Friday, March 31, 2006

This Week in Reality Television

I’ve been hellishly busy at work all of a sudden, but I did manage to watch several shows and form snotty opinions about them:

The Apprentice

I like this show quite a bit, in all honesty, even though Trump makes less sense than Tyra when he eliminates people. But if you remove the Trump factor from the equation (thank you, fast forward button!) The Apprentice is a good fit for me because it has everything I enjoy about reality programming: actual tasks (I hate shows like Real World or The Bachelor where the contestants don’t have to do anything), deluded people who apply to be on TV because they’re convinced the world should no longer be deprived of their awesomeness, and due humiliation of same.

This week the teams had to put together a commercial for Norwegian Cruise Lines. They were informed in perfect, clear terms that the ads were to promote NCL’s non-structured cruises, where you can eat anytime you want and wear whatever you want (blahblahblah) without the oppressive structure of some other cruises. One team heard those instructions and made a commercial about those aspects of a NCL cruise; the other was totally absent/at the dentist/in the bathroom that day and made a commercial about a castaway being picked up by a cruise ship. Morons. Ha!

American Idol

Dear America:

Bite me.



I mean, the show this week sucked donkey balls anyway. Then, to add insult to injury, Katharine got fewer votes than Bucky? REALLY?? And Paris does nothing but gyrate in an embarrassing, possibly illegal fashion and say “work it out” four or five times and still gets that many more votes than Katharine? Maybe Ryan is so distracted by his new relationship with that plastic-faced woman that he’s reading his cards wrong.

The Amazing Race

Best moment all season came this week: The hippy guys wearing t-shirts that say “bowling” and “moms,” respectively, in homage to Linda and Karen from Season Five. I love when people apply for the show because they watch and love it, not simply because they want to be discovered. Well played, B.J. and Tyler.

Speaking of watching a show before you apply? Yeah, this week’s episode included the obligatory contestant who showed up for a race around the world without learning to drive stick shift. SIGH. This happens EVERY SEASON, people. Learn! You’re like the fools who jump off the boat for Survivor all, “Does anyone know how to make a fire?” Then they wander around with no idea how to build a shelter either, like they’re all going to huddle under Jeff Probst’s dick when it rains.

Did you think it was all about promotional shoots, dipshits? Then you’re on the wrong show. You should have applied for. . .

America’s Next Top Model

OK, after I bagged on Top Model so hard the other day this week’s episode was kind of great. Because they no longer own their souls (read the fine print, sisters) the contestants are only allowed to call loved ones with the single house phone, and all calls are fodder for public consumption. This week we got to hear Nnenna talking to her imbecilic boyfriend and, deliciously, flat hanging up on his ass in mid-whine. Excellent.

Also, Insane Clown Janice Dickinson raged in and taught the wannabes about commercial vs. editorial posing (one of the first actual lessons I’ve ever seen on this show, Jay Manuel notably absent) and then crashed their dinner, got Paula Abdul levels of shitfaced, and made stupid Gina cry.

THEN freakshow Jade said she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher someday and Danielle gave a hilariously vehement interview about how she would homeschool her child before sending it to Jade’s kindergarten.

More weeks like this and I’ll retract my anti-Top Model statements.

(Finally) Survivor

Survivor was predictable and dumb this week, just as I predicted. (Dumbly?) Most offensively, the previews for this episode included dramatic grainy video of paramedics and a stretcher over which Probst intoned something about devastating injury that might take a player out of the game. I guess that video was supposed to go with CSI, though, since nothing like it appeared on Survivor. Bruce got hit with a machete and bled for a few minutes and said he was fine. No paramedics, no stretcher, and YOU SUCK, Survivor. Who do they think they’re kidding? I don’t want anyone gruesomely injured (well, maybe Shane) but what was with that stupid preview? It was a total lie! Go away, Jeff.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Photo of "Norman Fireplace" in the Tower of London

Um. . .

