Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tom and the Chicks

Time magazine recently dubbed the Dixie Chicks "Radical" on its cover. I'm particularly fond of the narrative inside, which proclaimed that the "three Texas women have the biggest balls in American music."

Lead singer Natalie Maines, by (perhaps improvidently) speaking her mind about the then-looming Iraq war, turned the Dixie Chicks into a polarizing force in the American landscape. Country music fans turned on them. (A recent Country Music Awards broadcast contained at least one reference to The Chicks which wasn't all that positive. I only saw that one because, well, I didn't watch the full broadcast.) Their albums fell off the charts. They received death threats. Radio stations refused to play their music -- and some continue to refuse. They got into a very public feud with Toby Keith.

Battle lines were drawn over Maines's words. Depending on which side of political divide you were on, she was either the ultimate patriot, willing to risk her career by voicing unhappiness at the president on such a large-scale platform, or she was a modern-day Benedict Arnold, for voicing unhappiness at the president on such a large-scale platform.

Longtime readers of this blog will not be surprised that I totally agree with Maines, and with Time's assessment of these ladies' testicular fortitude. (I don't know if Maines's cohorts knew what she was going to do before she did it, but the fact that they've stuck by her and the kept the band together since pretty much ratifies her position.) While rabidly right-wing country music fans were burning Chicks CDs and issuing American fatwas on the women, I went out and bought three of their albums (which I love, by the way). I recently placed an order for their latest from amazon.com.

PS: Mad props to Duane for hooking me up with the concert presale code for the Dixie Chicks concert. Got a pair of pretty decent tickets for their upcoming show in town. Sing out, girls!

***




















It's difficult to believe, but it's been over a year since Tom Cruise (seriously -- check out that link -- it's hilarious!) pulled his "so-in-love-I'm-going-all-orangutan-on-your-ass" stunt on Oprah. Let's not forget the Matt Lauer episode and the Brooke Shields to-do. And the strange birthing rituals of the rich and brainwashed.

Meanwhile, worldwide receipts for Cruise's latest release, MI3, do not appear to have suffered, even if box office receipts in the US and Canada were a little lower than anticipated.

I personally can't bring myself to watch the movie, or any other Tom Cruise vehicle, since all of this started. Not so much because of the utter strangeness of the Oprah moment and the public displays that followed, but more because his position on medication for psychological disorders is really literally harmful to those people who agree with him and refuse pharmaceutical treatment of their problems. When, precisely, did this man obtain his medical degree? Between movie premieres?

***

When the Dixie Chicks controversy was at full throttle, we found ourselves in what appeared to be a massive First Amendment controversy. Maines had a right to speak out, one side argued. Yes, but when she does, she must realize and accept that there will be consequences, came the response. The response included depressed sales and the symbolic destruction of Chicks CDs. (Thankfully, most people, including all but the most rabid right-wingers, do not condone the death threats which were sent to the Chicks.)

Maines was entitled to speak her mind. And the country was entitled to react. And boy, did it ever react.

Cruise, meanwhile, generated no such constitutional controversy. (Granted, he didn't speak out on something as volatile as politics, but he did basically say that anyone on psychiatric medication was weak and should just get over their head problems.) Instead, the world (unlike me) appears to have been perfectly capable of separating his wierdness from his career.

Cruise was entitled to speak his mind. And the country was entitled to react. And the country yawned.

I really wanted to write this post about how similar Cruise and Maines were with respect to the price they paid for their beliefs, but it looks like Maines struck much more of a nerve and paid a bigger price.

America -- be it the embodied by the Administration or by its consumer spending habits -- gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "picking your battles."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hateful Math

I had the strangest dream recently.

I was transported back to high school. oddly, it was to a class which I did fairly well in: calculus.

Stranger still, even my dream I realized that I had taken the class before. For some reason, though, I wholly accepted the fact that I was taking it again and likely would not do as well at it as before.

Then the teacher walked in (played in my dream by none other than my actual high school calculus teacher), and the dream took a dramatic turn of events far different from real life events.

The teacher -- I'll call her "Rev" -- walked in and announced (quite explicitly) that she didn't particularly like our class, and that there was a distinct possibility that she would be quitting teaching in order to avoid having to deal with us.

Obviously, this came as quick a shock to me, as usually calculus students were among the more better-behaved ones in my high school. (You didn't usually get to taking a calculus class by goofing off in your studies.) She told us she needed to think about it, but that she would quite soon get in touch with us about whether we would, in fact, be taking the class from her that year.

In the next part of my dream, we sat before yet another of my high school math teachers (this one, "Mas," was my Algebra II teacher). I can't explain why we were in a different math class while still not knowing what happened with Rev and the calculus class, but there we were, kind of biding time, when Rev walked in and announced that, in fact, she would not be teaching our class. In fact, she hated us and wanted nothing to do with us.

