Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Simple Things Revisited

I remember the first time I ever tied my own shoes. I was five, maybe five and a half, in kindergarten class, and we were just leaving for the day. Normally the teacher would come over to help me with it, but for some reason I was feeling cocky today, confident. I told her, "I can do it myself!" And she backed off, probably looking a mix of shocked, surprised, and interested.

Took me ten minutes, but I tied those motherfuckers like a champ. Didn't need no double-knots or nursery rhymes to remember how the loops went. It was pretty awesome to stand up on my own two feet, in shoes I'd tied myself, and walk out of school to my mom's car. I felt about as badass as a five year-old can get... till mom ruined it by kissing me on the cheek in front of everyone.

Since then I've been tying my own shoes every day. That's... over fifteen years of tying shoes. Fifteen years, and how often did I ever notice that it used to be so difficult? How often did I stop to think, "remember that time when?"

But today, I did. Today, as I laced up, I stopped and just looked at my shoes. The overlapping contortions, the small loops, the dangling ends. It made me realize that I'm the kind of guy who gets up every day and puts on his shoes, ties them, and then goes about the rest of his life.

Makes me wonder about people who wear shoes that don't require tying, or even worse, who have shoes with laces but never tie them. Are they as independent? Are they as capable of survival in this world? Maybe this is a lot to base off someone's footwear habits, but somehow it seems that it should matter whether or not someone ties their own damn shoes every day.

Oh, these small simple things we revisit in our older days. Nostalgia is such a state of mind.

Monday, June 29, 2009

San Francisco Pride Parade 2009

Yours Truly was out and about yesterday with my handy-dandy blackbook, writing shit down like I was Harriet the Spy. Here are my rough notes - so please excuse the grammatical errors and generally nonsensical artistry - in chronological order of creation:

"the music plays to a funk beat and next few feet away is lil' pop lockers busting hyphy contortions

all the vendors... lined up like pill boxes, selling your latest merch fix, souvenir to say you're easy

but unknown to everyone, the day moon smiles down on us, waiting for her turn to shine the sky, softer softly than summer sun

the powell station dance party

the escalators offer a constant stream of new participants for the menagerie... and of immigrants, back out again

where's the sense in these bodily masses? coming, going? there's no connection but temporary

michael jackson tribute bicycle stereo polyphonic tourist transportation system


civic center, rainbow balloons, young kids with no homosexuality, but they do love an excuse to party

guy in amalgamated barbie doll costume, taking pictures with passersby, turns plastic beauty into parody

safety club? holding hands, semi-circle. protection or demonstration?

capital building, concrete. who's this pop singer? she sounds more mainstream than a radio-dial

the grass-lawn, lily-pad looking cliques scattered across them

everyone starts making out like it's the end of the world... which maybe it is, in 2012

girls ARE SLUTTIER with gay guys

sign on vendor tent: all we need is love / and salt pepper shakers

random water tossed off the roof, like movie rain, some bored apartment tenant's idea of fun

on twin peaks, a gigantic pink triangle

yelled from passing car: i love robin! robin rocks, bitches!!!

gay marching band outside castro station - pink and black uniforms. maybe klezmer? maybe new orleans?

they have dancers

the city has gone mad in the throes of a homosexual orgy/queer and proud/gay world/happy and homo

tourists, rainbow colors, packed sardine can cars of people, vibrant blue bay sky, not typical, not usual, so many hot girls, legs, short shorts, booty, breasts, tan lines glimpsed through not-quite-covered halter-tops, costumes of staggering randomness, the sheer explosion of music and dancing on the streets - can the concrete even hold it? can these beaten city streets, the asphalt and sidewalks? are the buildings tall enough to prevent this from spilling out into the bay, which leads to the ocean, which touches the whole world? in the ganges, they're bathing in our madness. the nile is flooded with our diversity, with our bright neon rainbow

pride parade has marched, these city blocks bleed sweat and semen, footprints invisibly etched, we are a microcosm for... something

what does all this revelry mean? how do we make things equal through dancing drunk, intoxication and insanity, through parties and parades? at the end of the day, all i know about homosexuality is gutter-trash and an empty dixie-cup. just tell me, what did we do here?"

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Laugher

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Facts Receivable

Was rereading my Uncle Johns' Bathroom Reader series recently, and stumbled upon some old information that really blew me away when I first read the book. There were snippets of random factoids, quotes, anecdotes, and lots and lots of origin-stories.

