Undermoderated

This is what happens when shit gets unreal

Twerking-Class Girl

If you haven’t heard about Miley Cyrus’s performance on the Video Music Awards last night, congratulations and apologies. Congratulations for staying out of the mess which is popular culture and mainstream media. Apologies, because I just spoiled that for you.

I’ve got a mixed opinion of Buzzfeed, but this list provided a pretty good overview of the hot mess which was Miley’s performance. Completists can find the entire performance here on Mashable, and it doesn’t make a lot more sense in context, either. She looks like someone who’s trying too hard to be edgy, sexy, and naughty, in hopes someone will forget she was ever a virginal Disney princess and cash cow.

Wonder why that is.

While the entire internet, including mainstream media sites which theoretically carry important world news, all run around in circles and shout about the risque content of the performance, I keep wondering, Is this really what we’re most concerned about in this dance routine? Slut shaming? That’s all we’ve got? That’s our biggest problem. Because I can think of a few other ones we might want to consider.

  • Our entertainment culture all but requires artists to escalate bad behaviors for marketability. What Miley Cyrus did was the same thing artists have done forever. Put on a controversial show, get some attention, and that will sell. Lest we point a finger solely at the music business, television does this as well. Throw a dart at a programming guide (use Nerf if your guide is on the television or computer monitor), and it’s almost guaranteed to hit a “reality” program. These don’t drum up viewers with people who behave in an acceptable manner.
  • Miley used a black person as a stage prop. Two white, privileged entertainers (if you want to call either her or Robin Thicke that) pranced around on stage, surrounded entirely by black backup dancers made up as toys. At one point, Miley sashayed up to a woman who almost had “stereotype” flashing over her head in neon, and motorboated her ass. Whether or not this was intended as racism, it had every appearance of it.
  • A young woman is having a public meltdown and people are more concerned with her ass in short shorts. Age 20 is damned awkward. Almost everyone goes through a period of trying to find themself, or discovering adult sexuality, or what have you. Most of us have the luxury of doing it in private, without hordes of screaming pundits staring at our every move with a finger on a camera shutter. Child stars don’t get that luxury. Her behavior, and her choices, all remind me of a defiant kid who’s acting out without really thinking of the consequences.
  • What did the Cylon Bear have to do with anything? Or any of the bears, really? Bored, dancing bears stomping around on a stage? What?

But maybe the most important question we should ask is…

Why is this news?

I’m more confused about that than the dancing bears.

Bitches Ain’t Sh*t But Ho’s and Tricks…

SO… there was this blog, and then two years happened. What? You don’t get busy, doing Facebook-y things?  Well, aren’t you incredibly p-u-r-e.

Anyhow, I’ve decided I have something else to say.  Stunner, I know. I’m about to send my oldest off to college, several states away.  While I’m excited about her opportunities, I am petrified about sending her even down the street, let alone to North Dakota. She is a bright, incredible, strong, thoughtful, and beautiful woman.

None of those things is adequate protection from a culture that views her as meat.  None of those things will allow her to look at a man and instantly recognize a rapist.

A couple weeks ago, the verdict of the Steubenville rape case was read.  This case, which made national news, shined a light on a pervasive culture of entitlement within a high school sports community. And where to high school athletes go? College.

Am I blaming athletes?  Absolutely not.  I am blaming a culture.  Follow me with this, for a moment.

  1. Boys are signed up for sports teams, as young as 4 years of age. Often, their parents see a spark of physical prowess (“Johnny jumps around on his toddler bed and crushes ALL his action figures… what a lineman he’ll be, some day!”) and dream of that prowess benefiting their son, in some way.
  2. Someone informs Mom and Dad that the REAL sports are played in the travel leagues, not in park and rec.  In order for Johnny to excel, he needs to be playing on a REAL team.  This involves a  crazy payout, generally totaling, between fees, equipment and travel expenses, at  least $1000 a season. And that’s conservative. BUT! If Johnny’s on an expensive team, Johnny MUST be an elite player! High schools will scout Johnny!
  3. At some point, probably before 5th grade, one or both of Johnny’s parents will have uttered the following statement “You need to do what your coach is telling you to do! We pay a lot of money for you to participate.  Suck it up, and be a team player.”
  4. Team has to be the focus.  Peer pressure and team bonding become intertwined. Fellow players parrot the coach’s critique, but off the field. If your team mate is stealing a candy bar, and tells Johnny to do it too, Johnny’s initial refusal may be met with “This is the same reason you’re not a starter.  You don’t want it enough. You need to be aggressive, and take what you want. Don’t wait for someone to give it to you.”
  5. By the time Johnny is in 6th grade, at least one coach (and possibly even Dad) will have equated poor sports performance with being gay, or being female. Regularly. A player who botches a play will be a “faggot”. A slower runner will be told he runs “like a girl”. Losing?  Losing’s for pussies.

