Happy Halloween

The past couple of Halloweens, I haven't been able to get too excited about dressing up, but this year I've finally been struck by inspiration. As a long time admirer of Michael Cera (like, ohmguh, the whole reason I am in favor of same-sex marriage is so that the two of us can be together forever), I thought it'd be fun to pay tribute to him. I chose Paulie Bleeker, Cera's role in Juno, not because its my favorite character of his (far from it), but because it had the most distinctive costume possibility. After hitting three thrift stores with Katy, I acquired a maroon school shirt with yellow lettering, tiny yellow shorts, and a gold knit hat, which I've cut into pieces to create a headband, wristbands, and trimming for my shirt and socks. Since I don't sew, these pieces have been stapled. I haven't had to pretend I was this handy since destroying a teddy bear to make a trained circus bear costume. Anyhoo, here I am as Paulie Bleeker:

Since I'm wearing such tiny shorts, my costume accidentally puts the "ween" in Halloween. I've decide to accentuate this fact by not wearing underwear, in part inspired by Terri's gripe that Halloween is just an excuse for women to objectify themselves in the name of a holiday. I agree with Terri's assessment; in recent years, it seems it's not really a costume unless it features gratuitous cleavage. While I probably can't successfully impart the virtues of virtue on women and convince them that not every cat, witch, nurse, etc. has to be a sexy one, I can help balance the playing field and objectify my own body, too.

My friends and I have made some awesome jack-o-lanterns, if I do say so myself.

Shea's actually scares me a bit. That's a frightening face, and the rose is a classy touch.

Amber took a politically active approach and made a face with a smile reading "vote." So cute and relevant.

Amy's is phenomenal! We had taped a photograph of Michael Michael to the pumpkin that would have been eirs had ey not moved out, and Amy felt bad removing the photograph from the pumpkin without still commemorating Michael Michael. Amy's solution? Carve Michael Michael's face into the jack-o-lantern.

Look at the source material, taken of Michael Michael as a Claremont Grammarian in 2007:

Now check out how well Amy executed that photograph:

So impressive!

Meanwhile, I had trouble deciding what to carve into my pumpkin. My last attempt, a subtle ode to necrophilia, caved in on itself too quickly, so I wanted to try something not too elaborate. Finally, I opted to take a postmodern route: I'd carve a jack-o-lantern ON a jack-o-lantern. It's either genius or stupid, most likely the latter.

Meanwhile, Katy took a minimalist approach. Ey didn't get any further than hollowing the pumpkin out, but we put a candle in it, turned it on its side, and made it look like some sort of accomplishment anyway. Some have compared it to a butt hole.

Enjoy the festivities, kids.



There’s something your government doesn’t want you to know.

These two men…


The LEFT-wing media is trying to slap a glove on this issue to cover an impending left-hand agenda!

The Bible is clear that left-handedness is not to be condoned.

Psalms 118:16
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”

Matthew 6:3
“Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Ecclesiastes 10:2
“A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.”

Matthew 25: 33-34, 41
“And he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

Consider some other people who are left-handed:

Would you really want these people to be your Commander in Chief?!

What will happen if we allow a southpaw in our nation's top office?!

They will smudge the ink while signing bills into laws!

They will shake hands with foreign dignitaries incorrectly and embarrass our nation!

Taxes will be increased to fund left-handed scissors for the Oval Office.

Children will be forced to learn left-handedness in schools!


90% of people cannot be wrong – RIGHT IS RIGHT!

When children who demonstrate left-handed impulses are forced to write with their right hands, they adapt and can pass as normal. LEFT-HANDEDNESS IS A CHOICE!


Studies show that left-handers are twice as likely to be child molesters!

Allow a left-hander to lead us and WHAT’S NEXT? LEGALIZING MARRIAGE BETWEEN LEFT-HANDERS?!?!

DO THE RIGHT THING! Vote for Ralph Nader.



My 2008 California Proposition Endorsements

On Sunday, Clare and Cecilia hosted another Proposition Party, a forum in which people can come and discuss California’s confusing ballot measures. More than 30 people attended, with each person first researching a proposition in depth and then presenting their findings to the group. Each presentation is subject to debate and questioning until we reach a decision. Consensuses are not always reached (though usually they are), but that’s not the point. The point is to know precisely what we’re voting for and getting to the heart of the issue, as the titles are often misleading.

Like last time, I feel way more informed and fairly confident in my choices. Bring on the ballot!

The following are Kevin Babbles’s Official California Proposition Endorsements:

High Speed Rail Bonds
Prop 1A: Yes
Environmentally friendly high-speed trains are the way of the future, and we’ve already invested millions into this project researching its feasibility. While the bonds will ultimately cost tax payers some money, much of it will be offset by commuters on this railway.

Standards for Confining Farm Animals
Prop 2: YES
The accommodations this proposition outlines for animals are few and reasonable and will only pass along minimal cost to consumers. The writers on this one seemed to stick to uncontroversial definitions of ethical and humane, so it can’t even be faulted as overly ambitious hippie bullsh.

