Wednesday, September 26, 2007

David Shuster

First, watching the clip in this link was pure enjoyment for me. I'm so tired of Republicans getting unfettered, unquestioned, bullshit talking points out with no, you know, actual reporting to call them on it.

But I also want to put up my (mostly meaningless) vote for giving David Shuster his own show on MSNBC. I always love how deeply probing his reporting is, cutting through the bullshit to the heart of the matter. My only concern would be that if they gave him his own show, they might stop him from going out and reporting. He should get his own show as a reporter, not just as another talking head. Though even as a talking head, in the clip above, he showed his chops. Go Dave!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I am not a generous or giving person

I've thought about this sometimes. I really don't give to charities. Part of that is because I think a lot of charities are religious organizations and I refuse to give money to religion. And I have given to some organizations that I believe in, like the Planetary Society. But mostly, I give nothing.

I find I actually am annoyed when people come and ask me for money for charities. I guess I don't like it when people try and guilt you into something. So when I do give, it is only after I've looked at something on my own time and decided to give without someone thrusting a hat in my face asking for money.

At the same time, I seem to give rather large tips. But I don't see this as generosity, I see it as paying for a service and I expect to get what I pay for, meaning I expect to get good service. Maybe not right away, but eventually, I figure, if one has a reputation for generous tips, one gets better service. So I tip a minimum of 20% at restaurants, and even for curbside takeaway, I'll tip well over 10% (when some people probably tip nothing at all for pickup). For pizza delivery I'll give at least three dollars just for a single pizza.

When I pay babysitters, I am a stickler for paying for every minute they were at our home, because I treat their time as valuable (obviously rounding to the nearest dollar). My wife will somtimes not do this, which usually results in my complaining to her. Sometimes I need to prod her to give larger tips as well. It took me a while to convince her to give tips at curbside takeaway (we seem to get a lot of that now). I guess I subscribe to the Henry Ford model - give generous pay and workers will have money to buy your goodies (though I sell no goodies myself at this time).

If I ever open up my own law practice, I will continue this philosophy and make sure when people pay me they get their money's worth. But I am not generous. That is just good business. It sometimes amazes me that people don't realize this and act penny-foolish.

Life can be Depressing at Times

Which is probably why I haven't posted much recently. I've mostly spent my time at home, snuggling with my daughter and wife, watching first Stargate SG-1 season 10 on DVD, then South Park Season 10 on DVD, and now we're getting through Stargate:Atlantis Seasion 3 on DVD. And we've been trying not to think too hard about my wife's brother, because that is just depressing. Hopefully we will find out more soon, though.

I just started trying to come up with a boy's name, though I haven't gotten far. I keep saying I'll work on it over the weekend, then never do. I wonder if my procrastination has something to do with not wanting to come up with a name, then find out something bad has happened and we lose the pregnancy again. The thought crossed my mind yesterday as I thought about it and realized that many weeks had gone by without my even trying to come up with a name. And so I started looking yesterday. I want a name that sounds nice, but that isn't all that common. I don't like to recycle names from family. Everyone deserves his or her own name. So it is taking a bit of effort to find something suitable. For whatever reason we've had an easier time finding and agreeing to names for girls (so we are covered there), but none for boys so far.

I'm also occupying my mind starting a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign with a few new faces and a few old ones. I love to create, be it through writing a story or an adventure. It just makes me happy inside.

So far, things with the new baby are progressing well. We are at seventeen weeks now and there's another ultrasound next week. We may even get to see a 3-D ultrasound, which I've never seen before, but which sounds really cool.

So many shows are starting up, some new, some old, that I think I have overloaded my DVR, particularly with the new WWII documentary on PBS this week. I hope I don't run out of space. (And I never seem to have time to watch anything on DVR- I try after work when I'm home alone with my daughter to sit and watch then, but she seldom lets me).

I want to see that Kid Nation that has everyone all up in arms - to me, it sounds like a fascinating social experiment - Lord of the Flies Reality TV! ;) Though I'm sure it is much tamer than that. I wonder if the antics of the children will be any more (or less) mature than seen on other reality TV shows. (I really don't watch any except Survivor). House starts tonight. Bionic Woman starts tomorrow night (that looks good). Ah, so many great ways to waste time! And not think about how depressing life can be at times.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Female Privilege

Here's a rather nasty example of female privilege, though really what it is is an example of why it often sucks the world over (though thankfully not here) to be a man.

