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Friday, June 26, 2009

Update on Sanford and his "ain't putting up with your philandering ass" wife

Okay, I'll admit it. I love seeing self-righteous people eat a faceful of dirt. It's glorious fun. It's why clowns exist in the world, because if the clown bites it, you expect that. It's not funny when a clown walks into a wall or trips over his own feet or takes a banana cream pie to the face. It's -hilarious- when Rush Limbaugh does. Likewise, when Anne Coulter begins raging against the liberal Democrats who are destroying society and demanding that women stay at home and abdicate their careers to their husbands, I love seeing intelligent women step back and say, "Hey, weren't you a liberal pundit before they realized you weren't entertaining? And don't you have a career you put before cookies and staying at home with kids?"

But man oh man, do I like seeing someone who raised his entire concept of being a guy who put family, kids, wife and country first stand in front of press conference after press conference to a candidacy for Presidential aspiration in the GOP stumble his way through a speech without his wife standing by his side.

In point of fact, she booted his butt out, waiting until the kids hit summer vacation so the news, etc, wouldn't interrupt their schooling. And rather than stand behind him at a press conference with clenched jaw and plastic stony eyes as she "supported him" in his decision for his political reasons, I have visions of her simply putting down the phone and walking away from it the minute the subject was breached.

Look, how people handle infidelity is their own lookout, but I can assure more people that after being on the opposite ends of that coin several times during my dating career, if infidelity occurs in a relationship, it's pretty obvious I'm going to not feel terribly tied down myself.

And men in power have a magnetism about them that some girls just really dig, but when one attaches the identity they've self-created to an image of God, Momma's Apple Pie and the Flag, with a white picket fence and the American Dream, to convert to philandering Latin playboy on the sly just won't end well.

I mean, don't get me wrong. Part of the reason I happily and cheerfully voted for Obama was the disclosure that they had discussed it as a family, and without a commitment to his family in the form of the grandmother living with them in the White House, they weren't going to seriously consider it. Truth be told, how could you?

I greatly respect Ron Sims, the former King County executive and current Deputy , because at one point someone called in on a local talk radio show and lambasted him for not attending what the caller said was a vitally important meeting. Sims replied, "That meeting was on a Wednesday. I have dinner, every Wednesday night, whatever else goes on in my life, with my wife on Wednesday. There is no compromise on that." When asked if that was her rule, he said, "No. That's my rule."

I'm currently hanging out in T's flat with her cat, who seems to enjoy the common feline protest method of gorging oneself and hurking it up on my shoes. He's doing this because she's in eastern Washington at the moment doing family stuff for the next few days, and I'm here because he's neurotic enough as it is without being left alone for four days. (Also, she has cable. And Food Network.) And as far as that goes, having to spend more than two days away from T is annoying as hell.

Sure, I happily enjoy the summer dresses and the steady realization that there's a LOT of blonde chicks in Seattle who seem to appear more often when the weather changes for the better, but would I throw a wrecking ball into my current life and love just to try a new sexual smorgasbord? Not a chance. I miss T a stupidly large amount at the moment and I know part of that is remembering that there are reasons I'm with her and not with, say, Slutty Summer Dress Chick Number 12, ranging from the fact that No. 12 was carrying Bud Light and talking about Dolce and Gabbana's product placement in the new Bruno movie to the fact that T's perfectly okay with me hanging out on her couch on some random evening just poking at the keys on my Mac while she pokes at the keys on her new PC.

We probably wouldn't do that on, ay, any given birthday/celebration/holiday, but it's a pleasant feeling when you realize you can let some of the barriers go.

With Sanford and his wife, I feel deeply for the fact that they grew apart, like I do for any couple who find themselves in a strained relationship, but it's kind of like people who jump on a refinance deal for their Jumbo Loans by borrowing MORE money. Really, the idea that if you can't pay your current mortgage that getting yet MORE debt is going to solve your problem is a very 2001-2008 sort of economic solution.

