Saturday, April 21, 2012

Something has come up.

In my “G” post, I mentioned how jesters have been able to say things – sometimes, painful truths – in a way that others just can’t. I’ve heard that this goes back to the medieval courts; that the jester was free to say whatever he wanted to about any nobility, including the king. I’ve also heard that he was considered pretty non-threatening, since he was usually gelded.

In my own time, I’ve seen how many comedians have said things that would be brushed-off if said by a person with actual power. For example, when Bill Hicks said “Every time I turn on my TV, I hear ‘drink beer, drink beer.’ Why? Because it makes us slow and stupid and docile, and that’s just how they like us.” If you heard this from a conspiracy author, it would be easy to dismiss, but it hits closer to home while you’re laughing.

And George Carlin comes to mind. He had a great piece about how we would take our veterans’ trauma more seriously if we still called it “Shell Shock” instead of “Battle Fatigue.”

Of course, my favorite is Jon Stewart. Four days a week, he and Steven Colbert use comedy to bring serious issues to an audience that would not be interested in watching regular news. I’m afraid that I’d be in that category as well; I tried watching regular news, but all the sensationalized violence was too much to take.

On that note, I’m afraid that I’ll have to bow-out of the A-Z challenge. There is an anthology that is taking submissions until the end of May, and I finally got inspiration for a contribution. The anthology is a collection of satirical essays on how to be a better Mad Scientist/Super Villain. For example, you could submit an essay on finding a dormant volcano for your lair, or the finding and training of lackeys. Check it out, if you’re interested, at A Method to the Madness: A Guide to the Super EvilIt will be taking up much of my time for the next few weeks, so I’ll see you all soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I got the idea for this post in the mis-used words category from Star Trek. When they’re in battle, the tactical officer will occasionally say “Hull integrity at 86%”

We often use the word in a moral context, as though to act helpfully or pleasantly is to act with integrity. (Whether or not we all have a compassionate core is a question for the philosophers and mystics, and way beyond a single blog post.) The ST quote illustrates how “Integrity” has more to do with congruity and wholeness.

By that definition, if someone’s an asshole, and they flip you off on the highway, they are indeed acting with integrity.

I came across a quote that fits an “I” post nicely: “Every ism is a wasm. It’s already old news: an exoskeleton from which the living truth has moved on.” Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) I found this on a book about Toaism (that cleverly didn’t use “Toaism” in the title), and I haven’t spent enough time with the idea to confirm or deny it, but it is certainly food for thought.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What's holy?

It has been debated in philosophy whether something is holy by nature, or if it’s holy because people deem it so.

I guess that we need to start by defining holiness. (‘Sacred’ would be a better word, but I’m on “H”) “Set aside for a higher purpose” works as a definition. An obvious example would be a specific church, such as the one a Catholic has ad all their sacraments in. My wife had her heart set on getting married at the same church where she had her baptism, confirmation and first communion, and it was extremely meaningful for her to have another sacrament there. (I agreed, because really, it’s her day. Am I right?)

But the same could be said of a regular Sunday family dinner. Don’t you dare make other plans, ‘cause mom’s expecting us. Or perhaps, an item that was given to you by someone dear; it wouldn’t mean anything to the average person, but to you, it’s very dear.

But there are places that seem sacred in and of themselves. Take Jerusalem; is there anything about that city that makes it unique compared to dozens of other cities in the region? And yet, three of the world’s major religions feel the need to make it their own.

What do you think? Can items or places be holy or sacred by their nature, or is it all in our perceptions?


An F For the Ladies.

I have been fortunate that for much of my life, I have been able to keep feminism at a comfortable arm’s length. I could abstain from the more heated conversations, since I don’t have a uterus. I recently heard an interview that made me re-consider. The March 21st episode of Reality Check Podcast featured an interview with the co-founders of Jennifer Armstrong and Heather Wood Rudulph.

I found their site to be pretty large for a cursory glance, so I looked to their Facebook page for a concise summary: “Feminism is hard. Any sane woman believes in female empowerment, but putting those beliefs into practice can prove nebulous at best, disheartening at worst.” I guess it’s the nebulous nature of feminism that makes it hard to define, so it takes a pretty large site to cover an adequate cross-section of the movement.

