Monday, March 31, 2008

Circumcise this!

On my last entry, I was taken to task for referring to male circumcision as "genital mutilation" and saying that it was "completely unnecessary." Not only that, but it became a topic for debate at work. I shall amend my statement a bit.

A few things I should get out of the way first though.

1) Female "circumcision" really is nothing more than genital mutilation, and I absolutely will not bend on this (not that anybody's asking me to). The equivalent would be if (Gross out alert!) the entire head of a boy's penis were cut off.

2) I am not upset at my parents for circumcising me. I don't blame them, and I don't think that it's been detrimental to my life.

3) Andrew Nolan, who took me to task for my statement, is a poo-head. Not only that, but he eats poo. The man owns End of Days on DVD. Not only that, but it is his favorite movie of all time. He also admires Hitler. And he's gay, which I don't have a problem with, but it's not fair to his wife that he refers to her as "the beard." He also doesn't know the difference between oranges and shoes. In short, he's a communist. And a prostitute.

That said, if it came down to it, and I had to make the choice between circumcision and noncircumcision, either for myself or for a hypothetical son, I would not go through with it. Following are the reasons why people do have it done, and why I don't think that they're good enough.

1. Aesthetics - This all depends on where you're from, isn't it? What about here though? Turns out that 56% (according to of male babies a year are circumcised. I don't have the numbers, but I imagine that the number was much higher when I was born. What I'm saying is, as times are changing, the uncircumcised (henceforth "natural") penis won't look so "weird" to people in the U.S. Who knows, if trends continue, the circumcised boys may wind up being the ones who look odd!

2. Religion/tradition - Next. If you've ever read any of my blogs, you can probably guess how I feel. Religion can excuse why you don't eat meat on a Friday, not cutting stuff off of a baby. Tradition is used to justify all sorts of awful ideas and behaviors, and even if you want to play that game, the human race has a much grander tradition of NOT circumcising!

3. Health - Well, this is the tricky one, isn't it? Again, according to (and further research seems to back this up) the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend it. To be fair though, they didn't find enough evidence to either recommend it or recommend against it. Seems to me that what they're saying is that it's unnecessary but not awful.

Of course, as Andrew (keep in mind, he's a card-carrying member of the Pol Pot fan club) pointed out, there are some doctors out there who are very much in favor of the procedure. I suppose that it's something to consider, but you'll also find scientists who deny the human impact on global warming and scientists who say that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. I'm not enough of an expert in this issue to say that those doctors are as quacky as the young-Earth scientists are, but a few voices in the wilderness aren't enough to convince me.

So, if it were up to me, we'd stop doing it. I would never choose to have it done to somebody, and if I could turn back time, I'd have it not done to me. However, I would not frown upon those who decide to have it done. I do frown upon Andrew Nolan though, but that's because he hands out meth to children on Halloween.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Where's the line?

Turns out that the Dale and Leilani Neumann, the ones who let their 11-year old daughter die by because they wanted to pray for her instead of taking her to a doctor, have more children. Right now, their children have been removed from their home, but they're expected to return. After all, there are no signs that Dale and Leilani physically abuse them, so they can't keep them from their children. Of course, if they catch a life-threatening, but treatable, disease, then they're screwed.

Part of me thinks that people like this should have their children taken away from them. After all, isn't this a form of psychological abuse? I'd certainly say it is. If I told my children to sacrifice a heifer to Apollo everytime they got sick instead of going to the doctor, the general public would think that I was a crazy person. But is it any crazier than what they believe? Sure, their form of prayer is less messy, but it won't lead to hamburgers afterwards. The point is though, if this is what I taught my children, I think that most people would agree that I was an unfit parent. Even if my children didn't die as a result, they would teach these crazy things to their children - leaving more potential victims. Also, if you're that illogical when it comes to medicine, what else are you willing to do? As I wrote in a previous blog, it's the same mode of thinking that when cranked up a notch turns to dangerous extremism.

But how many people are like that in this country? Can you imagine the nightmare in trying to track them all down and enforce this sort of a thing? Unfortunately, I think that this is one of the many prices that we pay for living in a free country. That's something that people don't like to think about too much. After all, it's human nature to want to protect children, and that sounds almost like an "oh well" type of an attitude. Still, is this really solveable?

Yet there has to be a line somewhere. I just started reading Infidel by Ayann Hirsi Ali. She was born in Somalia and had to undergo the ritual of female gential mutilation. She describes it in some vivid detail in her book. It's one of the most horrific things that I've ever read, especially knowing that it's true and it's still happening in some African countries. (The ones who do it claim that it's a requirement of Islam - but nobody can find a passage in the Koran or anything else that would back this up. Turns out, the practice predates the coming of Islam in certain parts of Africa.)

Surely we must never allow that sort of a thing in this country. For me, there's no question that we should intervene if people were trying to do that to their daughters.

And yet, people still have the genitals of their sons mutilated - all in direct conflict with how medical science has shown that it's completely unnecessary. And no, I'm not trying to compare my circumcision with what Ayann Hirsi Ali went through. However, the reasons for doing it are the same - tradition and faith.

I realize that I have no definite answer to this question. While there are definitely some things where the government should intervene, there's a lot of gray area. Perhaps the line will be clearer when there's an outbreak of whooping cough due to parents who refuse immunizations for their children (and I realize that not all of these refusals are on religious grounds).

Check out the following link: Children's Health Care is a Legal Duty, Inc. Maybe you can tell me where the line is.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who Are You?

So, I've finally written a new Eagle-Man short story. It probably needs some tweaking, but there's a lot that I like about it.

It has everything that you'd want in a story: superheroes, vampires, and blasphemy. Take the time to read it. What else do you have to do?


EDIT: Apparently the link doesn't work for some. Try copying and pasting the following:

The real problem

Some time ago, I was having a discussion about what's going on in the Middle East. Of course, we weren't talking about tea and falafel, we were discussing terrorism and the human rights abuses that are going on in the Muslim world. The person whom I was speaking with said that if we really needed to get down to what the problem was, it wasn't a "war on terror", it was a war on Islam. In other words, Islam was what the problem actually was.

I couldn't find myself agreeing. Something about it didn't sit right with me, and I know too much history to know that plenty of other religions have been corrupted to bring about death and mayhem. Still, there's no denying that the Muslim world has some definite issues with which to deal.

I just finished reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, and it's making me start to rethink my attitude on this. I read Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great awhile ago, and while it did give me a couple of new ways of looking at things, it basically told me a lot of stuff that I was already familiar with. Dawkins' book, however, really gave me a lot to think about. I also like the way he puts things. Although I'm not a scientist myself, I have a great deal of respect for scientists like himself and their approach to the problems of life.

Anyway, so my view has shifted. However, I think that blaming Islam for the problems with terrorism isn't going far enough. Why are these men willing to blow themselves up? For eternal rewards in heaven. Do they have some actual evidence that this will happen? Of course not. What do they have? Faith.

