Don’t look back

31 10 2009

Getting rid of my t.v. has not much altered my viewing habits.

Hulu. And CSI on CBS. (I’m still watching CSI: NY, but that may end. They’re turning the damned show into a blue-tinted CSI: Miami. One Horatio Caine is already too many.)

I’ve watched some Buffy and Angel and (guilty pleasure) Stargate SG1, along with a few episodes of the 21st c version of Battlestar Galactica. I watched the opener of FlashForward, but none since. Oh, and Stargate Universe, which is grim and intriguing and just a little bit boring.

The Good Wife is supposed to be good, as are Glee and Community, but I don’t know that I want to get snagged into anything else. I got shit to do, and I’m already finding too many ways to avoid doing it as it is.

I was a regular viewer of CSI et. al. before I stopped watching t.v. over a year ago, so I don’t really feel like I’m making any new commitments; even the new SGU feels more like a mash-up of the old SG1 and BSG.

Only FlashForward was at all new, and I watched that because I’d heard good things about it and was intrigued by the premise. But while the kickoff was mildly interesting, a part of me was thinking Do I really want to let myself get sucked back in? I was relieved to read that later episodes sucked.

Of the shows I watch, only two are still on the air (SGU & CSI); Buffy is disappearing from Hulu and I’m almost done with SG1.

So, no truly new shows, and a few old ones of which I’ve pretty much had my (re)fill.

But what about those old old shows—you know, like Lou Grant? Didn’t I write a little mash post to Lou Grant a month or so ago?

Haven’t watched it since.

I noticed today that the classic version of Bionic Woman is on Hulu—it shouldn’t surprise you that I loved that show as a kid—as are other shows I watched in my parents’ house. One Day at a Time. Partridge Family. Charlie’s Angels. Picket Fences. Hill St. Blues. St. Elswhere. Hell, a bunch of shows from my childhood and adolescence are on Hulu; I could spend any number of weekends gettin’ my nostalgia on.

Except. Except I don’t really want to.

It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy the shows again—I have no idea if I would—but that I don’t want to go back. I went through that time once, watched those shows then.

Enough.

It might seem like I’m making too large a point about too small a matter—old t.v. shows—but I really don’t trust myself to look backward. It’s not about the time being good or bad; it’s about it being over.

Yes, I do look back, and am sometimes pulled back, but I always have to keep in mind that I live here, now. A little escapism is fine, as is a considered reflection on memory, but not too much, and preferably only if it helps me make sense of my life here, now.

I’m already sufficiently disoriented by my presence in the present. I don’t need to add to my distractions.





God don’t like it

28 10 2009

Posted by Hemant Mehta  October 21st, 2009 at Friendly Atheist

(h/t: Goldblog —who usually pisses me off, but this is funny)

Now, if only there were a religion based on frozen Oreos, black coffee, sleeping in, psychopathic kittens, and deep fried cheese.

And gin, of course. Gin. (With generous dispensations for the substitution of any old-school liquor.)

That shouldn’t be too hard, should it?





God sometimes you just don’t come through

27 10 2009

Goddammit. Time to write the goddamned God post.

Bad way to start? Too. . . insulting? Too glib-without-being-funny?

Look: Two lines in and already I’ve succumbed to the meta!

Okay. Let this post be born again. . . . All right, all right, I’ll stop.

Long discussion over at TNC’s joint on atheism and belief and who’s better and worse and why [not] believe, et cetera. As Emmylou sang, Yet another battle in the losing fight/Out along the great divide, tonight.

Ta-Nahisi Coates writes a great blog, and he attracts great commentators, but this thread follows the usual  progression:

  • God kills!
  • No He doesn’t!
  • Yes he does!
  • Well, okay, maybe, but so does Hitler/Stalin/Mao
  • It’s about ideology
  • It’s about human nature
  • It makes no sense to talk about atheists as a group
  • Then why are there atheist groups?
  • Those are activist groups. Atheism is simply a-theist, i.e., without god(s)
  • To not believe requires faith
  • ????
  • ‘Lack of belief is not a belief. True. But belief in a lack is.’
  • ????
  • Religious people are mean
  • Atheists are mean
  • Mean people suck
  • Flying Spaghetti Monster!
  • Faeries!
  • Unicorns!
  • [sigh]
  • You need to read more
  • No, you need to read more
  • You’re dumb
  • If I’m dumb, you’re super-dumb [Oh, wait, that was a couplet from The Brady Bunch, Jan to Peter]
  • Can’t we all just get along?

