Happy Thanksgiving!

I have a lot to be thankful for this year and I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the good doctors I’ve seen and the good things that have happened to me.

I’m aware that I wouldn’t even have a chance at a good life if not for a lot of complex and sometimes tragic things I had no control over.

I am extremely fortunate.  I try to keep that in mind.

And I know I’m always kissing your butts, but I’m going to do it again.  Every good thing that’s happened to me since I started blogging has happened because I started blogging and because y’all read me.

I would have never been to a strip club or eaten tortilla de patatas or sat in Boston watching a play that I wrote and a million other things, if not for y’all.

I’m a weird person.  I don’t say that as a putdown of myself or anything.  It’s just the truth.  I’m charismatic and easy enough to get along with, but I really hate meeting new people or getting together in large groups even with people I love and it’s hard for me to make friends, because it’s hard for me to make those gestures that people need to know that their friendships are welcome.

And yet, here you guys are, day after day, talking and arguing and making such brilliant points and I feel so deeply, deeply honored to know you, even if only virtually.

You make me feel less awkward and more confident.  You make me feel like I have a community.  You have made my life better.

And I don’t know what, if anything, I can do to return the favor.  My debt to you is enormous.

But I’m glad to be indebted to you.  I’ve been indebted to a lot of folks in my life–credit card companies, car loan people, student loan people, banks, parents, etc.–and this is by far the most pleasant and rewarding debt to have.

So, today, I’ll be giving thanks for all y’all.

Well, that and trying to get a picture of Mack in his apron…

Tee hee!

Love,

b.

In Which I Die of Jealosy

The Professor writes:

All here is well.  Until today the weather was terribly crappy and we’ve postponed our Stonehenge trip until Sunday.  Probably heading west from London tomorrow or Friday but we’re really just having a good time hanging out.  I’ve spent the last few days in the British Library trying to get some work done and have even succeed to a surprising degree.  I saw the original copy of Beowulf there, but I couldn’t read it.

All I can say is that, if that woman doesn’t have a megalith of some sort as a souvenir for me, I’m going to be disappointed.

All This and I Paint

I’m sorry. I’m having such a nice day I can’t hardly get worked up about anything, even with all the good things to get worked up about (Ginger’s awesome smackdown of Terry Frank’s abusive nonsense, for starters*).

Here’s a picture I painted of Mrs. Wigglebottom to have with me in my office, to remind me why I work. Please ignore the seeming tumor on her neck. I was trying to capture the way her skin puddles around her when she sleeps (would a “puddle” be a pug/poodle mix? And don’t you kind of now want a “puddle”?) and failed.

paintdog.jpg

And let’s listen to something fun and beautiful, too.

Here’s my question for you. How is it that Frank Sinatra is kind of the “better” Rat Packer? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I get that he’s badass. But it seems like Dean Martin is the guy that winks at you across a party, just to remind you he’s thinking of you, or who kisses you right on the ticklish part of your neck because it delights him to hear you giggle, or who you find yourself “accidentally” trapped in the coat closet at a party with. How is that not better?

And listen to that smooth voice.  If that doesn’t give you a little happy shudder in your pants, I don’t know what will.  That’s a voice that basically says “Someone very near you wants to touch your fun stuff.”

Woo-hoo!

**************

*I don’t recall ever disagreeing with the Vol Abroad before, and I’m not really disagreeing with her now, but I think we have to stop saying “A loving nuclear family with awesome support and relatives they can count on is the ideal way to raise a kid.”  If only just because of what the Vol Abroad and Ginger points out.  Those families don’t exist, at least not in any way that has any meaning for how most of us have to live our lives.

I come from a nuclear family that loves each other very much, with an extended family that was there for us as much as possible and we are still deeply fucked up.  And I know folks who grew up with single moms who had no help who are doing awesome.  There are no guarantees and I think it’s cruel–and I begin to wonder if, on the part of Frank and Rose if it’s not intentionally so–to make people feel like, if only they had managed to live some completely different life, their lives would be different and better.  Well, so what?

These are the lives we have and we do the best we can and the rest is up to our kids or our siblings or our parents or whoever else we’re sure we’re fucked up with.  You do the best you can and you let yourself off the hook for the rest.