And that's the problem, isn't it. My friend Andrew sent me the following link: Parents Pick Prayer over Docs; Girl Dies. The headline tells you pretty much all you need to know for my point here. And unless you live in a cave, you've heard of this kind of thing happening before. What killed this girl? Faith.

I once had a student who was a Jehovah's Witness write in an essay how her religion's belief about refusing blood transfusions "made sense". She was a very bright girl in many respects, and it was an example of how bright people can believe in the dumbest things. She managed to wrap her head around that concept so thoroughly that unless you knew better, it actually WOULD make sense! The thing is, I was very tempted to write on her essay, "I'd like to agree with you, but I wouldn't be alive to read this if it weren't for blood transfusions." I wish that I did. Why didn't I though? Because I wanted to respect faith.

Well, I'm starting to think that respecting faith isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Am I to respect the people who teach their children lies about science? (See my last blog - 'cause make no mistake, that's precisely what they're doing - lying.) Am I to respect the decision of those parents who let their daughter die?

I realize what some people might be thinking when they read this. "Oh, I have faith, but I don't do anything crazy like that." The problem is, if you have faith, you believe in things without evidence. That's the same thought process that leads to little girls dying and buildings blowing up. I mean, can you really draw a distinction between the terror of Muslim fanatics and the terror of Christian fanatics? The end result is the same - death. Death for no good reason.

What if all those terrorists were raised to question things that have no evidence? What if those parents had been taught the same thing? What should we teach children? Why is it a virtue to tell them that they should "just believe" things? My parents, ironically enough if you've read my arguments with my mother, taught me to always question things. Of course, they both still have faith, so the way I see it, their own questioning only goes so far. Well, they put a powerful weapon in my hand, the "utltimate nullifier" of irrational belief systems. I questioned astrology. I questioned ghosts. I questioned demons. And ultimately, I pointed that same critical finger that I pointed at woo-woo beliefs like alien abductions right at myself and my own beliefs. I could have chosen what was comforting (although a false sense of comfort) or what was rational. I chose the latter.

Of course, people will say, "But faith gives me comfort." That's fantastic. A bottle of gin a night gives some people comfort - that doesn't make it good for them.

I've also had people (including family members) say to me that they have faith because otherwise there's "no point" to life. Well, if you can't see any point to life without an invisible, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful magical being, then that shows an incredible lack of imagination on your part, doesn't it?

Obviously, I feel rather strong about this. There's only one thing that I feel stronger about, and that's living in a free society. While I feel that faith is ultimately the enemy of rationall thought, I believe even less in forcing people to see things my way. Ultimately, I can respect people who have faith. I don't intend to attack their beliefs every chance I get. However, I don't expect people to respect my vices, so why should I respect theirs?

So, what can I do? All I've got is this little blog, I guess. It might not change anything, but what else can I do?

I'll end this with a quote. "Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God."

Who said that? Osama bin Laden? David Koresh? Try Martin Luther. Here are some more:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let's hear it for Nightline!

One thing that constantly annoys me in the media is when the subject of creationism versus evolution comes up. Usually the approach seems to be that it's some sort of legitimate debate amongst the scientific community, as though the nation's 50/50 split represents the same ratio of difference amongst scientists. The creationists' ideas are given equal weight to the actual scientists.

Well, that's stupid. Would they do that if there was a group of people who were claiming that the Earth was resting on the back of a turtle? Of course not. They'd show them as a bunch of uninformed imbeciles. Because, that's what they are. Which is exactly what creationists are (or at the very least, those who teach it to children.)

This is one of those instances where I cannot have any "respect" for faith. If your faith falls squarely against the facts, then you deserve criticism, just as if your faith denies people basic human rights.

Anyway, it looks as though things may be turning around in the media. First there was the excellent program on Intelligent Design that Nova did a few months ago. Now there's the following story on Nightline.

I was impressed. I was expecting the same old, "Will we ever know which one is correct?" Not this time. Of course, I'd prefer it if they couched the following, "About half the population believes in evolution and the other half does not" as "About half the population accepts evolution and the other half is wrong." Still, the reporter is willing to show just how intellectually dishonest these people are. It's also amazing how easily they get flustered when asked some very simple questions that naturally arise from their "theory".

As always though, the hardest part for me to watch is that they're brainwashing children, but as the guy who works for the museum points out, some of them will start thinking for themselves one day. I guess that's one of the many prices of freedom in this country. You're free to teach your children things that are stupid. It's close to child abuse, but not close enough, I guess.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We're winning!

The combat death toll in Iraq has now reached 4,000. Yeah, I know that sounds bad. But look on the bright side, it's not as bad as Vietnam. Not only that, but we're winning! Pretty soon, we should be able to stick up a big banner that reads, "Mission Accomplished!" Just imagine what that would be like. Go ahead, imagine it. I'll wait here until you're done imagining what that could possibly be like. It's difficult, I know, but just try. Picture it on an aircraft carrier if it helps.

Why are we winning? Well, there was the troop surge. How do I know we're winning? Bush said so! Pundits have said so! That means that we're winning over in Iraq now.

Of course, you really shouldn't question these assertions. If you do, the troops will somehow find out about it and lose all their self-esteem. Then they'll just roll over and let themselves be shot. One thing's for sure, American soldiers sure are a sensitive lot. They can handle being shot at. They can handle keeping their cool when stuck in a foreign land without interpreters. They can even handle being shot, it seems. One thing that they absolutely can't take though is your negativity. That's far too much for them to bear, so don't do it.

So, cheer up! We're winning! And when the windmill is complete, we'll only have to work three days a week! (Sorry, I still have Animal Farm on the brain.)

Monday, March 24, 2008


On Easter, da Pope (I call him "da Pope" 'cause he and I are homies.) spoke of the "miracle" of a recent conversion of a Muslim to the Catholic faith.

Really? Miracle? Conversions are miracles? So, when I converted from being a Christian to an atheist, that was a miracle? Thank you, Jesus, for letting me not believe that you're watching my every move, including bowel movements, anymore.

Okay, so we're lowering our standards for miracles I guess. Nobody's parting the Red Sea or turning staffs into snakes, and turning my tap water into beer isn't exactly a one-step process. At least da Pope isn't praising a grilled cheese sandwhich for looking like the Virginia Mary. (Yeah, I know it's Virgin Mary, but she had a kid, and you kinda need to lose your virginity to make that happen. I'm insisting that the whole "virgin" thing is simply a millenia-old typo.)

Apparently, the guy in question is a Muslim named Magdi Allam. You know, Muslims are the people who believe that the prophets kept on going on until some fella named Mohammed came along, and now HE'S the last one (Suck it, David Koresh!) They also don't believe that it's possible for God to be his own son (not to mention some third entity called a "Holy Toast". That's right - there's been another typo). How silly of them. Don't they get that God became his own son in order to kill himself (If a bus comes at me and I don't move out of the way, that's suicide) so he could change his own rules about who goes into heaven and who doesn't? It's a little thing called "The Trinity", and it's in The Bible. Look it up. Actually, don't look it up. Just trust me. You could search for it and totally find it.

