much not a problem anymore. The PC movement was the culmination movement that pushed for a necessary shift in the way people spoke to each other. The only thing is, the ball really got rolling on “being PC” after the problem it was set to solve had all but completely evaporated.

In the absence of a real dilemma to solve, the liberal PC movement continued the 80’s censorship craze pioneered by Republican values groups. You have Tipper Gore out trying to infantilize the music industry, Columbine blamed on Marilyn Manson, and a general dumbing down of culture to the point that everything is kid friendly, mother approved.

It becomes all about the children. Oh, the poor, innocent children. Mercy me, a three year old just saw Janet Jackson’s tit in between hours of 300 pound men crashing into each other, causing violent head trauma. Most of these poor, innocent children were sucking on one just a few years before, but… Janet’s was pierced! Oh the humanity!

Kids aren’t scarred the way people think. I was born in 1983 and I grew up during all of this, and I can tell you: I still found porn and I still listened to dirty music… most of it awful. And I would have been saved from listening to it if it hadn’t been presented to me as forbidden.

I remember seeing Madonna’s book somewhere and being like “Whoa… something is happening in my pants.” And nothing is more regrettable than the fact that I owned not one, not two, but three Limp Bizkit CDs… and this was even when you could download songs on Napster. How was I smart enough to reject religion around this time, but dumb enough to listen to horrible music??

I think that generation, the one I’m a part of and which is growing up now, won’t stand for the same shit when we’re adults. We may be hindered a little because our model is so distorted, and I fear swinging too far in the opposite direction, but I think we can all agree: this country isn’t free so long as censorship is acceptable in any form.

I consider myself sort of a Family Guy liberal. I don’t find shock humor to be against my morals, and I think the mock outrage over every little thing people say has reached the point where I don’t care who said “nigger” anymore.

I think part of liberalism is tolerance, and that means tolerating not just people who have been oppressed, but also people who say things you find unconventional or offensive. You don’t have to like what someone is saying, but unless they are literally encouraging violence, they have the right to say whatever it is they want.

Even if someone is inciting hostility, I think the appropriate response is public ridicule, not legal action. Call me old fashioned and conservative on this one, but I don’t think it’s the government’s place to tell people what they can or cannot say. What happened to “Don’t make a Federal case out of it?”

The next time someone says something that is incredibly ignorant, instead of causing them to ignore you completely by presenting some reasoned argument with evidence and facts, just tell them to go fuck themselves. They’ll understand that.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Discussion: Is Religion Obsolete?

Is religion still necessary? I know it will be hard to divorce this question from the idea of whether religion will disappear, but what I’m asking essentially amounts to: if religion did disappear, would it reappear or be replaced?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday Word: Boregasm

Boregasm: the fake climax of a girl with better things to do

Labels, Reality and False Advertising

I grew up in a culture of skepticism. My parents taught me very young the concept of advertising. I was taught early that people will lie to my face to make a buck. But it’s not just economic purchases where this is the case, a lesson I learned more or less on my own.

A comment was made stating that labels provide the service of allowing human beings to differentiate themselves, and ultimately divide into groups we find comfortable. In fact, the commenter goes so far as to use the term “world,” implying that people of different attitudes are segregated to the point of living in completely different realities.

I’ve never liked the term “worldview.” People don’t have different worldviews, unless you’re out in space looking back at Earth. In this case, you certainly see things differently than I do. But really, we’re all living in the same world, even if we’ve sequestered ourselves to a tiny, comfortable corner of it.

Trust me, I would know. I wouldn’t use the term “sheltered” when it comes to my lifestyle. It just doesn’t seem to be the right word, because it implies someone is trying to protect me from something. No one, not even myself, is consciously trying to shield me from anything. However, my world is still relatively small, largely confined to my home and places I go to purchase things.

I make no illusions about the way I live. I don’t imagine my experience to be particularly cosmopolitan simply because I spend a great deal of time on the computer, which is vicariously connected to the whole world. I don’t have the world at my fingertips anymore than I have it on a string.

Yet, even though I don’t see them, I know there are children going to bed hungry tonight, not just in far flung and impoverished third-world nations, but here in America, maybe even within a mile or two of my home. I don’t experience the negative effects firsthand, but I know racism exists, I know sexism exists, and I know classism exists.

I understand a great deal about the world outside of my own personal, daily experience, not because I’m so gosh darned naturally bright, but because I take the time to talk to people, to read, to basically observe as much of the world as can be revealed to me. I go to moderate (certainly not great) lengths to expose myself to more people, places, things, and ideas than I would experience in the normal course of my life.

I haven’t had a lot of black friends in my life, a consequence of having been born in the Midwest to relatively wealthy parents. My family was certainly rich, not so rich that I slept in the wing of a college dorm named after a relative, but rich enough that I hung out with people who did. One of my roommates my freshman year of college was black, and I dated a black girl in college for about a month (my credit score has yet to recover…), but otherwise I had very little regular contact with black people.

But even before I moved to Philadelphia for college, I didn’t hate black people, I was just downright ignorant of them. Without exaggeration, here was my experience with black people before the age of 18:

My mom always tells the story of when I was just learning to talk, I saw a black guy while we were out. I pointed to him and said, “Reading Rainbow!” If I had to guess, I would say the first impression I got of black people was Lamar Burton. I also remember “Gordan” on Sesame Street was black.

For one year in first grade after my family moved to Michigan, I went to a public school with a couple black kids in my class. My memory is very fuzzy. When my family moved to Indiana, there was a black guy in my middle school from grades 6 through 8. He was on all the sports teams and was way too cool for me to have gotten to know.

High school was slightly more diverse, since it was a private high school that gave sports scholarships to some minority students. Still, there was only about 5-6 black people out of about 120 students per grade level. During my senior year, I “volunteered” (though I was really forced through a requirement at my high school) to do community service in downtown Indianapolis where I was in contact with poor grade school students, most of whom were black.

So what is the point of this exhaustive history of racial contact? Namely this: I didn’t choose to be surrounded by white people, the world largely seemed to choose for me. I don’t look down on people who have no black friends or have very little access to black people, but I do hate bigots. We don’t choose a great deal about our situation in life, but we do have control over what we think.

I don’t like it when people surround themselves with like-minded individuals. I call it intellectual incest. It’s a great way of breeding some horribly mutated ideas. I tend to gravitate towards strong personalities who have a little bit in common with me on the surface, but who I can sit and argue with for hours. I see these people as coarse whetstones against which I can sharpen myself.

It would be easy for me to be a bigot. Think about the only black people I have had contact with: some over-paid actors that were probably selected for on the basis of their race by a government propaganda agency (you know, PBS); black kids getting advantages for being black; poor, loud, annoying black kids in an at-risk after-school program; a girl who broke my heart… all the makings are there for me to misinterpret.

And yet, I still enjoy talking to black people as much (and sometimes as little) as anyone else. I still recall fondly talking to a black guy in a restaurant over lunch because of a mix up.

The cashier at this place took the order while you were in line and wrote your last name down to call you when your order was up. My last name is pretty damn common, so it’s not surprising that someone tried to step up and take my meal. It’s even less surprising that they were black, since another unmentioned exposure to black people for me was sports. Lots of black athletes have the last name “Allen.”

Of course, Allen isn’t exactly a traditional African name. I actually said, I swear on my life, “I guess one of your ancestors was owned by one of mine, sorry about that.” I am so lucky that he laughed. He ended up sitting down across from me while I was eating and we talked for like 20 minutes after we were both finished with our meals before he had to return to work. I don’t recall much about what we spoke of; I think it was mostly politics. I pretty much only talk religion and politics when chatting with strangers. Weather talk gets a nod and silence from me.

I just don’t see the appeal in only associating with “your own kind.” Yeah, it happens by circumstance, but I mean… when given the opportunity to expose yourself to novelty, the decision to abstain is cowardice bordering on self-loathing. Why would anyone deprive themselves of the possibility of a new friend, a new favorite food, a new band’s music… whatever it is one is confronted with, why would someone shy away from at least trying something new?

We’re not talking “Just give heroin one try.” If you get hooked on a new favorite food, it’s a calculated risk you should be willing to take. If you meet someone who you share a connection with whose ideas are actually nothing like your own… where is the harm in that?

Getting back to the original comment… it was made regarding the label “conservative,” and I presume also regarding “liberal.” It’s one thing to not emphasize labels that someone has no control over (like race or gender). It’s downright insane to place importance on the labels that others apply to themselves.

I did online dating for a brief period. It’s how I met my wife, actually. One thing I learned from it was that people don’t know jack shit about who they are. I don’t mean that people need to pack up and go to India to find themselves, study themselves, and get doctorates on self. Maybe it’s good that people are horrible at analyzing their own personalities, since that indicates a certain lack of self-centeredness… or maybe it’s just self-delusion and narcissism. Who am I to say?

But basically, I learned to ignore what people wrote in their actual profile, and instead based my opinion of them initially on how we matched up based on survey questions, but most importantly I took online chats with people very seriously. I pretty quickly saw instant message conversations with potential dates as online interviews for the job of dating me, because I made the mistake early to just dive into a few dates with women based on what they wrote about themselves.

I met with a girl who said she was liberal, though the questionnaire results said she was far right of me. After our date, I would classify her perhaps as a “blue dog Democrat,” and I can’t tell the difference between them and Republicans (which is a huge insult). I also went on a date with a girl who said she was a vegetarian but didn’t mind dating someone who ate meat. Then it turned out to that in order to date her, I would have to give up meat.

In this case, intent isn’t too important to me, but it might be useful if anyone were interested in classifying this sort of thing. Whether people are lying or simply mistaken about their own views and personality, an individual’s opinion of themselves means absolutely nothing to me beyond how I will interpret their self-perception in the grander scheme of who they are.

Even if one knows oneself, labels are often a lazy shorthand that do not accurately and adequately describe the nuance of an individual. People who describe themselves using a broad term like “right-wing” and then qualify it with a laundry list of exceptions continue to puzzle me to this day.