Folks who continually bring up how we’re ruining, ruining kids by letting them live with single moms or with gay parents or whatever are masking their cruelty under the guise of concern.  Anyone who could look at someone who is happy (with the normal adult stuff thrown in), who loves their kids, who also seem happy (you know, with the normal kid stuff thrown in) and suggest that just because the way they live correlates with some bad stuff happening to people in similar circumstances, they somehow are living wrong is just an ass.

Why concede anything to them?

It’s best for kids when they have happy homes.  What makes up a happy home is as varied as the people who might live in them.  End of discussion.

Good News for My Military Readers!

Do I have military readers?  Probably not.

But, on the off-chance that you or your families are lurking out there, Bob Krumm brings us word that they cannot take your signing bonuses if you are injured and cannot make war any more.  Here’s his comment:

Thanks to the exposure of this story by KDKA, the Army has corrected the problem for this soldier. It should never have happened, but was the result of a bureaucratic error.

Any other soldier who has errantly received notification that they have to pay back their signing bonus after a line-of-duty injury-related medical discharge should call the Army’s Wounded Soldier and Family Support Hotline at 1-800-984-8523 in order to reverse the charges.

Thanks to Bob for the info.

Oh, There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays!

Much exciting is happening in our family.  For starters, we are not going to get together for Thanksgiving, which means that I’ve been able to get invited to two different Thanksgiving dinners.

I think my parents are a little bummed, but they were just here and really, let’s be frank.  As much fun as I am online, if you had to see my boring ass all the time for thirty three years, you might want a holiday with some other branch of the family.

But second, someone in my family is retiring.  I won’t mention any names because he’s not mentioned it yet to his place of employment, but he’s really happy and apprehensive in a way that I find cute.

Anyway, so, I’ll be around.  Y’all have safe travels and check in here every once in a while if you need a break from all the family togetherness.

Does This Mean We Should All Hedge Our Bets and Convert to Zeusists?

Today, I learned that archaeologists believe that they’ve found the cave in which a wolf nursed Remus and Romulus.

It just made me wonder about all those shows on the History Channel when they go out and “discover” some Biblical site or explain some Biblical occurrence through volcanic activity or serendipitous earthquake or whatever and because we find those things, it’s supposed to increase our faith (or just give us faith) that the things that happened in the Bible actually happened.

Well, here we have another holy site from another religion where something actually maybe happened.

Will we see Greek-Mythology-archaeologists out there giving interviews to the History Channel about how this proves the inerrancy of those myths?

I don’t mean to be snarky.  I just wonder if that really is persuasive to people.

I Await Word From Rachel

So, I finally heard from the surgeon. It turns out that I’ve got some necratizing granulomas (?!) in my lungs and a bacterial infection in my lymph nodes, but neither of those things, he says, are anything I need to worry about. I’ll have to go back to my referring physician and see if he advises a course of treatment, but the surgeon said that there’s probably nothing that has to be done, just keep an eye on it.

So, that’s good news.

I wonder if I can use my necratizing granulomas as a weapon of some sort…

Edited to add:  I await word from Rachel over at Women’s Health News to explain to me what necratizing granulomas are and if I even have the spelling right.  Leaving that out makes the title of the post make no sense.

Swoon!

I want to write about my issues with “Beowulf” this beautifully.

“Beowulf” doesn’t fail because it changes the story: It fails because it is so busy juicing up the story that it does not create a mythical universe. It has no transfiguring vision. It seizes upon an ancient tale, whose invisible roots run deep into our psyches, and uses it to construct a shiny, plastic entertainment. It takes a wild fable and turns it into a tame story. But “Beowulf” is the kind of story that is meaningless unless it is part of a cosmology. It is, in short, a myth.

Yes!