I suppose that's not out of character, though. The running gag of the Republicans in Congress has been "more more more more" for the last ten years and scooting out the door before the check comes. When it happens in a marriage, though, the aftershocks of the selfish bastards out to squeeze whatever they can ripple to the innocents more than they do to the people causing the problems in the first place.

But Sanford could take heed from the late Michael Jackson' reported conversation in the car on the way to his final court appearance of "Why Me? Why Me? Why are they targeting ME?" the day of his jury decision in his sexual abuse case, the answer is pretty simple.

You. Slept. With. People. Who. Were. Off. Limits.

That's not a terribly hard concept to grasp. Sure, Sanford admitted to schtupping an Argentinian MIHF and MJ was acquitted of trying to do the same to a prepubescent boy, but the action that got both of them in trouble was the same. Sanford, consensually, MJ acquitted, but accused of nonconsensually.

But eh. People in powerful positions are interesting. On some level I think it would be incredibly cool to be on TV and be a contestant in X, Y, or Z reality show, but on another level I've seen the supermarket tabloids, and I'm fully aware that there is no human on the face of the planet who is protected from that media spotlight once it lands on them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sanford, sons, and polyamory

I'm fairly sure that the three chirping crickets following the occasional update to this blog are A) intelligent not to click on links about polyamory or sex or relationships at work B) probably my significant other and/or a limited audience who've found their way here via my half-hearted links via the web, or C) both.

That said, I'm about to delve into NSFW categories of information. The following is probably not kosher reading material, but I'm always curious about the way people approach different decisions.

For instance, I'm both delighted and astounded that during the Iranian presidential election, President "No Really, I'm Not an Unstable Puppethead Dictator Who Enjoys Non-Alcoholic Pina Coladas, Long Walks on the Beach and Crushing All Political Opposition" Ahmadinejad used the Persian equivalent of "Yes, We Can" for his campaign slogan. Delighted, because it's terribly fun to watch hypocrisy in action. Astounded because it's questionable if he realized how much of a bonehead move ripping off the election slogan from the current leader of The Great Satan was going to be at the time.

I'm also fairly certain that President Nutsy didn't really think people were going to whine about yet another thrown election in his favor, or that by using Twitter to try to round up Iranian dissidents based on time zone he discounted how many people from San Francisco to Berlin would cheerfully set their local time to Tehran. But it is Iran, and they are very good at rounding up and kangaroo-courting dissidents. Of course, "fully democratic elections" in countries headed by dictatorships often result in political testiness when the people don't shut up and vote like they're told to, but in thirty years or so I'm sure the Iranian revolutionaries will all look back on this and laugh. Or cough in their prison cells. One of the two.

But politico-topic-of-the-day aside, I'm always fascinated on some level with the decisions someone makes that I'm fairly sure I would never make myself. For instance, an eighteen-year old Belgian girl who got 56 star tattoos on her face and blamed the artist when her father went nuclear. Sometimes these little white lies work in your favor, but telling people you passed out under nine needles injecting stinging liquid under your skin, on your face, is less likely to work unless you've a genetic disorder (like your brain being missing) that skipped a generation.

And I am very sure that teenage pregnancy, for most, is more about making decisions that have a critical effect on the rest of your life and for the life of your child and way less about using your new-found fertility as a path to fame and glory.

For instance, I'm fairly sure that if Jesus was born today in an "immaculate conception", Mary might try to be the Appointed face of Abstinence Only Education, while Joseph meandered back to play hockey....er, I mean, try to be an involved parent in the life of a child under the media spotlight who happens to have no actual marketable skills outside of the ability to complete wood, stone, or ice carving. And that he was told in a dream to take (wink wink, nudge nudge) Mary to prove earthly birth legitimacy prior to the actual wedding ceremony that would have made that whole angelic vision unneccessary. Oh, and he's rumored to be half Mexican. Er, Babylonian. What was I talking about? Riiiight. Use condoms and/or think about what one would do to obtain condoms, kids, or you'll wind up with a kid of your own who might grow up to found a new religion analyzing your every move from his birth to your death. Or be a political icon symbolizing teenage pregnancy. Your choice.