So, in your face, Mohammed! This guy obviously carefully weighed the facts between the two religions. He sifted through every minute detail, analyzing for logic, reason, and historical veracity. After a long, careful deliberation, the facts clearly landed on the side of Roman Catholicism, The One True Faith (TM). (Suck it, Shinto!)

Or maybe not. Turns out, he wasn't a practicing Muslim. He's also married to a Catholic. Oh yeah, he was raised by Catholics as well.

Hmmm...thought I saw the Virginia Mary on my pizza today. I was hungry though, so I ate it. Trust me, it was a miracle.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Back when I was a teenager, I had a job at Safeway. In retrospect, I was a pretty good worker, and I got along with the managers fairly well. The one time I actually got reviewed, the only bad comment that was made about me was that I wasn't very willing to come in when I wasn't originally scheduled to fill in for somebody who called in sick.

There was one guy that I didn't like very much though; he was the head manager of the store. His name was Dick, and there was never a more appropriately named man whom I've ever met. Basically his unofficial policy was to pick on a different courtesy clerk every once and a while. So, no matter how I was doing my job, when it was my turn to get crap from him, I was going to get it. I know, I know, people say all the time, "I wasn't doing anything wrong!" when they get in trouble, and of course, they probably were doing something wrong. I'm not even trying to say that I never did anything wrong. However, there were definitely times when he would yell at me no matter what.

For instance, one thing that he loved to yell at the courtesy clerks about was when the parking lot was filled with shopping carts. So, I made darned sure that the lot was clear. After all, time spent outside was time not spent in the store dealing with the public, so I was eager to take care of it. One time, he came down from his office, shouted my name, and THEN looked out the window, only to see that all the carts were in. I watched him desperately look around for SOMETHING to be wrong so he could yell at me. Luckily for him, there was an empty cup sitting by the soda fountain, so he yelled at me to throw it away.

Yup, the guy was Dick.

I haven't seen him in fifteen years, but there's a new appropriately named Dick that I know of. Maybe you've heard of him. He's our vice-President.

When confronted with the fact that the majority of the country feels that this current war is a mistake, his response was, "So?"




Look, I realize that being a leader involves making unpopular decisions. Sometimes doing the right thing means that you're doing what everybody thinks is the wrong thing. Not that I think that this qualifies, but let's just say that maybe I'm wrong. Even in that instance, your response should be better than, "So?"

This reveals such a strong contempt for not only the American people but the very notion of democracy. What kills me though is that guys like him are always draping their causes in the flag, accusing others of not caring about this country. I can't stand it when conservatives accuse everyone who protests against their policies as "hating America," but in this instance, I think that the shoe fits. Dick Cheney hates America. The very best scenario involves him not giving a shit, which is pretty much just as bad if you're a heartbeat away from leading this country. What a Dick.

On a side note, I've been stewing over something (as I've been known to stew) for awhile now. Remember that study that came out awhile ago that revealed that Bush & Co. lied 935 times after 9/11 in order to build a case for going to war with Iraq?

I've heard somebody accuse the people who did the study of having a "liberal bias." Okay, let's say that they do have one. Let's say that half of their examples are bull.

That leaves us with 467 lies.

Tell ya what, let's say that 90% of what they reported on is bull.

That leaves us with 93 (and I'm rounding down).

How about 95% crap?

Now we have 46 (still rounding down).

Feel any better? I sure as hell don't.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Top that, Jesus!

Maybe it's because I've been reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, but I've been feeling a bit of antipathy towards the notion of religious faith the last few days. It really came to a head when I watched an interview with Dean Kamen on The Colbert Report. He's a scientist who has invented a machine that'll purify water no matter what kinds of pollutants are in it - and it doesn't require anything disposable (like coal) to work. Pretty amazing stuff. Check out the interview:

One of the reasons why I was so hesitant long ago to admit to being an atheist is that I feared that I would somehow lose my sense of wonder if I stopped believing in a supernatural creator. Ultimately, the simple fact that I no longer believed it trumped my desire to believe it. Luckily for me though, my fear did not come to pass. The world is not any less amazing - in fact, it's a little bit more amazing. Passing every spectacular sight of nature off as the creation of some invisible being is too easy an answer.

This invention fills me with a sense of wonder and amazement. And what makes this possible? Science. Reason. Logic. Prayer isn't going to turn poisoned water into purified water. Faith won't do a damned thing. Want results? You need the scientific method. Shoot, I wouldn't be typing this and you wouldn't be reading this if it weren't for that.

It also makes me wonder what else the human race is capable of creating. I wonder if there's any problem that's so big that it will never be solved.

One time, a student asked me if I believed in God. (This was at the end of the year when I tell them they can ask me anything they want, and I will, within reason, answer them honestly.) I told her no, and her response was, "How sad."

I didn't go into it, as it's not appropriate, but I simply told her, "Don't be sad for me! I'm a happy person!" What I wanted to say is that I feel sad for somebody who thinks that a life without belief in magical creatures (and let's face it, that's exactly what God is, no matter what other ways you want to define it) is sad.

Oh, and I also found this video on YouTube that addresses the same thing. Not the exact words that I'd use, but she does a pretty good job, and she certainly doesn't seem like a cranky cynic, does she?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's speech

Okay, I'll admit it, I got pretty upset at Obama too when I saw the clips of his pastor. I thought that he had made a major error in judgment by having this guy be part of his campaign. Then, when I read about his speech, I dismissed it as the usual political rhetoric.

Then I actually listened to it. All 37 minutes of it. Amazing what a difference is made when it's not broken down into little soundbites.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not convinced that I'm going to vote for him. Personally, I don't think that any significant change will come from either of the two major parties, and I honestly don't think that the President has as much power as people seem to think that he (or she, as the case might wind up being) has. I'm kinda like Benjamin, the donkey, from Animal Farm. When people talk about how great Obama is, I just think to myself, "Donkeys live a long time." (Read the book if you haven't - you'll get what I mean.) I will admit that I voted for him in the primaries, but that's because I really don't like Clinton, and I didn't want to see her as the Democratic candidate. She panders too much to the right, and I absolutely will not vote for anybody who approved of this bullshit war that we're in. I knew that it could easily become a clusterfuck, and I'm no genius. They sure as hell should have seen it coming as well. What's worse, she doesn't even have the dignity to admit that it was a mistake (something that I can at least give to Edwards.)

There definitely is a bit of the usual political rhetoric in there. The thing is though, and I think that my friends and family will agree with me, I tend to break things down in a logical fashion. (Obvious exceptions would be criticisms of superhero movies and the Star Wars prequels.) I can smell a logical fallacy minutes before it leaves somebody's lips. I also have the propaganda techniques down, as I teach them every year to a new group of freshmen (who are usually pretty overwhelmed by it - I think I'm going to start giving it to the seniors now.)

