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Thursday, October 20, 2011

General Elections, 2011

I'm greatly amused that the general election in Washington State seems to boil down to Tim Eyman initiatives (which essentially equate to doing whatever he can to screw the entire state of Washington out of as much money as he can and getting it to flow directly to his campaign contributors - most of which simply funnel money to him in the hopes something he throws out to the wall will stick). And I'm also wondering why, of all things, we have to even vote this time around.

But here's the thing - even though I drive a SUV and live across the road from a liquor store, I still like the idea of this election having some merit. I like light rail and the concept of being able to use my Costco card to buy a fifth of Maker's Mark. It's kind of like my concealed carry permit - I don't actually own a gun, but I got the concealed carry permit to expedite the purchase of one if I wanted it. Because frankly the five-day waiting period is for people who test high on the "Don't Give That Idiot a Gun" scale, and if I DIDN'T have the carry permit, I'd have to fill out even more paperwork than I want.

So without further ado, my personal recommendations for voting in Seattle:

State Initiatives

Initiative Measure 1125

Tim Eyman is a horse's ass. Straight up, no chaser. His entire political career has been focused on getting paid initiative petition signers to cheat, lie and game the system to thrust his personal political requirements into the spotlight. This time around, the Eyman initiative's full intention is to kill regional light rail for the Seattle metro area, and funded by Kemper Freeman, someone who spent a lot of time and energy trying like hell to make sure it doesn't happen. Eyman's initiative screws with the entire process, and in said process, manages to totally fuck up the state transportation system infrastructure. Which is pretty much what Eyman wants anyway. Well, that and getting paid to be a political jerk.

Vote no. If Eyman's attached, you can bet it has nothing good for anyone except Eyman's political puppetmasters and funding geniuses.

Initiative Measure 1163
Vote Yes

Elder care is one of the things we need more of, especially because the independence of older people in our state is, to my mind, vitally important. After several conversations with my parents about the requirements of old age, Mom finally looked at me and said, "It's not that I don't want to be a burden. I just don't want to live with you if it's not absolutely neccessary." Ouch. Zing. And yet true.

I voted yes on the initiative in 2008 that required basic training, certification, criminal background checks, etc, etc, etc on home health care workers that assist disabled seniors, but the dough for the program wasn't there. This measure funds those workers and requires the legislature to fork out the dough they promised for the initiative. No excuses.

Seattle Transportation Initiative No 1

No. Sorry. I don't trust the city of Seattle to actually spend the money from car tabs on what they intend to spend it on. I'm not forking out another $120 for monorails in potentia. Screw that. You want money? Put a proposal together that shows me where that money is going. You want to charge me $60 more for car tabs for light rail, I'll pay for it. I won't pay for it to have a commission begin to discuss the concept of having a committee to work on possible future transportation projects in the city. Put light rail stations down on the map and tell me how you're going to make the buses in the city run on time instead of 30 minutes behind schedule, and I MIGHT pay more for car tabs. As it is, shut up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs: The Anti-Hero dies.

In the saga of "The World Has Lost a Genius" of the last two weeks, I feel compelled to point out that in dying, many people gloss over or ignore the flaws in a person's character.

In short, Steve Jobs died.

And Steve Jobs was, to put it nicely, one of the world's biggest assholes.

Sure, he made your phone, and commanded the design team that rebuilt Apple as a premium computer, and had an attitude of "We'll release it when it's perfect". He was a brilliant technological leader. He was a marketing and creative director without comparison in his time, and he was relentless in the pursuit of quality and function (not perfection - anyone who's tried to make Apple products play nice with other products on the market might reserve judgement).

But he also built slave labor factories in China.

He sent his critics rude, slimy emails, haranguing them into the ground, removing their access and ability to see Apple products if he didn't like what they said.

He didn't want to talk to his fans - at his own events. He blew people off who set up meetings years in advance. He routinely flipped people off when they made salient points in news conferences.