Labels mean nothing in a world where we all use language differently, unless they are labels based on your own observations or labels which are clearly defined. I’m all for labels in general, but I affix the labels; I don’t go by what others say. This seems like common sense to me in a world where a casual trip down any supermarket aisle will yield hundreds of labels with vague language, half-truths, and flat out lies.

“New and Improved!” That’s my favorite, because the implication is that they could have altered it to be worse, but they wouldn’t do that to you, the customer. Instead, they made it better, even though “improved” is a completely relative term. At least it doesn’t carry the same audacity as “#1” or “Voted Best.” I don’t remember choosing which mustard was better the last time I was at the polls, but then again, I was really drunk…

[Yeah, I don’t drink… but never let the truth get in the way of a joke.]

The bottom line is this: everyone in the world is out there advertising themselves. Many people have no interest in being accurate, nor is there any oversight. People hide things about themselves, they present themselves as having qualities they imagine they possess, there are even those who manipulate others by knowingly appearing modest and unassuming… at first.

Honestly, I’m surprised to have gotten the comment in the first place. I hate to see someone being an outspoken advocate for ideological segregation, for one thing. But I also feel sorry for someone who values such a thing and also labels themselves as atheist and conservative.

What a miserable existence that must be. I mean, liberals are pretty religious, but conservatives take it to another level. Before I learned to steer the debate to the real issue, I let many conservatives lead me down the intellectual cul-de-sac of the old “the United States is a Christian Nation” debate.

While I enjoy talking with conservatives, and I never shy away from an opportunity to talk to someone different, I enjoy a comfortable distance from conservatism. I can’t imagine the agony of labeling myself a conservative, and further believing I should surround myself with conservatives. That would be my personal hell, especially if Lady Gaga was playing in the background… though what are the odds of conservatives listening to Lady Gaga?

If you’re a conservative who differs on even one issue, you may as well vote Democrat, since odds are the Democrat is only going to change one thing anyway, and it will only be changed as little as humanly possible. If that isn’t what every conservative claims to be all about, then I must have not been paying attention.

I just don’t get it, really. Labels are bullshit, even the ones I make for personal use. They’re really only relevant to me, and I’ve been wrong many times. I often find someone very tolerable at first, only to find out I’m wrong later. That’s why I never really understood bigotry and prejudice: I’ve found that in order to really hate someone, you have to get to know them first.

I guess labeling people and judging them based on superficial criteria is just the inevitability of age. After all, the old are not long for this world, so they don’t have time for things like “listening,” and “consideration,” or little technicalities like “justice” or “progress.” They just want to live out their remaining time in what they already understand, doing what they already know, chanting to themselves that they are safe and comfortable in the cocoon of privilege.

My only comfort? Their mortality. It was nice to know you, now get out of our way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Ten: Ways to Get the Girl

10. Go shopping with her
9. Shower
8. Impress her parents
7. Piss off her parents
6. Show her you care about the same things
5. Stage a huge show of affection
4. Ignore her
3. Tell her you’re a feminist
2. Invite her to hang out in bed
1. Make her laugh

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Baptism of Henry


The door clangs shut. He tries to get up after being thrown inside. The nude man stumbles to the bars and shakes them. A laugh echoes from the darkness behind him.

“Don’t be such a cliché,” a figure rasps from the floor. “What’s your name?”

The man holding the bars doesn’t even turn around. He begins sobbing.

“There there,” says the figure in the corner. “You need to adopt the philosophy that you have no control anymore, so you may as well just lay back and enjoy what time you have.”

A silence follows that seems to envelope the whole room, until all he hears is the sound of his pulse in his ears. He sniffs.

“Come on, you might as well tell me your name. I’ll probably be the last person you ever talk to.”

“Are you serious?” he asks.

“No one who leaves ever comes back. You must know what happens here.”

“How long as you lasted?”

“A week,” the man laying on the ground says. “You can call me Blue, by the way.”

“I’m Henry,” he says, stepping forward to shake the man’s hand. Blue awkwardly offers his left hand to shake. “Sorry, I’m left-handed, and… well… I’m down to my last limb, literally.”

Henry squints and sees that Blue’s right arm is gone, all to the way up to the shoulder, and his legs are gone up to nearly the hip. The remaining stumps of his legs are covered in bloody bandages, and the right arm of his shirt is tied off.

“What’d you do before the war?” asks Blue.

“I, um, I sold insurance.”

“You’re fucked, then,” said Blue. “You might try saying you were a pastor or maybe something useful, like an electrician or plumber. These people have no need for what they’ll no doubt see as a gambling scheme.”

Henry begins to feel cold. He sits down against the wall next to Blue.

“I bet you think I lost my arm and legs in the war,” says Blue. “I didn’t. I was fine until these pricks picked me up. You wanna know what happened, why I’m still alive like this?”


“I had fallen asleep while I was on watch. I was with my wife and two children. By the time I realized what was happening, they had surrounded our home, blocking all of the exits. I saw who it was, the Baptists. I couldn’t stand to know that would be happening to my family. I’m sure you can understand.”


“I killed them. I slit their throats, doused their still bleeding bodies in gasoline, and lit them on fire. They burst in before I had time to off myself. To punish me for my actions, they decided to deny me a baptism. Instead, when they get hungry for a snack, they come down here, knock me out with an ether rag, and they chop a part of me off. A foot at first, then part of my leg, then a hand… then, usually as I’m coming to again, they cauterize the wound with an iron. I heard them say yesterday that I look so sick that they’re feeding me to the dogs.”


“Don’t let them hear you say that, or you’ll end up with a seven foot spit shoved up your ass and out your mouth, then slowly cooked alive.”

Henry begins sobbing.

“Come on, you’re a survivor. Well, you were a survivor. You must have seen some horrible things to have made it this long.”

Henry wipes the tears from his eyes and sniffs hard. “I just… I guess I just thought I was special, that I could just rise above it all, that I would be fine.”

“You will be fine, it’ll be over before you know it.”

“I don’t want it to be over.”

“Well,” Blue says, then chuckles. “This was a post-dated check written the moment you were conceived, my friend. As an insurance man, you of all people should know about the inevitability of disaster.”

“But not like this,” says Henry. “Not this soon, not as a spectacle.”

“Why not go out with a bang?”

Henry shakes his head. “Like I have a choice.”

“Look,” Blue says, leaning to face him. “We don’t get to decide what happens to us, but we decide how we respond to it. You know what the difference is between laughing at someone and laughing with someone?”


“The only difference is whether or not you laugh. Either you’re in on the joke, or you’re not.”

Henry sighs. “I don’t have time for this.”

“Oh, do you have someplace to be?” asks Blue.

“No, but I don’t want to spend my last moments like this, waxing philosophical with someone who killed his own family.”

Blue goes back to reclining against the wall, facing the same direction as Henry. “Fine. If you’d rather sit in silence so you can dwell on your ill luck, go ahead. I won’t disturb you.”

Henry hangs his head. He sits quietly only for a minute before he apologizes.

“It’s fine,” says Blue. “I mean, you have every right to be a bit pissed off.”

“What’d you do, like, before the war?”

Blue smiles. “You remember that sitcom about an American that moves to Canada?”

“You mean ‘Round Bacon’?”

“Yep,” Blue smiles. “I executive produced that.”

“So, does that mean you paid for it to be made?”

Blue sighs. “Where did people get it in their heads that the executive producer financially backs projects? I was the creator and head writer.”

“Oh, well, I was never really a fan.”

“Now why would you say that?” asks Blue.

“Well… I mean, like, I’m just saying…”

Blue turns to face Henry again. “It’s not like I’m going to reminisce with you about old episodes or give you a pop quiz. You didn’t have to tell me you didn’t like it. Let me guess, you liked those cop dramas where they’re always extracting semen from the stomachs of 11 year old girls? ‘Well, based on the blood splatter pattern, it looks like she was clubbed to death with her own hopes and dreams.’”

“Actually, all I really watched on TV was SportsCenter.”

“Wow. Worked in insurance, watched SportsCenter. Lemme guess, white picket fence, drove an SUV, 2.3 kids, and you had a golden retriever named ‘Marley.’”

“Maybe silence was better…”

“Sorry, sorry. I’m still a little sore about your comment regarding my familicide.”

Henry stands up and begins pacing. He asks, “What are we going to do?”

“Well for one, you can stop making me nervous by pacing. Also, what’s this ‘we’ stuff? Don’t even think about having your way with me. I may only have one arm, but I still have my teeth.”

Henry walks the whole length of the cell, staring at the bars. He grabs and shakes them as hard as he can at various points. He steps back and kicks them as hard as he can. There is no give. Henry steps back further.

“Wait,” says Blue.

Henry throws all his weight into the bars. It feels like he ran into a brick wall.

“The room is solid. Your best chance for escape is when they come for you, though they’ll have stun guns and you’ll probably be on the ground before you even know what happened. No clue how you could even get out of here if you manage to overpower the four men being sent down here to get you.”

Henry rubs his sore shoulder. “How long do you think I have?”

“Honestly,” Blue coughs. “I have no idea what time it is now, let alone what day it is. But I can tell you this, most of my guests aren’t here very long.”

“How long is not very long?”

There is a screech far away, a door opening.

“Farewell, Henry the insurance salesman who watched SportsCenter.”

The sound of dragging chains gets closer. One of the men in white robes puts a key into the cell door. He looks at the others and asks if they are ready. They nod. The key is turned, they bob their heads in unison a few times, and they throw the door open.

In the end, Henry does not even resist. He slinks to the corner near Blue, and a man with a taser lunges for him. Henry is in chains being marched away as Blue begins singing the theme song to “Round Bacon.”

Henry shuffles through corridors, half being pulled by the man in front of him holding his chains, and half being prodded by the man behind him with a baseball bat. Organ music can be heard faintly. Finally, a door is opening in front of him and the sound of the organ is overwhelming.

“Bring the convert to the font,” a booming voice says, and the crowd cheers. Henry is brought to a recess in the marble floor. He looks out over the congregation. Stern looking men, smiling women, sleeping children…

The boiling water hits him so fast that he is in shock.

“For while they baptize with water,” says the booming voice behind the pulpit. “We baptize by fire.”

