Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't ask - Don't Make Sense

I'm not telling and you can't make me

Rick Santorum  (R - pugnant) - kicking out the jams debate style:

"I think it's it's - it's - look, what we're doing is playing social experimentation with - with our military right now. And that's tragic."

Experimenting bad. There's a right way and a wrong way. Just ask Mrs. Santorum.

"I would - I would just say that, going forward, we would - we would reinstitute that policy (Don't Ask Don't Tell),  if Rick Santorum was president, period."

And if I were Jesus the whole world would have some baked trout, a fresh baguette and a nice bottle of white wine. And if Rick Santorum was president - we would be fucked. Period.

"That policy would be re-instituted. And as far as people who are in - in- I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in - in conformity with what was happening in the past, which was sex is not an issue. It is - it should not be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it - keep it to yourself, whether you're a heterosexual or a homosexual."

If sex wasn't an issue in the good old days why was there a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy? Are soldiers supposed to leave it alone or keep it to themselves? Is Rick pro or anti masturbation? He needs to clarify this policy point. And if members of the military are prohibited from self identifying as heterosexuals or homosexuals you would think that would severely limit the pool of potential bullet stoppers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Of Fundies and Foodies

I'm not convinced that this is all that friendly of a planet. Granted, we've been around, on one form or another, for about 3.5 billion years but it seems to me that the whole setup is not here exclusively for our benefit. The world is full of microscopic creatures that view us a nothing more than a big smorgasbord full of protein and carbs. And, if past practice is any indication of future performance, we have maybe a couple of million years before we either fade away or change into something that we wouldn't recognize as us.

I don't get the idea of "natural". I don't see how anything can be "unnatural". And the idea that natural equates to safe is suspect. Most of the stuff that can get you is definitely natural, not the result of reactions to man made toxins. The Foodies, fundies, anti-vaxers, and various New Agers all share the idea of some sort of pristine natural archetype - for the Fundie it's the Garden, for the Foodie it's some mythical American past where we grew our own local organic food and for the Anti-vaxers it is evidently better to develop immunity by actually getting the disease than to prime your immune system with an inoculation There is a reason that Great grandpa could expect to live to be 47 and I can expect to push 70. And it has nothing to do with the natural foods movement and everything to do with mass immunization against childhood diseases and an efficient, safe, regulated supplemented food supply and science based medicine. Kids don't get pellagra, thyroid problems or have their teeth rot out from lack of fluoridation like in the good old days. Will I eat organically grown produce if it is similar in cost to the commercial stuff? Of course. It's not like I spray my salad with Raid before I chow down. I think factory farming for animals (mammals anyway) sucks. Am I frightened of genetically modified food? Not at all. Everything we eat is genetically modified. I don't see where cross breeding instead of genetic manipulation makes it any more safe. Will I get every vaccination that comes down the pike? Absolutely. The numbers don't lie. Statistically, getting the disease fucks you up way more than any potential adverse reaction. Is Big Pharma your friend? Probably not. But unlike Big Supplement the drug companies have to at least prove through clinical trials that their drugs have some sort of effect.  I supported the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act when it came out. I was wrong. It's a snake oil scam. Like acupuncture, chiropractic and a whole host of other alternative treatments designed to separate people from their wallets.

But there is no talking to people. No convincing people, anyway. If your kid gets bacteremia from chicken pox, maybe you've learned your lesson. Too bad your kid had to learn it the hard way. The species may be engaged in an arms race with existing bacterial and viral scourges but chances are that you as an individual are just an expendable foot soldier. I had all the common childhood diseases and my mom had polio so I'm more than happy that we humans have found a way to game the system.  I have found a lot of born aginer's seem to be into the natural supplement scene. I'm not sure if it's a congenital deformation of the reasoning circuits or maybe Amway. And there is an element of OCD to the whole thing. A search for purity in a decidedly impure world, where you can purify yourself  by what you eat and how you live and keep the demons at bay. I know how it is. There is no way to reason your way out of thinking that the world is full of contamination. I may know in my mind that there is no way that doorknob could be dirty enough to infect me but I still feel as though it is.

