Wednesday, April 26, 2006

They’ve Done It to Me Again

The criminal element in Los Angeles has made me skip my morning workout.

As you know, there’s a new building being constructed next door to me. And it’s a crime magnet. It’s already invited arsonists to burn it down. Now it’s drawing in persons on the run from the cops.

At about 2:00am this morning Tanya woke me up. She heard someone shouting outside about police dogs and “come out with your hands up” or something. I don’t know. I was asleep.

But of course, I had to investigate. It turns out that she was hearing correctly. There was a cop standing on the street calling into the construction site. He was soon joined by quite a few others. They started poking around our building and the construction site, looking for whomever it was that they were chasing. But they never entered the site. They searched Tanya’s car with flashlights, but as for the hulking, perp-friendly shell of a building next door – it went undisturbed.

I don’t blame the cops really. I wouldn’t go rooting around a huge creepy skeleton at 2am.

Especially since I distinctly overheard the first cop say to the others the word “gun.”

But here’s the thing. I’ve been living in this city too long. The second that I heard the word “gun” (by the way, I never told Tanya this part, she was still lying in bed, why should I disrupt her sleep? Just because she did it to me?! No. That would be revenge.), the exact moment that I heard the cop say “gun” my first thought wasn’t “oh my gawd! They’re going to start shooting the place up! There’s a dangerous killer in the loose with a gun! Right next door!”


My first thought was, “This is just fan-freaking-tastic! Now there’s a gun involved, and a man possibly holed up in the building next door. This can only bring two things. Loud-ass police dogs – and that freaking helicopter! I’m never going to get back to sleep.”

Sure enough, the helicopter came. It shone that unholy “night sun” searchlight all over the place. It lit up the bedroom. It kept me awake. Not to mention the fact that the helicopter seemed to be hovering about 20 feet above the bed itself. And the worse part is that I just knew that the man they were looking for was probably not still in the construction site. He probably hopped the back fence, ran through the adjoining parking lot and was halfway to Inglewood.

I seriously thought about going down to tell the officers this fact, but I realized that they might shoot me, so I stayed in bed. And it didn’t matter much anyway, the helicopter didn’t hang around for long. Some of the cops did, but they kept pretty quiet, with the exception of one instance when the police mistook another cop for being the fugitive. That was almost comic. It might have been funny.

Except that the cops shot that other officer by accident.

No, that didn’t happen. They didn’t shoot him. But it would suck if it did, wouldn’t it? Yes, it would.

No, after keeping me up for about 45 minutes and solidifying the fact that I’d be too tired to hit the gym at 6:30 am, the cops all eventually went home. At least that’s what I thought, until I heard that damned police dog barking about a half hour later.

Freaking K9 unit. Always late.

Oh, and the man they were chasing got away. So there was an armed suspect loose in the neighborhood last night. And that’s fine by me.

As long as they keep the noise down. I’ve got to get to get up by 6:10.

Fun Fact: Squirrels can climb vertical stucco walls with their little claws. I saw it for the first time the other day. It was pretty cool (and a little creepy). They can even crawl down the wall face first. Squirrels are like tiny rabid Spidermans. They’re obviously genetically superior.

Bow down to our squirrelly overlords.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Usually I’m a “One Remembrance at a Time” Kind of Guy

But today I’m in a quandary. April 25th is National Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). It’s a day when I like to reflect on the birth of my only niece Lily.

It’s not my fault that Yom Hashoah happens to fall on my niece’s birthday this year. So what to do? I feel obligated to recognize both the atrocities of the holocaust and the wonderful day that Lily was brought into the world.

I think that I’ve come up with a great solution.

10 Ways That My Niece Lily is Better than the Holocaust

1. During the Holocaust, the Germans under the command of Adolph Hitler sanctioned and carried out the mass murder of approximately 6 million Jews (about 2 out of every 3 European Jews), tens of thousands of Roma (or Gypsies), about 200,000 mentally and physically disabled persons, lots and lots of Polish and Soviet citizens and a bunch of homosexuals.

Lily has never done any of that horrible stuff. In fact, my niece is a very accepting little girl. She never met a gay disabled communist Gypsy Jew she didn’t like. (And trust me, knowing her mother’s friends; she’s probably met more than a few)

2. The term “Holocaust” is Greek in origin and means “sacrifice by fire.” Not a very pleasant word really.

The name Lily means “A type of flower native to the northern temperate regions. Their range in the Old World extends across much of Europe, the north Mediterranean, across most of Asia to Japan, south to the Nilgiri mountains in India, and south to the Philippines. In the New World they extend from southern Canada through much of the United States. A few species formerly included within this genus have now been placed in other genera.”

How pretty is that huh? Pretty and educational.

3. The Holocaust was Hitler’s infinitesimally and horrifically asinine plan to create a master race by weeding out – by murder – those people which he thought were “undesirable.”

Lily would never come up with such a horrible, brutal and juvenile plan. She’s much too smart for that. Her plan for forming master race might include something more tolerant and elegant like crossbreeding people with animals, genetically engineering a race of beings with the brain capacity of a human and the ability to groom themselves like a dog.

