Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Upon the Occasion of An Ill-Advised Foray Into Reality TV

It's not easy to scandalize an east coast liberal elitest. Not only am I more or less numb to offense in virtue of the thick skin I developed coming of age in New Jersey, I'm also -- or so I am told -- a moral relativist. I'm also vaguely preoccupied with Paris Hilton's perennial bralessness. And so it was that I found myself celebrating a theretofore productive evening by taking Dinner Part Deux (Spaghetti, Godloveit) in front of the Simple Life, a show that's never held my attention for more than a few minutes at a time.

This season's premise, I'm sure, is familiar at least in broad strokes: Nicole Richie (I so don't care enough whether I spelled that right to look it up) and Paris Hilton travel the country by Greyhound bus stopping in various towns along the way. In each town they stay with a host family and serve as interns in some random work environment, where they are given tasks that they inevitably and deliberately fail to perform. In addition, they typically terrorize their host family, which always seems to feature at least one beefsteak teenager son who mugs and flexes and shrugs and generally pretends not to be quavering and staring and fantasizing, one hand always jammed deep into the pocket of his hopelessly unhip pants. These men slip from time to time and shrink away, reduced to quivering adolescence by the imminence of women who at any given moment are cavorting through the fantasies of thousands of men around the world. And the girls torture them, actually one of the shows more entertaining motifs.

Everybody plays along. FOX gets another low-overhead semi-hit by which to line Rupert's pockets. Two poor little rich girls get paid money they don't need to feign crocodile stupidity (Nicole asks: "Is New Jersey a city or a state?" as though rich girls don't get high school diplomas from good schools) and occupy time that might otherwise be spent idly. Or rather, they are served on a platter an excuse to spend idle time in the presence of awe-struck awkward strangers on national TV instead of beside their Beverly Hills pools with their coordinated little rat dogs dutifully panting in the shade of overpriced pool furniture. Harmless fun, right?

Not tonight. Not by a long shot. In tonight's 9 o'clock episode, the girls found themselves in a Maryland suburb, staying with a very tolerant and seemingly very cool family with what seemed like a litter of tolerant and seemingly very cool children. Their jobs involved some sort of circuit board manufactury, which provided lots of toys to break (the toll tonight included a vat of tinning solder, a metric ton of bubble wrap, and some million-dollar circuit board clearner) and lots of middle-aged men to reduce to tongue-lolling children and women to irritate to no end.

And none of this is worth my comment, but it sets the scene for the one thing that is: the repugnant disdain, the uncomprehending pity, Paris couldn't stop vomiting all over the assemblyline workers. Three, perhaps four or five, times Paris blurted out, a propos nothing in particular, sentiments along the line of "Aren't they bored?"

The first time came off as the sort of tactless banter that is the signature staple of the show's humor. Harmless, as far as it goes. But the repetition of the sentiment, the revulsion on Paris's face each time she returned to the topic (categorically different than the disgust I saw, the only other time I really watched, when she was forced to observe liposuction in connection with the girls' plastic surgeon internship), reflected something perhaps prevalent among her few peers but repugnant just the same: an utter lack of appreciation for the lives most people lead.

Before you stop me by noting that it is precisely this dissonance that feeds the show, understand that I know this. I'm not commenting on the conceit in general. In other instances, the girls' blithe indifference to the contours of the lives of working stiffs seems to embarrass them more than it does the objects of their horror. Their fatuousness, affected or authentic, is the most unappealing fate portrayed on the screen. I would choose my own workaday, hand-to-mouth existence, and many others far meaner, in the bat of a perfectly curled eyelash if presented with the alternative of being rich and ignorant.

But the stuff that I saw tonight, on a national broadcast no less, is irrevocably cancerous. It's ugly, plain and simple. And -- what's worse -- its principal audience consists of the very children and young adults who are surrounded by and fated to the very existence the girls' failed to acknowledge as a dignified, and utterly essential contribution to their own absurd wealth.

I interrogate myself: am I projecting? I won't kid myself, not with you watching: I taunted myself with the specter of the very life I now would defend so stridently to motivate myself to excellence, to resist the urge to drop out, buy a motorcycle and tour the country. A thousand times I have thought about walking away. I still do. But it's the prospect of a life of monotony, of stagnation, of, for example, gluing transistors to a circuit board nine hours a day, that has made itself known whenever I have contemplated dropping out of the upper middle class go-go dance. It's a much easier routine to stay in than it is to leave and return to; the evidence of that is manifest every time someone says, "I was planning to go back to school but . . . ." I may not live a life of leisure, but all I've ever demanded is variety, and that requires options and means at least to a modest extent.

But what does it say that a show like this succeeds, runs three seasons, continues to garner significant ratings? Do people not see themselves being mocked, their lives belittled as diversions from the real, if futile, task of aspiring to a decadent life borne of runaway success? Is this our royalty, come down from their palaces to mingle with the laity, these bumbling morons of no greater distinction than that conferred by a household name and a body to die for?

Of course the assemblyline workers are bored, or at least many of them are. Of course, given a significant degree of choice, many of them would choose something else -- many, indeed, would choose to while away their days next to a Beverly Hills pool. But it's no accident that so many working class lottery winners keep working. And in any event that's the nature of the beast, and it's at the heart of why the Paris Hiltons and Nicole Richies of the world (yes, plural; they could be traded in for any number of idle rich girls without an appreciable difference) have something to do other than linger by their pools.

Deep down, the kicked dogs still can't resist the impulse to cozy back up to the only master they've known. Worship doesn't fade in the face of abuse; it requires it as vindication. Celebrity is a peculiarly American breed of faith, an observation long since validated by people smarter than I will ever be. But it's unseemly to think of the staying power of this inescapable obsequy, to the point of masochism, to some diaphonous ideal in which you, too, could fail to understand on the poor who sign your paychecks, such as they are.

Is it any wonder that wingnut pundits and politicians enjoy substantial success in part for their castigation of all things Hollywood? And yet . . . and yet . . . their message on this point would have no cachet if their constituents weren't tuning in on a regular basis.

Truly, the whole symbiotic thing is appalling. And if it wasn't for Paris's breasts, I would have turned it off much sooner.

Where Does Your Name Rank?

Care of Bloodless Coup and Eric Muller comes a nifty site that efficiently and intuitively graphs the waxing and waning popularity of names in the United States.

From this, I learn that my mother's worst fears have been realized. My name, only a top-30 name in the decade of my birth (and inasmuch as I was born early in that decade, and the graph spikes into the ensuing decades, one might suspect that upon my birth said name wasn't even in the top 30), and between 300 and 400 in the decade preceding that, has since spiked high into the top 10 where it has remained from the 1980's until 2003, the most recent year for which the graph provides data.

Which means that my once relatively obscure name is going to continue to increase in popularity in the workplace until, by the time I'm deep into middle age, it will be more common among my employees and associates than John or James or David. Just lovely.


And while I'm skewering poor usage, a day or two ago I and presumably thousands if not millions of others received from Not In Our Name an email with this subject line: "No Theoractic Judicial Takeover! Protest April 27th!"

Theoractic? I was all set to mock their poor editing with the ever-so-important subject line to their mass mailing when I opened the email to see if they'd gotten it right inside, at least. Nope. Two more usages of the non-word. And -- worse -- not a single use of the word they presumably intended, "theocratic."

Don't get me wrong. This blog contains plenty of errors, and I tend to overlook the small stuff. But when you're a multi-million dollar PAC with a full-time staff of marketers, writers, and political operatives, you ought to be able to get at least the buzzwords right.

Oh, and from the NION website: "The cost of 'free speech' in this country is very high. The suggested contribution is $200, but all contributions are very welcome." $200!? Even money-grubbing NPR typically asks for a smaller annual contribution than that! Given the parsimoniousness of middle America, I suspect that this Free Speech is expensive meme is a poor one to propagate.

Panning Matt Bai's Unfinished Book Before I Even Read It

How could I not, after reading his critically flawed little essay in Sunday's Times Magazine?

With this essay, Bai argues, somewhat convincingly, that Democrats have lost critical ground in failing to craft a narrative couched in popular values or morality. "Before [Terri] Schiavo ever became the story of the moment," he quips, "Democrats were wrestling over the meaning of moral values, with about as much clarity as you might expect from a bunch of cable-TV pundits debating superstring theory."

He presents two alternatives for consideration. The first, illustrated by Representative Harold Ford (D - Tenn.), goes like this: "We can separate church and state, but, by golly, we ought to be able to say that our spirit, our faith and our morals influence somewhat how we treat people and how we shape laws and how we implement policy."

The alternative view, according to Bai, is presented by Howard Dean who "counseled that if Democrats really wanted to win back churchgoers, they had to make the case that traditionally liberal programs like health care and community-development block grants were moral values, too. 'I am tired of having decent Americans who don't happen to wear their religious beliefs on their sleeves called immoral,' Dean said."

May I delay my substantive critique to castigate Bai's sheer hackery?. Thanks.

"Programs," whatever else they may be, are not nor shall ever be "values," moral or otherwise. They may reflect or perhaps instil certain values, moral or otherwise, but in themselves they are not values. Now, it's possible that Dean said in unquoted language something very like that, and that Bai is simply paraphrasing the sentiment to set up the direct quote. If that's the case, here's my advice as a reader and writer: don't. Never expect your readers to ascribe faulty logic or bad writing that doesn't appear in quotation marks to anyone but the author.