I give up. They're worried that some fool tourist will sneak an actual fire into it? That the Normans will burst in on them again, all "1066 was nothing, BITCH" and burn the Tower, beginning with the Norman fireplace for the sake of symbolism? Or does the fireplace spontaneously spew flames on Bonfire Day?

Monday, March 27, 2006

America's Next Top Model is the weirdest show on television

I've never seen a show that so openly promotes--nay, celebrates--mediocrity. Yeah, yeah, American Idol, I know, but they at least make people sing and then tell them when it sucks. Top Model is what Idol would be if the skill set being sought were nebulous and ill-defined and the whole mess judged by Paula Abdul. It's like a parallel universe, that show.

If you've never seen it, here's a synopsis of a typical episode:

A bunch of dim young women (who are in no cases prettier than people you personally know) are taken from their tacky, over-decorated Lodgings of Much Drama and delivered by bus to the care of a little man named Jay Manuel who has even more plastic parts than Ryan Seacrest. Manuel gives an unintelligible "explanation" of the impending photo shoot and then sends the (permanently) bewildered "models" to hair and makeup, where, in most cases, something will be done to make them even more unappealing than they are in their natural states. (below: "We can make him sleeker, more bronzed")

During the photo shoot, Manuel spits instructions that the women cannot follow because they make even less sense than Paula's "advice" for the Idol singers. Jay Manuel is seriously the most superfluous entity on reality television today. "I need more around the eyes, Furonda!" "I need more expression, Jade!" Hey, Malibu Jackass? How about teaching them *how* to do those things? Since you're the director and all?

I understand that it would be a challenge to teach them anything--two of these geniuses had a deep conversation last season about how all birds are blind--but you helped choose them, after all, so at least you could go through the motions. Phone something in, Jay. Fake it? No? Fine.

Photos are snapped and, later, the judges deliberate (during which time only Twiggy might say something reasonable) and then Tyra Banks makes Paula Abdul look sober. Seriously, her justifications when eliminating contestants make no freaking sense whatsoever. "We wonder what happened to the outgoing butterfly we saw the first week." "Your poses are too safe, instead of taking risks." (Um, Jay Manuel, please call your office?) She throws the same crap around every season, too, so you can tell early on who's going to get shafted with the "we just can't tell who you are anymore" bullshit. It's that transparent and ridiculous.

The photo shoots are almost always idiotic, too. Take last week's episode (please!) [*rim shot*] The models are forced to walk runway wearing embarrassingly pretentious "Victorian goth punk" garbage, a genre the designers clearly believe they invented. You see, they revolutionize high fashion by purposely making the models ugly and dressing them in clothing no actual human would ever wear! Never, EVER done before. Whatever, jackholes. Also part of the shoot, because these designers are just that hardcore, are brooches made of live bedazzled Madagascar hissing cockroaches on teeny leashes.

Now, I have admitted before that I have a deep loathing of roaches. It's not a general crawler thing--I don't mind spiders, for example--but I find roaches hideous and terrifying. Thus, feel free to doubt my objectivity here, but that is so stupid! It's not a photo shoot with closeups--it's a fashion show! It's a fake fashion show, I get that, but still. In a real fashion show, only the very front row would even have a chance at identifying those things as roaches, so it's obvious that Top Model is trying to get a piece of the Fear Factor demographic like Survivor and Amazing Race have done at times, and it's sophomoric and cheap. Ugh. (below: They're going to gas those things when this is over, right?)

In summary, I have no idea why I enjoy watching such a moronic show. I really don't. Maybe it makes me feel superior? Maybe I'm just that voyeuristic?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Face it: You love your cell phone. You just hate everyone else's.

I'm a little weary of diatribes on the evils of cell phones. You know what? I like my cell phone. I don't like rude people who bellow into them at Target while I'm trying to concentrate on important hair color purchasing decisions, but that's not the phone's fault. If bitch weren't annoying me with her yelling she'd most likely be offending me some other way. Because she's rude--and that's the real problem.