SO… by the time Johnny’s a freshman in high school, he wants to do whatever the team does, because that’s not peer pressure, that’s TEAM! And if your team mate jumped off a bridge, hell yeah Johnny’s gonna jump too, because he’s not a pussy! Plus, all the girls love the team.  Way easier to get a girlfriend if you’re on a team.  Hell, the school holds pep rallies, to make sure everyone knows who you are, and that you’re IMPORTANT. When was the last time they held a pep rally for the robotics club?  That buncha pansies.

And if his team mate says he’s going to get some class mate girl slut drunk and take pictures while he molests her at a party, Johnny’s gonna get him some, too.  Because she’s not on the team.  She’s not equal. She doesn’t count.  Besides, Johnny has heard from his bros on the team that she totally wants it. She’s probably slept with all of them except him, already! And coach might say he’s a faggot, but he’s NOT a damned faggot, so he is going to prove it to that bitch.

Think it isn’t a real thing?  Mike Rice got fired from Rutgers’ basketball program today, because of some videos taken months ago.  The footage shows the coach berating his players, while kicking and pushing them.  Slapping them, and calling them faggots and bitches.  When the tapes were shown to Rutgers administration, the person who brought them to the AD’s attention was let go, for “insubordination”. And the coach got a 3 day sit down, to think about his behavior.  Then, well..  then business as usual.  Because fairies complain, and if you can’t play with the big guys, you’re a pussy.

Now… go be nice to all the ladies, would ya?

Rebecca Watson and the Can of Worms

Several days ago, Rebecca Watson of Skepchick fame posted a video blog about a conversation she had with a man in an elevator. Shortly after, big chunks of the internet exploded into righteous indignation. It was like opening one of those prank cans of peanuts, only instead of a snake on a spring, it was a big, writhing pile of wiggly worms.

Or maybe the spring-snake was a trouser snake. Some of the opinions on the matter seem to think all penises are ready to spring into action given a moment’s notice.

To summarize, Ms. Watson was speaking in Ireland about sexism in the atheist community. A man followed her out of the bar at four in the morning and into an elevator. He said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” Her blogged response to this…

Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and — don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

She’s got a point. Following someone to an elevator so you can ask them out is not the way to make them feel comfortable. Doesn’t matter what his intentions were. It was really stupid. No one, man or woman, should go back to a stranger’s hotel room. This is a great way to wake up in a bathtub full of ice, short a kidney and all dignity.

Her response isn’t my issue with this. She was reasonable, realistic, and polite. No blanket blame of men, no hating, nothing. The community’s response, though… Here’s a little sampling. From a Salon article

Surely not all of the men who reacted angrily to Watson’s video are woman-hating sociopaths. It’s probably the case that many were indirectly responding to past personal rejections that made them feel confused and wounded. I’ve known kind, decent men who express supreme frustration over how unclear women can be. Resentment builds up and some become hypersensitive to any female complaint about being hit on.

From PLoS

Therein lies the problem. Many men who don’t think of themselves as misogynists have a blind spot: they become obtuse about women’s feelings that might conflict with their own desires. The rancor they’re directing at Rebecca now suggests they don’t like being called on that flaw.

From ScienceBlogs, regarding how his wife was harassed for wearing low cut clothes…

That’s just how it is when you show some cleavage. If anything, she felt like it was her mistake not to wear something different, or to have altered the dress to be less revealing.

Ladies: This doesn’t happen to men. Ever. I’ve seen cartoons and stuff from the ’50s, and I’ve watched Mad Men, so I know there was a time when that happened all over the place, but honestly, I thought society had grown out of that. I simply didn’t think this happened anymore to anyone.

Guys: This happens all the frigging time. You don’t know about it, because women don’t do this to us, and we don’t do it to each other, but it’s a real thing.

This is where I call bullshit.

Recently, while working in an office filled with women, my husband and his partner found themselves treated like sides of meat. Whispers. Looks. Women asking them to come fix something underneath the desk, where the “ladies” could ogle their asses better. Women asking the two men to pick things up for them. One woman trapping my husband, who was occupied in an activity he couldn’t escape, and spewing ten minutes of innuendo about blow jobs.

Want something a little more public? How about what happened to Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan in a London airport?

“I was a little scared. Something happens [inside the scans], and I came out. Then I saw these girls – they had these printouts. I looked at them. I thought they were some forms you had to fill. I said ‘give them to me’ – and you could see everything inside. So I autographed them for them,” stated Khan.