Children’s Hospital Bond Act
Prop 3: No
On face value, it seems like it’d be hard to vote against saving sick children, but a few years ago, California approved the sale of bonds for nearly the exact same thing, and more than 40% of that money has still been unallocated. Let’s not sign ourselves up for more debt, at least not until the existing money is depleted.

Waiting Period and Parental Notification before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy
Prop 4: No
This proposition is just another attempt to restrict reproductive rights in the face of Roe v. Wade. Proponents will have you believe that this is an issue of safety, but it most certainly will not protect the safety of pregnant teens.

Nonviolent Drug Offenses, Sentencing, Parole, and Rehabilitation
Prop 5: Yes
Since our prisons are thoroughly over-crowded, I support offering small time drug offenders the opportunity to attend rehab as part of a probationary punishment instead. Besides, addiction is an illness and jail is not the way to solve it.

Police and Law Enforcement Funding; Criminal Penalties and Laws
Prop 6: No
Punishments should fit the crime. This proposition attempts to lock up teenagers for years for infractions as small as graffiti. It is racist, classist, and unconstitutional.

Renewable Energy Generation
Prop 7: No
Every major environmental group is opposed to this plan, explaining that it would ultimately be more detrimental to our environment. It’s a shame, because I’m very concerned about the environment and am prepared to vote to spend every cent the state collects toward conservation, but I’m convinced that this is not the appropriate plan.

Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry
Prop 8: NO
I’ve already explained my stance on this one tirelessly in an earlier No on Prop 8 post. (The debate is still raging in the comments section, by the way.)

Criminal Justice System, Victims’ Rights, Parole
Prop 9: No
The majority of the positive aspects in this proposition are already part of state law. Evidently, it is okay to write existing laws into propositions, which then encourages unaware voters to pass them. California already has one of the best reputations for promoting victims’ rights and one of the lowest rates for offering parole. This proposition is expensive and unnecessary.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy
Prop 10: No
This is another environmentally based proposition that I want to like, but just can’t. Though natural gas is cleaner than most current sources of fuel, it is still a finite resource; we need to put our money into finding long-term solutions. Again, nearly all major environmental groups in the state oppose this proposition, so I’m going to say no and hope that next year, someone creates a good environmental proposition that I can be in favor of.

Prop 11: No?
This is the proposition I presented on at the party, but I still don’t have a strong opinion. Currently, politicians have the ability to draw redistricting lines. When this occurs, they can incorporate certain populations into their districts, nearly guaranteeing subsequent victories. For this reason alone, I am in favor of redistricting reform in order to keep elections fair and competitive. Unfortunately, the suggested alternative is a convoluted and still partisan committee. Nevertheless, I’m almost inclined to say yes to this one, just to change the existing structure and see if it works out better, but my fear is that by approving a new crappy system, we won’t have an opportunity to vote on a more reasonable redistricting reform proposition in the near future.

Veterans’ Bond Act
Prop 12: Yes
Veterans comprise about 1/3 of the homeless population in California. They need and deserve our love (ie: money.) Clearly, I have a softer spot for unsheltered veterans than terminally ill children. Love is blind, and I can’t help to whom I’m attracted.

My explanations are all frighteningly brief, but if anyone wants to hash these out further or debate their merits in the comments, I welcome the discussion. I’m prepared to give additional facts and reasons to support my decisions, or even have my mind changed before Election Day.



Michael Michael moved out a week ago.

I don't usually get especially emotional on this blog, but I am sad. Michael Michael is as fine a person as I've ever met, and I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to live with and grow close to em these past two years. With all sincerity, Michael Michael has helped make me a better person.

Unfortunately, in addition to being a great, friendly person to me, Michael Michael is also intelligent, likable, and ambitious. Consequently, Michael Michael was offered an amazing promotion in a meaningful career which required em to relocate to the east coast. From now on, I'm only befriending people who are good companions but are clearly not going places in life, so they will never leave me.

I'm not sad because this move is the end of a friendship: I'm confident that we'll stay in touch and find excuses to see each other periodically. No, what makes me most sad about Michael Michael's move is that I won't have the chance to see em every day. It's hard to find people who are a pleasure to be with on a daily basis, and I will miss our regular conversations -- sometimes insightful, sometimes utterly trivial.

Michael Michael moving marks the end of the era, which would be fine, as truthfully, I'm prepared to make a lot of changes in my life. Unfortunately, it's the best part of the era that exits my life first. It's kind of like if I were eagerly waiting for the 80s to end, and when the 90s finally rolled around, I was still stuck with the annoying crap like Teddy Ruxpin, parachute pants, slap bracelets, Cabbage Patch dolls, Flock of Seagulls music, and big shoulder pads, yet the only cool thing that mattered, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, cruelly vanished from my life.

Immediately after taking Michael Michael to the airport, I was a bit of a basket case, but the practical side of me has won out and I'm okay. This'll be a challenge to my social life, as I no longer have a live-in best friend, but a disruption to my comfort zone just might be a good thing. It'd just be more fun to have em around while other things change instead.