In other words, same as it ever was.

[Tho’ as an aside, can I vent a wee? To state that ‘is’ and ‘is-not’ are, in fact, the same, is a kind of infuriatingly useless word game. If you don’t believe in God, then you believe in a no-thing, which is itself belief, which means atheism is a form of religion. If all you’re doing is engaging a Wittgensteinian wit—for which that actual Wittgenstein would probably eviscerate you—fine; but if you think you’re making a serious point, you’re not. These arguments are not simply about the formal structure of language, but the content contained, however unsteadily, within that language. And yes, at some point, I’ll probably bore you with another post about why this distinction matters.]

Ahem.

So. I’m a-gnostic (lack knowledge), which may have a-theist (lack god) implications, but I’m not particularly dogmatic about it.

I doubt, and I’m fine with my doubt.

When I was a kid, I believed in God. I was an altar girl (the first, which somewhat discombobulated poor Father K., tho’ to his credit he brought me along) at the local Episcopal church, and, overall, I thought God was pretty cool.

Jesus was fine. I liked looking at the various crucifixes in the church, but, honestly, I thought more about God than Jesus. (I clearly lacked an understanding of the subtleties of the Trinity.)

I read a children’s bible. I wore a cross. I prayed. I mostly didn’t pay attention, but when I did, I thought it was all good.

Things changed, of course. Everyone has his or her own [de-]conversion story; mine has to the do with the rise of the Religious Right, and my disdain for any belief that could be connected in any way with the Moral Majority.

Have I ever mentioned that I started reading Ms. in the eighth grade?

Anyway, baby, bathwater: Out!

Things changed, again. I never really believed, again, but I did start to think about religion and belief, to learn more about its varieties—to pay attention.

Oh, so, so much more to this story, but let me, pace Lenin, telescope my history: I got to like hanging out in (empty) churches, a close friend and her husband became much more deeply involved in their faith (they don’t like the term ‘born again’), I read a grown-up bible, I had some good conversations with a local (NYC) Episcopal priest and. . .

. . . I still don’t believe.

Let me amend that: Some days I believe (in a non-specific way), some days I don’t, and some days the belief and unbelief is layered on top of one another.

Faith, however, I completely lack. That there may exist a God does not mean (S)He wants or has anything to do with us.

Faith seems to me far more dangerous than belief, tho’ I’m not sure why. Perhaps it seems more uncontrollable to me, or more personal, or that it is far more often deployed as a weapon than belief.

Okay, I know: stop making sense.

C. might argue that, insofar as I accept the information gleaned from scientific processes, I have faith—if only in the reliability and validity of those scientific processes. And Karl Popper (the great orthodox-science defender) admitted that one cannot use the logic of the sciences to defend the use of the logic of the sciences; at root, he noted, there is a leap.

A leap of faith? I dunno. Seems more like a jump-start to me: it’s up to the engine [science, reason] to actually move the vehicle along. If one’s methods don’t work—if they are neither verifiable nor reliable—then they are to be abandoned. Faith won’t see you through.

But religious faith, it seems to me, is itself the engine—the faith is itself the point. And while some might seek natural justifications for supernatural faith, such justifications are kind of beside the point. They might have a role, but, again, they won’t see you through.

A few weeks ago I blew out a bunch of words about Legos and coins—those of us who seek to put their lives in lock-step, and those of us who cobble bits together, precariously. As a coin-er, I’m not much troubled (there are exceptions) by gaps and inconsistencies, unknowns and uncertainties.

I can’t be, given how often my ground shifts.

Is it faith that keeps me going? Doubt? I don’t think it matters. I am no longer pained by the fact of my existence, by the justification of my self.

I just go.





Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball—yeah!

25 10 2009

How should you regulate an activity in which damage is inherent to that activity?

Less abstractly, if certain positions in football necessarily lead to brain damage, what should be done?

Over at TNC’s blog a number of us were chewing over the implications of Malcolm Gladwell’s recent article on dementia in football players. Gladwell compared footballing to dog-fighting—a comparison which I’m not exactly sure holds—but the info regarding the high probability of long-term brain damage even for non-NFL players is worthy of further consideration.

Some argue that risk is inherent in all kinds of activities; that doesn’t necessarily mean such activities should be regulated. It’s a reasonable enough point, but it’s not clear that such a laissez-faire attitude is the correct one for this situation.