Yeah. Women don’t sexualize men at all. Never happens. That’s not what upsets me about all this, though. What upsets me most about all these screeds is this: When did men become the enemy?

Sexism is real. Women do get harassed for showing too much cleavage, for walking through the wrong part of town, for simply being female. They are often sexualized and discriminated against. Take a look at the list Emily Finke has posted of things which have happened to her:

I live in a world where I’ve had to change my work schedule because I was afraid of being alone with a coworker.

I live in a world where I have to (regularly) suddenly find some reason to go back to the lobby because I don’t want some man following me to my hotel room, or grab a random acquaintance to ride the elevator with me.

The list is worth reading. These things happen, and should never be trivialized. No one, though, seems to want to talk about what happens with men. So I’d like to.

We live in a world where even an appropriately worded and timed request, or compliment, can be seen as sexualizing a woman. Where a man protesting his or another man’s innocent intentions earns insulting psychoanalysis. We live in a world where many people seem to assume a man only looks out for what he wants, and no one else.

We live in a world where a man cannot take his child to the local playground without earning suspicious looks from hovering mothers. Where some people will first assume a man is a pedophile, not a father or uncle there to watch his child play. Heaven forbid he stands outside a school to wait for his child to get out of class.

We live in a world where a man cannot stop to help a lost child in a mall, on a street, or at a grocery store without fearing suspicion and arrest.

We live in a world where people think talking like a television announcer makes them sound serious and dramatic.

All these things happen, too. I’ve seen them. Think having a large cross-section of people believe he’s a rapist and pedophile doesn’t weigh on a man? Think having to dress unassumingly and be careful where he stands at a playground doesn’t bother him? Think knowing people are judging him because of his gender isn’t painful?

Women are the targets of attacks in far more cases than men. No denying the numbers. They have to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings in a way men don’t. It’s an ugly fact of the world, and I hope to hell it changes. As we fight toward that goal, however, we have to remember not to create more casualties. No one should have to feel slighted and afraid because of her – or his – gender.

PLoS said it very well:

The principle is: be sensitive to others’ feelings and don’t make them pointlessly uncomfortable. Simple human decency, not some special consideration that some of us should show to the rest of us.

Men aren’t the enemies. Assholes are the enemies. Pussy or cock, doesn’t matter. Don’t be a dick.

For The Children…

So, Casey Anthony was found not guilty. Know what that says? It says that real life isn’t an episode of CSI: Miami. It says, in real life, the prosecution can’t just tell you what a selfish tramp some woman is, and that makes her guilty of her daughter’s death. Sorry, folks. I know it pisses people off.

But you know what REALLY sucks? There is a movement, TWO MILLION FACEBOOK USERS STRONG, that is going to turn their porch lights on, to make people remember Caylee Anthony. And I’m not fucking joking. Two million people, who are going to flip a switch they ALREADY flip every single damned day, and call THAT a memorial. “For our little angel, Caylee Marie”, they say. And you know what? She was an angelic looking kid. Big, puppy eyes. Button nose. Chubby baby cheeks. Sweet little smile.

So, I may not be very popular for saying to those people, SCREW YOU! That kid might have been a cute 2 year old, in a picture, or in a small clip from a family movie. Cute 2 year olds grow up, jackass. All this energy should be spent on the real Caylee Anthony. And by that, I mean the kid who is still being neglected, right now.

Had she lived, right now, she’d be 5 or 6 years old. She’d be that kid who teaches your kid in kindergarten how to use ‘fuck’ correctly in a sentence, and you’d be asking that your kid not have to sit next to her. The kid who can’t sit still in class. The one you complained about, because she kept pinching your kid during lunch time, and on the playground.

Had she lived, in a couple years she’d be that kid on your child’s soccer team. You know the one… she always needs a ride. She forgets her cleats every damned game. Somehow, HER Mom always conveniently “forgets” when it’s her turn for snack. And you’re the parent who brings an extra snack, and you bitch about it. You avoid answering calls from her house, because you’ll be damned if you’re gonna drive that obnoxious kid even one more time to another game.

Had she lived another couple years, oh, Lord. Then she’d be that awkward, needy girl in your kid’s class. The one who has a penchant for lying. The one who calls your kid a faggot, and makes your kid cry. Or she’s the girl who, at barely a tween age, is wearing Playboy bunny t-shirts, and sticking out her little booblets at all the boys. Maybe she’s the one who wears too much makeup, and tells your daughter what oral sex is. Or she’s the kid who “borrows” your son’s new sweatshirt, and never returns it.