A woman with a surgical mask strikes a blow torch and begins pulling the hair off of Henry’s body. Where it is too thick or the boiling water did not reach, she uses the blowtorch to burn it away.

“For this is my body, and this is my blood, which I give unto you, the flock.”

Henry collapses, and the woman with the blowtorch continues her work as he slumps to the ground. When she is finished, she stands and nods to two men, one holding a bone saw and the other a meat cleaver. They waste no time in butchering Henry.

Music Monday: Queen

I was barely 8 in November of 1991 when Freddie Mercury died. While the facts were fuzzy to me then, it was around the time Magic Johnson announced he had AIDS. These two events culminated in cementing my first impressions of the disease.

At the time, I didn’t know who Freddie Mercury really was, and it wasn’t until Wayne’s World came out a year later that I really appreciated Queen’s music. It was also around this time that I started recognizing “We Are the Champions” being played in every other sports movie and “We Will Rock You” at every sporting event.

Plus, it’s a great opportunity for a religious blog, since how many opportunities will I have to feature someone who had a Zoroastrian funeral?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Reflection #30

I survived the rapture of May 21st, 2011, and all I have to show for it is this smug blog post.

On Why This Rapture Stuff Bothers Me

You’d think I’d be all over this rapture stuff… but obviously anyone who reads my blog knows I’m not. I just don’t really care.

I understand why some people are making such a big deal out of it. Atheists get to use this as another example of religion run amok. The Christians are using this to remind everyone that not all Christians believe the same nonsense (many believe completely different nonsense). Jews are busy being miffed about Obama mentioning Israel (namely, for continuing the same policy as Clinton and Bush regarding the 1967 borders), and Muslims are just happy that no one is really paying attention to them for the moment.

I’m just so utterly bored by the whole thing, though. I study religions and religious history, and this rubbish is painfully common in religion. It happens because it works. Some nut wants more butts in the pews, so he says the world is ending, gets the media to cover it like it’s a real newsworthy event, and free publicity ensues.

Sure, this one has the modern twist that this guy got people to spend their life’s savings on billboards advertising it, but the general strategy is unchanged: create an impending threat, draw people in with fear, and ignore the consequences.

But I anticipate this. I know there will always be individuals who do shit like that. I’m not surprised by people who exploit others, through religion or otherwise. What I find so downright irritating, what is frankly unforgiveable, is all of the free publicity being given to the guy doing this and his radio network.

Between this guy and the guy who burned a Quran, we are setting a very stupid precedent, namely that religious craziness will be rewarded with attention. I don’t think my blog is big enough to really make a difference, yet I still refuse to use the guy’s name because he doesn’t deserve the recognition. What he’s doing is not particularly novel, and certainly not worth a name drop from me, or anyone.

Some Basic Tenets of Laughtheism

Rage is the cause of much suffering.
Rage is caused by not being in on the joke.
The proper response to rage is to laugh.

There’s nothing wrong with laughing at people.
It’s not okay to cause people physical pain.
Laughing at people in physical pain is fine.

Fools worry about the little things.
The smart fix the little things.
The wise laugh at how little they are.

We take everything much too seriously.
Everything is bullshit, even this.
Taking anything seriously is bullshit.

She laughed at my penis.
She laughed during sex.
I laughed at the abortion.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


This isn’t a major announcement or anything. No big whoop, but I have formed my own religion. I don’t anticipate any rush to join, but I ask that all refrain from asking for membership until I have everything all worked out. My religion is sort of in beta.

I post this because I have the name. I thought about it a while, what it is I worship. I don’t really “worship” anything. But there is something I turn to when times are tough, when it seems like nothing matters, or when I’m just sad: humor. Not so much the humor though, but the laugh.

Like my detractors, I don’t consider myself a comedian. If I say anything funny, it’s largely for my own amusement. I don’t tell jokes for the benefit of others, I do it because it makes me happier to pepper an otherwise depressing or preachy post with a pun or joke.

In fact, this reminded me of something from when I was growing up with religion. I remember a joke was never as funny as it was at church. You could tell the worst joke, but if it’s coming from the pulpit you found it funny. Not because you were humoring the priest, but because of the juxtaposition of something as serious as religion and something that was often set up to be a serious sounding anecdote that ends with a punchline you never expected in a house of worship.

There were no dick or fart jokes, or worse. And yeah, maybe there was some function of me being 6-12 years old… but still, I stand by the observation. There is just something appealing to me about the idea of a funny religion, or perhaps a religion that emphasizes the funny things in life.

Like any person who was previously religious, I know little vestiges of my religious upbringing and education creep into my life and actions now. Personally, I attribute much of my reactionary anger and short fuse to religion. Having mingled with many other Catholics and non-Catholics, I notice a sharp distinction. I act like most Catholic men I know.

It’s weird, really, because I don’t know whether to attribute it to Catholicism or the culture of Catholics. This phenomenon is also very pronounced in Judaism. I swear, I can talk with you for about 30 seconds and I can tell if you are Jewish, or at least grew up in Brooklyn. This isn’t a bad thing, there are just certain mannerisms that catch on among different communities.

I would love nothing more than to cultivate (if for no one but myself) a new culture of humor before violent rage. Please remember, I can’t even report on the success of this religion yet, so please don’t think of joining in lieu of seeking professional anger management counseling.

I’m bored and I don’t believe in segues, so here’s a joke, a bonus Wednesday Word:

snart: a sneeze that causes one to pass gas
My religion is not above a flatulence joke.

Attitude vs. Ideology

In my previous post, I said that I didn’t think it made any sense to be an atheist and a conservative. I would say it’s tantamount to no longer believing in god, but going to church anyway. While I did anticipate it, I did a poor job of explaining how this fits into the left/right political debate in the US.

I don’t like the terms “left” and “right” as political systems. The terms are outdated to the point of being nearly obsolete (many ideas have gone from being left-wing to right-wing and back again). What makes it more confusing is that any discussion on the topic will automatically make the post unreadable to non-Americans, because left and right mean different things politically all over the world.

My previous post was primarily focused on attitude, or perhaps the motivation behind an ideology. If you support abortion rights because it’s what we have now… that’s conservative. If you support abortion rights because you believe women should have complete control over what happens with their body, you hold that view for a liberal reason.

In otherwords, I don’t see much use in saying one is “liberal” or “conservative” when it comes to defining one’s stance on individual issues. I consider myself liberal because my decision making on political matters are based on my firm support for individual liberties.

I know Democrats are language Nazis responsible for the politically correct nonsense of the 90’s, but I wasn’t old enough to vote then and I don’t support Democrats now, and it’s partly because Democrats do not share my view on personal liberty. There’s nothing liberal about Democrats, because the motivation behind their decision making mirrors that of the conservative mantra: don’t rock the boat.

While I openly embrace the idea of liberalism (and inwardly chuckle at how successfully the term has been maligned by conservative society), I don’t really like the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing.” I mean, for one thing, you need both or you end up flying in circles. For another, the terms are purposely nebulous.

If you take nothing from this or my previous post, remember this: these terms, left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican… it’s all bullshit. They’re brands meant to garner your emotional attachment for the purposes of gaining your vote. Unless the individual you are voting for actually represents you, there’s no use in voting for someone because they claim to be any of those things.

Seriously, I would vote for a guy who called himself a Nazi if he had a track record of supporting what I support and opposing what I oppose. A label means nothing when it’s attached to a box of bullshit.

But while liberalism and conservatism mean something in the greater world of language (while being basically useless in politics), right-wing and left-wing have little or no redeeming value in my eyes. They serve largely as a sort of sloppy political short-hand.

“I’m right-wing.”

Okay, so you want to screw the poor.

“I’m left-wing.”

Okay, so you smoke pot and never vote.

Really, the “-wings” are just euphemisms for cultural stereotypes. Sort of like moderate.

“I’m a moderate.”

Okay, so you’re too busy to actually understand politics.

These terms don’t really help, unless you’re trying to avoid actually talking about individual issues. If you’re a politician and you don’t want to go on record as actually standing for any particular cause, or if you don’t want to have any real campaign promises to answer to, you can always fall back on political buzzwords like these.

Personally, I have all the time in the world and no qualms with sticking to an issue. I would rather point to my particular views than try to lump myself in with a bunch of political do-nothings and pretend I have anything remotely in common with the left-wing.

No, I’m liberal, like America. I like traveling freely (so no flying), buying what I want, saying what I feel… you know, liberal stuff. Stuff that people a hundred years ago would be shocked by. Stuff that people a thousand miles away would be shocked by. I don’t like these things because they’re shocking, they’re shocking because these are the things people have been told for centuries would ruin a society… and yet here we are, enjoying them. And these things are enjoyable.

That is liberalism.

Too often, I think liberalism gets lumped in with left-wing ideology, much like how conservatism gets lumped in with right-wing ideology. But these labels are fake, artificial constructs that we attribute. And while we make them up, they don’t always bear any resemblance to our real ideas, especially in a political landscape so hell-bent on smearing the opponent before one’s own house is even in order.

This is much clearer when you add the political parties to the mix. Just going back to the turn of the last century, Republicans were the liberals and Democrats were the conservatives, and it was liberal to want to ban alcohol. Eisenhower instituted an income tax over 90% for the wealthy in order to pay for WWII, an unthinkable action for a Republican today. It wasn’t Democrats who fought for civil rights in the middle of the last century, it was liberal Republicans (maybe even some of the same liberals who had supported eugenics not half a century before).

Party and ideological labels are essentially meaningless, then, when they are not based on true principles, but are instead a Frankenstein’s monster of parts sewn together. That’s what modern American politics is, really: a loosely tied set of special interest groups and their pet issues, and of course the politicians they fund.

And ultimately, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind on this. People will label themselves and their political organizations however they want. I can’t prevent the world from affixing the label of “liberal” to Barack Obama anymore than I can stop people from saying Lady Gaga is talented.

But I still say it, because I’m a liberal and I know I’m free to do so. I may be wrong, but at least I wasn’t too afraid to say something. That is why, to me, liberalism is, and always will be, an attitude.

