Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fat Dudes and Hot Chicks

But first, a quick word about the philosophy I proceed with. It does not matter what was intended by the author(s) of a text. If you make an observation about a text (really Text, meaning anything that can be read as such, from a novel to a play to a wedding), you can assume intentionality, the possibility of intention, and make interpretations based upon that.

All possible intentionality opens up all possible interpretability, which is why it is so fucking fun to be an English student. You become a god of meaning.


Everyone has noticed the trend, no, that's not it, is it a law? guideline? let's just say dominant trope of the fat, unattractive dude and the hot girl that pervades network TV, and especially commercials. It is so much a constant that we stop making conscious note of it, generally.

But, what is your message, dear medium? Oh, shit, you are the same? Then we shall decide.

How does this fact read to viewers? When a woman sees this as the normalized depiction of a relationship, what does it tell her? What does it tell a man?

Seems to me that the way to read this, to figure out one's position within the context it establishes, is to encourage dissatisfaction among men and satisfaction among women.

A man sees the guy on screen, cast often as ignorant and nigh-always as less attractive than the average man, and thinks "shit, he's bald, fatter than me, so clueless that it seems obvious he is unable to function on his own, and he's with HER? I've got hair, I'm in better shape, I can cook and can choose my own household cleaners, and my wife's ass isn't that firm, and her tits aren't that big. What about me?" He is left wanting, and believing that he is entitled to more.

A woman sees the woman on screen, in control, fit, perfect skin and hair, and then looks at the schlub she is stuck with and thinks "damn, what I wouldn't do for her body and face, and yet she has settled for HIM? Maybe I don't have it so bad. Maybe I better work harder to make sure I don't lose what I've got." Standards are lowered, and a drive to work to satisfy her man instilled.

No, of course, this doesn't work on a base, conscious level. We don't have these actual conversations with ourselves in our head. But, this characterization of the attractive woman and schlub man that is so pervasive as to be an instantly recognizable trope does train the brain to accept that characterization as normal. And there are of course other possible readings, other interpretations of this trope.

I believe that whether intentional in an actual, secret cabal sort of way or not, the reading I present is, in the words of an old prof "another sign of the misogyny that is absolutely de rigueur in Hollywood."

Men, you deserve better. Ladies, be glad of what you got, and now be a good little cupcake and get daddy a beer.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

So, I'm just curious

The Katrina deal with black folks "looting" and white folks just getting what they need to survive didn't draw me in. We are a racist fuckwad of a country - we just don't like to admit it, but I take it as a given.

But, now Mexicans are accused of looting in the aftermath of Wilma.

And I find myself wondering what exactly looting means.

I'm not even going to give you examples of what is said about it. I just wonder what the conditions are for drawing the line. When is it looting, and when survival?

And how did this notion even come to exist? Don't tell me ownership society and capitalism run amok. I want more.

What is this looting thing I hear of?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Rare Capitulation

Because I don't often play any reindeer games, but probably should (but I ain't forwarding this on either)...

10 years ago: I had arrived in Seattle the previous January, was living in a one-bedroom moss pit in Wallingford where my then-fiance (the one I thankfully didn’t marry) was shortly to join me. As she lived in Bremerton, I only had to deal with the harpy on weekends (usually day trips throughout the Olympics), and so drank heavily Sunday through Thursday nights with the eight or so boys that had also moved here from my podunk town of Spencerport, NY. I worked for my uncle’s company, interned at one of the first web marketing companies in the city, and actively pursued a career in advertising (I possess the most aptly-named degree ever – a BS in Advertising). Wrote nothing of merit, didn’t even try, and played a lot of Marvel Overpower.

5 years ago: Was engaging a powerful battle between my desire to vote for Nadar (who has since taken the trolley to Toontown) and the bile that would rise in my throat whenever I looked at the poorly trained monkey that eventually won (cause, y’know, a vote for Ralph wasn’t going to help that). I was unemployed, writing freelance articles for some graphic design journals, had just quit my corporate gig at Washington Mutual and had been dumped by Theatre on the Rocks (long story – ask the Kunda).

