Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm so blind



I was out a nightclub this weekend and as I walked in, I heard some men arguing at the door. The bouncer was telling these men that their clothes were "too baggy". This sounded odd to me - their clothes were loose fitting - but in the style that is common for men, not ridiculously so. I was confused. And then I saw the enraged look in one man's eyes that he couldn't get in and I got it like a smack in the face. It wasn't because their clothes were baggy, it was because they were black. I couldn't believe it.

There is this scene in Knocked Up where the women are trying to get in an exclusive nightclub and the bouncer won't let them in because, "You old, she pregnant. Can't have a bunch of old pregnant bitches running around. That's crazy, I'm only allowed to let in five percent black people. He said that, that means if there's 25 people here I get to let in one and a quarter black people. So I gotta hope there's a black midget in the crowd."

The scene is meant to be funny. I didn't realize this was an actual policy. And I don't know what I can do about it but be angry.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

No words


"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy... tonight is your answer."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Things Sarah Palin Can Name

Since we know multiple Supreme Court cases she disagrees with and any news sources she regularly reads are not one of them; here is a fairly exhaustive list of things Sarah Palin can name.

That being said, I really worry about the debate. This seems like one of the places Clinton could've been really useful to the Obama campaign as a VP. Joe Biden has the ability to come across as incredibly sexist... it's all very strange seeing as how Palin may be the worst of the four on women's issues.

Amendment 2

We are all kind of preoccupied with the big thing on this year's ballot - the Presidential election and what not. Let's not forget other important things.

Amendment 2, the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment is dangerous. You should be doing all you can to educate your friends and family about it. It is not just calling for a moratorium on gay marriage (not that I would agree with that either). Rather, it is calling for gay marriage or anything that is functionally its equivalent (civil unions, for example) to be deemed unrecognizable under Florida Law.

This amendment runs the risk of making it impossible for gay and lesbian couples to be able to make critical end of life decisions for one another, to visit one another in the hospital, to obtain health insurance together, and the list goes on. As I said, it is dangerous, inhumane, and has a name that is an outright lie. Please dialog with those you influence about the importance of voting NO on 2!!

More info here

Monday, September 29, 2008

Offensive? Yes.

Condo "Before" Pics

As promised, here are the pictures. These are definitely the "before" ones, so I'll post new ones once we have painted and get moved in.

The view from our bed room window.

This gives you an idea of how open it feels.

The kitchen.

Living room looking away from the sun room.

The living room looking toward the sun room.

Down the staircase.

The courtyard of our condo complex. Our place is the top one in the front of the left hand side.

Child Activist


My dad told me the funniest story yesterday. He was telling me how when he married my mother, he threw away all his "girly magazines", except for one copy of the May 1966 issue of Playboy (his birth month/year). When I was like 10 or 11 years old he and I were in the basement, looking through his old stuff (most likely LPs) and I pulled out the copy of Playboy. "What is this?!" I exclaimed.

He said the page I opened it to was not in any way explicit; it had a woman wearing a very tight fitting, short sweater dress. I said, "You need to get rid of this." And he starts saying how it is a collectible, and his birth month, etc. I looked him in the eye and said, "If you keep this, I will not respect you." He said okay, took it from me, and threw it away.

I do not remember this at all, but it does not surprise me in the least. I have always been very forthright about the things I feel strongly about. Apparently I was a vocal feminist before I knew what a vocal feminist was.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Key Concepts

When I became the youth minister at my church there was a curriculum in place. It shall remain nameless. All of our youth activities sprang from it. The truth - it was the dumbest excuse for youth curriculum I'd ever seen... and I've seen terrible stuff.

The badness started with it's "key concepts" which were, 1) manhood and womanhood are gifts from God and 2) adulthood must be earned. First of all, I understand there are some gender politics issues with the concepts. Second, I have no idea what the hell they mean or how they connect with Christianity.

There is nothing revolutionary. Nothing about a deeper connection with God or those around you. Nothing about fighting against injustice. Nothing about anything that would make this in any way unique from something someone could teach at a damn etiquette class. It is precisely the kind of bullshit that makes people think Christianity is simply a system that makes people nice and very supportive of the status quo.

It's gone now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adventures in Homeownership

We closed (which means we signed about 1,000 pieces of paper - most of which we had no idea what they meant). It felt great. We were homeowners. We were in debt for the rest of our live, but what are you gonna do?

Last night, Shelly had planned a wedding shower for a friend that was getting married on Saturday. So I called my friend Tim, to meet me at the house and have a few beers in celebration. We get there, I put the key in the deadbolt... it sticks. Fortunately, we have a bottle opener with us, and use it to leverage the lock open. We get in the condo. I try to use the bottle opener to get the key out of the deadbolt. It snaps. The one key we have to our new house breaks on the first night we have the house!

We call Lowe's to see how late they were open, and realized we only had 15 minutes to get there. We make it, buy new knobs, change out everything. Not exactly the way I planned on spending the night, but I guess that's home ownership - no landlord to call when stuff breaks! That'll take some getting used to.

We love the place, I really will put pics up soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Am I Reading This Right?

Ok, I'm no economist. I don't understand this bailout thing. I know the experts say it's necessary. To me it sounds like we're saving greedy bankers (I found it interesting to hear this morning that the banks are lobbying for the bill to pass but against the provision that limits how much bank CEOs can make.... interesting).

I read Senator Obama's remarks here and thought, "Did he just say what I thought he said?" Because it sure sounded like he said screw the environment, the working class, the poor, the elderly, veterans, etc. We need to hold off on those proposals to save greedy bankers. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but a vote for Nader is sounding better than ever.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bad News

I've been feeling not quite right for awhile now. It's nothing major, I just really miss school. I miss the classes, the books, the discussions, the professors, the students. Everything. I had applied for three consecutive semesters to the MA English program at UNF. I was accepted, but for three consecutive semesters, money was not there for me to actually take the classes.

So, second plan. Since MAs are so expensive, I decided to simply pursue a second bachelors degree, this time in history. I was excited, but a little premature. It turns out that because of the property tax cuts from last year (you remember the ones the really rich people were excited about, but teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and pretty much everyone else opposed - even our ultra-conservative mayor) mean that budget cuts in the state college system have made it so that UNF can no longer allow people to pursue second BAs.

So, I'm too poor to pursue an MA and unable to pursue a BA. I love my state.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Condo

Shelly and I are closing on a condo in less than a week. I am so excited! Pics to come soon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Communication 101

I've realized recently what it is that makes for a productive conversation. You need a few things:

1) A point of view
2) Another person with a point of view (it can be the same or different from your own)
3) A sense of humor
4) The desire to learn - (ATTN: that means it's not about proving the other person wrong)

I'm mainly drawing on a recent "conversation" with my brother-in-law.

We do not talk politics or religion with Shelly's family because we are in disagreement with them on almost any issue you can imagine. The only time I even try is when it is clear that we are all in agreement. It's just not worth it otherwise. Her mom is terrified of conflict (and I think the story that follows kind of explains why) and so as soon as any disagreement over anything occurs she basically ends the conversation (even when she hasn't been part of it).

Well, the other day we were with her family and the subject of Stanton dropping the 2.0 requirement came up (if you're unfamiliar with this, ask and I'll explain in the comments). I stayed out of it because it turns out I feel like the requirements can be equated to soft racism, and her brother tends to not believe racism exists. Which is funny, since he is the second most racist person I know. Anyway, I let the conversation continue as long as I could without interrupting. I was pretending to read e-mail on my phone.

Finally, I heard her brother say, "The problem honestly isn't with the school system in general. It's the black culture. That's what is ruining those schools on the north and west sides of town."

Excuse me?

I said, "Josh, clearly those neighborhoods have been neglected for years by our city, and we should be really trying to make those schools the very best in order to break the cycles and structures that are in play. I mean, everyone should have a quality education. Not just those in the 'good' parts of town."

He said, "It's not the schools, it's the culture."

I said, "And school is part of culture. It may even be the primary place we learn culture."

Now, up to this point it was clear he was irritated at my liberal notion that everyone should have access to quality education. I know, I'm a commie. But, it hadn't quite seemed to break any of my above rules.

Until he shouted, "You just want the government to raise kids. Don't you see you're asking government to do way more than it's meant to?"