The conservative doesn’t speak out when approaching the precipice of injustice and ignorance, because they have become comfortable with it. It’s up to liberals, no matter how few there are, to not only speak up, but to shout at the top of their lungs, “Change course!”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How Can You Be Conservative and Atheist?

conservative (adjective): disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change

That will be the working definition I use for conservative for this post. Often there is a confusion, and I am certainly guilty of carelessly contributing to the problem, because too often “conservative” is used as a synonym for views of one particular political party (usually American Republicans, though individuals manage to twist it into a plethora of other species).

Basically, saying someone is “conservative” is not so much a laundry list of issue-by-issue stances as much as it is a statement of attitude or overall intent. For example, I am a pro-choice conservative, because I don’t want things to change in the abortion department (at least from how things were when I was growing up… I think we should undo the thoughtless progressive regulations placed on abortion by “conservatives” of late).

Of course, it is also conservative to want to return to 1950’s conditions, when abortion was banned… or actually just driven underground and made more dangerous for the mother. Plenty of abortion happened, you just had more women dying from it. Wanting a return to that tradition (you know, “the good ole days”) is also conservative.

Conservatism is sort of all about perspective, and they say yesterday’s liberal is tomorrow’s conservative… though since so little is actually changing, I can’t imagine today’s liberals growing up and needing to defend any of their policies, since they’ll still be fighting to have them passed into law (well… not fighting, but asking politely and then being shocked when dismissed).

For me, conservatism has its roots in religion. Religion says that certain rules came down to us from gods, that these rules are perfect and unchanging. This is the ultimate conservatism, even given the fact that people manage to interpret the same religion a thousand different ways (this is largely a function of the imperfect nature of religion, which is as flawed as anything else man has ever created).

To me, conservatism only makes sense if you firmly believe that everything we have now or at some point in the past was perfect. Conservatism only makes sense if you don’t believe progress is possible.

One thing I pick up very quickly when talking to conservatives is that they don’t seem stupid or ignorant, they just seem like enormous pussies. We’re talking huge, gigantic, you-could-drive-their-SUV-through-it pussies. Conservatives are so unbelievably bland, boring and utterly afraid of risk. I’m surprised they risk opening the front door in the morning.

This comes through a lot in their media and rhetoric. Fear is a major driving factor. Fear of X means we have to take your freedoms for a bit, but don’t worry, you’ll feel safer. But the biggest fear of conservatives has a name: change.

Caveat: While I don’t have to define what change is here, I should point out I mean real change, not campaign slogans from the other conservative party, the Democrats.

For example, let’s look at gay marriage. The argument against gay marriage, once religion is stripped away, essentially boils down to “if it ain’t broken for me, don’t fix it.” The system is working for all of these straight people, so why should we risk screwing up a good thing and allowing fags and dykes the right to be legally recognized as a couple?

I mean sure, it’s self-centered and incredibly ignorant to think that, but there’s pseudo-reasoning involved here that is important to grasp. Conservatives seem to be acknowledging they’re too dumb to foresee the implications of an action, so since the world isn’t on fire … we must be doing everything right.

I don’t make this assumption based on my thoughts on the matter, but on conversations that invariably lead to this:

“So what possible problem would occur if gay marriage was legalized?”

“Well… I reckon people will want to marry their iPod.”

The old conservative crutch: the slippery slope. You know, because society is just one frivolous law repeal away from complete and utter chaos. My wife says that in Judaism, these rules are called “fences.” Silly little rules are put up and have you flirting with crossing over them, while the real danger is much further away.

But you know what, I’ll bite. Suppose you could marry your iPod, what then? Honestly, what horrible thing will occur if you could marry your iPod? You can already go to facebook, make an account for your iPod, friend it, and then set your status to married. I mean sure, the entire internet would crash and cause planes to fall from the sky… but you can do it.

Suppose planes do fall from the sky, couldn’t we just go back? Sometimes we try something that clearly doesn’t work. Prohibition wasn’t truly the end of legal alcohol sales, and I had to go back almost a century to even come up with an example of something that didn’t work out and had to be undone.

Ultimately, I think conservatives are too afraid too try, except on particular issues. Many conservative women I know support abortion rights. Gay conservatives I’ve talked to all support gay marriage. Atheist conservatives don’t see much need for the Christian litmus test the bulk of the conservative party upholds.

But I have to wonder… are these people really so deluded as to think Republicans as a whole will do anything but dismiss any and all of these nuanced conservative-lite views?

Atheism is itself a fundamental rejection of conservatism. It is no small coincidence that atheism was born out of the same ideology and in the same intellectual circles as modern liberalism. It’s a shame, really, that the conservative media machine has managed to paint Democrats as socialist, because if most conservatives realized how unbelievably Democrat they were, the Republican party would simply die. There’s really very little discernible difference between Dems and Reps economically, though Republicans are the bigger whore when it comes to for corporate and wealthy interests (emphasis on bigger, not only).

Maybe one day Republicans will realize they are just Democrats and the door will open for a new, truly liberal party. You know, a party that actually mentions major issues, like real socialized medicine, dismantling of the military, legalizing narcotics, limiting government’s intrusion on people… you know, the stuff no one is ever mentioning because those would all be changes from the status quo. Shange is what liberalism is: change in the pursuit of progress.

Ultimately, if you’re an atheist and you vote like a conservative, congratulations: you’re voting against your own interests. You are living proof of the flaw in democracy. This is an inevitability when ignorance is not stamped out, especially in a nation where education has been moved to the back seat, then to the trunk, and appears to be poised to be dragged behind the country on a rope.

Honestly, being an Atheist conservative who holds “conservative” views that occasionally flirt with liberalism makes you a Democrat. Voting Republican in that situation would be as foolish as being a liberal and voting Democrat.

And them’s the facts.

Their Demands

“Everything changed last week when they came,” the anchor says. “Hundreds of enormous saucers, three miles in diameter, hovering over the major cities of the world, and also Detroit.”

The crowd laughs. I smirk.

As depressing as it is, who has time for real news anymore? I need a little laugh with my reality. I think I’ve earned that much. Sure, my poll numbers are down, but this could be the defining moment. How this goes today could determine whether I get re-elected.

And I guess it’s also important for the world. Whatever.


“Okay,” says Anderson. “We have communications open.”

I ask if we got the video working.

“Unfortunately,” Anderson says, “We haven’t been able to get video up and running, but we have sound.”

I ask if I’m going to get cut off like a cell-phone going through a tunnel, stressing that I would rather we be sure that all goes smoothly than rush into this and risk an interplanetary incident. God, I love that. I have to be the first president to say “interplanetary incident.” What a great time to be an American.

“It’s clean, sir, clearer than a landline.”

I tell him I didn’t ask about the sound quality, I asked about the reliability of the connection.

“I told you before, it’s not a phone, so it can’t really hang up. We’re transmitting our signal to them and they’re transmitting their signal to us, and each is independent of the other. You can talk at the same time, and you can mute your mic. If anything, there may be intermittent and minor static.”

I tell him to dial up the aliens, and I sit down at the microphone.

“Hello,” I say. “This is the president of the United States. On behalf of America and the entire world, I want to say-”


I stop and look at Anderson. I feel like I missed part of what they said. I mouth the word “delay” and shrug to Anderson.

He shakes his head and sighs.

“Excuse me?” I ask.

“Carbon. You have carbon?”

I clear my throat. “Um, yeah. We… we, uh, we have carbon.”

“We want carbon.”

I push and hold the cough button. I tell Anderson I wasn’t ready for this.

“I’m sorry, sir, there was a memo about this, actually. It seems that the only thing they ever ask about is… carbon.”

How am I supposed to read every memo? I was at a fundraiser today, Jesus. I think for a minute, then release the cough button.

“Is carbon dioxide alright?”


“How much carbon do you need?”

“As much as you can give.”

Well, they’re not bullies. “And what will you give us for the carbon?”

“You may live.”

Scratch that.

“Let me meet with some scientists and we’ll get back to you about how much carbon we can give you, sound good?”

“You have until the end of the day.”

Wow, I’m glad I got up early.


Well, fucking brilliant. What more can I say than that? My advisors and I agreed we could spin this so that it looks like I negotiated a solution to global warming. It’s not giving in to demands if they take something we never wanted. That’s just business. And we got a hell of a deal on the service: free. Maybe I’ll say there was a price and extort some foreign money...

We contacted some climatologists and got their estimates on how much carbon dioxide we can afford to shed. Apparently, there is a lot of carbon dioxide up there in the atmosphere, since we can spare literally tons of the stuff.

So, I get on the phone with the aliens and we discuss our donation to them, then they hit me with the kicker: they’ll be back. Terminator style, hasta la vista, baby. I told them we would have more in 50 years, and they said 10. They’ll be back in a decade… not that I’ll care, because I will have served my second term.

Approval rating? Through the roof. Donations? Cha-ching. I’m in talks to get a Nobel Peace Prize, if I grease the right Euro-palms. I’m also in the process of deciding which actor will play me in the movie. And best of all, my kid’s asthma is better than it’s ever been. Those stupid aliens sucked it right out of the air for us. We just sat back and breathed a sigh of relief.

Except, of course, for the buzzkills. Already there is whining about how this will just encourage the burning of fuels, which have more pollution than just carbon dioxide. Or the people worrying about what we’ll do when we run out of oil. Hello? It’s called biofuel. But you know what? Thanks to me, there is a tomorrow to even worry about. At least, for the next decade.

But I’m 67… what the hell do I care about ten years from now?

Wednesday Word: Fauxmosexual

Fauxmosexual: guy who pretends to be gay, usually to sleep with women

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Discussion: Mermaids

If real, should mermaids be considered mammals? Could you marry one?