One, the football and practices fields are workplaces, and as such, are not the same as recreational places.  How is it okay to state that football players—most of whom have careers of less than 4 years—have to suck it up while we as citizens would never tell coal-miners or uranium workers to suck up cave-ins, black lung disease, and long-term radiation damage?

They’re adults, they’re getting paid—and better than any miner is is not an excuse to overlook the dangerous conditions of the workplace itself. Yeah, the minimum wage for rookies is $193,000 (and oh, what I wouldn’t give to make a minimum of even $93K), but is it acceptable to say If we pay you enough, it’s okay to damage you to the point after which it is difficult to enjoy the rest of your life? And if so, how much is ‘enough’ to take away the rest of that person’s life?

That the NFL Player’s Association has thus far done a shitty job of taking care of its members hardly excuses the NFL—or, for that matter, the NCAA (which is a racket deserving of its own post)—for putting its players in a situation in which the only way to do the job well is to damage oneself.

Which leads to the second point: There is a distinction between activities in which risk of damage is omnipresent to those in which risk of damage is necessary. Downhill skiing, rock climbing, bicycle racing, even, as Gladwell points out, professional auto racing, are all risky activities, but to succeed in these endeavors one only risks, but does not necessitate, damage. There is risk of a wipe-out on skis or a bike or in a car, but if you wipe out you probably don’t win. Success does not depend upon damage, but upon the avoidance of damage.

Success in football, however, requires damage. Some positions are risky in the sense of ski or bike racing—punting, say, or perhaps even quarterback—but others require the players face off and smash into one another play after play after play. To be an offensive or defensive linesman is to throw your large body against another large body, to prevent anyone from getting past you or for you to try to get past the other.

That’s the whole point of these positions: to try to hold or break the line.

Football doesn’t work without linesmen. And thus far there is no way to play the game without incurring damage to these players.

So what to do?

Beyond a call for further research, I don’t know. I’m a football fan, but, for many reasons, an ambivalent one. I don’t, for example, enjoy pro boxing, not least because I see damage with every blow. I don’t see the damage to these heavily-equipped and masked men, and as much I recognize the importance of the linemen, I pay more attention to the flash players—the quarterbacks, receivers, running- and cornerbacks. Whoo-hoo! I cheer, when my team scores.

And no, it’s not the linemen who score.

So, again, what to do? Dismiss the whole thing as unworthy of concern: These guys are meatheads. . .  They know what they’re in for. . .  Hey, at least they’re getting paid well. . . ?

Or recognize that players are in fact workers in a large and profitable enterprise and, as such, deserve the same consideration for their safety as is—or ought to be—for every other worker?





D’oh! (and you wonder why this is called ‘absurdbeats’)

24 10 2009

Arizona May Put State Prisons in Private Hands

Have these people not seen Robocop?

——

For an Episcopal Parish, a Path to Catholicism

(link)

As an old colleague once said of Jews who profess the belief that Jesus was the Messiah: ‘Do you know what we call Jews for Jesus? Christians.’

——

Yankees Claimed a Park; Children Got Bus Rides

Are you telling me a kabillionaire organization got better treatment than Bronx kids?

As Chrissie Hynde once said, ‘I’m stunned and amazed.’

——

Rich Germans demand higher taxes

Tho’ further down in the story one participant in the pro-tax demonstration, a Mr. Vollmer, found it “really strange that so few people came”.





No comment

23 10 2009

From the Archdiocese in Guam, in response to a bill to recognize same-sex partnerships:

The culture of homosexuality is a culture of absorption because it does not value self-sacrifice. It is a glaring example of what John Paul II has called the culture of death. Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. That is why they repress such behavior with death. Their culture is anything but one of self-absorption. It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers (women as well as men) is a culture that at least knows how to value self-sacrifice.

(h/t: The Daily Dish)





There is power in a union

23 10 2009

Jasper’s apprenticeship is proceeding on schedule. I expect he’ll have earned full membership by the time he turns one.

Cats, in case you don’t know, have a union—global, strong, and utterly unbreakable. It is, of course, mandatory, but I’ve met to meet a cat who objects to the basic obligations of the union. And no wildcat strikes, either: the duties are immanent in all cat activities, such that there is no space or contradiction between the feline condition and the union.

Marx could have learned a thing or two from cats.

(It is also important to note the union is basically syndicalist, owing in large part to cats’  anarchist predispositions. No vanguard parties, here.)