Talking points are not the way forward in a conversation. Shouting me down is not the way forward. Treating me like I'm stupid and naive is not the way forward. I tuned out because it was no longer about learning anything. It was about being right. And I really don't care how right you think you are (or how right I think I am, for that matter). If we are to move forward as a society, the conversation has to become about how to move forward as a society, not who has the right ideology.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All the kids ain't doin' it

Craig Ferguson has a great clip on You Tube right now. A piece:

If you don’t vote you’re a moron. I know that you say, “Not voting is a vote”. No it isn’t; not voting is just being stupid. Voting is not sexy, is not hip, it is not fashionable, it’s not a movie, it’s not a video game, all the kids ain’t doin’ it. Frankly, voting is a pain in the ass, but here’s a word, look it up, it is your DUTY to vote.

You can watch the whole clip here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Zoe the warrior woman


So I must admit I am a little (okay a lot) intimidated by guns. This might have something to do with the fact that I have had almost no exposure to guns; I've never even held one - the closest I've come is holding the bullets for my grandfather while he loaded his hunting rifle when I was little. However, I love to try anything new and I am all about getting past my fears/biases, so when the guy I'm dating mentioned going to the shooting range, I was all in.

Walking in the shop, I think I was more intimidated by the NRA posters and large quantities of camo than I was by the copious amounts of guns. And there were a lot of different types of guns. I mean, how many different ways do you really need to kill someone? They even had a handgun with a pink handle. (I think they were aiming for my demographic...pink makes everything better!) We rented a 9mm, bought some bullets and a paper dude to shoot at, and went in. After a few lessons on how to line it up and how not to anticipate the shot (which would make me jump and throw off my aim), I started having fun. I messed that paper dude up! I learned something new about myself - I'm actually a good shot (never saw that coming). And while I don't think I'll ever own a gun, I like being more knowledgeable (and feeling a little like Zoe from Firefly).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cold moose killa

There is so much I could say about Palin. But this says it all - with a beat:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The RNC

Is about to make my head explode. Rudy Giuliani's speech was one of the most ignorant diatribes I've ever heard.

Fuck you Giuliana Depandi


I was reading this post over at Feministe which mentions Giuliana Depandi's book Think Like a Guy: How to Get a Guy by Thinking Like One, which should have been called Think Like a Misogynist: How to Write a Book That Compares Dating Women with Killing and Cutting Up Animals. In the intro offered for free on Amazon.com she tells the reader that men really want women that play hard to get and offers this metaphor:

“If a deer hunter lands his prey within the first five minutes he’s in the woods, he’ll experience an immediate sense of excitement…but the joy will wear off as quickly as it came, and in no time he’ll move on to his next victim. Therefore, you have to let a guy sweat it out. Imagine this: A hunter enters the woods and after about seven or eight minutes, he spots his prey. He cocks his gun, takes aim, fires--and misses. No big deal. He cocks his gun again…and misses again, and again, again. After several attempts, he starts getting really frustrated. Does that mean he’s gonna pack up and go home? Hell, no! In fact he’s gonna go after…the one that’s a little too sly and ‘evades’ him. ..As he sits against a tree, nearly defeated, he hears a rustle. He … fires his forty-ninth bullet. And with one shot he strikes his prey right in the heart …He treats this particular one with dignity…once he gets home, he cooks up and bites in to the most delicious deer meat he’s ever tasted…he mounts the deer’s head on the wall directly within eyeshot of his desk so he can admire it for years to come.”

So if you want a man who is gonna shoot you, eat you, and then mount your remains on the wall - play hard to get! This is some of the worst misogny I have ever read, the woman is "the victim" and "his prey". "No" doesn't mean no! "No" just means you have to try harder in order to shoot me, do whatever you want with my insides, and make me your trophy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The breeding properties of M&Ms

This was linked on qwantz.com and is HILARIOUS:


Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels.

Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them breaks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round.

I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theater of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world.

Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.

When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A., along with a 3x5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."

This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.

There can be only one.

Politics for Kids

A little history: My parents, especially my dad, are VERY conservative. I have a nine-year old little sister who basically only hears one perspective all the time. Apparently in the car on the way to a family dinner last night, my parents were discussing McCain's veep choice and my sister, like all little kids, is agreeing with everything her dad says. When they get to the restaurant, my mom, the pacifist, suggests leaving the conversation in the car because she doesn't want it to get ugly between my dad and I. My little sister asks why, and my mom tells her because I'm voting for Obama. My sister says, "Why is she voting for Obama?!?" My mom tells her to ask me later, in private.

So she finally gets me alone after dinner and asks me why I'm voting for Obama. And I'm thinking, "How do I explain this to a nine-year-old?!?"

I started by trying to explain the fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans- more/less govn't, etc. Then I told her a couple of the reasons I am a Democrat in the simplest way possible:
1) Equal pay for equal work. I asked what she would think if my mom offered to give my brother $1.00 to do a chore, but would only give her 75 cents to do the same chore. She thought that would be unfair.I told her that McCain voted against legislation that would allow women to sue for being paid unfairly. (In other words, McCain thinks its cool for us to make .75/1.00.)
2) The rights of all Americans regardless of sexual preference. I told her I thought that if two people are in love, they should be able to get married, whether or not they are a woman and a man, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.
3) Abortion. She asked me, "But what about abortion? Abortion is bad right?" I told her having an abortion is a tough choice, but that as long as women can get pregnant, women will have abortions, so there needs to be safe, legal abortions to prevent women's suffering and/or deaths. I wouldn't have mentioned this if she hadn't brought it up, I don't think that a nine-year old should have to think about abortion.
4) Money. Specifically Bush's tax cuts that McCain wants to make permanent. I told her it made more sense to me to give tax breaks to the poor/middle class people who need them, than to give tax breaks to people who are already very rich and just hope that it "trickles down".

She was quiet for a minute, really thinking about everything I said, her little brow furrowed. Then she said, "Okay, now I understand why you are voting for Obama." I told her that she should learn everything she can about politics and then make her own decisions and not allow her choices to be influenced by me, or anybody else.

What a smart, gutsy little girl to ask me that outright! She's gonna do big things.

Facebook Status Political War

I hope readership of this blog (by readership I mean mostly those of us who write from time to time) hasn't completely fallen off at this point. I know I'm partly to blame for nothing going on here lately, but I finally have something somewhat interesting to write about. Let's try to get back to writing more regularly. I really enjoy reading what you folks have to say.

I noticed something new during the DNC last week. Maybe if I hadn't been glued to the tv the entire week, political junkie that I am, I wouldn't have noticed it quite as much. What I realized was that people are now using their Facebook status to spew political rhetoric.

I've been somewhat guilty, but mine have been less rhetoric, more feeling. For example, mine said, "Quinn wishes he was at Mile High" on the night of Obama's acceptance speech. Others (I have to say, mostly, but not only, conservatives) were much more involved. One guy that Rachelle, Meg, and I went to high school with said "Rhett wonders if Obama supporters realize socialism has been tried before. It failed." Reducing a politicians position to socialism simply because he believes markets exists for people and not the other way around. Some weren't ideological, they were attempts at insult, like another guy from high school said, "Andrew wishes Obama would come up with something besides that dumb as [sic] 'yes we can' slogan." I guess the irony was lost on him in that in identifying something as dumb ass, he actually misspelled the word.

Anyway, I don't know what I think about this. I feel like already the general population is so dumb when it comes to politics, and I'm not talking about ideology. I know some very intelligent conservatives. I just mean that the general population are uneducated. Facebook status as a medium for political discourse will not help this. I actually question whether blogs even can.

Part of me wants to fire back at these people. Inform them that they misspelled dumb ass, tell them they clearly don't understand the differences between the Marxist tyranny of the USSR and the socialist policies of the UK or Sweden. However, I just don't think it's worth it. If someone is willing to bring the level of the conversation down that far, I see no point in stooping to try to correct their misguided feelings.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just wondering...

Am I the only one who had tears in her eyes listening to Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton's speeches at the DNC?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I love you Keith Olbermann!