But that's just the appetizer. The main course is prepared over the flame of my umbrage at a false equilibrium Bai attempts to find in the two ends of the political spectrum that fundamentally mischaracterizes the debate in question. The mess starts here:

While the Democratic Party traces its ideological lineage on economic issues to the New Deal, its DNA on social issues was created by the union of the two principal movements of the 1960's: civil rights and the antiwar counterculture. The two are generally discussed as part of the same transformative social force of the era, but in fact, in the political arena, they reinforced very different instincts. The civil rights movement legitimized the idea of legislating and codifying morality. Where activist lawmakers or judges could find a constitutional rationale for overruling states and communities on a discriminatory social policy, Democrats came to believe that they had not just the right but also the responsibility to intervene. The counterculture, however, was all about radical individualism -- the attitude Republicans now snidely describe as "if it feels good, do it." In the context of the time, these contradictory ideas weren't hard to reconcile; to Democrats, and to most Americans, government's integrating swimming pools seemed clearly to be right, while government's banning books seemed clearly to be wrong.

Okay, as far as it goes I think we can all accept this account of things, although I'm not sure that ruling against segregation based on Equal Protection and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment quite qualifies as "finding a constitutional rationale" so much as finally acknowledging one that should have been "found" long ago. In any case, there is, as Bai suggests, something that might at least appear dissonant about these two impulses vying for supremacy during the 1960's. Bai continues:

The inheritors of the [Democratic] party, children of the 60's and 70's, have never been able to reconcile this contradiction . . . . Where their own communities are concerned, Democrats reflexively resist any notion of government as a moral umpire; they don't want some politician dressing up their kids in school uniforms or deciding which video game they should be allowed to play. * * * * And yet when it comes to the more rural and religious communities where other voters live, Democrats tend to view government, conveniently, through the activist prism of civil rights. Legislation limiting gun ownership or legal decisions restricting school prayer seem eminently reasonable, because they reflect urban and secular values that, to most Democrats, constitute an obvious moral imperative.

Matt Matt Matt, what in the world are you talking about? I mean, yes, Democrats tend to think they've got it more right in their permissive coastal Sodoms and Gomorrahs (at least, when they look up from their frequent orgies with underage boys) than the right does in its bible-thumping Footloose-ian heartland communities, but you miss a critical distinction when you attempt to contrast as inconsistent the rejection of government qua moral umpire on matters like school uniforms and censorship with its embrace of civil rights-related legislation, or that regulating gun ownership and the prevention of proselytizing in public schools.

Oh, wait, am I being circular here, you think? Arguing from the very knee jerk position (or should I say, straw man) you aim to expose? No, Matt, I'm not. Why? It's called the Constitution of the United States of America. The moral proscriptions the right would impose on children (and the adults who might as well be children, for all the autonomy the right would allow them) do not sound in any constitutional doctrine. Nor does the right even attempt to make the case that, e.g., there is some constitutional clause that authorizes massive fines for the exposure of a single breast, or the utterance of a single vulgarism, on national television. Ditto, school uniforms.

On the other hand, those supposedly inconsistent positions on the left actually sound in the United States Constitution. Granted, not conclusively so; at least some of these matters are subject to debate. But at least when the left seeks to ensure equality of opportunity a constitutional provision animates its vigor; when my party seeks to prevent evangelizing unwitting children with taxpayer dollars, it may advert to a two-hundred year history of Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The right's proscriptions, however, come from nowhere but Christian scripture and the corporate boardrooms of America. That is a categorical difference. It is not even vaguely inconsistent to argue for liberty (another value enshrined in the constitution) to behave and consume as one chooses while campaigning fiercely to maintain such critical values as the separation of church and state.

Once again a journalism shims the lower end of the table in an effort to level that which should not be falsely leveled. After labeling the straw man "hypocrisy" Bai moves toward his conclusion with more false leveling:

When it comes to morality, our first instincts always tend toward tyranny. Moral issues bring out the worst in our two political parties because the parties seek to capitalize on those instincts, motivating voters by turning them against one another and pushing them toward extremes.

That which is couched in moral values but unconstitutional cannot be permitted in a civil society that lives by the rule of law. The proper conduit for such action is toward constitutional amendment. And it provides telling, if not conclusive support, for my argument that it's the right, not the left, that has been reduced to campaigning, however hollowly, for constitutional amendments. It is the right's legislative enactments, moreso than the left's, that have been frequently struck down by the ideologically conservative Supreme Court due to naked overreaching of the powers enumerated in the constitution.

The left, on the other hand, resists those impositions of moral values it views as unconstitutional. This is not tyranny; and it's not even wholly an assertion of morality; it's a series of legal maneuvers couched in the hallowed legal document that has formed and guided this country through darker days than these, designed to preserve everyone's individual right to live according to his own moral code to the extent it does no harm to anyone else. This fundamentally libertarian impulse that used to mean something to the political right. This is not tyranny or sanctimony; it is a sacred endeavor to preserve all that keeps this country great for liberals and conservatives alike.

I reject Bai's attempt to jury-rig false parallels between the stridence and provenance of the right and left ideological camps' animating "values." He concludes, "Most Americans seem to understand that we are entering a time of complex, wrenching decisions that defy facile and self-righteous answers. Maybe it's time for politicians to admit that, too." Politicians will be forced to do so when the electorate catches on; the electorate won't catch until the nation's most revered news sources offer something more than the "facile" analysis reflected in Bai's essay.

One can't help but dread Bai's impending book "about the future of the Democrats." It will probably sell well and it will probably propagate virally the above-maligned fallacy, which is the last thing the people, and especially the left need. With friends like these . . .

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

In the Immortal Words of Ice Cube . . .

"Today was a good day."

On Gendering Our Infants

Zulieka, with a little help from Wamo's Amy Sullivan, considers the way subtle pressures impress upon human infants the shape of our socially constructed biases. I'll let her post speak for itself.

Dream Journal

Recently, I wrote that Zulieka had been blogging her fascinating dreams, and bemoaned the fact that recent environmental and personal changes had deracinated my own to the point of tedium. Because my new dreams are so much less engaging, seem so much less a part of my imaginative life (which is, of course, an illusion), I have fallen out of the habit of participating in them, of waking, sometimes smoking a cigarette, spooling the film back onto the platter and playing the dream again, and once again, in an effort to imprint it on memory. When you dream that your bicycle saddle needs to be tightened because it's shifting annoyingly, why would you care to retain it?

I have been catching up on a little sleep, the past two nights. Hitting the sack by 12 or 12:30, well-fed, satisfied with what the night witnessed me accomplish, reading myself toward the entrance to night's oubliette, drinking a last glass of water, turning out the light. Both nights, I have awakened in the early morning -- yesterday morning around 4; this morning nearer to 5:30 -- bladder full and the taste of one of my old Borgesian dreams synesthetically on the tongue of my mind.

Yesterday morning, I simply could not recall the dream. I agonized, picked at every shadow in my consciousness, overturned stones to see what slithered in fear from the light, and found nothing, no trace. But even without remembering any of the events or images of that dream, I simply knew I had an old-fashioned dream, the sort I miss and covet. Sadly, I imagined it was going to prove sui generis, at least for the time being, and I wouldn't even have its memory to add to my memories of so many powerful dreams from my past.

Last night's dream wasn't quite as superficially unusual as I tend to prefer, but there's no doubt as to the genre to which it belonged. Genre in my dreams is about tone, atmosphere, the visceral sensation of my internal response to a dream's offerings. This dream, somewhat normal to appearances, was anything but. And this time I was ready, ready to pay attention, to participate.

The gist -- and that's all I have time to share -- was that I was back where I was a week or two ago in principle, weighing two disparate job offers, sure of what I should do but not sure what I would do. Oddly, the employer's offering me the more remunerative position, made me an offer that was obviously less generous than their original offer, strangely in some attempt to lure me away from the public sector job: they offered me three quarters of a typical first-year salary. Amazingly, I took it seriously. I asked them whether it would return to the normal formula when I hit my second year, and they indicated that it might. Might!? Yes, might. But they assured me that in the meantime my lowly salary would incrementally increase over time by some nebulous bookkeeping magic to which I wouldn't be prithy.

Amazingly, I swung that way, asked when I'd start, and they told me training was that Saturday, 9AM. I woke up, that Saturday, just before 9AM and freaked. For some reason, I ultimately arrived at training closer to noon (what interceded eludes me, but something else happened), and far from being villified for my untimeliness, the partners agreed that I hadn't missed much, smiled warmly, indicated where I should go.

And there, among all the automata dutifully taking notes and watching some instructor, I suddenly realized that I had already accepted the public sector job. Amazingly, I decided that the only way out of this ethical bind was to explain to the PS employer that I'd decided to chase the money; I omitted to mention that the money, starting out, wasn't even much more than I'd make in the PS position.

For the duration of a cigarette I tried desperately to discern what this all might add up to. I drew a blank. I'm out of practice. I'm quite certain that I'm at peace with last week's employment decision. Indeed, I really couldn't be happier about it. But obviously I'm turning over some facet of it for further scrutiny. Too bad I can't figure out what. Yet.