Sure, that’s still pretty grotesque, but apart from having to dispose of the inevitable “missteps” along the way, it would be virtually bloodless – and therefore better.

4. Holocaust bad.

Lily good.

5. Well…Lily’s simply better than the Holocaust, can’t we agree and just leave it at that? We don’t really need 10 reasons do we? I didn’t think so.

So to sum up, I was thinking of a clever way to incorporate both remembrances into one simple message. But “Let us never forget Lily’s birthday lest we repeat the horrors of the past” didn’t have quite the impact that I was looking for.

So, never forget the Holocaust.

And Happy Birthday, Lily! You’re the greatest niece an uncle could ever ask for!

Fun Fact: I was kicking around on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum web site and I spotted this article: “United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Denounces Continuing Holocaust Denial in Iran.”

Hmmm. Really? Who would have thunk that the national museum dedicated to the Holocaust would take issue with those who stupidly claim that the Holocaust never took place? Weird.

And seriously, the “president” of Iran is a moron. I just wanted to put that out there. Now that’s news.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Why Mee?

Julia Roberts has been getting some bad reviews lately. Sure, she probably deserves them. I know that it made me smile to hear about the pans. But that’s just because I’m jealous. I’ll admit it. I love to do theatre. I would love to be on Broadway. And hell, if you asked me, I’d tell you that I have paid my dues. I’ve done summer stock and regional plays and countless community and university productions. Some of them were even good. So when a movie star hits the Broadway boards in an attempt to legitimize themself as an artist, it gets the blood up a little.

But I’ll be the first to tell you that I would do exactly the same thing if given the opportunity. Paying your dues may be a requirement for great art, but it sure is a pain in the ass. If I was offered an occasion to get to the top without paying any dues, I would take it in a heartbeat. And I wouldn’t even feel very guilty about it, to be honest.

But I’m not here to talk about how Julia used her fame and money to circumvent propriety. I feel for her. I really do. I know what it’s like to get bad reviews. A lot of them. Granted, all of my bad reviews were written by the same man, but…

As you might already know, I went to college for eight years. No, I am not a doctor. I’m a theatre major (enough said). But I do have a little bit of an excuse. I used to be a music major, but I switched when I went from community college to the university. So why was I in community college for four years?! Well, because I was a music major.

I started doing theatre when I got to community college. I tried out for a couple High School plays, but I was never cast. I wouldn’t cut my hair just to be in “Ordinary People” so my illustrious theatre career was put on hold until I was 18 (I had a really long ponytail, I was super-cool in 1990).

I was cast in my first play as the lead in Sam Shepard’s drama “A Lie of the Mind” (coincidentally, the same college is putting that show up again soon, I just got a flyer for it in the mail). I was horrible, but the reviewers were kind. Too kind. I have a videotape of that show. I was really, really hideous. But it was first play so get off my back!

I went on to do quite a few more plays while at that school, culminating in a great role as Nathan Detroit in the summer theatre production of Guys and Dolls (that was one of the good ones, I think). I did about 14 or so shows while I went to community college, sometimes I was in two shows at once, and I never got a bad review. Sure, sometimes I was hardly mentioned, but for the most part, I was well-treated.

And I got used to it.

I got really used to it.

Then I went to a university. I won’t mention which one but it was Centrally located in Washington State in a small Burg named for the founding father’s wife Ellen. I switched to theatre full time and got cast in my first show “Dracula” (terrible script, great production). I didn’t worry too much about the review because my part was practically non-existent (but it was my first show and I was paying my dues. Didn’t that university know who I was?! I played Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls!”).

I also didn’t worry too much about the reviews because, well, I was never really too worried about the reviews. My biggest concern up to that point in my career was that they would spell my name wrong or use some antiquated adjective to describe by brilliant performance. Let me tell you, there’s nothing more annoying than having to go to the dictionary just to see if someone liked your performance.

So “Dracula” came and went without too much fanfare for me. There wasn’t too much fanfare for my other roles that first year at the university either. Friar Laurence in “Romeo and Juliet” and Little John in a children’s theatre tour of “Robin Hood.”

As you can tell, those last two are kind of “fat guy” parts. Well, I was kind of a fat guy. So, I took advantage of the children’s theatre tour (on which I played a lot of basketball) and a regional theatre production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (in which I was cast as an Aggie. I was cast for my singing, but the Aggie’s have a lot of dancing. A lot. 10-hour dance rehearsals for a week and a half) to lose some weight. And I did. I lost 100 pounds.

Yeah me!

My second year at the university was full of new promise. No more fat guy roles. A chance to make my mark. And roles I got.

The local paper had a theatre reviewer. His name was Dewey Mee. He had seen some Broadway shows, had a basic understanding of theatre history and the willingness to sit through numerous regional community theatre productions, so naturally he was the top candidate for the job. He was also confined to a wheelchair. I don’t really know why. I never met the man. And to tell the truth, after a while, he’s probably lucky that we never crossed paths.