Here are a couple that I really liked.

"Longest distance traveled by marshmallow from a nose into another person's mouth. Record holder: Scott Jeckel. The Story: Blessed from birth with the amazing ability to launch items from his nose with great precision, Jeckel once fired a marshmallow a distance of 16 feet, 3 1/2 inches into the waiting mouth of partner Ray Persin - who ate it."

"Court Transquips. Judge: What's the problem? Bailiff: Oh, a cockroach was on the exhibit table, Your Honor. Plaintiff's Counsel: Motion to quash. Judge. Granted. -- Q: How many times have you committed suicide?"

"If you're swimming in the creek and an eel bites your cheek, that's a moray."

"In 1999 Roger Russel began a 2,600-mile walk across South Africa to promote crime prevention. Two days into his walk, Russel was robbed at gunpoint."

"Poli-talks. 'Is the country still here?' - Calvin Coolidge, waking from a nap."

"What do turtles and honeybees have in common? They're both deaf."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stories Worth Retelling

From the Best-of Craigslist.

Even if it isn't true, it's still amazing. Wish it had happened/could happen to me. This guy gets to be one of my heroes.

The best part? It takes place here in San Francisco!

"My Excellent Adventure with "Table for Six"
Date: 2009-05-06, 9:18AM PDT

Seeing no signs of progress some five years after my divorce, and with my 42nd birthday rapidly approaching, my well-meaning but misguided friends chipped in together to buy me a membership in a single's club called "Table for Six."

The format, as explained in a welcoming letter I received from the agency, seemed simple enough: you attend a dinner for three couples at a fancy restaurant; if you click with someone, you were free to arrange additional dates on your own, or by matchmaking through the agency. The members of the group seated at the table with me had been selected by the agency for compatibility: fortyish, well-to-do professionals all, and each of us divorced at least once. As luck would have it, the third man in the group had failed to show up, so distributed around the table with me were the other man, three women (all reasonably attractive specimens in my eyes), and a facilitator, whose role was to keep the conversation moving along amongst the group. "Remember, honesty is very important!" she chirped, managing to sound both serious and merry at the same time. "I encourage you all to consider it a rule, and not to embroider the truth!" I didn't really want to be here to begin with - this being exactly the type of contrived social event I loathe - so being lectured to in this way was particularly irritating. I swirled a watery vodka and tonic and wondered why I had agreed to be here at all.

Having finished her lecture, the facilitator announced that everyone would be introducing themselves and giving a short biographical sketch, and gestured to me to begin. I gave everyone sixty seconds of whom I am, and then took inventory of my companions as they did the same.

Teresa, who was sitting closest to me, was smartly dressed in a black skirt and a white blazer. She smiled coyly beneath wavy blond hair and watery blue eyes, and her florid complexion suggested that she liked to pull a cork now and then.

Janet sat stiffly between Teresa and the facilitator. The cream turtleneck that rose out from her dark jacket fit her like a neck brace, and her expression gave me the feeling that she considered this get-together to be very serious business.

Hunched over to the right of the facilitator was the other man. He was already working on his second drink, and I had the urge to lean across the table and loosen the knot in his tie. He stammered his way through a short introduction and then looked to his right.

Slouched there, at the other end of the group, was Kaitlin, who was as relaxed as Janet was not. She seemed intelligent enough when she spoke, but somewhat lacking in self-confidence. The most casually dressed member of the group, and wore a minimum amount of makeup. Her peasant dress was simple and elegant; her chestnut-brown hair short and shapeless.

With the introductions completed, the facilitator asked if everyone was ready to order and waved at the waiter passing through the room. Kaitlin, I observed, ordered vegetarian. But it would hardly have mattered if she ordered the filet mignon and lobster platter; in the time-honoured feminine tradition of trying to make a good first impression on the first date, none of the women did more than pick at their food.

The conversation sputtered a few times in the beginning, but gradually took hold. Terrorism, the economy, the housing market - all the predictable topics were discussed in a predictably superficial, non-offensive manner. Unfortunately, the other man was not proving to be much of a conversationalist, and the burden fell to me to pick up the slack. Twice I deflected questions about my opinions on social topics, and twice the facilitator cheerily reminded me that honesty was very important, and that I should consider it a rule. The vodka I had consumed wanted to know if I was going to continue to put up with that shit, and I decided that I would not.