Skip forward to her teen years. She’s the girl you told your son not to date, because she was rude in your home, or you caught her with her hand down his pants. She’s the girl you won’t let your daughter hang out with, because another mom told you she steals from the store she works at, or so-and-so saw her drunk at the last football game. Eventually, she’s the girl who drops out to have a kid, or she’s the girl who everyone knows is popping oxy.

You stupid jackasses, she’s right there. She’s sitting next to you on the bus. She’s dropping off the cheerleading squad, or out of band, or out of Key Club, or off the soccer team, because all the other parents are DONE driving her, and her mom doesn’t care. She’s stealing money out of your daughter’s locker, because she never has lunch. She’s getting caught shoplifting, because she really wants the attention. She’s having a baby at 15, because then she’ll have someone who loves only her. Stop looking at the picture of 2 year old Caylee, and start seeing 7 year old Caylee. See 14 year old Caylee. See 17 year old Caylee. Turning your damned porch light on will not save that kid. Turning your porch light on will not honor her memory. Try doing something REAL, instead.

Self-Evident Truths

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence

Signed July 4, 1776

Those words come from the Declaration of Independence, with which America hoisted a middle finger towards Britain and told them it wasn’t them, it was us, but please not to call tomorrow morning.

It’s a long document. TL;DR. (Though we ought to.) That first sentence tells us everything we need to know. Let’s have a look at it.

We hold these truths to be self-evident…
This crap should be obvious. No one should have to tell anyone this stuff.

That all men are created equal…
In this instance, “men” means “humans”. No getting huffy about gender words, because that’ll distract from the issue you really want to focus on. And that would be, everyone was created equal.

That they are endowed by their Creator…
Our Founding Fathers were Christian, but really, this is vague enough you can fit anything in. If you like, imagine this refers to God, Goddess, your mother or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

With certain unalienable rights…
This means, these rights cannot be taken away. I’m going to emphasize that. No one can take these rights away from another person. These are sacred, inviolable rights to which every homo sapien is entitled.

That among these are Life…
You know, living. Heartbeat, breathing, the works. No one has the right to take life away from someone else.

Liberty…
Freedom to do and to choose what goes on in the life from above.

And the pursuit of Happiness.
This means, everyone has the right to chase whatever it is which will make them happy, and give them a fulfilling life. Basket weaving. Flamenco dancing. Rollerskating while wearing rainbow socks and a Batman costume.

Holy Rollerskating Rainbow Batmans!

Photo by Joshua Trujillo, Seattle Pi

So what does all that really boil down to?

This means everyone has the right to create a life which will bring them joy. Even the people whose lifestyles you don’t care for. It means you can preach up a storm against perfidy, homosexuality, independent women and noisy proselytizers. Try to convince everyone you want these people are disgusting / wrong / noisy / stupid / whatever your preferred word. If it makes you happy, you can shout yourself blue.

But you can’t take away their right to pursue happiness as they see fit.

A religion does not give the moral ability to take away Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. It means the faithful get to spread their church’s message and save souls, but when it comes to laws and legalities, they have no right to take them from others. The city, state and federal governments are not their strong arms.

Too many people get this confused. Too many people think, “My faith says this is right, therefore, I can use the government to enforce my faith’s belief.” This is a country founded on the belief all may worship as they see fit, believe as they like. All may pursue happiness. They think, “My faith defines marriage as between a man and a woman, so the government must, as well. A religious marriage is the only legal marriage.”

A couple can walk down to the records place, get a marriage license, then amble over to a Justice of the Peace and get legally married in the eyes of state and private institutions. No religious ceremony involved. No church seems to have a problem recognizing these marriages, despite God’s total lack of involvement in the process.

No one has to like it. Everyone has to shut the fuck up and deal with it. This is America. Where all men are created equal, and all have the right to pursue happiness.

It’s self-evident. No one should have to say this.

Change?

What constitutes “making a difference”?  Every day, some group or another exhorts us to “make a difference”. Hell, both my kids have t shirts with Gandhi’s face one them and the phrase “Be The Change”, referencing the quote, attributed to him by his grandson Arun, “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.”

 

So, what change do you wish to see?  And what drives that wish?  Yesterday, I spent time at my son’s school, with a group of kids who like working with the soil.  We weed, we plant, we plan and we dream.  We build, we eat, we bicker and we scheme.  We look at the pond, which fills each time it rains, and then leaks out into the soil slowly through cracks in the cement lining, and we think about how to better cache the water. 

 

We look at the space where the cattle from the field next door break through the fence, and we scheme to block it with a compost bin made of repurposed shipping pallets.  Then we make notes about how incredibly tough the wood used to make shipping pallets is, and we plan to buy a new drill bit.