It was after my first show the second year that I knew something was up between Dewey and I. It was show called “Down the Road.” A thriller. There were only three roles in it. In Dewey’s review, I was only ever even mentioned as the set designer (which was true, I was the set designer for that show). It was like I wasn’t even in the show. It was insulting, but I was able to brush it off.

But then it was the same story with the next show. And then things got worse. Instead of just being ignored, I was reviled. And hard too. It became a joke. I used to predict my reviews. People would tell me that I was just being paranoid, but I’m not one to get paranoid. And how can you be paranoid when you’re right every single time?

Pretty soon, it became obvious to everyone that Dewey had it out for me. When I was only mentioned in a parenthetical for my role as Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors” it was clenched.

Hey, here’s a picture from that show (thanks Eric):

That’s me as Seymour and Kevin Salcedo as Mr. Mushnik.

Now pretty much everyone knew that I had somehow gotten myself on Dewey’s shit list.

The last show I did at the University was “True West” (also by Sam Shepard, my college theatre life had come full circle). The other person in the show with me was a very nice man named Toby Dykus. I got a terrible review for that performance. Toby got a rave. He was pissed. So when Toby happened to get cast in a show that summer with Dewey himself, he asked me if there was anything that I wanted him to say to the jerk ass reviewer.

I just asked Toby to ask Dewey why he always had it out for me. So he did.

And Dewey admitted something to him. He said that he had deliberately given me bad reviews because he didn’t like me. Why? Well, as Dewey said, there was one early audition that first year at college where Dewey was auditioning. Evidently, it was some kind of musical (Dewey often auditioned for musicals and I still never met him). He had his music spread out around his wheelchair, trying to get it down when I walked up. Since he was blocking my way, he said that I stepped across (and on) his music with a sarcastic “excuse me” before striding off to my audition.

That was it. That’s why he gave me over 10 bad reviews. It had nothing to do with my performances, it was simply a grudge. And, you know, I could appreciate that. I can appreciate holding a grudge against me because I was such a jerk to a poor handicapped man. Except…

I never did that. It wasn’t me.

He confused me with someone else and held it against me for 4 years.

What a dickhead.

So, in conclusion, maybe Julia Roberts doesn’t deserve the reviews she got. Maybe all those reviewers are mad at her because of something that Nicole Kidman did.

Who knows?

Fun Fact: Administrative Professionals day is Wednesday. Don’t forget!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I Thought About the Armi (and Danny)

I was kicking around over at Steve’s blog and he turned me on to this music video. It’s from a couple of Finns named Danny and Armi. It’s a real blast from the past…if you’re Finnish.

This video is claimed by many on the internet to be the worst…video…ever. Somehow, I doubt that. Have any of the people who made these claims ever seem an Eminem video? And then there’s that Michael Jackson video with Marlon Brando in it. That was pretty god-awful.

So, this one can’t be the worst. Cheerleaders doing disco moves?! What’s not cool about that? I especially like the obvious attempt to capture some of the magic (and colossal mountain of cash) that came with the fame of the movie “Grease.” What good old Danni and Armi didn’t realize at the time was that “Grease” was a popular movie, not because of the great music and nostalgic look at a more innocent time, but rather because it had a flying car at the end.

…oh, wait. Sorry, Danny and Armi, I hadn’t watched the entire video when I wrote that last thing.

Enjoy the video.

Allow me to put myself out on a limb here, risking all sorts of beatings from musical bullies…

Okay, is it just me or that kind of a catchy tune?

Hey! I’m not saying that it’s good, I’m just saying that it’s catchy. Like hepatitis.

Fun Fact: I put that Ben Folds reference in the title of this post to cleanse the palate. In fact, if your palate needs more cleansing…a shaky video from one of Ben’s concerts. (Go out and buy The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner)

And a goofy medley from two of the coolest people ever to walk the earth, my mom Ella and my dad Dino.

Sounds like Ella’s promoting her album Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Gershwin Songbook. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to rush out and get that one too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

One Sixty Two

Hey, the latest TAM Cartoon is up! Yeah! Nothingelsesational!

Fun Fact: This cartoon is TAM #162. I like to have creative titles that like for the cartoons. I suppose I could call it “TAM Fills a Waterbed” but I figure that might be so creative as to be confusing. Or it might be completely uncreative. Either way, it’s certain that it would be confusing.

For all your TAM Cartoon needs, don’t forget to visit the TAM Cartoon Archives over at TAM too. See what the other one hundred and sixty one are all about.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Can Call You Betty

In lieu of anything new or creative today, I thought that I would just post a couple of movie trailers. Why not? If nothing else, I can help to keep YouTube in business. We should all support YouTube, shouldn’t we? I mean, what would we do if we couldn’t see dumbasses in underwear illegally dance in their living room to copyrighted songs?

Seriously, where is the FBI? Every time I put a DVD in my player, they threaten me with prosecution, yet underwear-wearing 18-year-olds can dance freely without reprisal? Don’t tell me that FBI can’t find these people. Their names are, more often than not, written right there on the waistband of their jockeys! Where’s the justice?!

Wait. Forget all that. Support YouTube. YouTube has helped artists from every walk of life share their creativity with the world. It’s helped everyone get a better idea of what their fellow man is doing. More importantly, I see the people on YouTube and I’m inspired.

