Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why I left Marketing

One need go no further than today's Boston panic to understand why there is little or no room in marketing for anyone over 40...and why there ought to be.

We have here a marketing stunt which, I am sure, we will discover was conceived by children, planned by children, approved by children, and executed by children.

Note: I have adopted the hobbit definition of 33 as coming of age. It seems to fit our society
quite well.

Even if all of the perps are not under 33, we will likely find that their minds are much younger than that, at least in terms of an inability to comprehend negative consequences to their predetermined course of action.

Now, some of these children will be very exercised to stay out of prison, and so have a lot of time to consider the consequences of ill-considered actions. However, they are not alone in their folly.

I feel much safer knowing that these allegedly dangerous "packages" have been in place for two to three weeks without our crack police force and Homeland Insecurity people having the least idea they were there. Not only in place, but lit up every fucking night.

I feel much better informed knowing that Boston media redefined "slow news day" by devoting every second of coverage to something known to be a hoax almost immediately. That explains why I'm no longer a journalist. Sheesh!

Doesn't anybody possess the critical faculty anymore?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Counting the other shoes dropping

Re the infamous mat incident:

I'm generally content to wait, but developments have been instructive the past couple of days. We've had one passing statement purportedly from the vice president of the parent company of Where did this parent company come from? The quondam mom and pop Web business is sprouting executives faster than weeds after a spring rain.

As a former military person and a former PR puke, I found the statement and press release on the 1st Cavalry's Web site very interesting. It was interesting for what it said, and what it did not say.

Here, for the first time, we have independent confirmation that a Sgt. Hess actually exists, and actually serves with the 1st Cavalry in Iraq. We discover too that he was not seeking mattresses for poor weary soldiers, and appears to have been acting in the line of duty: a very important hint. We have a very responsible statement regarding freedom of speech from the division press office. That in itself is less than a ringing endorsement of the Sergeant's action in making this alleged communication known to anybody but his superior officers.

Thirty-five years after my discharge, my grip of the UCMJ is certainly shaky. Both it and its application may have changed since my day. Back then, anyone who disclosed any part of such a communication to the outside world would have been in very serious trouble.

I imagine the Sergeant will be able to enjoy his rank and 15 minutes of fame until the noise dies away. Perhaps he can while away the time considering whether he wants to take the fall for this little escapade himself, or whether he wants to finger other people to placate the military pussycat who is now playing with him. The prospect of stockade time, like that of beheading in a former era, concentrates the mind wonderfully.

So much for that end. Some reporter with enterprise (if such beings still exist) might get busy in Wisconsin and tidy up the problem of this now it's here, now it isn't company and its multiplying executive suite. With some real crust, a reporter could probably get the name of the alleged perp and get the real deal from him/her on deep background. It should at least be possible to get third-party confirmation that a perp exists.

Facts, world, facts, please. Self-referencing, circular referencing, successions of emails are not facts. We have one fact now. May we have the rest?
Late News, 2/1/07. From an ambivalent righty site. The sprawling executive suite seems to have shrunk to a mom-and-pop business. Possibly, a pop business. Not only has the executive suite shrunk, so has the payroll, which may be non-existent. The source is highly biased against the world at large, but Muslims especially, so make the appropriate deductions. Note that even this late news is now a week old.

Two questions remain. First, how did our publicity-hound cavalry sergeant wind up at this Web site, of all places? It doesn't seem that easy to google, even with all the hype. Second, the entire context of the story seems to be right-wing journalistic /blogospheric masturbation. It ain't got legs, as they say. I'm keeping an eye on it out of pure morbid curiosity (wondering when and if Snopes will back off) but why are they staying with it?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It's a Duck

Isn't that interesting? Out of the blue, an Army NCO just happens to email a mat company in Wisconsin to find out if they ship to APO addresses. The company, which happens to be fairly new, happens to be owned by Muslims. Someone working at the company happens to send an anti-Iraq-war-message in reply. The NCO just happens to let his family in the US know about this. Fox and the right-wing blogosphere are all over it. The story just happens to reach the boiling point on the day of Bush's pathetic State of the Union speech. We reach the two-source threshold in nanoseconds, which leads to anoint the whole thing as true.

The company, claiming to be inundated by hostile email (this I can believe) has taken down its Web site, which (coincidentally I am sure) will never reappear.