"Look, just because I don't take you into my thoughts on every point we discuss doesn't mean that I'm being less than honest."

For a brief moment, the facilitator seemed nonplussed. Clearly, she was not accustomed to having her concept of honesty brought into question. Then the cheery smile she'd been sporting throughout the evening found its way back onto her face, and she smoothed it into place with a short laugh. "But Dan, we're all trying to learn about each other tonight so that we can get acquainted. We can't do that if you're holding back things about yourself. We want to know the real Dan. Won't you help us with that?"

I turned my palms toward the ceiling. "You're talking about candor - or transparency if you prefer - which is not the same as honesty. Honesty is telling the truth about the things you choose to say, while providing enough detail to be representative of reality." But the facilitator had decided to be preoccupied with trying to flag down a waiter, and she did not reply to this. I looked around the table, hoping that someone would argue with me, or agree with me, or tell me to take a flying leap - anything, in short, to escape the perfunctory conversation we'd been having for the past hour.

The waiter arrived and began clearing the table and taking drink orders. Teresa turned towards me and rested her hand on the back of her neck, leaning forward to pivot her elbow on the table. "So, Dan," she said, smiling broadly, "When was your last long-term relationship?" I decided that I'd had enough of watery vodka and tonics and ordered a Remy Martin instead.

"A couple of years ago or so." I wondered when we would start to discuss the weather, and whether I could escape to the men's room after finishing the Remy for a leisurely, lengthily interlude, fake an upset stomach upon my return, and leave early.

"How did you meet her?" Teresa had taken a liking to me, or so it seemed to me.

Knowing the forsaken path ahead of us in this line of conversation, I paused and thought for a moment. Honesty is very important - we're all trying to learn about each other tonight! So I shrugged, looked Teresa in the eye, and gave her honesty.

"I picked her up at a strip club. She was a dancer."

Teresa laughed heartily. "Really!" she exclaimed a bit too loudly, and chuckled again.

"Really," I replied quietly, not laughing or smiling.

Teresa fingered her drink, apparently trying to think of what to say next. "How long did you go out?" she finally asked.

"A little over a year. Maybe fifteen months."

"Why did you break up, because she was a stripper?" Teresa had stopped laughing and now looked slightly concerned. Some of the other people at the table had stopped talking and were leaning in, trying to hear the conversation.

"No. She wanted to get married, and I didn't."

"Oh," said Teresa in a small voice. The waiter had come back, and she traded him her empty glass for a full one. A slice of pineapple hung from the rim. "You didn't want to marry a stripper?"

"No, stripping had nothing to do with it." I took my Remy from the waiter and nodded a thank you.

"Didn't it bother you?"

I buried my nose in the snifter containing the Remy and inhaled deeply. My nostrils tingled. "Stripping? No."

"Don't strippers also accept money for sex?"

The other man at the table was watching me now, and for the first time since the evening began, he seemed to be enjoying himself. I lowered my glass and swirled the cognac around. "You're confusing stripping with hooking," I replied.

"Same difference," Teresa said evenly. Her lips had begun to tighten and disappear. I shrugged again and took a healthy swig from the snifter.

"Do you go to strip clubs often?" Teresa's voice had sharpened, and she seemed much less interested in me now.

I puffed air from my mouth, feeling the Remy slide down to my stomach and igniting the flesh along the way. "How many times a week is often?"

Teresa's mouth flapped open and closed a couple of times, and then she raised her own glass and sipped furiously at the straws.

Janet turned in my direction. "What is the attraction with strippers?" she asked stiffly.

I could see the facilitator trying to look at me around the curve of Janet's turtleneck sweater. I looked back at Janet and said, "They generally have little problem with getting naked."

"Do you pay them for sex?"

I raised my glass and took another large sip. "Sometimes. Sometimes not. Depends on the girl, the day, the mood."

One of Teresa's hands held her glass in the air, and the other was buried in her armpit. "Do you also see hookers?" she asked with sarcastic joviality.
I returned my gaze to Teresa. Her cheeks were much redder now. "Street girls, no. Escorts, yes."

"Why?" asked Janet with feeling.

"Convenience, honesty, reliability. And they go home afterwards."

By now everyone at the table had stopped talking and was listening to us. The facilitator gave me a furious look, then turned to the other man and asked him a question, but everyone ignored her.