Top Ten: New Flavors for Dog Treats

10. Thanksgiving Scraps
9. Free Range Squirrel
8. Week-Old Garbage
7. Kitty
6. Fresh Poop
5. Fresh Kitty Poop
4. Favorite Shoe
3. Strawberry Butthole
2. Death by Chocolate
1. Bananas and Crotch

Monday, May 16, 2011

Music Monday: The Raveonettes

I would describe this Danish rock group as The Velvet Underground with surf guitar. They are able to synthesize elements from every era of rock from the 50’s onward, and the result is what essentially amounts to a palatable Sonic Youth that is noisy enough to have an edge, but melodic enough for it to be bearable to listen to an entire album.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Reflection #29

I believe in a certain form of American exceptionalism. I definitely think Americans are different and special. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but Americans just have a little extra something… like a chromosome.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spitballing on the Religion of Atheism

Suppose I were applying for tax-exempt status as a religion, and I designated my religion as “Atheism.” Would it go through?

As it turns out, it might, but it depends on a few factors. First, I could not claim ownership of the organization’s assets, nor could I receive an “excess benefit transaction.” I’m cool with this, since I don’t have the desire or need for a large amount of money. I could live very comfortably on $25k a year. I would probably buy a guitar in a crazy fit of consumer excess, then switch to single-ply toilet paper out of guilt.

Now, I could claim I was a charity, or I could erect a monument to a famous atheist (George Carlin, perhaps), and the maintenance and donations for its upkeep would be a tax-free venture. I could form an educational organization, or create a group that defends human and civil rights.

I could also form an organization that lessens “the burden of government,” or reduces “neighborhood tensions.” But honestly, I think an atheist organization is going to put a slight strain on government resources, not to mention create neighborhood tensions between me and the traditional southerners.

Ultimately, though, I want to claim exemption under the “advancement of religion” clause. If the religious are going to say Atheism is a religion, it’s about time Atheism got recognized and honored with all the benefits. Ultimately, I think this might be the way to go.

Here’s the thing: the system is set up to favor close-knit, organized sub-communities. Atheism has failed, not because they are unherdable cats, but because atheists have not yet asserted their rightful place in accepted society.

For the die-hard “Atheism is not a religion” folks, I personally soothe it all away by reminding myself, “Well, it is a religious affiliation, in the context of a survey…”

What would Atheism, the religion, look like? Here’s where I had to put my religion hat on. How would a religion handle the tenants of Atheism as we know them… hmm…

So, I climbed this mountain and while I was up there, I saw a bright light and I was struck with a vision (and let me be clear, it was definitely not a seizure… no revoking my driver’s license). I received a message from Nogod. Unfortunately, there were no stone tablets, and I don’t have any evidence that it happened… but honestly, why would I lie?

My memory is a little hazy (I was tired from the climb, and I haven’t been sleeping much lately). I remember the gist of it, however. Nogod says to me, “Bret, I don’t have any commandments for you, but I have some advice.

“First, there are no gods but those you imagine. They are only real in the sense that belief in them may affect how you act in reality.

“Second, if you must believe in gods, do not put gods ahead of other people.

“Third, though you should value other people before gods, you should not turn people into gods.

“Fourth, use of violence in word or action should be restrained and used only against someone who is being violent or a total douche. When in doubt, wait and see.

“Fifth, don’t work too hard, but don’t be a mooch. Stress kills you, and laziness kills those around you.

“Sixth, repay the kindness of others at their convenience, not yours.

“Seventh, be honest. If you must lie, do so by omission and only to be polite.

“Eighth, respect your neighbor more than yourself.

“Ninth, respect the possessions of others more than you would your own.

“Tenth, covet anything or anyone you want, but ‘no’ means ‘no,’ regardless of what she’s wearing.”

So we discuss it some more, and I tell Nogod that I have some ideas we should add, and Nogod tells me it’s not really up for debate. I still think there should be a rule about not touching little kids, and Nogod is like, “If there’s no grass on the field, flip ’em over and play in the mud.” I throw up a little in my mouth, swallow it, and change the subject.

So I mention that I am trying to form an atheist religion. Nogod asks me if it’s because I want some recognition or something, and I assure him I don’t want to be worked into the religion. I don’t want to be a prophet. No one is saying I’m a prophet. I’m not a prophet.

But it begs the question, does Atheism have some sort of hierarchy? I don’t want there to be. Atheism shouldn’t be about leadership. This ultimately leads me to: what is the relationship of the Atheist to Atheism?

I kind of think of fellow atheists as cousins. I see them as equals, though I rarely see them. We have our own little familiar language and inside jokes, and it’s legal for us to get married in most states. Cousin has that sort of religious pseudo-family thing going for it, without being too creepy. Plus you can spice it up by abbreviating it, “Cuz.”

While we’re talking superficial things such as titles, why not discuss clothing. Hmm… clothing restrictions… that are atheist in “spirit”…

Only one clothing restriction comes to mind: don’t wear a uniform. This shouldn’t be tough, because most atheists are rather affluent, so they don’t wear uniforms, they just conform to “dress codes.” Atheism isn’t even officially a religion, and already it’s got loopholes.

Maybe the rule should be, follow the rules, but work to change the rules, that way the working poor are not excluded. So, why shouldn’t we have uniforms?

Well, uniforms just seem vaguely cult-like. I also find that people in uniform are often on the wrong side of history. You don’t see a lot of old news clips where men in uniform were making the world a better, more peaceful place. They’re usually marching with rifles, pointing fire hoses at innocent people, or hitting homeruns in the all-white league.

Honestly, I can’t think of any historical figure who changed the world for the better while wearing a uniform. Uniforms are uncomfortable and the sign of being a weak subordinate.

Some people try to claim kids will learn better if they wear uniforms, or that workers look sharp in a uniform. I firmly disagree on the latter, and I never shopped at a place because I knew the employees all looked alike, from head to two. As for the argument on school uniforms… let me put it this way: Nogod is a big fan of school uniforms:

Why America thinks kids learn better when the girls are wearing the most popular fetish outfit is beyond me.

I think this is pretty good progress for one evening. I’m sure a week of letting it all simmer will yield some more.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top Ten: Weird Annoying Things White Americans Liberals Do

10. Buy organic (food or otherwise)
9. Discuss having black/gay friends
8. Mention not owning a TV
7. Watch TV on computer/Apple product
6. Go skiing
5. Spend parents’ money
4. Hate parents
3. Go camping
2. Hate corporations
1. Get offended by everything (except jokes about white people)

Interview: His Lordship, The Gun-Toting Atheist

Bret: I’m here with His Lordship, the Gun-Toting Atheist, of the blog of the same name.

His Lordship: It’s ‘Your’ Lordship to you.

Bret: Right, my mistake. A thousand lashings. So, His Lordship, are you burned out on talking about bin Laden or do you want to throw in your two cents?

His Lordship: Bin Laden is dead, let’s move on. No matter what Alex Jones says.

Bret: What is going on in the news that you find interesting? What should we be focusing on?

His Lordship: I think the general state of the economy is worrisome.

Bret: Do you think the government can do anything about it?

His Lordship: I’m not an economist, but I think they can influence it. I think as long as wages keep up with inflation we’ll be ok. I worry about raising interest rates.

Bret: What would be the repercussions of rising interest rates, in your view?

His Lordship: Personally speaking, I hope the housing market rebounds so I can sell some property I own before rates go up. I think many other people in this country are in the same boat. But if you look at France, they are in a seller’s market right now. Compared to Canada, the US is not doing too good right now.

Bret: Do you have any interest in the 2012 race that is prematurely shaping up?

His Lordship: I’m independent, so I generally lean towards independent or fringe candidates. I vote my conscience, never along party lines.

Bret: I assume the fringe isn’t campaigning yet, given their budget.

His Lordship: Is Ron Paul fringe?

Bret: Not really. He’s fringe like Hot Topic is punk.

His Lordship: How about a Ron Paul /Bernie Sanders ticket?

Bret: Maybe if you flipped it... I can’t see Bernie Sanders playing second fiddle to Paul.

His Lordship: He’s a character.

Bret: I would vote for Bernie/Old Gym Sock

His Lordship: He’s the only one who’s ever been able to make Steven Colbert shut up mid-sentence.

Bret: I’m more impressed with his speeches. I once sat down and listened to his marathon filibuster speech that was like 8 hours. Ahh, unemployment.

His Lordship: Conservatives call Sanders a Socialist, but he really fights for the middle class.

Bret: I don’t know how I would classify him, he’s sort of a liberal libertarian. So you like Sanders?

His Lordship: I think he is one of the few uncorrupted politicians out there.

Bret: Yeah, and it’s uncommon for a senator.

His Lordship: Not sure if he has mass appeal to the point of being electable on a national level though.

Bret: I don’t think Paul is corrupted by money, either, just religion.

His Lordship: But Paul doesn’t believe in imposing his religious views on people. At least not that I know of.

Bret: Unless it’s abortion or taxing churches. I guess the latter is never going to happen in my lifetime.

His Lordship: Well he thinks the Federal government should stay out of the abortion debate and let the states decide.

Bret: That’s all code, though. “Let the states handle it” is code for “Let the states oppress people.”

His Lordship: But I do think churches should be taxed. Some of these mega-churches especially, that make millions. All tax free.

Bret: Oh, but they give back to the communities... like by going overseas to hand out bibles.

His Lordship: Ministers getting million-dollar housing allowances. What a farce.

Bret: Oh and don’t get started on their cars...

His Lordship: It’s unfair to other tax payers.

Bret: Where is the atheist lobby?

His Lordship: Is there one? Do I stand alone?

Bret: Every interest group has people in DC

His Lordship: Herding atheists is like herding cats (says Dawkins).

Bret: There are more atheists in America than black people and Jewish people combined, so I can’t believe there isn’t a market for the atheist vote.

His Lordship: Independent, free-thinkers hate to organize. And a lot of us don’t want to come out of the atheist closet. By fear of alienating business clients, among other things.

Bret: But no one sees you vote.

His Lordship: Oh that’s true. But what politician is going to come out and commit political suicide and say “I’m an Atheist!!!”

Bret: We need an atheist business league. Then atheist-only drinking clubs. Then we get the votes.

His Lordship: Atheist-only restrooms. Atheist-only seats on the bus.

Bret: Hey, I want to sit in the back. What of it? And I have an atheist only restroom, in my master bedroom.

His Lordship: I guess I do too.