I can think offhand of about half a dozen ways to set up a gullible local news media, Fox, and a gullible blog segment ready to accept the item without question. Having done that, it becomes child's play to schnocker Snopes and get the real seal of approval. Likewise, I can come up with a good number of tough questions that nobody bothered to ask.

The story seems to languish in the halls of the right, so perhaps it did not achieve all it was meant to. I will retreat with my skepticism to an armchair, watch the media world go mad, and wait for someone to confess what I believe to be a fraud.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dydd Gwaethaf am Blywddyn

Only a Welsh scientist would calculate the worst day of the year. (Well, maybe a Scandinavian one, but they get to ski in the dark: how bad is that?)

There are exceptions, of course. For example, January 22, 2007 is not at all bad if you live in Chicago or Indianapolis. January 22 is probably not nearly as bad as January 23 or 24 will be if you live in the White House.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Back

Topic: energy saving. Step one forward was actually in two stages last year, moving to high mileage, lower emissions cars. Step two was our holiday hell. When the plumber announced his intention of replacing our circa-60-year old furnace two days after Christmas, we said what you always say to a plumber who is actually going to show up: "Sure."

Translations from plumberish to English:

"Only one day." Means three.

"Don't need to move out:" if you enjoy wilderness camping in winter. The cats did move out, and took their chances outdoors until they were sure the commotion had ceased. They were probably more comfortable.

"Still needs a few tweaks." Means the first floor zone is 52 F, the second floor zone is 80 F, and the shower water is a degree or two short of boiling.

Nevertheless, we now have a fine, state-of-the art system with an EER of 92 percent (the old one limped along at 55 percent).

The step back, and an emblem of advancing decrepitude, is our new snowblower.

This old house has not had a gasoline appliance for 20 years. We have a push mower, and over half the lot planted in native species that don't need mowing. This gadget is my spouse's contribution to my cardiac health.

I call it "our" snowblower. I have a bet on with my daughter re the amount of time my wife will actually spend running this machine. I claim she will actually make an effort. Emily holds that my wife's effort will take the form of waving me toward the door.

The last snowblower I had was in my adolescence. It had half the horsepower and frequent repair issues. With it my brother and I were expected not only to clear our own 200 foot driveway, but those of several neighbours. Modest as the new machine is (we saw some whose horsepower equalled my wife's Scion) it still seems like overkill for an 80-foot driveway and a hunk of sidewalk.

We shall see how this strange new adventure plays out.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Am I nuts?

Seems like I've been here before, but one of the stranger dimensions of the marriage rights
conflict is how few people have thought about what might happen if the opponents of marriage equality win.

The opponents have not, because they are trapped in the desert religions' cult of victimhood, and because
right-wing causes in general exist to provide a living for their lobbyists. The worst that can happen to these
foundations is to win. In the dark corners of their souls, they are sure (or hopeful) that they will lose. Eventually,
they will. The worst fears of their scare campaigns will not materialise, and an embarrassed silence will descend
upon the issue, very much like that which now hides the exact parallels between this battle and that over
mixed-race marriage two generations back.

The proponents, in particular Mass Equality, have not thought about it, because they are a) in serious denial
and b) obsessed with playing nice. They are sure they will win. Eventually, they will.

No one in the Great and General Court has thought about it, because they are only able to think as far as
the next election, and about not offending their constituents.

I'm not talking about eventually. I'm talking about now. And now is when something very very bad is
very likely to happen. People who support equality in marriage need to lose the denial and plan how to
turn a probable electoral defeat into a permanent social victory.

The last time law-abiding American citizens were deprived of rights they had previously enjoyed
was in the aftermath of Plessy v. Ferguson. What an ugly precedent that is. The state
with the oldest written constitution in the world would have to figure out what to do about
the 9000 or so same-sex couples who are now married. Nobody has advanced any idea about

I would guess that your courageous legislative representatives would consider throwing those
9000 couples a bone in the form of the most timid form of civil unions they can cook up.

What if the couples said "no?" All at once? On the State House steps? Nice sound bite,
that. Deval thinks he's in trouble now?

What if some or all of them sued? What if they sued on the basis of the sanctity of contract,
which is the Commonwealth's chief interest here, not the right to marry. If I were a conservative capable
of foresight (perhaps contradictory, I know), that would worry me. It would worry me because if this
particular Federal Supreme Court were asked to rule against its most cherished principle and precedent, it
becomes very tough to forecast the outcome.