Tolkien’s point is that the fantastic elements in “Beowulf” are ancient archetypes that have deep roots in human beliefs, fears and wishes — myths, in other words. And in “Beowulf,” he argues, these myths are an essential part of a tragic tale whose theme is “man at war with the hostile world, and his inevitable overthrow in Time.” The greatness of Beowulf derives from the fact that it is a poem created in “a pregnant moment of poise”: It is balanced between a Christian worldview, in which death and defeat are ultimately themselves defeated by Christ, and a Germanic, pagan one, in which fate rules all and man’s courage alone confers nobility. It is, Tolkien writes, not a primitive poem, but a late one. The pagan world is already past, but the poet still celebrates its vanished power. The fact that a poem written more than a thousand years ago was itself looking back at a lost world gives the poem an uncanny double resonance to the modern reader: “If the funeral of Beowulf moved once like the echo of an ancient dirge, far-off and hopeless, it is to us as a memory brought over the hills, an echo of an echo.”

An echo of an echo… It just gives me the heebie jeebies.  Hurray!

The Red Hot Chili Peppers Should Remove Their Heads from Their Butts

So, you may recall that Tom Petty declined to sue the Red Hot Chili Peppers even though their song “Dani California” sounded so much like “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” that even I noticed it and I hate both songs so much I can barely listen to them all the way through.

But, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are suing Showtime over the series “Californiacation.”

Nice.  Real nice.

And they’re bound to lose, since you can’t copyright titles.

Idiots.

Local GOP Flack Thinks The Suffering of Others is Funny

Oh, medical marijuana.  Let’s make some pot-smoking hippie jokes and then tell some lies.  Woo hoo. Won’t that be funny?

I know the audience shared by Bill Hobbs and me is very small, but, on the off-chance that you’re here after googling “Bill Hobbs” and “medical marijuana,” please, let me refute a few of his nonsense claims.

The big one:

The legislation is a big fave with the hippie pot-smokers and ’60s refugees on the Left, of course. I guess they figure that legal pot-smoking + universal health care would = a realization of everything they fought for at Woodstock: Free weed for everybody, man.You think government is expensive now, just wait ’til the Woodstock generation has an unlimited supply of weed paid for by the tax dollars of the non-pot-smokers who actually have jobs.

This will take some parsing, but let’s just start with the “Who smokes pot” issue.  The .gov puts teen pot usage at between one in four and one in five kids.  NORML says that 80 million people in the U.S. have smoked pot, which is just about one in four people.  According to them, last year, twenty million people smoked pot.

Does Bill Hobbs really believe that one in four people are hippies and ’60s refugees on the left?  No, wait, he’s talking about decriminalizing marijuana here in Tennessee.  I want to know if Bill Hobbs really believes that one in four Tennesseans are hippies and ’60s refugee leftists?

Worse yet, is this the public voice of the GOP claiming that one in four Tennesseans don’t have jobs?  Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think that’s something I’d be bragging about if I were involved in the state government in any way.

Second, do you suppose that, whenever Bill Hobbs writes a screed, that he ever goes back to look and see if it’s internally consistant?

In one paragraph he says:

As written, though, the Democrat legislation would make it extremely easy for just about anyone to get a prescription from their doctor allowing them to grow marijuana – which is, you know, the real goal of the bill. [emphasis mine]

and in the paragraph I quoted above he says

You think government is expensive now, just wait ’til the Woodstock generation has an unlimited supply of weed paid for by the tax dollars of the non-pot-smokers who actually have jobs. [again, emphasis mine]

I hate to even spell it out, it’s so obvious.  But, if pot-smoking hippies can grown their own pot, no tax dollars need go towards paying for that supply.  I know the GOP, over the last eight years has claimed to be the party of smaller government and less spending, while at the same time actually spending money like it was going out of style and growing the government to unprecidented proportions, and I know that, as we work our way back to sanity and to a place where words have their agreed-upon meaning, there’s going to be some cognitave dissonance while folks on the right get back in touch with reality, but please!  This is just too much.  If a person is paying for his or her own treatment, there is no cost to the tax payers. 

That’s why you righties claim to stand opposed to universal healthcare in the first place–so that tax payers will not have to pay for the healthcare of others (never mind all the ways in which we already do).  If the GOP in this state is confused by the concept of “money coming out of my pocket to pay for things I need” not being the same as “government subsidized healthcare” y’all have some deep problems you might want to get straight amongst yourselves.