This is, of course, what many high school kids dream of: having a particularly challenging class cancelled. But calc is usually an elective, so those of us signed up for it probably wanted to take it, and as such, my dream permeated with the counterintuitive situation wherein a class full of math geeks was upset at not being able to study math.

At one point, she turned to Mas, and complained to him along the lines of, "I just can't do it. These kids need too much help. I had to review Reeve's theorem with them, for goodness sake!" and Mas gasped a response, "they didn't already know Reeve's theorem? Good heavens!"

(To my knowledge, the Reeve's theorem, in fact, does not exist. And I certainly don't remember Rev trying to review it with us in my dream. Which is just as well, because, as I said, I don't know that one exists. It would have been difficult for me to have a dream where a teacher reviews with me a theorem I don't even know.)

Somehow, this dream has left me feeling remarkably dissed (because I actually enjoyed my high school calculus experience) and a little disoriented.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Memorial Day



In between the sleeping in, the barbecuing, the drinking, the sunning, the drinking, the swimming, and the drinking, let's slip in some time to remember those who have died for this country over the years.


Photo is of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu, Hawai'i, better known as the "Punchbowl National Cemetery."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I Might Just Be Addicted

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 7330476



Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Measure of a Man

Hallmark hates men.

My father's birthday is in a few days. As usual, I forgot until just recently. Luckily, I've established a track record over the several decades of my life that I don't tend to buy much for birthdays, so there was no issue about any last-minute gift to get him.

My mind ran through the various places I could look for a card. Part of me said that any card will do. But of course, it had to be decent. I suddenly realized -- somehow for the first time -- that most of the places I frequent to buy birthday cards carry cards designed for the younger, hipper set. They're fun, irreverent, cartoonish, jokey -- and definitely not of the type my father would ever understand or appreciate.

I was definitely not going to buy a birthday card for my father at Pulp. Assuming I could have swung it, Lambda Rising would not have made for a good choice either.

I swung into a CVS on my way home from dinner. I was on the phone with my brother, talking about something or another, scanning row after row after row of cards. At first, I thought my conversation with my brother was just distracting me, but I eventually I realized that was not the case. The truth of the matter was that there were literally no "father's birthday" cards available at this CVS. None.

I found husband's birthday; I found brother's birthday; I found mother's and sister's and best friend's and in-law's and grandchild's and grandmother's and grandfather's and stepsibling's. There were no father's birthday cards there.

What the heck?



My determination to find an appropriate card increased exponentially after this dismal failure. I left the CVS and headed up the street to -- of all places -- Safeway. Yes, Safeway. Why? I don't know. It was the only other place I could think of that had cards available and that was open at that hour.

The security guard's gaze fixed upon me as I stood there and staring at the rack of cards. The first thing that caught my eye was the selection of Father's Day cards (which I somehow also missed at the CVS). Dammit, I thought, is that coming up too? Gads. I decided I may as well buy both at the same time. At least they had a selection that didn't all involve trite cartoons of power tools, golf, or "old man" jokes. I picked a sensible-looking one with a decent "I love you" message in it and moved over to where the birthday cards were.

Of course, I was met with a shocking lack of father's birthday cards at the Safeway too. What the heck does one do for their fathers when their birthdays come around? Do people just not care about their father's special days?

Finally, I found one card addressed to Dad. It had a cartoon duck on it who exclaimed how Daddy always had right "tools" for every occasion. Opening it up you see the duck wearing a tool belt, and everything attached to it had some lame "father figure" type turn of phrase attached to it -- stuff like "hammering home life lessons" or crap like that. Does anyone over the age of 12 actually think this is a decent card to get their father?

One card looked promising, except that upon pulling it out I found that it was for Mom. Another card for father wasn't quite for "dad" so much as it was for "Papi." Another card would have been good, except that it was already designated as "from both of us." Because my brother has recently decided to eschew birthday celebrations (that's a whole 'nother blog post), this would be wildly inappropriate. (Is there a huge market for birthday cards from two people? I know my parents had two kids, but seriously, how hard is it to just buy a regular "happy birthday" card and attach two signatures to it?)

Finally, I found one card that looked nice enough, contained a sentiment that wasn't about stereotyped "manly" interests, and did the trick. I bought it, knowing full well that I'd have to hope that my dad didn't examine the card too carefully.

The card I finally settled on was one put out by Mahogany, the division of Hallmark marketed for African-American families. The picture of a nice black man with his son on the front is rather small and a little fuzzy, so I'm hoping that's enough to render the scene a "generic" one.

Uh... in any event, happy birthday, Dad.

Solo Invitation

I recently received the invitation for a cousin's upcoming wedding.