Since I try to maintain this blog as mainly humorous and anecdotal rather than whiny and livejournal-esque, allow me to switch gears and commemorate Michael Michael's good-bye party. Considering the party started at 3:30 pm and I was up and socializing (read: drinking) until 7 am, I admittedly can't provide too reliable of an account. More than 40 people came and the socializing was prime. Spirits were high and spirits were consumed.

There was snuggling.

There was a beer-pedo competition.

Shea was in rare dancing form.

I was viciously groped.

And even more savagely licked. (Note: I don't molest children, I just apparently make facial expressions as if I do.)

I helped Allison after ey spilled eir beer by slurping it off the floor.

You can see more of the pictures taken on my camera (though most of which were not taken by me) here.

One potential misstep of the night was that I invited an eighteen-year-old girl to the party, too, because she's awesome and likes grammar. I figured, okay, she's underage, but she seems responsible, and I know us to be responsible, so what really could go wrong?

Wouldn't you know it? The poor thing fell and hit her head and started bleeding -- a lot, even. Yeah, wasn't anticipating that. I started realizing that maybe it wasn't a good idea to invite her. After about half an hour, the bleeding stopped, and we cleaned her up, and she was her chipper self again. So while there was a moment I was afraid of potential legal action against me, I wouldn't change a thing, except maybe the head injury.

Since this girl had taken public transportation to get to the house, Alice offered to drive her home, and I accompanied for the ride. Michael Michael only caught the part where I said "be right back" and walked out the door with the girl, and ey was apparently concerned that I had some ill-conceieved intentions. Of course, it wasn't like that at all and Michael Michael later admitted that it was not something remotely in my character to do, though I suppose I do have a thing for young head trauma victims.

To conclude this strange post, let me share two songs. First, the hottest dance track about Miami ever, "This Is Miami." The first line of the song claims that this is not Miami, but later, after considering every other city in the world as a possibility, seems to rescind this statement and decide that, in fact, This Is Miami, repeating
this fact dozens of times. Yeah, it's dumb, but it characterizes Miami pretty well.

Sander Kleinenberg - This Is Miami

Second, the oddly appropriate Polyphonic Spree song that randomly came on my I-Pod immediately after dropping Michael Michael at the airport and I then proceeded to put on repeat to keep me smiling and distracted. The distracting part worked a bit too well as I missed my freeway change and proceeded to take an extra forty minute detour on the way home.

The Polyphonic Spree - Move Away and Shine

Happy trails, dear friends!



Lisa: I really like studying in coffee shops, but I need to study in silence. I wear earplugs so it'll be quiet, but I think that's embarrassing, so I actually bring headphones to cover the earplugs and it looks like I'm listening to music instead. That can be a problem, though, because a couple times I've seen someone I know and they'll come up to me, so I take off the headphones and they start talking and I have to hold my finger so they'll wait until I take out the earplugs, too. That's embarrassing!



I've been trying to get in shape. (What kind of shape?) An isosceles triangle, obviously.

After putting on some pounds and getting winded embarrassingly quickly when physical activity were to occur, I made a concerted effort to exercise more often. After a lot of racquetball and uphill bike riding, I'm pleased to say that I can now move my body and not collapse of exhaustion. Now, I'm still no Lance Armstrong (I've got both testicles, thankyouverymuch), but it is an improvement from the mass of sludge I was a few months ago.

Lindsay instructs an aerobics class at the nearby colleges, and has put out an open invitation to eir friends to come workout. For a while, I've been curious enough to want to try, but too apprehensive to partake because I wasn't sure I had the endurance for an hour of cardio. Once I built up the stamina from other forms of exercise, however, I decided to give it a try.

Lindsay suggested that I bring a water bottle and a leotard. I forgot my water, but made a conscious decision to skip the leotard, considering how ghastly Kat and I looked in leotards about three years ago.

I hadn't showered in a couple of days, and chose not to do so before the class because I would only get sweaty and need another shower soon after. This decision was probably a poor one, as it meant I stunk before we even started, which I'm sure my fellow aerobicisers appreciated. The fellow aerobicisers, by the way, consisted of seven college-aged women. They had attended the previous ten classes and seemed pretty comfortable with the routine.

The aerobics regiment was certainly a work out. We moved hard to Lindsay's cheesy soundtrack for an hour. Every time I wanted to quit, I felt peer pressured to continue. I wasn't about to poop out with all of these people watching me. The self-discipline I tend to lack in these situations was counteracted by my desire to not look like an unhealthy loser.

At one point we were doing push ups on mats and the sweat was pouring off my face like rain down a water spout. Next, we did sit ups, and my already damp back was drenched in the puddle that had formed. I realized that these mats were used frequently and were probably rarely cleaned, so I was overwrought with concern about hygiene, something that rarely happens as evidenced by my not having showered for a while.