 But, as we do these things, these kids talk.  They talk about gardening, yes… about their favorite foods to grow, and their least favorite.  But they also discuss the Star Wars series, and debate the merits of each installment.  They critique music.  (If they are any indication, Britney Spears has officially jumped the shark)  They tease about crushes, and occasionally, they throw dirt clods at one another.  But they don’t judge each other.  Not like you and I probably do, whether in public or in private.  They don’t care how much each other’s families are worth.  They are unconcerned about the labels each other wears.  While I know that a couple of them may very well get a reduced price lunch, I’m the only one in the garden who suspects it might be so, and it embarrasses me to have that knowledge, frankly.

These are people who recognize the value of others, to the exclusion of their socioeconomic place in the world, their possible political affiliation, their religion, or who they are related to.  They are generous in their attribution of credit.  It is rare to hear one say “That was MY idea!” and common to hear them award kudos to a peer.  They commonly arrange to work together, and acquiesce easily when someone else has a better idea.  Stunningly, when one of them either sandbags on the job, or takes an extra piece of banana bread, they all know.  And they laugh it off.  And they remember.  The next week, the one who ate the extra snack often brings some extra food for the group.  The one who didn’t really do much the week before redoubles his or her efforts, in order to keep things equitable.  And this works!  One nine year old, when I told the group I’d like everyone to take a turn bringing a nutritious small meal, quietly approached me and said she’d like to take one of the other kids’ turns, because she thought it’d be a nice gesture to her friend, who had helped her weed when the first girl didn’t feel so well.  Yep. Pretty damned awesome.

So, make a difference?  Yes.  They are totally making a difference in my life. Be the change?  I don’t think I want to be a change, I think I want to regress.  These kids are amazing.  And they haven’t even had to change yet.

A Hypocrite With Issues…

I am starting to admit the myriad of hypocritical aspects of my life.  I’m a Green Party supporter, who drives a big ass diesel truck.  I make snide comments about others’ lack of classiness, while dropping F bombs all over the place.  I rail about the crap people serve their families, but I’m not above a bag of Five Guys French fries, oh no, I am NOT.

 

However, the news over the last few weeks has really brought out some loony hypocrites, and I won’t stay silent.  (Like I ever do, am I right? Shut up.)

First:  The events in Northern Africa and the Middle East.  I repeat, I am a diesel-guzzling-truck driving fool.  So yeah, perhaps I should zip it.  But I’m not going to.  Here are MY issues:

1) I saw this on an FB friend’s wall today: 

   “Getting sick and tired of these idiots in the Middle East dictating our gas prices here. We have two options as I see it. #1 – let us drill for our own oil here now, and our other resources that will produce plenty of oil or #2 – turn the Middle East into a sandbox and just take their oil.”
 

The fact that Americans who can’t even find countries like Yemen, Bahrain, or Libya on a map are having conversations about how we should “Go over there, take control, and take the oil while they are fighting amongst themselves” is ridiculous. 

Two options?  Really?  Jesus, we must have at least 5 ! (Hint: use your whole hand to count, not just the fingers you use to roll your boogers) 

2)      “The revolution in Egypt is going to create an untenable situation for Israel, and as such, we should have propped up Mubarek.”  (Further, we have made a peace of sorts with Khaddafi, so he’s our guy, as well I guess?)  So sayeth the screaming heads on the teevee, at least on some stations.   

Didn’t we do this with Saddam Hussein?  Prop him up, as our guy who helped us out with Iran?  Truly, that worked so well, didn’t it?  Should our foreign policy always be based on which bastard is the least insane on any given day?  Well, it will be, as long as we remain THEIR least insane bastard, I guess.  I’m taking bets on how long that will be our status.  We have had some insane moments, in recent days…  

Second: The protests in Wisconsin, and now Ohio,  with more states to come.  Again, I am happily hypocritical when it comes to unions, because I don’t think all forms of employment that HAVE union representation probably need it anymore.  Here are MY issues:

A)    Yes, unions in the manufacturing sector have basically priced their workers out of the American market.  Why do you think it is SO attractive to American companies to do their manufacturing overseas?  Because people there are willing to do the job for a pittance, duh!  Certain manufacturing and maintenance labor jobs became so $ bloated that the American people could no longer afford the product. Do you have ANY idea what a pair of jeans would cost, if it was made exclusively in the US, using only US manufactured goods?  Easily $200 dollars or more.  Should people be paid a fair wage?  Absolutely.  How do you fix this?  Well, you could start with a federal minimum wage that actually allows a person to support themselves. If a garment worker could SUPPORT THEIR FAMILY on minimum wage, their union would have less bargaining power over income.  But $7.25 per hour?  Bullshit.