In case you can't read that, it's the RSVP card enclosed in the invite (and a lovely view of my thumb holding it up). There are three lines under the blank for my name:

___ seat(s) reserved in your name(s)
___ number attending
___ will not attend

... and in the first line, the number "1" is already written in.

Now, my random questions: Seeing as this cousin hasn't done a very good job of keeping up with me, how the hell does he know I won't have someone to bring with me to the wedding?

The bigger question, is this a common thing now, where brides/grooms tell you explicitly what how much space you're allowed to take up? Did another cousin, married with her two children, get an invite with "4" written in? (Did she get one with "2" written in?)

I yearn for the "back in the day" times when one telegraphed how much space was avaiable at a wedding using a more genteel and subtle form: when the invitation was extended to a particular person and his/her guest (preferably by name, if the partner's name was known). And if you were known to be single and a guest was not welcome, you'd just get the invite for you. That way was subtle and did not grind any hints into you. It's kind of like having to ask for condoms instead of just taking them and paying for them: you know what's going on, you just don't want to have to proclaim it in such an obvious way.

I would have preferred that sub silencio method to be told not to bring a guest. I read Miss Manners; I can play by the rules. Had the invite come for me without "and Guest" I would have graciously taken the hint. But having someone affirmatively write the number "1" on your invite -- "I'm just holding a seat for you, thankyouverymuch" -- is a little annoying.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Abenteuer in Deutschland

A few girlfriends of mine ran off to Germany and Austria for a trip. I was invited (kind of), but given my experiences last time I went travelling with these girls, I decided to take a pass. (Well, that and I'm just plain broke.)

I'm glad I took that pass.

Here's a few email exchanges I've had with one the girls. Names and overly specific events changed, just in case someone's reading this blog who shouldn't be. Links are mine. Typos, however, remain intact.

From Emily to me:

hez there, we are all still alive. (note, the y and the z are mixed up on the kezboard, but i tzpe much faster if i ignore that=. anzwaz, i think laura is driving kristin crayz, but kristin isn├Ąt complaining. the problem is that kristin and i are much more on the same plane on scheduling and shopping issues, and we dont want to hang with laura while she spends 40 minutes picking out postcards!! but no major issues just zet, but there is still time.

Then later:

ok, this is truly classic.

laura orders a pasta dish with cheese sause that comes with peas and ham. she tells them NO PEAS. we wait 40 minutes for our food, and of course it comes with the peas. i saz laura, we waited all this time, just pick the peas out, its not like thez change the flavor. but no, she sends it back and tells them no peas. so kristin and i are just finishing our meals 15 minutes later and her dish comes back -- completelz plain pasta with ham and a lot of peas. laura looks totallz dismazed and the waitress goes, this is right, zah? no cheese? and laura goes no, no, no!!! i said hold the PEAS, not the CHEESE!!! i was terrified laura would send it back again, but the waitress just dumped a whole bowl of parmesan cheese on it, and laura just picked out the peas. except... she puts a forkful in her mouth and i see that one of the offending green suckers managed to sneak in, so i saz, laura, there is a pea in there... and then she just spit her whole mouthful right back on the plate!!!!!! kristin and i were dzing.... it was absolutelz hzsterical.

i swear i am not making this up... as if i could!

***

My girlfriends are picky eaters, persnickity about sleep, single-minded with respect to travel destinations, and sometimes a little on the inflexible side. I've pretty much decided that the next vacation I take, I'm going solo.

*** Title of this post courtesy of freetranslation.com.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cold Hard Cash

A recent topical IM conversation:

M.: lol. William Jefferson has $100K in his freezer.
Dennis!: "cold hard cash"?
M.: indeed.
M.: although it was hot. bribery money.
Dennis!: perhaps he needed to cool it down.
Dennis!: he was getting ready to throw it in the machine -- you know, to "launder" it.
M.: he had it in ziploc containers.
M.: to keep it fresh.
M.: you know how greens spoil.
Dennis!: they get all wilty and suffer from freezer burn.
M.: You'd think someone so good at cooking the books would know that.

Yuk yuk yuk.

** Update: Thanks again, Wonkette!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

In Other News...

I just noticed that Wonkette linked to me a few days ago! Woo hoo!

Unfortunately, I noticed too late to be able to go back to my stat counter to see how many hits it generated.

Now maybe if Gawker or Defamer would just notice me....

But the Astrodome was Still a Step Up for "Them."

So I see that the woman whose "Let them eat cake" response to victims of Hurricane Katrina received an honorary doctorate of public service from George Washington University.

I hear Bush 43, Condi, and Rummy are in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize, too.

I have no more words.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I'm Not Talking About Celery Here


I'm turning into a stalker.

***

I bumped into Cute Neighbor Guy recently as he was exiting a bar and I was entering. We've been doing this flirty dance for a while now, chatting each other up when we see each other in the hallways. We've exchanged names and apartment numbers on numerous occasions, but rarely have we done anything beyond that. (And, truth be told, I don't think he even remembers my name or apartment number for more than 30 seconds.)