Was there some of that there? I'm sure if I tried I could come up with a few. The thing is, usually when a politician starts talking, I could make a drinking game out of it and be hammered in about five minutes. Shoot, if I took a shot for just every glittering generality that Bush uses, I'd be on the floor in two minutes. (That's when you use words like freedom, liberty, democracy, etc. to justify whatever crappy thing it is you're trying to sell.)

Yet, there wasn't as much in there with Obama's speech. It was nuanced. There were grey areas. He essentially trusted his audience to understand that the issues of race in this country are not easy ones. It's a complex issue, and it can't be absorbed into a twenty second bite. I didn't feel as though he felt that I was an idiot who needed to be spoken to like a child. (Which is exaclty how I feel with Bush and Cheney.)

Oddly enough, I understand what he was saying regarding his pastor. After all, I wonder what it would be like if I ran for President and somebody played a clip of some of my friends and family members talking about sensitive issues. Lord knows, I don't agree with everything they say. Sometimes, they can be downright offensive. But there are more things that they say that I do agree with and do make sense that it outweighs the bad for me.

Regarding Obama's reverend, certainly what he said was over-the-top and offensive. But is that what one can expect every day? Isn't that a bit out of context? I'm not saying it is - I'm saying that I don't know.

But Obama put it in a way that I can accept that he wouldn't "disown" the guy anymore than he could "disown" his white grandmother who says racist things as well.

I still think it was a mistake to make Wright a part of his campaign. What I am becoming convinced of though is that this is another distraction that's keeping us from looking at what's important.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What about Islam?

A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog on the stupidity of trying to outlaw Islam. I don't know if anybody noticed, but I received a couple of comments from the guy who created the site/petition that I was making fun of (on my Blogspot, not MySpace). Do check it out:

As you can see, all he's doing is providing more out-of-context quotes to support that Islam is a dangerous "way of life" and shouldn't be viewed solely as a religion. Okay, great. That wasn't exactly my point though. I was commenting on how completely impossible it would be to outlaw a religion. Whether I agree with his assertion regarding the faith itself is immaterial to my point.

But what about Islam? Is it a violent, dangerous religion? Is it a religion of peace? I think that questions like that are too narrow in their approach for me to simply give a yes or a no to them. I'm going to say that it's neither, and that the question is almost irrelevant.

Obviously, Islam as a faith is going through some serious problems right now. Not only that, but I think that there is a danger of us, in the interest of not repeating the mistakes of the past, coddling the extremists that are out there. For instance, there wasn't a sufficient dialogue, from what I saw, regarding the explosive reaction to the Danish cartoons that mocked Mohammed. Sure, the Muslims who wanted to protest the cartoon have every right to do that, but many of them were far more extreme in their reaction beyond a simple protest. It needs to be made clear to them that if they want to be part of a free society, then they are going to have to deal with the fact that they are going to be offended from time to time - just like the rest of us. If they want to continue to react in this way, then they cannot blame the rest of the world for viewing them as being fanatical barbarians.

I'm not going to get into the whole terrorism thing, because honestly, what can I say that hasn't already been said and would come off as blatantly obvious? Yeah, terrorism is bad. So was Hitler - how many ways you can say it? Let's just take that as an obvious problem within the Islamic community and move on from there.

The thing is, and I notice a lot of conservatives cringe when I mention this, is that if we're going to evaluate Islam as a faith, then we have to look at the entire history of it. After all, the question is about Islam itself - not "Islam today". That's another story entirely. If you're going to ask that question, then you don't get to pretend that it's some new religion. It's been around for over a thousand years, and all that must be considered. From what I can tell, the Muslims were no better or no worse than any other imperialists. Certainly, they imposed their will on others, but if they were really all about conversion or the sword, then why is Spain (amongst other places) still Catholic?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling them the good guys of history. I just don't see them as being any worse than the Christian imperalists. After all, there were a good many people who were killed because they didn't want to become Christians, just as there were a lot of Christians who were killed because they weren't the "right" kinds of Christians. Looking at it through the perspective of history, it seems as though any religion can be twisted by fanatics into becoming a tool of hatred and oppression. (Even the Buddhists aren't innocent of this.)

This, of course, doesn't solve what's going on right now. But the fact remains that the vast majority of Muslims out there are just regular people who are trying to live a peaceful existence. You just don't hear about them as often because "Muslim man takes his daughter out for ice cream" doesn't exactly make the most gripping headline, does it? I imagine that they don't feel any more of a connection with the terrorists that you see on TV than the average Christian has with somebody who blew up a Planned Parenthood building.

I realize now that I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this. I guess what I'm saying is that to me, Islam is a faith just like any other. I personally don't think that the whole notion of faith is necessarily even a good thing, as I don't think it's wise to "just believe." I have no problem with the average Muslim. Shoot, I lived in Iran as a small child for sixteen months, and I was surrounded by Muslims - all of which were pretty nice to me. I've had Muslim friends. I have Muslim students. They seem to be as good or bad as anybody else.

What frightens me is fanaticism. It's true that the Christian fanatics aren't doing as much damage and harm as the Muslim fanatics are nowadays, but I know enough history to know that it could just as easily be the other way around. After all, the reasons that Jerry Falwell pointed to that caused 9/11 didn't sound much different than the reasons that Osama bin Laden pointed out.

I realize that this issue is far too broad to cover in a single blog. I could do a whole one just on comparing the Bible and the Koran. I could do another comparing the histories of both. I could even compare Jesus to Mohammed. Maybe I'll get around to that one day, but I think that I somehow managed to make a point there.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blog O' Dreams

Ever since I started therapy, I've been having a lot of vivid dreams that have been filled with all sorts of symbols that have really stood out in my memory. These are all brand new dreams, as I often have reccuring dreams.

One of the recurring ones is that I still work part-time at Safeway (a job that I quit when I was nineteen). I will show up every now and then and work the odd shift, and then it'll hit me that there's no reason for me to be there, as I have a career now.

Another one is that I still live with my grandmother in the city like I did when I went to College. Not only that, but the new inhabitants are in the house and they want me to hurry up and leave.

My therapist told me that these are "failure" dreams, as those two things definitely represent a feeling that I haven't been as successful as I think I should be. Makes sense.

Anyway, I've actually started a blog with my dreams. It's more for me, but any amateur dream-sleuths out there are welcome to check it out and tell me what they might think it all means. You can find it at .

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dumb on a variety of levels

Freedom Williams, the frontman of the two-hit wonder group C & C Music Factory, once said the following, "I always said that if Martians could talk, they would rap. Because singing has already been done, and they'd want to do something new." (Okay, I may be paraphrasing here, but it was the sort of thing that made a pretty big impression on me, and I still remember the gist of it so many years later.)