But let’s also discuss this claim of Hobbs’s, because with this claim, he reveals himself to completely lack in compassion or, actually, any understanding of what the stakes are among normal people who advocate for medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana is completely unnecessary of course as there already is a legal “medical marijuana” drug called Marinol which has the same active ingredient as pot – a chemical called THC. Marinol has been approved by the Food & Drug Administration after rigorous medical testing and it is often prescribed for cancer patients to relieve nausea during chemotherapy.

Well, holy cow!  If Marinol is just the same as marijuana, why are all these “hippies” still complaining?  Let me lay it out for you.  It’s not the same.  First of all, Marinol is a pill and marijuana is usually inhaled.  You can feel the effects of marijuana in minutes.  It takes an hour or more for Marinol to kick in.

Second, there’s no agreement among scientists that THC is the only active ingredient in pot.  Yes, everyone knows it’s an active ingredient.  No one is sure that it’s the only one.  Pot has more than 60 cannabiniods, all of which may have beneficial effects on the body and the brain.  Marinol has only THC.

The kind of nausea that cancer patients going through chemotherapy feel is not just “Oh, I feel like I might throw up.”  It’s the nausea that says, “I am going to throw up, over and over and over again.”  And you do. 

Pray tell, Compassionate Hobbs, if you’re repeatedly throwing up everything in your stomach, how much good is a pill that has to be ingested, that takes an hour to kick in, going to do you?

What about the multitude of patients who complain that the effects of Marinol are too strong?

And, let’s be honest here folks, because Marinol has such strong side-effects (in other words, you’re going to get a lot more stoned from taking Marinol than you are from taking a hit or two off your bong), a lot of people take it recreationally.

So, if you have two substances that do similar things–pot and Marinol–and one, if legal, would be cheap or free and the other is under the control of Big Pharma, one allows the patient to determine her dosage and the other comes only in a dose that many people find has unpleasant side effects, one works immediately to suppress nausea and the other takes an hour to kick in, if you can keep it down, one works immediately to relieve pain and increase people’s appetites and the other, again, takes an hour, and both are also used recreationally, why aren’t Republicans advocating for the substance that’s inexpensive, plentiful, and costs tax-payers nothing?

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

***********

For the record, I have smoked pot.  I didn’t smoke pot until I was in grad school and I didn’t really get it.  Which makes me a nerd, I know, but I want to be honest with you.

Since then, I’ve used it maybe five times and only once, when sitting on a backporch of some actual Tennesseans with jobs and no connection to Woodstock and being handed something that tasted like smokey lemons and made me feel like I was well-loved by the universe and everything in it did I ever understand what the hubub was about.

Sadly, it’s not all like that and I have shitty lungs to begin with, so my career as a pot-smoking hippie was short-lived.

Still, even if it’s not for me, if it eases the suffering of very sick people, what’s the harm?

Dogs’ Research Subjects

I found this over at KnoxViews and I swear I am convinced that Mrs. Wigglebottom is somehow involved:

One final observation on Dog-Human playtime interaction involves a peculiar Human activity called “fetch”. Every Dog that plays with a Human will eventually be confronted with this bizarre behavior. It is difficult to explain, but essentially the Human has an object such as a stick or a “toy”, and is very proud of this possession. Suddenly, the Human is no longer proud of the possession, and using its malformed front legs and paws with their deformed “opposable thumb” claws, inexplicably throws the possession as far away as possible, relinquishing possession of the object with a loud and excited bark.

The Dog will see this as an opportunity to gain possession of the apparently highly desirous object, and run after it. Once the Dog has possession of the object, the Human for some reason invariably decides that it wants the object back, and begins frantically barking at the Dog to retrieve it and return it to the Human. When confronted with this odd behavior, most self-respecting Dogs simply run away from the Human, and, being very proud of the newly acquired possession, bury it or otherwise protect it from being taken away by the Human or some other animal.

That is so her.

I should warn you up-front that the description of the “moving dens” might make you choke up a little and I’m sure some of you will be pissed off about an apparent anti-White bias in the research methodology.

Did I Really Say “Crack-Pow”?! Am I an Eight Year Old Boy?