So we said hi to each other on the street yet again, continuing our little virtual dance:

Him: Hey! How are you?
Me: Fine, I can't believe you're leaving just as I'm heading in!
Him: Well, I'm already buzzed and I have to get up early tomorrow....
Me: I think you're just trying to avoid me. We keep talking about getting together for dinner or something, but it never happens....
Him: I am not trying to avoid you!
Me: What apartment you in again?
Him: [gives apartment number] And you are ... [guesses completely wrong number]?
Me: No. [gives correct apartment number]
Him: Okay, yeah, so we should get together!
Me: You know now I'm just gonna stalk you right? Show up at your door unexpected and just say "Hey! What are you doing tonight?"
Him: Yeah, yeah, sure!
Me: You think I'm kidding....
Him: No, really. Bring paper though and leave me a note with your number in case I'm not there.
Me: Okay... don't say I didn't warn you.

Several angst-filled days later ("should I or shouldn't I??"), I went up to his apartment armed with a note that said "How about Wednesday or Sunday?" and leaving my phone number.

A normal person would have just slipped the note under the door and run. I knocked.

As luck would have it, he was home. I tried to be cheerful and non-stalker-y, but let's face it, I showed up unannounced to his apartment. There was a very low chance that the conversation would not be awkward.

So we made tentative plans to get together on Sunday. He called on Sunday to cancel, by the way.

Now I'll have to go back up there and try again.

***

The spectacular view from my office window is of the building next to mine. A thin alley separates my building from this one. That building is quite stark; along the facade facing me there are windows to the far left and windows to the far right, but none in between, making most my view one of solid ... well, whatever this material is. Thankfully, though, I'm not too far from the coveted corner office so I can see into the window bank at the rear of the building.

There's a guy in a tiny little office -- probably comparable to mine, now that I think of it -- who generally works with his shades pulled open. From the back/profile of his head, and the rest of his body, he seems reasonably attractive. At the very least, he's a Monet.

From time to time I catch myself looking out my window at him as he types, as he talks on the phone, and he reads some random document open in front of him. Earlier today I saw him in a suit and tie (unusual for him) and with a colleague (also in a suit and tie) -- I presume they had some important meeting to attend together.

What bums me out now is that, having seen him in his white dress shirt and yellow tie earlier today, I notice now that he's dressed in a brown or black tee shirt. What this means, of course, is that there was a possibility that he changed out of his suit in the office, and I missed it.

This upsets me greatly.

***

Perhaps I am in need of help.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Time Marches On

When I was 23 and barely out of the closet, gay bars seemed to be the most logical place to meet other gay men. Not having spent college or law school in any significantly gay environment, the only place I could think of that would provide a venue wherein strangers wouldn't judge you for your inclinations (hell, they'd embrace you (sometimes literally) for it) was the gay bar.

At 23, though, I remember getting weird vibes sometimes. In fact, there were certain bars I couldn't go to because of the lecherous, eerie feeling you got when you walked in. I'm referring to bars that seemed to cater to "older" clientele.

At 23, the last thing I wanted was to be noticed by a 40-something man. It was skeevy, icky. Sometimes just leery looks in their eyes was enough to make you feel unclean. If I was going to be hit on, or even leered at, I wanted the guy to be somewhat close to my age. I wanted him to be young.

And it scared me when the only attention I'd ever receive was from the distinctly older crowd.

As karma is often a bitch (even when you don't know what it's paying you back for), I've recently come to notice that I have joined the ranks of the older crowd I used to avoid. To be fair, I never used to think 30 was "old" old. But others do and did, and now I'm one of "them."

Recently, my friend Bill and I were enjoying some gorgeous weather sitting in an outdoor patio area having pretentious (overpriced) beers and calamari when a group of four young men sat down at the table next to us. And by young men, I do mean young -- probably no more than 23 or so each.

And I found myself thinking to how totally cute the one to my immediate left was.

And that's when it hit me: If I say a single word to these boys -- for whatever reason -- I will instantly come across as the Scary Old Guy. To be sure, by no means do I look geriatric, but let's face it, I don't look 22 anymore. (And thank heavens for that. Getting carded gets old. (No pun intended.))

If I had said anything to them, they, like the 23-year-old version of me, would have felt weirded out. They, like 23-year-old me, would have politely tried to steer themselves away from any conversations by only quickly answering any question I had asked and not soliciting or encouraging further exchanges. They, like 23-year-old me, later in the night after securing a safe distance, would comment to their friends about the creepy guy who dared to try to talk to them (read: hit on them) on the patio.