Visiting the site, I felt a little like I was intruding on a private meeting, despite the co-founders saying in the interview that they welcome men to get involved. In fact, if men aren’t on board with women’s rights, it can only go so far before it just degenerates into the same hostility that feminism has inspired for generations.

Another interesting site is which is the National Organization for Women (the nation being the US). It featured more social and political content, while Sexy Feminist is more of a lifestyle site.

While feminism did not start in the Sixties, it was then that it arguably became mainstream. Therefore, my generation of men was raised with a bigger idea of women’s roles in society. We also had parents and grandparents with narrow but tidy definitions of a woman’s role.  Please forgive us men who come to the discussion table with some confusion.

It has become time for me to acquaint myself with what feminism is all about, Now that I’m raising a little girl, I have some skin in the game, and it’s important to me that she goes out into the world with what she needs to succeed, mentally and socially.

Since many of my blogging buddies are ladies, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what feminism is, and how it applies to your live. Bonus points if any of you have a daughter, and want to say how it affects your parenting!

Monday, April 9, 2012

What's in your freezer?

I’ll come back to “F”; it requires a little research, and I don’t want to wing it.

“G,” however, relates to something close to my heart. Have you ever been at the supermarket and seen “Gourmet” food in the freezer? I think that they misunderstand the term. If Gordon Ramsay is to be believed (and I think that it’s safe to consider him a food authority), your first priority is fresh ingredients. (A close second is a clean workspace.) Would not frozen food be instantly disqualified from the “gourmet” classification?

I’ve also seen a road-side bus selling “Gourmet French Fries.” Now, I’ve had some magnificent fries sold from a bus, but to call them “Gourmet” is playing fast-and-loose with the term.

At the end of the day, does it really matter if people are mis-using “Gourmet”? Not really. It’s irritating, but not a real problem. But what about “Rape”? This word is getting a similar water-down treatment, and this is a serious problem.

Like a lot of serious social issues, this was well-handled by a stand-up comedian. He referred to someone playing a video game who got shot in the back by another player, saying “Aw, dude, you raped me!” To illustrate, he said “If you asked a woman who had been through that awful experience about it, and she replied ‘Well, you know when you’re playing Halo, and you get shot in the back..?”

Thank the Maker for that performer!  Jesters have always said what many of us were thinking. It sucks to get desensitized to “Gourmet,” but society truly suffers when we get desensitized to assaults of any kind.  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I've got a huge...

This post falls under the “Misused Words” category. I had grown up with the word “Ego” being used to describe the kind of opinion someone had of themselves, especially when it was over-inflated. Then I read Freud’s definition, and remembered that it bore no resemblance to narcissism whatsoever.

The definition I found was from my wife’s college psych class text book, “Introduction to Psychology” by Dennis Coon. The “Id” is described as all of our unconscious desires, mostly survival and procreation. The ego translates these desires into practical ideas. For example, it directs our hunger to the fridge, and away from the furniture and our neighbor’s pets.

The super-ego is what gives us the moral & socially acceptable framework. Such as, “We don’t eat dog in this part of the world,” and “Infidelity is wrong.” Freud being Freud, he credited much of this to our parents (many psych students I’ve met have a hard time with Freud, but they seem to forget that in the Victorian era, it was very helpful to have someone say “Hey, we think about sex a LOT. Let’s explore this.”)

I think that it’s important for writers to know a thing or two about psychology, since one of the main difference between my story and the thousands of others written in the same framework is the characters. We all have Id’s, but how those survival desires get translated is open to infinite possibilities, and how a character rationalizes or justifies (or just follows their conditioning) makes the character arc. Of course, if anyone sees this differently, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Just fine and...

Here’s a word that I’ve grown rather fond of lately: Dandy. Usually it means ‘Fine,’ as in “How ya doin’?” “Just dandy.” But I like the classic definition “One who pays excessive attention to his appearance.” (I’m not sure, but I think that the dictionary defines “douchebag” as “someone who starts a speech or essay with a dictionary’s definition of the subject matter.” But eff-it, I’m going to enjoy the labours of hard-working linguists.)