I looked at the women one by one as I spoke. "Please don't take this the wrong way, but have any of you ever engaged in physical activity with the idea that you would be compensated somehow, even if the compensation was not explicitly stated?"

"Define compensation." Kaitlin sat up and joined the conversation.

"A place to spend the night, a ride, cash, a gift, a promotion, a plum work assignment."

"By those definitions, yes. I slept with a partner once to get ahead. I was young, stupid, and it did not work. But yes, just the once." I noticed that Kaitlin was drinking a pinkish concoction and that her glass was more than half full. Teresa and Janet traded glances and remained silent.

Janet took a long pull on her drink and set it back on the table. She folded her arms over her chest and looked over at me. "Convenience, reliability, and leaving afterwards I can comprehend. But you also said that you see hookers because of honesty. What did you mean by that? Obviously not that she is 'transparent' about herself, since you are seeing all you wish to see of her already."

I looked in my glass at the last of the Remy. "I'm attracted to her physically, and that is what I want, a physical experience. She wants the cash. I know it. So we work out an agreeable price and enjoy each other. Then it is over. Besides, it costs not much more than dinner and a show."

At this last, Teresa and Janet collectively made a noise somewhere between a groan and a yelp, rolled their eyes, and sat back in their seats, both of them now with their arms crossed over their chests. The other man was looking around for the waiter, and spotting him, made a tracing motion with his finger to order another round.

Kaitlin had pulled the straws out of her drink and was trying to fit the tip of one into the end of the other. "Have you ever slept with someone and promised them a promotion or a raise?" she asked, not looking up.

"Never," I replied, shaking my head for emphasis even though I knew she wouldn't see it.

Kaitlin pivoted in her seat to face the other man. "So, have you ever paid for sex?" she demanded.

"Uhm. Ahh." The other man turned red and began to look around for the waiter. "Well. S-s-sort of," he finally stammered.

"Are all men like this?" Teresa exploded. "Aren't there any decent men left? My ex used to get massages. It was a long time until I figured out why."

I put my palms on the table and spread my fingers out over the tablecloth. "You asked a question, I answered honestly." The waiter had returned with a tray full of drinks. "Now it's your turn. Did you ever cheat on your husband? Be honest, now." The facilitator looked sharply at me, her face ashen.

"Never," Teresa said with more than a trace of smug superiority.

"Never kissed another man?"

"Of course, but that is not cheating."

The waiter hesitated slightly, and then continued to distribute the drinks. He put the tray down, and slowly and carefully began to collect the old glasses and wipe the table.

"Did you ever kiss another man with intent?"

"'Intent'? What do you mean, 'intent'?"

I downed the last of my Remy and handed the empty glass to the waiter. "Intent to excite physical passion."

Teresa hesitated. "I'm-I'm not sure."

"Has another man ever touched you in a sexual manner, not intercourse, just in a sexual manner?"

"I did not do anything like that." Teresa had found her footing again.

"Never? I find it hard to believe that you have never been confronted with a sexual situation outside of your primary relationship."

The facilitator tried to speak again, stopped, and buried her head in her hands.

Janet, who had been in the middle of another sip of her drink, hummed an assent as she swallowed. "I faced that once. We were all but naked. Except I could not go through with it. I stopped, and fortunately, he accepted the situation with good grace."

The waiter had run out of things to do at the table, and seemed to be idly flipping through his notebook. I paused and looked at him, and he self-consciously collected his tray and wandered away. I turned back to Janet. "Did you ever discuss this with your Significant Other?"

"No. I couldn't."

"Why did you stop?" I glanced over at Kaitlin, who was still fiddling with the straws.

"I don't know. I wanted it very much. But I could not go through with it. I just could not take the last step. I was actually crying with frustration." Janet shook her head at the memory. "I think that is why my friend took it so well, because of the crying, that is."

"I had an affair." Kaitlin had come back to life, and everyone looked at her. "My ex was having one. I was lonely. I missed sex, and I missed feeling good after sex even more. It was fun in the beginning, but it quickly became just another chore. I think it lasted all of three weeks. But I could have stopped before it started, if I had wanted to, and almost did. So I know what you mean." Kaitlin pulled the straws from her new drink and began inserting them into the others. "So, wise guy," she said, eyeing me sardonically. "Did you ever have an affair?"