My wife is originally from Russia. Her family still lives there, including her mother, grandmother, and brother. She just called me today and told me that she talked to her mother and found out that her 21 year old brother was just conscripted into the Russian military. He has to report in November. Odds are good he'll be sent off to Chenchnya, where many thousands of poorly trained and equiped Russian soldiers have already been killed, some in rather horrible ways. My wife's mother is so upset she can barely talk about it. She is mad at him for even going to the station when he got the notice - I guess some just ignore it and don't show up, though apparently it is a felony not to go. So now they have his paperwork, they took his passport, and he must quit his rather decent job (as they go there) and surrender his body to possible death in the Russian military - where it is not a pleasant place to be even not under war conditions.

I think back now to the life expectancy of a Russian conscript in WWII - it wasn't pretty. Thankfully, things are better now, but dead is still dead. The conscription lasts at least two years. I hope he makes it without dying, being maimed, or being otherwise permanently scarred, though that is probably unlikely. Nobody goes through war as a soldier without getting scars, even if never physically wounded.

Right now, my impulse is, if I hear one more person talk about how men are all so "privileged" over women, to rip off that persons head and throw it into a garbage disposal. Or better yet, conscript them into the Russian military. Grrrr.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My solution to all the "isms" of the world...

Here it goes: Try not to be an asshole. If everyone does that, and mostly succeeds, I think peace and tranquility will naturally follow.

There generally are at least two ways of handling any situation - as a reasonable person, and as an asshole. Just go for option one. That is all for now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The movie was way better than the book...

For some reason, it always annoys me when, discussing a movie that was based on a book, you almost inevitably hear, no matter what the quality of the movie, "the book was better." It seems incredibly assinine to me to even compare the two mediums in that way. How can you even compare the two? A better what?

A book is a book and a movie is a movie. If the movie sucks, say so. But don't say it sucks because "the book was better." We're not talking about a freaking book, we're talking about a movie. Two different mediums. Two different experiences. Pretend there was no book, or if there was, that you never read it. Then judge the movie on its own merits. Sure, if both you and the other person have read the book, you can have an interesting discussion on what parts were the same and what was different and the relative merits of what was left in or out, but half the time when this comes up it is when I ask someone about a movie based on a book I have NEVER READ so I really don't care what was in the book, I just want to know how good the movie was as a movie.

I mean, come on, there are lots of things you can do in a book that you simply can't do in a movie, the main thing being the length. Many novels, if made into a movie "faithfully" would make movies that were six or ten hours long (or longer). That is simply too long to make a movie out of. Now, if the subject matter really is such that it could not be shortened, maybe you should not make it into a movie, or if you do, you should not expect them to be very similar. (There is also the possibility of a mini-series or multiple movies - look at Band of Brothers or The Lord of the Rings which I'll get to in a moment.)

So recognize that fact and you'll be fine. And as for Lord of the Rings - AWESOME trilogy - probably the best fantasy films ever made. But the books - in places they were DREADFULL - long, boring, repetitive stuff that doesn't really go anywhere. And so that was cut out of the films, and good riddance. But still, I don't really compare the two - because it is silly to compare two things from two different mediums. It is like comparing a poem to a painting. Better to compare a poem to other poems and a painting to other paintings. Don't go look at a painting and say "the poem was better."

I have more to say about movie reviews, but that will have to wait for another time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Surprise, Surprise

Looks like the Petreaus report is out, and, big shock, they shove the ball down the field and ask us to wait for another Friedman unit. What a load of bullshit.

Sorry, time's up. You don't get another six months, Dubya. You're DONE.

"Patriarchy" - it's the devil's volleyball! (and thanks...)

This post by Trinity (which refers to an older post by anti-princess) got me thinking again about the all-pervasive, all-powerful "patriarchy" that some seem to claim controls everything like some mafiosist conspiracy. I agree with Trinity. I don't think there is any such entity.