When he had a diagnosis of [X] months to live, he flooded transplant waiting lists and bumped people who'd been waiting years for theirs to get to the top of the list. He paid people off.

If he made it to an Apple meeting, he'd derail it, humiliate the presenter, and take center stage as to why it was a waste of his and everyone's time. Employees dreaded it. Conversations were recorded in the Apple cafeteria that referred to Jobs as "The Asshole".

He fired people who made simple mistakes - people whose entire careers had been pursued only to sit at the feet of the Master, to work for Jobs, to take pay cuts and do incredibly long hours just to be able to say "I work for Apple".

He routinely parked in handicapped spaces at Apple in his unplated (that's no license plate) Mercedes Benz - with no handicapped sticker, hanger, etc.

He did what could only be described as wanton, egregious cruelty and manipulation to the man who built Apple as a computer company - Steve Wozinak (and frankly, that guy is my personal geek-cred hero).

And at the end of his life the culture of Steve Jobs began to take a life of its own. For design and creative geeks who would fight to save fifty cents on a can of beans at the grocery store, he was the person who built the machine that said you were an individual. A rebel. To someone who compared the components of his computers, he was the man who knew how to spin the widespread hammerlocks on his company's technology into a badge of honor among his adherents, and took credit for the brilliant design of others' work.

Steve Jobs never designed the iPod. He didn't design the interfaces of the computers. He approved them. He browbeat his people into making perfection and being meticulous about the process. And then he sold their work.

By being the man who sold the work of his minions, he was credited with the wild success of the Apple products.

Steve Jobs was a complete asshole. He was a successful asshole, and so the world loved him, because success so often allows cover ups of the character flaws. But when the world speaks of Steve Jobs, they talk only about his miraculous success. Not that he was worse than most of the Evil People of Microsoft, that his entire fiscal policy revolved around himself, that he never gave away money, or that his entire career and life was built upon the destruction and manipulation of others. Had he been born five or six hundred years previously, he would fit beautifully along the manipulative, effective, cruel Borgia popes and slave-trading mercenaries of the Venetian nobility - not the Leonardo da Vincis, the Galileos, or Shakespeareans.

In essence, Steve Jobs was not a creative genius. He was not an icon of brilliance of design or simplicity. He was a cruel, ruthless, relentlessly perfectionist bastard who had an iron grip on his company and ran it in a culture of fear, reprisal, and retribution. He used people; he institutionalized top-down control over products and he routinely screwed people who wanted to work with him.

It wasn't likely that he'd step down or move on to other things, and so it is only with his death that Steve Jobs can longer run Apple like the Inquisition on crack.

When viewing Jobs as a professional, I cannot mourn his death. I look at his successes and I think that he made some contributions to the world, but he wasn't a genius. He wasn't a Great Man. He was a Great Flaming Asshole, and while he got some stuff done, in ten years' time his legacy shall only be that he got the world to plug in their headsets and listen to overpriced downloadable music.

I realize this isn't a popular take on his life and times, but I also think Steve Jobs knew what he was, what he was doing, and was content with that role in his life. He described the movie The Pirates of Silicon Valley as accurate and praised the actor portraying him. The actor - Noah Wylie - made him out to be a manipulative, scheming, explosively angry man who destroyed people on a whim.

In the end at our deaths we forgive many of the trespasses that we have made upon the world and those whom we have touched. It's possible that Jobs did this at his end, and for those he loved and who loved him, that may be enough. But to blind ourselves to the measure of the man who dies and to hide away the darkness of his character is to do ourselves and the person who dies a disservice.

To say this to his family and friends, and those still mourning his loss would be yet another act of an asshole, and so I can only say that I would never wish to injure his loved ones at a time of grief. I don't know if he played basketball with his kids or made ebleskivers every Sunday morning, or tucked them into bed at night, or as he lay dying wrote each of them a book about his life with them, or told them how much he loved them. That's their private grief, and nobody can share that with them.