Bret: We are a couple of bigots. I still think there’s enough common ground. I mean, most atheists are on board with taxing churches, right?

His Lordship: I sure hope so... except perhaps atheists who pretend to be ministers to get the tax breaks. Is religion a right, or is it a choice?

Bret: Religion is more like an accident. And Lenny Bruce is dead, so I think we’re set. So that’s one issue. And in this time of high deficits, it seems like a brilliant plan.

His Lordship: That and bringing the troops home. These foreign wars are useless.

Bret: From where? Just Iraq and Afghanistan?

His Lordship: That’s a good place to start.

Bret: Or also Libya and Pakistan. And Germany and Japan... and I know we have bases elsewhere.

His Lordship: There too. I think the CIA can run small-scale, more surgical operations that cost a fraction of deploying a full armored brigade.

Bret: I’m all for disarmament, don’t get me wrong, I’m just curious how far you’re interested in going, as a gun lover. Also it’s my understanding that we have troops in Germany and Japan because of WWII treaties.

His Lordship: I think the military should be used in self-defense only.

Bret: They aren’t allowed to have their own armies, I believe. So our army there functions as their army.

His Lordship: Germany has an army. The Luftwaffe is still around. Still the same logo, too. Germany also has a navy.

Bret: I’ll have to check then, I know there was some stipulation about post-war disarmament and permanent US bases.

His Lordship: When I went to Germany as a teenager, teen magazines were full of Luftwaffe recruiting ads.

Bret: Maybe it was literally no “army…” I say as I try to hold onto a shred of credibility.

His Lordship: I mean, didn’t Germany send troops to Afghanistan?

Bret: No clue, to be honest. At any rate, you have no problem with reducing the military. Is this because the US as a nation is so heavily armed?

His Lordship: Japan, I think, has a ‘self defense’ force, which is like an army but small. But there is a growing movement in Japan for remilitarizing. Especially in light of North Korea’s arrogance. I read something, and I posted that on my blog a year ago or so, to the effect that the US spends more on its military than every other country in the world combined. Are we safe yet?

Bret: I also just checked, there are about 67,000 US troops in Japan and 68k in Germany. And yes, there is a German army and they were deployed to Afghanistan. I can only assume Japan is the same.

His Lordship: The US Army’s purpose should be to defend US soil, period.

Bret: Yeah, we have an insane military industrial complex. Millions work in the defense industry. Do we make war because that’s the only thing we produce anymore?

His Lordship: We should have a strong Navy, and a strong Air Force, but that doesn’t mean we should spend nearly as much as we do. I think the arms manufacturers like wars because war - or at least the fear of it - means business.

Bret: Yeah, but you know how Boeing and Lockheed-Martin give such great deals when you buy in bulk. They’re like the Wal-Mart of the defense industry.

His Lordship: They sell better quality products than Wal-Mart. No offence to Wal-Mart stockholders.

Bret: I dunno, it would be a close call to see which one killed more people each year...

His Lordship: I realize that defense contracts mean jobs, but come on. These jobs are subsidized by my income tax.

Bret: Couldn’t the government subsidize another industry? Why defense?

His Lordship: Healthcare perhaps?

Bret: But then we would be communists.

His Lordship: No we wouldn’t. I was born in Canada, we had free healthcare, and it wasn’t communist. It’s a big load of BS, Communist my ass.

Bret: But then we’ll have death panels that don’t answer to shareholders, only voters. It will be chaos.

His Lordship: Isn’t it chaos now?
Bret: Well, actually it’s peaceful. Like... deathly peaceful. Brisk business for mortuaries.

His Lordship: Aging of the population is going to change demographics.
Imagine what a cure for aging would do.

Bret: You know insurance would never cover that. Aging is definitely a pre-existing condition. They better not cure aging until the baby boomers are all gone. Or we’re doomed.

His Lordship: Well, if a thousand-dollar shot (of a hypothetical cure for aging) could save millions of dollars worth of aging-related diseases, it would be preventive. And a good return on investment.

Bret: Wouldn’t an aging cure not prevent other health problems? People would still die though. Of heart disease or emphysema or what have you.

His Lordship: Definitely. And you could stay productive longer, wouldn’t need to retire anymore, it would be great for the economy, except for too many people accessing the same natural resources.

Bret: Maybe all new problems that come from living to over 200 or whatever. So, could I opt out of that?

His Lordship: Jump off a bridge.

Bret: Well, I don’t want to be a slave worker for centuries instead of just 50-60 years. You’re talking about not retiring like it’s a good thing. Some people see retirement as the carrot they’re chasing.

His Lordship: You could save for a few decades at a time to afford 5-year vacations every now and then. I’ll never retire. I’ll work until I croak.

Bret: A five-year vacation or one hell of a weekend in Vegas.

His Lordship: That would be, yes.

Bret: I have things I want to do that don’t involve work. I see work as bullshit I’m stuck doing. I can’t even imagine thinking “Oh boy, I get to go to work today.”

His Lordship: I thought you were unemployed
Bret: Well, I have worked. I understand the concept of waking up and working 9-5.
But the idea of that makes me cringe.

His Lordship: So buy farmland and go feed some chickens at 4 AM. Be your own boss.

Bret: I don’t think producing food would be something I would find very rewarding. And I never had a boss I hated, so it’s not the boss. Plus, do you realize how screwed farmers are these days? They can’t even break even. If I’m going to be waking up at 4am to fucking around with fowl, I want to be able to buy stuff.

His Lordship: It’s funny, with all the corn subsidies.

Bret: Well, it’s all going to corporations.Small-scale farming isn’t profitable in a world were so much can be automated.

His Lordship: You could be a subsistence farmer. And sell google ads on your blog.

Bret: If I had ads on my blog, it would be ugly, and I would have sold the aesthetic for pennies. Maybe if it would make money... But they’re so damn ugly considering how little return you get.

His Lordship: Last time I checked my google account, I had made $1.23.

Bret: Wow, $1.23... I could buy a small box and a bow with nothing in it. I’ll tell you what I would do, sell billboard space if I had a farm.

His Lordship: What if your farm is in the middle of nowhere?

Bret: I wouldn’t buy a farm that wasn’t highway adjacent. Location, location, location.

His Lordship: That’s what they say.

Bret: I don’t see the appeal in being your own boss, especially these days when you have to provide your own health insurance..

His Lordship: But seriously, I think farmers could turn a profit if they started planting other stuff than just corn.

Bret: Sure, if they grow cannabis, they’re set.
His Lordship: Not if we get universal healthcare. It’s a big relief off the small business owner’s back when the State offers free health insurance. (Well not free, there is still taxes, but the burden is shared.)

Bret: Big time, it would create jobs. Both in the small-business sector and healthcare. Though insurance would lose jobs...

His Lordship: Another factor for the cost of healthcare is the cost of medical school. It is absurdly expensive to go to medical school. So, doctors have to pass the cost onto their patients.

Bret: Do you think government should do something there?

His Lordship: I think there should be more grants for medical students. Merit-based, not based on how wealthy your parents are.

Bret: Do you think the cost of medical school is something up for debate? Or is it a private sector commodity off-limits to regulation.

His Lordship: I think it’s of vital public interest to lower the cost. Right now conservatives want to douse me with boiling Holy water for saying these things.

Bret: Do you consider yourself conservative, or do you just find they gravitate to you because of your love of guns?

His Lordship: I consider myself not conservative at all. Guns aren’t conservative. They’re just inanimate objects. I got the inspiration for the title of my blog from a site called Gun-toting Liberal.

Bret: Do you own guns?

His Lordship: Next question.

Bret: Why do people who love guns also love privacy?

His Lordship: I think we are people who love independence. Self-sufficiency and privacy go hand-in-hand, I think.

Bret: I find privacy kind of suspicious.

His Lordship: Dammit, you found me out. I’m Elvis Presley. In my line of work, I have to be really careful about the image I project. Some clients do not have a sense of humor.

Bret: It’s unfortunate privacy is so important to people, in my opinion.

His Lordship: It’s not unfortunate. I’m not after fame.

Bret: Right, but if people were more open, the world would be a very different place.

His Lordship: It would. But some people would freak out if they knew of my position regarding firearms. And some people would flip out if they knew I secretly make fun of their faith online.

Bret: But wouldn’t there be such a wealth of information that our little liberties would be of little import? Could you imagine someone caring about your view on firearms if they find out their pastor is gay, for example.

His Lordship: I am wary of sharing too much personal information online. I don’t even have a Facebook account. Not every pastor is gay? Just kidding, for religious folks reading this.

Bret: Only like half are gay, and the other half... let’s just say you wish they had sex with adult men.

His Lordship: Red Hot Catholic Love
Bret: Oh it’s not just Catholics. That’s what shocked me when I looked into it.
His Lordship: (from the South Park episode)

Bret: Right. I just think society needs to be more open... I think people are better off losing the business of bigots. And bigots should run themselves into failure by refusing to do business with the best people because of their foibles. But instead, everyone fakes it and we just go on unhappy.

His Lordship: There’s a scary amount of data-mining going on online. I googled myself the other day... and I found some stuff that surprised me. Apparently I graduated from college in 1977 with an Afro hairstyle.

Bret: Now I’m going to google “1977 college graduate afro” and I’ll have your name. You’ve played directly into my trap. You’ve revealed too many cards, His Lordship. Or should I say... Jerome Brown.

His Lordship: Seriously, some of the stuff I found about myself is really accurate, but I have no idea how they got to the data.

Bret: But who is googling you?

His Lordship: Me.

Bret: Anyone else you’re worried about?

His Lordship: A crazy ex. I mean, really, really crazy.

Bret: You didn’t kill her and dissolve her body in lyme? You have to think ahead, my friend.

His Lordship: No, but she tried to burn my house down because the voices in her head told her to.

Bret: Why do the voices in people’s heads never tell schizophrenics to do nice things? Like, why are there no schizos on corners handing out flowers, being like “Sorry, the voices in my head told me to.”

His Lordship: I don’t know. In college, my friends and I were fantasizing that our calculus professor would fall asleep during her boring class and that we would secretly implant a wireless earphone into her ear canal, then stream speed metal 24 hours per day.