In some strange way I completely understand the mental acrobatics we go through as well. The question I asked multiple times to teenagers who had questions about whether it was okay to have condoms in your wallet was simply, "No".

Upon further explanation, my reasoning was this: if you're going to have sex, you're going to do it safely and accurately with a minimum of fussing around. To that end, getting condoms, lube, and practicing both the adornment and removal of the contraceptives isn't by any stretch (heh, heh) of the imagination a preplanning for sin or sinnerdom, it's basically figuring out ahead of time how to drive safely. Nobody flicks us crap for knowing how to do CPR even if you never hang around people with quadruple bypasses and/or poor swimming skills, but it's useful information to have in the event you ever do. Admittedly, nobody walks around with a CPR faceshield in their back pocket, either. The phrase "time and place" factors in immensely, and is also specific vis-a-vis stupid places to fumble with said condoms: broom closets, backseats of cars, long grass, poison ivy, camping trips, the fifteen minutes her mom's going to be at the store, etc. If these kids who know how to use condoms never actually enact that knowledge until their wedding day, who cares? The removal of that information from their arsenal is as intelligent as leaving loaded pistols around, saying NO TOUCHY and not mentioning why you should not juggle them or try to spin them on your fingers.

I like to think that at the very least when I give awkward teenagers the advice of "who cares about marriage? Wait until you have exactly the right time, the right context, the right setting and have enough condoms and lube to make latex animals afterwards" they cognate the connection between "accidental sperm in vagina" and "baby come out". How they term "accidental" is purely up to them - via fuckup in condom or the heat of the moment of teenage naked lust monkeys on some snowbank in Alaska near the Russian border.

It's easy to take what seems cuckoo to the majority of people and label it with a swash of prurience as "deviant" or "decadent". Heck, even, articles about Jon and Kate's recently announced divorce have begun questioning whether or not their divorce is "unChristian", to which I have to ask, "Did you even WATCH the show? I'm pretty sure Satan lives on Earth and has taken the form of a hyperfertile blonde chick in Hershey, Pennsylvania." I've taken the precaution of crossing myself each time I pass the checkout stand with all those devilishly chocolate goodies, just in case, but again, I find it fascinating that there are still people who believe in some unnamed, undefined "sanctity of marriage" when a cable television channel shows hours of incredibly shallow people enthusiastically violating it more than an Iranian protestor's human rights.

I'm actually wondering why the "unChristian" questioners are less concerned for the safety and home environment of eight children born to freaky reproductively greedy parents who barely tolerate each other living under the glare of a hundred cameras and a train of babysitters. Oh, and more paparazzi than your average nude beach hosting Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But hey, if God didn't want you to suffer through a marriage made in hell compounded by insane reproductive technology choices and half-assed cable network TV stardom, he wouldn't have founded the modern bedrock laws of the institution of marriage, right? Or maybe that was, say, the Roman Empire. In either case, whether Yahweh, Jupiter, or Zeus codified the institution of marriage into the traditions known today, I'm fairly sure whatever deity currently approves or disapproves of human partnerships would be fingering thunderbolts, rivers of blood, or a plague of toads. (Unless "toad" is mistranslated from the ancient Aramaic scriptures and truly means "scribes and sculptors who shalt follow you everywhere, lo, writing upon thy foibles and critiquing how fat thy clothes makest thou look".)

And the thing is, when someone holds up a highly biased example of what NOT to do in a generalized type of relationship, I tend to scramble for another example, even though I'm fairly certain that the next example is going to be fraught with near-identical issues. It's like finding out that the McDonald's down the street found e.coli contaminated meat and running to the next nearest one instead - the probability factors don't increase in your favor.

But the thing is, "Oh, my goodness, how unChristian this whole divorce thing is!" sounds to me less like a protestation of the needs of the people involved and way more cover-your-ass condemnation from the people who can't stop themselves from telling you how much your afterlife is going to SUCK if you don't give them 10% of your income.

And I will fully admit it, I once was in a stage of my life where I would think the whole "Jon and Kate" mucky divorce/religiously-inspired baby factory saga would be limited to monogamous couples in Christian-church sanctioned marriages.