B)    The issue in Wisconsin is being blamed on Teacher’s Unions.  Do the people bitching about this have any clue what a teacher makes?    If a teacher lives in a one income home, with a spouse and 3 kids, they may be living within 15,000 of the national poverty threshold for this country.  Now, add to that the fact that they do not, in fact, work a 40 hour week.  They work far, far longer.  And are often fiscally responsible for their own certification upkeep, meaning that they MUST have extended education, in order to keep their job, but that education is NOT paid for by their employer.  So, Joe Teacher works as a HS math educator.  He has to report to school at 7:AM, and may leave campus (barring staff meetings, parent/teacher conferences, IEP meetings, mandated chaperone sessions like dances or games or detention duty) at 3:30.  Because he no longer has a planning period at school, due to cutbacks, he must grade papers for over 100 students at home.  At a rate of 1 minute per test or homework assignment, this will take almost 2 hours.  Time for class!  His continuing education is taught at the local university in the evening (lucky him!)  2 hours, 2 nights per week.  On his dime.  Using his fuel to drive there.  So our guy Joe, if he makes the median income for a HS teacher, of  $43,355 per year, is making about 14 bucks an hour, before taxes.  BEFORE taxes.  And these people bitching are going to say ol’ Joe shouldn’t get his health care paid for?  His vacations?  Are you KIDDING me?!  He’s supposed to make your children ready to take on a global employment atmosphere, and help them learn enough to function in the world, and he can’t go to the doctor on occasion on your dime?  Screw you.

Third:  And this brings me to my FAVORITE rant.  Taxation, and it’s conjoined twin, corporate greed.  Here is MY issue:

 Who do you think really want the unions gone?  Who do you think wants us so freaked out by the idea of imagined terrorist enemies coming to the fore half a world away that we aren’t paying attention to our own back yard? I’ll give you a hint , it ain’t the middle class.  Who benefits?  Poor people?  Nope.  Their jobs will continue to disappear, as middle class people work their way down the pay scale, in search of anything they can get.  The middle class themselves ARE the union workers.  No, folks it’s the corporate giants who make bigger profits, obviously, when the little guy gets squeezed.  Not just in wage payments saved, but in larger, more nefarious ways.  Did you know, when a big box store, say, Walmart, or Home Depot,  comes looking to build in a community, that generally the community pays for the infrastructure to support the store?  So those fancy new 4 lane roads, leading to the parking lot.  Local taxes.  The street lights, traffic redirection, etc?  Local taxes.  BUT, you say… that will be recouped, once the store opens!  Not really.  In an effort to win their area as a store location, many local governments offer incredible tax incentives to big box stores.  In some cases, property taxes are lowered to a level only a couple hundred dollars more than the average household in the area.  In some cases, sales tax skimming, to the tune of  millions, nationally.  In short, if you shop at a big box store, instead of a local business, you are causing your taxes to go up.  Not the Teacher’s Union, not oil from the Middle East,  it’s you, when you go to Walmart, or Kmart.  YOU, at the Safeway, and the Home Depot. 

So.  I am a hypocrite. A middle class hypocrite. Because I KNOW all these things, but I don’t radically change my behavior. I do not always shop at the local hardware store   although I’d like to. I drive a big truck.  I go to the Savemart rather than the local butcher, sometimes.  But I do at least try to shop local, if I can.  I went to 3 local fabric stores, just the other day, even though I could have gone to Walmart or Hancock’s in the same amount of time.  On the rare occasion my friends and I have the time, we try to go for breakfast at Shingle Springs Coffee , rather than Starbucks or McDonalds.  As we go into a time of higher gas prices, again, and higher food costs, I look to growing my garden, and getting more hens.

 And I wonder… if you lead a hypocrite to reality, can you make them think?  I know I have at least started to.  Have you?

Urban Homesteading!

I Am A Time Traveling Thought Zombie, Mining Intellectual Property Before It’s Even Conceived.  

No, wait… I mean I Am An Urban Homesteader!!!! 

So… have you ever heard of Jules Dervaes?  The Dervaes Institute?  No?  Not exactly a household name, right?  Well, maybe not for the average American household, but within the urban homesteading community, he was sort of well known.  He and his weirdo kids adult offspring took a pretty small suburban yard, and, starting around the turn of the millennium, turned it into a sort of mini-farm, complete with chickens, crops and compost.  They’ve tried to minimize their electrical usage, through a variety of means.  He read a lot of information on urban homesteading, and they established a pretty popular self-aggrandizement rant website.  He even participated in a VH1 show, which was trying to humiliate selfish hoebags  better Young Americans.