Anyway, being that yesterday was really the first time I’ve actually shot a gun (though I recall shooting at bricks in Mark Abodie’s back yard when I was in junior high), I wanted to say something about it other than just “It went bang!  It went bang in my hands.”

Sadly, I lack the vocabulary to talk about it, so I can only tell you that I shot a handgun and one of those other things, a gun gun.

Laugh away, gun nuts.  And then laugh again when you hear that I got home and the Butcher accused me of letting Mack turn me Republican.

I found firing the gun gun less remarkable than firing the handgun.  I guess I’ve shot enough bb guns in my day for it to just feel like the equivalent of stepping from, say, Taco Bell to La Hacienda.  You kind of know what to expect, even if it’s much differnent than you expected.  And I felt like, with enough practice, I could have gotten good at that and enjoyed it.

But the handgun was much different.  I mean, no matter how many squirt guns you shoot, it doesn’t prepare you for that.

What surprised me most was that I had this idea that guns made people feel powerful.  And yet, holding that thing in my hands, and pulling the trigger… I didn’t really feel powerful at all.  I felt like I had an intention–to fire the gun–and a goal–to hit the can.  And in between my intention and my goal was going to be a machine going through a very powerful set of steps that, though I instigated, weren’t exactly in my control.

Does that make sense?  I thought I would feel like “Yeah, I did that!” but instead I felt like “Holy shit!  I could have never done that without this piece of equipment!”

I’m glad I did it.  I was sorry to disappoint Mack and his brood.  I think they were hoping for a repeat of the crying and pissing and moaning I did when they forced me to ride the four-wheeler.

Still, I think it’s good to do things that make you uncomfortable.  It gives you something to think about and a knowledge base from whence to draw on when you read stories about guns.

But, but, but I forgot to tell y’all the most exciting thing.

********WARNING: Not actually that exciting************

Mack’s afghan is doing me in.  I’m just making coasters with no end in sight.  Really, I am a coaster making machine and still have only filled one Walmart bag with them.  So, I was trying to figure out what dimensions to make it so that I could at least have goals–only six more piles of ten coasters each or something–and Mack came up with this brilliant idea that his afghan should be 11×14, since 11/14 is his birthday.

Isn’t that just right?

And, better yet, that means I’m half done with my coaster making (if one excludes all the triangles I’ll have to do at the end.

11×14. 

I love that kind of shit.

I Shot A Gun!

It was like holding a firework as it went off, loud and spectacular.  It was hard to tell what was noise and what was feeling.  The bang filled my hands.  It felt like holding a cloud ready to storm.

Crack-pow!

The Scope of the Problem

I’m not an immigration reform activist.  Which is probably good, because Lord knows that if Stephen Fotopolous or John Lamb were publically calling Maury County officials ‘jackasses’ there’d be problems.  Whereas, if I call someone a jackass, it’s just business as usual.

The other is that, for as big a mouth as I have, I really don’t see an easy fix.

Let’s just talk about numbers.  Right now, illegal immigration is a hot-button issue.  Most everyone in the United States is for catching illegal immigrants and sending them home, cost and humanitarian issues be damned. 

Let’s be honest, if ICE went door to door and demanded to see proof of people’s legal status, removed by force the ones who couldn’t, and sent them to Mexico without due process and without regard to whether that’s their country of origin, there’d be wide-spread support for their actions.

ICE has almost unilateral public support for whatever means it wants to use and, seemingly, a public mandate to just get illegals out of here.

There are between 12 and 20 million illegal immigrants here.  According to ICE’s own website, “Since the beginning of FY 2004, ICE has removed more than 400,000 aliens; of those, more than 210,000 had criminal records.” 

Let me run that by you again.  At a time when most of the country supports spending time and resources on removing illegal immigrants from this country, a country which, supposedly has between 12 and 20 million illegal immigrants, ICE can only find 100,000 a year.  Even if we believe the 12 million number, what is 100,000 in the face of 12 million?

How can we then view the strategy of removing illegal immigrants as being successful?