But oh, no. No no no. See, monogamy carries its own burden of issues, but polygamy and polyamory are even MORE fun.

Truly, as a guy who would be best described as a serial monogamist, happily ensconsced in a monogamous relationship, I comprehend what a pain in the ass it's got to be to juggle the emotional lives and needs of more than one person at once. When I wasn't in a committed relationship, I called that "dating". I came to the fast realization that I'm simply not an emotional multitasker above two, and frankly some days I'm rated only to handle my own. Trying to maintain more than one physically and emotionally romantic relationship at a time is exhausting, and I'm not making an oblique reference to Cialis. God help you if you're trying to run a large institution, company, country, or state and screw up so badly you go missing for five days while your staff scrambles for excuses. "Hiking in the Appalachians! Yeah! That's WAY better than the Emergency Defense of Marriage meeting off the coast of Argentina!" Ah, no, Sanford. Not really.

Anyway, in a very long ramble, I've come to the spark point of this post, which was the local polyamorous advocate's blog a friend of mine recommended. http://rosephase.blogspot.com/ is written as a blog dedicated to the philosophy behind one person's personal choice to have open relationships.

And by and large, I agree with many of the philosophical arguments most evanglists of polyamory espouse. Had Sanford discreetly approached his wife about having an affair with a mutual Argentinian friend and figured out a way to bounce the peso, so to speak, in the governor's mansion with full permission, I'm fairly sure this whole scandal he's now in wouldn't have found itself anywhere near the front page. However, by vanishing off the face of the earth for five days sans anyone knowing where he was headed, it became a full-blown sex scandal, replete with the now-banal, "I have been unfaithful to my wife" describing a relationship the Bible-thumping, "get morality back in government now" governor had with the woman who, eight years ago, advised him to stay with his wife for the sake of the kids.

Eight years ago a divorce would be career suicide for a rising star of the Republican party (okay, any rising star of any American political party), so it's a tad misleading to beat Sanford too harshly, and the obvious joke that the Edwards' estate in Chapel Hill has expanded the doghouse to include Minority and Majority suites is, well, obvious, now that I've made it.

But what I think our reactions to on so many levels with this kind of insanity generated around whose genitals conjoin with whose is not that the organs are doing anything out of the ordinary, but rather the hypocrisy and the mendacity that surrounds them.

Had Jon and Kate simply said, "Screw it, you're a bitch and you're a bastard" early on prior to trying for kids to salvage their relationship, and gotten divorced, they'd have no more cause for celebrity than your average hyperfertile-with-the-aid-of-fertility-drugs/surgery people. No harm, no foul, and it's possible that the two of them might not have pulled five seasons of television from a cable network known previously for its dedication to estrogen-laden made-for-TV-movies.

I'm fairly sure I personally know (and adore) the writer of rosephase both for their warmth and their generosity of spirit, but I'm also fairly full of stories I can tell of polyamorous individuals and the more libertine examples of their ways. Contextually most of those stories involve massive amounts of booze and controlled environments, but the actions speak incredibly true to stereotypes of young hipsters running amok nekkid, and while I know that indeed, there are warm, generous, healthy, happy polyamorous individuals and couples out there, the ratio of those folks to the maniacally callous Swingers of Hipster Love is few and far between. These days, polyamory is polyfuckery - the use of the word love substituted for a simple fix of moral flexibility for someone unable or unwilling to compromise their own needs in partnership for another.

But you know, the straight-and-narrowists who vigorously defend pestle-and-mortar marriage at all costs are simply losing the battle when it comes to bastions of Faith and Devotion...to one's wife or husband. And I can hear the self-ascribed freaky-freaks cheering in the background as once again, Republican and Democrat Soapboxers alike admit to the inability to keep it in their pants. I'm not exactly sure what they're cheering, or why someone breaking a promise of trust is cheerworthy, but I get it. Watching someone self-righteous and haughty get it in the nose with a cream pie of their own making is comedy gold.