There are various tasks which all cats must perform prior to initiation into the union (Indoor or Outdoor Division)—in Jasper’s case, Feline Union Local 226, ID (Brooklyn-East Flatbush)—as well as a selection of electives (to establish a speciality).

Jasper has mastered the following:

  • bag-diving
  • sink exploration
  • tub exploration (*note: extra points are earned if cat jumps into the litter box immediately following tub or sink exploration, thereby allowing for dirty paw-prints to be tracked about the dwelling)
  • toilet flushing inspection (*note: given the noise and generally bowl agitation, it often requires a build-up to the actual inspection, ranging from remaining in the room while toilet flushes, to jumping on lid, to actual inspection)
  • pushing pencils and/or other items from desk or table to floor
  • attacking bits of paper, fluff, or anything which might otherwise be considered garbage
  • garbage diving
  • walking across and/or standing on sensitive regions of body
  • laying in clean clothes
  • disrupting bed-making
  • jumping into chair to which human plans to return
  • batting at ankles from a hiding place
  • shoelace attacks
  • sock attacks
  • chasing string
  • chasing insects
  • poking head in refrigerator
  • jumping into open cabinet doors
  • knocking over at least one plant
  • laying in lap so as to interfere with human’s task (e.g., grading papers, completing crossword puzzle)
  • laying on book/magazine and/or otherwise interfering with reading
  • purring loudly in ear while trying to talk on phone
  • window dozing
  • successful jumps to high places
  • scooting between human’s legs to run out door
  • spewing liquid medicines over floor
  • behaving perfectly in the presences of guests
  • behaving horribly in the presence of guests
  • bogarting other cat’s food (a necessary task, but subject to punishment by other cat)
  • waking the human less than a hour before her alarm goes off
  • leaping on human’s blanket-covered feet
  • crawling into human’s lap on the hottest day of the year
  • spinning 180 degrees in air when surprised
Disrupting bed-making

Disrupting bed-making

Among tasks to be completed:

  • unsuccessful leaps into high places, preferably followed by a crash
  • mauling human when she attempts to place in cat carrier [#need has not yet arisen]
  • howling while in transit [#first trips don’t count; need for other trips has not yet arisen]
  • spitting out pills [#need has not yet arisen]
  • interrupting sex [#situation has not yet arisen]
  • singeing whiskers in candle
  • spazzing at presence of sticky item on fur
  • growling
  • breaking at least one item of human
  • laying on back, spread-eagled, in presence of guests

#While apprentices cannot be held responsible for failure of humans, they are nonetheless encouraged to manipulate humans so that tasks may be completed.

Jasper has shown a particular ability in the specialty of Technology Disruption:

  • walking across and/or standing on keyboard
  • blocking monitor from human’s view
  • rendering keyboard dysfunctional through the stomping on a particular combinations of keys
  • pulling cord(s) out of computer
  • attacking mouse
  • hitting mute button on keyboard
  • sending computer into sleep mode
  • inspecting printer output

To complete certification in his specialty, however, he’ll have to

  • turn computer on
  • turn computer off
  • jam printer

Once he achieves full membership, he may not only pursue as many specialties (including but not limited to  Nighttime Disruption, Meal Disruption, Theft & Disappearance) as he wishes, he is free to innovate in the development of new specialties.

Bean became an emeritus member (Feline Union At-Large, ID)  upon reaching her 15th year this past fall. Any participation in paper-blocking and bag-diving is therefore strictly voluntary and meant solely for her enjoyment.

We humans, of course, have zero control over and only limited bargaining power with this union. They are united and strong, and we, weak and scattered.

Which means they’ll win every time.





They’ll give me cooties!

21 10 2009

The Roman Catholic Church has offered those Anglicans (Episcopalians to us ‘Merkins) too freaked out at the prospect of women and hom’sexuals donning the collar and/or otherwise presuming full communion with their fellow congregants a safe passage into the land of the Christian patriarchy.

Yet another reason why free women should strongly support full equality for all queers—after all, even straight chicks are queer when they act as if they matter.





Television man, I know you’re tryin’ to be

18 10 2009

I finally did it: I got rid of my t.v.

I’d been going back and forth on this decision ever since I moved in January. I didn’t have access to my t.v. at my previous apartment, but in my new space, well, I’d see what I could get with just an antennae.

Bupkis, is what I could get.

