June 2015 Archives

the rainbow connection

Even though the gay marriage outcome is what I wanted, all the attendant celebration is making me queasy. Not the gays; the straights. #LoveWins? Fuck that. This was about fairness for me, not any random misfit's notion of romance. #NoSpecialRightsforStraightPeople isn't as catchy, I suppose.

Meanwhile, my Facebook wall became a kaleidoscope of rainbows. People I've never once heard talk about gay rights rushed to colorize their face for all to see. And there was a direct correlation between the rainbow people and the people who rushed to show that they were Seahawks fans last year. It was the exact same bandwaggoneers. Now I'm just waiting for the rainbow "I'm a 12!" thumbnails. It's coming.

never do the math

I'd resisted doing this calculation for a long, long time.

In 2004, I had a windfall. I needed to invest it. I kicked around a few ideas, and one of those ideas was then-struggling Apple. The iPod wasn't a thing yet, let alone iTunes, the iPhone, iPad, and so on. No one knew what was about to happen. I wouldn't have even considered Apple if their P/E ratio hadn't been so ridiculously low. I kept staring at that P/E number. Yeah, they're obviously past their prime, but they are still seriously undervalued, I thought over and over. After mulling it over for a week, I did the prudent thing. I put the money into my house, where a return was guaranteed. These are phony numbers now (knowing what would happen to interest rates), but given what I knew at the time, I was spending $80k to save a guaranteed $229k in interest over 30 years. To this gutless puss, that seemed like a good deal. I took it.

And then.

This weekend, I calculated what would have happened on the path not taken, the bold path, the iPath. That $80k would have multipled exactly eighty times. That's $6.4 million, ladies and gentlemen. Six-point-four million little monuments to cowardice.

Of course, only $6.32 million of that would have been profit. Perspective is important, right?

southern pride

Every time we get our knickers in a twist over the confederate battle flag, its defenders invoke what I consider the laziest of all possible arguments: you just don't understand.

I find that lazy dismissal more offensive than the flag itself. These turds can't even do us the courtesy of burning three calories on argumentation.

roof_flag_gun-410x220.jpgIt's not about slavery, they say. It's about heritage. It's about regional pride. That so many of their region's residents—including both young Mr. Roof and the descendents of slaves—think it's very much about slavery and racism is proof, I suppose, that these people, too, fail to understand. That's a whole lot of failure to understand.

This is what I understand: the south lost the war. If they don't want to put the flag in the museum where it belongs out of simple sensitivity to the descendents of those enslaved in their beloved region, fine. Then I'll claim the eradication of their battle flag as a spoil of war.

Seriously, what exactly are they proud of: the slavery or the losing? They need to shut their y'all-holes.

This isn't a flag with crawfish or tobacco or Nick Saban on it. It's the battle flag of the army that fought for the worst imaginable cause.

Yeah yeah, I know, the Civil War wasn't about slavery. Rather than address that pop mythology, I'll directly quote the very people who waved this flag. South Carolina's declaration of secession didn't once mention pride or crawfish or regional anything. It mentioned slavery. Eighteen times. Here are five:

"an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery"

"the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws"

"The right of property in slaves "

"[the northern states] have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery"

"all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery."

Clearly, all of these slavery references were a red herring meant to mask the real cause of the Civil War. And I gotta say, it's really well masked.

It's a great read. Seldom in history do people so proudly cannonize their being on the wrong side. Even the Nazis had enough sense to keep the Final Solution a secret.

Also, South Carolina confused affect and effect. (That one was just for me.)

competitive sanctimony, part iii

Obama, speaking about racism on Marc Maron's podcast Sunday:

"We're not cured of it ... and it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination."
Reasonable enough. And the MSN headline this morning?

Capture.JPG

let us count the problems that need fixin'

So a 21 year old kid who was

  1. indicted for a felony and with a history of
  2. drug abuse,
  3. mental illness, and
  4. published hate speech gets a
  5. .45 handgun
  6. as a birthday gift from
  7. his father,
and the entirety of our focus is on the stupid Confederate flag flying near the South Carolina capitol building. Taking that thing down will surely solve things. And replacing it with a rainbow flag would be a feel-good twofer!