I'm so hyper-aware of cell rudeness that on the rare occasions I do use my phone in the store I end up skulking off to a deserted corner whispering "I have to make this quick; I'm in the store" with the same urgency you might reveal "I'm on the pot," so, believe me, I'm not defending the accused. I just think it's gotten a little too fashionable to turn up one's nose at a perfectly useful device, like it's so bourgeois, or something. Like the anti-cell crowd are the new "I don't own a television" douchebags.

I read some sneering piece recently about the pathetic losers who immediately start dialing the moment an airline pilot announces that cell phone use won't make the air traffic controller direct their plane into a ditch. I will confess, somewhat shamefacedly, that I have my own pet peeves concerning air travel and often make a jackass of myself because of them. Most prominent: I hate when people jump up and start reaching around and dragging things down on top of you as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off (or, you know, before). You can't go anywhere! Chill! So if I'm on the aisle I sit placidly waiting for people to begin disembarking while the folks trapped beside me quiver with impatience. We all suck in our own special ways, and I can embrace mine.

BUT, there are plenty of reasons to call as soon as you land. For example, I call my mom as soon as I land at DFW because she lives a few minutes away and doesn't need to leave to come get me until I'm on the ground. Also, there are times when my husband takes my son to visit relatives without me, and every minute that I don't have to wonder if they're safely back on the ground is worth what I pay for the phone and worth the scorn of other passengers.

Then again, even at my bitchiest I try to remember what a "pet peeve" is: It's your problem. So while I don't mind cell phones, I can recognize my problems. To wit, I complain bitterly every day about people who drive ginormous goddamn trucks and SUVs, not because I'm all Miss Green Party conservationist or some other unselfish thing, but because I drive a snappy purple PT Cruiser convertible and I CAN'T SEE AROUND YOUR ASS. There are times, I swear, when I have thought about getting myself a vehicle designed for Paul fucking Bunyan just so I can see where I'm going, and then I think WTF? I neither want nor need such a vehicle, yet here I am pondering a $30,000 gas guzzler simply because I feel so oppressed by the stupid things. I HATE YOU, GIANT-ASS TRUCKS. HATE. YOU.

If your daily business involves hauling redwoods to and fro? I forgive you the enormous truck. But if it just makes you feel like Biggus Dickus? No. Also, could you at least park in the back of the lot instead of right up on my driver's side so I don't have to get gastric bypass surgery before I can squeeze into my car? Thanks so much.

What was this post about again? Cell phones? Yeah, I don't care about cell phones most of the time. They're useful. I guess I don't have much room to talk about pet peeves, though, so I'll shut up now.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sorry! Totally my bad.

Wow. How much do I suck? First I fucked up the songs from last night: Bucky is the one who bored me silly with "Oh Boy," while Taylor sang some other boring-ass song about not fading away. Still not Elvis, though.

Now I find that I was off in my conviction that Lisa was absolutely gone tonight. Like, I almost didn't even watch the shit except I heard Barry was going to sing--that's how sure I was. I did have the bottom three right, though you didn't exactly need the Psychic Friends to puzzle that out, but I was as wrong as possible about their order.

So bye, wee Kevin. I hope you land somewhere with no Ryan Seacrests to dance around and humiliate you incessantly. Get a good therapist and start the rebuilding process now.

Captain, My Captain and some Idol reaction

First and foremost let me wish my beloved William Shatner a very happy 75th birthday. I like Picard as much as the next person, but you will always be the captain of my heart, you puffed up old scenery-chewer.

Speaking of, could someone please explain to me how American Idol presented a night of 50s tunes with no one singing Elvis? Where's the love for The King, Idol? Where's the reverence?

I confess to fast forwarding through almost everything but the actual singing (I haven't watched an episode of Idol live since the first season) so maybe I missed something, but I never got a clear idea of the theme. Fifties songs in general? In which case leaving out Elvis seems egregious? Or were they only choosing from Barry's new album of 50s classics? Because then I assume it makes sense, though I have not yet pulled up Rhapsody to listen to that no doubt fabulous album. (Read that without sarcasm, by the way. Barry is aces with me. Cool Breeze writes the motherfucking songs.)