Community

Rob stated in a post last week that "...we have been rescued not for ourselves, but for others." He and I have been having a lot of conversations recently about what true community looks like, and I think this statement ties in very closely with that. We've been talking about the idea that true community is when I am more concerned with the other individuals involved than with myself. True community is seeking someone else's best above my own preferences. And their "best" isn't necessarily equated with me being "nice" to them. It is sometimes saying what they need to hear, even when that is not what they want to hear. It is sometimes making the choice that they do not want me to make, knowing that it will be more beneficial for them in the end than what they are asking of me. And sometimes it's being a friend to someone I would not naturally be inclined to be friends with. It's the idea that the community is about something bigger and more important than just me. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To quote the movie Everything is Illuminated, "It is not here for us; we are here for it." (Granted, the quote is in reference to a burried wedding band, but you get the idea.) Anyway, these are incomplete thoughts for now. This is just what has been on my mind lately.

What does community mean to you?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Unclean Energy

I am astounded how some impoverished nations have found ways to overcome their circumstances by developing unconventional ways of producing energy or supplying sustenance for their communities. I was watching a program on the History Channel about India. First of all, I was very impressed by the irrigation system in Calcutta. They have built these deep trenches for the city sewage to flow into. The solid waste settles to the bottom, and the clean water from the surface of the trench is filtered into a shallow trench that is used to irrigate wetland farms. The deep trenches containing the “unclean” water are filled with certain types of plant life that naturally filter out the harmful heavy metals, therefore making the water capable of sustaining fish, which are no longer at risk of being contaminated. These fish, in turn, are caught and sold in local markets, drastically reducing the price that the members of the local community are required to pay for fresh fish. And that’s not all. On a rotating schedule, the trenches are drained. The natural waste is then harvested from the bottom of the drained trench and used as fertilizer for crops. Yeah, it’s a dirty job, but it sure is efficient!

Then, there was a teacher in a very rural community in India who has developed a way to use animal dung to make batteries. (He uses salt to cause a chemical reaction of some sort. It was a little above my head.) The batteries are about the size of a coffee can. Four of them could power a radio, and eight of them could power a television. The batteries last something like 48 days. And obviously there is an endless supply of dung to make new batteries. It’s basically free energy.

The thought that struck me while watching this program was that these ideas have already been developed, and are clearly not very complicated, as they are being used in very poor, very rural areas. Yet in the “first-world” we are not using these very practical, planet-saving ideas because they are just too uncivilized. Meanwhile, our “civility” is costing more money and doing more damage than ever before. I’m not saying everybody should have a case of poo powering their TV in their living room, but we sure could stand to learn a thing or two from those who have developed solutions to their problems out of pure desperation. Solutions born of desperation are often much simpler… and cleaner.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Freedom

I was doing my typical web trolling this morning when I stumbled upon the blog of pro-feminist Rad Geek. His site is interesting but it was a Rosa Parks quotation at the top that really caught my attention:

I’d like people to say I’m a person who always wanted to be free and wanted it not only for myself; freedom is for all human beings.


Love it!

Sidenote on Rad Geek: Hooray for pro-feminist men!

Friday, August 8, 2008

McOil

In this week's Talk of the Town section of the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes
Clearly, the only way to change America's consumption habits is by making those habits more expensive.
McCain, in his straight-talking days, acknowledged as much. In 2003, he broke with the Bush Administration and co-introduced legislation to reduce carbon admissions, by, in effect, imposing a price on them. That same year, over strong White House opposition, he brought the bill to the Senate floor. (It was defeated, by a vote of fifty-five to forty-three.) In an interview with this magazine, he said... "I think it's a dramatic example of the influence of special interests here in the Congress... It's a combination of the utilities and the coal companies and automobile manufacturers- an unholy alliance of special interests that have made it a top priority to prevent any action from being taken."


But now, he is this guy.

And people wonder why no one votes in our country.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Also....


Meg and I went to see Wilco last night at the Florida Theater. Freaking amazing!

So much trouble...

I have found myself at a loss for words lately. Well, not a loss for words per se, but rather a loss for good ones. I have wanted to say something that would answer all my questions, but such words don't exist. I read Rachelle's Spiritual Hunger blog which I though was great and honest, and it has spoken into some of my own concerns as of late. The main one being that American Christianity has been evangelized in a way more similar to products being sold on television than a community of faith living out a transformed existence. Rachelle and most people I know who would classify themselves as agnostics, have been fed an idea that "Jesus will make you happy." This of course is a lie. I am not the one saying that, the Bible does. Paul speaks of the Christian life as one lived in a way that if Christ is not the son of God, we are a people to be pitied most in the world. However, that doesn't sell. You don't get a lot of people to show up for a life of serving others. So what have we done? We have put Jesus in shiny new packaging, and sold Him off at bargain basement prices, all with the promises of whiter teeth, shinier hair, more money, a healthier, happier life, and eternity in Heaven. The worst part is that I have been guilty of buying into all that. I have used these ideas to convince someone to "buy my product," rather than telling them of the opportunity in Christ to bring real rescue into our surrounding community. That is the truth of the Kingdom that Jesus came to announce. It is about recognizing that we have been rescued not for ourselves, but for others.
This hit home all the more this week as I watched one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers, win this years TED award. He has used his success and wealth, and leveraged all of it to try and get people to volunteer to work with local public schools and invest time with students. He has developed a foundation, 268Valencia, which has over 1400 adults within the publishing and writing communities working directly with local public schools. Meg and I watched the video of his speech, and all I kept saying to myself was "there is no way that someone should ever have been able to beat the church to this idea." Inherently, an agnostic has been a part of something that brings hope and healing to the community, while evangelicals are pulling their kids and resources out of public schools. We have bought into the lie. It needs to end.
The Church needs to be the Church.

The Church needs to be the Church because no argument is going to convince anyone that Christ is here, if the people who claim Him don't live like they believe it.

I am not going to try and evangelize anyone here. I am not going to try to get you to "buy" in. I am not going to try and win an argument. I simply believe that Jesus is alive and that He came to bring hope, not happiness. I am sorry for the ways I have failed to live that out. I am sorry for the ways I have tried to sell something different. I want to be the Church, and that requires more of us than we have given.

As for Rachelle's post, thanks for sharing. We are all in community together. That is not dependent upon your faith, or mine.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Housing Situation Update

We went and looked at a loft in Springfield today. Wow. I want to move right now, as in right this second. It was incredible, beautiful, unique, and historic. It was a true loft with one giant living space (except for a small, separate side room) and 13 foot ceilings in an old converted school house. Hopefully, we will be living there in a month or so.

Silence

This post will sort of connect with Rachelle's post on spiritual hunger. Sort of.

One of our priests, Gena, is in charge of our church's center for spirituality. Essentially, the center is a group of contemplatives within our larger church family. Many of them make frequent silent retreats and they have weekly contemplative prayer sessions (they meet and spend 30 minutes in silence and then a few minutes in discussion). Yesterday, Gena unveiled a new "Comtemplative Eucharist" that followed approved liturgies of our church but left lots of room for silent contemplation and meditation in between the readings, prayers, and other parts of the liturgy.

Having grown up rabidly protestant, things like meditation, contemplation, etc. were not exactly the bread and butter of my spiritual formation. However, having become more familiar with meditative practices, be it for long periods of silent contemplation (as in the Eucharist yesterday) or for brief trips to our quiet garden or prayer labryinth at the church, have helped me realize how essential these practices are for us as humans (be we religious or non-religious).

We need to unplug. Mind you, as I said in the comments of Rachelle's post, not for long periods of time. I'm not the type of Christian that believes the world is evil, so it's best to disengage from it. But, I think a measured temporary detachment can actually teach us the beauty of the good earth and people around us! We need to not watch tv, not tweet, not read blogs or online newspapers or books for that matter, and embrace silence. I think this is why things like yoga are becoming increasingly popular. Besides the fact that it is wonderful work-out, it is a great way to disengage for a few moments.

Silence, though, is scary. This is what I battle with anytime I engage in contemplative prayer or meditation. Why is it scary? I'm not sure. I think maybe we live in a culture that constantly demands answers and explanation, and silence forces us to engage with that deep part of ourselves where, even in an atheistic world view, mystery still lives. And mystery in a world that demands an answer for everything is scary.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jacksonville

After 23 years of being just the opposite, I am slowly converting to being a Jacksonville fan. I know, that's really weird. I've been busy lately educating myself on the roots of our municipal dysfunction, and am encouraged that there may be light at the end of the tunnel (somewhere in the distance, and the light might be a train... hopefully some form of light rail).