Even though I think aerobics is a terrific form of exercise and would definitely help keep me in shape, it is not a practical form for me. I look foolish. Not because of my gender, but because I lack the coordination. While I could keep up physically (sort of), I can't follow steps well. Half the time, I couldn't follow whatever the move being lead us, so I just kept moving in whatever manner I could manage to keep my heart rate up. Even some of the "simple" steps had me baffled. I was always a beat behind, or kicking with the wrong foot, or jumping off the wooden block when I was supposed to cross over with the other leg.

This problem isn't unique to aerobics, I've always been frighteningly uncoordinated.
I've attempted the Electric Slide at least two dozen times in my life and still cannot remember which direction to turn. In camp as a child, I agreed to be the male part in a dance number, but within a week, I was encouraged to sing in the chorus instead, because I wasn't picking up the steps quickly enough -- or at all, truthfully. Furthermore, as I've detailed before, I can't even walk correctly. So while Lindsay insists that with more practice I would get the hang of it, I'm pretty sure I would continue to maneuver like a bumbling idiot. The only thing more embarrassing than being unable to keep up during my first class would be continuing to demonstrate that I can't learn to follow simple, repetitive steps after several classes.


A Quick Heads-Up

I know many of you don't generally check out the comments section on these posts, but the comments on the No On Prop 8 posting is an interesting mix of stimulating, crazy, heated, and civil.

UPDATE: Sasha directed my attention to a funny parody of the ad I had posted in the original post.


McCain Will Find Me a Job!

In last night’s final presidential debate, this was John McCain and Barrack Obama’s final opportunity to square off on the most important issue of the campaign. Not the economy, not the war, not health care… but Joe the Plumber. Move over Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden, and even Joe Six Pack: Joe the Plumber is now the most famous Joe in politics.

What was that about? Whose pipes did Joe have to fix to be referenced by name a whopping 26 times throughout the debate? I like to imagine that Joe the Plumber was at a bar playing a drinking game during the debates, and got thoroughly inebriated just by taking a sip each time his name was mentioned.

It must be an honor for Joe to have the two most important people in the country vying for your respect in front of a national audience, particularly as someone who spends his days sticking his hands down other people’s toilets. This year, let’s all stay home from the polls and let the election be decided by a lone ballot: the one cast by Joe the Plumber. Afterwards, his candidate of choice can appoint him Secretary of Leaky Faucets.

Moving past our friend with the wrench, as a former educator, I was most intrigued by the education portion of the debate. Hearing their stances side by side was helpful, and having seen the woes of public education up close, I legitimately found Obama’s perspective and plan to be practical and necessary.

But just as I thought Obama had clinched my vote, McCain countered with a trump card. Granted, I thought his overall educational vision was crap, but McCain managed to intrigue me with part of his educational plan: “We find bad teachers another line of work.”

It’s like he was speaking directly to me, but instead of being Joe the Plumber, my name is Kevin the Bad Teacher. I tried my hand in the profession, recognized I wasn’t cut out for it, and now I’m ready to be placed in my promised new line of work, please. In truth, I could really use your help on this one, McCain. I understand you’ve been too busy with this whole Bill Ayers issue to take the time to reexamine the economy lately, but in spite of this magical bailout solution, the job market is still in the shitter (no disrespect intended to Joe the Plumber.)

Help me out with a career, McCain, and I’ll give you my vote. Come on, just hook an old friend up. Remember when we met seven years ago? And by “met,” I mean that time I awkwardly stood fifteen feet away from you to pose for a photograph.

See, check out that tie; I can clean myself up and look fairly respectable when I try, so I’m definitely employable. Forget Joe the Plumber: finding Kevin the Bad Teacher “a new line of work” should become a top priority for McCain. You can even re-suspend your campaign if this task requires your utmost attention.


Vote No on Prop 8

This past May, the California Supreme Court overturned existing legislation, legalizing same-sex marriage for its residents, making it only the second state in the country to do so. Obviously, a controversial decision like this one does not come without contention, so opponents of homosexual rights wrote Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution "to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry." On Election Day, California voters will have the option to pass this amendment by majority rule.

As a proponent of personal choices and freedoms, I have no interest in denying someone the right to marry. Truthfully, at least presently, I'm not too wild about the concept of marriage, but if it's going to be legal for certain people to get married, then it should be legal for everyone to get married.

For a funny opinion on the matter, I defer to Wanda Sykes:

I assumed that California, arguably the liberalist state in the nation, felt the same way as Wanda and me on this issue and haven't paid attention to Prop 8. Last week, however, I read that recent polls show that Prop 8 is likely to pass, thereby re-outlawing same-sex marriage.

Currently, the boost in Prop 8's popularity, at least in large part, can be traced back to the LDS church. The church's leaders are urging their congregation to donate money and take action, with each member committing at least four hours a week, to make sure Prop 8 passes. This goes for Mormons in every single state, not just California, meaning there is money flowing in from all over the country, as well as thousands of out-of-state individuals phone banking to California residents, giving their deceptive facts to help sway the tide. Nearly half of all money collected in favor of Prop 8 has been generated by members of the LDS church.