There is also an effeminate implication to the word; the Dandy’s of old could be quite the priss’s, and would seem a little “light in the loafers” to traditional masculine sensibilities.While I’m sure that many a dandy were closeted homosexuals, many more were known for their trysts with the ladies. Little Richard was a great example of this; while the men were talking after the show about how “queer” he was, Richard was in the back with their girlfriends, having a blast.

I think that the Dandy torch has been passed to the metrosexual. I think Raj on Big Bang Theory said it best: “It means that I like girls, and their hand lotions.”

I grew fond of the word when I had to describe Voldemort. Honestly; in his meeting at the beginning of Deathly Hallows I, doesn’t he seem like a Victorian dandy? “Severus…I was afraid you’d lost your way.” “Spoken…like a true politician.” “Belatrix…tell me you love my shoes.” Doesn’t he remind you of HedonismBot in Futurama?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I believe that you've all met my Chickerdoodles...

For “C,” it only seems right that I tell a Chickerdoodles story…

One Saturday night, about six weeks ago, we passed another milestone, and we’re a little worried.

When Chickerdoodles was in her room for her nap, I went to the basement to play on the computer. When the baby monitor finally went quiet, I figured that she had gone to sleep. Then I heard her distinctive chatter on the main floor. With my stomach in my shoes, I ran to the stairs, to see her little foot descending to the first stair. That’s right, she had figured out how to operate the door knob.

We had hoped that this was an isolated incident, but when it came time to put her down for the night, we got a repeat performance. Far be it from her to let a new skill go to waste. I had to make an 8PM trip to Walmart to get a safety cover. While I was out, she kept poking her head out, then popping back into her room when she saw mom watching outside the door. Mom eventually got a paperback and stationed herself in the hall, and the performance carried on for the duration of my trip.

About fifteen minutes after we had gone to bed, I heard doors. As it happened, I hadn’t installed it properly, and she was standing at the wrong end of the hall with a look that said “Busted!” I figured out how to get the door-knob-spinning-device on properly, and her frustrated cry told me that I had it right.

About half an hour later`, we checked on her to find that she had fallen asleep with her back to the wall beside the door. That’s right, she tried ‘till she dropped!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Balance Manifest

I had a pretty weak post all written, but then I got a better idea. Chalk one up for the “inspiration/perspiration” relationship, eh?

Asides from being Van Halen’s last album with Sammy Hagar (opening with the heavy-atmospheric-epic “Seventh Seal”; a truly magnificent track), balance seems to be an unconscious goal more than a deliberate one. I first noticed this with musical tastes.

I tend to the heavier music, but I’m not very aggressive. I’ve only been inclined to speak my mind in uncomfortable situations in the last couple years, and have been more inclined to have people like me. I’m finally old enough to not give a rip what people think, and if someone’s making my job more difficult, we’ll have words. But at a young age, I glommed onto heavy music, partially to borrow their strength, but largely to balance out my gentle nature. This became really evident a few years ago when I was renting a room from an elementary school teacher. She would listen to the most bland, inoffensive AM music that could be found. If watered-down milk made a sound, it would be this. But she had such a busy head! Not only was she trying to juggle several thoughts at once, she had a gift for making things unnecessarily complex.

Another place that this quest for balance has shown itself is with my new family. Having a child in the house means we have a lot of children’s TV on in the house, not to mention all the other child-appropriate activity. My wife and I tend to make more and more ‘adult’ jokes. Granted, some of the children’s programming makes it really easy. I have to wonder if the directors and producers are giving each other knowing winks. It isn’t just dirty jokes either; we are thoroughly amused at Dora the Explorer and the perilous situations that her Map sends her into. It seems that her Map is trying to off her. “Past the volcano, through the crack addicts’ knife fight…” This is how we keep one another sane through children’s programming.   

This is just here to have an "A". Carry on to the next one...

Hmmm…Apathy or Ass-Hat.

It’s the first day of the much-celebrated A-Z Challenge, and I am not prepared. I didn’t do any writing in March (apathy, or just busy). My grand-plan was to explore words that are commonly misused (ass-hat, in the self-indulgent opinionated sense). So, I kept a notebook with me, and jotted examples, but only got about half of the letters I needed.

So, here I go into April, half-cocked, and hoping not to make too much of an ass-hat of myself. Here’s hoping that I do better with the rest of it ;)