And then he decided that, not only had he accomplished all these admirable things, he had INVENTED them.  Yep, he is now the self-styled “Founder of the Urban Homestead Movement”.  Last fall, Dervaes and his family, under the name The Dervaes Institute (a non-profit, listed as a church) filed for and received a trademark for the terms ‘urban homestead’ and ‘urban homesteading’. (Please note, I refuse to put the little R in a circle after these terms, or a TM, or whatever the hell they want.)  This, despite a not-trifling number of publications which use the term, either in their title or in the meat of the writing.  Despite the enormous number of blogs and businesses which use the term.  Clearly someone in the US trademark department was brain dead,  asleep at the wheel, certifiably deficient… oh hell, they were brain dead, asleep at the wheel, and certifiably deficient. But this isn’t even the worst part!  Last week, the Dervaes family successfully petitioned Facebook to take down every page that didn’t credit the Dervaeses with ownership of the term.  (Many of these were business pages, used to communicate with customers.  Check out http://www.denverurbanhomesteading.com/ )  Further, they sent a letter to Google, complaining that an Amazon listing, which advertised a book PUBLISHED MORE THAN TWO YEARS PRIOR TO THE TRADEMARK AWARD, was infringing upon their intellectual property, and should be stopped.  

I can hear your thoughts:  “Hahaha!  That’s a funny corporate joke you made there, Elizabeth! Wait… what? You’re SERIOUS?!?” 

 Again, according to his own published timeline, he didn’t start his urban homestead until around the time of the Y2K scare.  While the Dervaes family may have been pioneers in PROMOTING urban homesteading through NEW MEDIA, (they do have a very successful self-promotion website) they are not pioneers in the urban homestead field. In fact, based on their own timeline, they are quite late to the game. In 1975, the mayor of Boston, Kevin White, used the term in his Section 810 Urban Homesteading Proposal. Jules Dervaes himself, in his biography, says he took the first dozen issues of Mother Earth News with him to New Zealand in the mid 70′s, and that publication has been using the term since they began publishing in 1970. In a recent letter the family published, trying to explain their actions, the Dervaes family likens their trademark to Nike and Apple trademarking their names. However, Nike did not trademark “tennis shoe”. THAT is the true equivalent to what the Dervaes family has done. Had they trademarked the name “Dervaes Method of Urban Homesteading”, no one would be upset.  (We’d actually get a giggle out of it.  It sounds really self-helpy, and not in a good way, but in an infomercial for birth control way.) Instead, they have practiced an arrogant revisionist history, declared Jules Dervaes the “Father of Urban Homesteading” (seriously, read his bio) and pretended that all the books. articles, and how-to treatises that came before, when they were still blissfully ignoring the idea, and eating Taco Bell (again, read their self-authored bio) simply never existed, or somehow plagarized a thought process they hadn’t even come to yet. Patently, TRADEMARKEDLY ridiculous.

   I’m an urban homesteader.  Many of my friends and acquaintances are urban homesteaders.  In fact, I personally was growing food and preserving it, sewing clothing for my children, bartering garden labor for services and making soap, years before he had his epiphany. (An epiphany, seriously, that came on an ingredients list for a Taco Bell Taco.  No lie.  On a lunch break from picketing the church that kicked him out.  I couldn’t make this crap up if I tried.)

 So… should a common term be the fodder for trademark?  If so, I trademark ‘Mom’.  After all, I bring something different to the term.  Using the logic followed by Dervaes and his family, I can trademark ‘Mom’ because I have a unique spin on motherhood.  I do ‘Mom’ like no one else has ever done ‘Mom’.  As a matter of fact, those who filled a maternal role before me were obviously not quite there, know what I mean? They were ALMOST ‘Mom’, but really, were they as good as me?  Ugh… that’s exactly how stupid this is.

Jules Dervaes is NOT the father of MY Urban Homestead.  His seed ain’t anywhere around here.  I refuse to recognize this trademark.  And I am an Urban Homesteader.

Donkey, Ass

On its best days, Hollywood makes no sense. Look at Tom Cruise. If he makes any sense to you, you may need more help than modern pharmacology can offer.

Hollywood is filled with artistes. People who brim with creative vision, their own ideas and takes on any given topic. All this percolating genius builds up on the inside of the artiste like calcium stains in a coffee pot. Eventually, all you have left are white deposits in funny patterns and a really strange taste left in anything you brew there.

All this coffee talk came from an article I read last night. Gore Verbinski, it seems, has taken on the task of remaking the Lone Ranger. With Johnny Depp cast as Tonto. Now, I grew up on the Lone Ranger. I haven’t seen an episode in years and years, but the last time I checked, Tonto was Native American. Johnny Depp – isn’t.