*Graphic from Kansas Bob

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soul Snorer

I have two big regrets in my life. One is Family Game Night and the other is Family Movie Night. Both were my ideas. I thought it would be a good idea to get together as a family and do some fun stuff on the weekend. I am an idiot. Not since Alvin and the Chipmunks The Squeakquel  have I put myself through as much pain as I did with this Saturday's viewing of Soul Surfer. (editorial disclaimer: As I reread this post (yes, I do reread these posts...sometimes) I have come to the conclusion that my comments are somewhat mean spirited. My intent was not to dis Bethany Hamilton - who is a courageous and inspirational young lady - my problem is with the packaging of her story - now back to our irregularly scheduled diatribe)

Every once in awhile I get suckered into one of these inspirational Christian movies, covertly Christian but not radically evangelical enough to piss off the Catholics and Jews. Something about the camera work gives it away - almost like a high def version of the Brady Bunch. I have the same reaction I do when I accidentally rent a movie they previously showed on the SyFy  channel - Oh, shit... So young Bethany lives an idyllic life in an island paradise with loving parents and an active spiritual life, surfing and homeschoolin' the days away. She attends a beautiful open air chapel full of beautiful spiritual people. Beautiful white people  with no so much as a pimple to be seen. The leper colony must be on the other side of the island. The fat ugly kids evidently have their own church. Probably not with a view of the ocean. Or maybe they don't go to church - that's why they're fat and ugly. A couple of dark colored people show up, mostly in the crowd scenes. There is one weird Hawaiian guy with a pompadour who shows up from time to time, no doubt a survivor of the the measles epidemic. He kills the shark (his people are good at that). He's OK with the haolies even though they stole his island and decimated his people. Why hold a grudge?

 Miss Hottie, the youth minister, holds a vacation bible school class. She's hot but deep. Throughout the film she is Bethany's anchor to ...uh...spirituality. She explains through a slideshow and well timed quote from Jeremiah 29.11 -For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Bethany takes this to heart, thinking "I wonder if God is going to send a shark to bite my arm off to make me a more complete person?" And darn if that isn't exactly what happens. 

So Jesus needed a hand in heaven and they rush poor Bethany to the hospital after she loses like 98% of her blood but she survives and the Doc proclaims it a miracle. No doc, if she grew the arm back it would be a miracle. But, then again, I set my miracle bar higher than most. But the doc is Craig T. Nelson - so whattya gonna do? Pretty much  the rest of the film concerns Bethany’s struggle to adjust to her disability and learn how to surf again. Asking my wife how Bethany shaves her armpit earned me a withering look. Not the first withering look of the film but definitely the most withering. Miss Hottie (Carrie Underwood) the youth minister who runs disaster tours to help the world's downtrodden decides Bethany needs cheering up and takes her on a missionary trip to an area where thousands of people have died in a tsunami.  There, Bethany bonds with some kid who is traumatized by the drowning of his entire family and takes him surfing. Dr. Phil would approve. Bethany goes home, loses a surfing contest but wins the hearts of her countrymen and my disabled grand daughter. So, once again, I find myself caught between religion and a hard place. Thank God my wife tends to the kid’s spiritual needs while I get to snipe from the sidelines.

The moral of the story? It’s cool to be Christian.

Reason to see this film?   Neat surfing footage

Reason not to see this film? – Dennis Quaid

Cheese rating? - Full wheel

Thursday, September 15, 2011


More pep rally morality. The talking heads prod our emotions, nodding gravely at this and that, cheapening not only grief but rendering the word " hero" all but meaningless. Does anyone really believe that those poor souls on United 93 were trying to keep the plane from crashing into the Capitol? They knew what the score was and they knew their only chance at survival was to take control of the plane. That fact doesn't make their attempt any less impressive or any less tragic. But it does make it more real. I caught our President (who I still like, by the way) murmuring something about God during the speachifying. I realize we humans have mental short circuit that how God is on our side even though 3000 people got buried in the rubble but isn't God the reason this whole mess got started?  A moment of silence would do. And during that moment of silence our leaders ought to reflect on acting in manner that insures that the cure isn't worse than the disease.

So, in essence, we have set up two monuments to really, really bad luck. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn't make you a hero. Heroes rush into burning buildings, jump on grenades, shit like that. Arlin Williams on Air Florida Flight 90 who kept passing people to safety as he slowly lost his grip in the freezing river and slipped under - man, that makes you proud to be human. Pat Tillman - giving up a life of privilege to join up and get killed accidentally by his own men - he qualifies. I may be part of the last American generation that grew up with fathers who more often than not served in the military. In my neighborhood it was unusual for a male not to have been in the service. And a good percentage of those who did were combat veterans.  Silver Stars, Purple Hearts, lots of Bronze Stars but not a lot of bragging. And not a lot of media stroking like you hear now. It was just kind of assumed. They were just guys, fathers and uncles, flawed and human, not the mass manufactured heroic icons the media likes to present. My Dad kept busy - got a degree, made a living. He didn't talk about the war much except a couple times when he was drunk. Mostly he would talk about how random it was – wondering why he made it and others didn't and how his 50 caliber guns could have been made of wood for all the good they did him. There was really nothing that he could control.  And I never heard him use the word hero.