So I didn’t watch it, but I kept it around, thinking that maybe I’ll join Netflix and watch some movies. But I never got around to doing that, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to shell out the 100 bucks for a Roku box anyway, and then my DVD player decided everything looked better in black and white. . . and this big lump of plastic, wire, and various toxic material didn’t seem to be worth it.

What really tipped me over, however, were my ongoing and heretofore unsuccessful attempts to transform my main space into a way that, mmm, flowed. It didn’t flow, and moving around chairs and shelves and the t.v. just didn’t cut it.

But: If I got rid of the t.v., I could move this over there and that over here and voila! flow!

So that’s what I did. I put the t.v. (with its remote, instructions, and original box, of course) in the hall, posted a few signs in my building that a free working t.v. was available for the taking and voila! taken!

Please note that I am not proffering any sort of anti-television purity. I greatly enjoyed watching trashy cable shows with my old roommate P., and were I not so cheap, I might have sprung for cable on my own. But it’s also true that I watched very little first-run t.v., far more often plunking myself down in front of the tube for a marathon of Law & Orders or CSIs, or watching Independence Day (i.e., Doritos-on-film) for the eleventy millionth time. After my initial withdrawal symptoms passed, I realized that I really could live without t.v.

Especially when there’s Hulu. . . .





Whip it good!

16 10 2009

Oh hell yeah I had to use that lyric for this post.

It is, after all, a review of Drew Barrymore’s Whip It—the second (new) movie I’ve seen since moving to New York. (The first was Children of Men: very good, better than the book. And Clive Owen, oh my. . . .)

Okay, back to chicks on skates. It’s a fine movie—not great, but thoroughly entertaining. Bliss Cavender lives in Bodeen Texas with her football-lovin’ dad and pageant-pushing mom (and suck-up little sister); her only friend(s) are those she works with, Pash and Birdman.

Then (cue the lights and music), she sees a flyer for a roller-derby match in Austin, is urged to try out by a derby-ite (derbyan? derbish?), skates quick-fast, makes the team. . . and away we go.

It’s a bit sketchy, insofar as there are thin bits where there could be full moments, and miss Bliss rather too easily transforms into Babe Ruthless, but what the hell, it’s already two hours long, and it’s not as if the backstories are truly necessary.

Ellen Page is endearing rather than annoying, Kristin Wiig is fab, as is the fabulous (natch) Marcia Gay Harden, and Daniel Stern looks like he’s having a good time. Oh, and Jimmy Fallon does a fine impression of a skanky announcer—so much so that I, uh, don’t think he really had to act all that hard.

And Juliette Lewis is there, too. It’s not as if I’m a big Juliette Lewis fan, but I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for a woman who’s done her own thing for a long time and gotten shit for it—and who apparently doesn’t care.  And her character works.

Oh, there’s a boy, too. Man, I guess; boyish man. In too many ways. Bliss knows just what to do with him.

So a good time was had by all (well, the three of us attending the early matinee), and I will certainly enjoy watching this again when it hits Netflix. (Which I should sign up for.)

Still, I felt a bit melancholy when I left. No! Wait! I didn’t mean that! No sad faces! So, okay, maybe restless is the better term. Yes. Restless.

Why? Well, there’s a scene in the middle where all the skaters and some of the fans hit a party, and it’s all anarchic joy. The band is playin’, the roof is swayin’, and nobody is worrying about anything. Oh, and Bliss gets tossed in the hot tub. (Of course there’s a hot tub.)

And I thought, hey, I remember that. Not the hot tub and skates, but the fuck-it glee of a great unwind, of being a part of something you never thought could exist, and the. . . dammit! bliss of freedom and the sense that there’s more out than you could ever breathe in. That you could toss yourself off the cliff and land. . . in the hot tub.

I’m so dull now. So, so dull. I like control and observation and not making an ass of myself, keeping an eye on the door and my wallet and how much I’ve had to drink. Do you know how many years it’s been since I’ve danced on a table- or bar top? Bounced with friends and strangers to the jangle-pop of a somebody’s brother’s garage band? Jumped in instead of standing back?

This isn’t a call back to my teenage or college years—well, a little bit to my college years. But even if I don’t want to be sixteen or even twenty again, I do want some of that anarchic joy, the sweaty-dancing-laughing-singing-to-the-stars joy.

I’m only halfway through life, so why am I acting as if I’m already nearing the end?

Something more, remember?