Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Talk Thursday: Weird Stuff I Dream About

This is my Talk Thursday topic, and as usual I came up with it at the very last minute and without a lot of thought. I was thinking about stuff one dreamt while one was asleep, but in retrospect I suppose it could be anything one dreamed about in any state of consciousness. Not that I have that many anymore; generally I'm either A. Awake, or B. Asleep. I suppose one could throw in C. Meditating, but except for the times I'm D. Asleep While Meditating, I don't often have dreams in that state. (Except the one where some cat is kneading my leg because she wants me to snap out of it and pay attention to her, and generally that's no dream, brothers and sisters. Man, does Chloe have sharp claws when she wants to.)

So anyway, weird stuff I dream about. Well, by far the weirdest thing about my dreams is that there's always some part of my brain that just...doesn' it. Yes, that's right; not only am I reality-based, I'm aggressive about it. Ever have that dream where you're in college (it's usually college; sometimes it's high school) and you're trying to find some class that you somehow haven't been able to get to the whole semester? Well, when I have that one, I'll be frantically going through my stuff looking for my stupid schedule so I can at least find out when this class is, or hunting for the bookstore with the totally useless campus map in hopes of locating a textbook in which I'm now a minimum of three weeks behind, or wandering around in a building that I know has this class in it someplace, and this part of my brain will suddenly go, "Holdonasec. I'm almost positive that I'm fortysomething years old, married, a homeowner and hold down a responsible job." Sometimes I'll argue with this part of my brain, because in this dream I don't remember the intervening twenty-odd years between college and now, but more often something else happens; I wake up. And I blink, look around the room, and say to myself something along the lines of "Well, I guess that was right," before I fall asleep again and go back to the campus map and the useless schedule and the building with the M.C. Escher hallways.

It's a mental state called lucid dreaming, and in some religious traditions it's considered a blessed state. Basically, it means that you know you're dreaming while you're dreaming. I usually don't get quite that far, but I do get lucid enough to know that there's Something Wrong With This Picture. And I sometimes experience the side effects, like sleep paralysis (waking up unable to move; that is not fun, but it goes away quickly if you start small, like wiggling your fingers, instead of trying to, say, sit up or kick off the blankets). According to Joan, I'm sometimes prone to waking up yelling my head off, which must be a real treat for her and the cats. I can always tell I've done this if I'm awake and there are no cats in bed with me. I always sleep with a minimum of two cats, one sprawled across my hip and the other one by my feet. Apparently I also sometimes kick in my sleep. Sometimes a silent night is not very silent around our place.

By far the oddest permutation of this lucid-dreaming thing is the sex dream. You know the one. No, don't tell me about it; I'm not gonna tell you about mine, either. Let's just say that mine never end well. Just when things start to get interesting with the man/woman/fantasy creature, I suddenly remember I'm married and start apologizing. "I'm so sorry. I just can't be doing this. I have to go home now." And I get up and leave, even if I'm an ant and the landscape is some distant planet. I'm terrible with directions in my own known universe, but somehow I'm going to figure out where home is and go there, where I'm going to explain myself to Joan and apologize profusely. What more often happens is I wake up. Minus cats. Damn, it just happened again.

When I was about 26 I had a dream I'll never forget. (There were no men/women/fantasy creatures in this dream, nor were there colleges.) There was really nothing going on in this dream, except that I'd made my way into a forest, and in the middle of this forest was this tree. It was bigger than those giant redwoods in northern California (the top of it was invisible from the ground, as a matter of fact) and it looked like some member of the willow family, with drooping branches and long leaves. Hanging between the leaves on just about every branch that I could see were long fingerlength spires of crystal. When the wind blew, they all rubbed together and made this indescribable music, and of course when the light hit them, they were shot through with rainbows and the whole tree seemed to glow. Absolutely nothing happened in this dream, except that I woke up crying and extremely happy.

Being Icelandic and all that, I've wondered ever since if that was Ygdrasil, the Tree of Life. And if it was, what I was doing there. I'm not big on the whole gods and goddesses thing, but I could have been convinced that day. Even more so if it had, you know, said something. Like, "Jen, go forth and become a great paralegal." Or even, you know, "Hi."

But it didn't. It just stood there, being magnificent. And, realistically, I'm not sure the Tree of Life should really be doing much of anything else.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Talk Thursday: Who, Me? Already?