Those YouTubers really make me feel better about myself.

Here are the movie trailers I promised. Fortunately, neither of these trailers infringe on any copyrights. Both are frightening. Al Gore’s is scary because it’s…well, it’s true, and Kevin Smith's is scary because it’s been 12 years since “Clerks” came out and that makes me feel old.


An Inconvenient Truth

Clerks II

See a better trailer for Clerks II here.

As with any Kevin Smith movie, in each one there’s always one apology that he needs to make to his audience (you know what they are). I’ll go ahead and preemptively make Kevin’s apology for Clerks II.

Sorry for Rosario Dawson.

Fun Fact: According to IMDb, One of the things that prompted Kevin Smith to make the film was a promise he made to friend Jason Mewes. If Mewes managed to stay off drugs he would be able to play the character of "Jay" one more time. Smith kept his promise.

One of the things that prompted Al Gore to make his film was the fact that he was tired of just being known as “that guy who lost the presidential election.” And he wanted to keep Jason Mewes off drugs too.

Honestly, what the hell was the country thinking? Why did we elect George W?! His dad was bad enough, and I got to tell you, George Jr. really makes me miss the good old days of 1989 when daddy was put in the White House.

Sorry, I’m getting off point here.

But really, George W. Bush?!!!

What the fuck, people?!


Keep Jason Mewes off drugs, kids.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Dad!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Never Mind the Measles and Rubella

There’s been a recent outbreak of Mumps in the Midwest.

Now, I don’t know a hell of a lot about the mumps, in fact, most of what I know has been gleaned from old Little Rascals shorts, but I do know this; it’s going to be a boom time for people who make those scarf-things that you tie around your head.

Poor Greg. I look at this picture and think to myself, "who in their right mind would ever want to play Mumps?" It can't be that fun, can it? Greg doesn't look too happy. Then, of course, he's been forbidden to play Mumps so...maybe I'm wrong about that game?

Fun Fact: I was looking for a picture of Alfalfa wearing the head scarf. I know for a fact that he had the mumps in at least 20 episodes. But no luck.

However, I did learn that Carl Dean Switzer, the actor who played Alfalfa (and was also in “It’s a Wonderful Life” as the kid who opens the pool at the graduation party) was shot to death at the age of 31 by a man that he claimed owed him money. The shooting was judged to be justified, but there is some debate.

Also, good ol’ Carl was evidently a pain in the ass during the making of the Our Gang shorts and once urinated all over a lamp on set (according to E! Online anyway).

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

You Don’t Know Chit

Sometimes I’ll get a random word stuck in my head. I’m not sure if it’s normal or if I’m just one nude jog away from having to spend some time in a place with soft walls. But it has happened again today.

Today’s word is “chit.”

A good word. It sounds dirty, but don’t worry, you don’t have to whisper when you say it while children are present. In fact, if children are present and you find the need to say the word “chit,” I recommend saying it as loud as you possibly can, the child will think it’s dirty and everyone can have a good laugh without poisoning anyone’s young mind. You can do the same with words like “fracas,” “dinghy,” and “penal colony.”

The word “chit” is most often used in the Navy to describe a paper request for some kind of privilege. In general, it has many definitions. It can be a statement of an amount owed for food and drink (a check), a short letter or note, a “brownie point,” or more obscurely a child or a precocious girl or young woman.

The modern day word “chit” is a carry over from the days when Hindu traders used slips of paper called (citthi) instead of money so they wouldn't have to carry around heavy bags of gold and silver. British sailors shortened the word to “chit” and applied it to their mess vouchers.

So, now you know. Now you know “chit.”

Fun Fact: You could probably guess by the quality of post today, that it’s cartoon day. That’s right, the latest TAM Cartoon is up! Mychitdon’tstinktastic!

And if you want to read an interesting and provocative post today go to The Wren Forum. That should help you pass some time. Unless you’re Steve, then it won’t help you much (because you wrote it).

Oh, and another thing. Shocker Kahn in back with new posts. I’ve finally changed my link at the right, so go there and say “welcome back” to Jo. Mike at Hello Ninja is also back as is Tournament of Stuff. Spread the love.

Oh, and go to Chez Sarcastica and tell Tanya to post something!

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Anthropomorphic Mail

If my mail had the ability to speak it probably say to itself, “why is the letter carrier such a lazy ass-wagon?!”

As you may or may not already know, I’ve had some problem with the US Postal Service. Actually, I really only had a problem with one individual. But now my frustration is spreading.

Every once in a while I get a package sent to me that requires a signature upon receipt. On four separate occasions, my mailman has refused to deliver that package. Instead, he simply puts the “delivery attempt” notice in the mailbox, forcing me to have to go down to the Post Office to get my parcel. And my Post Office is no picnic. They have a bet going down there, the one who can move the slowest wins a free trip to the break room for a half-hour smoke break every third customer. And they’re all winners!

Anyway, my mailman refuses to climb the steps to my apartment and deliver my package. I know because I’ve actually watched him do it. That day, I chased him down to his truck and demanded my mail. He gave it to me, but he didn’t do it with pleasure. That was the second-to-the-last time this happened to me. I figured that once he knew that I was on to him, my mail would start getting delivered as promised.