"No. I have dated two women at the same time. But not an 'affair'."

"Semantics. Two women at the same time is having an affair." Teresa seemed pleased with her role as the moral arbiter of the group.

I took a sip of Remy and made a face. "I don't feel that way. I was not in a committed relationship, so it can't be an affair."

"Did you ever touch a woman with intent?" Teresa leaned on her forearms to bore in on me.

"Guilty. But nothing became of it. A little bit of flirting that got out of hand."

"So when does it become an affair? When it is it just flirting?"

I sighed, thought for a moment, and then answered. "I'm not sure. But I would think that any oral/genital contact, penetration, or even mutual masturbation would qualify as an affair. A little touching and kissing would not cross the line. But others may disagree." I looked over at Janet, but it was Teresa who spoke instead.

"Would hookers count?"

"Of course. Why do you even ask? Is a hooker somehow easier to take than an affair with the next door neighbor?"

"I thought you would say it doesn't count." Teresa looked disappointed.

"I think an affair is worse." Janet had finished most of her drink and looked relaxed for the first time since the evening had started. "To know that my man was spending emotional energy on another person would be harder for me to tolerate. A hooker is money, and an affair is emotions. I think that is a big difference." She poked at the ice in her glass with a straw, trying to tease out more liquid.

Teresa waved her hand dismissively. "It doesn't matter. Cheating is cheating - period. Besides," she said, turning to me, "Hookers have diseases. How can you risk it?"

"Safe sex. Without exception. In fact-" I paused, considered what I was going to say for a moment, then continued. "I think girlfriends are a bigger risk, as one is tempted to engage in risky behavior - sex without condoms."

The rest of the group fell silent as they considered this point of view. The facilitator, seeing an opening, tried to revive an earlier conversation during dinner about the war in Iraq, but Teresa interrupted as if she wasn't there.

"Do you like hookers because you can get anal sex?"

The other man at the table grinned happily, looking back and forth between Teresa and me.

I inhaled deeply from the snifter before answering. "Sorry to disappoint you, but hookers are no different than regular folks. Some do it, many don't. But there is something liberating about not having to worry about your lover. One can concentrate on one's own pleasure. One does not have to worry if she will respect you in the morning or think you are a pervert. With a lover, it is sometimes difficult to get to that level of intimacy and acceptance - at least for me. It seems odd, but one can be liberated with a hooker instantly in a way that takes great amount of time with a lover."

Teresa was looking at me skeptically, and her arms remained folded across her chest. "Is that a nice way to say 'yes'?"

I sipped cognac. "Alright. Yes, I have had anal sex with hookers. I have, for the record, had anal sex with several different lovers over the years. It is not something that I demand. But if the woman enjoys it, and I can pleasure her in that way, I will."

"It is never pleasurable to a woman. That's a male fantasy perpetuated by pornography."

I glanced around the table. "Anyone else care to comment?"

There was another pause and another chance to redirect the conversation, but the facilitator had finally given up, and there was only silence.

Janet cleared her throat. "I tried it with my ex. It did not go so well. He was too big."

"Apparently that is not one of my failings," I said ruefully.

All eyes at the table turned towards Kaitlin.

She was slouching again and picking at the end of one of the straws. "Well, it can be fun, but only with someone that I trust and love deeply. I can enjoy that."

"I don't believe it," Teresa huffed, and took refuge in her drink.

"Well, I'm not Wilt Chamberlain, but I have had lovers that really enjoyed anal sex." I glanced at the facilitator, who was ignoring the conversation now, leaning back and looking at something on the ceiling "They are a minority, but they do exist," I added.

Teresa wasn't buying it. "You just said you aren't an expert. How do you know they enjoyed it?"

"They said so. Have you ever tried it?"

"Never," Teresa said. The smug tone had reappeared.

"You might try something before knocking it."

Teresa gave me what she hoped was a withering look. "I know enough to know that is not something that I would like."

In spite of the mellowing effects of the cognac, I found myself increasingly irritated with Teresa. "Good. A woman should know her limits."

And with this last, the conversation faltered. As if on cue, the waiter approached the table and dropped off a leather booklet with the check; the facilitator caught it on the first bounce. Everyone took the hint and stood to leave. As they gathered up their coats, Kaitlin edged her way over to me. "That was the most fun I have ever had at one of these events." I looked at her with surprise, and renewed optimism, but then she continued: "At first I thought you were a jerk. Now I don't think you are a jerk anymore. I might not want to date you, but you do know how to keep a conversation interesting."