What's remarkable is that most dumb things only have one level to it. This statement though, has layers upon layers of idiocy. I mean, do Martians even exist? If so, why can't they talk? And if they can talk, why wouldn't they just talk? Why are Martians so cutting edge that they feel the need to do new things? Who's to say that they're not more rooted in tradition than we are? And then you always say this? You've actually thought about it, said it, and then repeated it? Man, the mind truly does boggle.

I think that somebody has topped it though. I'm not sure if it has as many levels, but the sheer fact that it addresses a serious issue is what makes it my new number one.

Before introducing it, I want to point out that I've been checking out other blogs lately, including some "conservative" ones. I really don't like defining myself as liberal. After all, I've never tried marijuana, so just how liberal could I possibly be? Still, I think that most people who consider themselves to be conservative would label me as being liberal.

Generally speaking, while I disagree with most of the self-labeled conservatives out there, I don't find a great deal of fault with them. In many ways, they're not too different from me, and when it comes to what's important, we're probably pretty close.

However, just as there are leftist idiots (see the folks who protest the Marine recruiters in Berkeley) out there, there are most definitely some morons on the right. The thing that really kills me about them (and perhaps it stands out more for me when they do it, considering my biases and all) is the complete and total disregard for these important little things called facts. I just read one entry which was written by an obviously literate, educated person, but she made the statement that "all" of our Presidents have been Christians. I was actually going to comment and point out some of the decidedly ANTI-Christian things that Thomas Jefferson said. Somebody beat me to it, and pointed out that he was in fact a Deist. Was there any correction or "mea culpa"? Of course not. Facts, shmacts - they only get in the way. Who knows, maybe the blogger just felt that Thomas Jefferson "doesn't count", even though she referenced him several times in the post. Whatever, he's no William Howard Taft.

The ultimate in lunacy is the following: Outlaw Islam!

Where do I start with this? Should I start with the irony that the site is titled "Freedom ain't Free"? I mean, is outlawing a religion kinda, you know, not respecting freedom? Don't get me started on the phrase on the top of the page, "Victory is not defeat." Wow. Deep. What's next, "Chocolate is not vanilla"? "Sauerkraut is not Legos"? Ugh.

Okay, let's look at the heart of this. The guy who writes this thing uses the usual out-of-context quotes to make his point. I could do a whole series of blogs on how you can do the same thing regarding the Bible, but there are plenty of other websites out there that have already done it. (Besides, I'm too fond of eating rock-badger to be reminded of the fact that I'm not supposed to eat it.) He also points out all the undeniable acts of terrorism, while ignoring that the majority of the world's billion and a half Muslims actually aren't terrorists. They're just, you know, people.

Let's forget all of that for a moment though. Let's say I agree. Let's say that Islam is far too dangerous of a religion to be seen simply as a religion. This leaves one mighty big chunk of falafel that can't be ignored: HOW THE HELL WOULD THIS POSSIBLY BE ENFORCED????

And where do you draw the line? What about the World Bahai Faith? They incorporate the teachings of Muhammed in their religion (along with other faiths.) Do we require them to just drop that part, or do we ban them outright as well? What about The Koran? Are we going to become book-burners as well? What about guys like Resa Aslan, who, although a Muslim, regards the stories of the Koran to be myths that should not be taken literally? Shoot, how about Hussein Ibish, who claims to be an agnostic for the Muslim community? Will he simply have to be an agnostic now? Is the topic of Islam now off-limits to the Unitarians?

And can you really stop somebody from believing what they believe? I mean, the Romans tried that with the Christians, and that worked out pretty well. But those were the Romans, and they were incorruptable, so I doubt that we have that kind of wherewithal. Who's to stop somebody from saying that they're a Christian, but then actually believing that Muhammad was the last prophet? Are we really going to start employing the Thought Police now?

Here's the thing. For the most part, I can respect people with differing opinions. Sometimes though, things need to be called out as they are. The person behind this website is an idiot. There just aren't two ways about it. Idiot. Dumbass. Moron. To dignify him with having a point that's worthy of debate is to destroy the very concept of intelligent dicussion. I mean, we wouldn't take Freedom Williams' statements regarding Martians and their seeming inability to talk, (but willingness to rap) seriously, would we? This is just as stupid - no, wait - it's more stupid.

A most controversial topic

Always tackling the tough issues that nobody else wants to go near, I want to write about salad dressing today.

I eat a pretty healthy amount of salad, as I almost always have a mighty big bowl of it with dinner. Of course, I need some sort of a salad dressing to go with it, and that's where things get tricky.

I've tried making my own dressings before. I make a pretty decent Asian vinaigrette using rice vinegar, soy sauce and olive oil, but all I did was follow the directions on the back of the rice vinegar for that one. I've made a halfway decent Caesar, but even though I do it the same way I see the guy at the fancy Italian restaurant do it, mine comes up short. Other efforts have been less than stellar.

I don't know why I can't seem to make one that I like. My mom always made her own dressing, and although I don't care for it too much (not enough bite to it) lots of people have raved about it. (She does make a really good Caesar and an awesome mustard vinaigrette that I wish I could duplicate - every time I've tried, it's tasted like ass.)

I've pretty much given up, so I buy dressing now. There are very few out there that I can buy. Pretty much everything Paul Newman has is good stuff, so it's not too much of a problem, although his are pretty expensive. Even his ranch is pretty decent, but I rarely ever use that - I buy it more for my wife. I think that ranch is for people who don't like the taste of vegetables, as it completely drowns out the taste of everything.

But what's up with that crap that Kraft makes? Ever look at the ingredients to their dressings, especially their Italian ones? What the hell is all that shit in there? All you need for Italian is oil, vinegar, and spices - end of list! The thing is, my in-laws buy that stuff, and that stuff is in the faculty cafeteria; however, I seem to be the only person who thinks it's too funky to use. There's something just so...I don't know...unnatural about it. I don't know what that flavor is, but it sure as hell ain't oil and vinegar. It's the juice that Satan squeezes from his horns, and I feel like Winston Smith in 1984 when I bring this up, 'cause nobody else seems to feel the same way.

Okay, that's all. Send the hate mail.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gentlemen, admit your man-crush

For generations, women have felt free to discuss the beauty of other women. A woman can say, "She's pretty" or "She's so beautiful!" without anybody thinking that any funny business was going on.

Most men, however, if even asked if they thought another man was handsome would respond with, "Huh? What? How the hell am I supposed to know? Why would you ask this of me? What are you trying to say?" He would then proceed to grab the rear end of the nearest woman and make hooting calls at every woman who passed by him for the next week.

Well, times are changing. With relaxed attitudes towards homosexuality has come a new liberation for heterosexual men. We now realize that we don't need to discuss football, cars, and boobs 24/7 in order to be straight. Just because many of us do the cooking, it doesn't make us like women any less. We can even hug each other and say, "I love you, man!" without any fear.

And with this newfound security in our masculinity the concept of the man-crush has been developed. The urban dictionary defines it as, "A man who has a crush on another man without sexual attraction" and "A man having extreme admiration for another man, as though he wants to be him."