What if the state courts in addition had a dozen new Goodridge cases to consider? That's especially true
this week, since the SJC may be one vertebra closer to having a spine again.

What could happen from this storm of litigation is that the opponents of equal marriage rights might,
accidentally, create one or more legal decisions that would make their position and their amendments
untenable everywhere.
Has anyone played out this possibility to the legislature's gutless holdouts? The chance that by placating the "let the people vote" mob in the short run, they might become goats to the right, rather than heroes?

And don't forget kerosene to help burn those 9000 marriage licences.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Worst Case

What about the worst case for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts? Who is planning for that?

It seems realistic to plan now. Mass. Equality still appears to be in shock. When they say anything, it sounds like a further commitment to the failed policy of "Mr./Ms. Nice Queer win over the opposition." My State Rep. and State Senator (the latter being at least an arguable candidate for Senate President if Trav could be stomped) seem to have good intentions, and nothing more.

Let's sell fear. The other side are doing well with this product, so we should out-sell them. (But skip the aerial ads in winter, puh-LEEZE!)

Suppose with me that the next ConCon vote fails, and that same-sex marriage fails on the 2008 ballot initiative. At this moment of paralysis, both seem very likely.

Then what? Who amongst the opponents has thought about what happens next?

Massachusetts has to divest several thousand law-abiding citizens of a legally recognised civil right. The nation has absolutely no precedent for this. Even segregation was accomplished quietly, gradually and with at least the illusion of equality. Can't be so here. You are married one day, not married the next. This ain't gonna be easy.

If you're a Massachusetts legislator, possessed of more crust than spine, it may occur to you to throw a bone to the disenfranchised multitudes: civil unions.

Now, let's suppose.

1) The disenfranchised get squat. It's just like gay-bashing, VoM thinks. The queers won't fight back. Suppose the queers do.

2) Suppose the General Court throws the civil union bone, but the disenfranchised refuse to trade down.

My storyboard has all the couples, plus families and friends, show up to burn their marriage licences in front of the State House. Nice plume of smoke curling into the air as 25,000 people shout their anger with lots of national media eating all of it up.

That means a little planning and motivation, yes? Stay tuned for further hallucinations. Hey, it's better than helpless hand-wringing.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

So many thoughts, so little time

Three-day weekend coming, so maybe I can get ahead enough to get some of the ideas down.

There is wise and prudent advice out there that you should never blog about your work. Since that has been absorbing me for the past few days, I'll be content with silence.

Except for my late observations on my blogger trouble. There is some fundamental incompatibility between and Firefox storage. What I've noticed is that if you are unable to get to from Firefox, put down the mouse and back slowly away. Tiptoe back, clear the cookies and cache manually and reboot, and you should be in business.

Through various blogger betas and two Firefox updates, this has been the one consistent "feature."


Monday, January 08, 2007


Says here, "The blog you were looking for was not found" when I attempt to do much of anything but a straight post. Stay tuned.

Late news--

For the second time, I find I must resort to IE , whilst Blogger turns its nose up at my latest-and-greatest Firefox.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Well, if You Insist

My vent the other day has had one reaction, sent off-list, which is very much worth reading. I added it as an anonymous comment.

I've finally been seeing some glimmer of recognition that the one thing the pro-equality forces have not done so far is get their hands dirty. Dignity is no use when someone has mugged you and dragged you into the gutter. You are already in the gutter: the question becomes whether you will fight to survive or not.

So, being more than usually bent, I'm tossing out some ideas that may be useful in the gutter, and could at least add to the theatricality of the next few months.

What about "Kiss Kris" and Kiss Cirignano" campaigns? Keep in mind that these are people terrified of AIDS, and perhaps generally phobic about contact with all humans (the ones they aren't knocking down). Many such people also believe everyone who is gay or who supports same-sex marriage is HIV-positive and infects with a touch. It's time to comfort the poor bastards with a nice wet smooch, or at least a hug, whenever they appear in public.

The best thing about the door-to-door campaign is that it's so boring. Don't think for a minute that the straight majority really are on your side. They're just bored with it all. It's valuable to bore as many people as possible.

The worst thing about the door-to-door campaign is that there is no time for it.