For the first time all evening, I found myself at a loss for words. Kaitlin had been a possibility; this was indeed a shame.

Everyone shook hands and said goodbye and thanked each other for the pleasant evening. Then the facilitator drew me aside and offered to refund my money, suggesting that I not contact the agency again. I decided not to tell her that this would be easy, since I did not contact them in the first place.

I repaired to the restroom for much-needed relief. As I stood waiting for my bladder to empty, I mentally replayed the conversation with Teresa. The moral of the story, I decided, was this: Women demand honesty from a man because they associate honesty with respect; not because they want to talk about strippers, hookers, and anal sex at the dinner table.

I shook myself dry and washed my hands. I wondered how I would explain the evening to my friends, and hoped that they would get their money back. Pushing my way through the bathroom door, I turned and headed towards the lobby.

Teresa was standing there, holding her coat. She looked at me for a few moments, and I looked at her, and she didn't look away."

Monday, June 22, 2009

A beginning

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Steve versus the Hobo

Got into a bum-fight this weekend.

It was great!

See, what happened was I was walking around Downtown, near Market, and this crazy homeless guy comes up to me and starts begging for some money. I ignore him. He starts moving in. I tell him I don't have anything. He says I'm lying. I tell him that I don't have anything for him. He keeps moving in closer. I start walking faster. He runs to catch up with me. I turn around to yell at him that I'll call the cops. Suddenly the fucker is all up in my personal space, hands grabbing me, and I start yelling out, "WHAT THE FUCK?"

The stanky breath, bloodshot eyes, yellow-gobs that could be teeth, and scraggly beard that scratched like a metal-spool-sponge... it was overwhelming. For a moment, I just felt completely helpless - typical deer-in-the-headlights kind of scenario. Tried asking him again, and again, but he wouldn't let go.

Then I kneed him square in the balls. He went down like the Soviet Union, and before the bastard could blink I was hammering him in the ribs, ripping at his ears, eyes, and as I got up, I started kicking him in the stomach. At some point I think he said he couldn't breath. I didn't stop - just kept going. Eventually he looked like he was trying to get up, so I leaned my head in, and gave him a perfect Liverpool Kiss (a head-butt for you newbies). He went unconscious after that.

I stood there looking over him, breathing pretty heavily, freaking out a little because I think I might've just killed the guy. I roll him over onto his back and check. He's still got a pulse, so I get the fuck out of there and take a cab home.

Never laid in to a guy like that before. I mean, I've learned a lot about fighting since the last time I got into a real fight (sophmore year of high school) but never had to use it. Never felt that threatened before.

Not sure what I was thinking, or if I even was. He was just a crazy hobo, looking for some money... I could've killed him. And in that moment as I stood over him, my breath still running quick, feelings of rage coursing alongside the adrenaline in my veins, I thought I was going to. I was positively murderous.

Dunno what pulled me to my senses. Maybe it was because he was unconscious, or because of my martial-arts training. Maybe it was just that split-second that allowed sanity to slip back in.

Normally I have a deep-seated pacifistic streak in me, but for whatever reason that guy, he got to me. And it's fucking frightening.

He got to me in that dark place you don't talk about, even with your psychologist. That part that's beyond animal instinct, doesn't care, doesn't even know what caring means. In the few minutes I was beating him, I was someone else entirely. I was someone who could kick a guy when he's down, and bust him in the head if he even looks like coming up.

I was ruthless.

And the rush, it was so terribly invigorating... Did I enjoy it? Or was it that me who existed so briefly there? I'm just as confused as I am concerned.

But yeah... that's my life for ya. So hardcore, I know, right? I can now add "bum-fighting" to my list of accomplishments. This is just another anecdote.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Political Correctness is another form of Intolerance

Today's post is going to have a message.

This is will be a social-cultural-political-philosophical tanget on the nature of Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Prejudice, and (in)Tolerance.

First, the basics. I am a 22 year-old white Jewish guy from Southern California. I graduated high school, transferred from junior college to a four-year university and am currently working towards two Bachelor's degrees in Creative Writing and Cultural Anthropology, respectively. I have three older brothers, a father, a mother (deceased), some aunts, uncles, cousins, two nieces, a nephew, a grand-niece, and other assorted relatives.