I'm proud of who I am and who I've become over the years. I'm comfortable in my skin (well, metaphorically at least). And I am blessed (or cursed) with the ability to find people all kinds of "types" attractive without limiting my range of options to "tall blond twinks" (for example) the way so many other gay men do. And I can find men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s hot.

I don't know those kids who sat down next to me that night. Heck, I may have even given them a bad rap by assuming they would do what I think they would. But the point of this post isn't them, it's me. (It's ALWAYS all about ME.)

I guess a better appreciation of others is another one of those things that comes along ... with age.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Random Thoughts

Thoughts that ran through my head tonight as I rode the Metro into NoVa to play poker:

- We're packed like sardines in here, yet it's dead quiet for some reason.
- Why is it the cutest guy in here is not facing me so that I can only see the back of his head?
- This guy's belly literally extends to where the tandem doors meet. Of course, given that, it would make perfect sense that he'd be the one standing in the doorway and not moving out of the cab when we pull into a station. Thankfully, that was the last stop on his side for a while.
- Something smells funny all of a sudden. I don't know for certain, but I'm going to blame Big Fat Guy, because I notice that he has now raised his arm to hold on to the overhead handle bar.
- Then of course, Big Fat Guy would get annoying and rude when it came time for him to get off the train.


Thoughts from tonight's poker game:
- The guy sitting next to me? I swear, I'm going to call him Napoleon from now on. He is Napoleon Dynamite jumped off the screen.











- The guy sitting two seats from him? Cleveland Brown from Family Guy. Just because of the way he talks, not the way he looks.












- Whenever I'm dominating the pockets (e.g., A-Q vs. A-9), the low card will always pair up, sucking me out. Always. In contrast, whenever I have the dominated hand (e.g., Q-Q vs. K-K), I will never get my suckout card, and I will lose.

Curse You, New York Times

I am amazed at how expensive it is becoming to read The New York Times. Particularly in an age when The Washington Post remains at 35 cents for a hard copy ($1.50 on Sundays) and almost completely free on line in addition to a free Express version, I am stunned that the NYT charges for any portion of its content.

I suppose it remains true that most of the "news" stories remain free on the NYT website, but really, that's the kind of news you can get from almost any other source. Anything that's even remotely unique to the paper comes at a price.

The Op-Ed page -- probably one of the best out there -- costs money to read. Pundits and academics inevitably discuss their concepts and ideas for days after publication, but us plebians aren't allowed to read them without paying for the privilege.

My greater concern is the Metropolitan Diary column. (Hey, I never claimed to be a deep political thinker.) For a while, I had bookmarked the "NY Region" page of the NYT web page so that I could read the new Diary columns when they appeared every Monday.

See, the Diary is kind of blog-like, which is why I enjoy reading it. It's just a compilation of sweet, sour, and in-between observations of New York City life, the kind of stuff that makes me miss my one summer there. I always looked forward to reading it.

About three weeks ago, I noticed that the Diary was no longer updating. I think the last one I read was from April 22. At first I thought perhaps the column was on a brief hiatus and waited for the next week's installment, but a week later, still nothing.

I was just about to lament that NYT had clearly discontinued to column when I noticed that the date on top of my bookmarked page had not changed since April. I decided to double-check by going through the main NYT page and charging forward from there, instead of going just through my bookmark.

Sure enough, I found the latest Metropolitan Diary (but only after running a search within their "NY/Region" page). So, for today, I got my Diary fix.

But wait! What about the several weeks that I didn't get to read them? I decided to check for the past weeks' installments, because previously, I had always been able to read up to a three previous Diary columns without charge.

No longer. Having read the May 15 column, I found that the May 8 column had already been captured by the webmaster gods and sold into a life once only seen in Times Square (before Rudy Guiliani "cleaned it up"): you have to pay to see these bad boys, sucker. Yes, like some cheap hooker offering to flash her mammaries in my face, the New York Times expected me to fork over a few bucks before I could read a column that was, in fact, less than a week old.

So, from now on, I must be exceedingly diligent in my NYT reading. Before long, if I don't get to the Diary within an hour after posting, they'll be charging for it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Strunk & White

I will the first to admit that I'm (too much of) a huge stickler for things like grammar and spelling. I'll also admit that, at times, it's true that I don't proofread my own material well enough, letting some errors slip through. But that doesn't stop me from making fun of the errors I see when I find them.

***

The other day I received an email from someone who used to work as a law clerk in my office. By "law clerk," I mean he graduated from law school and therefore had legal training. The law clerk's job is usually to do research and write memos on various legal issues that come up, and sometimes to work under the supervision of a more experienced attorney to write briefs that eventually get submitted to a court. Because law clerks usually haven't passed the bar yet, they're not considered "attorneys" though they do a good amount of research and writing like a first year associate would.