It happened again just the other day. Usually, unless I’m being pummeled relentlessly, I’ll just let things slide without complaint. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t send food back at restaurants. I don’t generally complain to people about bad service. I’ll wait until I get home and then bitch and bitch until everyone around me wants to cut their ears off. But the Post Office is such a horrible place that I had to do something about my mailman.

So, I sent a strongly worded letter to the Postal Service.

That’ll show them. The form letter I got in response was very apologetic. I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I didn’t want to get my mailman fired or anything, I just wanted my packages to be delivered – and maybe for him to stop breaking my NetFlix DVDs when he crams them into my mailbox.

But I was a little concerned that my mailman, because he had been caught red-handed refusing to do his job, the job he gets paid about $40,000 a year to do, was going to get a harsh punishment (although, to be honest with you, he probably deserves it. He really is a horrible mailman.).

I mean, if the guy that works behind the counter at Wendy’s (and makes about $7.50 an hour, no benefits) takes your cash and decides not to give you your #2 meal (double cheeseburger…yum!) for no good reason, I would suspect that at the very least the manager would make him spend the rest of the week picking urine soaked French fries off the bathroom floors.

But I was being a little too ambitious in my thinking that anything at all was going to happen to my mailman.

I received another automated response a few days later telling me that I was going to be hearing from my local Post Office in hopes of resolving this matter. I started to get a little worried. I don’t mind dealing with the Postal Service en masse, but dealing with my local office wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I knew it.

Turns out that I was right.

The lady from the local office called me on the phone. She asked me about my problem. I told her. Here is a brief transcript of the conversation that followed (from memory):

Me: So…that’s the whole story from beginning to end. It’s an outrage, no?

Post Office Lady: What floor do you live on?

Me: The second.

Post Office Lady: Is there a call box at the bottom of the stairs?

Me: No, it’s an open building, you just come right up.

Post Office Lady: There’s no call box to buzz people in?

Me: No, you just come right up. It’s open.

Post Office Lady: But there’s no call box?

Me: No! It’s an open building.

(Seriously, this went on longer than this, but in the interest of time, I’ll stop this part here.)

Post Office Lady: Well, your letter carrier isn’t required to climb a flight of stairs to deliver your package.

Me: Excuse me?

Post Office Lady: He doesn’t have to walk up stairs. And if you don’t have a box, there’s no way for him to let you know that you have a package. He’s allowed to not deliver to the second floor. It’s at his discretion.

Me: What?! Are you serious?!

Post Office Lady: Oh yeah. In fact, if he wants to steal your mail and sell it on eBay, he can do that too.
(No she didn’t actually say this, but she was smug enough that I half expected her to.)

Me: So, I have to watch out my window and if I see him coming, I’ll just yell down to him and ask if he’s got anything to deliver but is just too lazy to drag his ass up 15 steps? He’s delivered before! Why wouldn't I expect him to do it again?!

Post Office Lady: Maybe he was in a hurry. He might have had a lot of deliveries that day.

A lot of deliveries?! That’s honestly what she said to me. But I have to ask one question here: if you’re not required to actually deliver anything, how do you get swamped with deliveries? “Oh, man, I’ve got a crap-load of mail to not deliver today! Sheesh…Mondays, huh?”

Post Office Lady: You could talk to him. It sort of depends on your rapport.

Seriously, she told me that my service depends on my rapport with the mailman. I’m a bit shocked that she knew the word “rapport” to tell the truth. And screw that! I’m not talking to that mail-crushing asshole.

Then she went on to my other complaint. The smushed NetFlix.

Post Office Lady: You have another complaint about DVDs being broken? Net…net…flicker? (one of the USPS’s biggest clients and she acts like she’s never heard of them)

Me: NetFlix. Yes they were broken.

Post Office Lady: How big is your mailbox?

Me: Um…regulation size. It was approved by the Postal Service.

Post Office Lady: But is it big?

Me: It’s not huge. But the real problem was the junk mail. My DVDs were crammed in with all of the flyers and circulars and junk mail.

Post Office Lady: Oh, junk mail? We’re required to deliver that.

Seriously. That’s an exact quote there.

And that was it. I learned that the Post Office doesn’t have to deliver actual mail…but junk mail? That’s the important stuff.

I fucking hate our government.

Fun Fact: “Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow nor heat of day nor dark of night shall keep this carrier from the swift completion of his appointed rounds.”

But 15 steps up a flight of stairs?

Hell no! Mailmen are not superheroes, people!

Oh, and happy late birthday, Stephen! I won’t mention your age. You’re so old that you probably couldn’t see this small type anyway.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Almost Famous

Yes, I was almost famous. Just like the stars in the movie of the same name.

My mom’s in town. When you live in a large city, sometimes the only way you get out to do anything really interesting that the city has to offer is when a person comes to visit. So what did we do? We went to see Dr. Phil.