For all intensive purposes I am about as normal as a person gets... on the surface.

Most people assume my life has been easy, that I don't know anything about racism or prejudice. Most people say that I'm jaded, or naive, or both. Most people say a lot of things about me that aren't necessarily true, but usually I don't really let it get to me, because they're just words.

However, I recently encountered an interesting phenomenon of backwards prejudice that has piqued a desire to justify myself. This normally doesn't happen to me, because I don't mind what other people - read: strangers - think of me that much. (What's the point? Universal acceptance? I'd rather be honest.)

I frequent a blog run by a black woman named Siditty. < > At first I was quietly curious, reading the comments and then going about my way. Then, as time went on, I started to be drawn into the discussions, leaving my comments and reading the responses. Eventually, I began to get a lot of negative reception towards my opinions.

Now, that's fine. I don't expect people to agree with me, or even approve of me. But what was interesting was the reasoning behind the animosity. It wasn't because of my arguments, or that what I said was particularly ignorant or offensive. No, it was because they believed - without knowing much about me at all - that I couldn't possibly comprehend the situation or perspective they were coming from. Because of my age, my skin-color, my cultural background, because of a few general characteristics about me, they assumed that I could never "get" what they were talking about. Essentially, they thought I was incapable of understanding.

This strikes me as a logical fallacy too hilarious to even bother pointing out the ignorance of it. (However, for the sake of this blog I will. Keep reading.) But when I realized that these people didn't actually see the flaws in their reasoning, the hypocrisy they were committing, it wasn't just confusing, but downright depressing.

Okay, but let's say we agree with their assumption - read: prejudice - then if I can't understand where they're coming from, what makes them think they can understand where I am coming from, and summarily dismiss my opinions? And even more importantly, what makes them assume that their situation is somehow unique, somehow special? Everyone suffers. Everyone's got their problems. We're all human, and we all experience a lot of the same things, similar things, and we're all the same, or at least similar for it, because of it.

It felt weird to have to be explaining this to people who grew up hearing the words of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. It was strange that I had to explain to a traditionally dehumanized group how and why we all aren't so different from one another, how we're all human inside.

People who rage against the intolerance they see in the world participating in intolerance themselves, and not even seeing it is something almost beyond stupid. It's pretty much retarded. But what was even worse, was when I pointed this out to them, all they gave back was more hatred, more anger, more resentment, more negativity and animosity.

(A few agreed with me, or at least compromised to politely disagree, and to them I hold a special amount of gratitude, for being decent human beings in a shit-storm of assholes.)

Now, I'm not particularly pissed-off with how they treated me so much as their ignorance of it. See, if there's one thing that gets to me more than anything, it's hypocrisy. It is the one fucking thing I cannot fucking stand. Hypocrites rank higher than liars or suck-ups. They are the scum of conversation and the shit-stains on rhetoric. They are so infuriatingly ignorant I can almost hate them... almost.

Do I know what it's like to be discriminated against? Yes, I do. I've had to deal with antisemitism for as long as I've lived. Names, jokes, my temple was graffiti'd once. I've had to avoid Neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other "white-power" groups from time to time (especially in Huntington Beach). But I didn't let it turn me into a hypocrite. I didn't then turn around and start spewing forth the same hate that was directed towards me. In fact, most of the time it wasn't even hate, but ignorance. Most people are just plain folks - don't know any better - and once they get to know you, they realize you are a human being and not a stereotype.

But I guess those who cry the loudest against injustice are the ones most likely to commit it... maybe.

There was one person who posted antisemitic cartoons - that were actually really funny, to me - during a discussion about a video depicting some drunk Jews/Israeli's making racist comments directed towards Obama. And when I told him/her that MAYBE s/he shouldn't get mad about the racism in the video if s/he's going to do nearly the same thing her/himself, s/he said I was playing the victim... Now, if that's not ironic hypocrisy, I don't know what is. Also, s/he seemed to have this strange assumption that because some Jews were acting like this in the video, that it must represent ALL Jews, and that because of this we should stop supporting Israel, etc so on.

Even worse, was s/he wasn't the only one to have this opinion.

This makes me very afraid for the future. Not sure if we'll survive with so many vengeful, ignorant people in the world.