My friend Kevin asked me an interesting question the other day. He asked me why I wanted to be published, anyway. He wanted to be published, he said, so that other people would get a chance to read his stories. Why did I want to be published? And in the grand tradition of wordsmiths everywhere, I stared blankly at the screen (this exchange took place through e-mail) and could think of not word one to say.

For me it was a question rather like “Why do you want to continue breathing air?” It had never occurred to me that there was an alternative. I write stuff; therefore I want to get stuff published. Why wouldn’t I want to do that? I mean, what a strange question. But the more I thought about it, the less I could come up with any grand all-encompassing Reason. Fame? Ha! Fortune? Ha! A Jedi craves not these things. Which is good, because they’re frickin’ scarce. Median annual income for a writer the last time I checked? $20 grand. Which is not bloody much, and since that's the median, half are making more and half are making less. Dem ain't good odds. So eventually I agreed that, yeah, I wanted people to read my stuff, too. Which is basically true. But it’s not the grand, all-encompassing Reason. Which is good, because I’m not sure that I even have one.

Anyway, all of a sudden the prospect became kind of daunting. After all, neither of us know what lies beyond this, the Land of the Unpublished. So, although in general I don’t have a decent prognosticating bone in my body, I took my brain forward in time to that unknown when; when I’ve found an agent (or rather, another agent; I had one once), when the agent’s pronounced the manuscript salable, when the salability has been conclusively proven by the advent of a contract; when my lawyer (likely Boss Dave, if he’s up for it) has pronounced the contract signable; when I’ve signed it; when somebody’s written me a check, I’ve cashed it, it hasn’t bounced and I’ve paid the light bill with the money. Oh, and when I walk into a bookstore and see Mindbender sitting on a shelf someplace, hopefully not clear in the back underneath Dear Abby's Keepers: Columns To Live By but I'll take whatever I can get. So what’s that time like? What if it’s not like the movies? In short, what if it sucks?

“Working two jobs, for one thing,” Kevin points out. There’s always that. Both of us have been through multiple jaunts of unemployment and are doing pretty good to have one job apiece. And neither of us are quite crazy enough to quit our day jobs; not even Dan Brown-style runaway bestsellerdom would convince me to do that, and the last time I checked, I didn't even look like Dan Brown. Them publishing contracts don't exactly come with health insurance (though there’s a persistent, unsubstantiated rumor that Lloyd’s of London has insured Stephen King’s brain.) So, yeah. Working two jobs. One might point out we’re already doing that and just not getting paid, but that’s quibbling. Deadlines, phone calls, Big Discussions, meetings and more meetings. I had a dream once that Joan called me at work and told me I needed to call the production assistant right away because there was some kind of problem with Chapter Fourteen. "Okay, I'll call at lunchtime," I said, and Joan said, "No, you need to call right away, it's an emergency." Wondering what in hell kind of publishing emergency could possibly be more important than whatever legal emergency I was currently wrangling I agreed to call right away. Just then my alarm went off and I woke up, reaching across to my nightstand for the phone. What's it called when your night job starts interfering with your day job? Daylighting? And here I don't even have one yet.

Then there's all the other stuff. I mean, very few people make a living at this writing thing, and I sure don't expect to, but even if you don't, sooner or later you're going to have (gasp) fans. Or people who like your stuff, anyway. What happens if they start showing up on your doorstep at two a.m. because you said something in Chapter Fourteen (which is always a bitch) that reminded them of something their best friend's mother's aunt said in high school? What if they, you know, recognize you in public, when you're doing your level best to hide behind your laptop at Afrah and turn out your frick'n Thursday blog post? I mean how embarrassing. I get wigged out when people recognize me outside of OA meetings, and there's for Godsake rules about how to handle that. Here there be no rules, and what if they start bothering your wife? Believe me, the Stephen Kings and Dean Koontzes of the world have nothing on the utter scariness of a bothered wife. I will go to the ends of the earth to avoid bothering my wife.