Now before you get all down on the good doctor let me say this, I actually like Dr. Phil. He’s not my favorite all-time TV personality or anything, but I like him. I genuinely believe that most of the time he gives good advice. I just wanted to say that up front. Sure, it may make me look like a moron, but hey, if you’re basing your opinion of my stupidity on my affection for Dr. Phil then you’ve obviously been ignoring this blog. I’ve given you many, many other reasons to think that I’m an idiot.

So, my mom and I went to Paramount to be in the studio audience. It’s not far from here. So while I did have to sit with a hundred or so strangers, at least I didn’t have to get on a freeway to do it. The freeway is a deal-breaker for me.

They herded us into the near-freezing waiting area. We’d been warned about the temperatures at the Dr. Phil Show. To get tickets, you have to go through a little bit of a screening process and then they send you an email. The email made it abundantly clear that it was going to be cold. It was. Storing meat, ex-girlfriend, “10th grade English teacher with a bug up her ass” cold (that last one may just be relatable for me).

Not long after we had all drank our first cup of coffee (more for warmth than anything else) a producer got on a mic and told us that they were going to be doing a show tomorrow about male reproductive rights.

A man in Saginaw, Michigan named Matt Dubay got his girlfriend pregnant. Before the pregnancy, according to him, he and his girlfriend had an understanding that he didn’t want to have a baby with her. Furthermore, Matt claims that the girlfriend told him that she was unable to have children.

Of course, she got pregnant. And she decided to keep the child. She also decided that since Matt was kind enough to donate his sperm, he should also be kind enough to donate around $800 a month for child support. Matt wasn’t to keen on this last part since, he claims, he never wanted to be a father in the first place and thought that the issue was going to be a mute one since he was dating a woman with a womb as hospitable to human life as the Sea of Tranquility. (Matt should have known that someday there would be life on the moon.)

Now Matt's suing to get out of his child support payments, claiming fraud.

So the producers of the Dr. Phil Show asked if anyone in the waiting area had an opinion on this and would be willing to give their opinion on camera to be aired on the next day’s show.

I’ve been known to have an opinion or two in my life, so naturally, I offered mine.

They liked it. Maybe it wasn’t so much my opinion as my dashingly handsome face, but they took me and 4 others up to the Dr. Phil dressing rooms to tape our pieces.

After it was done, they asked me if I would be willing to come back the next day and sit in the front row so that Dr. Phil could follow up with questions about our taped opinions in person.

Well, sure.

Who am I to deny the nation? Housewives everywhere deserve to know how I feel about male reproductive rights, don’t they?

Well, they’re going to have to wait. After a call from the producers telling me that it was a go and I would get to tell the world what was on my mind and meet Dr. Phil and that more importantly I would have a drive-on pass to the Paramount Lot and a special parking spot in the highly venerable “visitor parking lot,” they called back to tell me that they had cancelled the segment.

That’s so LA.

But they told me that I could come to the show anyway and sit in the audience again. But I wouldn’t get the pass and stuff. Yeah…no thanks. I’ve grown accustomed to a certain treatment. I can’t just go back to hanging around with the rabble! Don’t they know who I am?!

My Hollywood dreams have been dashed yet again. Damn you Dr. Phil!

The rest of you can get my opinion here! You’re so lucky.

I think that if we support the reproductive rights of women then it only makes sense that we also support the reproductive rights of men. There are a lot of tricky logistics involved, but don’t you think it’s about time we at least discussed this? Hopefully without a bunch of “this is just an excuse for deadbeat dads” crap. That’s like saying that reproductive rights for women is just an excuse for heartless chicks to kill innocent babies.

It takes two people to make a baby (or so I’m told). Ideally, it takes two people to raise a baby (don’t tell my mom). So why shouldn’t it take two people to decide to have a baby?

Screw Dr. Phil. We can have a discussion right here! And it won’t take two weeks to air.

Should men have reproductive rights? Or should we stick with the old “you break it, you buy it” policy?

I’m talking mostly to the Pro-Choicers on this. I would assume that Pro-Lifers have the usual take on this subject?

And, if you watch Dr. Phil and have any idea what I look like, keep an eye out for me in the audience of the “Ask Dr. Phil and Robin” episode. I’m almost positive that I’ll be shown. Either that, or the steady cam operator had a crush on me.

Which begs the question, can I resist a man with a greasy pony tail?


Fun Fact: Apart from almost being on the Dr. Phil Show, I’ve called in to two talk radio shows and was actually on the air with the host of another where I gave my opinion on gun control.

My opinion on gun control?

Does anyone really care about gun control these days? No one ever discusses gun control during a war. Did you hear me?! I said NEVER!!

Monday, April 03, 2006

“A” Eh?

Look at that! Homophones. I hope there aren’t any homophobes reading this.

On Friday I wrote a post about an experiment that was conducted to test the effects of prayer on heart surgery patients (Some People Just Like to Hear the Sound of their Own Prayers, Friday, March 31st, 2006). I was purposefully a bit incendiary. And it had the desired result. A fine reader named “A,” a name which I can only assume is a nom de plum used for the purpose of anonymity and not the author’s actual name (although, if it is, it’s a pretty cool name), took the time to share their feelings. Now I’m going to take the time to share some of mine (again). I mean, it’s only fair, right? I mean, it is my blog after all. So, I guess, even if it’s not fair, I’m going to anyway.