Either way, I enjoyed last night's episode more than any so far this round, I believe. There were missteps, no question, but overall it worked for me. It's a MUCH better kind of theme than making them all sing from one artist's oeuvre, that's for sure. That Stevie Wonder bullshit was excruciating.

Clearest in my memory:

Katharine must call me immediately so that she and I can begin our long lives as BFF. I totally have a girl crush on her; I just feel in my core that if I were Katharine I would be a better person.

When Kat comes over she should bring Mandisa, who also kicks ass.

Pickler was better than I've seen her in weeks, though my affection has never wavered. I LOVE Patsy Cline, and KP looked comfortable and confident and sounded great. Good on you, sister.

Taylor is the one who should've sung Elvis. Or anything other than that tripe he threw out. I love his voice (though I could do with less twitching) but "Oh Boy" sucked ass. Sorry, homeslice.

Bucky was not good, so much so that I can't remember exactly why.

Chris's performance was . . . bizarre. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but I'm still gobsmacked that they're letting him get away with it. When Simon praised him for not compromising I thought, "Yeah, but we'll never know how many tried and failed, will we?" (I like my tinfoil hat, y'all. It keeps the Communists from broadcasting secrets through the fillings in my teeth.)

Kevin is still adorable, and I liked that song on him, so nyah. Bite me, h8ers.

Who's left? Oh, Ace. He sounded fine, I guess. Very Ace-like. And Lisa, who will be eliminated tonight. "Why Do Fools Fall" is a great song, but she sounded like she was singing it through a filter, like I was hearing it through the floor of an upstairs apartment while trying to sleep (thank gods those days are over). She was doing way too much desperate hopping and grinning and it gave me empathetic embarrassment and killed her sound. That song's not a dirge, by any means, but it's not giddy, either; she had no idea what she was singing about. Ugh. Painful. And such a shame since her voice can be so powerful.

Oh--I forgot Elliott. I like him. He seems nice and has a pretty voice. That's all I've got since I can't remember what he sang.

Interestingly, the Vegas odds at the beginning of the season showed Ace way out in front. My bet would not be on Ace now. Chris and Taylor--perhaps even Elliott--will outlast Ace, is my prediction. Feel free to act on that tip, friends.

Monday, March 20, 2006

You're going to think I'm making this up but I swear it's all true

I won’t bore you with my vacation slides, but the trip was great, of course, because it was the U.K. and I love no place on Earth more. We drove all the way west to Tintagel one day and all the way east to Dover another, both places I had not been before. Glorious. Bitter freaking cold, as they’re having a wretched winter that won’t let go, but glorious nonetheless.

But you don’t care about that.

So let me reward you for hanging around through the dull first paragraph with an incredible tale. Believe it or not, the perfect U.K. Trip Blog Topic roared into view before my flight from DFW even left the ground.

To set the scene, we traveled both ways on the lovely Boeing 777, she of the personal video choices and expansive glory. The day we left was the Thursday before spring break, so the flight was packed to the 777’s capacity of whatever that is—like 2 million passengers or something. The rows in this aircraft run two seats, five seats, then two seats; my son and husband had seats A and B while I had seat C in the same row, leaving an aisle between me and them and a stranger directly to my right. And oh, my friends, what a stranger!

I still can’t believe my luck, for even though I’m unabashedly nosy I usually ignore strangers in situations like this. For one thing, it’s way too easy to pick up a Belial, and a nine hour flight with a Belial represents a special level of hell. (I always end up sitting next to the stranger, too, because Mike hates and fears them while I am merely indifferent to them, and the vehemence of his feelings trumps the tepidity of mine.) Anyway, I am SO glad I didn’t crawl into my headphones and novel immediately this time, because the dude who sat next to me was AWESOME.