Hell, what does "patriarchy" mean anyway? It means, literally, rule by men, in families and in government. Presumably for it to truly be a patriarchy, that rule must be exclusive. It is kind of hard to have "rule by men" when some of the rulers are women. By that definition, already, we don't have a patriarchy. Not all leaders in our society are men. We have women CEOs, women cabinet officers, women governors, a woman Speaker of the House, women in legislatures. We have households that are run by women, and relationships where clearly the woman is the one calling the shots. In short, there seem to be almost no positions of authority that are not or have not been held by women, all up and down our society. We may soon have a woman president, making the person in ultimate charge (or as much as one can be in this country) a woman. "Patriarchy" seems to be rather a non-starter to describe such a society. It just plain does not make sense. It's a lie to use that word in such a society. It is a lie to use it four our society. I may be an atheist, but I know that lying is generally wrong.

If you want to see patriarchy, you need to go over the sea, to societies where men truly are the only rulers - where women are not allowed to work, can't drive, can't hold any public office, and are even ruled over by their children if the child is male. Now THAT is patriarchy.

Probably the best label 'atriarchy' for our society is more of an oligarchy than anything else - an oligarchy of WEALTH. The rich rule. The rich become CEOs. The rich fill our public offices. We are ruled by the men and women of the wealthy class. That is the common denominator. Not gender. Not race. Wealth. And lots of it. Me, I am a man. I'll also never rule over anything. Because I'm not rich. I also don't belong to the right religion or the right social circles. To get elected to national office in this nation you have to be rich and you have to be a Christian (or at least profess belief in the "one true god"). I am not rich. I believe in no gods. Thus, I will never rule. Sharing a penis with some of those who do does not change that fact or give me any special powers or rights. The secret service would block me from access to the president just as readily as they'd block a misandryst minority woman.

Perhaps some feminists will come to understand this better if Hillary Clinton becomes president. Perhaps then they will realize that then the shoe will be on the other foot. Then a woman will be the most powerful single person in the country. Yet there will still be much to criticize about our society. When they realize that sharing a vagina with the president doesn't suddenly give them any special powers or privileges, maybe they'll recognize that the reverse is equally true. But maybe not. I can always hope.

So there is no patriarchy. Not here. There are entrenched interests. There are those with power and wealth and others without it. Many of those with power are men. But many are women as well. Being a woman or a man is beside the point.

Are there still problems out there, gender-related problems for women (and some for men as well)? Sure. But that has nothing to do with anything called 'patriarchy.' Just to illustrate, let me leave one last, disturbing image. If women ruled, if women were in control of everything, such that you could call society a 'matriarchy,' there would still be male rapists. There would still be a lot of the same unpleasantness that exists today. Probably not much would be different, in the end, because you'd still have a tiny wealthy class controlling everything. It is an illusion to think otherwise, or that some "revolution" will change that - revolutions generally just change out one tiny group of elites for another tiny group of elites.

And always remember. Power corrupts. It ultimately doesn't matter who has it (though there are good and bad rulers). It matters how that power can be limited and checked. Because there will always be bad (some badder than others). True poetic justice will be seeing President Hillary Clinton having all the ridiculous powers given (or stolen by) George W. Bush. Or rather, seeing the rabid-right-wing-authoritarians react to her having it. For that reason alone, I'd love to see her win. Though for other reasons, I might want Obama in there.

One last thought - I have written a lot about feminism and had a lot of arguments about it (and racism and such) over the months, here, and in comments elsewhere. I do this not because I'm against women or equality or anything like that. Obviously I am not. I favor total equality for everyone. I have engaged because I care. There are all sorts of right-wing sites out there - I generally don't engage with them because, frankly, I don't give a crap what right-wing-authoritarian's think - they are deluded, and given their status as RWAs, probably nothing anyone can say can change that anyway. In other words, they aren't worth my time. This, and the people I do discuss things with (and probably annoy at times) - they ARE worth my time. What I'm saying is: I argue with you because I care. I care what you think. I care about what you've written. I enjoy the discussions and the arguments. I have learned things from them. If I didn't think such learning was possible, I would not have bothered. So I want to thank everyone I have ever discussed any of this with - now and in the future - thanks for the thought-provoking words you have all given me, and thanks for putting up with me (at times I can get a bit argumentative - you'd think I was a lawyer...) I say this just because I felt like it needed saying.

Now it is time to finish lunch and get back to work so I can get my daughter and give her a hug - what I live for each and every day.


This is absolutely hilarious, and I wish it were required reading in some circles... (h/t Apostate).