For now, however, I'm content to recall fondly the mental exercise the past two nights have brought me, and to hope that whatever I did to reinstantiate the standing invitation to the oddest dreams my imagination can conjure continues to be effective. I feel better rested and more alive after a long night's journey into day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

On Mimesis and Confabulation

I watch people. I listen. I make up stories. Sometimes they involve me. And once in a while those stories that don't involve me don't involve sex. But this isn't about those stories. Those stories are infinitely more self-indulgent than even this medium deserves.

In fantasy veritas. Where are we more ourselves than in the sacred confines of our minds' most private recesses? Where the light is artificial, the heat is neurothermal, the music is twelve-tone and we just don't care.

The bus is nice. But then so is the street, especially in spring, where the permutations for furtive glances cast and returned are more numerous, more likely to suprise. The possibility of a gratuitous smile around every corner, at every street-side cafe . . . the hermetic, elevator-sans-faux-bonhomie environment of the bus hasn't a chance.

Plus ca change . . . only the refinement of my fantasy life, the cleverness, the occasional complexity, distinguish today's fantasies from those of the half-my-age me, dozing for want of one interesting discussion in AP English while the teacher drones on about what Heathcliff symbolizes. Later, I'll learn, or be encouraged to believe, her views are hidebound, a product of dated criticism. My radical feminist grad-student instructor in college will set me straight about Heathcliff. And suddenly I will find in dated high school critical bromides a new appeal. I clasm whatever icons are set before me. It's a bad habit. Like nose-picking.

Or staring.

In fantasies there are no pratfalls. No wine spilled, mouths missed, embarrassed self-effacing chuckles. Of course in fantasy, in mine at least, there is little olfactory simulation, only a modest soundtrack somehow tinny like an old transistor radio on the porch -- oddly, there really is nothing like touch. This last aspect, at least, must be true of most people or else it wouldn't be a commonplace that masturbation is, directly or indirectly, a manual task.

I almost typed menial. Which perhaps says it all.

I bottle strangers up and save them for later. Sometimes, I come here to preserve them as though in formaldehyde. An odd mimetic habit, I reconstruct them here, smooth their imperfections, diminish and sharpen a nose here, eliminate a slight distension of flesh beneath a brastrap there, record something more sensual and demure over a honking androgynous laugh, change blonde to brown to auburn -- build to suit, as they say. A dream journal of sorts; I save things here I would otherwise lose.

But in an adult lifetime of the interplay of my real world and my fantasy world, in which demarcations blur and relocate without warming, in that gloaming between childhood, when imaginings are chaste if mischievous, and senescence when I will imagine whatever senescent-me imagines (I'm neither so naive nor so optimistic to pretend to doubt that I won't, to some extent, be enslaved to certain familiar habits of mind, in one fashion or another, for the run of my days), in a lifetime of worrying about how others perceive me, there is one question it has never dawned on me to consider.

Do strangers ever fantasize about me?

Odd, these little cognitive sinkholes that grab at our ankles when we least expect it. I feel as though the answer to that question would have tremendous value. But then I often do that: overvalue the unknowable at the expense of the known. Denying myself the simple satisfactions of affirmation and vindication serves as a sort of calisthenics for my imagination. For what I don't know I'm left only to ignore. Or conjecture. And I'm terrible at ignoring the things I don't know.

coffee for one

there's only two of us these days who demand strong black coffee in the morning brewed from gourmet beans and it's not just the caffeine because one assistant has opted out from fear or sheer indigestion or something choosing instead to make her own lonely cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup each morning from a small plastic cone and the hot water tap in the 'cooler' which evidently doesn't always cool.

so me and coffee drinker one we buy coffee on our own schedule brew coffee to our own liking review each other's selections and brewing skill a sort of futile enterprise given the now-off-white mr. coffee that might be older than i am but still it's a little office subculture a sort of community formerly of four then of three then of two and it feels homey.

and then there was one because my brother-in-coffee is out today and i realize this at 9:30 having eaten a navel orange so taut and massive and thickly insulated it might have been a basketball and halfway through a not-quite-ripe banana these two elements of my three-element breakfast which was sort of depressing because today i felt like waiting until he brewed it.

actually that's a lie.

i didn't want to wait so i went ahead and started to set up the mr. coffee and it wasn't until i squatted before the water cooler that it dawned on me i would be brewing for one rather than two and thank goodness i remembered because when i've forgotten such situations in the past i've made enough coffee to kill a horse and thus proved under a durress borne of caffeine compulsion that i have the constitution of well something bigger or more steadfast or iron-constituted than a horse.

thing is in brewing for two it's nine 'cups' not more not less by the little white partially effaced hashmarks metering the slightly filmy glass of the coffee pot but when brewing for two my caffeine-broken math says six it must be six and six cups it thus becomes.

which if i survive is for the best since i have three weeks to leave everyone here smiling and five weeks of work on my plate and caffeine enables me to work and blog and read faster or at least that's what i tell myself when rationalizing.

as though from on-high something just fell on my desk requiring my attention.

i'd like to thank my parents without whom not my loving family and of course juan valdez.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Recommended Reading

Two articles deserve your attention.

In the first, Time reports that a partisan litmus test is being applied (without any precedent) by the Bush administration to identify which telecom industry execs can represent the United States at thrice-annual Inter-American Telecommunication Commission meetings. One industry rep who was denied the opportunity to attend had donated as little as $250 to the Kerry campaign, sin enough, evidently, to preclude his attendance. Says the administration, "We wanted people who would represent the Administration positively, and--call us nutty--it seemed like those who wanted to kick this Administration out of town last November would have some difficulty doing that." (Hat tip, in private correspondence.)

The second is an excellent article by Andrew Sullivan in TNR about the growing schism between what he calls "conservatism of faith" and "conservatism of doubt." It's long but worth your time. (Hat tip.)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Pittsburgh's Indian Trails

Recently, I mused glowingly about the fancy new wheels I decided to buy for my fixed gear (which still needs a name). This morning, I noticed the slightest little cheep coming out of the front wheel on each rotation. A little rubbing at the brake perhaps? I'm still not entirely sure, but in examining the problem I discovered that both wheels are already untrue, laterally. Nothing dramatic, but while when I bought them they were literally perfect, now one can observe a slight wobble from side to side when they spin freely. Easily ignored, easily readjusted, but impossible to ignore.

Because for this I can think all of the lovely potholes that no matter how many times I make the same commute somehow manage to exceed by just a few how many I can hold at once in my memory. Each day, I hit something, typically due to a momentary lapse of attention. For all the tax talk and firehouse closures and such, it might be more honest just to turn the roads back to dirt. At least then I could stop kidding myself and buy a mountain bike.

Attacking the Judiciary is as Exclusive as a Country Club

This Topic has grown nearly too big for discussion. I recommend that anyone interested in the developing story of the Senate's bid to end the filibuster and pack the federal court's with anti-abortion, anti-civil rights idealogues keep a close eye on Bashman's typically up-to-the-minute compendium of rhetoric and tactics on both sides of the aisle, which is where I found the articles I have selected to discuss presently.

I find notable the contrast between two recent articles. In the first article, the Los Angeles Times outlines a recent event in which fringe evangelical called for the defrocking or defunding of judges who diverge from an arch conservative agenda. I'm sorry, did I just say 'fringe?' I meant to say 'the position of the Republican leadership.' I found especially alarming this passage:

Claiming a role by the movement in the GOP gains, [founder of Focus on the Family James C.] Dobson concluded: "We've got a right to hold them accountable for what happens here."

Both [Dobson and Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council,] chastised what Perkins termed "squishy" and "weak" Republican senators who have not wholeheartedly endorsed ending Democrats' power to filibuster judicial nominees. They said these included moderates such as Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. They also grumbled that Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and George Allen of Virginia needed prodding.

"We need to shake these guys up," Perkins said.

Said Dobson: "Sometimes it's just amazing to me that they seem to forget how they got here."

Contrast this sentiment with this article, which found that private Republican polling -- not leftwing push-polls, mind you, but polling contracted by Republicans for Republicans -- found that the majority of Republicans by a margin of 51-37 do not favor their caucus's intentions to end the filibuster. Furthermore, "only about 20 percent of Americans believe the Republican statement that Bush is the first president in history whose court appointees have been subjected to a filibuster." (If only we could have gotten the number of people who connected Saddam to 9/11 as low, we might have seen a Kerry presidency.)

Republicans, of course, appear to be undeterred by the evidence of their constituents' disapproval. "'Polling on this issue is not going to make a difference. We are going to try to do what's right,' [K. Bailey] Hutchison [R-TX] said during the day." Funny, because when they claim to have public opinion on their side, they excoriate any decision converse to majority opinion as anti-democratic and out of step with mainstream America. When they're out of the mainstream of their own party, however, they justify their imminent defiance by reference to "the right thing."

It's also worth noting that among the speakers at the evangelical conference at which Dobson and Perkins determined to bend Senate Republicans over a barrel and love them like altar boys were none other than Majority Leaders Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. I wonder how they do it, sit there in a proceeding where fringe wackos are basically stating in unequivocal terms that Their Eminences are nothing more than punks to a bunch of bible-pounding revanchist rednecks.

And no, I'm not accusing the whole party of being like this. Indeed, the polling discussed above suggests the most of the party is far above threatening supposedly independent Article III judges with termination for ruling as their training and convictions regarding the law compel them to rule. The fact remains, the GOP faithful are letting their party be hijacked -- in plain daylight, and without even the benefit of a threatening weapon -- by some very scary people who make no bones about saying that they believe they bought the GOP and it now belongs to them.