I was seated before he got there, so of course I had to get up to let him by, about which he was exceedingly polite, I must say, and I registered without thinking about it that he was not much taller than I (I’m 5’8”), darkly tanned in a self-conscious kind of way, a dedicated proponent of hair gel, and—again in the interest of authorial integrity I give him his due—wearing nice shoes. Then a pretty young woman showed up to take the seat on the other side of him. We both got up to let her by, etc. The two of them started a conversation very quickly, establishing that they both had spouses in England (his wife is English and her husband is stationed there for some kind of military job) and trading reasons for being on this flight in particular.

My first hint of how much these people were destined to amuse me then arrived in the form of a hysterical conversation establishing how in the world people as fabulous as they ended up flying coach. Ha! They went on and on, talking over each other in their eagerness to justify it: “I mean, it’s just stupidly expensive for what you get, you know? And unless you, like, have to attend a business meeting the moment you get there and thus need to be well rested there’s just no reason to waste all that money when it’s not that much better in Business Class!”

It gets better. You see, according to Mr. Man, he was returning from Peru, where he had been filming a special for Discovery about surviving in the jungle. In fact, he had almost lost his little finger during production (from her exclamation I assume he showed her a gruesome finger wound at this point in the narrative, but I didn’t dare sneak a look because I was already dangerously close to exploding in rude guffaws) because he had caught a baby alligator and was trying to decide if he should eat it but decided not to eat it after all since he was having such great success catching fish by poisoning a pond with roots he had located and dug for this purpose. The fish then just float right to the top, you know? He had released the baby alligator when, out of nowhere, a huge anaconda appeared and grabbed the alligator in its powerful jaws! (I know! I couldn’t make this shit up!) For reasons he did not deign to explain, he began wrestling the anaconda (to save the alligator he himself caught for food?) and nearly lost his finger in the epic battle that lasted at least twenty minutes.

I would like to remind readers that my flight had not yet left the ground while I was enjoying this fantastic load of bullshit. The trip was already worth every penny before takeoff!

He talked at her all night (this was the overnight flight to Gatwick that I always end up on) and I never figured out if she was really eating up this garbage or if she was indulging him for some reason. Maybe she’s a blogger too? Just before we landed I saw him putting away a copy of Bill Bryson’s latest book and politely said, “I really like his stuff,” to which he responded, so awesomely, with, “Well, my wife is making me read this and I haven’t gotten into it yet. I’ve been working on it for like three flights now, where normally I read two books a flight, you know. I understand he’s real popular over there but I just haven’t been able to get into it.” Two books a flight! It was like a little bonus parting gift. Two books, people. Stand in awe.

My family and I had a great time later amusing ourselves with images of the Master of Peru presenting the vanquished mass of an anaconda in one mighty (four-fingered) hand while the other cradled the baby alligator suckling at his breast, a bounty of poisoned guppies littering the ground around his designer loafers.

What a great vacation.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

See you on the other side

We're off to England and Wales tomorrow! I'm losing my mind with the preparing and packing and forgetting things and dealing with all of my ridiculous pets. I'm excited about the trip, though, particularly since we're taking Vaughn for the first time.

I don't have a laptop, alas, so it's very unlikely that I'll be able to post from abroad. I'll leave you with this lovely photo of Tintern Abbey (link to source and copyright in title above) and "see" you when I return on the 19th.


Look out! He's going to eat your brains!


I pinched this slice of awesome directly from Trent at Pink Is the New Blog (linked in title and sidebar). Go check him out because, as you can see, he's hilarious. He introduces the above photo with, "Um, when did Eddie Van Halen die?"

And, seriously. Damn. That picture makes me think of the scene in the new Dawn of the Dead where Andy on the roof of the gun shop is taking out zombies who look like celebrities. If the guys at the mall said "Eddie Van Halen" this is what he would shoot.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jesus better have Halo and Halo 2 for His X-Box, or my son will bail on that shit so fast

One day I received a package in the mail containing several X-Box games to which my friend Tom had become desensitized. Off to score a stronger anesthetic for his own higher brain functions, he was thoughtful enough to pass those gateway home lobotomizers on to my son. Thanks, pal!