I won’t copy “A’s” complete response. If you want to read it in full go to the comments section from the last post (there are also other fine comments there that you can read as well [Niki, Kevin and Eric]).

Now, this post isn’t exactly a rebuttal, but I’m going to take “A’s” points one by one because it will help me keep my head straight and keep me on task. “A’s” comments will be shown in Italics:

You are always so rational and actually empathetic in your views. You have strong opinions about many things, yet are able to see a situation from different viewpoints and then choose your viewpoint.

That’s very true. I couldn’t agree more. This doesn’t have much to do with A’s actual comments, it was more of a buttering-up so that I would read the rest of their comments with an open mind. It worked. But mostly because it’s just so damned true! thanks “A.”

Now on to business:

Why do you get so upset over what Christians are doing? I read your blog occasionally, and Christians seem to get your goat more than anything.

Okay, this is a pretty good place to start. I’ll bet that a lot of people ask this question to themselves. Probably none more than my Christian friends, of which I have a lot. Some of my best friends are Christian (and black. No that last part is not true. But not because I don’t want to have black friends. I would love to have black friends. I have in the past, but we’ve kind of lost touch, as friends will do…look, I don’t have to defend myself to you! I’m being honest here! I also don’t have very many Vietnamese friends! Whatever!). And that’s the point. How could they not be? Christians are everywhere! And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But when you’re an Atheist living in a Christian world, it can be a frustrating place. See, a lot of Christians will tell you that people are losing God. I can tell you that it’s just not true. More people than not are religious (“spiritual”) in this country. Even many of those who don’t claim to be religious or spiritual, still believe in God. Problem is that no one can really come to any consensus about God. But most people are pretty damned certain that he exists (and in my opinion, if you believe God exists and you do nothing for him or about him, then what the hell are you doing? Just taking him for granted? If you believe the guy created you, the least you could do would be to give a shout out every once in a while! Even if you think he/she doesn’t really care. Sheesh!).

As an Atheist (with an open mind yet different from an Agnostic), I find myself on some kind of fringe. Most of the time I can garner a little understanding from Agnostics. But they’re not Atheists (with open minds yet different from Agnostics). They’re Agnostic. I also get some understanding from my good Christian friends (and some of them don’t even mix it with pity).

My point is that I’m not upset with Christians per se. I’m frustrated with religion and “spirituality.” The Christians are just what I know the best. They’re the ones who most directly affect my life. I’m not saying that they’re my slave-masters or anything, but they’re my most direct “oppressors.” And as Eric mentioned in his comment on the same issue, I am a little concerned about this country becoming a theocracy. I don’t have the luxury of saying “well, at least we’ll all have God.” Some of us don’t believe in God. And believe it or not, we don’t see that as a character flaw.

You are dead set on disproving, discrediting, and well--dissing Christians. Interesting.

It is interesting, isn’t it? I can’t possibly disprove or discredit Christians. Christianity is built in such a way that it’s impossible. Everything, even my heresy, is part of God’s plan.

And as for “dissing” Christians. Yeah, I do that. It’s fun. Christians call my belief system all sorts off horrible things. The work of the Devil, Blasphemy, Heresy, Hedonism (even though, I’m definitely no Hedonist, I won’t even take my shirt off to go swimming), Misguided, Unenlightened, Narrow-minded (this one goes both ways), Soulless, Dangerous, The Path to Hell… Why shouldn’t I be able to get a few digs in? I mean, it’s not like I’m condemning Christians to an eternity of Hellfire or anything, I’m just pointing out their human flaws. Mostly, I like to point out their hypocrisy. I like to point out hypocrisy everywhere. Even when it’s mine. Even though, I’m never a hypocrite. Not ever.

So…what if this ridiculous experiment HAD supported the power of prayer? What would you write in your blog? You’d be pissed off at Christians, as usual. You’d try to discredit the experiment the same way Christians are discrediting it now. Nobody likes it when people attack their belief system (or lack of belief system).

If the experiment had proven that prayer works I would have been cool with that. What do I care how someone gets to feel better? Am I some kind of monster? Sure, I would have first looked for a psychological explanation (It would be easy to find in this study), but I wouldn’t rule prayer out as a the tangible reason for the healing. Who the hell cares? I don’t pray, but I definitely keep good thought for people. I just don’t channel them through some God. I can wish someone luck without being superstitious.

And there’s a common misconception that exists about Atheists. That they don’t have a belief system. How can one not have a belief system? Is it possible to have brain activity and not have a belief system? Infants have a belief system. They believe that if they cry, they’ll get attention. Just because I didn’t notice the pretty flowers and oceans and clouds and seasons and death and make a great leap to a dude in the sky called “God” doesn’t mean I don’t believe in things. The flowers and oceans and clouds and seasons and death still exist. And if you want to get all new-agey on me and challenge their existence, then the illusion of their existence is real at least and that’s something too. So never accuse an Atheist of not having beliefs. You wouldn’t like it if I called your beliefs “Fairy Tale Hokum.” So you can attack my beliefs all you want, just don’t tell me that I don’t have any.