I find this odd, also, as a rhetorical device because I reject the terminology of "swing" votes. I hate it when it's applied to Justice Kennedy or O'Connor, and I hate it when it's applied to the electorate at large. To say that but for the grace of the far evangelical right the GOP would go back to lucrative jobs as defense industry lobbyists is as silly as holding Justice O'Connor responsible for every case in which she was one vote of a five-vote majority. It's a rhetorical convenience, and lacks all discernible rigor. Just as no five-vote majority on the Court can occur without any of the five justices joining the majority, so can no congressman win election without a healthy dose of mainstream votes, no one of which is any less important than the votes of evangelicals. Perhaps it is true that without the fundamentalist right the GOP would not hold congressional majorities or the White House. But it's also true that they wouldn't hold those things without the good old-fashioned mainstream republican votes either. And poll after poll -- on Social Security, Schiavo, and the filibuster -- suggests those Republicans are a majority of Republican voters generally, indeed perhaps a plurality of all American voters. It's time for these people to step up. If the evangelicals don't like a GOP that's in touch with its moderate majority, than they can go home, vote Democrat, write in candidates, whatever.

But it's only mainstream Republicans who can wrest their party back from the depths of theocracy and the corrupt behavior that vocal minority is extorting from its minions.

Yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker that read "If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention." I want one.

Oh, and while I'm at it, how's this for reasoned debate: "For all the Republican talk about a 'nuclear option' to stop filibusters on stalled judicial nominees, the GOP has been firing blanks from water pistols while liberal Democrats beat White House nominees like rented mules." That's Oliver North, misrepresenting the focus of his own article -- the failure of Republicans to rubber stamp the class of Bush appointments voted Most Likely to Fuck Up Their New Jobs, the president of which is John Bolton.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Finger on the Button

So as the Republican Caucus in the United States Senate effects the first step leading down the garden path to the "nuclear option" -- sending to the Senate floor the nominations of their Honors Priscilla Owen (Texas) and Janice Rogers Brown (California) to, respectively the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fifth and District of Columbia Circuits -- we find the flood of bullshit in which we unwittingly stand to be rising.

Republicans defended Owen and Brown, saying they were fine judges and Democrats broke with Senate tradition by threatening to filibuster their nominations.

Owen "deserves to be confirmed and she deserves the professional courtesy of an up or down vote," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who served on the Texas Supreme Court with Owen.

GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Brown's home state, said Brown was the type of judge the country needs, who has "a reverence for our Constitution, who will approach these issues with independence, an open mind, a lot of common sense, a willingness to work hard and an ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

Senate tradition? If the American people are foolish enough to believe the filibustering by the minority party during various confirmation battles and in other contexts is not a long-standing tradition of which both parties frequently have availed themselves, then they deserve to drown. (I think the very definition of American tradition is anything that played in instrumental role in the plot of a Capra film, don't you? If nothing else, the movie should illustrate to the less government savvy public that, contrary to the reckless insinuations of the GOP, the filibuster is hardly an invention of the post-Clinton Democratic party.)

Furthermore, the putatively odious premise that a minority of 42 Senators can prevent the it's-just-fair up-or-down vote on a president's nominees is nothing when compared to the Republican's frequent practice of "blue-slipping" Clinton's nominees to the bench. Under this system, a single Senator based in the state from which the nominee hails has the power to prevent that nominee from having the aforesaid up-or-down vote on the floor.

So when a Republican tells you 42 Senators shouldn't have the power to block nominees, tell him neither should one acting entirely on his own, but that didn't stop Republicans from repeatedly blue-slipping Clinton's nominees, such that he left office with far more vacancies on the federal bench than were there when he took office, and far more vacancies than are on the bench now after five years of Bush, who apparently has had more success seeing his judicial appointees take the bench than he'd like you to believe.

Finally, "reverence for the constitution," "independence?" I'm afraid Senator Sessions has fallen out of step with DeLay, Santorum, and the stronger half of the Republican caucus.

"Independence" will get you drawn and quartered as "activist" (a propos which, thank you to Senators Leahy and Kennedy for specifically noting that Brown and Owens are "judicial activists" in every sense of that phrase), and "reverence for the constitution" is fine unless you think the three branches should all actually do the jobs with which that fine document charges them, notwithstanding the criticisms of other branches which behave like kids in the sandbox whenever they don't get their way.

I would submit that most Republican voters wouldn't buy a $200 television from a pimply TV salesman at Best Buy who played as fast and loose with the truth with such aw-shucks shruggery and tacit condescension as the GOP has on just about everything to do with this issue. They shouldn't buy their domestic and international policy from them either.

Notwithstanding the damage it will surely do the Democrats in the short run, I really do hope that, if the filibuster is killed, the Dems stick to their guns and grind Senate procedure to a halt. Piss on the whole thing; let's make everyone on the Hill squirm. God knows everyone on the Hill has been making thinking people squirm for too long, now, and turnabout's a bitch.

30 Seconds on Google UPDATE: Not only is the filibuster a tradition nearly as old as the Senate itself, but Republicans have hardly refrained from using it in the context of Civil Rights, and in derailing at least one appointment to the United States Supreme Court.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Folded over his walker
resting on his forearms
he isn't much,
isn't healthy plainly
isn't okay --

Insipidly I ask
"Sir, are you okay?"

His head alone defects
his abject posture,
jaw hanging somewhat
like a dashboard ashtray,
eyes wide with looking
through their tops,
porcelain powder skin
an extraterrestrial canyon
consequent to prehistoric flows,
relentlessly jagged
for want of an atmosphere's
soothing smoothing.

"Just resting," he says,
a sudden smile beatific through malady
aglow like an old globe
plugged into a forgotten attic outlet.
"I'm fine."

I set my coffee
in a shop window convenient to hand
and withdraw awkwardly
my silver cigarette case
while he gathers wind to ask
"Those Marlboros?"

"Camels," I say twice
to communicate once
and he nods,
examines his feet,
slackens his jaw with lifting again.
"I quit November ninth."

"That's excellent."
And it is.


I choke back inadequate replies
measuring words as I do now
oddly desperate to conclude well
this gratuitous consort
of dying strangers.

Candor: "That's a good reason to quit."

"Ayuh," he concurs devoutly.

I touch flame to cigarette.
Retrieve coffee.
Bid good day
with warmth borrowed
from the April sun.

Turn as though to lead him.

More Fun With Google

Check out Googletalk, a weird post-modern exercise in machine-intelligence automatic writing. Read the explanation of how it works carefully, and then start having fun.


  • I entered "bla bla bla" and through some bug or quirk of the program, it just returned an eternal sentence of "bla"s which was oddly satisfying.

  • The same thing, oddly, happens with "I grow old," which may arise from the repeated line in T.S. Eliot's "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" (I grow old I grow old / I shall wear my trousers rolled).

  • I entered "John Ashcroft is" and got this in return: "John Ashcroft is a man who when he is not HERE, for He is the author of the Fourth Gospel."

  • "Why don't we" = "why don't we Do It Our way, or the Highway to HELL. Highway To hell. Highway To hell. Highway To hell. Highway To hell."

  • Finally, I entered "[My real name] loves to", and quickly the algorithm returned "[Moon] loves to read. And write." What followed was gibberish, but it was striking. Because Moon does. And does.

  • Landover Baptist, "The Pope's Message From Hell"

    This article is almost too nasty for me, but generally I do love this site, and as always there are some gems. Landover Baptist, for those of you who don't know, is to American Evangelical fundamentalism what the Onion is to journalism. Here's an excerpt:

    The Pope reported that the conditions in Hell are bearable, though far from pleasant. “I had assumed that if I wound up here, at least I would be away from that anorexic, Mother Theresa, who spent her entire life trying to one-up me,” the Pope noted. “But not so! There she was. Apparently, she, like so many of us, assumed that being baptized at birth and performing Christ-like acts throughout her life would be enough for her to eventually walk through the Pearly Gates. It turns out that we both wound up here for different reasons. I was told that my unshakable commitment to Old Testament precepts, despite the Christ’s superseding words, was responsible for my plight. It seems I had just too much trouble dealing with all that acceptance, tolerance and compassion broohaha that Jesus preached. “

    By contrast, according to Heaven’s press release, Mother Theresa never took the affirmative act of abandoning her sense of self-worth, self-esteem and self-achievement by accepting what a miserable wretch she inherently was and asking Jesus to come into her life to supplant her intrinsically despicable self and make her a person of value, ensuring that she blindly follow the teachings of the Christian Coalition and G.O.P., without ever questioning their logic, motives or financial dealings. After weeks of waiting in the Judgment Day line, where Mother Theresa had consoled Salem witch-burners, 1960’s Baptist KKK members and Pentecostal child molesters, the nun was whisked to Hell while her audience ascended into Heaven since each of them had at one time or another, sober or otherwise, asked Jesus to enter their lives.

    Read the entire article, if you're comfortable with more of the same, here.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2005


    I find it intriguing that the day I have chosen which of two job offers I will accept is the same day the Vatican chose a new Pope.

    (Here, I can't get into the details of the job I will accept for obvious reasons, but I've previously discussed the opportunities in broad strokes, and in the words I used then, I have chosen to accept the offer of an "office the value of which inheres in the nature of its work and its prestige, rather than its compensation" over a much more pedestrian, but considerably more lucrative opportunity. My pragmatic streak is very narrow, it would seem. Here's hoping that I manage my new duties more responsibly than I manage my personal finances. In any event, this means, among other things, that I will be staying in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future (whether you like it or not).)