Actually, I don't have a problem with gaming. I remember when arcade games were the Threat To Our Children; when my sister and I were in grade school our town required that businesses keep all video games unplugged during school hours upon threat of hefty fines. Otherwise those devilish video games lured us away from learning, you see, because no child ever found a reason to ditch before Space Invaders landed in the lobby of Mama's Pizza.

Unfortunately, I am such an old bag, such an utter LOSER, that I can't play these newfangled X-Box and PC games because they make me feel pregnant; i.e., they give me motion sickness. I know--don't even start. It's mortifying. When I do want to play my Buffy the Vampire Slayer X-Box game I have to take Dramamine first, which kills the spontaneity on the front end and then eviscerates my (already shaky) hand-eye coordination on the back end when the shit starts putting me to sleep.

Anyway, at the time when Tom's Box-O-Truancy arrived, my son was still floating in the protected realm of "kiddie" games. He loves anything mathematical, so he has lots of puzzle games, and we have every incarnation of Crash Bandicoot in the known world, stuff like that. All very cute and unlikely to make me the mother of a serial killer. In the Tom box: a Spongebob Squarepants game that turned out to be pretty damned awesome; the second Buffy game for me to try even though I hadn't been able to stay awake long enough to finish the first one; and Halo, a game I had heard of (I work with teenagers, after all) but not seen.

Like the over-protective mother that I am, I took one look at the "M for Mature" rating on the front of Halo and nixed it outright. It sat around the house for months, unplayed, until one afternoon when I was packing my son's things for a visit with my parents. I stuck the Halo game in his bag and told him to "see if Pawpaw wants to try it since it's rated M."

I really believed my meaning there to be clear (did you understand what I meant?) but two days later I listened to my giddy son over the phone, absolutely babbling in his glee: "OHMYGOD PAWPAW AND I HAVE BEEN PLAYING HALO AND IT'S SOOOOOO AWESOME! THERE'S ALIENS AND EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE A GUN YOU CAN SNEAK UP AND KILL THEM JUST BY HITTING THEM IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD! PAWPAW SAID NOT TO TELL YOU BUT I HAD TO TELL YOU CUZ IT'S AWESOME!!1!!11!"

(Um. That's real nice, punkin. Could you put Pawpaw on the phone, please?)

Predictably, there was no getting that horse back into the barn, and now we have Halo 2 as well. All of my son's friends seem to have this thing, too, and I admit it's really not that gory. It also provides some amusing moments. A couple of weeks ago we were down at the folks' and I happened to overhear the following from another room:

Kid: Ugh! I'm toast.

Pawpaw: I'll get him!

[gunfire, growling, screaming, mostly from the game]

Kid: [sigh] There's my body.

Pawpaw: Well get up, boy! You're supposed to be a Marine!

Friday, March 03, 2006

"Train for ill and not for good"

The title links to one of my favorite poems of all time, "Terence This Is Stupid Stuff" by A. E. Housman. What a treasure trove of awesome that poem is.

For me, the thing earns its keep very early on with "malt does more than Milton can / To justify God's ways to man," a snotty reference (of course) to Milton's stated rationale for composing Paradise Lost and one of the most hilarious couplets ever written in English. Housman was by all indication a spectacular wiseass, and his narrator, "Terence," slaps his drinking buddies right down when they complain about his gloomy verses, telling them if they want escapism--to "see the world as the world's not"--they should just get hammered already instead of pestering him for rhymes, because that's not how poetry rolls.

For Housman, poetry strives for the real; poetry is the red pill. Oh, he acknowledges the bliss of ignorance, but he's not going to let you forget that it's illusory and temporary:

And faith, 'tis pleasant till 'tis past:
The mischief is that 'twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I've lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

What a simple yet astute perspective on the use of chemicals to induce a kind of false ignorance, to place one's understanding under erasure--until it wears off. Then you're just hungover and depressed and dirty.