Anyways, after getting yelled at, insulted for my age, my heritage, and just generally insulted because they thought I was stupid, I thought about not commenting on the blog anymore, because I didn't really think they were ready to even entertain the thought of my ideas, let alone actually consider them without being hilariously/depressingly antagonistic. But after some support and encouragement from other contributors, I decided to continue on writing my comments, even if no one agrees with me, and even if the reaction gets worse. I'm not going to let a bunch of hypocrites or haters get me down, and maybe this way I can show them the power of my ideas through the actions I take and the words I write. Over time, who knows? Maybe they'll realize I have a point after all.

Or they won't. But it doesn't matter, because I just like the intellectual stimulation.

I only wish I could get a little intellectual hospitality too.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Graphic Blog

Can't be bothered with writing any overly-long diatribes on art, relationships, women, randomness, alternative things in the world, or my life. So, I'm going to post a succession of images that ambiguously describe my situation without the need for much commentary other than to say:

This is two-parts lazy and one-parts creativity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alternative Lists

I've been thinking about how people come up with lists. Everyone's got their "desert island top five", top ten, maybe even top twenty. But what about special categories? I think a good list is all in the constraint's construction. For instance, top five Baskin Robbins ice-cream flavors, or top ten themed playsets by Lego.

I have a new list that I recently realized while watching Netflix last night. Top five workplace comedy movies!

1. Office Space
2. Empire Records
3. Waiting
4. Clerks
5. 9 to 5

Pretty sure Listverse has better ones than mine, but it's actually really fun coming up with my own personal random lists - a pseudo-creative outlet that still feels almost productive!

Feel free to submit your own alternative lists (with answers) and I'll post my top three favorites.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Black Feminism

Just a short post tonight.

Been listening to this guy Enoch on YouTube. And I gotta say, he's really interesting. Even though I'm not in any way Black or fundamentally part of Black-American culture, it's amazing how much I'm agreeing with him.

Maybe it's just my outer-chivalry and inner-chauvinism.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This is not hip hop This is not music This is an embarrassment

I'm sure you're all wondering who I am to talk about hip hop. What does a white suburban Jewish boy know about a primarily Black musical/cultural phenomenon? What the hell can I possible say about hip hop that hasn't already been said a thousand times over by the oldest MCs, breakers, DJs, artists who got started listening to Grandmaster Flash when I still watched Looney Tunes. (Actually, I still watch Looney Tunes.)

This isn't going to be the history of hip hop. I'm not going through all the artists or genres, subgenres, the dancing styles or any of the graffiti. There are people better at expressing that than me. No, what I want to talk about is what we're calling hip hop nowadays. Why we're calling it hip hop.

Aesop Rock is hip hop. The Fugees are hip hop. The Beastie Boys are hip hop. Lupe Fiasco is hip hop. RZA is hip hop. Eric B. & Rakim is hip hop.

Kanye West is not hip hop. Kanye is another goddamn pop-musician who subverts an entire subculture to help sell records and promote his personal brand. Flo Rida is not. FLO RIDA IS NOT HIP HOP - Florida, wouldn't know serious expression if it walked up and pop-locked in front of him with his stunna-shades on.

Ya'll who listen to this shit on the radio - Lil' Wayne, Soulja Boy, T.I. - you don't know a damn thing about hip hop. You consume the music that's force-fed to you and you've been doing it so long you can't even imagine what something real sounds like anymore. What happened to sampling? What happened to the break-beats? What happened to the artistry and poetics? What happened to hip hop being about something?

This is something my friend dropped in my lap a few months ago, and as I've been listening to it more and more, I'm starting to realize it's one of the most genuine pieces of musical poetry I've ever heard. And you know what's sad, in a way, about that? It's a white-guy. A white-guy doing a Black subcultural phenomenon better than their own artists. That's how you can tell when something has lost its way, when the progenitors are no longer the creators, no longer the guiding, driving force of it.

You don't believe me? Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, Sage Francis, El-P, DJ Shadow, Edan, all of these guys sport lyrical talent on a level far above what makes it to the charts.

This is not about racism. This is about disappointment.

Read [this article] a few weeks ago, and while dated, it certainly gave me a lot to think about on the nature of hip hop, the music industry, and artistry in general. I guess I just wish people weren't so stupid... but that's about as naive as fuck, as naive as leaving money on the counter and expecting to find it there when you come back...

Anyways, here's a track from the album my friend gave me. It's by B. Dolan. Enjoy.