Yep. That's my country. See "competitively sanctimonious," below.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alexander Hamilton, who has been featured on the $10 bill since 1929, is making way for a woman.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that a redesign of the $10 will feature the first woman on the nation's paper money in more than a century. The plan is to decide which woman sometime this summer.

Uh-oh. I don't much like where this is heading. I know my country, and we do enjoy getting all competitively sanctimonious about invented causes. We're five years away from Super Bowl boycotts until Wanda Sykes is on the $20 bill.

That said, I have no issue with [Woman TBNL] being on the new $10 bill. [Woman TBNL] deserves the honor. [Woman TBNL] earned it. Hamilton can't hold [Woman TBNL]'s jock.

But seriously, this move is appropriate and overdue. It'd be even more appropriate if it were a $7.80 bill.

throwdown

Just how annoying are John's dogs being this morning, no one asked? This annoying: I just put on noise canceling headphones and Fucking Amy's old Def Leppard CD.

I had to blow two decades' worth of dust off that, I assure you.

intervention

Okay, women. 'Splain yourselves. Why on earth do you think injecting a quart of collagen into your upper lip is a good idea? You're certainly not doing it for us men, so I can only assume you're doing it for yourselves. Do you actually think this looks good, or did you lose a bet? If the latter, carry on.

Otherwise, just stop. It's freakish. When I see it, it's all I can think about, and not in a good way.

On a related note, we have turned a scary corner with teeth-whitening, careening into the ludicrous. Watching Joel McHale and Paget Brewster the other day felt like I was looking directly into 64 plasma torches.

three for three

For the third time of my life, I'm selling something on craigslist. Like married women, this activity is on my "Why am I doing this? I swore I would never do this again!" list.

My Inbox was immediately stuffed with stupidity. And there, amidst the countless misspelled occurrences of "call me" and "will you take a broken chainsaw for it," is the sentence I have now seen all three times: "can you bring it to Portland?"

Who are these people, and what did I do so right in my life that I don't encounter them in the day to day?

assholes and elbows

Like a lot of white kids of my generation, I was introduced to race relations through the miniseries Roots. So yep, the self-loathing started early. Mom did what she could to help it along. Not that I wasn't fascinated like everyone else was, but she made it clear that viewing was mandatory.

"I'm making Johnny watch Roots," she would explain to perfect strangers, apparently hoping they were on the Parent of the Year nominating committee. And during our viewings, she made sure that I identified with the slavemasters whipping Kunta Kinte. "Do you see how horrible we are?" she would say gravely.

"What did I do?!" My confusion was legitimate. I didn't own an Atari, let alone a person. And if asked which end of the whip I more strongly identified with, I would have said Kunta's.

She was well-meaning in her efforts to sow the seeds of accountability, but talk about getting blood out of a rock. In the end, all it sowed was the sense that my mom was daft.

As I grew older, I realized that she also was protesting too much. Whereas my dad was old school "I'm not racist" racist, dropping n-bombs whenever someone dark cut him off in traffic, or whenever he thought they might, Mom was the "I have black friends" sort of racist typical of her generation. Me, I simply had black friends. I wasn't exactly bragging about it. I was just as ashamed of them as I was all my white friends.

There. That's my contribution to post-raciality. If you really think about it, I'm a hero.

What I didn't do was grow up color-blind. Between Mom's posturing and my later being the white guy in my neighborhood, I had no chance of that. Race wasn't so much the subtext of my life as an unwanted conversation from which I could not extricate myself. I wanted, really, was to be able to elbow black guys in the mouth without being thought a racist.

And throw elbows I did. For several glorious years of my life, I mooched off my girlfriend and played basketball as often as my knees would allow. I was a below average player on that court, consistently the sixth or seventh player picked. I made up for my slowness and, oh, let's say inconsistent jump-shot with defense, passing, picks and an unrivaled repertoire of cheap shots. Often I would get selected just because the guy wanted me hacking someone other than himself. I remain oddly proud of that.

If you went over my back on a rebound—and this was an exceptionally easy thing to do—you would taste elbow. If you were covering my teammate, I would gleefully lay you out with a pick—sometimes a pick of dubious legality. If you tried to dunk on me, you did not land on your feet; I made damned sure there was no second attempt. And there was a bench abutting the edge of our court that was christened "the Egger bench," after me. I used it as a sixth defender. You would be bringing the ball up that side of the court, dribbling full speed, and I would herd you into it. Pow.