However, it may be possible to bore another 15 legislators. If boredom fails, there's fear. Depriving several thousand people of civil rights without due process is a constitutional minefield that could easily turn against opponents of same-sex marriage. One might remind the holdouts that if their actions led to that outcome, everybody on the right would blame them; personally. All that argument needs is enough persuasiveness to plant seeds of doubt in obviously swayable and gutless people.

It might be time to drop the Brooks Brothers thing at demonstrations. In the early stages of public demonstration, at least, it was tacitly understood that the Equality people wanted a non-threatening look on the picket line: Fat lot of good that did: they still hated us. It's time to rub it in their faces. You could give them the Brooks Brothers as long as they behave themselves. When they act up, send out a drag platoon to spread hugs and kisses to the righteous multitude. Move another battalion of leatherfolk to the front ranks, just to stand there and silently intimidate the fanatics.

I'm sure the idea would give Mass Equality fits. Well, they want my money. I want to see some spine and some street theatre for my money. Of course, such methods would require Mass Equality to get off its high horse, recognise differences within the ranks of the "different" (some that it has created), and make peace with people it too has marginalised.

The righteous always like to bus people to our demonstrations. Why are we not busing people to demonstrate at their churches?

Speaking of churches, there must be some people who are still trying to be gay and Catholic. OK, my catechism taught that civil marriage is no marriage at all. When did civil marriage become the obsession of the Catholic Church, and is this obsession not error*? Time to push back on this one...past time.

Somewhere along the line, the church stopped dwelling on the principle that non-Catholic religious marriages also were not marriages. How about bringing that out of the closet along with several other divisive chestnuts. Let the Protestant extremists see that in the inner sancta of the Vatican, the Counter-Reformation is not over, just taking a break. That, friends, is the biggest wedge issue of them all.

Is it not possible to probe the pasts of several of the key opponents of same-sex marriage? People so rabidly obsessed with this issue almost certainly have something to hide. I'm an old PR puke. I know that disclosures need merely to seem unseemly, not to meet a standard of evidence. You can knock righteous people off-centre with innuendo as well as indictment.

I'd like to see some evidence of that legendary gay creativity (coughs). If the system continues to fail this cause, there will be plenty of time for outrage (people ought to be planning that, just in case). What we need now is outrageousness. Cautious propriety has not done the job.

I'm glad to see that someone with actual readers thinks the same way:

Damn, I hate being right all the time.

*Error, in Catholic usage, is
"A false judgment; a discrepancy between the mental judgment and the object of this judgment. Error is different from ignorance, although it implies ignorance and proceeds from it. Ignorance implies lack of knowledge without the formation of a judgment; error can occur only in the presence of some knowledge, and expresses a mistaken judgment...." (New Catholic Dictionary)

Isn't that terrific? By the way, The New Catholic Dictionary is a valuable insight into the religion's fundamental contradictions. It's loaded with canonical legalisms and unintended humour.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Absolutely Random

1. Back in September, I bemoaned my daughter's ill-developed taste in beer. She came home for Christmas and I resolved on a plan. Bought some Sam Light for her and said "you drink light beer here, you drink this (or an equivalent alternative)."

I think she's worked her taste buds up a notch.

2. Because I could not stomach watching Capt. Brylcreem's exit circus, I watched the end of Ford's endless funeral.
a) I served in the Navy's Bluejacket choir. Did we have to have the Army chorus?
b) Biased as I am, I think "The Navy Hymn" is the most reflective and dignified piece of music associated with any armed service, possibly excepting the British Army's "Last Post." I was extremely pissed off to hear it played by an Army band.
c) After a century of experiment, it is good to see the Army back in dress blue, even if they try to one-up the Navy.

3. I have two words for anyone who doesn't think the championship process for Div. 1-A football is broken beyond repair: Boise State.

While We Wait

The attachment is about 11 minutes but food for thought. In between chuckles, it may be worth reflecting that the Texas legislature takes its sexual tyranny straight up, as Lincoln might have said, "without the base alloy of hypocrisy." The same can't be said of the Great and General Court.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Postcard from the Bitter Edge

January 2, 2007 should be, but won't be, a lesson for the A-list, the people who have given themselves up to the illusion that they can be sexually different and still live "normal" lives. Normal in this context means the lives of straight, vanilla people.