But what would you say if the scientific evidence actually SUPPORTED the Bible? Would you still choose to disbelieve the Bible? If you weighed out all of the evidence, pros and cons, and saw that there was more evidence supporting the Biblical view of creation and how the world works, would you still NOT BELIEVE? It’s an honest and sincere question. Because if you say YES, then you need to acknowledge that you're not seeking truth then. You are seeking a world view that you are “comfortable with.”

No. If I ever found “evidence” of God’s existence and the Christian world view, I would definitely be a convert. But I’ll never find “evidence” of God in the Christian sense because that’s not the way Christianity works. That’s why Christians are so fond of “faith.”

And I wouldn’t be “comfortable” with it. A being that created everything, sits in judgment of me and controls my ultimate destiny? How can someone be comfortable with that? It’s creepy. It’s frightening. That’s what the whole “fear of God” thing is all about. But how could I be comfortable with life as described by science? I can’t be. It’s cold. It’s callous. It’s random. And it doesn’t satisfy my sense of ego. But that’s the nature of the beast. None of it is comfortable. That’s the reason I didn’t give in to religion. And all my life there has been tremendous pressure for me to do so. Most people don’t think that it’s that big of a deal to adopt religion. There are a lot of people out there who wanted me to become Christian “just in case…” What’s that?

And as far as evidence goes, there is no “pro” or “con.” It’s evidence. It is, by it’s definition, neutral.

You claim “Religion is purposefully vague about many things.” I assume you mean the Christian religion in this case. Well, no it’s not. Christians believe in a God of miracles; that he's the guy that THOUGHT IT ALL UP. If so, then he's a helluva lot smarter than us.

To you it may sound like a cop-out answer to give God credit for something we can’t fully explain. It doesn’t mean we’re vague. We’re just saying God is capable of doing that and a whole lot more. Science is the vague one!! Science doesn’t even come up with good, plausible answers! The Big Bang? Evolution? FOUNDED on events that science can’t even prove could happen today in our “ultra-enlightened generation.” In fact, they are based on theories that CONTRADICT the way science says the world works.

Hey, let’s make sense here. You can’t explain away God by saying that we’re just too unenlightened to understand him and then not use the same rationale in your attack on science. Be fair. There are a lot of things we don’t understand. I don’t put too much stake in the science of man either. Whenever man gets involved, something’s bound to get screwed up. That’s just the way it works. We are primitive beings. Even by your religious admittance.

But there is one fundamental difference between science and religion. Science (even though you think that it does) doesn’t claim to have all the answers. Science, like religion, believes in an infinite universe, so, by its nature, science can’t possibly claim to know all, since it would take to the end of infinity to be sure and we all know that there is no end to infinity.

Science is a great deal of questions in search of the answers. The answers are out there. Maybe. Each question “answered” begets another question. It’s a never-ending process. True science. Pure science. The outcome is not inevitable. The only inevitability is that there will be another question.

Religion is a book of answers. The questions people have are supplied by the answers. It’s reverse engineering. The questions eventually lead back to the answers that were given to begin with. And if they don’t, then it was the wrong question. Because the answer never changes. When the answer changes, someone writes another tome and we get another religion. We get Mormonism or Hare Krishna or Scientology… Then the process begins again.

But if you just want to live in a world that your little mind (as brilliant as it probably is) is capable of fathoming, there’s nothing I can say.

Thanks for noting my probable brilliance. But I don’t get it. Why do Christians think that living in a world without God is easier to comprehend than living in a world with God?

I’m happy that you think that I can fathom the science of the universe, but I’m still awe struck by the miracle of the transistor radio.

That being said, life would be so much easier for me to comprehend if I believed in God. I would know the secrets of the universe. I would live, die, go to Heaven (or hell) and sit happily somewhere for eternity (boring, by the way). There would be absolute good and evil. Right and wrong. No doubts. No fear. Bliss. My life would be a lot easier. I would have absolute rules. I could “WWJD” myself all the live-long day. Man, it would be cool.

It would also be cool if I could shoot fire from my fingertips, but so far it’s been a no-go. I would also like to control things with my mind. I’m really lazy like that. But that’s not working out for me either. I would like to be the coolest guy on the planet. I would like for people to think so highly of me that they give me money just for saying “hello” to them.

Selfish? Yes. But so is the idea of Heaven. A happy place where we don’t have to actually die. We just transcend.

I guess what it boils down to is this. I give modern Christians such a hard time because they’re the know-it-alls of the planet. And why do they know so much? Because the believe that they do. They know the truth because they believe that they do. They have faith.

Faith is great and all, but man, it can get annoying.

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time writing this (you won’t be able to tell by the quality of writing, but I did, have faith that I did), so I’m going to leave with some thanks to “A” for their great comments. I like discussing this kind of thing. Especially since I’m an Atheist and can say anything I want without fear of divine reprisal.

Yeah! I win!

Fun Fact: If you want to see some great photographs from a truly gifted photographer and all-around nice guy, go here.