So, maybe we could build a wall between here and Mexico.  But how are you going to build a wall through that?  Or over mountains?  How long is that going to take?  How far out into the oceans are we going to extend it?  How are we going to pay for it?  And what’s to keep people from tunnelling under it or throwing a ladder over it?  Or boating around it?  Alcatraz is a small island where there was a prison and the feds could not keep everyone in the prison who was supposed to be there or out of the prison who wasn’t.

How’s that supposed to work for a whole country?

Maybe we could make things so miserable for people here that they’ll just go home.  Except that, no matter how bad things are here, we don’t have death squads.  We don’t put our academics in helecopters and drop them into the ocean.  People are hungry but few are starving to death.  There is actually work for people.  In other words, let’s take a moment to be thankful that things are not and could not be, without incredible effort, as bad as the places some of these folks have left.

We could demand that people go back to “their” countries and go through legal channels to get here, except that our immigratin system is such a mess that, for most of these people, there are, in effect, no legal means for them to enter the country.  So, again, this is not “reform,” this is just removal.  And, to point you back up this post, we see how well removal is working now.

The Democrats are floating this balloon, again, (see here and here) that the problem is not poor people, who cannot be blaimed for desperately seeking a better life for their families, but corporations who exploit that desperation and use the desperation of many native-born workers to create a climate where the native-born workers believe that the undocumented workers are “stealing their jobs,” (as if these corporations are helpless to hire anyone but undocumented workers) and the cultural hatred and distrust of the undocumented worker becomes so great that the undocumented workers have no allies in the native community to help protect them from exploitation.

This tends to be the position I hold.

I don’t know what a workable solution to the problem is, but I do know that, when I lived in Illinois, Archer Daniels Midland seemed to turn themselves in for hiring undocumented workers just about when it seemed like the Unions had managed to infiltrate and let the workers know that they weren’t being paid what they should be.  And, I heard (and I will make this clear, lawyers among us, that this is a completely unverified claim by the undocumented worker I worked when we worked for a subsidiary of another large multinational corporation whose name rhymes with ‘Baterpillar,’ but she said it about her husband, so I guess she would know) that the Mexicans were put on a plane that day, flown down to Mexico where, when they got off the plane, there was a bus and an ADM HR person and, if they aggreed not to unionize, they could get back on the bus and come home to their families.

This has been fifteen years now, almost (ha, god, yuck) and I’m sure it’s not that way any more.  But I have to tell you, whenever I turn on NPR–my good lefty source for news–and I hear “Sponsored by ADM, Supermarket to the World,” I can’t help but think that I’m not even going to get real, thoughtful, reporting on this issue from NPR.

This seems to me to be the only fair solution–to hold corporations accountable.  Not just for hiring illegal immigrants, though, but for undermining the household economies of working people here and in the homelands of the undocumented workers.

But I’m not dumb.  And, though I can be naive and unrealistic, I don’t see how that can work.  We would all have to set aside our differences and work together, knowing that the corporations might just deem us all as too difficult and pull up stakes and find a more compliant labor force in India or China or Russia.  In other words, even if we all got on the same page, these corporations have enough money to just write another book, one that excludes all of us.

So, what can we do?  I don’t know.  I really don’t.

All I can do, all I know how to do, is to speak out against cruelty and fear-based hatred when I see it, to remind, demand, and cajole folks into remembering that everyone here is a person, with value, and deserves to be treated as such.  There are forces much larger than each of us individually at play here and other people being jostled around by a system they have little say in don’t deserve our contempt, but our compassion as fellow folks getting fucked over.

Guides to Life

I’m of the opinion that everyone needs four women, like points on a compass, by which to guide her life.  I don’t think that these are women you know.  Those fall into catagories of friends or mentors or beloved family members or lovers.  There are already words for that.  I mean women you don’t know, but just know of, who inspire you to think about the world from a broader angle than you would otherwise.  I only have two, though.  I’m not really bothered by this.  It may take a lifetime to come up with four.  What do I know?  I just made up the rule.

My two are, as always, Zora Neale Hurston, for her willingness to lie on the couch for days, naked except for one sock.  I always think about that, her willingness to go to the gods of the people she was studying and meet them face to face.  This, to me, is a kind of fierce religious tolerance.  This is not the mamby-pamby “Oh, I think you’re crazy, but I respect your right to act crazy as long as it doesn’t hurt me.”  This is, “I respect that what you say is the Truth as you understand it.”  Damn.