Likewise, when Sanford pleads with the press not to interfere with his wife, it doesn't ring true. As a political figure, he knows that ain't going to happen, and as a husband, he OUGHT to know that his betrayal of her is all the more painful because damn near -everyone- with an Internet connection on the planet now has an idea of what he did to her. I am positive that on many an Internet Blog promoting the many benefits of uncontrolled polyamory, the cry, "Well, that just shows how much monogamy is unnatural and fails to keep people happy" will crop up.

Hell, I'm pretty sure they were out in front of the Christian apologists noting that Jesus forgave him long ago and it isn't up to the masses to critique his ways.

But Jon and Kate? Now them's a rich, juicy target for The Lord.

In a large way I think the writer of this blog misses the point of "marriage" as a written concept in much the same way opponents of "gay marriage" or proponents of "opposite marriage" miss the point when discussing the actuality of it. And while it's good, solid argumentation, it's misleading, nonetheless.
"The whole premise behind marriage is exclusiveness? The whole premise is keeping other people away from something you have to give, like love or sex? And exclusive love... LOVE? If you are married you can’t love your friends? Love your children, love your family?

Yes, yes but those are different kinds of love so they don’t count. I dare you to try and love two people in the same way. You can’t. Love is like any other connection it is individual and unique for the person you are connecting with.

But really the thing that bothers me about this is - I don’t want to be a part of any institutions that are about exclusivity. I don’t join golf clubs.

Marriage is about commitment, it’s about celebrating a relationship, it’s about bringing people together. Families, friends, and yes sometimes lovers. It’s about sharing your love with the community. Marriage, as I choose to see it, is about opening your relationship. It’s about inviting people into your life and your love.

Love isn’t about keeping people out; it’s about letting people in. Marriage is a celebration of love." - rosephase.blogspot.com


Well...kind of? What marriage as a word has meant for centuries was "legalization of a relationship involving two sexually and romantically involved persons of differing gender allowing rights of inheritance and co-ownership of property for said persons of differing gender except for the one with no Y chromosome." Only in the past century has that Y chromosome gained some status, but not universally, and the expectation that the social acceptance of said partnership will show up any day is still kind of silly, what with the continuance of White Power organizations and neo-Nazi movements fifty years after the American Civil Rights movement and not fifteen after the racial genocides in Rwanda.

That marriage SHOULD be defined as a partnership between two individuals who have chosen to join families isn't in question; the indignant outrage that the society's acceptance of marriages that add "forsaking all others except the ones we think are hot and/or unlikely to challenge my/your place in your/my sexual and emotional hierarchy" hasn't quite caught on yet seems kind of odd, if not misplaced.

And yes, I'm fully aware that polyamory as a personal choice is not that stereotype, but I'm also aware that the unique challenges facing most polyamorous couples regarding the issues of jealousy continue, as always, to converge on a pecking order hierarchy of sexual preference - if not between genders, then between sexual partners.

I am fully positive that many people in marriages that are marriages of political and financial benefit conduct their sexual lives out of the spotlight, and would not be shocked if Condi Rice and W had a thing going on the side under Laura Bush's nose. Woefully chuckling and waiting for the tell-all tapes from the Oval Office to be released forty years from now, but not terribly shocked.

And honestly, why not compare a marriage or a long-term partnership to a golf club? Why not compare a personal series of relationships in your life to an exclusive club where you, as the property owner, get to decide who plays and who doesn't? I have had divots and mulligans a-plenty, and only through my admission of who gets to play on my fields and who doesn't did I figure out that I'm perfectly fine and I'm willing to close my gates to all other players once the right one walks on the course. Most golf clubs are like that - admission is limited based on attributes. Love can be as well. But someone who declares themselves open to all is going to get a lot more damage over the long haul.

Or, as I found out at the age of seventeen, "public golf course" doesn't actually mean "public and open to anyone, more specifically horny teenagers who decided that the private spot over by the ninth hole would be perfect for two people to have their initial sexual experience". It does, however, often connote a greenskeeper with a sense of humor and a set of well-timed sprinkler systems. In other words, the public versus private golf courses still cost a good deal of money, time, and energy, and with the public ones you have to deal with all kinds of secondary issues you don't neccessarily have to deal with at the private ones.