"And I'll take Egger!" said the guy with bloody shins next time. Cheap shots were my great equalizer, and I was color-blind when dispensing them. I am very highly evolved that way.

Tensions ran high on that court, and I was often at the epicenter. "Motherfucker" was the favored pronoun referencing me. If I really laid out, say, d'Andre, I did what I could to assuage any tensions.

"Race war!" I would bellow over his broken body.

"Fuck. You."

Witty repartee aside, I was mindful that someone, somewhere was going to infer the wrong intent on my part. My elbow was an asshole, not a racist. But it happened occasionally, and d'Andre or Wilson would have to take an enraged black guy aside and explain that I got some latitude. I don't really know what was said in those conversations. It didn't seem like my place to participate. In my imagination, my friends said "Just let it go. He'll start hacking all of us. Especially his teammates."

The one person positively guaranteed to taste elbow was another white guy. That poor bastard. He was my chance to prove that I was an equal opportunity cheap-shot artist, and I never failed to take it. He got it worse than anyone.

"WHAT IS YOUR DEAL?" he would exclaim.

"It's not personal," I would reply.

It was worse than personal. I was putting a little something extra on it because of the color of his skin. And decades later, I'm still somehow okay with this. I mean, did you see Roots? Did you see how horrible this guy was?

I await my Nobel Prize.

I was telling Amy about my father when she made a suggestion.

What she said: "You should totally post about this!"

What I heard: "You should totally stop telling me about this!"

• • •

Talking about my Dad is a double-edged sword. To simply say that I had a crap dad is insufficient. "Yeah, I know," people will say. "My family is dysfunctional too." Well, no. We are almost certainly not peers. You will not hear about soccer practice or Christmas in my stories. My dad wasn't crap because he didn't hug me enough, or because he hurt my feelings, or because he occasionally hit me. He was an unrepentant monster. I gots plenty of examples. For the purpose of this post, let's just say that he's dead, I'm glad he's dead, and if he still felt anything at all, he'd probably be glad he's dead, too.

And there's really no way of conveying this without getting into gory details that, I've found, people just don't want to hear.

Except for the cross-dressing. You guys eat that stuff up.

• • •

With Amy, I talked about muddling my way toward manhood without the aid of anything remotely resembling a positive male role model. I knew who I definitely didn't want to be, but that didn't give me a direction any more than knowing you don't want to drive to Chicago gets you to Miami. There was a lot of trial and error on my road to manhood. For the most part, it was the women beside me who shaped me, often against their will and at their own expense. First my mom, then my girlfriends and girl friends sweated blood chiseling me into a facsimile of a man. Anything redeeming about me today, you can bet I learned from a woman.

But when I was a kid, my role models were fictional men. Rick from Casablanca was one. He was and remains my masculine ideal, from his grudging courage to his gallows wit to his mannequin-mashing kissing style.

Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters?
Rick: I was misinformed.
Swoon.

But there was one guy who was everything I wanted to be, and I thought about him day and night. That guy was a rabbit. And a cross-dresser, come to think of it. Let's not read too much into that.

More than any flesh-and-blood male, Bugs Bunny taught me about life, about coolness, about justice, and—unfortunately for everyone in my presence—about pronunciation and about conflict resolution.

What I loved about Bugs, what I still love, is that he usually finishes fights but he never, ever starts them. This ethic appealed to me tremendously. It still does. Don't start none, won't be none.

It was as an adult that I read Chuck Jones "Chuck Amuck." (If you grew up on the Warner Brothers cartoons as I did, you simply must read this.) In it, the director articulates his golden rule: "Bugs must always be provoked." This, I realized instantly, was the ethic I had internalized as a child. The rest of my family were the Elmers and Daffys and roid-raging wrestlers and psychotic opera singers. They went looking for trouble.

But me? At my best, I sit alone in my rabbit hole, munching carrots, watching my stories on TV, minding my own business. If no one starts dropping red sticks of dynamite down the hole, they'll never even know I'm there. But people being jerks, they invariably they start with the dynamite.

Of course, you realize this means war.

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