But those who aren't grieving - who are merely commenting and lauding Steve Jobs because of the things he did - they should know better.

Jobs was an asshole, and he knew it. He was a magnificent asshole, but he is not someone whose passing is truly mourned. He was an icon - and as George Armstrong Custer and many other cultural fixtures are, will likely be viewed with rosy-tinted glasses for years to come.

But frankly, I saw the measure of the man when he was alive. And I for one do not mourn his passing as a professional. As someone who died far too young of cancer, yes, I can say his passing is sad. But those lauding him are not judging him based on his life as a man. They're judging him based on his life as a cultural icon. And believe me when I say we have much better men to look to as examples of how to both be a role model, an effective leader, and a person.

Nobody wants to speak ill of the dead, for fear that when they die, others will speak ill of them. And the sad truth is that even the most glorious, sanctified person on Earth will be vilified in the hearts of others. You can't live life without having people hate you, or love you, or ignore you. It is simply the way things are.

One line of of Joss Whedon's Firefly seems accurate - "Every man who had a statue put up of him was one kind of son of a bitch or the other." In Jobs' case, it seems to be (like many other things about him) truer than most. He may have been a great man of industry and may have had brilliant success hitting the target of design, usability, and marketing genius, but he was not a saint.

His passing is just that. The end of a life. Let's not pretend he was other than he was, and let's quiet down the Anti-Hero worship. He deserved nothing less.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why yes, we SHOULD eschew pornography for football.Thank you, Mr. Hasselbeck!

Well, this is just awkward. I mean, nobody really wants to come right out and say it, but yes, Matt Hasselback, it is true. Porn is quite definitely the one thing we should NOT be watching this Super Bowl weekend.

Matt Hasselbeck, after a season of failing to perform the job he was hired to do (IE, throw footballs to people without dropping them) has turned his skills away from what he certainly couldn’t do and moved it to motivating people to avoid looking at naked people bumping their naughty bits.

The Seattle Seahawks’ star quarterback is joining with many, many other churches and saintly organizations out there to crusade against porn on Super Bowl Sunday.

And good on him, I say.

As someone who gladly and happily ignores societal messages, trends, and causality when it comes to damaging social issues, especially if it conflicts with my world view and/or assumptions that I’m personally, smugly right, I must agree wholeheartedly. Football is certainly less damaging than porn, when it comes to the overall effects on American society.

After all Super Bowl Sunday is a time when healthy, intelligent people abandon all sense of propriety and don the mask of the zealot, based on a two-color jersey (and/or city). This weekend, sports fans of all stripes and colors plant themselves in front of televisions across the American nation and leer at eleven men on a side running into each other like drunken goats, whistling and hooting at a sport that never, EVER created exploitative gender roles.

Truly, dedication to football and our football teams only mean we seek out and purchase harmless clothing / furniture / vehicle flags / license plates / dating circles / keychains / wastebaskets / season tickets / foam fingers / thong underwear / jerseys / stuffed animals / dedicated RVs. Certainly not an unhealthy, expensive addiction to paraphenalia dedicated to surrounding ourselves in a debauched world of consumer-related, nonessential fetishized objects that encourage our participation in deviant social behavior and enhance our ultimate, secretive fantasy lives.

Professional American football is an institution that’s been around since the extinction of the dinosaurs in the early 1870s, while pornography is as old as the carved stones. And as the Right Reverend Correct Groupthink Gospel of the American Church, Our Beloved FoxNews and Hasselback all agree, porn is still the most degrading, destructive force in America.

So why not switch to the sweet methodone of football, porn addicts of America?