The former law clerk wrote to say hi, and to remind me that should I ever need help, he was available for a reasonable fee. (My guess is that he still hasn't passed the bar yet.)

He closed the email with: "Hope your doing well."

This doesn't instill in me much confidence that his writing skills have improved.

***

People looking for sex on Craigslist -- that's about 99.99% of the "personals" ads in the "men seeking men" section -- really need to learn the difference between "discreet" and "discrete." It gets annoying seeing people seeking "DISCRETE encounters" (especially when the word is in all caps). I would hope each encounter is discrete.

***

Even my support staff can't seem to get the distinctions right, which drives me batty. I correct things all the time when I'm editing things typed up by my secretary that I feel I shouldn't have to edit. It's even worse when I don't see the document before it gets filed, and there are issues with what actually makes it before a judge.

Usually, it's in the form of the magically appearing apostrophe:

"Defendants' claim that the Act does not apply."

"Defendant, in it's motion, argues that the Act does not apply."

Aaargh!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I Kind of Hate to Ask It, but Do You Have a Basket?

Random conversation with me and my co-worker earlier this week:

Co-worker: I wish this week would end already!
Me: (singing) I wish to go to the FEST-ival!
Co-worker: You are so gay. What is that from? Like, Rent or something?
Me: No! It's from Into the Woods.

[about thirty seconds later]

Co-worker: You know what play I really enjoyed? Into the Woods. Have you seen that?
Me: Uh... it's the play I just brought up like thirty seconds ago.
Co-worker: Wow. Somehow I totally missed that.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"War on Christianity"?

Pardon me while I get serious for a moment.

The WaPo's Religion section recently ran this piece surveying readers' attitudes regarding the existence (or not) of a "War on Christianity." (Related piece.)

The question: "In Today's Culture, Do You See Evidence of a War on Christianity?" Seriously, check out the answers. Most of them are very well thought out and interesting and make great arguments. Some attack the question from an angle I hadn't even considered.

Others, of course, make less sense. Not surprisingly, they tend to be the ones I disagree with. I tried -- really, I tried -- to read the ones that argued that there is, in fact, a war on Christianity brewing out there, but the support used for those people who thought so were rather off base (in my humble opinion).

So before I share what I wrote in response to the question when it was posed, I'd like to comment on some of the other responses.

* Andrew Genszler, Washington, D.C. is spot on. Political conservatives tend to feast on a buffet of "pick and choose" principles, deciding when states' rights are paramount and when they should be ignored, and when the free-market should reign supreme and when it should take a back seat to regulation. I love that Genszler points out that, even in a religious context, the hypocrisy shines through. Diversity of beliefs, people.

* Trisha Marsh Johnson, Athens, Ga., makes sense that persecution of Christians in non-Christian countries receives little media attention in the States. Extremism is really just the latest turn on the maxim "if it bleeds it leads." I would have to disagree with her, of course, on her last question. No one (except maybe the aforementioned extremists) has every really said that Jesus was wrong.

* C. L. Waltemath, Portland, Ore. really packs a punch. I do love his (her? I'll just stick with a gender-neutral "his") last point: if you have to shove your religion down other peoples' throats, your faith isn't all that strong to begin with. Actually, I've made that point before (I'm too lazy to go link to it now).

* Marilyn Goodman, Yaphank, N.Y. rocks it. Right on, sister.

* Frank Mortimer, Foxboro, Mass. takes a fascinating new spin in answering the question. Yes, Mortimer says, there is a war on Christianity, and it is being waged by people who purport to be Christians. People who equate religion and politics are destroying Christianity from within. Excellent argument.

* R. Brandon Edgar, Tampa, Fla. -- well, this guy I don't understand at all. According to the accounts I've read of the "Gospel of Judas," Judas states that Jesus told him to betray him. So Judas's claim is perfectly consistent with Jesus's ability to predict it beforehand. (Was Jesus at all psychic anywhere else in The Book? I don't recall.) The Gospel of Judas purports to prove that Judas was scapegoated and that he was, in fact, Jesus's favorite disciple. From what I've seen (admittedly limited), nothing in there is inconsistent with the Old Testament, except that it turns our conventional understanding of Judas's role in religious history completely upside-down.

Let's face it, most of Christianity wouldn't really amount to a hill of beans without the crucifixion and the resurrection -- absent those dramatic events all you really have is a hippie spouting platitudes. Is it really all that unbelievable to think that maybe the Divine Plan included the betrayal, and Jesus himself had a hand in setting those wheels in motion?

* Amanda K. Maynard, Boonsboro, Md.... Again, amen, sister!

* Yolanda Jurado-Gesswein, Edinburg, Tex. gives me the teensiest glimmer of hope. Her comments show that there are, in fact, at least some deeply religious people in The South who believe that the politicization of Christianity is abhorrent.