1 year ago: Deep in mourning for my friend Julianto, who died of cancer in the spring, and for my academic career, which had been stalled by a combination of my personal loss, finances and the stress of raising a toddler. I was then, as now, the primary caregiver, and just barely figuring out how to do it (in the spring, I had handed in my graded papers on a Friday, moved from Bellingham to Seattle on Saturday, and was fulltime in charge of a 12 month plus two weeks old kid – shock to the system, eh?). On the brighter side, I had also just re-joined the steering committee for 14/48, the world’s quickest theatre festival.

5 snacks: Dill pickles (though my wife hates the smell), tater tots with bbq sauce, english muffins with butter, sweet potato chips, sugar

5 songs I know all the words to: Oh, hell, a lot, but some of my favorites to sing are The Rainbow Connection, Sixteen Tons, Johnny B Goode, Ring of Fire and anything and everything by the Super Sonic Soul Pimps

5 things I could do with $100 million: Pay off debt, buy my mother and wife houses, travel, start a charitable foundation and go to school forever

5 things I would never wear: A Yankees hat, a Buffalo Bills jersey, a Lakers tank top, anything that even resembled New York Rangers paraphenalia, or one of those string ties.

5 favorite tv shows: Lost, Scrubs, Freaks and Geeks, The Daily Show, SportsCenter

5 biggest joys: My baby girl, a good argument, reading a book I thought I would hate yet love, the right song at the right moment, and the Green Bay Packers

5 favorite toys: My iBook, Legos, crayons, the sensibilities of others, and Mr. Johnson

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Drunk Poem

the waitresses are cuter
at closing time
which might be a miracle of scheduling
or a trick of the sudden
change in light

but it is real
and important
because closing time is
when you leave
and even drunks have earned angels
to guide them into
the night

the poetry of the everyday
is never wasted

Saturday, October 08, 2005

That is a true statement

I used to work in banking. Twice. Big, big banks. My last title was Business Analyst, which meant admin with deadlines and lots of big multi-department meetings.

A very common rhetorical device in the big project meetings, and not a disingenuous one by any means, was “That is a true statement.”

It is ingenious, really. It doesn’t imply any agreement with any interpretation or extrapolation of said statement. It is careful, but not a dodge. There isn’t any wiggle room as far as the warrant the statement agrees to. The statement, and only the statement, is clearly true.

It is different from “You’re right” or “That’s right” in an important way.

(Were it used in a disingenuous way, this would not be a true statement, as it would be simply bullshit.)

And I move from here to 12 step programs.

A common tenant of 12 step programs (I, um, read somewhere) is, at some point, surrender to a higher power. The higher power doesn’t have to be God, just has to be something, even a tree (though the disadvantage there is that you might chop the fucker down to justify a binge and where did I put that fuckin’ ax?).

As a tool for addiction recovery, this makes sense to me. Because, really, how can you trust and addict like you to keep you from falling off the wagon? You can’t. Maybe the function here is to recognize why you can’t trust yourself – to accept you need the higher power is a sign you have accepted the truth about yourself.

Some friends and I were talking religion recently, and stumbled upon the idea of the 12 step version of religion. There are folks, especially progressive humanists, that attempt to smooth over differences between religious and spiritual belief systems by reducing them to the “God slot.” You know “Well, if you just substitute tree spirit for God, pagans and Christians are really saying the same thing.”

And I sidled up close to this with the Man of Faith post a while back. And, I feel the need to make my position clearer. I don’t think we can answer the God question merely by saying that one believes in something that fills the God slot.

What I am trying to home in on can be felt, at least, in the distinction between truth and right in that corporate project management rhetorical device I opened with, and maybe a couple of things I used to tell my students: “There is a difference between being right and finding truth” and “There is no right answer, but there are wrong ones.”