    NOTE: This should be obvious, but just in case, for those of you who know the offers at issue and thus know which one I am accepting, please don't be too explicit if you comment. Thanks.

    Hey DeLay, While You're At It You Better Impeach Scalia, Too

    Finally, someone states the obvious in a major venue: Adam Cohen convincingly demonstrates that Scalia has just as readily indulged a sort of judicial activism in service of partisan conservative ends as the supposedly run-amok liberal judges in the federal system and around the country.

    Justice Scalia's views on federalism - which now generally command a majority on the Supreme Court - are perhaps the clearest example of the problem with the conservative attack on judicial activism. When conservatives complain about activist judges, they talk about gay marriage and defendants' rights. But they do not mention the 11th Amendment, which has been twisted beyond its own plain words into a states' rights weapon to throw minorities, women and the disabled out of federal court.

    The 11th Amendment says federal courts cannot hear lawsuits against a state brought by "Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." But it's been interpreted to block suits by a state's own citizens - something it clearly does not say. How to get around the Constitution's express words? In a 1991 decision, Justice Scalia wrote that "despite the narrowness of its terms," the 11th Amendment has been understood by the court "to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition of our constitutional structure which it confirms." If another judge used that rationale to find rights in the Constitution, Justice Scalia's reaction would be withering. He went on, in that 1991 decision, to throw out a suit by Indian tribes who said they had been cheated by the State of Alaska.

    Cohen goes on to state what is obvious to honest Court-watchers, but conveniently ignored by right-wing pundits (just as they ignore the fact that, when they were in the minority, Republicans blue-slipped and filibustered more than their share of judicial nominees):

    Justice Scalia likes to boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads, even if it leads to results he disagrees with. But it is uncanny how often it leads him just where he already wanted to go. In his view, the 14th Amendment prohibits Michigan from using affirmative action in college admissions, but lets Texas make gay sex a crime. (The Supreme Court has held just the opposite.) He is dismissive when inmates invoke the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to challenge prison conditions. But he is supportive when wealthy people try to expand the "takings clause" to block the government from regulating their property.

    Thank goodness someone is watching. No we can only hope someone is listening, so people start to realize what scoundrels are the judiciary-bashing GOP blowhards (I want to be clear that not every Republicn is marching to DeLay's tune, and the scoundrel label doesn't apply to them, at least not with regard to the judicial issue).

    UPDATE: Apologies for not nodding toward Orin Kerr, who reached the same conclusion a week ago. Still, though, with due respect, VoCon is hardly the New York Times.

    Monday, April 18, 2005

    Things You Never Want to See

    Someday, I'll figure out how to post pictures here. Until then, however, you'll have to be satisfied with the occasional link. Here, find a truly depressing photograph. I don't think there's a body shop on this side of the Atlantic, if any anywhere, really qualified to handle this.

    Lamborghini Murcielago wrapped around a San Francisco telephone pole photographed by Aram. {Shakes head. Man, that's just wrong.}

    Suggested Reading

    In the midst of my trying-to-sort-out-what-job-to-accept-pseudo-woes, I've found far less time to post here than I usually have. Oddly, I have read almost as much as normal, which I suppose says something about my priorities. Or perhaps which provides a better escape: writing, real writing, the stuff this site promised to be about and has been if falteringly, rather than providing a portal into a world-not-mine, requires me to dive down some inner oubliette of sorts. I'm in a dark introspective enough place in my waking life; in my weblog-dreamscape I need find no more darkness presently. My employment dilemma, at least, will be settled by the end of this week (for my own sanity's sake, I won't take any longer, though I have a couple of weeks before I must respond to my offers), then we will return you to your regularly scheduled programs.

    In the meantime, per my above observation about readings, I recommend these three things:

  • First, Praktike, guest blogging at WaMo, discusses the conservative Iranian Parliament's recent attempt liberalization of its abortion laws. This is noteworthy for two reasons: first, even before this most recent reform, Iran permitted abortion where a mother's life was in danger, which at least a marginal fraction of American wingnuts wouldn't permit if they had their way; second, the reform would provide that "a pregnancy can be terminated in the first four months if the foetus is mentally or physically handicapped." This almost certainly is a more liberal position than the most of the evangelically-oriented Republican plurality, and more than would be allowed if the GOP had the opportunity to act on its pro-life rhetoric. The implications are obvious: Iran, so often sold to us as yet another fundamentalist, repressive regime (Axis of Evil, anyone?), would grant its women greater liberties on this crucial issue than our GOP would. Mostly, as Armand notes (and a hat tip to him), it suggests that the reductive version of things sold us by the media and our officials is a bunch of crap, especially when it comes to the middle east.

  • On a lighter note, check out Brian's riveting account of yesterday's long Alley Cat, a cycling enthusiast race / scavenger hunt ranging all over the city, and this time around involving fixed-gear-defying hills at every juncture. Brian, and the other fixed-riders, did very well, but you'll have to read the post to get the details and outcome.

  • More generally, Majikthise continues to impress with the depth and breadth of her weblog, and I'm still not done loving ERISA Haiku, which today includes this gem:

    The IRS speaks
    Inscrutable, ponderous
    Soul sucking jargon

    Masterisa Showitome strikes again.

  • Sunday, April 17, 2005

    "Foreign" Films

    Dr. David could not wait for the night,
    whatever that meant. He thought it surprising
    I knew he liked foreign films, but all I had done was see
    him at a belated Fellini Festival. And I mentioned this
    to Dr. David, to him, as half-an-insight. Maybe I even
    lied about my half-insight. That would be like me.
    To lie. To lie a little. Which turns everything more
    on its side than I thought.
    "You like foreign films, don't you."
    Surprised: "I do. Very much. How
    did you know."
    "Just a feeling." I hesitate,
    but say, "Just a feeling."

    Early dark censures our last meeting.
    Mr. Me is flunking out of school. Ergo: no more school-
    reduced-almost-free visits to school psychiatrist.
    Dr. David even stretches to have this one.
    The dark is early and clunky and figures to haunt me,
    or make Mr. Me sad, or give this crumbly tinge
    to much of my crumbly life.

    --Michael Burkard, Unsleeping

    Saturday, April 16, 2005

    "I went deep last night" -- Thoughts on Sideways

    Finally, the other night, I got around to watching the nauseatingly bally-hoo'd Sideways, a movie I knew I needed to see, but one I knew I had to delay seeing in hopes that my knee-jerk hostility given the unabashed critical worship it received would fade with time, and leave me more open minded.

    Still and all, people I trust, noting the absurdity of the buzz the movie generated (as though it was really deserving of such extreme praise simply for foregrounding a less than handsome leading man), insisted it was worthy, if not brilliant or the best. movie. ever.

    I don't do reviews, not in their proper sense. But I absolutely adored the movie and here's why: the movie provides a refreshingly nuanced and candid account of the oddity at the core of so many male friendships. Not in the insultingly reductive and vaguely homophobic sense confabulated by Jennifer 8. Lee in last week's Times, about which I have written here, and others have written elsewhere, but in the oddly competitive, sometimes mercenary, often awkward way it tends to occur around me.

    Men -- people generally, but men to a far greater degree than the fairer sex -- are competitive animals by breeding (blame nature or nuture; the causative dominance of either wouldn't really change my thesis, as the symptoms are what interest me), and it's this that infects the most long-standing of male friendships in often bizarre ways. The friendship between Haden Church's and Giamatti's characters captured something of that root ugliness brilliantly, and with unflinching candor.

    Armand at Bloodless calls it "a moving look at the life of an unhappy loser," but that doesn't do the film justice. First, it's implicit suggestion that Giamatti is the loser and Church isn't doesn't reflect the film; Haden Church's breakdown, temporary, self-pitying and rather pathetic, after being caught in flagrante delicto with the waitress in my mind exposes the lie at the heart of his lifestyle, a lie every bit as pitiable, ugly, and banal as anything one might ascribe to Giamatti. But really Giamatti's not nearly as self-deluded as Haden Church, and to me that not only holds the narrative together but indeed militates toward his character as considerably more heroic than one might think at first blush, especially given the filmic cliche of the loser that this movie plays with before discarding.

    I have had, and still have, dear male friends with whom my interactions are seamless and gratifying, except when, infrequently, they aren't. The emotions that rise to the surface when the fragile equilibrium of two male egos in balance is upset, often for the most dubious of reasons, are among the ugliest I have known in myself, no matter how well managed, how fleeting. Indeed, I think much of what passes for the wisdom of age is found in the ability to manage these baser predilections and responses. Sideways unblinkingly peers into the abyss of serious male friendship, its often arbitrary formation, its unaccountable persistence, its sandlot pettiness, and its profound intimacy, and finds in not the saccharine edification of the treacle usually found in movies like these, the hollow sentiment of a handful of storyboards and wishful thinking, but the rough beaty of the real thing.

    In other notes, I would twist the arms off of orphans just to wake up and fine Virginia Madsen, berobed, drinking coffee in my kitchen. And I might do worse for the privilege of hearing her rough voice, which has aged into a purr every bit as voluptuous as her stunning body, bid me good morning.

    Thursday, April 14, 2005

    Dream Journal

    Zulieka has been sharing her dreams.