And Sigríð stórráða Tóstadóttir is my second.  I regularly need to be reminded that strong-willed, proud women kick butt.  And who is more strong-willed and proud than Sigríð?  Ha, too, I guess I must really value religious tolerance because here’s a woman who’s all like, “Hey, fine, you worship your God.  I’m going to stick with my ancestors and their gods.  I like them.”  Plus, you fuck with her, she will take you down.

In Which I Admit to Giving Up on the Huffington Post

****Slight Beowulf spoilers ahead****

So, in an effort to reaffirm my liberal credentials, I put the Huffington Post in my RSS reader.  That lasted all of five days.

What went wrong?

Beowulf.

I just could not stand reading one more story about how we’ve all been tortured into reading it while in high school and about whether this damn movie can save Beowulf from itself.

Listen, I’m very sure that the movie will be just fine.  But I’ve read enough reviews of the movie to tell you that it’s got two problems very difficult to surmount.

1.  Is that the writers (Our buddy Neil Gaiman and someone else whose name escapes me at the moment) decided that the poem had been ruined by monks’ stripping all the sex out if it.

and

2. Though they’ve decided Christians ruined the story, they seem to refuse to commit to a heathen worldview.

So, we end up with a movie in which Angelina Jolie plays Grendel’s mother and she ends up having sex with Beowulf and, as far as I can tell from the reviews, they end up having a relationship of sorts and he lets her live.

If you want to play up the Christian worldview, then maybe you can make Grendel somewhat sympathetic, worthy of redemption, but monstrous because of the curse of Cain.  And, in that case, it makes sense that Beowulf would not fight Grendel’s mother.  And maybe the main characters are haunted by a feeling of not being who others perceive them to be, after all, who, if not Jesus, is the literary prototype of the hero with a secret that leads to his death?

But, if you’ve decided that Christianity is a problem, then you’ve got to see that the issue between Grendel and Hrothgar in the poem is Grendel’s utter refusal to abide by societal conventions.  Sure, killing folks puts a damper on mealtime, but it’s that he refuses Hrothgar’s attempts to make things right between them that becomes the real issue–Grendel is a force of such social chaos that he single-handedly undermines Hrothgar’s ability to rule as king.

And then, let’s talk about the women.  One nice thing about Beowulf is that the women have power and are present.  Yes, their lives take up different spheres than the men, but here we have a story in which none of the women are just objects of desire.  Wealhtheow is a fine host and storyteller and is willing to vocally protect the interests of her children (and her own self-interests) even in the face of how pleased her husband is with Beowulf.  And, more importantly, Grendel’s mother is a real threat and, like a real threat, Beowulf must face her.  He doesn’t chase her down so that he can fuck her.  He chases her down to remove the real threat from the community he is protecting.  She’s a real villain, not a seductive witch using her cooter to lead men astray.

But, in the reviews I’ve read, the women are all, first, fuck-objects.

I think that’s a shame.

But what I think is a shame most of all is this idea that reading Beowulf sucks.

Is it easy?  No.  Not even Seamus Heaney’s  awesome translation is particularly easy.

But it doesn’t suck.

I mean, go ahead and read whatever summaries so that you know what happens.  Or here, I’ll tell you.  Beowulf fights Grendel.  Grendel dies.  Beowulf fights Grendel’s mom.  She dies.  Beowulf fights the dragon.  They both die.

It’s not about getting to the end of something.

It’s about, for a while, sitting yourself in the language of our ancestors (literally in some cases and linguistically in others) and putting yourself in a mindset that is both completely foreign and utterly familiar.  It’s about being there in the halls, hearing the stories of these men and, even more cool, hearing the stories they told each other.

If it’s boring, it’s only because you’ve been let down, either by your teachers, by long wintery nights with nothing more to amuse you than story telling, or by your own imagination.

I can’t bear to listen to people disparage Beowulf, as if it lacks something.  This is a gift, something so special that when our heathen ancestors gave it to our Christian ones, our Christian ancestors, rather than burning it or throwing it in the ocean and forgetting about it, disguised it a little and passed it down to us.