Anyway here are a couple of helpful Jacksonville links:
Metro Jacksonville
Urban Jacksonville

My heart is also encouraged that our sorry little newspaper is taking a few leaps into the electronic age by setting up a twitter account. It's rad.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spiritual Hunger

As I've mentioned before, I stand at the agnostic/atheist crossroads. There are several things that keep me from taking the plunge to atheism - and one of them is the topic of this post - spiritual hunger. In my journey from post-adolescence to adulthood I've realized that most of the people in the world are not happy. It's as if they know there is something more, and they don't have it. People try to fill this sadness with things like drugs, alcohol, sex, food,fundamentalism, hell, even golf. Unfortunately, trying to find your happiness from these things might work temporarily, but ultimately leads to more emptiness. So what is this emptiness? Is it something to do with evolution, always wanting more to achieve the best you possibly can for your genes/gene pool? Or is it the sense that there is a bigger realm -an immateria that you are thisclose to, but can't quite reach?

Many Christians would give their right arm to hear an atheist talk about emptiness - what an opening! But here's the problem, none of the Christians I know are any happier than any of the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, or agnostics I know. If Christianity was truly about "the peace that passes all understanding" I would convert tommorrow.

There is one group of people I've met that actually seem to have an inner joy. These people belonging to all different faiths and cultures have one thing in common - they have decided to be joyful, to be satisfied, to be grateful. It shows in their lives, and while no one really knows but them, it seems that they have found a way to rid themselves of the aching emptiness that so many feel and create for themselves true, lasting happiness.

So what's your secret to happiness?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Music...

It has been a while since I have really talked about music with friends. As I don't really know everyone here, I thought I would ask everyone to reply with five of the songs, albums, or artists that you listen to most frequently.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bush, Jesus, and America

This is an older video of Bright Eyes, aka Conor Oberst singing "When the President Talks to God" live, but Kate and Adam mentioned they hadn't seen it, so I thought I'd share:


On that same note - check out David Bazan's (Pedo the Lion) "Backwoods Nation". I couldn't find a video but here are the lyrics:

Calling all rednecks to put down their sluggers
Turn their attention from beating the buggers
Pick up machine guns and kill camel fuckers

Backwoods nation...

Calling all doctors of spin and the smoke screen
To whip the new hate riots into a frenzy
Of good versus evil ignoring the history
Of the Backwoods Nation

Ain't it a shame
When due process
Stands in the way of swift justice

Calling all frat' boys
To trade in their hazing
Their keggers and cocaine
And casual date raping
For cabinet appointments
And rose-garden tapings

Backwoods, backwoods, backwoods......nation

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Apartment for Rent... Maybe

Shelly and I are going to look at a condo tonight. If we like it (and if it's half as cool as its pictures we will love it) we may put in an offer before too long, which leaves us with a dilemma. That would be our current place. We have about 4 months left on the lease.

First: any tips? How should we handle the situation with our landlord?
Second: anybody know anybody that needs a really nice apartment. Our place is killer and we love it, but would also love to own our own place.

So yeah. I'm all ears (and a little giddy if you can't tell... I'm not giddy often).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Face of the Future

I know I do a lot of linking, but come on... there's some interesting stuff on the interwebs.

Check this out. It lets you upload a photo of yourself and see what you might look like in different renderings (if you were a manga cartoon, for instance). I kinda hope it's wrong, because here is me as I am and as it projects me to be in the future as an "older adult". Scary.


And for fun (and so you don't have nightmares) here is me as an El Greco:


Ok, so maybe that didn't do much for your nightmares. Oh well, try it anyway.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't ask, don't tell?

NPR had a piece on Morning Edition today about Congress revisiting the famous "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy of the military. It's okay if we send homosexual troops off to die for our country, but they can't have the same rights as heterosexual troops? What does this say about our society as a whole?!? A hearing was held yesterday on whether or not this policy should be repealed. Marine Sgt. Eric Alva, who lost his leg as the first casualty of the Iraq war testified,"...I realized that I had fought and nearly died to secure the rights for others that I myself was not free to enjoy. I had proudly served a country that was not proud of me."

Yesterday was also the 60th anniversary of the desegragation of the military. Colin Powell spoke at the hearing, as well as Vance Coleman, a straight retired African-American Army major general. Coleman compared the current policy toward homosexuals in the military "to the segregation he encountered enlisting in 1947". It was incredibly powerful, having one minority, from a group whom it is not longer socially acceptable to be prejudice against, defend another minority group, whom society says it is okay to ostracize, selflessly, without any hope for personal gain...I was telling Kate about it at work today and I actually started crying (crying at work = not awesome)because the change that could be made by people like Coleman speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves is enormous. Homosexuals currently serving in the military cannot speak for themselves because they will be immediately fired, and so straight military women and men and retired openly gay women and men (like Navy intelligence Capt. Joan Darrah)are the ones who truly have the power to make a difference. I am so grateful for Vance Coleman, Joan Darrah, and people like them. It makes me hope that my (possible future)children will grow up in a world where it will not be okay to judge someone or treat them differently based on their sexual preference, race, or sex.

Obama in Berlin

Great speech, I thought.

It made me think though. You know all the fundies are gonna start labeling him the anti-Christ. I mean, come on, if people other than Americans like someone, clearly they must be a servant of the beast. Flashing back... fundy school... Bob Grey... arrrrrrrgggggggg

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Political Quiz

If you're like me, [shudder], you probably love a meaningless political quiz to tell you what you believe. This one operates with 4-axes, which is a little different than any I've taken before.

I scored, on a scale of 0-12:
Conservative-12-Progressive (so I scored fully progressive)
Capitalist Purist-12-Social Capitalist (so, yeah, basically a socialist)
Libertarian-2-Authoritarian (I think I got knocked down a couple notches because I'm against outsourcing jobs)
Pacifist-0-Militarist (No big suprise)

Dark Knight

It is hard for a movie as overly hyped as the Dark Knight to live up to expectations. However, the movie, which Meg and I enjoyed in IMAX form, succeeded on every level. It was not the best movie I have ever seen, but it was one of the best movies of the comic genre ever made.
It goes without saying that Heath Ledger will probably win a posthumous Oscar for the performance. I also think that Maggie Gyllenhal will get a nod. Ultimately, as a comic book nerd, I appreciate the way that Chris Nolan has resurrected the franchise. He has done a great job giving batman the humanity that makes him such an interesting character. My one complaint about the movie is that the IMAX has no previews, which means that I did not get to see the Watchmen trailer.

After the movie, I had a conversation with a fellow comic nerd about which remaining comics we would like to see turned into movies. The only one left, for me, is Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.
If you have never read The Sandman, I would encourage you to go and pick up the first book as soon as possible. Not only do I think it is the best comic ever written, it may be one of the best pieces of literature written in the last 100 years.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What else is the Constitution good for really?

Over at Feministe they are discussing Bush's latest plan to make birth control illegal. The post is well written, but I am still laughing hysterically over Lauren's footnote. And I quote:

"Some of Bush’s recent attempts of wrestling media glory away from Obama and McCain appear to be pretty transparent attempts at reclaiming his legacy. It’s way better for the future of his vainglorious presidential library if he can be remembered as an evangelical, lady-killing rock star by his base, instead of being remembered as the man who wiped his ass on the Constitution, abandoned thousands of citizens in crisis, abused the good faith and young bodies of his troops, and waged an unnecessary war to avenge the name of his father."

Per Se: A Vexation

Having shown my linguistic cards last week, that I believe what words popularly mean is more important than how they look or how the dictionary might define them, I would like to explore my hypocrisy by discussing one of my most extreme linguistic frustrations.

The winner is... when people use the phrase per se incorrectly.

Per se has a very simple meaning. It means, essentially, "in and of itself." You might use it in this way, "I'm not opposed to violence in film per se, it can be used to make powerful points about our humanity. I just hate mindless bloodletting." That, my friends, is a successful use of the phrase.