* Julie Hughes, Leesburg, Va., unfortunately, completely misses the point, and commits the very error that the other responses highlighted: "my religion is the right one, and the fact that other people are ignoring it means they hate my religion!" Who cares if anyone else exhibits a "resistance to Jesus"? Your life, your religion; my life, mine. What you don't have, lady, is a right to tell me that your values dictate my rights. No one's making you recant your Christian beliefs. No one. (Contrast that to The Crusades, when so-called Christians launched a "convert-or-die" large-scale assault.) You still have your rights. Don't want an abortion? Don't get one.

I started this post thinking I would post my submission (WaPo did actually call me for permission to print it, but I guess in the end I didn't make the cut), but I'm thinking the others that did get printed make the point better than I.

Monday, May 08, 2006

I am Mayor of the Zone

Chandler: You waited too long, and now you're in "The Friend Zone."
Ross: No... no, I am not in the Zone.
Joey: Ross, you are mayor of the Zone.


I've been on a dry dating streak for a long time. Granted, it's most likely because I'm a fat old bitter fag, but in any event, that's the breaks.

Well, except.

In the past several weeks, I've ...

Okay, I'm working on finding the right words for this situation.

In the past several weeks, I've hung out with two charming and single men. On different occasions. And I've flirted with still another.

I spent 8 hours on a Sunday with one very nice man. We talked, we walked, we ate, we drank, we laughed... for eight hours. At 10:00 that night, he dropped me off at my apartment.

I spent 3 hours at the zoo yesterday with a great guy on whom I've had a crush for about six months now. We also had brunch together. We talked, we ate, we laughed. I leaned on him when I managed to skin my toe after slipping on a random grate (who knew flip flops lacked traction that way?).

On Thursday, I flirted with a guy in my building whom I bumped into as he exited a bar I was entering. I threatened to randomly stop by his apartment unannounced with a DVD and a bottle of wine. (I may actually do this sometime this week.)

All that having been said, I may just change my name to "Ross."

At the end of these days with these men -- both of whom would make excellent boyfriends -- we parted with friendly hugs. (This is the reason I hesitate to call any of these events "dates.") Although we keep talking about "next time" we get together, we make no definite plans and there's no indication that they're looking forward to planning the next get-together. There's no "Let's get together again soon" followed by "yeah, I'd like that." Instead, we exchange words to the effect of "Well, I guess I'll see you around" or "See ya when I see ya!".

By the way, no, I haven't actually let my bitter jaded self out in front of these guys. Or maybe it's a pheromone I'm exuding, and they can just "tell."

Perhaps I should just hope that one of the other (maybe both?) of these guys is just as shy as I am, and we're all just taking it painfully slow. The silver lining to this is that I won't actually have to make any kind of choice as to which one I'd want to date date.

Or I can just accept that I've made two new friends, which, in the end, isn't all that bad anyway.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Two Random Idiocy Stories

Some people can be so stupid....

I posted a Missed Connections ad on Craigslist recently. I do this for fun, mostly because I know they're never going to read/respond to it anyway, but it's fun to act like you're sending a signal out to that certain someone, even if you know it's futile.

Strangely enough, I got kind of excited when a message showed up in my Junk Mail folder with a subject line mirroring my ad. When I opened it, I was greeted with this message:

Dude, you are dumb.
Get a life.


Okay, buddy boy, I get your point. I'll now strive to get that fabulous life you apparently have -- you know, because people with lives put reading Craigslist and disparging people who post there at the top of their fascinating lives.



***

Today my office is freakishly empty. One guy who sublets part of our office space from us hasn't shown up at all.

The doorbell rings: it's a client of Absent Guy. She claims to have an appointment. I tell her that he's not here, and that I'm not his secretary so I don't keep track of his comings and goings, but it's not enough for her. But because I'm such a nice guy, I call Absent Guy on his cell phone to tell him someone is here claiming to have an appointment with him.

He asks that she be put on the phone, so I give her the phone. And I hear this:

I came because I live far away and it's hard to get here and I've been calling for the past two hours and no one picks up.

First: Uh, I guess that means you really didn't have an appointment, did you? And second: who the heck decides that, after calling someplace for 2 hours, the best course of action is to drive from "far away" to go to the Office-Where-No-One-Picks-Up-The-Phone? Shouldn't the fact that you've been calling for two hours to no avail send you the message that no one's there?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On Karma, and (Of All Things) Poker

When stuff happens to me, I tend to wonder whether I'm suffering some sort of cosmic payback for something I've done wrong. Likewise, a selfish part of the reason I do nice things is to build up these points for when something goes horribly wrong.

But what sucks worse is when you don't even know what you're being screwed over in response to.

Last night I went to my usual poker game at a local bar. It's a free game, and the crowd is pretty chill, so I usually have a pretty decent time, win or lose. (Usually lose: I've started gauging my success for the night as how many minutes I last before I'm out of the tournament.)