What could be more American than football and apple pie? (Well, even though apple pie was technically an English culinary invention and subsequently brought to the US, it’s still a much better a metaphor than “football and Mrs. Wong’s chicken chow mein with ketchup” or “football and Mom’s Cream of Mushroom Soup with Cheese In a Can over tuna casserole with Triscuits”. Work with me here, you grammar nerd masquerading as Norman Rockwell.) Wholesome and truly uniquely American, it shares nothing with any other sport, (especially rugby, bok-bok, hockey, lacrosse or the game everyone outside of the US insists on calling football but is REALLY supposed to be called soccer). Professional American Football is our most hallowed tradition dating back to the time we figured out we could get eleven really bored guys to ram their heads together over a ball for our entertainment. (Look, if you had to listen to Woodrow Wilson talk about intelligent fiscal policy and moral American behavior, you'd invent a sport where you could bang your head into someone else's over a ball too.)

No sir, football is most definitively not as damaging as pornography is to our society, and definitely has no negative effects that last for any measurable length of time.

Not, say, the spike in violence after the Super Bowl, when more domestic violence calls occur through 911 dispatch boards than at any other time in the year.

Not, say, the football programs across American collegiate and high school programs that produce teenage man-children by the hundreds who cannot read, write, or do mathematics and science at anything resembling a literate level of the average third-grader then sent on to make complex decisions involving whether to retire after running a dogfighting ring or to just say the chihuahuas were just asking for it.

Not, say, the entitlement programs and good old boy networks that protect the darlings of the sport from their actions like sexual assault on campus, illicit fatherhood, fiscal irresponsibility, condoned narcotic and steroid abuse, and corruption in pay-for-play scandals.

Not, say, the "so-called" exploitative football gender dichotomies that place men in full-body pads and helmets and leave the only female participants of the sport clad in skirts, “spankies” and uselessly fluffy pom-poms doing acrobatics that flip skirts and show more skin than the average string bikini on a beach. That's just good old fashioned family fun! One can even buy six-year olds the same cheerleading outfits that their full-grown twenty-something blonde counterparts wear, making sure they can grow up to be splendid role models for other young women who might choose careers that don't involve flipping upside down while wearing a short skirt and looking vapidly perky. It just makes sure they too can participate in this wonderful sport, albeit by standing around looking pretty and making their boobs jiggle.

Not, say, a culture of permissiveness that encourages athletes to assume that they have rights and behaviors that trump those of other individuals, including the right of a woman to consent to sex, the right of an individual not to be run off the road, the right of an animal to keep its throat from being torn out, or the right of, say, a wife from getting cheated on by a string of unsuccessful strippers / cocktail hostesses looking for tabloid payouts.

Porn, on the other hand, is usually done with and by consenting adults who actively enjoy what they’re doing with people who happily do it with them for a living. Sure, they’re not pulling down $100,000 or more per performance, as the average football player does, nor is there a feeder economy that shoves performers into the spotlight repeatedly, over and over again, but that’s not important. What’s important is that filthy, filthy sex is happening. On film. Between -sluts-. And you're watching, you degenerate bastards. Want to know how teenage mothers happen? Porn. Not a lack of ethical guidance, or family planning education, sexual reproduction choices, or availability of reliable birth control methods.

Nope, it's porn. And according to our truly great nation’s churches intent on creating moralistic nanny-states for all of God’s Frozen People, Jesus says that’s some naughty behavior. So you better not do it.

Let's bypass, for the moment, the fact that the primary religious figure of the religion heartily advocated against using religion as a cash cow by beating the crap out of a series of money lenders in the primary temple of the old religion is completely irrelevant. As is the fact that most of the churches involved in this protest are sellling tickets (ahem; whoops, sorry, heavily encouraging $30-$35 per head donations) to see the Football Extravaganza in their Gathering Place of Worship on Jesus’ Very Large Big Screen TV.