The most outlandish (and therefore amusing) ad out is this one, which clearly relies on fear-mongering:

Mommy, I can marry a princess! Yup, she's totally gay. There's no helping her now. Advocates for Prop 8 rely on a few main talking points, none of which are particular sound:

Prop 8 supporters worry that students will be taught about same sex marriage in classrooms.

As is California state law, parents have the option to have their kids skip out of any and all health and family lessons, so parents can still delay their kids from learning about gay people for that additional period of time before they are introduced to the real world. Besides, as a former California public school teacher, I can assure you that kids don't learn much of anything these days anyway, so there's no reason to panic.

Prop 8 is not about intolerance. Most Prop 8 supporters actually love gay people. Besides, in California, same sex couples are already afforded many of the same rights as married people.

If Prop 8 proponents love gay people as much as they claim to, why don't they marry them? Sarcasm aside, the nuance is critical here. The fact is, domestic partnerships are not the same thing. This country has tried "separate but equal" in the past, and it was a joke of a policy. Our constitution protects equal rights for everyone; legalizing exceptions to this is unconstitutional. It is ridiculous to pretend you care about a group of people, while perpetuating discrimination toward this same group.

I support Prop 8 not out of hate, but because it is important to maintain the current definition of marriage.

If you've ever checked out a dictionary or tracked etymology, you'll find that words evolve (though, evidently, churches do not.) Words take on new meanings as society uses them differently. You can't just pass a law insisting that people only use the word marriage to refer to unions of people of the opposite sex, that's not how language works. In fact, the first two online dictionaries I checked are already defining marriage regardless of the gender of both people in the union: Merriam-Webster and Encarta Dictionary. If your church, or just you on a personal level, decide to maintain your own way of defining marriage, that so be it, that's your right as a human and language user. However, that doesn't grant you the right to make it a law.

Prop 8 promotes positive family values.

A lot has been made of the fact that marriage exists for the purpose of procreation. Firstly, the world is facing a population crisis: we do not need an institution existing solely for the purpose of reproducing. Secondly, we allow heterosexual infertile, post-menopausal, and impotent people to marry without question, should we reconsider this, too?

Besides, current laws do not prevent homosexual people from adopting/conceiving children. If having parents joined in marriage is in fact the better approach to parenting, why deprive children of this?

Plus, I don't have any data to support this supposition, but I'd hazard that gay people almost never have abortions. When a gay person becomes pregnant, you can pretty confidently assume that that person really wants that child.

Passing Prop 8 actually helps to maintain the distinction between church and state.

Is that so? Last I checked, I could go down to a courthouse and get married by an official without a religious affiliation. Where are the protests against when heterosexual couples of differing or no religious affiliation getting married? Marriage is very much interlocked with the American government. As long as the government grants rights and privileges to married couples, it should be subject to political decision-making. Churches would maintain the right to marry who they see fit, but the government would have the opportunity to exclude no one, just as it should be.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s ruling specifically states that this decision cannot “impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official or any other person.” Backers of Proposition 8 like to cite examples from Massachusetts as proof that religious freedoms are lost. These comparisons are unfair because Massachusetts never made a stipulation about religion, whereas the California law clearly has a safeguard in place.

Taking the church's exclusionary definition of marriage and making it a governmental policy, thus applying it to people who do not practice that religion is the real violation of separation of church and state.


In high school, my history teacher once conducted an informal poll asking whether we thought the country should permit same sex marriage. Most of my peers agreed to allow it, but I raised my hand in the "not sure" category. While I thought it was the fair thing to do to let homosexuals marry, it made me uncomfortable, hence I was unsure. From my perspective, my own unfamiliarity and hesitancy was enough reason to limit the rights of others. (Subsequent encounters and life experiences drastically changed my opinion.)

In this society, I think we're all at least a little homophobic -- including many gay people. We hear so much homophobic rhetoric that, in spit of our better judgment and intentions, we can't help but consider it a "lesser" lifestyle. Until we give it a fair shot, it won't seem normal, because we're not permitting it to be normal.

I believe this discomfort to be the real reason for people to support Prop 8. There are people who are admittedly uncomfortable with the institution of gay marriage and hide behind a few distorted facts to rationalize their position in manners that don’t rely solely upon intolerance. From here, other individuals who are also uncomfortable gladly latch on to these facts, championing them as issues that are deeply important to them; “it’s not that I’m homophobic, it’s that I care about X, Y, and Z.” While I think the aforementioned X, Y, and Z are stretches at best, let’s suppose for a second each of these reasons was entirely legitimate. Why then do these reasons trump the personal freedoms that the Constitution guarantees? Our laws are designed, ideally anyway, to protect the rights of all, including minority groups. Conceding some issues is a small price to pay in order to promote justice for all.