I can easily see some of my past students drinking themselves into a stupor to escape poetry, by the way; many of my college kids sided with Terence's lighthearted chums over his morose ass, for reasons that aren't entirely illegitimate. I don't know that I would want to have lunch with Terence myself. OK, that's a lie. I totally would. But I get that normal people wouldn't.

What Housman did as well as any poet ever, for my money, was use humor in delivering a serious concept. This poem is really fucking funny, but by the time you read "Mithridates, he died old," your giggling gets a bit nervous, because Mithridates made it to his ripe old age by taking poison every day to make himself immune to higher doses. The message? "Train for ill and not for good." Terence argues that that crafty old bastard Mithridates saw the world as the world IS. To his tippling friends he shrugs, "You think that's too much of a buzzkill, Mr. Partypants? Suit yourself--and die young instead of old."

If the lines "Oh I have been to Ludlow fair / And left my necktie God knows where" amuse you, you'll be as delighted as I to know that the Ludlow fair still takes place. I was fortunate enough to be in Shropshire a few years ago for a Beddoes Society meeting, and upon telling a pub owner of my plans to visit Ludlow the next day and pay my respects to Housman's memorial there, he warned me that the place would be crowded because "the fair's going on." The same fair Housman writes of in the poem! I couldn't believe my luck. I found out why Housman loved his native Shropshire so much during that trip, too, because it is a glorious place. R.I.P., my man.

That's right! I understand what love is, bitches.

I promise this blog won't devolve into an "all quizzes, all the time!" bullshit thing, but I ran across The Robin Hood Morality Test this morning and decided to link it. It has been around for years, so many of you have seen it before.

I'll post my answer in a comment if you'll post yours . . .

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Are you a budding serial killer? (Like you'd tell me.)

I have no idea if this is true, but I like it either way so I didn't bother to check Snopes.

Read the question below, come up with an answer, and then scroll down to the bottom for the result. This is not a trick question. It is as it reads:

A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met this guy whom she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing, so much her dream guy she believed him to be just that! She fell in love with him right there, but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister.

Question: What is her motive in killing her sister? (Give this some thought before you answer.)


Answer: She was hoping that the guy would appear at the funeral again.

If you answered this correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test by a famous American Psychologist used to test if one has the same mentality as a killer. Many arrested serial killers took part in the test and answered the question correctly. If you didn't answer the question correctly good for you. If you got the answer correct, please let me know so I can take you off of my email list unless that will tick you off, then I'll just be extra nice to you from now on.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Can I sue Jesus for custodial interference?

Religion is a difficult topic for me, to be honest, because so many people I respect and adore self-identify as Christians, and I do not. I'm an atheist, but I've not been particularly political about it; like, I don't start petitions to remove "In God We Trust" from the money or anything. In the same way that some people feel in their viscera that Someone is out there, my innards beg to differ, and that's really it. I don't believe in the supernatural--ghosts, chupacabra, astral projection, Ouija, omnipotent gods, whatever. It's not a choice I've made; I just don't feel it.

That's not to say that I don't find aspects of religion moving. I will visit Westminster Abbey again in two weeks and, like every other time I've been, I will get all verklempt at some point, because it's beautiful and solemn and emotional and cool. I know many people who derive immeasurable comfort and serenity from their faith--that's a fine thing. And you won't find anyone who loves the Christmas holiday more than I. I have had people ask me why I get so jazzed about Christmas if I'm not a Christian, and that is just a bizarre question. (Um, hello, presents? Pretty lights? Pies?) Seriously, do they really think that only Christians experience the joy of a time dedicated to family and good will? That because I'm not a Christian I'd rather just go to work on December 25th than spend the day laughing and exchanging gifts with the people I love most? I do have feelings, even though they might not all be the same as yours, you know?