Interesting questions, all. Are they problems I would like to have? I don't know. Are they problems I am going to have eventually? Yes, one way or another. My prognostication bone may not be decent, but about that I believe it absolutely. And I will probably find some way to deal, just like I do with every other weird situation I stumble into/get invited into/walk into/get thrown into. But the Big Question of why I want to get published, which I still have not answered to either Kevin's or my satisfaction, continues to hover over all this and ask me if, in fact, I'm even ready. If the right agent were to suddenly materialize at this very moment, and my reaction would be something like, "Who, me? Already?"

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jenz Ten Commandments of the Workplace

Or: How Not To Get Fired Once You Finally Land A Job.

I found this in an old WordPervert file that got scooped up from my old laptop and deposited in my new laptop with lots of other sage advice to myself. I compiled this through years of bitter personal experience and good advice from friends who have been there. What's the point of sage advice if you don't dump it on your readers--er, if you don't share it, says I? Anyway, here it is:

1. Show up every day, on time, neatly dressed and ready to work. Because, honestly, if you can't manage this one, the other nine aren't going to help you.

2. Remember that it's not your law firm. (Or engineering firm or government office or whatever.) You were hired to do a job there, which involves following a certain set of rules. If you don't like the rules, don't complain about them; talk to someone who has the power to change them. But if it's obvious they're not going to be changed, get over it and move on.

3. Never assume you know everything. If you have even the slightest question about how something should be done, ASK. If you're working on a big project, it's a good idea to do a small portion of it, then show that portion to your boss and make sure you're on the right track before you spend a lot of time doing it the wrong way.

4. Avoid office gossip whenever possible. When you can't avoid it, try not to add to it, and remember there's probably a lot you haven't heard. Rather than throw in your two cents, listen and nod a lot. This will gain you a reputation for being wise, and a good listener, rather than a troublemaker.

5. Treat everybody with respect, from the head honcho to the janitor. If somebody else contributed to a project and you're getting all the credit, be sure to step in and acknowledge that person's contribution. Nobody ever climbs the corporate ladder without a lot of help from friends. If you can't make friends, you won't go very far.

6. Don't date anyone you work with while you work with them. Yes, this one gets ignored a lot anymore, but it's still good advice. Too much can go wrong, and when it does, people tend to take sides.

7. Mark Twain said it first: Sometimes it's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought an idiot, than to open it and remove all doubt. Or something like that. You don't need to have an opinion about everything.

8. If you have a drug, alcohol, or mental health problem, or think you might, get help BEFORE it becomes a workplace problem--because sooner or later it WILL become a workplace problem, and it's hard enough to accpt help without wondering if the entire typing pool knows a judge sent you to A.A.

9. When you're at work, work on work stuff. Work on your taxes, the crossword puzzle, your marriage, your checkbook or your six-pack abs on your own time. And stay off the Internet when you don't need it for work purposes. Most especially, DO NOT SEND PERSONAL EMAIL FROM A WORK ACCOUNT. EVER. AT ALL. NOT EVEN TO SAY HI.

10. Last, but not least, remember that all jobs have their good and bad points. Nobody likes everything about a job, but you need to find something to like about yours. If you can't find anything, it's time to move on--but before you do, look over these ten again and make sure it's the job, and not you, that has the problem.

Optional No. 11: Do not drink alcohol at company functions. Yes, this is another one that gets ignored a lot anymore, but I still think it's a good idea. If you do or say something stupid under the influence, people will remember A. that you did or said something stupid and B. that you were drunk, and neither of those things are likely to enhance your reputation in the office.

I think I adopted these from my dad's "10 Rules for Flying." I can't recall all ten of them now, but I think my favorite was, "If a crash is inevitable, hit the softest cheapest thing you can find as slowly as possible." Y'all have a nice safe weekend, now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Talk Thursday: Take The Long Way Home

It isn’t often I get to take a Talk Thursday topic completely literally. I could, I suppose, instead wax rhapsodic about the song by Supertramp, ponder the meaning of the lyrics “And then your wife seems to think you’re a part of the furniture,” wonder whatever happened to Roger Hodgson anyway and why, after two brilliant solo albums, he nosedived out of existence. But, no. This one I think I’ll take literally, and tell y’all about Jen’s Nightmare Flight from Stockholm to Phoenix by way of just about every point between. You know that Infinite Improbability Drive in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which works by passing through every point in the Universe simultaneously on the odds that you’ll eventually arrive at your destination in one piece? Yeah. It was kind of like that.