He is, however, a very large star, and popular like pre-sliced white bread. If you want an actor to draw in audiences, he’s one of them. We’ll gloss right over all the insulting and racially insensitive overtones of this choice. You know them, I know them, and really, since this all gets weirder, we don’t need to stop there.

Weirder, you say? I did, yes. Because…

Director Gore Verbinski is taking inspiration for the central relationship not from the dusty reels of the TV show, but from literary classic Don Quixote. In the new version, the Lone Ranger turns out to be a misguided fool and Tonto the voice of sanity, akin to Quixote’s companion, Sancho Panza.

“The only version of The Lone Ranger I’m interested in doing is Don Quixote told from Sancho Panza’s point of view,” Verbinski told the Los Angeles Times’s “Hero Complex” film blog last week. Suddenly it becomes a lot easier to see why Depp would take the role. “I was honest early on with Johnny that Tonto is the part. We’re not going to do it [straight]; everyone knows that story. I don’t want to tell that story,” the director said.

Wait, wait, wait.

Let me see if I understand this right. The only version of the Lone Ranger story Verbinski wants to do is…Don Quixote. He doesn’t want to tell the Lone Ranger story because everyone knows that story. So he wants to tell the Don Quixote story instead, because no one knows that story.

This is a little like saying you want to direct the A-Team movie. But you don’t want to tell the A-Team’s story. Instead, you want to tell the story of Henry V. Just before the Battle of Agincourt, there’s going to be a brilliant build sequence where they weld a bunch of armor into a creation which will tip the improbable battle into their favor. Then Hannibal will give a speech about Saint Crispin’s day.

And also, the part of B.A. Baracus will be played by George Clooney. He’s sure to fill the seats…

Olly Oxen

When I was a kid, we used to play Hide and Seek. The game went like this:

Someone was It. Everyone else was Not It.

The It Person would count to some pre-designated number. If playing “fair”, the person would count at the top of his lungs and at a slow, measured pace which resembled seconds. When playing “dirty”, the person would count under their breath and at a speed which would have made Billy Mays reach for more blow to keep up.

Those who were Not It would run and scatter to find the most obscure hiding place possible. Most times, they didn’t even end up going to the emergency room for having shared a spot under the shed with a black widow.

The It Person would traditionally yell, “Ready or not, here I come!” Then the hunt would start, hopefully to find the kid who ended up with the spider before the allergic reaction to the venom got too bad.

Now, sometimes, a kid couldn’t find a hiding spot before time ran out. Or perhaps they’d found two, and had trouble deciding. One could endure no greater embarrassment than to end up caught out, choosing between behind the tree or under the car. In such a situation, only one solution could provide any relief: blame the It Person.

“You didn’t yell, ‘Ready or not, here I come!’ No fair!”

I bring up this slice of childhood because I read something which reminded me of those younger, simpler times. Mayor Bloomburg of New York authorized “stings” at gun shows in Arizona to see if one could buy guns illegally there, especially those such as what were used in the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

To no one’s surprise, private investigators came back with a well-exercised Second Amendment.

The investigators bought a Glock 17 9 mm handgun without a background check and two 33-round extended magazines from private sellers. Investigators also bought a Sig Sauer Pro 9 mm handgun and a Smith & Wesson handgun from two private sellers who continued with the sales even after being told by the undercover buyers that they probably could not pass a background check.

The Arizona Attorney General was horrified, of course, and vowed to do whatever he could to bring gun shows in line with the law- No, haha, just kidding. He bleated like a goat about the entire thing.

Bloomberg’s office didn’t bother to give Arizona police any advanced notice of the plan, Attorney General Tom Horne said.

“The fact that no such notification was made indicates this so-called sting is nothing less than a public relations stunt,” Horne said.

This sounds really familiar to me. “You didn’t yell, ‘Ready or not, here I come!’ No fair!”

All right, so it was rude. I get that. Bloomburg didn’t play nice. He didn’t count out loud, he counted too fast, and he didn’t say he was coming. I hate to tell Mr. Horne, but the people looking to chlorinate the gene pool a little by shooting up a Walmart aren’t going to, either. Public relations stunt or no, it brought up a valid point.

Maybe, though, the AG in AZ is right. We need to go back to the days of our youth. We don’t need gun control laws. We need Ready or Not Laws! If everyone who wanted to maim, rape, shoot, bend, fold, spindle or mutilate another person would just yell, “Ready or not!” then there would be no problem. Everyone could find a hiding place. If we got really fancy, we could tack Olly Olly Oxenfree laws on the end where, if the shooter couldn’t find someone to hammer in a set amount of time, everyone got to come in safely. Then they’d have to file another Ready or Not Notice and try again.

In closing, I leave you with what a rational discussion about this might look like:

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