Bret: Did a voice tell you to do that?

His Lordship: No. The voices quiet down when I turn up the volume. But seriously, innocent looking pieces of information could be the answer to your bank account security questions. Mother’s maiden name, name of favorite pet, make and model of first car, etc.

Bret: Doesn’t that just mean banks should come up with better security questions?

His Lordship: That means the NSA recommends that you lie when setting those up. The government telling you to lie. Now that’s awesome.

Bret: I always select “Favorite color” because no one can guess what it is. The drawback, if you lie, and then you forget the lie, you are screwed and can’t get back into your account if you forget your password.

His Lordship: What is your favorite color?

Bret: Clear.

His Lordship: What is your quest?

Bret: I seek the grail. Hehe. I think banks can figure out something. They make billions off of us just playing with money. I’m sure they can pay someone very smart to solve this, but they don’t.

His Lordship: I am so fed up with passwords. Just at my job, I have to memorize 24 different ones.

Bret: I have the same one I used since I was like 12 when we got AOL. Do you write them down?

His Lordship: Against regulations. And they change all the time too. I think passwords are a necessary evil, only it’s a very f*g annoying kind of evil.

Bret: I imagine. Maybe some day we’ll have biometrics take care of it.

His Lordship: Then they’ll just cut your finger off to get into the ATM.

Bret: Well, then I definitely hope they don’t use retina scans. What about a spit cup that analyzes your DNA?

His Lordship: A semen analyzer. Sorry, your Y chromosome does not match.

Bret: “Damn, I wish I could log in, but my aunt died and I’m just not in the mood.” Yeah, someone smarter than us will have to work on this one.

His Lordship: I’m not sure how I feel about DNA for identification purposes.

Bret: Is your DNA private?

His Lordship: There was a recent case in France where a cop planted someone’s DNA near the scene of the crime.

Bret: But they caught the cop planting it?

His Lordship: How else would we know about it?

Bret: Maybe the guy had an air-tight alibi, and they deduced it.

His Lordship: Not sure. What I have seen is that jurors take DNA like gospel. To them it’s like the Word of God. Ignoring circumstantial evidence.

Bret: Well, there was corruption and poor decisions on the part of juries before DNA. It’s good to talk about, though, so that the word is out.

His Lordship: Agreed, but this one type of evidence is put on a pedestal by uneducated people who think the science is too complex, “so it must be true”. It’s good that it is used to exonerate innocent people who have ben wrongfully incarcerated, but it could be misused.

Bret: Maybe the government should regulate CSI.
His Lordship: You mean the TV show?

Bret: The show, not the police... though also the police.

His Lordship: “It is unlawful for any producer of a TV crime drama to put DNA evidence on a pedestal.” The cops I know are good people.

Bret: Same here, to my face. I don’t blame the police as a whole for what individuals do, but there could be better over-sight. There is a blue code that prevents bad officers from being brought to justice. It’s always a small miracle when you hear a story like that one out of France.

His Lordship: I heard of a really bad case of corruption out of Canada a few years ago. Cops screwed up, beat up the wrong suspect, started blackmailing him so he wouldn’t rat them out. Well he did. I think the key to prevent corruption is to pay them well. Many police departments pull the recruits credit report. You cannot become a cop if you have had a bankruptcy.

Bret: That helps bribery corruption, but does it prevent violent abuse?

His Lordship: No, they need something else for that. Psychological screenings and such.

Bret: What about more stringent internal investigations? Or a more fully independent department for internal investigations.

His Lordship: I don’t know how every single department operates, but the ones here are pretty well run. But I live in a really low crime area. Except for stupid kids smashing mailboxes.
Bret: If that’s your worry, then it’s a low-crime area. Most gun-lovers aren’t very trusting of the police. Which is part of why they love guns; they see the police as inadequate. Or worse.

His Lordship: The police can’t be everywhere at once. Where I live, the police department is closed from 9 PM to 7 AM. Then I have to call the State Police if I need help. And God knows what town they’ll be in when they get the call. But again, I’m in a low crime area. I just need to install a motion-sensing night-vision camera in front of my mailbox.

Bret: But having a gun can be a comfort?

His Lordship: I guess it can be. There’s freakish wildlife where I live.

Bret: New Jersey?

His Lordship: I mean rabid things with teeth and claws.

Bret: Oh, I get you. Texas.

His Lordship: You’ll never know.

Bret: I think a person’s right to own a gun is proportional to how far away their nearest neighbor is. If you can’t see your nearest neighbor, you can own an AK-47. If you share a wall with your neighbor, tasers.

His Lordship: If I walk my dogs at night, and shine my flashlight onto the side of the road. I can see eyes staring me down. Whole packs of eyes.

Bret: See, you live nowhere near civilization, I don’t care if you own a machine gun. How else can you thin the herds properly? Plus, what else is there to do in the sticks? Shooting beavers is like a night at the opera in some rural areas.

His Lordship: So anyway, I think that a basis for justifying firearm ownership is to give people the ability to defend themselves. I don’t buy into this whole ‘revolution’ crap.

Bret: Well, I hate to bring up an annoying current event we’re all sick of talking about... but there was a famous person who was recently shot dead while within arm’s reach of a gun. Are guns really protection?

His Lordship: Are you still talking about bin Laden?

Bret: I suppose, but there are plenty of times it happens besides him.

His Lordship: They are for protection “if used correctly at the right moment.” A gun is not a guarantee that you will survive, but it gives one a fighting chance.

Bret: Would you agree they are used more for harm than good? That is, when actually used, as the majority just collect dust.

His Lordship: You said it, the majority of guns rust away collecting dust, true.

Bret: The overwhelming majority, something like over 90% never get used in a crime or self-defense.

His Lordship: So they are not that dangerous then.

Bret: Well, there are those who say this is largely because of the sheer numbers involved, and that the gun-soaked American market makes it easy for the wrong kinds of people to get guns. I know you’re for gun control. But there are many loopholes, both legal and illicit. I know for example you oppose crazy people owning guns.

His Lordship: I don’t think everybody should have a gun. I think it is acceptable to do a background check on someone, and check someone’s mental health record. A kid who’s been treated 6 times for depression and attempted suicide shouldn’t pass the test.

Bret: But in some cases this is difficult, like at gun shows.

His Lordship: I think transfers should be performed by a BATF licensed dealer who can perform the correct background checks. I have no intention of buying a gun from some dude in the classifieds. Who the hell knows what it’s been used for?

Bret: How about a national gun-owner’s license. You could carry it with you and it would denote that you have passed the background check at gun shows or any other gun purchase. Because I’m thinking specifically of how hard it is to buy and sell guns, and I think that is something that could be addressed this way.

His Lordship: I wouldn’t mind that, unless I lived in Vermont or Alaska, who don’t currently require a permit. I still think transfers should be done in the presence of a licensed dealer. The NRA will shun me for saying this, but I think it is a small common-sense concession gun owners can make to appease the anti-gun movement.

Bret: I’d be happiest knowing people are qualified to own their guns. I’d even be down with government funded gun classes. Spend my taxes on making more responsible gun owners, sounds good to me.

His Lordship: Many states require training before a license issued. I just don’t agree with outright bans. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with semi-automatics, even if you live in Brooklyn. If you are licensed, you are licensed.

Bret: What good can come from amateur crossfire from a semi-automatic weapon in an urban setting? I mean, honestly. It’s a travesty that cities can’t impose bans on types of guns, keeping in mind they can ban stun guns and mace.

His Lordship: NYPD officers carry AR-15 semi-automatic rifles in their patrol cars, they don’t seem to hit too many bystanders. I think stun guns and mace should be allowed everywhere.

Bret: What about background checks on them? Because those are favorite weapons of serial killers. Stun guns are notoriously a serial killer stereotype.

His Lordship: Bottom line, Ginx, if someone is too much of a wildcard to know how to safely use a firearm, they shouldn’t have passed the background check in the first place.

Bret: But millions do pass and commit crimes every year, at higher rates in the US than elsewhere.

His Lordship: I think a very small minority of licensed gun owners are responsible for crime. If you want background checks for stun gun purchases, I won’t have an aneurysm over it. But I’m really not worried about serial killers using them. They can use clubs just as effectively. Jack the Ripper didn’t need a stun gun.

Bret: But can you imagine if Jack the Ripper had a stun gun?

His Lordship: He would have stunned people?

Bret: Craigslist personals would become sparse very quickly.

His Lordship: Stunning possibility. And if he had had a car, he would have driven people over?

Bret: You mentioned something earlier I should bring back up. I think police should be disarmed. You mentioned police with assault rifles. In Britain, most police don’t even carry a side arm. Sure, there are special forces teams that are heavily armed, but not the average officer.

His Lordship: Well, I don’t think they should be disarmed. They do a dangerous job, and they have a need to protect themselves. Same as the average citizen in a high-crime area. Or a high wolverine area.

Bret: I’m all for wolverine massacres, but there has been a silent arms race on the streets of America.

His Lordship: Really? A silent arms race? How come I’ve never heard about it?
It must have been silent.

Bret: You have heard about it. Do you think police carried military grade assault weapons 40 years ago?

His Lordship: Some PD’s carried M1 Garands.

Bret: When they needed that kind of fire power, they called in the national guard.

His Lordship: I think it all started with the Prohibition. The rumrunners were heavily armed.

Bret: Modern drug prohibition is certainly a factor. But things have seemed to get worse since the Brady bill lapsed under Bush. Especially on the southern border.

His Lordship: I think poverty is a major factor behind crime.

Bret: Maybe, but poverty stricken citizens don’t own assault rifles, usually. The poor commit a different sort of crime.

His Lordship: But when they turn to drug dealing, they do. Rich kids don’t go become drug dealers

Bret: You don’t know a lot of rich kids, obviously. As someone who is a spoiled rich kid, I can finally call on my expertise.

His Lordship: Educate me.

Bret: Rich kids sell the best drugs, are you kidding me? No one wants to buy from poor people, their shit is whack, dog.