To begin with, I had a concussion. I would strongly advise against flying with a concussion, or drinking with a concussion, or sleeping with a concussion, or doing basically anything with a concussion besides seeking immediate medical treatment. I’d just been in my first and only barroom brawl, which came about because I was in Birmingham, England circa 1990 and somebody at the back of the bar had just yelled, “We won’t pay our poll taxes!” Utter mayhem ensued, and just for the record, yelling “Don’t hit me, I’m an American” did not help in the slightest. Somebody hit me. Couldn’t say who or with what, but I was out cold for a span of time between several nanoseconds and several hours before I came to on the floor with some brilliant bouncer type standing over me going, “How many fingers? Who’s Prime Minister?” I got the first one right but not the second (Margaret Thatcher having left office several years ago), but that was good enough for them and I got hauled back to my feet and turned loose.

After the concert (there was a concert; did I mention there was a concert?) I made my way back to the place where we were staying, which was a youth hostel of some kind, marginally clean and only a little bit scary. Here I attempted to clean up a little, put away the t-shirt from the concert, then went to sleep, which, again, is a bad idea when you have a concussion. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that I had a concussion, though, because when you have one you don’t think rationally. Besides, there were nearly two weeks left of this trip, and I wasn’t going home early just because I had a stupid headache. The last time I was in England I’d had a sinus infection and it hadn’t even slowed me down.

Ah, youth. Does anyone not remember their twenties fondly, if only because they thought they were invincible? Sure, I can stay up all night and still go to work the next day; no problem flying with a bad cold, who cares if my eardrums explode? They’ll knit in a few weeks. What broken leg? Get outta here. I can still walk, can’t I?

And so two more weeks went by, of which I remember just fragments. Scottish country dancing in Inverness; that was pretty cool. Meeting Alec Wiseman, one of the survivors of the Fifty First Division; yeah. Wow. Camping somewhere in the Highlands, outside of a town, listening to tapes (remember tapes?) on a Walkman. A Highland Games in Bathgate; something like 103 bagpipe bands all playing at once. Really good pizza in Glasgow. And somewhere in the middle of all this, getting the distinct idea that something wasn’t right, that I was not behaving normally, that I might want to do something radical and maybe go home.

So okay, back to London; slept on the train, didn’t shower for days. Got to the airport and asked if I could fly standby back to the States. The nice lady at the airline said she could do it, but she had to route me through Stockholm, because that was what my ticket originally said. I forget, at this late date, why I was supposed to go to Stockholm. There must have been a good reason. So I crawled onto the plane, flew to Stockholm, landed, tried to go through customs, and then all the trouble started.

It seemed I had a ticket that said I’d been to Stockholm and a passport that said I hadn’t. That had something to do with a canceled flight back at the beginning of the trip, and getting rerouted directly to London because of a leaking coffee pot or something like that. But that was a long time ago. Back before the concussion. Back when things made sense, when I still made sense, when things that had happened could still be adequately explained. I’d forgotten all about it since then. I had no more idea how I got to London than I did the workings of an internal combustion engine. When I wasn’t staring blankly at this customs agent, I was saying things that, apparently, made no sense in either Swedish or English. Apparently at some point I got angry (or more probably, frustrated) and raised my voice. The result was spectacular: I got arrested. Or as they say in airport security-land, detained. And I spent the night in a cell.

If you have to get detained by airport security, do it in Sweden. The jail is very nice. Tiny private rooms, almost like itty-bitty hotel rooms, with private showers and even TV. By the time I got to my tiny private room I no longer cared if the door opened or not. I fell into bed and slept for about a year, but not before asking the nice matron to get me something at the airport bookstore. She got me A Prayer for Owen Meany, which was the No. 1 bestseller that week (and a great book, just incidentally.) I read it on the plane, when I got on the plane. Which I’m getting to.

The next morning, after I’d had a shower and put myself into my cleanest set of clothes, they turned me loose. I guess they’d been busy checking me on a list of known terrorists or something, hadn’t found me, and decided I was safe enough to put on the next plane home. Well, sort of home. Home to Atlanta International, anyway, which wasn’t home. After that I was sort of on my own.