However, sadly, many use this word for other, more sadistic purposes. The most popular is as a stand in for the word "say," as in, "So, per se you were going to a movie, and you wanted to see mindless bloodletting. You might check out Night of 1,000 Corpses." This is a total perversion of the phrase, and makes it so that, in the end, no one understands what the hell the phrase actually means. People also enjoy throwing this phrase randomly into [incorrect] places to bring about those warm, fuzzy feelings of intelligence. That is sad, so I will not interact with it.

I encourage you, nay, plead with you. Take this phrase back. It is a good phrase. It rolls off the tongue nicely (cellar door, schmellar door). Just let it roll correctly.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Dark Knight

Meg and I are going to see the Dark Knight at the IMAX tomorrow. I will throw my two cents in afterwards. However, I will say that siting the movie for being the downfall of western civilization or for changing your personal philosophy on anything is perhaps giving it too much credit. It is entertainment. Entertainment done exceptionally well, I imagine, but entertainment nonetheless.

Awesomeness, Part 2...

After my recent spill into Modern Jackass territory, I thought it better to return to my area of expertise. With that in mind, I would like to present the second installment of "awesome/not awesome."

1."Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love" by Coldplay.
Awesome! While Viva La Vida is hit or miss, this song hits it out of the park. Josh Hamilton got a hold of this one! "Lovers in Japan" is fun and upbeat which then leads it's way into the almost hymnal "Reign of Love." Marrying the two was the best choice Coldplay has ever made as a band.

2.Pandora Radio
This has become a much discussed topic lately. I am here to wage in with an official "Awesome!"
The application on iphone 2.0 is my only exposure to the site, but it is enough. I am most impressed with the massive selection that they have. It is like a friend who knows what music you like is consistently making you a new mix cd.

3.The Gym
Not Awesome. This is one of the areas where something is good, but not awesome. Helpful, but not cool. Going to the gym is great for you, just not great. Meg and I have recently been going to the gym in order to try and lose weight and get in better shape. While the feeling after you have been to the gym is great, actually being there is weird. I wear glasses, but I don't when I am going to be sweating profusely. In the gym, this leads to my squinting to see where I am going, but looks to the women exercising like I am checking them out in a really creepy way. I can tell once I get close enough that everyone is looking at me with concern, but at this point to tell them that I wasn't staring at them would only make things worse. My sweating also means that I have to clean off all of the equipment I use after every exercise, which makes me feel more like a staff member rather than the fat guy paying 20 bucks a month to be there. However....

4.NPR's "This American Life"
Supreme Awesomeness. The one highlight of the gym is that I can listen to my American Life podcasts while running on the treadmill. Let me tell you, Ira Glass would be the world's most awesome workout partner. Also, in a recent episode titled "A little bit of knowledge" (#293), Ira helps to point out a phrase that I believe we should adopt in this blog. Whenever someone speaks with supposed authority about an issue with which they have very limited knowledge, they are talking like a contributor to Modern Jackass, a fictional magazine.

5.iTunes releasing the "100 most essential" pieces of classical music for just $5.99.
Awesome. Classical music, with it's timing and structure, has such wide spanning influence in the worlds of current music, literature, acting, and speech. Itunes has made it easy for everyone to get a hold of the most famous and celebrated pieces of classical music for less than six bucks.

6.Campaigning for the vote of the apathetic.
Not awesome. Their are certain unfortunate parts of the political process that come with the territory. If I had to pick a Republican to run for president it would have been McCain. I like him. I will not be voting for him, but I respect him. At least, I did. However, the loss of respect has not been isolated to the GOP candidate. Obama has done the same. Two men, both of whom I like, are running away from themselves in order to try and please all the people, all the time. It is a fools errand with steep prices. It is politics, and I guess it is the price you pay, but it points out the biggest problem with democracy. Winston Churchill said it best, "the best argument against democracy is five minutes with the average voter."

7.Volunteering.
Awesome. I leave you all today with this challenge; if you are not currently volunteering in your local community, helping the people whom your wealth or education would otherwise keep you away from, you have one week to do so. I promise it will be an AWESOME experience, and there is no excuse not to.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Is The Dark Knight the End of Western Civilization?

Again, for the record, I agree with Rachelle on the movie, but Brant Hansen argues otherwise. Thoughts? (Hat Tip: Boar's Head Tavern)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The wait is over...or is it?




I saw Dark Knight Thursday and it was amazing. Everything I expected and more. The acting, plot, visuals, and symbolism were superb (side note: someone actually wrote a book about the ideas this movie presents - Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul...interesting). Heath Ledger's Joker was deeply disturbing, but also, at times, funny - true skill and a tragic loss. Christian Bale is a perfect Batman (one more side note: I just found out via Wikipedia that Christian Bale's stepmother is Gloria Steinem? One more reason he's awesome.) Maggie Gyllenhaal added depth and nuance to Rachel Dawes (this was much lacking in Katie Holmes' Rachel in Batman Begins) and Aaron Eckhart was also fantastic. If you haven't seen it yet - go! The one torturous thing about this movie, the trailer for Watchmen - which looks mind-blowing, but won't be out until March of 2009. Oh the torture...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pandora Radio

Want free online radio that's user friendly and very responsive to your preferences? Check out Pandora Radio. It's great. A quick note, though - I'm pretty new to it (I found out about the service when I downloaded iPhone 2.0 and there was a free application available). Thus, I have not yet had time to get an awesomeness ruling from Rob.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's finished!

My pin-hole camera is finished! There were a few minor setbacks, namely that the PDF template I downloaded was inaccurately sized, but after some adjustments, it is now complete.

This is the inside portion:

The film gets sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard, with a frame opening up to the inside of the light-tight box.

This is what that part looks like all closed up and from the front:

You can see the tiny pin-hole on the aluminum in the middle.

And here's the finished product:


The above picture, in my opinion, is misleading as to the size of the camera, so here's another:


Today was a rainy, gloomy day, so I haven't started photographing yet, but whenever that takes place, I will post the results. I'm pretty stinkin' excited!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Today

We were doing panel discussions at the camp I'm working. The panel consisted of people representing difference in the areas of race, sexual orientation, religion, ability, gender identification, gender, age, and class. They were asked to discuss the first time they were made to feel different. All were fantastic. I'd like to share two of the stories that I found especially powerful.

One gentleman, an African American, talked about being part of the group that essentially started NASA in the Air Force. He told about how he left Jacksonville just after high school. He said that in all his time of serving in the Air Force he was never made to feel different. He was accepted. He was brave. He subjected himself to all kinds of insane physical extremes so that the first astronauts would be safe. Again, he said the whole time he never felt different, he felt proud. Until one day he was coming home from Arizona to see his father before his father died. It was in the late 50's, and he, in his military uniform was refused food service all through Texas. In Mississippi, he began to become fearful because the billboards were printed with outright racist warnings against anyone of color stopping in those towns after dark. The man had parachuted out of hot air balloons well above what a normal human could do, he had been subjected to all kinds of difficult tests of the way speed interacts with the human body, and was never scared. But, this grown man was made afraid to even stop for gas because of his skin color. It was powerful. More powerful, is his current attitude. He got involved very early with the NAACP and has worked tirelessly for racial reconciliation. He was like Desmond Tutu with a beautiful smile that in and of itself could bring down some of the walls that divide us. It was great.

A woman representing class difference was speaking. She was intelligent, engaging, and beautiful. She explained her story, and to sum it up quickly, she was a victim of all the structural violence one could possibly think of. It was awful. However, she was commenting on the sort of assumptions people make about her, and she said something amazing. She has six children, and she was talking about how people criticize that and assume she sleeps around (all of the children have the same father) and should have thought better about having all of those kids. She said this, "I just tell them, my children are not the problem. There are lots of things that have put me in my situation, but my children are not one of them. I would not trade my children for anything." It was beautiful. She went on to say that she is back in stable housing and is starting nursing school in the fall.

Latest Endeavor

So I'm not sure how many of you are into artsy stuff, so whether or not you care about the following is up in the air. Having said that, I'm making a pin-hole camera this week. A pin-hole camera is basically the most primitive form of camera. It's literally a light-tight box or container with a tiny hole on one side that can be uncovered for specified time periods, allowing light in, which then creates an image on the film or photographic paper housed on the back side of the box. I made one in college in my photography class that used photo paper, but this one will be for film, meaning I don't need a dark room. I'm pretty excited about it. I'll post photos when they are completed.