The biggest issue seems to be that people are terrified that gay marriage will lead to restrictions of religious freedom, although religious freedom is clearly protected by the Constitution. These two issues do not have to be at odds with one another. Permitting government sanctioned same-sex marriages does not and should not have effects on religious institutions. The purported fear by religious proponents of Prop 8 is that it puts them one step closer to having the government dictate their private policies. In effect, these people are promoting Prop 8 to preemptively prevent potential lawsuits and other related battles. Obviously, I can’t promise that these conflicts wouldn’t occur, but I would view that as a violation of the church’s rights as established by this country, and would imagine that most citizens would agree and fight to protect these rights. That said, it is wholly unfair to choose deprive a certain group of people of equal status in order to look out for one’s own self first instead. Ideally, we should grant the equality to same-sex couples now, and then, if circumstances necessitate, similarly fight for groups, religious and otherwise, who have their own rights challenged. We can find a way to both reject Prop 8 and still protect the rights of everyone.

I hold out hope that one day society will be embarrassed by our efforts to legalize inequality toward individuals of certain sexual orientations. Our past digressions toward marginalized groups look increasingly stupid as time passes, and I’m betting that this, too, will be a blemish in our history. Let’s not make ourselves look ignorant for any longer than necessary.

No on Prop 8.


Thanks Giving and Receiving

L: Will you be around for Thanksgiving?
A: No, I'm going home to see my family.
L: Boo!
A: Yeah... I love my mom.
L: Boring.
A: I know, I know, I love her, I'm sorry.
K: You two do have a lot in common. You both love each other... you both teach young children... you both have sex with your dad...
awkward laughter
A: Yeah, my dad is why I'm actually going home. And I'll be there for a whole week, so you know...
K: So turkey's not the real reason you like Thanksgiving?
A: It's the stuffing.


Religion: I Don't Know

It’s been a while since I’ve waxed on religion, but I’m ready to expand the monologue.

This past weekend, I went to see Religulous with Dani, Michael, and Brandon. Host Bill Maher is perhaps the most off-putting person you could find on screen; he wouldn’t know charisma or tact if it bit him in the butt. In spite of his unpleasantness, I appreciated the film for what it was: entertainment. Religulous is a funny film, but not a documentary. Since the interviews are chopped up into snippy sound bytes, Maher refuses to make any concessions, and any intelligent discourse is limited to coming from Maher’s perspective rather than his numerous interviewees, I was a bit peeved. Most critics of this film are offended by the content, but I actually agree with Maher for the most part. For me personally, I’m upset that a film on this subject has finally been created but will surely convince no one of a differing opinion.

Maher declares himself an agnostic, repeatedly insisting he does not know because he can’t know, as there is no concrete proof. Maher bemoans that the world holds a proof-less entity to be supreme and chooses to conduct itself primarily by the rules we’ve decided a higher being has established for us, often in defiance of logic and science. Maher believes that there’s a significant portion of the population that merely accepts rather than believes in their religious affiliations, preferring not to ruffle any feathers by challenging the norm. If the results of this were inconsequential, this approach could be fine and dandy, however, our soundless blind faith is leading to large-scale negative consequences, namely breeding intolerance. At the conclusion, he declares a call to action for all the atheists, agnostics, and questioners to come out of the closet if you will and openly challenge the status quo.

I was raised attending a church, but not raised to be particularly religious. The implicit message I received from this approach was, everyone goes to church, so you will too, but ultimately believe what you want. Even though I consider myself agnostic now, I don’t for one second regret this semi-religious upbringing. My particular church provided me with a lot of good times and helped instill many (and what I still believe are) good values in me. In fact, the very transformation from having a theistic mentality to a non-believing perspective has been a worthwhile experience. I feel that that process of questioning, reasoning, and rejecting helped to make me a stronger critical thinker.

In college, I was the agnostic who argued in favor of religion, particularly because of this personal development. I posited that many intelligent people would be stronger for having been through that process and more prepared to take on a theistic world with insider knowledge. Now, I recognize the shortsightedness of this position. As much as I idealized the thought of hundreds of thousands of little Kevins benefiting from their participation in the church then later coming away with a more enlightened, critical outlook, the reality is that things don’t often work out that way. For every individual who questions eir faith, there are several more who wind up following its principles throughout their lifetime.

I believe our world is in trouble. The ideological differences between countries are going to continue to cause riffs and wars. If that doesn’t come to a head soon, the impending competition for limited resources (food, land, fresh water, etc) will expedite the conflicts. It’d be one thing if we still battled with muskets, but now we play with nuclear bombs. As international citizens, we’re going to have to learn to work out our issues. We’re going to have to learn to be rational in our thinking and, dare I say it, even compromise. Religion is a major impediment here. The very act of blind faith is irrational and many religions encourage people to believe that their path is correct and not to concede their godly values. I very much doubt that we’ll be able to reach a point of logic and science that successfully aids in our survival while so many people hold on to something so illogical and unscientific so dearly.