But I can't really see the idea presented by many polyamorous evangelists that by being polyamorous, one rejects the sexual stereotypes pushed to us from the media of one man, one woman. If anything I think the media tends to be more schizoid than that - the best example being Neal Patrick Harris, a gay man playing a man's man getting all the ladies, or straight men playing gay men, or straight women playing man-to-woman transexuals.

I am truly not shocked that sexual relationships are complicated and people use elaborate naming conventions and tracking systems to try to make some sense of them, but the simple reality is this: people are complicated critters, from the asexual to the amorously uninhibited and everywhere inbetween, and the idea that any one mode of human sexual behavior is "right" or "wrong" or can fix everything that happens to be wrong with people and/or society is narrow-minded zealotry, whatever flavor it actually happens to be.

Every single one of the indicators that the writer of Rosephase states in the post on June 6 apply equally to monogamous or nonmonogamous relationships. Well, for the most part. The two that talk about individuals who are involved with monogamous others are designed more for the poly community, but someone who wants to be the primary emotional and romantic focus should probably watch out for that kind of person as well.

What it comes down to is not that Jon and Kate's divorce is unChristian, or that Governor Sanford's marriage could have been saved by polyamory and/or a tactic bootycall understanding. Or even that the Alaska branch of the governors have taken more than their fair share of crazy but rather that these people done screwed up their lives, publicly, letting their greed overtake their other needs.

Because frankly, even though I've gleefully desecrated via chapter-and-verse quotation more than one official Xian Church doctrine throughout this entire post, I'm a firm adherent of the mantras of Jesus: namely, love one another and be open to love in return. Be kind to those less fortunate than yourself. Be a child of God and the world, and be true to yourself and those whom you choose to love. It's a pretty simple system of action and behavior that doesn't get adhered to very often primarily because of the issues of greed in their way.

The issues of polyamory, monogamy, Christianity and basic human decency are still one and the same - to earn, and deserve the trust of those you choose to keep in your life is the driving force behind most, if not all of human interaction. Whether you choose to share that openly with many or privately with one, it matters ONLY that you stand fast and never violate the foundations of trust that your relationship, your belief system, or your political constructs are founded upon.

And if you fuck that up on national TV, we're all gonna laugh at you.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Meghan McCain published a recent blog about what it's like to be the daughter of a political candidate in the GOP and female. More to the point: she said what pretty much every single person with half a brain who isn't a FoxNews correspondent or pundit believes, and that is that Bristol Palin should step down as the self-anointed abstinence education spokesperson for America.

It's kind of like saying Rod Blagoyovich is perfect as the anti-corruption spokesperson because he's got that whole corruption experience. And while Bristol Palin's ex-boyfriend, who ditched out faster than Palin's speechwriting team the minute she started talking about foreign policy in the 2008 presidential campaign is probably citing the most important part of being daddy to the central figure in the current War On Unwed Baby Mammas to his hockey buds, you have to wonder why the hell Bristol Palin even matters.

After all, this is the daughter of a woman filled with hypocrisy and idiotic manuevers. She's "down-home" and "homey", but at the same time trying to run a large financial institution, and failing harder than Boss Hogg at a speed trap for the Duke boys. And poor Bristol never asked to be front-and-center in the debate over teenage pregnancy, family planning, and abstinence education, but she sure is stepping up to Mama's game and rolling with the punches.

That's the thing. Both Palins put themselves front-and-center into the controversy by simply walking forward. They could have done the classy thing and kept the personal lives of the Palins out of the spotlight, but instead they chose to highlight the Palin family as an all-American tribe. Unfortunately, it was an all-American tribe filled with high school dropouts, unwed mothers, and welfare recipients, and nothing plays worse against two men of deep education and passion than a corrupt family of hillbillies. McCain's worst mistake of the campaign in 2008 was bowing to the pressure of the GOP, and not bringing Joe Liebermann on board as his VP - and the crazy bimbo from Alaska is letting him know it, one stupid publicity stunt at a time.