... and on to a new topic

I gather from the intros that we are all Floridians. I tend to be quite the proud one, in as much as being a Floridian, and not a southerner (a topic for another day maybe) has defined much of my personality in terms of social interaction. This weeks Time magazine has an article about the Sunshine State that leaves me feeling kind of hopeless. We are currently #1 in the nation in mortgage fraud, #2 in foreclosures, dead last in graduation rate, and as we have an economy based almost solely on the service industry, we are going through tough times as rising gas costs have slowed many Americans summer vacation plans. Not a lot to be thrilled about.

So here are my questions, what is the best thing about living in Florida? What about living in Florida has most influenced you? Lastly, where else would you go, if it came to that?

An apology...

I would like to apologize for the aggressive tone of my last post. I am certainly willing to admit that I am probably the last person who should and can speak with any true insight into matters of feminism. My aim with the previous post was not to offend, but to encourage us to move towards action. After reading all of the comments, I can grasp that language is in and of itself an action, at least the process of changing it.

I am so thankful that in circles like this everyone comes from a slightly different place and perspective. Anyways, please accept my sincerest apologies for any offense or outrage caused. It was not my desire. As is common for me, I will certainly be wrong as much, if not more, than I am right.

Humbly yours,
Rob

Moving on from here

I must say, I thoroughly enjoy discussing all things linguistic. If you people need to move on, I'm fine with that, too. I think things got a little too heated for the type of discussion this could have been, what with all the outraging and see-here-ing. It seems to me that actual academic debates that currently (not to mention historically) exist among linguists should not be so quickly poo-pooed as irrelevant. I do find it curious and a bit disconcerting when men (self-proclaimed feminists or not) want to define what legitimate feminist issues are, but that's another topic for another day. I hope that, moving forward, we can have legitimate, thoughtful (and gracious) academic discussions.

I wonder if we (who don't know each other personally) might have a better time of this if we all met for dinner/discussion one night. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Just Thinking.

I'm starting to wonder about why we (human beings in the United States) are continually willing to accept the masculine words for male persons as generic for a mixed group or even just women. We understood the problem with "men" but then moved on to "guys" and act like it's no big deal and completely different. We never entertain the idea of saying "Hey ladies" or "Hey gals" to a mixed group or group of men... why? In most cases, I can't seem to see a malicious intent or concerted effort to ensure that it works this way, but why does it keep working this way? Why will women, to a higher degree, allow themselves to be referred to as men with far, far less push-back than men who are referred to as women?

I have no serious answer to this other than we allow it and believe it to be of no serious consequence. Then, when one brings it up as an issue, she is put down as over-sensitive. If "guys" is alright for all people, why did we even bother leaving "men" behind?

If you read this as a ranting, scathing indictment (maybe some believe it should be), we can thank the lack of voice inflection available on the internet. No, this is a searching wonderment, a bewilderment that comes with looking at things a tad askew and finding that perhaps having been a "good guy" (in many cases, certainly not all) is not enough to have kept me free from unknowingly alienated fellow human beings.

Something Different

I think we're doing a bit of talking past each other, so perhaps something new would be good (at least it would for me).

This week is the Lambeth Conference, for those unfamiliar (or uninterested) with the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion, it is a once every 10 year gathering of all the Bishops of the Communion. A number of Bishops were not invited this year (most for very good reasons), but one was not invited and for no good reason: Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire was left off the guest list because he is openly gay. This is a shame in my opinion.

However +Gene will be in Canterbury this week, and is blogging! If you are interested in the relationship between religion and human sexuality, you may want to check the blog out here.

Tree Needs...

Tree needs an expandAll, collapseAll feature.

Tree looks like [he] will learn the hard way.

This Tree does spread by seed.

Tree hates civilization, and who could blame [him]?

Tree goes to great lengths to ensure that everyone stays hydrated in the intense sun.

Tree loves the blood of horses.

Tree eats the light of the sun.

Tree has been extensively refurbished and offers excellent facilities throughout.

Tree will be repeatedly infested until [he] dies.

I had to take obvious liberties with this. Easily seen are the places where "it" was exchanged for "he" or "him". In most cases, I also just began where "Tree xxxx" appeared in the search regardless of preceding verbiage. This increased my ability to actually participate from a whooping 0%. I find it hard to believe that other people going by Tree don't need, eat, or love and have others posting about it online in the third person. I could be a first and you can help; get busy!

Hey, "you [sic] guys"

OK, I have dropped everything to respond to Quinn's post...

I think "you guys" is in fact sexist. Although I have been known to use it, I consciously try not to for the very reason this woman you mention is offended by it: it is gender exclusive. (I think my use of it has been a backlash against "ya'll"). Nonetheless, I have personally railed against this turn of phrase (and also, don't call me "man" or "dude").

Anyway, a "guy" is a man/boy. The opposite is "gal" for woman/girl. Therefore, using it to mean both is as troublesome as the generic "he". As always, these masculine-posing- as-neutral words become obviously problematic when you reverse the gender. No group including men will appreciate being referred to as "you gals". No group including men will not complain if a speaker refers to the group as "womankind". No group including men will silently accept that "she" actually refers to everyone.

That aside, plenty of words are covertly sexist, and I think we need to at least be aware of these secret slights against women that pervade our language nearly unnoticed. On the, I think, more obvious side are words like "fireman", "mailman", "policeman"; less obvious are words like "waitress", "actress", "stewardess". These are easily fixed: "firefighter", "mail-carrier", "police officer", "server", "actor", "flight attendant". Even more covert are words like "widow", "whore", "prostitute" and even "doctor" and "lawyer". These are problematic but don't have to be: the problem is due to people who feel the need to qualify them with gender marks or even assume a gender based on the word itself. For instance a "widow", a "whore", and a "prostitute" are always assumed to be women, so when we mean these words to refer to men we have to mark them: "widower", "man-whore", "male prostitute". Similarly, "doctor" and "lawyer" are assumed to refer to men: thus we have "female doctor" and "female lawyer".

Interestingly, words that primarily refer to women, and must be modified to refer to men, are words with negative connotations or words for occupations that are socially (or morally) rejected or marginalized. Many words that must be marked female in order to refer to women are words for high-power, high-income, well-respected professions.

Many people (mostly men) balk at these language problems; I often hear that even talking about this is just "splitting hairs" or is only a problem because of "political correctness". In my classroom, I can enforce proper usage (and Standard American English prescriptively avoids sexism). I point out that no one in a college classroom would hand in a paper with racist words, so it shouldn't be such a stretch to edit papers to avoid sexism. Equating to racism usually stops detractors in their tracks. On at least one occasion, I've had to point out the obvious to a student: that he as a white man in this country can ignore racism and sexism, or claim they no longer exist, because he is not immediately affected by them. He does not feel excluded when a generic "he" refers to all people because he is a "he".

This point really affected my current class when one of the men asked what we should do about older texts that use sexist language, such as the Declaration of Independence. He opened the door for an important object lesson in sexism and racism in language. When the text says "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal...", who, I asked the class, is made equal. One woman said "men". I asked the men to raise their hands. Then I asked them to lower their hands if they did not own their own homes because to have voting rights, for instance, one had to be a property holding man. All but two hands dropped: one white man and one black man remained. I said to the black man, "sorry, you were still considered property when this document was written." He dropped his hand. So out of twenty-five people, only one is created equal according to this text. Only one white, property-holding man can count himself included.

Words are shifty and slippery: they don't mean what we think they mean for all people. When words are used to exclude they are problematic, but words can exclude without the speaker intending for them to. Therefore, the responsibility falls to the speaker to speak carefully and precisely. I my classroom, I can require proper speech, but in the wide world of patriarchy, I have to speak against sexist language when I can, model proper usage when I can't, and otherwise hope for the best that people will be kind to others for the sake of being kind, or, if nothing else, so as to not gain a reputation for being an inconsiderate jerk.

We are making strides in educating people on the power of language (not to mention images) to shape reality for women and racial minorities. The more we, as Quinn says, "adopt a gender neutral tone," the more we can expect to see change in the ways in which people speak and think about the humanity of other people. This gender-neutrality is farther reaching than just the pronouns. They are a good first step into changing the way language is (mis)used to the detriment of the majority of the population.