So there it is, fellas. Are you man enough to admit your man-crushes? Or are you too fearful of your inner homosexual desires, ala Larry Craig, to admit that you have them?

Here are my top five:

5. John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

4. Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.

3. Sean Connery as James Bond.

2. Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

And my number one man-crush of ALL TIME, is the one, the only, the uber-manly...TOM JONES, bitch!

Okay fellas, let's hear yours. Nolan, I know you have a few.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The hard-wiring of my brain

Something that's not a secret, but I haven't told everyone, is that I have been going to therapy for the past couple of months. It's an interesting sort of a thing, but I'll admit that at first, I was starting to have my doubts about it. I would basically just talk and talk and talk, and then later on when I thought about it, I would start to figure things out. For instance, shortly after going, I realized that I was blaming myself for things that weren't my fault, and I was powerless to do anything about in the first place.

The past couple of times though, I think that some real progress has been made. I've realized a couple of things about myself that make some of my behaviors make a bit more sense. Anybody who knows me probably won't be suprised by these things, but I'm learning that I'm far too critical of myself, with an obsessive-compulsive attitude towards it.

For instance, yesterday I had a parent tell me that her daughter was disappointed that she had to be transferred from my class, as my class was her "favorite." Another kid told me that he talked with a family friend about the Shakespeare that we had read in class, and the guy was interested enough to borrow the books from him so he could read it himself.

Then a girl told me that my class was boring. What did I dwell on all day? The "boring" comment.

Pretty stupid, I know, but I'm realizing that this is something that's hard-wired into my head. It's (probably) not the fault of my parents, as I really remember them as being more encouraging than critical. Recognizing that this is something that I can't help is actually a good first step in dealing with it. I need to take more stock in the compliments and kind remarks, the kids who are interested, the people who care about me, etc. than a few bad comments by an extrovert who thinks by talking.

Man, if only I could convey how it feels right now. It's so obvious - staring me in the face all this time, but I feel like I'm finally seeing it for the first time.

The thing is, this is leading to even more realizations. I need to stop getting all bent out of shape when people say things that are stupid and ignorant. I'm never going to change them, and stewing on the perfect argument to tell them so they'll finally see the light is a waste of time. There's other stuff too, but it's a bit too personal to write in a blog that I leave open for anybody to see.

The other thing that I'm learning is that I have some definite boundary issues. We haven't gotten to into it yet, but it's very likely that was built up when I was in the hospital when I was three years old. One time, Kirsti and I were at a wedding, and there were chairs all around. Some lady came in with her husband and sat down RIGHT NEXT TO ME. There were plenty of empty chairs! Whole rows even! Not only that, but the chairs were VERY close together. I remember getting up and telling Kirsti that we had to move, as I felt like I wanted to get up and scream.

Don't get me wrong, if it was crowded and there wasn't anywhere else to sit, I would have been only slightly uncomfortable and I could have dealt with it. Otherwise, it felt like I was being totally intruded upon.

It might sound weird, but I feel really good right now. Better than I've felt in a while. I have some phone calls to make which I have been putting off for a long time now. I think I'll go ahead and make one.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Berkeley and the Marines

I realize that if I was doing a blog on current events, I would really suck at it, since I don't seem to write about controversial issues until everybody else has already beaten it to death.

Doubtless that you probably already know that in Berkeley, which is a short drive from where I live, has asked the Marines to leave and no longer recruit in their city. The city referred to them as unwanted intruders.

Of course, all the conservative pundits are up in arms about this, and I'm pretty sure that Bill O'Reilly called for a boycott. You also hear the usual arguments about how somehow the war in Iraq is being done to protect our freedom to protest in the first place, which doesn't make any sense at all.

That said though, I can't seem to defend the decision makers in Berkeley on this one. I mean, I'm as against this war as a person can get, but it doesn't seem right to take it out on the Marines. They're not the ones who decide where we go to war; they just do their jobs.

Now, if you want to try and educate people about what to expect while joining the Marines, then I suppose that's fair. After all, you're definitely going to get nothing but pro-Marine propaganda when you go to their recruiting center, but what can you expect? So, I don't see anything wrong with engaging in debate or discussing these issues, but things have gone too far.

The thing is, I do believe that our country needs a military. I think that we need the Marines. I don't think that sending them to Iraq is the best use for them, but that's hardly their fault. It's kinda like getting mad at the police because you disagree with the laws. I mean, I think that arresting people for growing pot is dumb, but I don't blame the cop who does his job.

The Daily Show did a funny bit on it, which I'll post below once it's online. They got their correspondent Rob Riggle, who actually served in the Marines, to cover the story. I was pleased to see that they mocked the whole situation, and they come out in favor of The Marines. Of course, they edit it in such a way to make the protestors look as foolish as possible, but this is a situation where I just can't think of a way to justify the arguments coming from the protestors.

So, am I going to boycott? Well, I probably only go there about once a year as it is, so a boycott on my part won't really make much difference. I think that if I have the occasion to go there, I still will. However, I think that there are a lot of lame people there who I wish weren't on my side when it comes to this current war in Iraq. (I'm looking at you too, Rosie O'Donnel.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fake News

I was asked recently on this here blog whether I use The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as my primary news sources. Of course, the answer is no. However, I have to wonder - just how bad of a thing would that be?

I can't help but be reminded of when I was on my high school newspaper's staff, and I wrote the Horoscope. Since even back then I understood astrology for the foolishness that it is, I didn't do a "real" horoscope. I basically just wrote silly little, mocking entries like "You eat too much cheese and everybody hates you for it." (Probably not an actual entry, but they were along those lines. Sorta like what The Onion does in its Horoscope section.) One time, for some reason I had another staffer write them. I figured that she'd do them like I did, but she instead wrote the kinds of things that you see in actual horoscopes. When I complained about it, I remember a friend of hers saying that mine were stupid because they weren't "real." Ummm...and hers were?

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are often defined (especially by themselves) as "fake news." While this is certainly a fitting description, there isn't anything more "fake" about them than The O'Reilly Factor or Hannity's America. The major difference is that Stewart and Colbert want you to laugh at the news. O'Reilly and Hannity want you to be angry and scared. I'll take the laughs, thank you very much.

Where do I get my news? I read the paper. I read the headlines on my homepage. I make things up in my head. (No, wait, that's what Bill O'Reilly does.) I'm certainly not a news junkie by any means, and I'll even admit that on certain days, my only exposure to the news is through the comedy shows.

Still, I'd argue that even if I only got my news from them all the time, it would be better than if I only watched "real" shows like O'Reilly's and Hannity's. Why?

1. There are no sacred cows. They'll pick on anybody, and the Democrats get skewered pretty hard just like the Republicans.

2. There's intelligent discourse. Now, if you tune into them for actual debate, then you're looking in the wrong place. However, Stewart will actually have conversations with his guests, be they from the left or the right. It's much more intelligent than the conversation one sees on Hannity and Colmes. (But then again, my dog and my cat debate one another more intelligently than anybody does on that piece of shit of a show.)