So I approached another ticket desk and asked how much closer I could get to Phoenix, which was where I lived at the time. That got me to Tulsa. Tulsa begat Memphis. Memphis begat Minneapolis. Minneapolis begat Denver, Denver begat Salt Lake City and I almost got stuck there, in the Beehive State. There was only one flight left (it was after ten) and it was completely full. I looked around this airport, at its orange and blue decorator panels and its pictures of naked people trying to fly, and decided if I got stuck in Salt Lake City for the night, I might possibly have to kill myself. But then a miracle occurred and I got the second to last standby seat on a flight to Las Vegas that landed at three in the morning. After which I got a flight to Phoenix that touched down just after five.

The sun was coming up when I caught a cab outside of Sky Harbor. I’d been on a plane for over 72 hours. I was so tired I couldn’t remember where I lived and just gave the cab driver my parents’ address. I knew where they hid their spare key. I gave the cabbie a 20 on an eight-dollar fare and didn’t wait for my change; just crawled into the house and fell asleep on the couch, where my dad found me a few hours later. None of this “What are you doing here?” none of this “How did you even get in?” He just hauled me down from the couch, steered me to a bedroom and left me there.

And some fourteen or so hours later, I woke up. And got the joy of explaining myself to two rather concerned and puzzled parents. I finally got back to my apartment the following day.

I never did get treated for the concussion.

I still have the t-shirt.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mini-Post: Japanese Buddhist Response to Tragedy

Hi all--this is just a quick referral to a fascinating article on CNN about the Japanese Buddhist response to the double tragedy of the earthquake and the tsunami. Buddhist traditions in Japan, in case you did not know this, tend to intertwine with the much older Shinto tradition, which has components of ancestor veneration and honoring the spirits of the recently deceased. Of particular interest is the role of young people in modern Japanese Buddhism, or rather, the lack thereof. Anyway, happy reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Talk Thursday: Winning

We're a competitive species, homo sapiens. Probably because we needed to be, from the time we were hanging around in caves and telling stories around campfires (no, not last week at Carlsbad Caverns; I'm talking aeons ago.) He who ran the fastest and threw the spear the hardest (the alpha male) got the mammoth, fed the family and lived to die another day. He who didn't (the beta male) got the leftovers after the alpha male got himself killed. (Which might have included three or four bereaved widows. Hm, doesn't sound like such a bad deal.) But this competitive streak became ingrained in our DNA, and now to this day, we still talk about winners and losers as though spears and mammoths (and bereaved widows) are at stake.

For a book-length discussion of alpha and beta males, check out A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. For a blog post on winners and losers that you can read in five minutes, soldier on. To be called a loser, especially in the corporate world or that miniature corporate world, the first-grade playground, is to be permanently branded as one of the worst things imaginable. Losers don't get the fame, the glory, the girl, or the kickball for the next round. Winners get all that stuff, plus they are usually also taller, better-looking and have nicer hair. Everybody wants to be on the winning side, ignoring the fact that there has to be a losing side or the winning side would have no meaning whatever. Aside: In high school marching band, the flag corps instructor was telling the ladies not to put their palms up on a diagonal sweep because in flag-corps language, that meant the country had just lost a war, and the U.S. has never lost a war. As quickly as I could I said, "Uh, Vietnam, Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua." She looked at me as though I were terminally stupid and said, "Those were just police actions."

Anyway: As a Buddhist I should not care one whit if I win or lose at anything, since it has no meaning in the greater context of reality and in fact serves as a distraction from the truer need to have compassion for all, but because it's encoded in my DNA, I do, of course. It rankles me when Joan kicks my butt at Scrabble (and she practically always does; if I win it's a fluke). I'm always relieved when we reach a good settlement for a client at work, because a good settlement is the same as winning and then we aren't faced with the all-or-nothing of a courtroom battle. Every year I get perversely interested in the Oscar campaigns, not because I can stomach sitting through the world's stupidest presentation show but because on some level I'll have picked a favorite that I want to win, and I'll be glad/unhappy if he/she wins/loses. (Hallie Stanfield was robbed. I'm just sayin'.)

And then we get to Charlie Sheen, who's not bipolar but "bi-winning", and the whole blog post breaks down and takes off in another direction.