Thanks for bringing this up, Quinn. This is one of my favorite discussion topics. As for questioning your sensitivity, I think that you are sensitive enough to recognize the problems inherent in language, otherwise you wouldn't bother with the "gender neutral tone" and you wouldn't even worry about "guys" possibly being an issue. So, no, I don't think you are insensitive, maybe just not as informed on language problems as you could be. Now that I've said may piece, you have no excuse, mister! ;) Seriously, it's hard to change the ways we speak, but the more we do it the easier it gets. I sometimes still say "you guys" even though I don't want to--it just slips out. But I can acknowledge that its a problem, and I can work to correct it. (And I can beat into my students that sexist language is wrong, wrong, wrong).

I wonder if "guys" never crossed your mind as sexist because you are a "guy" or because it is so pervasive in our culture to refer to all people as "guys". There's a great site (American Heritage Book of English Usage) that describes American English as it is used (not prescribes how it should be), and even it shows the distinction between the singular guy = boy and the plural guys = people. The fact that the singular is gendered even in common usage means that the recognition by the culture that the plural is also gendered is not far behind. Not to mention the fact that no one will ever say "gals" to mean people.

It's not a made-up problem; it's a problem that is more and more frequently making itself known in the collective language choices of the culture.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Am I Being Insensitive?

This week I am volunteering as a facilitator at a camp for youth interested in conflict resolution. The camp focuses on fostering helpful dialog between and among those with widely differing viewpoints. The primary areas of difference are gender, sexual orientation, and faith tradition (there are Christians, atheists, Muslims, and Hindus at the camp). It was a very cool experience today. I love getting to know people with whom I have very little in common. I almost always find it interesting, enlightening, and helpful.

That being said, I got a little annoyed at the end of the day.

The facilitators were debriefing. We were discussing what could be done to improve tomorrow and what went well. One lady said she had a complaint. In this context with Christians, Muslims, LGBT people, athiests, etc. her biggest problem... the use of "you guys" when addressing the large group. She said she did not feel included.

Now, I consider myself to be a fairly consistent feminist. When it comes to language, I adopt as gender neutral a tone as is possible in English in my academic writing. I usually go back and forth between "he" and "she" as the subject of a sentence if the subject is gender neutral. I also would love to see the English handbooks adopt a truly neutral substitute for "he" or "she."

However, never have I thought of "guys" as a masculine word. I have always heard it used to refer to a group of people whether all male, all female, or some combination of the two. I will grant that there is a huge chance the life experiences of this woman make something like this way more offensive than I could ever imagine. But, I just don't get this particular issue. It almost felt like she was making up something to have a problem with. Am I being insensitive?

Awesome????

After having read Rachelle's entry about her booze rant, I realize that there are a few questions amongst the group as to things that are and are not awesome. Being one of the nation's foremost authorities on all things awesome-related, I thought I would settle a few disputes.

1)Hookahs: I thought I would start with the topic that was the impetus for this blog entry. A Hookah, in and of itself, is in fact quite awesome (sorry Rachelle). Hookahs are a strange flower of delicious tobacco smoking goodness that come to us as a gift from the Moors. However, let me be very clear about this, Hookahs are cool only when smoked by enough people to occupy all of the octopus like arms, while in the middle-east (or at the very least, a middle-eastern themed place), and when it is pleasantly flavored tobacco that is being consumed. This means that you and your roommate smoking a bowl of the sticky-icky while sitting around your apartment in your boxers is NOT awesome. Moreover, it is this kind of deuch-baggery that gives hookahs a bad (and NOT AWESOME) name.

2)80's Music: Despite the fact that no decade has produced more karaoke style sing-along hits, I must admit that 80's music as a whole is Not Awesome. It is a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless. This is a declaration of unawesomeness for the decade in general and not for individual acts.
Prince=Awesome, Thriller-era Michael Jackson=Totally Awesome, Duran Duran=Hungry like the wolf awesomeness, The Police=Awesome, and U2 might be the single most awesome band of all-time. U2 is so awesome that they have done a complete 360 in their career from awesome to not awesome, only to come right back around to more awesome than ever!

3)Wine-Snobbery: NOT AWESOME! Wine is delicious. We can all agree. However, their is no need to be snooty about it. You like a $500 bottle of merlot from the late 70's, well good for you. Enjoy it. Don't look down your nose at those who can perfectly appreciate all the flavor and aroma of a $10 bottle of pinot noir from Publix. If you do, it makes me wonder what you are really enjoying, the wine, or your ability to pay for it.
This rule is the same for Whiskey drinkers as well. You will not impress me with your scotch selection if the first word out of your mouth is how much the bottle cost.

4)Reading the paper: Awesome! There are few habits that will be as good for you in the long run as reading a paper everyday. The better the paper, the better the rewards. It is the most surefire way to achieve your own personal awesomeness.

5)Educational Television Networks (Discovery, History Channel, National Geographic): Awesome and more Awesome. If you are going to spend your day in front of the boob tube, this is what you should be enjoying. Throw in some Daily Show and Colbert for good measure, both of which reign supreme in the land of late-night awesomeness.

6)Used-to-be-educational television networks (Bravo, A&E, Animal Kingdom): Not Awesome! I don't care how addictive you may find "America's next top clothes-designing chef competing for the love of the housewives of orange county who happen to be dog whisperers who married Gene Simmons," these networks used to be about so much more. While popular and good are not always mutually exclusive, there is certainly a chasm between two that makes it a rare feet to bridge the divide. These networks should have been happy to be good and less popular. Now they are popular and atrocious.

7)The Decemberists: Literally Awesome! What do you get when you put a MFA in literature into the mind of an unbelievable songsmith... Mr. Colin Meloy. Also, despite what Quinn may say, they are not indie-rock racists.

That is it for now. I will be back again to settle some more awesomeness debates.

Okay, so maybe I'm picky

As the token single member of this blog, I feel obliged to write token single type of things. Today's topic: deal breakers. Everyone knows the serious deal breakers - lying, cheating, racism, etc. Here are a few unique to me.

The top ten ways to repel a Rachelle:

10) Wearing the dumb-ass uniform of an Abercrombie and Fitch polo, plaid shorts, and flip flops.
9) Asking me if I like Lincoln Park or Disturbed. Gag.
8) Smoking. Gross. Enough said.
7) Telling me you hate the Internet. I like the Internet better than most people.
6) Unless it’s Halloween, you better not be wearing a cowboy hat.
5) Mentioning sex within the first five minutes of meeting me. Everybody likes sex, you don’t have to spell that out about yourself, creep.
4) Insulting my vegetarianism. You don’t have to be vegetarian, but please don’t make a crack about me murdering vegetables. Seriously.
3) Being a registered Republican. Voting against women’s rights is not sexy.
2) Insulting my dog. (Some moron tried to use this as a pickup line on me yesterday.)

And the number one way to make me give you a dirty look and walk away -
1) Telling me, “I don’t read much.” (Or, telling me the last thing you read was John McCain’s biography. Ick. I honestly don’t know which one is worse.)

If only I could meet my dream guy, Henry Rollins. His spoken word about dating is so a male version of me. Check it out.

"I want a woman who can sit me down, shut me up, tell me ten things I don't already know, and make me laugh. I don't care what you look like, just turn me on. And if you can do that, I will follow you on bloody stumps through the snow. I will nibble your mukluks with my own teeth. I will do your windows. I will care about your feelings. Just have something in there. I want one-a them readers, that’s what I want."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rolling My Eyes

Isn't it a bit ostentatious to have a tricked-out Hummer with a license plate that says "Blessed"? Or maybe that's just me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Booze rant

When did alcohol stop being a nice addition to conversation and friends and start being the whole reason for gathering? Arg. There is nothing more boring to me than getting together to drink and talk about the last time they got together to drink. WTF? Are these people's lives so boring that getting wasted and doing something stupid is the pinnacle of their week? Apparently. I love getting together with friends and talking about our lives, politics, whatever, and then adding maybe a nice bottle of pinot noir - but we are not getting together because of the frickin' pinot noir. (Or to see how much pinot noir we can drink in one minute, how much pinot noir we can drink while in a headstand, etc.)

Another thing, if you regularly play drinking games, and you are not a freshman/sophmore in college, you are a loser. This includes beer pong, quarters, and whatever other lame-ass games people come with up to have an excuse to get so drunk that the next morning they cannot remember what happened the night before.