3. They show the folly of "real" news by pretty much doing the same thing, only emphasizing the ridiculous parts. Something called satire, don't you know. (A concept, that I woefully realize, many people simply do not understand.) For one of my favorite examples, check out the following clip. Colbert, back when he was on The Daily Show, did a piece on "The Summer of the Shark." If you don't remember, there was quite the hysteria in the news about how shark attacks were supposedly on the rise. Turns out that they weren't - and the year that they actually were, the media was busy with OJ Simpson. Yeah, that's what you get with "real" news. (To be fair, 20/20 did a story on this as well - but Jon Stossel isn't funny.)

So, don't just watch fake news, but sometimes it actually is better than real news.

And I should end by once again mentioning the study that showed that Stewart's viewers are more informed than O'Reilly's. Do check it out.

Friday, March 7, 2008


I've mentioned to people over the past few months that I've been "getting into jazz." I'm starting to realize that's not really an accurate statement. I'm listening to jazz. I'm enjoying jazz. I'm not really getting into it though. What I mean is, I'm not entirely sure that I get it and appreciate it for all that it's worth.

It probably has to do with the fact that I don't have the same enthusiasm for music that I did when I was in high school and college. Back then, I'd really get into something, like The Beatles, and learn as much about it as I could. I'm a little bit past that, as I don't have as much time to just sit and listen to music anymore. I mainly listen to music when I'm driving or when I'm cooking.

So, what jazz have I been listening to? I got a boxed set that spans the decades of jazz, and the first two discs are my favorite. The really old stuff is what does it for me. I also bought a few Coltrane cds, and I enjoy them thoroughly. Along with that, there's a Dizzy Gillespie cd and a Miles Davis one that I like.

The thing is, I think that you could put any of them in and I wouldn't necessarily know who's who. I mean, if I paid attention, I could tell Davis from Coltrane, as I know the difference between a sax and least, I think that I do.

One thing's for sure, it all does make me realize just how much ass Kenny G sucks.

So, I'm listening to some jazz. I like it, but I'm hardly an informed jazz listener, and I'm not really somebody who could give you any good advice on what to listen to. I think that it's the kind of music where people who know a lot about music in general are more likely to fully appreciate. I mean, I've taken a class on jazz history, and I know that there's a lot to know about it, and I know that most jazz fans aren't just blowing hot air when they talk about its complexities.

I guess there's nothing wrong with being a somewhat of a passive fan of something. Maybe one day I'll hear a particular piece of music and it'll finally hit me just what it is that makes it all so great. Until then, it makes the time go by more pleasantly while I'm doing other stuff.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Truth vs. Propaganda

This is old news, at least to people who live in the Bay Area, but there is a hill in the town of Lafayette with a bunch of crosses on it and a sign that reads how many soldiers have died over in Iraq (well over 3,000 now). It has raised a great deal of controversy, and there are those who insist that it is a piece of anti-war propaganda, designed to undermine the war effort. Here, read what folks like that have to say. (I just linked the first one that I found, but I think that it's a fairly well-written piece, even though I completely disagree with the writer's stance on the issue - I don't want to just post some foaming-at-the-mouth warhawk's point of view, which I'm sure that there are plenty of out there.)

I sorta understand what they're saying, but ultimately, I just don't get it. That's how many people have died in the war. There's no way around it. I mean, should we stop having military cemetaries, because after all, those show us how many have died as well. Are all memorials to fallen soldiers, including the ones for Vietnam and Korea, undermining what the troops have done?

It doesn't make sense to me, and I see a pattern with some of the more conservative-minded people out there. When somebody points out a fact that's inconveniently contrary to their position, they complain that it's propaganda. Yet they will completely dismiss the outright LIES that we've been told. You know, that whole thing about the Hussein/al Qaeda connection? The whole thing about how we not only knew for certain that he had WMDs, but we knew where they were? The thing about seeking uranium for a nuclear bomb?

It amazes me that people can be aware of things like that, and yet the big offense to them is that somebody puts crosses on a hill which indicate an undeniable truth - this war is costing American lives, and we don't have a clear definition of what exactly "victory" will entail. (Forgive me if I'm dubious over claims that we're currently "winning" due to the surge. Just read about a bombing in this morning's paper. How long will we have to be "winning" until it turns into the past tense and we've "won"? It's not like World War II, where we knew that we "won" when the Germans and the Japanese agreed to unconditional surrender.)

And what gets lost in all this is all of the Iraqi lives that are being lost. Yeah, a lot of them died under Hussein, but does that justify what's going on now? I suppose if it all led to a free Iraq that was a peaceful utopia, then it would. I just don't see that happening. I want to be wrong about this more than anything I've ever wanted to be wrong about in my life. Still, I guess they don't count, because nobody seems to want to talk about them. I guess an Iraqi life is worth less than an American life.

Personally, I think that what upsets people who support the war is that this memorial is reminding them of something that they don't want to deal with. Too bad, and luckily it's on private property, so they're not going to be removed. If you truly believe that this war is for a noble cause, then you can handle the number of American lives have been lost. I just wonder how many more it's going to take until we think that maybe it's not worth it. 5,000? 10,000? A million? Will that be enough? Let's hope we don't have to find out.

Monday, March 3, 2008


I've been mulling an entry on comics for awhile now, but I still don't feel like I'm ready to write it. Still, there's been a bit on my mind, so I'm just gonna write about some of my current favorite comics. I've done this once before on The Walking Dead, which is a zombie comic in the tradition of the George Romero tradition (focusing instead on character development instead of satire though. Still, it makes its social commentary and has the theme of any good zombie story where the most dangerous thing to human beings are their fellow human beings.) I was tempted to write about some favorite non-superhero comics, as I have quite a few of those. However, the stuff that I've really been enjoying lately involves superheroes. So, without further ado:

Captain America - This has been a really great read ever since writer Ed Brubaker took over a few years ago. The story is a bit complex to go over without sounding overly complex and geektastic, but it's a good stuff, and I'm sure if the scripts were adapted into a TV show, a lot of people who don't even watch superhero movies would be watching it. It basically involves a plot to destroy capitalism in general and America in particular from the inside, actually tying in some current events like the mortgage crisis (which is just one small step towards a much larger scheme to bring the country down.) Also, there's a new Captain America, as the old one was assassinated (I'm sure they'll bring him back - they gotta!). The new one is his old sidekick, and he has all sorts of issues as he had been brainwashed by the Soviets to be an assassin until the original Cap brought him back to reality.