Hang around a psychiatrist's office long enough and you'll start armchair-diagnosing everyone you see. I do it and I'm not proud of that fact. And okay, Charlie may be "bi-winning" and not bipolar but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Check out a couple of my posts written under the influence of what I used to call hyperfertility and you'll get a sense of what's maybe going on in Charlie's head. (I didn't know what it was then. Nobody shoot me.) I'm not a professional with several letters after my name, and even if I were I'd hesitate to say for certain without talking to the guy at some length, but darned if a lot of the symptoms aren't right there. Even the substance abuse. No, especially the substance abuse--bipolar disorder and drugs/alcohol go hand in hand. It's called self-medicating. Bipolar also tends to run in families. (Me: Four alcoholic grandparents. Yep, four for four. What are the odds?)

Charlie, honey, you're breaking my heart. Don't sweat the whole winning/losing thing; you've made your point, abundantly, in the mass media. Now please go see somebody. Do it now, before you crash, and maybe you won't have to crash. You're so much more fun when you're stable. I'm so serious about this that I'll even follow you on Twitter to prove it.

Me and five million of my closest friends.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Show Tunes, Ultrasound and the First Amendment

It's not often I comment on legislation without having first read the stuff. Yes, I actually read pending bills, and Court opinions for that matter, even though they can run to hundreds of pages and be full of legalese. Why? Because the devil is often in the details, and before I go off in a semipublic forum (or rather, to the two of you--you know who you are) I'd like to know enough about which I speak that I don't sound like an idiot, thankewverymuch. Besides, once you read the silly things, they often start making sense, and contrast with their headlines in such a way that you wonder what the journalists were thinking. My favorite example is "Appeals Court Denies Custody to Lesbian Mom," out of Virginia circa 1994 or so. The story made it sound like the court gave custody of the kid to his grandma solely because Mom liked another mom more than she liked Dad. Well, once I got ahold of the actual decision and read it, I wouldn't have given this woman custody of a cat. She had never held a full time job, she was on and off drugs, in and out of rehab and before she settled down with her "life partner" of less than six months, she'd had five boyfriends the previous year. The kid had lived with his grandma most of that time. Oh, yeah, and there was one sentence at the very end of the decision that said something like, "It is noted that Mom X is a lesbian; however, this is not a basis for deciding custody in the state of Virginia." That's it. That's all. I'd say the headline got it wrong, wouldn't you guys?

So that's what I mean when I say that the devil's in the details. And I haven't read this particular bill so I may be missing the devil. Or the details. So that's my disclaimer. I'm not a lawyer, either, nor do I play one at work. But here's the scoop about the law, as it's reported on a fairly moderate news site (CNN): Texas Lawmakers Approve Bills Requiring Ultrasound Before Abortion. And let the fur fly.

Obviously, the point of this law is to discourage women from having abortions. I don't think there's any other reason to pass it (and it looks like it did pass, though the final form has yet to be hammered out; the House wants a 24 hour waiting period after the ultrasound, the Senate only requires two hours, and for some reason the Senate thinks the woman can skip looking at the results if she's a rape or incest victim, though how they'll decide that is beyond me.) And we'll assume for the moment that nobody's going to sue and say this law poses an undue burden to women seeking an abortion (and that's a stupid assumption; I give it forty-eight hours, maybe less). If you wanted an abortion and somebody stuck a picture of your developing infant under your nose, how would you feel? Would you change your mind? Apparently that's the bet.

That's also the bet of the "sidewalk counselors" who stand outside doctor's offices and Planned Parenthood clinics and wave cheery signs with pictures of dead babies on them. Somehow they have this idea that the women showing up for appointments haven't made up their minds yet. That they'll just turn around and leave if they're shown the right bloody picture or if they're told the right thing. Well, folks, I used to be a volunteer that walked these ladies from their cars past the sign-waving crowd. I did it for two years, and never once did I see a woman turn around and leave. Never once. By the time they got to the clinic, the decision was made. So I can't imagine how the new ultrasound rule is going to change anything as far as that goes. No, I think this law is about making women feel bad. Sick, guilty, worse about their decision than they already feel. That's the point. That's the great state of Texas. That's the Republican Party (a supermajority in both houses of the Texas Legislature), the party of less governmental interference in personal lives. Mandating a medical procedure after they stated that no one should be forced to buy health insurance. Pardon me if I experience a bit of a disconnect here.