I wholeheartedly agree with the expression “Ignorance is bliss.” It’s way easier to be happy when you don’t know the truth. The problem is that this state is not sustainable. Eventually, enlightenment or reality sets in, often simultaneously. So while we can choose a life of ignorance, it only prevents us from having the opportunity to problem solve. Take the environment, for example. Sure, we can drive our SUVs and create and waste plastic at alarming rates, all the while ignoring the impending consequences. Currently, we can be content with our cush lifestyles, but in time it will catch up and challenge our existence. I feel that this same analogy can be extended to religion. We can busy our minds with an unproven higher being so that we feel more secure and purposeful, but if we use it as an excuse to impede progress and knowledge (like the subject of evolution, for example,) then we are ultimately doing ourselves a disservice.

Actor Julia Sweeney wrote one of the best loss-of-faith stories I’ve ever read. She is candid, relatable, and funny, to boot. Sweeney wanted so desperately to believe in God, but struggled with reconciling the Bible’s teachings with everything else she held to be true. A lengthy excerpt from her work “Letting Go of God” was broadcast on NPR’s This American Life and the whole program can still be streamed for free here. For a direct link to Sweeney’s segment only, check out this post by Independent Democracy. I highly recommend you listening to this piece, as it is absolutely fascinating. If you don’t have 25 free minutes now, I practically insist that you return again later to give it a shot.

My favorite part of her writing is left out of the excerpt, so I’m going to type it up myself to share. The bolding is my own.
And then I thought: “But I can’t. I don’t know if I can not believe in God. I need God. I mean, we have a history.”

But then I thought: “Wait a minute. If you look over my life, every step of maturing for me, every single one, had the same common denominator. It was accepting what was true over what I wished were true. This was the case about men, about my career, about my parents.”

So how can I come up against this biggest question, the ultimate question, “Do I really believe in a personal God,” and then turn away from the evidence? How can I believe just because I want to? How will I have any respect for myself if I do that?

I thought of Pascal’s wager. Pascal argued that it’s better to be there is a God, because if you’re wrong, there’s nothing to lose, but if there is, you win an eternity in heaven. But I can’t force myself to believe, just in case it turns out to be true.

The God I’ve been praying to knows what I think; he doesn’t just make sure I show up for church. How could I possibly pretend to believe? I might convince other people, but surely not God. Plus, if I lead my life according to my own deeply held moral principles, what difference would it make if I believe in God or not? Why would God care if I “believed” in him?

I certainly could not articulate the struggle and ultimate decision any better myself. I find a real beauty in Sweeney’s story, in spite of the sadness. Also, I find a great source of inspiration. And even though I think he’s an asshat, I find some inspiration from Maher, as well. That’s why I’ve decided to accept his challenge. I can’t sit back and leave well enough alone when I now see religion as being an increasingly destructive force rather than, well, “well enough.” Perhaps it’d be one thing if people practiced the loving, peaceful aspects that religions were supposedly founded upon, but things aren’t shaking out that way.

For this reason, I’m going to be more proactive in sharing my agnosticism. While this may make me an outcast with certain friends, I’m finally (I think) ready to test those limits. I’m not going to let anyone be blissfully ignorant on my watch. Maybe I won’t convert a single person, but at least I can force them to take a closer look at why they believe what they believe and what would change if they weren’t to believe such things. If the threat of hell is the only thing keeping you from behaving immorally, then you have some larger problems.

The truth is, I’m not nearly arrogant enough to assume that I am right about anything, but I am confidently confused enough to declare that I firmly don’t know. In that vain, I think that more people need to be open to the possibility of admitting that they, too, “don’t know.” From there, I hope we can take what we do know and use that knowledge to make better decisions. Join the crusade?


Novel Taste

"I don't like Pride & Prejudice, but I'm proud and prejudiced." - Jef


The Magic of the Wizard's Dream

If you hang out with Lindsay long enough, you’ll soon discover one indisputable fact: wizards are funny.

Not Harry Potter wizards, but wizardly wizards. The kind with flowing, long, white beards and pointed hats. Flamboyant medieval wizards with wands and cheesy robes that cast spells and brew potions.

Lindsay requested that we have a wizard party. We didn’t actually invite anyone except Amy, so the party was more of a gathering, but fun nonetheless. Since no one had wizard costumes, we stopped at the 99 Cent store to see what we might find. There we found sparkly hats, colorful wands, and glowing glasses.

What does one do at a wizard party? Drink potions, mainly. Play board game or two. Or thousands, even. We can do that, you know: we’re wizards.

We also got on YouTube and searched for wizard videos. For the most part, they suck. We found one, however, that was as magical as wizards themselves, and it is called “The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream” by Rhapsody. It is so fantastic that I made it my ring tone.

If that isn’t one of the most ridiculous, over-the-tio musical displays you have ever taken a gander at, I’ll eat my wizard hat. There’s an orchestra, booming operatic voices, and the irresistible chorus: “Angels are calling from divine lost crystal realms, riding from heaven for the magic of the wizard’s dream.”