    I imagine everyone dreams somewhat differently, and that many of us go through phases of more or less dream activity, more or less recalled, and so on. Historically, I dream vividly, surreally, raucously, as though my dreams were directed by Fellini. In the last year, however, something changed, and now I dream about dull things, things I have to do, repairs, clean-ups, bows around my finger as it were.

    This makes my nights far more dull than they used to be, but it has the odd effect of confounding my days. The things I dream are so photorealistic, so true to life, that sometimes I confuse having performed some errand in my dream with having performed it in the waking world.

    As though I hadn't enough problems keeping up with my obligations. As though I needed anything to make me more flighty. As though I asked to be relieved of my storybook romps and nightmares, from both of which I invariably would wake refreshed, excited, thrilled to be back on messy Earth in my rumpled bed swimming my imperfect skin. I have lost this at what cost?

    Zulieka's dreams make me nostalgic and I am grateful. I'll take someone else's Freudian in-jokes over all real life all the time, vicarious Fellini over no Fellini at all.

    In Law Find Poetry

    I noticed, my first time through the big-firm interview process a few years ago, an odd trend: I was most drawn to tax attorneys. One attorney in particular was a young lovely thing who -- now get this -- wore a Little Black Dress to work the day I interviewed her. White-Shoe Law Firm Interview Rule #1: Try try try not to check out the hot third-year associate's legs (but O those legs), and whatever you do don't give her a Saturday Night Smile (what exactly that is I'll leave to your imagination). She was a former philosophy major with a transparently artistic disposition; and time and again, the most creative of my classmates and of the partners and associates I met at big firms seem to have a yen for tax work.

    The semester after I observed this phenomenon, I took Federal Income Tax. This is not a requirement for law students, but it's generally thought to be a Good Idea, since a) tax law infects just about everything else a lawyer does, and b) it's tested on the Pennsylvania bar exam, or was then anyway. And what I learned, that semester, was that the Internal Revenue Code is a thing of beauty. Some federal legislation is better than others, cleaner and more elegant than others. But the IRC is -- and this is the thing -- poetry. It has an elusive, but discernible structural paradigm, something like vilanelle (think "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," the quintissential vilanelle), and an underlying order that, while at first seeming intuitive, eventually, reluctantly reveals itself to be sublime.

    Contrast this with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) (a bench memo regarding which Moon once had to write for a 3d Circuit Titan for whom he was externing many moons ago, which had to be the result of some sort of cruel practical joke: stick the kid with one year of law school under his belt with the case involving ERISA, the most involuted, cryptic statute in the Known Universe), a statutory scheme the disarray intrinsic to which numerous appellate judges have openly mocked in several formal published opinions (I went looking, but couldn't find any quotes (I don't have Westlaw at home, which might have helped), but just take my word for it).

    But even here, there is poetry to be found, or so runs the thesis at the heart of this new weblog:

    There is not a more unnatural pairing than the elegant terseness of the haiku and the bulky and indecipherable text of ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974). Below, however, you will find that opposites attract as the beauty concealed beneath ERISA's dull veneer is revealed through the simple and stirring 5-7-5 of the haiku. Enjoy.

    I can't wait to see whether this is the work of some flustered attorney with a momentary good idea and a minute to kill or something more substantial. Here's hoping it's the latter. A law geek's variation on Dillard's Mornings Like This: Found Poems, which coaxes original poetry from the literal language of such unlikely sources as the Gnostic Apocrypha, etc., to alarmingly entertaining effect.

    Of Wheels and the Metaphysics of Memory

    Yesterday, after lurking for weeks around ebay searching in vain for a steal on a new wheelset for my fixie, I gave up and headed over to my L(ocal) B(ike) S(hop) to buy a rather costly set of wheels I'd been admiring in their showroom for a while. I spent most of the evening scavenging my old wheels for carry-over parts (tires, tubes, cog) and putting everything together. All too conscious of my colorful history with manual tasks, I decided not to try the wheels out for the first time with a morning ride to work; I waited until this evening.

    Of course, I would have to have exceeded even my capacity for mechanical error to screw my wheels up to a dangerous degree, and I headed out uneventfully as soon as I returned from work this afternoon. If roads were made of silk, this is how they would feel. If I could ride fixed on a cloud, it wouldn't be any better.

    Hyperbole: the Pittsburgh pavement crumbles like parmesan, and every ride is an ordeal in some essential way. But the ordeal is familiar, and the compensatory measures it requires reflexive by now; relatively speaking, these wheels are silk. Gone is the vague vibration in the drivetrain of a perennially underlubricated rear hub; gone the vague kick in the pants the strange bump in my former rear rim administered with every rotation, a metronomic, almost droll reminder of imperfection.

    Of course, the wheels weren't perfect. I had tightened the lockring insufficiently, leaving the cog about a half rotation of play, of which it happily availed itself the first time I skidded -- ironically, that sort of thing was what originally planted the seeds of this purchase months ago. That couldn't ruin the new smoothness of the drivetrain, however; once, riding up Beechwood, I stood into the pedals and the response was so immediate, the acceleration so slick, that for a moment it felt as though something had slipped, which I knew wasn't the case. Greased lightning. Literally.

    I decided to visit the LBS. I needed to modify and add to an order I had placed last night, and although I might have called, it was as good a destination as any. There, I regaled the indulgent staff with how happy the wheels had made me, they tightened my lock ring for me, and after picking their brains on a couple of topics I returned to the street.

    During the ride it struck me that this day, this particular ride, is a special occasion precisely for its ephemeral quality, deriving from the inadequacy of comparative memory. Tomorrow, I will remember less than I do today how rough and imperfect the prior wheels were. Next week, what I call my 'memory' of my sensuous dissatisfaction with those wheels, which I suspected or posited but couldn't really understand until I felt the new ones beneath me, will no longer have any tangible content. It will have diminished to abstraction.

    This is how we come to take things for granted: our inability to retain context, to sustain comparison. This is how we surrender: for want of reliable memory, too often we take is over aspiration.

    Some senses more powerfully linger and signify than others. It is a commonplace that smell is the sense of memory, but the importance of sight, perhaps in virtue of its obviousness, is often understated; sight, sometimes with an aural component, feeds my deja vu far more often than olfaction. Touch and taste, perhaps, are less easily recalled, although once I gently kissed the clavicle of a former lover, years after what we both had imagined would be our encounter, and nearly fainted under the overwhelming familiarity of the suite of taste, smell, and touch (the landscape of her delicate back under my trembling fingers as familiar to me as the front yard of my childhood), humbling and haunting. The room spun; the strength drained out of my body; I surrendered to the moment absolutely.

    How much more rich our lives might be if we could retain the perfection of our contemporaneous satisfaction at jobs well done, at the incremental improvements that punctuate and thus mold our otherwise quotidian routines, smart purchases, generous compliments (given or received), apt and timely bon mot, the blush of new affections or, more rarely, love?

    Last week, I was the guy who rode the franken-wheeled fixie with virtually no name-brand high quality components in my drivetrain. Today, I've got fantastic hubs, better hubs than I should use for a daily commute, hand-built wheels that are effectively flawless. Soon, however, I will have lost all concrete sense of how much better these wheels are than those they replaced; short of restoring the old wheels, I'll have no access to the physical truth of the dramatic change in the quality of my ride.

    Oh, but if I should be forced to ride inferior wheels, then I'll know. And that's the bitch of it: if my elevated standards are going to bring me occasional dissatisfaction (as when I find myself eating second-rate sushi), then oughtn't I be afforded the ongoing ability to appreciate what I have for its quality, for the privilege standing alone?

    I suppose this is an inevitable consequence of cognition's fundamentally associative cant, the centrality of pattern recognition. We are programmed to heed change over sameness, our minds like cats' vision, half-blind to the status quo but honed to a murderous edge in the face of even subtle variation, suspicious of movement.

    But it doesn't seem fair.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    Identifying Moon

    The easiest way to spot me during the week is to find the guy with a tie on wearing athletic socks. Every day I ride in, it seems, I forget either to pack socks or a belt. But I've gotten better about the belt. So, today for instance, I'm wearing black ankle-length Nike socks between cordovan wingtips and slacks. So embarrassing.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    Post-Gazette Publishes Filler, Insults Pittsburgh's Climbing Community

    Friend Dee writes:

    Apparently these brilliant and innovative kids in new york have come up with this whole new way of climbing according to the Pittsburgh paper. It’s a shame no one in Pittsburgh does it or they could have actually mentioned Pittsburgh people, the climbing gym[s], coopers, etc etc… [Embedded links added. -- MOP]

    Of course, I should note that the article is an AP piece. But if I'm not mistaken, wire service subscribers have the privilege of modifying or adding to articles on the wire. Would it have killed them to have someone talk to one of the many climbers or climbing organizations / facilities in this whole city?

    I want to be clear that this only annoys me because the P-G consistently has grown on me as I've come to realize just how independent and local it is, by comparison to most local outlets (not naming any names, but you know who you are, Dick). This is an unusual exception, and unfortunately it hits a little close to home.

    Copper in the Rough -- Terri Shiavo's Journal

    I am perplexed by my contradictory suite of emotional and intellectual responses to this increasingly odd mock Terry Schiavo LiveJournal. Best I can tell, it started out as an opportunity to provide some levity in the midst of the fiasco, and I'm pretty sure I linked it in an aside then.