No no, this weekend, the most important part of knowing your best options is to make sure that we value paying grown men ludicrous salaries to put on spandex, pads, helmets and groin protectors, then run onto a field and dry-hump each other in an attempt to get a leather-covered ball to one end of the field OVER watching two (or more) people make the beast with two backs / fronts / gaping orifices. (And much less arousing, unless you’re one of those dirty, sinful gays. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a dirty, sinful gay. Some of my best anti-homosexuality Republican crusader friends are so far in the closet they’re taking tea with Mr. Tumnus - lots of cream, no Sugars. Or Candys. Or Sinnamons. Totally lovely people. Excellent tennis partners, too.)

And for our sports heroes' moral falterings, like allowing the football player leniency in their personal behavior that would earn the average guy on the street four years in jail for sexual assault? Such things are simple judgements on behavior that should never be confused with the depravity of a pornographic website depicting consensual sex between of-age adults. Obviously, that football player, even though he may have torn asunder the safety and well-being of one or twenty young women, must have been forgiven by Jesus if he says so. Believe him! Especially if he promises very much not to get caught at it again, with a tearful apology and four-game suspension. After all, we replaced acting like realistic, real-life role models for our children with excessively paid athletes and media icons long ago.

Like Jimmy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart said, “If my repentence is good enough for Jesus, it’s should be good enough for you.” Brett Favre should probably have been taking notes, and while it may not have worked out for Ben Roethlisberger, pre-brain injury, it seems to work out just fine for thousands of NFL and college football stars across the country.

Truly, watching two or more consenting adults do the horizontal (or, let’s face it, vertical, sideways, upside down, acrobatic, underwater, on-the-beach, or selfshot) mambo is much more destructive to our society than football. Football is about war. About victory. About struggle. And apple pie. Porn is about being a damned, dirty, filthy little sex monkey. And you perverts better not forget it.

While porn is about generating pleasure for both the filmed participants and the viewer themselves. Porn is obviously a dark, dangerous force for our society. Exploitative of women! Exploitative of men! Exploitative of YOU! How could you possibly watch people make dirty, dirty sexings without feeling a violent repulsion of shame for your own depravity?

And football is most certainly not that. Why, football is only a multi-billion dollar industry that requires each city that contains a team to contribute vast amounts of resources to host a stadium, a field, and up to eighty highly overpaid athletes while getting and giving little more than three hours of entertainment per week. In Seattle alone, the Highly Moral Sport still has incurred debts for the former Kingdome, with the privileged taxpayers still shelling out $124 per year in taxes to pay for the Seahawks’ demolished stadium. Small potatoes compared to the intensely damaging moral issues caused by porn.

Why, it’s outrageous the prices of a DVD - for $25,000, a four-hour pornographic film is made, actresses paid, actors furnished with pizza, promotions done, editing and soundtracks completed, and immediately released to the general public. So what if $25,000 would purchase 1/16th of a second of commercial time in the average football game, let alone a commerical event like the Super Bowl? There are much larger moral issues at stake than watching people play hide the salami(s).

Even the Stranger’s Hump! festival is a destructive, money-sucking orgy of consumnate immorality. Perhaps we should truly look at the books of Dan Savage and his minions at the Stranger and discover exactly how much those money-grubbing orgiastic enablers pull down out of their depraved amateur-filmed porno fest. Certainly, it must be vastly more profitable than, say, Seattle’s Mars Hill church, otherwise, why would they do it?

It certainly can’t be for their stated ideals - that pornography, rather than destroying the mental health of those who consume it, actually helps encourage healthy sexual expression, should be shared and made by all, and applauded for those who want to share their gifts with the rest of the world.

For one thing one of its primary proponents and organizers, Dan Savage is certainly Gay with a capital G. Therefore he MUST have a nefarious motive for helping host a pornography festival. Possibly the seduction of good, upright men who love Jesus and who don’t need porn to get off, thank you so much. Just a wife, daughter, or other domesticated, unopinionated female who would make him a sandwich without mayo. ONCE. FOR ONCE. PLEASE.