Let the Magic of the Wizard’s Dream entrance you. Should you get tired of hearing it in English, you can also find versions in Italian, German, and French. Evidently, it's significant enough of a song to be translated into multiple languages. Also, pass this tune on to everyone you know, or face the possibility of being transformed into a frog.


Traffic Jam

A: I’m going to be late. I’m stuck in traffic on the 10.
K: The 10’s always bad. Why didn’t you take another way?
A: I don’t take another way! It’s 10… or the highway!


High and Dry: Dirty Laundry

Before I left for college, my grandma told my mom that she had to teach me three things: 1) How to do laundry 2) Not to drink alcohol 3) Not to do drugs. Considering I only failed on the drinking front, I think I was pretty successful. Really though, had I followed all three strictly, I would have had a pretty boring social life. Perhaps I could have done people’s laundry for them while they went out and partied.

If we’re being completely honest, I probably can’t count learning how to do laundry as a real success either. I’ve never been particularly good at doing laundry. Granted, it’s hardly a challenging skill, but if there were some level of natural talent for such a thing, I would certainly lack it. Moreover, I’ve never been adept at taking the time to do my laundry once I have a full load. Instead, it piles up to be about one-and-a-half loads and then I just cram it all in there anyway.

During my first legitimately unsupervised laundry session at college, the dryer would not work because I had shoved in too many articles of clothing. Each time I hit start, it would whir for five seconds before the door would open and spill out some of my clothing. However, I found that if I manually held the door shut, the cycle would continue uninterrupted. On that note, I fetched some duct tape and taped the dryer door shut so that I wouldn’t have to physically hold it myself for forty-five minutes. Once the drying finally commenced, I left it alone for a while until I heard a lot of noise coming from the laundry room. Curious, I returned, finding that the dryer door was heaving against the tape in an attempt to break free and open, causing the dryer to jump and rattle in a spastic fit. The rattling had actually moved it a few feet away from its place against the wall. At this point, I realized why duct tape is not a common laundry supply.

This wasn’t my only laundry mishap that first year. I had purchased detergent from the 99-Cent Store – or at least that’s what I had assumed. The labeling on the container was in Spanish, and as it was later pointed out to me by someone who spoke Spanish after I had used it for several cycles, this bottle was not laundry detergent, but fabric softener. While fabric softener is nice as a supplement, it will not actually clean your clothes. If you knew me at this time and ever wondered why my clothes smelled so fresh, yet looked so dirty, there’s your answer.

By my second year of college, though, I had gotten the swing of things and could practically do my laundry all by myself. The closest laundry room to my dorm had notoriously awful dryers, the kind that would require at least two cycles to sufficiently dry the clothing. While this method was slightly costly, the alternatives were limited. On one occasion, I started a load, fully expecting to have to start it again nearly an hour later.

When I returned, however, I found that my damp clothing had been put on top of the machine. I will be the first to admit that there are debatable ethics when it comes to a shared laundry space. It’s not fair to hog one of the limited machines because you’re not prompt about picking your belongings up. I’m not sure I agree with removing someone’s clearly wet clothing to steal eir machine, but again, debatable ethics, so I probably would have let it slide were it not for the note. This note rested atop my barely dried clothes: “MAYBE IF YOU DIDN’T PUT SO MUCH IN, YOUR CLOTHES WOULD DRY!” This message was emphasized with a large frowny face to show the competing laundry-er’s contempt.

Granted, I probably had put too many clothes in, but it was hardly worthy of a mean-spirited note. Those dryers were rotten, and if this person had done laundry there previously, ey should know that. I had left my laundry unattended for ten minutes and then had my property disrespected. I was willing to bet from the rudeness exhibited that my rival would also not be timely about picking up eir load, so I waited for the cycle to end, watching from the stairway in case my theory was wrong.

As soon as the cycle ended, I ran to the machine and emptied the note-leaver’s possessions. Though this person had at least half of the amount that I had been attempting to dry, this clothing was still damp, too. Aha! Vindication! I quickly shoved my own clothes back into the dryer and started the cycle. Then I flipped over the piece of paper and scrawled a note of my own: “MAYBE IF YOU WEREN’T SUCH A BITCH, YOUR CLOTHES WOULD DRY!” I drew an even larger frowny face and decided it looked great sitting atop my rival’s damp clothing. At this point, I scrammed, as this action was purely passive-aggressive and I had no desire to have an actual confrontation.

I watched from my covert spot on the staircase to see who exactly my foe was. About five minutes later, a miserable wench of a person entered the laundry room. I heard a loud, frustrated whine and then a scream of “ASSHOLE!” Oh, darling, don’t get your panties in a wad. Oh wait, they are already in a wad: a damp, wrinkled wad because they didn’t dry properly through no real fault of your own -- except, perhaps, being a bitch.

I might not be an expert at laundry, but I can still be a winner. (I did, infamously, prove myself to be quite a loser in the laundry room during my senior year, too, but that’s neither here nor there.) I have to say that laundry is a lot more fun as a competitive event.