Last night, though, was different. Don't get me wrong, the guys were still having a good time and relatively chill, but I couldn't catch a good hand all night long. By a certain point in time I couldn't tell remember whether I was in a bad mood before the game started, or whether the cards put me there. I do remember that these chill, fun guys talking all kinds of big talk around the table was starting to annoy me, and I remember wondering whether they would have been as annoying if I were actually catching the cards.

I literally folded every single hand I got for the first 45 minutes of the night. Granted, I was playing a little tight (perhaps too tight), folding a K-7 (off suit) at one point and a K-6 (off suit) at another, but most of my cards for the night were 2-4s or 3-6s. It was getting truly infuriating.

But here's where Karma (or whatever you call it) didn't stop at tweaking my nipple and saying "gotcha." Karma actually bent me over and said, "You deserve to be teased BEFORE being fucked." (Not that this is a bad thing in every context....)

So I finally decide to play a hand. (If I had more chips, I would not have, but when you're short-stacked, you'll play whatever's decent.) It was a K-9. My one opponent flips: pocket 4s.

So yeah, I was pretty much beat from the get-go, but I figured it was my time, and my luck wasn't going anywhere anyway. The flop: Q-Q-7. Great. He's got two pair, I got nothing. I need one of my hole cards to pair up.

Then the turn card, well, turns the tide: It's a 7. What this means is that there are two pair on the board, both HIGHER than the pocket 4s my opponent has, which means now my King kicker is prepared to WIN the hand.

Keep in mind that after the flop, I was thinking I had six outs in the deck (three Ks and three 7s), meaning that of 45 cards left "out there," six of them would have given me a win, which is about 13%. I had forgotten about pairing up the board, and my odds were closer to 20%. Odds of me winning: 20%.

With the turn, of course, I had the better hand. And there were only two cards in the deck which would have given my opponent the win: one of the other two fours. That, my friends, is 4.5% chance to suck me out. In addition, if another Q or 7 showed up on the board (making the board a full house), we would split the pot. The odds of that were 13.6%. Odds of me winning: 95.5%.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess what the showed up on the river. One of those two remaining 4s in the deck reared its ugly head, and my "wow, I might actually survive this hand" moment proved to be just that -- a moment. He made his full house, 4s full of Qs, and I was reduced to a simpering mass of Jell-O quivering on the floor.

All that was a way of talking about how I have no idea what I did to deserve such a smackdown. I don't think I've done anything so dramatically bad lately that I deserve this kind of payback. I lost some cash in Atlantic City recently; then lost a few bucks at a cash table with friends; and now I can't even do decently at a play money table.

In the immortal words of the Pet Shop Boys:

What have I
What have I
What have I done to deserve this?
What have I
What have I
What have I done to deserve this?


I guess sometimes all you can do is chalk it up to an extreme run of bad luck, and call it a day. Or fortnight.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Smithsonian

This weekend I tried to rekindle my relationship with Washington. Having lived here for 12 years now, I realize I seldom go out and see the "touristy" stuff the city has to offer, instead waiting until my friends come to visit to show them the sites. But the Mall has so much to offer even the natives that, well, I wanted to see it.



What drew me out this time was a desire to go see the Hokusai exhibit at the Sackler. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take photos within the gallery, so all I'm left with is webpublished material. The man was quite talented -- he drew all kinds of subject matter, on different media, over the course of several decades. I was impressed with both his use of negative space as well as his attention to detail. If you're in the DC area, you have to check this exhibit out.

KOB (the man behind DC Blogs) and I wandered around the rest of the Freer, where I snapped this shot of the random courtyard. It reminded me of some of the fountains I've seen in Spain, so I snapped a quick shot. There's a small, potted bonsai tree in the courtyard there too, but my shot of it didn't come out all that well.

Then afterward, we spent the afternoon wandering around the Mall (where I overheard this comment). The weather was positively glorious: just the right amount of heat and very little humidity. And the sky was positively gorgeous, without a single cloud anywhere.

I took this picture more of less just because it's so beautifully framed against the pure blue cloudless sky.













The sprinkler water just looked so refreshing outside the Sackler. Unfortunately, I wasn't in a position to go running around in it to cool off. Not that it was all that hot, but still, it's one of those fun things you wish you could still do. If I were a kid again, I'd've probably loved it. Alas, the joys of youth are far too ephemeral.



As the day wore on, we headed over the Native American museum. Didn't get to see too much on the inside, but the structure itself is quite nice. And, again, there was a nice-looking scene outside.





I don't generally enjoy photoblogging, but these were kinda nice pics, and heck, I've got a decent digicam that I may as well use. Later this week I'll share some random shots from the Zoo, which was my Sunday excursion.