Truth merely is. Infinite truth is unknowable by finite beings. Being right implies having found the way to access Truth. But, because we as finite beings can not know infinite truth, we can never find the way to access Truth, but only a way. When we forget that, the trouble begins, and we actually distance ourselves from Truth.

The man of faith is content to have found a way, limited though it necessarily is, for a finite creature to touch upon Truth. Part of the nature of that which is true is that any attempt by a human to explain it, diminishes it. Similarly, any part of the belief that one’s access to truth makes them right, means that not only have they found a true statement but that everything they interpret and extrapolate from that true statement is also true, takes such a believer further from Truth. Truth is infinite, any attempt to reduce or contain it is a failure by definition.

This doesn’t mean that we can choose any old path to Truth we want. There are countless paths to take in life, and only some lead us to any knowledge of Truth. There are wrong answers.

Truth is truth. Wrong is not-Truth. Right is the belief that you possess one while actually falling toward the other.

The bitch of it all is how we negotiate all this. We can’t know all of Truth, we know such things as non-Truth exist, we may or may not understand these limitations. How does this not reduce to mere relativism?

Only by the fact that Truth exists, independent of us. And the common experience of engaging the question, no matter what the eventual outcome.

So, oh Foolish One, you believe in God?

That is a true statement.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Assorted shit that is cracking me up

This line from a speech Al Gore gave at a media conference this week...

"They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments."

And they said he had no sense of humor, that cheeky devil.

A headline you likely saw today...

"Bush: Militants seek to establish empire"

...which seemed more appropriate with a shifted s and a punctuation change...

"Bush - Militant seeks to establish empire"

...but maybe that's just me.

And my very favorite line from my toddler's bookshelf...

"A starving cat does not need macaroons."

...because, y'know what? It is so true.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Friggin' Racism

My toddler daughter is of an age, and really has been for some time, that picks up new and inappropriate words very quickly. I am an occasionally foul-mouthed daddy, especially on days the Packers play, but also quick of foot. My solution is based upon the basic parenting skill of distraction. If she repeats something that has slipped out, I tell her “No, baby, you say geehossafat.*” And she has always liked saying that more than the offending word.

Until the inevitable until…

She repeated the borderline “friggin’” the other day, in the context of “you friggin’ cat.” The wife and I eyed up and did a quick negotiation and called geehossafat on that. And the girl responded in the expected fashion.

But, every now and again she will look at me at say, very seriously, in the midst of play “I don’t say friggin’.”

She has never done this before or since with a geehossafat word. There is something about friggin’ that she particularly likes enough to contrive to say it in a supposedly safe context. Often.

I haven’t quite figured out how to address this with her just yet.

But I did hear a network bumper for some Michael Rappaport probably-UPN sitcom this weekend. Never the lead-in, but twice the part where he says “Yeah, ribs. I know they’re black, but it’s a barbeque. You want me to make spaghetti and meatballs?”

Ya get it? Black folks are coming over to the white folks house, and the white husband is serving barbeque ribs. (Ask me some time about my amusing story of serving dinner for Angela Davis in Syracuse.)

Each time I heard that bumper I chuckled. And I’m no-bullshit-clause enough with myself to say it is because, on some level, I’m thinking “Yeah, those black people sure love ribs.”

That idea, and every related safe-because-it-is-historical-contextual-funny-safe bit of racism we allow in, is our shared cultural “friggin’.” That thing we will repeatedly say, in a safe context, though we know it is wrong, because we like it.

And it doesn’t simply make us racist. Good people laugh, and I’d like to include myself.

But, our cozy little friggin’s have to, simply must, take on a different light in a world in which a man formerly of the post of “czar” in our government says not only where people can hear but actually sitting in front of a motherfucking microphone that aborting black babies reduces crime.

How is it safe to say friggin’ in a world where someone calls your mom a cunt?

Ya dig?

* - There may be an official spelling of this word, but you know it, and I just chose mine. It sounds like jee-hoe-sa-fat.