Most of the time "to each his own" works for me, but here's where I get upset: when it involves my son. I mentioned a couple of days ago that the town where I live is aggressively Jesus-centric. In particular, there is one behemoth church that dominates. It's not a traditional church, either, like a Church of Christ or First Baptist; it's one of those upstart megachurch things. I swear every third person I meet in this town attends that church. It's downright creepy sometimes, it's so ubiquitous.

So right after we moved to town, before I knew what I know now, one of my (then six-year-old) son's soccer friends invited him to this church's "guest night." I, being a grownup person with (I tell myself) some measure of maturity, approached the child's mom and explained that my son would love to go to church with her son but that he had never been before. I asked if she would tell me something of what would happen during the event so I could provide some prep. I watched several emotions cross her face during this exchange, beginning with surprise and moving swiftly to what I later realized was calculation. With a bright laugh, she told me that my son would probably come away from this experience with the impression that church = carnival, which I appreciated as funny, and then breezed through a mention of "some videos."

I sensed her sudden twitchiness, but whatever. I assumed from the beginning that they would be dishing out your standard Sunday School "Jesus Loves Me" fare, and I had no problem with that. That's what happens at church, after all.

Can you guess what did happen?

My six-year-old came home and told me that after eating the snacks and playing in the bounce houses, all the kids watched a video about Jesus (except he couldn't remember Jesus's name when telling me this, so he said, "that guy? you know, God's son?" which was hilarious to me until he kept talking and the red haze crept over my vision) and then they stood in a line and all had to close their eyes and ask Jesus to come into their hearts. He filled me in on the benefits of this as well: If you do it you'll get to go see Jesus after you die. I managed to chirp something like, "Wow, that's nice" and sent him to bed before he could notice the tic in my eyelid.

What the FUCK are they doing saving my child without my permission? I cannot even express how furious I was. Six years old, utterly susceptible to the influence of adults, not a member of the church, unaccompanied by his parents--it's just so offensive in so many ways. I felt tricked, even betrayed. And for what? "That guy" may as well have been Santa Claus to my son. At six--hell, even now, at nine--he has no understanding of concepts like sacrifice and martyrdom or sin. How can he give informed consent? He can't. It's ridiculous.

Then there's the school. I was aghast last Thanksgiving when my son brought home a list of things he's thankful for, and the list included references to "God" and "God's blessings," language I know he did not hear at home. When I asked him about it, he revealed that his teacher "put some things on the board that they could copy if they wanted." WHAT? I know it's not like she's recruiting for the Manson family, OK? My son probably thought of nothing but copying her words so he would be done faster. But that's against the law what she did! Isn't it? What could I do, though? Start trouble at the school and make my kid a target? I'm already dreading the day some asshole tells him he's going to hell.

Listen, this furor the last few days over the painting of George Washington praying at Valley Forge is a waste of time. It's a piece of art. People have prayed, in history, and there's no reason to act like they haven't. (See how reasonable I am? I'm not some pagan Satanist whatever slavering green foam on priests.) You have my permission to inform my son at school that someone painted an image of George Washington praying, as long as you don't make a life's lesson out of it. You do NOT, however, have my permission to claim or even imply to my son at school that Christianity is the bees knees and everybody is doing it; in fact, in elementary school I don't want you even telling him what your personal religious beliefs are. Keep it to yourself, please; it's none of his business.

I quite like our new home in other ways, but the Jesus fervor unnerves me. Why not just live and let live? Why can't we all just get along? Oh--also? Stay away from my child!

Innocence lost

Oh, if only I could've been spared THIS.

You can't un-know, though; once you're evicted from the garden you can never go back to blissful ignorance. Unless of course you take the Pi route and use a power drill. One day you'll see me with a clumsy bandage around my head and a dopey grin, and on that day you will know that I have discovered how to drill the images of Probst's proboscis and Seacrest's tongue out of my brain like rotting teeth.

Seriously--where the HELL is he in that photo? A swinger's bar in 1975?

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