I mean, here’s one case (the Eddas being another) in which Christians are not the enemy of great literature, but instead its protector.  In a way, it’s like when two sides of the family who detest each other work together to get you the perfect Yuletide (wordplay intentional) gift.  Differences aside, it was important enough to them for you to have this that they brought it over 1000 years to you.

It offends me at a soul-deep level to see people disparage that gift.

And so that’s why I’ve stopped reading the Huffington Post.

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p.s.  Here’s Beowulf online.

But on the Other Side, It Didn’t Say Nothing

The thing I like best about blogging is how, sometimes you’ll be writing and, in the act of writing, you clarify for yourself some little bit of wisdom you didn’t know you had.

I realized that last night after writing yet another defense of pitbulls.  In this case, I realized that the mistake we liberals make, repeatedly, is to assume that everyone is good at heart.

But that’s clearly not true.  There are people who have no shred of goodness in them.  I don’t know if they lost it along the way.  I don’t know if these people can be redeemed.  I don’t know.

For the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter.  What we liberals should be concerned about is spreading the notion that every one has value and deserves to be treated like they have value.

I come from a small generation, sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and their children.  We would have been a small generation anyway, compared to thse two monster populations, but we were 60,000 parents and potential parents short by 1975.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my America lately, that strange, scary, fascinating Other place.  Whitman; Guthrie; Dylan; Ginsberg; Johnson; Smith & Smith; Maso; and so on.  Those folks who kept for us in their hearts the maddening, heartbreaking, beautiful, broken America and who kept singing us back to our better selves.

Who is there now?  Who is there that loves that America, in all its ugly beauty, before it’s coopted by Viacom or bulldozed over to put up more houses most of America can’t afford to live in?

I just don’t know.

And I’ll tell you what scares me.  What if it’s people like me?  What if it’s me? 

Hey Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song…

Because, if so, we’re screwed.  Yesterday was so beautiful, swirls of clouds hanging over swirls of birds flying over streets of swirling leaves scurring away from me.  I didn’t mention it.

I forgot to tell you how glorious the cookies the Super Genius sent me were.

I said nothing about seeing Sarcastro in the street and talking to him long enough that we watched both construction workers and philosophers walk by and even though some of them were weathered a dark leathery brown and others of them had callouses only on their fingertips from typing, they both shared that same look of thinking about something that was not the moment right in front of them.

I have let good friendships with people I adore lapse.

This is why I adore blogging, though.  I will say what I have to say, and it will not be enough and you will say what you have to say and it will not be enough.  And he will say what he has to say and it will not be enough.  But together, it will be.

Together, no matter where the future takes us, we have left a bread trail of light, an electronic map to Our America.

I don’t have to be Walt Whitman.  I only have to introduce you to him.

Hard Truths

1.  The Butcher makes a good chili, but dude does not understand the anatomy of an onion.  He left a lot of the papery outtards on it.

2.  We might all be better off if cops were required to be high on their shifts.  Think of how hard it would be for any situation to escalate into the use of deadly force.

3.  Sam is no more a purebred pitbull than I am a Vegas showgirl.  Let’s all play guess the dogs that went into that dog.  I’m guessing boxer/AmStaff/Golden.  The more conservative politically incorrect dog loving blogger is calling American Bulldog/AmStaff mix.

4.  Drummers are more fun than the rest of us.

Mama Sarcastro! I Think I’ve Found What You Can Get Your Son for Christmas.

Just yesterday I saw Sarcastro hanging outside the Great Escape, which, of course, reminded me of his love for comic books. And so, when I saw that Marvel is offering 25,000 titles for $5.99 a month, I thought, “What an awesome Christmas gift for him!”

And so, I thought I’d just pass it along to his loved ones.

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For those of you wondering what the comic book store across the street from where I work looks like, here it is. Note that the people loitering out front of it are almost never that cute.

You know, looking at music on Amazon makes me wonder, with the death of vinyl, how does Judas Priest convince its fans to kill themselves and how can Led Zeppelin bring folks to Satanism? The rise of the MP3 is pretty much the fall of backwards masking, huh?