Yes, I am saying this out loud. Saying it even though I put out rather more energy than I still possess on the first round of picketing. Saying it despite the encouraging words of a number of straight fellow travelers. The message of January 2, 2007 is not gradualistic success: It is hate.

The straight world will always hate any sexual difference. They will never stop hating it. Even if you finesse a political win sometime in the future, they will still hate and your win will mean nothing.

We've looked at the AP's carefully-compiled list of yeas and nays, with yeas, as we know, being votes to place this on the ballot: objectively true, but subjectively false. Think not? Why then does the coverage say "the Legislature voted against gay marriage," not "62 reactionary assholes voted against gay marriage."
In a very real sense, everyone who sat in that convention is polluted by this decision. Everyone who did not work hard enough, to some degree or other, is a sharer in the hate. That includes me, even though I have precious little money to spare and the A-list does not want me on the picket line, because they don't need supporters who would gladly punch out the lights of any bigot with a polished sign.

"They" admits no exceptions. Here's my little challenge to my friends who are fellow travelers. Can you, from the depths of your heart, honestly say that you tolerate all forms of sexual expression involving consenting adults?

Uh-huh: Damn those little words: "except" and "but." Shit, people of other races have been messing around with those little words for 50 years and seen almost nothing change. Why should sexually different adults expect anything else? Why, except delusion and denial?

Tolerance also admits no exceptions. It is one thing to be blandly tolerant of your A-list gay/lesbian friends. Her attire might be a trifle macho, and his might be just a bit too flawless. Does that tolerance include flaming drag queens, quieter transsexuals on HRT, the leather Bear with his "boy" decorated with nipple rings, chains, and whip tracks? Does it include stone butch dykes and their bois? What if, in the house next door, the het wife dresses up in thigh-high boots, carries a riding crop, and leads her husband around on a leash. Can you tolerate that?

It isn't tolerance until you can see past the trappings that intimidate you and see the love between people in wildly unfamiliar and scary contexts. Only when you can raise all love between consenting adults above the trivia and the noise will you really be tolerant.

You will also be almost as perverted as the rest of us, which is why that level of tolerance isn't going to happen, certainly not in my lifetime.

Back to the A-list folks. The view from the edge is "just give it up." Come back to the dark side. Rejoin a subculture that can handle what you are. Create your own rituals and bonds that are stronger than the flimsy tissue represented by the "m-word." Step outside with the admitted freaks. Stop trying to be entirely like the straight world. Come back to invisibility. Pick up the old world of arcane symbolism that defies the bigotry of the straight universe. However, when you pull back, let it be with a demonstration of rage that bigots, admitted or otherwise, will never forget.

Gaming the straight political system has failed you.

If I have made anyone angry, I only hope you are as angry as I am. Don't waste bandwidth flaming me, but prove me wrong.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Hell of a Way to Start

My New Year's resolution is to write more. It sucks to begin doing that with the obituary of the man who taught two generations to write at my side.

Donald Murray was something special. He taught writing as a process; taught the process as no one else has. We were a class of hippie poets waiting for inspiration. He taught us to put words on a page, set within a structure, whether we were inspired or not. When you did it Don's way, the momentum of what you were doing, the "disease of writing" as he sometimes said, took over. You got the inspiration by working to carve it out of the words on the page. His classes were a combination of insightful support, comments about the world and all that is in it, and the most rigourous, severe, and constructive editorial criticism I have ever had. There was little grade inflation anywhere in those days, and none at all in Murray's. If you sweated, strained and struggled, met the deadline, and if your latest story was better than your last, you might get a B minus. I ended the course with a B and didn't know at the time that it was one of his rarely-bestowed treats. Above all, he taught you to work at your writing, always. The day he died, Don had filed his last story just the day before, and had a new and more advanced project in the works. That's a humbling example.

Since I began to fill pages with words for a living, I've had many reasons to thank Donald Murray. He would have no patience at all with the reasons I have written so little, reasons I know are lame. He would also be there, if you needed him, to tease the right word or phrase out of the words you did toss at the page. Once you had the sense to see it, you would feel as if you weren't half bad at this business.

I suppose all of us who were Don's students have always felt his presence over our shoulders. It is hard to sense that empty space now. He'd tell us to write, if he knew: to get busy.

I'm trying, man, I'm trying.