His Lordship: Do the rich kids go into turf wars with other rich kids. Oh yeah they do, it’s called the government, sorry.

Bret: There is no turf for rich kids, they just have a cell phone and their home. Poor people sell on the street.

His Lordship: So they’re not the ones with assault rifles, then.

Bret: Well hold on there. I wouldn’t go that far. But they are the sort that have guns just rusting away. I can’t picture a rich kid actually using a gun. I think he would pull a bin Laden and just die reaching for it.

His Lordship: “Is it gonna blow?”

Bret: The other thing, though, is that police target poor people for enforcement. I think the arms race is not over turf so much as with the police. The turf war is a person asserting themselves in a place, not against other dealers, but against the police. The real violence that is like what you’re talking about is happening in Mexico.

His Lordship: Well, now you have BATF illegally selling guns to Mexican drug dealers, what a farce. And then turning around and blaming American gun shops.

Bret: Maybe they just want to boost jobs at Colt?

His Lordship: I thought that’s what Iraq and Afghanistan were for.

Bret: Colt can never have too many jobs... and I couldn’t even begin to understand why various unregulated government agencies do what they do.

His Lordship: I couldn’t care less about drugs, but maybe they should be legalized, and sold at Wal-Mart. There, no more drug crime. Drug use is a medical issue, not one that should be criminalized. Ooh listen to me... gun-loving flaming liberal hippie.

Bret: Lots of libertarian gun lovers are pro-legalization of drugs. I think it’s just logical policy at this point, I don’t even understand how drugs can still be illegal. What would the DEA do then?

His Lordship: The DEA, I don’t know, integrate it with the border patrol or something. Not that we would really need a border patrol anymore if drugs were legal.

Bret: Oh no, say it ain’t so... you support immigration control?

His Lordship: Look, I grew up in Canada. I don’t think we need borders

Bret: I couldn’t agree more. So what should the border patrol do, then? Teach math and science?

His Lordship: Look for illegal wolverines? The kind that tried to eat my neighbor’s cat?

Bret: Too long the wolverine menace has gone unpublicized.

His Lordship: Here’s one issue though with immigration. How do you keep welfare programs sustainable? Do you hand it out to everyone, or are there rules regarding how you can get on it?

Bret: Personally, I think proper economic policy allows total coverage for all applicants, even if they come here to be a leech. I mean, we could feed the world if we reduced our military.

His Lordship: Maybe. I would have to see the numbers.

Bret: We have very low taxes, and yet we could have a huge budget even if it were balanced. And I’m not talking gourmet food, just Ramen Noodle, but still.

His Lordship: How much welfare is too much? At what point is it going to break the bank?

Bret: I guess that’s for each year’s budget to determine.

His Lordship: Ramen noodles, come on, rice and beans is healthier.

Bret: They’re already poor and you want to give them flatulence... for shame.

His Lordship: As an environmentalist, I worry about the effects of a growing population on ecosystems and natural resources.

Bret: So you are pro-death?

His Lordship: What I’m saying is that as a species, we have no predators. We are destroying this planet. This is where I become an apathetic nihilist.

Bret: We have predators. Like... AIDS. And serial killers with stun guns. And lest we forget the wolverines.

His Lordship: AIDS is almost curable now.

Bret: Yeah, it’s just like Chris Rock said, not cured, but you can live with it on medication for decades. Very suspicious…

His Lordship: My major concern is the long-term sustainability of our civilization on this planet. There are a finite number of resources. Thankfully, industrialized countries have low birth rates. Maybe that’s an instinctive survival mechanism?

Bret: There are sociological factors there, that as more children survive, women have less kids. My wife actually studies that, demography and fertility and what not.

His Lordship: But global population is still growing.

Bret: Right, because women in poverty have more children because less survive and she couldn’t afford birth control either way. Plus education is a big one. Women with more education have fewer children.

His Lordship: At what point do we say; “Dang! We just cut down the last standing tree on this planet! What do we do now??”

Bret: I’m not worried about the trees. Fuck the trees. They’re doing fine.

His Lordship: “Dang! No more tuna fish in the sea! What do we eat now?”

Bret: Okay now you have my attention. Do you think they’ll run out of cake?

His Lordship: Let them eat cake.

Bret: Just not tuna, or salmon, or... what else are we running out of? I heard bananas might disappear at one point.

His Lordship: Topsoil in the Midwest.

Bret: Well, that’s disturbing.

His Lordship: Soil erosion, ocean dead zones.

Bret: Yeah, and the plastic continents.

His Lordship: My favorite author is Jared Diamond. I read his book called “Collapse” about the factors that historically cause civilizations to collapse, and wanted to jump off a bridge after I was done. We are screwed unless we get our act together.

Bret: So we’re screwed.

His Lordship: No other civilization in history has used resources on such a scale. We risk literally eating ourselves out of a planet to live on.

Bret: Do you think it will come to cannibalism?

His Lordship: Well, the good news is that once civilization collapses, population will go back to sustainable levels. The Earth has survived massive extinction events over the past few million years. But life goes on.

Bret: I don’t know of any that were caused by life forms, though I know life forms have changed the environment.

His Lordship: In the greater scheme of things, we are insignificant. We are a puny little species on a tiny rock in the middle of a big cold Universe.

Bret: True, but we are the first to realize that. So that’s interesting of us.

His Lordship: Nothing we are building here on this planet will survive 3 billion years from now when the Sun expands into a red giant and bakes the Earth to a crisp, after, of course, boiling off the oceans.

Bret: That’s not true, we sent objects out into space.

His Lordship: Yeah, some 1970’s piece of crap technology with dead batteries.

Bret: Well, it has a gold plate with information on it. I’d like to see wolverines do that.

His Lordship: It has electrolytes.

Bret: LOL. I seriously laughed at that one.

His Lordship: from Idiocracy.

Bret: Yep. It has what plants crave. Well, I think you hit on an ultimate goal for humanity, which is too leave the planet.

His Lordship: Conservatives will say “Well, I’m not going ANYWHERE!!!”

Bret: Good, stay and die, I say. Don’t adapt for all I care.

His Lordship: Even if our descendants leave Earth, what will they do? Enslave alien civilizations? Destroy distant ecosystems? Deplete worlds of resources? Then what? next planet?

Bret: Float around in suits that feed and sexually pleasure them for all eternity...

His Lordship: Until thermodynamic entropy freezes us to death as the last red dwarf goes dim in the dark infinite sky.

Bret: I’m optimistic about the end of the universe. I think people could fix it. The universe, I mean. Just fix the whole thing.

His Lordship: With electrolytes. I often wonder... what will the last person (or being) think just before they die... knowing that they are the last living creature in the Universe.... freaky thoughts.

Bret: Will they know they’re the last?

His Lordship: Not with dead batteries they won’t.

Bret: So you’re saying we need to pass along to that person a message: bring extra batteries.

His Lordship: I find astrophysics terribly depressing... the authors I’ve read don’t paint a rosy picture of the end.

Bret: Yeah, everything just falls apart in the end.

His Lordship: I think this is why the superstitious mind turns to religion for hope.

Bret: Well it’s not like people knew this information long ago. Most people saw existence as cyclical, not linear.

His Lordship: Oh that’s right, my grandmother believed the world was flat and rested on the back of a giant tortoise.

Bret: Most people before we understood the universe was expanding thought the universe was more or less sitting around still.

His Lordship: I like Buddhism and Jainism in that respect. They teach that the Universe is eternal that it has always existed and will always exist.

Bret: Is there any religion you can think of where the world just ends and nothing is left?

His Lordship: I don’t know. Norse mythology is pretty grim. The world will burn, then it will freeze.

Bret: But two people live. And some of the gods. It’s not too bleak, just violent, like Christian Armagedon.

His Lordship: Depends what version you read. I think there is a version where no one survives.

Bret: I choose not to believe such a version exists... I’ll have to check into it.

His Lordship: Tell me how depressing it is

Bret: I should know this already, since I would say I know Norse mythology more than any other besides Christian/Jewish. But I know there are many versions of the story of Ragnarok.

His Lordship: I’ll bet you these two people who survived didn’t have extra batteries.

Bret: Wouldn’t it suck if they hated each other? That’s like the one time where rape has an exception.

His Lordship: Like Freja and Fenris stuck together in the end?

Bret: I know they both die though.

His Lordship: Oh so now we are going to argue Norse Theology. What is the gender of angels?

Bret: Well, Fenris has to die, because Odin’s son kills him to avenge his father’s death. I bet angels are hermaphrodites.

His Lordship: Freaks

Bret: Aww, I didn’t go that far. To all of my intergender readers, no offense intended. I know you’re out there because you send me pictures, no matter how much I tell you to stop.

His Lordship: That’s right, I shouldn’t make fun of angelic birth defects.

Bret: Well, if they’re all like that, is it a defect? Wouldn’t the one Angel with a penis and no vagina be mocked?

His Lordship: Probably, but that’s how God made it, so it’s perfect.

Bret: I bet God’s “perfect” is really just an exhausted “good enough.”

His Lordship: I bet you God was drunk off cheap tequila when he made the world.

Bret: Was that the deep that he looked out over before he created everything? A giant vat of tequila? Look at us, practically sprinting to hell here.

His Lordship: In my line of work there’s two possible things to blame for a bad design : a stupid designer, or a stupid accountant. Or a combination of both

Bret: Maybe God had funding problems. Which explains the collection basket.

His Lordship: “Sorry we couldn’t get you the titanium flux capacitors you wanted, you’ll have to make due with tin foil and these two paperclips.”

Bret: And that’s why we have an appendix. It all makes sense.

His Lordship: There you go.

Bret: Okay, last question: would you rather give up guns or eating meat?

His Lordship: Eating meat. Believe it or not, I am a part time vegan.

Bret: I am stunned. Well that wraps it up, thanks for chatting with me.

His Lordship: Stunned? Watch out for those serial killers with tasers. You’re welcome, thanks for having me.

Bret: I would probably become a eunuch to keep eating meat, so long as I could keep some semen on ice for later. But that’s too much info. Good night.

His Lordship: Good night.
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