Oh and one more thing, hookahs are not awesome.

Friday, July 11, 2008

InTree (like an "Intro" but about me, Tree).

It also sounds like "entry," which this is.

I'm an almost-30 husband (to Kate), father (to Gabriel), student at UNF, weekend associate at Home Depot (in the Garden Dept), artist, thinker, dreamer, and all-around eclectic individual. Now that I've completely objectified myself, let's move on.

I seriously have no idea what to write because I am prone to writing anywhere between too much and everything. My interests in the written and visual arts have long been a defining portion of my life. I recently switched Bachelors programs, however, from Fine Art to Philosophy. At the most basic, if not ridiculous, level, one can thank my massive critical fascination with all three "Matrix" films for that one (not to mention gentle, constant prodding from my loving spouse who really does want the best for me).

I love to read, write, draw, and play. My prized possessions include an endless supply of blank journals (my current favorite hailing from the Moleskine cultivar), fountain pens or G2 gel rollers retro-fitted with Mont Blanc refills properly cut down to fit, an old dingy sketchbook, a 1906 copy of an Edgar Allen Poe collection of poems and short stories, several various roleplaying game books (Changeling: the Dreaming, Mage: the Ascension, Hellboy, and Dungeons & Dragons to name a few), various Star Wars toys (ships and figures) and my massive LEGO collection. These items do not constitute a complete list, nor do they define me; however, they go a fair distance towards enlightening one regarding what I may or may not be as a person. I think. Don't quote me.

In the interest of full disclosure, as I see may share some points in common with Quinn and Rob in this particular area, I spent seven years as a youth minister for several United Methodist churches in Indiana and Florida over the last eight years. I always assume that people believe they know things about me based on assumptions they have regarding paid church work or Christianity in general. It looks like that may not be an issue with the group we currently have here, but your assumptions may be wrong, nonetheless. I consider myself a Liberal Christian Humanist. Meaning, at it's most grossly-inaccurate level, I am an atheist and I believe in God. This has the wonderful effect of baffling and pissing off both Christians and atheists. Well, it makes sense to me. More on that as one wishes, feel free to ask.

Politically, I'm a liberal's liberal with a libertarian streak. I don't know what else to write about that other than if an idea sounds like it came from The Left, I'm probably amenable to it. There are certainly exceptions to the rule.

Be well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Is Faith Off Limits?

I know that not all of us share the same faith if we have any faith at all, and even those of us that share one particular faith approach it in a variety of ways. However, I hope it is still a subject we can approach openly, honestly, and with no small amount of grace and patience with one another. If we would prefer to avoid this subject as their is very likely no consensus on it we can, but I think it should be part of our discussion. Any thoughts? If there is a green light I have some things weighing on me that I would like to write about.

OK here's mine

KATE NEEDS HULA LESSONS!

Kate looks like she is a 2nd head popping out of Lock's shoulder

Kate Does Filmography

Kate hates Bethel dances, and Kate hates feet.

KATE GOES TO DISNEY!

Katie Loves Jack and Pearl Jam

Kate eats a crickette, and Kate eats souls not food

Kate Has Koodies, Kate has many ugly outfits, Kate has some surprises, and Kate Has Arrived

Kate will be able to spend her hard-earned cash as she desires, Kate Will Never Let Go, Kate Will kick your ass, and Kate Will save your souls.

I'll give it a go...

1. Type in “[your name] needs” in the Google search: The Rob Store The place to get all your Rob needs. (yes even Rob has needs). The Item of the week is:. Rob's Hardhat.

2: Type in “[your name] looks like” in Google search: Rob looks like a rock star in this picture. ...

3: Type in “[your name] does” in Google search: rob does what he wants.

4: Type in “[your name] hates” in Google search: Black Rob Hates birds.

5: Type in “[your name] goes to” in Google search:Black Rob Goes Back to Prison (Who is this Black Rob character? Does his imprisonment have to do with violence against the hated birds?)

6: Type in “[your name] loves” in Google search: MySpace profile for Rob [Loves Hot Moms]™ with pictures, videos, personal blog, interests, information about me and more.

7: Type in “[your name] eats” in Google search: Rob eats a DOZEN (12) raw eggs.

8: Type in “[your name] has” in Google search: rob has a great job at CASS.

9: Type in “[your name] will” in Google search: Rob Will is an innocent man on Texas Death Row and an activist of the DRIVE movement which struggles for inmates human rights.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Funny Meme

Everyone should do this, it's hilarious.

1. Type in “[your name] needs” in the Google search: Rachelle Needs - $2100 in Political Contributions for 2008 (apparently I'm running for office, sweet!)

2: Type in “[your name] looks like” in Google search: Rachelle looks like she has a black eye or something (This actually does sounds like its about me and my accident prone past)

3: Type in “[your name] does” in Google search: Rachelle Does It Better (Nice...)

4: Type in “[your name] hates” in Google search: Rachelle hates that name and swears it sounds like a type of contraception (apparently referring to a band called 'Day 26'?)

5: Type in “[your name] goes to” in Google search:Rachelle goes to court in June or July (girls who share my name get in trouble...)

6: Type in “[your name] loves” in Google search: Rachelle loves to scrape ice off her car with a kitchen spat. (Umm...not really, this is why I live in Florida).

7: Type in “[your name] eats” in Google search: Rachelle eats the urchin (Huh?)

8: Type in “[your name] has” in Google search: Rachelle has been thinking (Yes, yes she has)

9: Type in “[your name] will” in Google search: Rachelle will single-handedly bring down the Pats! (Single-handedly! I'm a powerful lady)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Home Sweet Condo?

This weekend I went to my parents' house for dinner and ended up spending the night because of the bad weather and the long drive back home. I crawled into the extra bed thinking of how I felt somewhat at ease, not too different than if I was at home in my own bed. When I was 19 and I moved into my own apartment, my parents' home stopped feeling like home, but my new apartment never started feeling like it. I was there a year, and then to another apartment for two years, another apartment for a year, a rented condo for a year, and now, another rented condo, still not feeling like home. I like my condo a lot, its small, but its all mine and I have it decorated to exactly my taste (as much as my budget will allow). Admittedly, it is incomplete; I need more art for the walls, and I don't want to go the trouble of painting just to repaint again when I move. But still, why don't I have that true feeling of being "home", feeling completely safe and relaxed? Is it because I have moved so much? Is it because I don't live there with my family (parents or spouse/kids)? Is it because I don't have knickknacks?

When will I get that feeling of "home" back? When I buy an actual home, that is mine to paint however I like? When I find a partner and start my own family unit? When (and if) I have a child? When I stay in one place for more than five years? Or is that feeling of "home" something of childlike innocence that is forever gone? Or, to add a fun feminist twist, is this indicative of my patriarchal subconscious telling me that I should really secretely feel I should go from one man's house to another man's house? Nah, its probably just the knickknacks.

In any case, I miss it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sean, You're a Great American

4th of July... enigmatic holiday, no? On one hand I love it. It reminds me of being a kid, going wherever, watching fireworks, etc. On the other hand, I have grown less and less comfortable with it (particularly during the 5 or so years I spent in the the Southern Baptist Church).

I mean it's a celebration of all of these weird things that I had nothing to do with. It's a celebration of patriotism, which has in the last 20 years or so come to mean those who will unblinkingly support America's consumerist culture and think whatever America does is right. I'm not with either of those things, yet I still love this country.

I love that I can speak out against things I believe are unjust (even if I hate that injustice, at least in the last seven years, does not seem to have been on the decline). I love that Keith Olberman can tell the president to, "Shut the hell up," in a Special Comment without fear of going to jail (even though I worry that that may not be true in my children's America). I love that I can watch movies that deal with subject matter that would be illegal in other countries (even if I hate the way we blindly support movies that are simply asinine because of our need to see something else blown up). I love that we have the courage to put forward an African-American as a presidential nominee (even though I hate that ignorance has not died and his middle name is a bigger issue for some than his voting record, or fixing American foreign policy). I love that I can worship freely (even if I hate that some of the loudest voices in religious circles are the most hateful).

Hope everyone enjoys their day off! I'll end with Langston Hughes, this poem really sums up how I feel about America:

Let America be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")


Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?


I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!
 
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