    It started, it appears, on March 1, with a series of aimless posts entering Terry Schiavo in various online quizzes. Nothing of note to report; I don't think its steward had really decided what to do, except perhaps to lasso a certain amount of incidental traffic in virtue of the name. But then something changed, with this post:

    [ mood | loved by Congress ]

    I had a law made for me today!

    Wow! I bet you haven't!

    I spent the rest of day just lying around the room, mostly. I twitched a couple of times, but that was involuntary.

    I sure would like a cheeseburger.

    Then this:

    [ mood | comatose ]

    So far, so good.

    If all goes according to plan, the Pope and I will both shed this mortal coil (which, for me, is a metaphor for feeding tube, the Pope's "mortal coil" is the tube that goes in his tracheotomy) on Easter. We will then stroll into heaven, hand-in-hand. It's a good thing we're both Catholic. Michael says he has already made T-shirts to sell, and has signed a deal for the Franklin Mint commemorative plates of us.

    Michael has been wonderful, and has executed my requests perfectly: I told him that if I ever ended up on life support or as a vegetable, that I would want to linger as a grotesque joke and be at the center of a political circus, and then give up life for Lent in the fifteenth year. I wish my stupid parents would just knock it off already. Geez.

    Here, there's a hint of something more than frivolity. It's not quite commentary, but it's playful and pointed and not lacking in content. A subsequent post also combines a weird irreverence with something more.

    One of the Hospice nurses told me this morning that I was going to be at the back of the line at the Celebrity Entrance to Heaven. Apparently some guy named Johnny Cockring or something died yesterday. I never heard of him. Sounds like the name of a porn star. She also said that Jerry Falwell is very sick and may die, but she whispered to me that she doubts he'll actually go to Heaven. And then there is me and the Pope.

    I was unable to acknowledge her comments, though I did randomly tremble and grunt a couple of times, causing my dad to think I was quoting Shakespeare or something.

    Looks like another boring day ahead, unless I go ahead and die or something.

    It's easy to write this stuff off as totally tasteless and shameless controversy mongering, but I don't think that's fair. It's satire, the real stuff, even if occasionally hackneyed (for every post I excerpt here to illustrate content, there are two more I ignore where the tasteleness overwhelms any intrinsic merit). Then on March 31 it started to get, um, interesting:

    [ mood | dead ]



    I'll report from Heaven soon.

    You'll also notice that by now, instead of the few comments early posts received, each post was earning hundreds of comments. Needless to say, many were not complimentary.

    What follows, is a series of posts from heaven, and to my thinking this is where the writer actually shows off his or her best stuff, comically and satirically. There's still a thread of Terry in there, but there's also some general, smirking commentary on what heaven might be like that provides an interesting counterpoint to Tony's recent replaying of his trip through heaven and hell, escorted by Kurt Cobain no less (I link only one post; there are many many more and they're easy to find -- just browse around). For example, this is from Terry's first post in heaven:

    [ mood | heavenly ]

    OK, I'm in Heaven now, finally. It's not at all what I thought.

    First off, you need to buy a ticket to get in. Most people pay installments on the TITHE plan (Ticket In To Heaven Expense). If you have not fronted the money, they don't let you in. And since I never gave enough money to the church to earn salvation (I spent it on hairspray, food to barf up, and then later on the bills for being kept as a vegetable for 15 fucking years... thanks a lot Mom and Dad, you assholes), Heaven did not let me in right away. I tried to explain my plight to St. Peter, but he did that annoying "world's smallest violin" thing where people rub their fingers together. It's appropriate that a dick like him is named Peter.

    I was able to borrow enough money from Johnny Cochran, who was still in line. Seems that Heaven has a 3-day waiting period for admitting black people. Who knew? It sucks to be black even in Heaven! Racism is everywhere!

    Plus, there is a lot going on in Heaven right now. They are busting their butts trying to get ready for the Pope, who is due any time. There's lots of banners and stuff everywhere, mostly in Polish, so it looks like all of Heaven needs to buy a vowel.

    And this, which I must say I'd love to believe is true:

    * Not all bad people go to Hell. Some of them come here and have restricted lives or exist in servitude. I already mentioned that the folks who have to pick up dog shit are former clergy; specifically, they are the clergy who did awful things like lived extravagant lifestyles, injected religion into politics, or buggered little boys. They are essentially "untouchables" here.

    * Poetic justice is alive and well in Heaven. For instance, TV preachers who spewed lies from the "idiot box" on Earth live in plexiglass boxes in Heaven and can never leave. They can look out and see Heaven, but can never participate in the splendor and glory. It is tortuous for them, and sometimes people go by and mock them.

    Since Terri's death, "she" has posted less frequently, but she hasn't stopped, and when she does post occasionally something really weird and interesting comes out. And that's actually what prompted this discussion, this as-of-now most recent post:

    I mentioned before that halo color is an indicator of circumstances of a person's death.

    There's one group of people with halos the color of...ummm... oxidized copper, I think.
    Like the Statue of Liberty, but a bit brighter.

    They are the most loud mouthed, profane, obnoxious, rudest, and PUSHY group of people in all of heaven.
    They act like they own the blessed place, which is pretty fucked up since I hear they've only been here since September 2001.

    One amusing respondent commented, "prepare for a whole other breed of trolls." I'm not really sure what to make of this, though I agree that this probably solicited a whole new brand of flames (I don't intend to read all of the comments to find out, especially since the commenters are predictably (it is a LiveJournal, after all) adolescent). Numerically, this post earned as many comments as those posts right around the time of Terri's death, reversing a trend of slowly diminishing activity.

    I'm not really sure what I'm getting at here -- there's no punchline, no witty rejoinder, and I no more despise this site than I strongly recommend it. I do find interesting, however, the odd combination of juvenilia, fearlessness, and occasional wit. And I'll probably be pondering the underlying intent of the 9/11 post for the rest of the day, which usually only a good poem or a vexing legal question can accomplish. So there's something to it. Anyone have any thoughts? Anyone still reading?

    Monday, April 11, 2005

    Benchwarmer Blog

    In this case, the hat tip to Crabwalk comes first because I'm so happy I was turned on to this little throw-away-that-isn't.

    Paul Shirley's blog, in its gentle, articulate self-effacing tone, is wonderful and hilarious. Who is Paul Shirley, you ask? He's the 12th (and thus last) man on the NBA's Phoenix Suns. He's played professional basketball for 11 teams in the past four years. Beyond that, I'll let the Sun's marketing team answer:

    You know Paul Shirley. He's that tall, thin-looking lad you see in the lay-up line during pre-game warm-ups at AWA. The one that sits at the end of the bench cheering on all your favorite Suns and doling out high-fives during timeouts. Yes, he's got the best seat in the house, but Shirley's much more than your typical 12th man. He's now an up-and-coming author.

    In Shirley's own words:

    I play for (I use the term loosely; play for/cheer for—same thing) arguably the best basketball team in the world. My responsibilities include: 1. Showing up for buses, practices, games, etc. on time. 2. Refraining from causing undue stress to anyone by misbehaving on road trips or wading into the stands to attack fans. 3. Practicing hard when given the opportunity. 4. Entering games when my team is up by an insurmountable margin and attempting to break the shots-per-minute record. It is not a difficult job, really . . . .

    I'm just going to dedicate the balance of this post to my favorite passages, since most of you are too lazy, or have real lives and thus lack the time, to read this whole hilarious blog.


    The [Atlanta] Hawks are really, really bad. Such a collection of mismatched players has rarely been foisted upon the NBA in recent years, methinks. It is almost as if someone picked the group completely at random. There were balls being bounced off teammates’ faces, passes thrown to no one in particular and, in general, very little coherent basketball at all. At one point, the Hawks actually entered an airball as their shot of choice on three straight possessions.


    Charlotte was nearly as inept as the Hawks were the night before. Jason Kapono started off on about a 1 for 10 tear and it appeared that the rout was on. I began considering the possibility that there could very well be a bit of playing time in the offing and started paying at least cursory attention to what was going on in timeouts, in case Coach D’Antoni said something like, “From now on tonight, everyone will be shooting with his left hand. Deviation from this plan of attack will result in castration immediately following the game.” I would really hate to miss one of those instructions, come out firing, and because of my own mental lapse, ruin the rest of my life. (That was an example of some unneeded verbosity. When I sign my book deal, someone will have to teach me how to actually write.)

    A man after my own heart.

    More MIAMI:

    This is my first trip to Miami. Neither of my partial-season stints prior to this one had brought me here, so my opinion of the place was a blank canvas this morning. After the trip to the beach, the frame was looking rather bright and colorful; by the end of the day, it was filled with grays and browns. Miami has the same problem as many cities famous for their nightlife — it is chock full of people trying way too hard to have a good time. Like New Orleans and Las Vegas, it is place that would be worth visiting once in a while, but I cannot imagine living here. I am sure that some would disagree, but the place, at least near the beach, has a very false feel to it. Almost everyone I saw today, be they muscle-bound [morons] with bad tattoos, or bleached-out, implanted girls, looked like their entire goal in life was to impress those watching them. (As an aside, I will now declare the tattoo trend dead. Not just over — that happened a couple of years ago. Dead. Is there anything more passé than the arm or shoulder tattoo on the male of our species or the symmetrical lower back tattoo on the female? On a further tangent, because this is how my brain works, Tom Gugliotta has the worst tattoo in the NBA. The barbed wire on the bicep is bad enough to put him in the running; the fact that it is the dreaded “I thought I could get away with not having it complete the circumference of my arm” type puts him over the top. It is like wearing a tie that is not only ugly, but is a clip-on to boot. Ugly is at least forgivable; the clip-on aspect makes it reprehensible.)