There are those who might point out that several of the sponsoring Christian churches advocate that women remain subservient to men, and repeat that marriages, regardless of their equality or physical abuse, remain intact. They might note the “spiritual push” of programs and “traditions” where daughters must “marry their fathers” to prevent sexual experience or experimentation prior to her being given to her husband. These naysayers might also point to the stance of these churches that spousal abuse can only be reconciled through religious teachings, and that women must always remain sexually available to their husbands, as well as providing the Christian Nation with many, many, many, many more children that their fertile little loins can produce as long as it’s not out of wedlock (you filthy, filthy, dirty, little girl /unwed mother/whore. Dirty, dirty little girl. Yeah. You like being called that, don't you? You dirty little unwed mother, you).

In short, while many of these detractors cite “implications” of these church organizations’ programs, teachings, and as being far more socially destructive to the welfare and status of women in American society, we must remind them that A) Jesus’ love outweighs any bukkake scene, and B) you MUST swallow the Heavenly Host at least once a week on Sunday to be worthy of Jesus’ love.

In point of fact, if we must respond to those individuals who continually decry the stance of these churches on matters like sex education, family planning, societal inclusion, tolerance of all, sexualities, political views, race, color, or creed, and insist on noting that more damage is done by forcing people to adhere to good old-fashioned antiquated values that have little or no relevancy to modern societal issues, the best response is always: LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO THE GREEN BAY PACKERS LOVE JESUS YAY. Certainly, pontification of relevant social issues that directly link to the issues at hand can always be ignored in favor of enough loud, repeated catchphrases instead of actually replying to the sinful, salient points.

And even if we don’t, we must all band together and remind ourselves of the value of Super Bowl Sunday - that even though as Americans and Christians all, we may have temptation in our hearts, no greater moral or spiritual value can be placed except in turning off the tranvestite midget webcam show, stopping the Clown Porn in mid paint-smear, and putting down the latest issue of “Hot Cheerleader Lesbians in Heat”.

Instead, pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated (and watch for that swimsuit edition!) Purchase thousands of dollars of electronics and team-related paraphernalia that’s made in China by workers pulling eighteen-hour shifts in massive factories. Don’t buy a Playboy - that’s most certainly pornographic (though morally less objectionable now that Hugh Hefner is making an honest woman of his 22-year old bride).

Instead pick up a Details, GQ, or do a run to Vegas. Throw some dollars down on a NFL pick’em pool. Eat your Doritos and watch this Super Bowl Sunday as millions of people just like you drop everything they’re doing and watch hyped-up masculine men in spandex smash into each other like sweaty, heaving, smooth-skinned and totally nonsexualized Greek and Roman gladiators with half-naked women cheering tastefully on the sidelines. Enjoy that commercial - it took Pepsi over eighteen months and three hundred million dollars to explain why Pepsi tastes really good using the latest female celebrity du jour and her barely adequate talents to mimic having a massive dopamine and physical reaction to consuming fizzy sugar water, instead of, say, thirty minutes alone with a Hitachi Magic Wand.

But no matter what, remember that while Jesus believes you will burn in Hell for all eternity for seeing Sasha Grey take it in the pooper, he definitely thinks you should buy that official NFL jersey for $150, and pay $25,000 for the privilege of sitting on an uncomfortable wooden seat instead of, say, funding a local afterschool program for a year, or donating $200 to literary programs for underprivileged inner city youth in America.

After all, this weekend, above all other weekends, we must always remember what Jesus Christ said about pornography, football, and making sure that everyone follows his exact moral teachings.

What did he say, you might ask? (After all, there might be some smartass liberal sex-positive jerkface sex columnist who actually can cite chapter and verse from the Bible to refute your arguments).

Not one goddamned thing, but certainly, we should never allow that to stop ourselves, and our deeply religious friends from espousing the very best in sheep-like rhetoric. Just remember - it's not about making sense, or adhering to the principles espoused by the founder of the religions we pretend to live our lives by.

It's about making sure Jesus and the Green Bay Packers get their win on.