I particularly enjoyed the 'non-fascism is a form of facism' non-sequitor.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Idealization of the Past, of the Oppressed, and of everything else

It is so terribly annoying to see the past so idealized. No matter what day it is, or what year, or what century, you can pick up a paper (or a clay tablet) and read how everything is going downhill and how horrible things are today and just wasn't it all find and dandy in the past.

Except it wasn't. Generally speaking, things are MUCH MUCH better today than they ever were. Abject slavery has been all but eliminated from the planet. It used to be pervasive everywhere. The standard of living is much higher than it has ever been. Life expectancies in much of the world are way up. Science has advanced tremendously. In countries the world over, minorities are treated better, women are in power and have equal rights, and things are just dandy compared to how they were even just 100 years ago.

People really ought to study history more. All of it. Because guess what - the past was not an ideal time. And it also shows you that the oppressed are not ideal, either. There seems to be another myth - the "noble savage" - that somehow everything was perfect, for instance, in the Americas, in the years before the evil white men arrived. Yet that wasn't the case at all. The "red" and "brown" men and women who were here before, they did just as much atrocities as the Europeans - they had wars, human sacrifice, they conquered and subjugated enemies. In short, they were prime examples of humanity. Just because a group is oppressed doesn't mean that they are any better than their oppressors. Reverse who is in charge and the oppressed usually just become new oppressors.

So demonizing some and lionizing and idealizing others - that is stupid and it is terribly annoying. Heck, the U.S. used to be held, for good reason, as a shining example to the rest of the world of democracy and civil rights, and even we screwed that up. Eternal vigilance is what is required. And a realization first, that while people individually can be pretty decent (and in actual fact usually are), power corrupts. And that humans are tribal, and always have been, and so tribalism, like corruption of power, needs to be accounted for and compensated for.

"Oh, if only we had a revolution and women were in charge," I see repeated often in certain feminist circles. But never do I see what form that revolution would take nor do I see how they'd really do anything different. I suspect we'd end up with more of the same. And perhaps they do, too, which is why the talk of "revolution" always remains rather vague and noncomittal.

People are people. Most are decent. Most will get along in some form or another. But you always have to keep that in mind. I think it would be great if I were supreme dictator. And maybe some things would be better if I were, but I'm sure I'd eventually be corrupted by the power, as all are, and we'd end up with more of the same. That's just the way of things. The best we can do is set up a system that legally gives equality to all and also gives as little power to government as possible (while still being a viable society).

I'd be depressed, but I'm having too much joy with my daughter for this extended weekend - she turned two, she got a lot of presents (some hand-me-downs from my sister's kids), and so I've been very very busy having pretend meals at her new little table, in a tiny chair that strains my back (but she just INSISTS on me sitting in it). Oh, and she loves her new train sets. My wife is going to spoil her rotten, I think.

Don't like your boss or your work, found your own company.

If you don't like your boss or your work or think you're discriminated against (or think that everyone above you is there just because of "privilege" - stop whining about it and form your own company. What, that's too hard? Don't think you can do it? Well, there's only one way to find out. Do it. And if you fail, try again. If discrimination is so all pervasive, you ought to be able to find thousands of others who want to go with you at this new venture. Because presumably none of them want to keep on being discriminated against, either.

You want to blame me for all of your problems because I'm a white male and so make a convenient scape goat, despite my having nothing to do with your problems - well, fine, I'll take FULL blame. It is ALL MY FAULT. Now what? You going to just sit there and whine about it or are you going to do something about it?

So get out there. Found your company. Look into others who have done so. Do business with them. Support each other. Make discrimination by others irrelevant. Be your own boss. Just be prepared. It isn't easy, but the rewards are great. And eventually, you'll know you've made it when you find that YOU are the one others are complaining about as being discriminatory. "Oh, she didn't promote me because blah blah blah."

If I could have one wish right now, I'd wish for women to be the one's in charge of everything. Let's have a matriarchy. With minorities in charge at the top. See how well they do. I somehow doubt the world will be all that much different. But at least someone else will then have to watch everything they work hard for dismissed as just the product of "privilege." And someone else will get to take all of the blame for the world's problems. Maybe then someone will idealize the day when the white men were in charge.

Either way, I'm going to put in my 40 hours, go home, and spend some nice quiet time with my family and enjoy what really matters in life.

Now excuse me while I go ferally chew up some pillows.