The Palins have nearly surpassed the Spears' family - you know, that family of incredibly brainless, talentless singers and media moguls formed out of the bowels of Disney - as the new family to watch of How Not To Do It. Palin's new crusade against unwed motherhood comes just four months after her son was born - and if an 18-year old daughter whose passions included standing behind Mom in a photo op for the presidency for the last year isn't being led around by the nose of a handling crowd, I too am a marshmellow sandwich.

What deeply offends me the most about the Palins and their most recent hop-skip-and-jump into familal celebritism is that Palin (the governor) demands privacy of her family, but then flaunts them publicly when it suits her. Unfortunately Palin hasn't learned the game - you can't have the cake and eat it too. Her grandson cannot both be the apple of her eye and a cherished being while simultaneously being held up as the Worst Thing EVAH for a teenage mother.

The Palins are, in essence, using and abusing the child they have in order to score political points with the GOP cadre that hasn't dismissed them as the wacky hillbillies that tend to play Gomer Pyle to the rest of the GOP's Atticus Finch. The sheer volume of hypocrisy regarding family issues that has developed around Bristol Palin and her child is staggering, and on some level I just want to tell her to shut up, get a real job, go to college, get a degree, and raise that kid out of the spotlight.

Because one of these days that little boy will grow up and realize that for a good long time in his life, he was a symbol - the symbol, in point of fact, of all unwanted and unplanned children. Every political hack that speaks in favor of the Palin plan, every individual who listens to the Palins talk at any length on the subject increase the meaning of this child as a symbol of "I done messed up, don't you mess up too."

You cannot have cake and eat it too. I honestly don't care if GOP daughters are getting it on left and right; I couldn't care less if the Palins have twenty out-of-wedlock kids, I simply don't want those children being used as props in some misguided political stumping. When I see billboards declaiming that children are precious, I wonder how many dollars were spent putting billboards up instead of feeding young children in poor neighborhoods by self-righteous people intent on running other peoples' lives for them.

In short, the Palins are a circus of incredibly silly people, and I truly hope they stop and go back to the business of being just people again, instead of clamoring for media attention. They came on the scene as fast as they could - it's time for them to go back.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mac / Microsoft Wars. Again.

After a day of mucking around in Seattle, dealing with emissions tests, licensing, getting my tabs renewed (and license plates changed), and then dealing with insurance, I came home to run tests on the parental units' new computer, which I'm going to be running south to Eugene at some point next week. Now, in the midst of cleaning up the bloatware on their admittedly fast and awesome new machine, I did come across this little gem on Wired.com regarding the prices of new Macbooks, and the knowledge that what I use daily is called a "premium" machine.

Microsoft's ad campaign, conducted in a neo-sleazy advertising "reality" show format, has bothered me for multiple reasons - namely, that if you actually know what the heck you're doing, an Apple laptop is just another machine, albeit one without a laptop button. Microsoft, on the other hand, picks young women shopping with their mothers and/or young attractive women with a slightly ditzy air to them fast-tracking to different machines and making disparaging chicky-type comments about the machine's surface appearance.

The Apple format on their laptops is pretty basic and standard - silver keyboard layout with backlit keys, comfort, and a trackpad. What I'm writing on at the moment is a simple, basic one I pulled from the Apple Refurbished Store for an incredible deal when the new Mac lineup came out - and it's still miles ahead of any PC out there on the market simply in terms of processing power and markups. Plus, it's a Mac, so I know that if I need it rebooted so that someone more competent than myself needs to muck around with the innards, someone has the capacity to do it.

Now, this ad from Microsoft has two women meandering through Best Buy - which is a multiple-unit store with limited range in computers and limited specs available on each machine. And what I find so disingenuous about the ad campaign is that Microsoft is impugning the hardware of a Mac - not the software.

The funny thing for me is that Mac really is a machine supplier with a boutique OS. I use Mac OS X not only on this machine, a Macbook Pro, but on the Hackintosh used in the living room which also has the capacity for Ubuntu and BeOS - neither of which is used very often. To build the machine in the living room cost very little - and yet this machine still outperforms the PC-built computer in many functions.