Daredevil - Also written by Ed Brubaker, this is a series that makes me realize that the comic should have been adapted into an HBO miniseries instead of a movie. Forget about the movie, I know it was lame. Daredevil is a great character though, and the current series really drives home the one thing that the movie got right - it really sucks to be a superhero. Daredevil's life goes from one tragedy to the next, and the last writer left with his identity exposed to the public and Matt Murdock (his secret ID) thrown into jail. From there, the series has had a prison break, DD going to Paris, and DD returning to have his wife go crazy and push a man in front of a moving subway. (Turns out that she had been drugged by Mr. Fear.) Now he's finally put Mr. Fear behind bars, but his life is basically ruined as it's quite likely that his wife will be going to jail.

Green Lantern - I've never been a big fan of the character or concept, but the current writer, Geoff Johns, has managed to take years and years of convoluted continuity and actually create a book that's accessible. This one would sound even geekier if I went into the current plot in too much detail, but to just give a few details, Hal Jordan has recently returned as the Green Lantern of sector 2814 (The Green Lanterns are basically space cops). Previously, he had been possessed by an evil entity known as Parallax, the embodiment of fear, who turned him into a villian, resulting in the near destruction of the entire Green Lantern Corps. So, he's back and on the good side, but his fellow Green Lanterns don't trust him. Meanwhile, Sinestro, a former Green Lantern who deliberately went bad, has created a sort of anti-Green Lantern Corps called the Sinestro Corps. Honestly, this one is probably the geekiest of all of them, and I'm not too sure how much appeal it would have to somebody who doesn't already read superhero comics, but since I am somebody who regularly reads superhero comics, I'm loving it.

So, there's a post about comics. I've posted about beer. Next up, I should actually post about Shakespeare, as the name of my Blogspot Blog is "Comics, Beer, and Shakespeare." The problem is, I come off as a geek when blogging about comics, and I'll probably come off as a pretentious ass if I blog about Shakespeare.

I like them both equally, but in different ways. Certainly the comics provide a little bit more of an instant gratification though.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lack of anonymity

On Friday, I did my weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. Unlike usual though, I went to the one that's a bit further away from me, as I was also going to the comic book store which is right next door. (I also went to the homebrew shop, and I should point out that I'm known by my first name both there and the comic book store.)

While checking out the eggs, I ran into a guy who was one of my first students - from almost seven years ago during summer school. I recognized him, and I remember that he was a good-natured kid in a room full of lunkheads. Man, did he reminisce fondly of my class back then. I told him that I'm a bit tougher on my students now, as I was pretty much figuring out what the heck I was doing that summer. (I was hired two days before summer school started, and I had never taught a day in my life before that. I had been laid off from just a month prior.)

Afterwards, while passing through the snack aisle, I saw one of my seniors from last year. She's a sweet kid, and I had a good rapport with her while she was in my class. ("You're so mean!" she'd always say - which sounds bad in context, but it was usually followed by a smile and a laugh.)

Yesterday, I went to Nob Hill to get myself something for dinner, and while walking out of the store, I saw one of my freshmen from last year selling girl scout cookies. I absolutely hate this kid. (Just kidding, she's a sweet kid as well, but I just wanted to throw that in as I know she sometimes reads my blog.) I had to turn down some girl scout cookies, 'cause let's face it, I'm really not a man who suffers from not eating enough cookies. If I bought them, they'd get eaten - rather quickly. I practice self-control by not buying sweets in the first place.

While I was talking to her, I saw yet another familiar face - one of my current seniors.

Can't I go anywhere anymore? This is pretty typical though, but it's getting more and more frequent as the body of former students grows every year. Generally speaking, it's nice, but I really have to be aware of my behavior. One year I was at a Halloween party and I had a few drinks, then we went around to tour all the haunted house displays in the neighborhood. I wasn't sloppy drunk, but I was a bit buzzed, when I ran into one of my students. It made me feel really uncomfortable, and I quickly tried to end the conversation and head the other way.

So, no more being drunk in public, which isn't really much of a problem in the first place, but dangit - the mailman doesn't have to worry about that sort of a thing!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A typical day of work...

So yesterday was a pretty typical day of work for me. I started off class by reminding the kids that we're not going to say the Pledge of Allegiance, mainly because America is the bad guy in the world today, and everything that we do is wrong. So, I took out a flag and burned it and told the kids to cheer. Anybody who didn't cheer and/or chant "Death to America!" didn't get any points.

I then went into a twenty minute dissection of the fallacies of Christianity. I told them that anybody who believes that a guy once walked on water is clearly suffering from delusions and needs to be locked up. One kid told me that his faith was an important part of his life, and it gave him structure and a sense of morality. I told him that he was stupid, and I ordered the rest of the class to point and laugh at him.

Then I burned another flag, along with a photo of Jesus. "This is a secular country!" I shouted. "Religion should have no part in our lives!"

We then had our daily "Muslim Moment" and all the girls had to put on head scarves and the boys had to wear fake beards. Two kids didn't want to participate, and I went off on them for about forty minutes talking about how intolerant they were, and how they were a bunch of racists. I then had the class face Mecca as we all said that there was No God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.

One kid pointed out the inconsistency of me praising Islam while insulting Christianity, saying that it didn't make sense if I supposedly believed in having a secular society. I told him that he was a racist and gave him an F.

We then took out the book that we're currently reading, Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto. I told them that Marx had it right, and one day we'd finally overthrow the running capitalist dogs who currently lord over our country. I then had them insert apostrophes on all the plural nouns, because that's where they belong.

To end off the class, I had them give their oral presentations based on the essay topic that they had to write about, "Why Bush is Bad and the Clintons are Saints." One kid said that even though he didn't like Bush, he didn't feel that the Clintons should be called saints. I called him a racist and a homophobe and told him to get out.

Right before the bell rang, I told them all to experiment with sex and drugs and to become vegetarians. After all, eating meat is bad for your health.

Yup, another typical day. It's nice to know that I can make a difference in the lives of young people.

Watchin' Olbermann

So, I tuned into the left-wing (or more like it, Democrat) answer to Bill O'Reilly last night. I've seen Olbermann's show before, and I don't feel much different about it than I do now. For the most part, I don't see much point in watching a show that gives me a "spin" on the news. Also, he does seem to go to easy on the Democrats, even though he'll tear after the Republicans.

What I liked best was when he went over a recent press conference with Bush and pointed out all of the inconsistencies (like when Bush said that he was "focused" on the current price of gas, yet earlier, in the same conference, he stated that he had no idea that gas might be going up to four bucks a gallon). The Daily Show does the same kind of thing though, and Jon Stewart is funnier. Not only that, but Stewart will go after the Democracts on the ridiculous things that they say as well.

And yeah, he went after Bill O'Reilly again. I think that if I watched the show regularly, it would have gotten pretty old by now. The thing is, there are so many legitimate things to criticize about O'Reilly, yet Olbermann seems to be stretching it sometimes.

So, overall, I'd give Hannity & Colmes a Triple-F-minus, The O'Reilly Factor a C+, and Countdown a B-. At least Olbermann attacks people when they get their facts wrong, and from what I can tell, doesn't have a habit of making up stuff. Other than that, I don't have much use for it.