    So, we lost to Miami tonight. For coverage, see another source.

    Before our game against the Heat, I had a wave of, well, something melodramatic and hokey, wash over me. It happened during our warm-up, immediately prior to the game. We had finished our half-assed lay-up line. (By the way, I gather that readership of this nonsense must have cracked double figures, because the censors are on the case. I don’t know that that last adjective will get through. Yesterday a whole chunk of my writing came up missing. It seems that references to the fact that Miami has a bit of a reputation as a narcotics haven are found to be offensive to the children and old people who might read this and get…none of what I am talking about anyway. And yes, I realize that I need to learn to collect my thoughts and use fewer parenthetical expressions.) I was sitting at half-court, stretching while the players who would actually be participating in the game in the near future took some shots. I looked around at all of the beautiful people filing in to the seats. I saw the ESPN guys preparing for their broadcast of the game. I looked down and saw my own warm-ups. Then, I panicked a little. I wondered if everyone around me was going to realize the fraud that I was. It does not seem all that long ago that my father was teaching me how to play the game on our gravel driveway, or that I was playing high school basketball in a town of 700 in Kansas. I thought to myself, “What am I doing? Who am I kidding? I could be about to play in this game between arguably the two best basketball teams in the world. I don’t belong here.” And then it passed. I got up, marched over to the basket, grabbed a bouncing ball, took a shot and melted right back in with my team. Identity crisis over.

    And my favorite, a nice summary of the state of basketball, and why I and so many people I know vastly prefer watching college basketball to NBA basketball, I conclude with ATLANTA:

    I am afraid Memphis may get kicked out of the league. I could be mistaken, but I think they started three white guys— three American white guys at that. I am pretty sure there is a rule against that somewhere—some kind of quota, I think. Maybe I am wrong. I guess we will find out soon, when they have to bring back the Cincinnati Royals to fill the void the Grizzlies leave behind.

    As I watched our game today, I realized that I was observing a Good vs. Evil match-up of sorts. I grew up watching the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird. (Not surprising, given the fact that my first basketball experiences came while honing my skills on a gravel driveway in rural Kansas.) When my father and I could watch an NBA game, we would watch the Celtics. Without knowing why, I loved the way Bird and his teammates played the game. At the time, I only knew that they were fun to watch. Now I understand why I was drawn to them. The Celtics, along with other teams of the era, played the game the right way. They played with reckless abandon, not caring whether they looked cool doing it. Unfortunately, that style of play quickly faded.

    We are something of a test-case for a return to the 1980’s-Celtics-and-Lakers style of basketball. A test case because no one knows if that kind of game can still be played or, more importantly, succeed. At some point after the Bird-Johnson era, something changed in NBA basketball. Whatever it was alienated most of the people I know. No one in Kansas watches professional basketball. They first grew disillusioned with the me-first, style-before-substance attitude, but that was not really the reason they stopped watching. They stopped watching because the game itself was no fun. Coaches had tightened their grip, and basketball had become a slugfest. The emphasis switched to defense as the powers-that-be realized that anyone, no matter how limited in ability, could win if they stopped the other team from scoring. Consequently, players were taught that it was more important to learn how to play defense than to learn how to shoot a basketball. By the late 1990’s I, and most everyone I know, could hardly sit through an entire NBA game.

    Almost makes me want to watch the Phoenix Suns. While this seems like a lot, these are just snippets. There's much more (though it's finite; the blog was designed to last only one road trip). And if it seems a bit indulgent of me to occupy so much of my space with someone else's writing, you're right, but that's what happens when the poem I've been messing with in my head all day just refuses to behave.

    ObWi Has Another Good Run

    I just visited Obsidian Wings for the first time in perhaps a week (I've been a negligent reader of blogs, of late, for reasons some of you know), and found, among other things, a long wrenching thought piece by Edward_ regarding his visceral response to a picture of a young woman with one arm missing from this weekend's Times.

    There are obviously ancient Greek notions of being whole complicating my response to all this, but I can't for the life of me fathom why. I reject so much else from Greek philosophy, and consider myself overall ambivalent about this "whole body" idea in particular, but there it is. I'm outraged because this or that soldier is returning to us less whole than we sent them off.

    Perhaps it's something much bigger than myself. Perhaps there, in human form, is the evidence of our collective failure. Those who die in battle, we bury. They stay put. Only to remind us of what failures we are when we visit a cemetery or place a wreathe on holidays.

    The walking wounded, however, remain among us, constant reminders of the thousands of years of knowing full well that wars invariably lead to this sort of personal tragedy and we're still no closer to ending them. A distant observer would have to conclude that we simply don't care. We invest untold billions in new way to dismember each other, while often saving only our vilest ridicule for international efforts to promote peace.

    The whole thing is worth your time. Also, I recommend poetry readers among you skim around a bit. In honor of National Poetry Month (and how embarrassed am I that I didn't know this was that), various posters and commenters have been flinging fantastic poems around with reckless abandon and blithe erudition. It's really fun to graze.

    Wherefore Art Thou Miguel . . .

    Sorry, but this is just too funny not to pass on. I mean, Old-West / Verona-esque bloodfeuds that erupt into violence aren't necessarily laugh-out-loud-funny funny, but I can't help but wonder, did it occur to any of the participants at the time that they were living out a Romeo and Juliet / West Side Story scenario? Note also, the article refrains from drawing parallels.

    Sunday, April 10, 2005

    The Death of Content, Jennifer 8. Lee and the Man Date

    In today's Times, Jennifer 8. Lee, D.C. party girl and occasional Times reporter, writes about one of the most troubling social phenomena to emerge among professional men in their twenties and thirties in the dawn of a new millennium -- the "man date." She writes:

    Anyone who finds a date with a potential romantic partner to be a minefield of unspoken rules should consider the man date, a rendezvous between two straight men that is even more socially perilous.

    Simply defined a man date is two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports. It is two guys meeting for the kind of outing a straight man might reasonably arrange with a woman. Dining together across a table without the aid of a television is a man date; eating at a bar is not. Taking a walk in the park together is a man date; going for a jog is not. Attending the movie "Friday Night Lights" is a man date, but going to see the Jets play is definitely not.

    This is only one among several passages that nearly had Sunday morning coffee spurting from my nose, and not in a laughing-with sort of way.

    The article goes on to relate mostly interviews with twenty-something men who, while their attitudes toward going out with one male friend might vary, agree on such basic principles as never splitting a bottle of wine (although buying by the glass is okay, which suggests that one of the dominant principles of male friendship is paying more than necessary for dinner libations). Here's the problem:

    While some men explicitly seek man dates, and others flatly reject them as pointless, most seem to view them as an unavoidable form of socializing in an age when friends can often catch up only by planning in advance. The ritual comes particularly into play for many men after college, as they adjust to a more structured, less spontaneous social life. "You see kids in college talking to each other, bull sessions," said Peter Nardi, a sociology professor at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., who edited a book called "Men's Friendships." "But the opportunities to get close to another man, to share and talk about their feelings, are not available after a certain age."

    Seriously, what are these people talking about?

    Don't get me wrong -- a) the Sunday Styles section is usually pretty goddamned pointless, and b) I've no doubt that many of my straight male peers, even among those with top-flight educations and careers, even those who come off as urbane, are semi-secretly insecure about being labeled as gay by others.

    The concern about being perceived as gay is one of the major complications of socializing one on one, many straight men acknowledge. That is what Mr. Speiser, now a graduate student at the University of Virginia, recalled about another man date he set up at a highly praised Italian restaurant in a strip mall in Charlottesville. It seemed a comfortable choice to meet his roommate, Thomas Kim, a lawyer, but no sooner had they walked in than they were confronted by cello music, amber lights, white tablecloths and a wine list.

    The two exchanged a look. "It was funny," Mr. Speiser said. "We just knew we couldn't do it." Within minutes they were eating fried chicken at a "down and dirty" place down the road.

    Mr. Kim, 28, who is now married, was flustered in part because he saw someone he knew at the Italian restaurant. "I was kind of worried that word might get out," he said. "This is weird, and now there is a witness maybe."

    The question is, do I care about these men, their insecurities, or 8.'s pithy pandering to same? The answer is -- no.

    Although I have found that I tend to be more open and comfortable with female friends, I have long maintained close friendships with men that entail one-on-one dinners, trips to museums, etc. These are neither dick-swinging male bonding style events nor are they quasi-dates. They are just me and a friend doing something we know we'll enjoy doing together. That's it. It's not "fraught," as 8. suggests, and if it is fraught for others, that's their problem, not the Times'.

    I guess my principal problem with the fluff piece (that's right 8., I called you a fluffer) is that it tacitly accedes to the homophobia lurking at its heart. That's a waste of ink, a waste of paper, and a waste of my time -- and instead of mere fatuity, which one justly can expect from the Sunday Styles section, this article contains the seed of something else: tolerance for intolerance. And that's just a shame.

    UPDATE: Apparently, I'm not the only one talking about this article. Of course, these folks seem to be taking the thesis seriously, and my point was that it doesn't deserve that, but still, they're talking. Thanks, Shar, for the publicity.

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