The little blonde soon-to-be law student and her mom are the epitome of "just plain folks" - the pair for whom buying a pair of shoes on sale is a major score. And yet when you're buying a machine, you want something that's durable over the long haul, not just capable of looking good with a summer dress.

Ultimately Lauren and Sue, in the Microsoft commercial, go for the $900 Dell laptop - more specifically, the Dell laptop that has been rated "better used as a frisbee" on multiple computer component rating sites. Sure, that battery is going to last as long as you need it to in a lecture hall, but what lecture hall doesn't have a power supply? What lecture will you ever need to spend more than five hours a day running your computer on? And last - a Dell computer that tends to overheat is exactly what you pay for.

The thing is, Microsoft is advertising for their operating systems, not the machines that other companies make, and yet they're doing it by sponsoring female shopping sprees into large chain retailers. I say vaguely creepy, because the money handed to the two women at the end of the show reminds me all too much of a techie version of a "Girls Gone Wild" video, complete with "real live women" instead of the paid actors who are running through the motions.

I know why they're doing it this way - because Apple happily says, "I'm a PC, and I'm a Mac" and note the stability of the Mac system and the ease of use that is built into the Apple system. And so help me, Mac built in the shiny of their design long ago to make sure that the sexy factor continues. But Macs, for all their slick ads and clever humor, are advertising brand identity - not software. PCs are advertising their software by trying to hit up Mac on their price point.

I guess I'm biased, because Nipper, my roommate and friend, has a Mac that he has owned for over seven years that still runs, still does what he wants it to, and doesn't have the issues that plague seven-year old PC laptops - two of which are currently under my surgical screwdriver in this room at the moment to see if I can shock their systems back into a semblance of a life. The idea that if you buy a Dell laptop now and in two or four years must buy a new one is annoying to me - though I like the upgrading challenges of a PC, I'll never really go back to a PC hardware. But that shouldn't matter to Microsoft.

I run Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Microsoft Office on my Mac. I am a happy consumer, and even as I write this, I'm doing it in a legal boot copy of Microsoft's product. I have Silverlight, I play and work in Microsoft's world a lot, and it still is one of the more comfortable systems I use on a daily basis.

But I'm working on Apple hardware. If Microsoft wasn't a software company, and instead built an incredibly cool desktop system and laptop line with the same style and edge to them that Apple currently has, I'd be all over it. I have Microsoft up the wazoo - they're the only company that makes keyboards comfortable for my hands and a trackball I can deal with for long periods of time. I am a dedicated Microsoftie and view the quirks of the operating systems as...well, just that. Quirks. Most PC meltdowns are due to bad design by the PC manufacturer or user error, not the operating system, in my experience, and so each time someone whines about how expensive Macs are or how frustrating it is to use a PC, I laugh my head off at them.

As it stands? I'll happily boot Windows 7 and Vista on my Macbook Pro with insane battery life that I got for (ready for the price tag?) $850, plus tax. From an Apple retailer. And it runs Windows most of the time. That whole "one button" thing? I remapped the keys. It's not hard. It just takes a wee bit of brainpower and the willingness to go outside one's comfort zone.

The key is knowing what you're purchasing, when you're purchasing it, and not relying on salesmen and advertising to make the decision for you. And the market of PC users have glutted themselves on machines that simply are far too powerful for what they need them for. A gamer might need 120 frames per second on their video card - my mother, who intends to use her new machine to surf the internet, work on her bookkeeping, plan gardens, and keep track of volunteers - does not. Yet she had the impression she needed a really good video card and a power supply capable of powering a microwave - thanks to misleading advertising.

Honestly, I think what bothers me most about the ad linked above is not so much that the women involved were happily bouncing around Best Buy looking at computers, but that the women who made the purchase was going into law school, and hadn't done any research at all.

One only hopes she doesn't become a public defender and screw up the defense trials of any serious criminals. I also hope she takes the money and makes legitimate purchases of the Microsoft software she had "installed" to her machine. One can dream, I suppose.
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