Of particular interest to me, though, is the provision that the women who undergo the ultrasound "listen to a description of the results" (apparently only one version requires them to actually look at the pictures, and I'm not sure which one--again, didn't read the bills, sorry about that). Which brings up an interesting question. How, exactly, do you require someone to listen to something? I mean, if you're reading the description, and the woman suddenly covers her ears and bursts into a medley of show tunes, what do you do then? What if she wears ear plugs? Are you legally required to clap your hand over her mouth and shout the description in her ear? Or will you need to build a special "listening to ultrasound results" restraining chair, complete with straps and eyeball-opening devices from A Clockwork Orange (and if you haven't seen it, why are you still sitting here? Go rent it on Netflix and get into a powerful self-argument about the nature of free will, already!). What if the woman Just Says No? No, I'm not looking at your pictures, I'm not listening to you, and I don't give a ripe goddamn what the Texas Legislature says? I mean, that's free speech, people. Hard to call it anything else.

In all seriousness, we need to think about this. In a country where we have free speech, do we or don't we also have the freedom not to listen? Because if we don't, all the First Amendment arguments in the world aren't worth a single bill out of the Texas Legislature. You heard it here first. (If you're still listening.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Talk Thursday: Guilty Pleasures

By definition, all pleasures are somewhat guilty. Guilty of what, is the only question. Guilty of luring you away from your day's work? Hands up who surfs the Internet on the job. Yeah, I thought so. Now, hands up who lies about surfing the Internet on the job but secretly does it anyway. Yeah, thought that too. But some guilty pleasures are guiltier than that. Some guilty pleasures, such as the ones in the sock drawer, are guilty of making the males of the species (or for that matter, any others of the species) totally unnecessary. Yep, just fire up the double A batteries, buy yourself a suitcase with wheels, start taking out your own garbage and you're good to go. No wonder they try to ban them in Texas. Remember, kids, fundamentalism is the secret fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time.

But my guilty pleasure pales in comparison. My guilty pleasure is guilty of causing chores not to get done, laundry not to get folded, beads not to get beaded, and just in general the wasting of a whole lot of quality time. And it doesn't get much guiltier than that. Plus, my guilty pleasure is shocking, horrifying, insulting to those of considerable intellect (and darn near everyone else) and besides that, something no decent Buddhist would ever stoop to. Well, luckily for me I never said that I was a good Buddhist.

My guilty pleasure is Son of the Beach.

What, you may want to know, is Son of the Beach? I'm so glad you asked!! Son of the Beach is possibly the rudest, crudest, lewdest, and quite certainly the stupidest show on television. It's one long ridiculous parody of every bad beach movie ever made, and when it isn't busy just being gross, it insults every sexual and racial group there is as well as a few it just made up. There's no depths to which it won't stoop, no sacred cows it won't slaughter. In short, it's the perfect show for a snarky babe like me. I'm only sorry it got canceled after three magnificent seasons. Thankfully, it lives on in DVD-land.

Son of the Beach features the world-famous lifeguard, Notch Johnson, and his crew of elite uh, well, I'm not sure what they are, exactly. Fellow lifeguards, I guess. We have B.J. Cummings, we have Jamaica St. Croix, we have Kimberly Clark, and the name jokes are just the beginning. We have Chip Rommel, and we have the evil Mayor, Anita Massengil. And then there are the supervillains; Notch does battle with Osama bin Loyden, an evil Asian beauty named Roocy Roo, and an eco-terrorist (she sneaks around with a boat full of barrels of stuff labeled 'Whatever You Do, Don't Dump This Stuff In The Ocean' and of course promptly dumps them in the ocean). And that's just Season One. It all culminates in the day Notch has to surf the Miso Honei, the tsunami that killed his father. And then--oh, hey, don't take my word for it. You have to watch the thing. It's kind of beyond description.

What on earth is a nice girl like me doing watching a show like this? I have no idea. It just grabbed my funny bone in a way nothing else would until The Good Guys came along some eleven years later. Maybe we all need something that's the core opposite of our personalities to remind us of who the heck we really are. Or maybe I'm just watching it for the scenery. Whatever, I have the complete run on DVD. So when things get slow around the house, I'll cue up a couple of episodes and scare hell out of the cats by barking out a loud laugh every ten seconds or so. You have been warned.