the miscellany chronicle

bit of this, bit of that


oh, how quaint

I saw a clip of Rich Little's performance at the White House Correspondents' Association's Dinner, and then I read the WaPo account of the evening, and the consensus seems to be: oh, Rich Little! You are so very old and out of touch! Also, not terribly funny!

And that is almost certainly the case. But I confess, within me there is something of a hope that he was so horrifically dull on PURPOSE, as a statement on what sort of humor is acceptable to a group of people who couldn't handle Colbert last year.

Or maybe it was the guy planning the event-- Steve Scully. I mean, his list of people to ask went like this:

Jay Leno
David Letterman
Billy Crystal
Jerry Seinfeld
Robin Williams
Rich Little

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? These are the only comedians in the country who were considered for this event? I find that baffling to the point of not even believing it. It's as if Scully listed the most well-known comedians in the country, who were also the least-likely ones to agree to do the event, and after the inevitable declines from all FIVE (seriously, FIVE PEOPLE) of them, he went for Little.

It is almost enough to convince me that Scully was maybe a fan of Colbert's scathing performance last year, and disgusted by the audience's inability to handle such honesty at their annual circle-jerk in formal wear. (Since, of course, every day with a press conference is a circle-jerk for the White House press corps and their Beloved Leader.) So maybe Scully gave them what he deserved-- tired old impersonations of Jimmy Carter, because that's the level of humor those people could handle.

Oh, and of course, Sanjaya. Which makes me wonder something else-- did have anything to do with the last presidential election? The state of the world is finally becoming clear to me.


because they did it first, apparently

The post is interesting, the comments moreso.

There's another post at Pandagon about meanie atheism, and it raises some great points-- atheists are despised by the current establishment, prevented from holding public office, treated like monsters-- or worse, children. (You know, sanctimonious people who cluck over atheists like lost lambs.)

The problem that's cropping up is that Pandagon-- up till now something of an ideological haven for those liberal christians who know full well the establishment of religion is an offense to God and man-- has suddenly turned into an explicitly hostile environment for people who identify with every one of the blog's beliefs except for atheism.

This, for example, is a tedious interaction to have:

atheist: Theists believe in lies, which is why they hate gay people.
theist: I do not hate gay people, and I believe in god.
theist: No, I--

Okay, so that's a little more dramatic than the actual conversations I saw happening, but to see so much rabid essentialism going on at Pandagon was a little baffling to me.

I understand that as a theistic American, I am automatically given a position of privilege. At the same time, I've spent most of my life trying to refute that privilege, openly calling myself pro-choice within the church, arguing for gay rights with people who thought I was practically a heretic for doing so, once even going up to a pastor after a sermon to ask that he stop using offensive gender stereotypes. There were people at my childhood church who wanted nothing to do with my family because we were Democrats, people who thought I was a bad example to other children because I was a girl and I spoke up in class-- people who wanted us gone.

But there are people at Pandagon-- commentors, mostly, as Amanda has been less strident-- who don't think that sort of viral influence is any good, because it comes from people who believe in god, and are therefore ignorant or purposely blind.

And I hate this kind of binary thinking. I hate it when "religious" people talk about how disgusting abstract gay people are. I hate it when white supremacists talk about how disgusting abstract black people are. And this disdain for abstract theists is frustrating in a similar way.

I find myself especially frustrated because they are using "logic" to tout a position which we know-- experientially-- does not work. Finding a person you disagree with and calling that person an idiot does nothing but create hostility. Asking them actual questions about their beliefs, explaining alternative points of view, and maybe undermining illogic and ignorance-- that is something that works in real life.

There have been examples of the latter form of dialogue cropping up with the partial-birth abortion ban, one heart-wrenching example here. She explains that the D&E was necessary to save her life, that the twins she was carrying would not have lived even if she sacrificed herself for their sake. The result of her telling a story about a real person instead of a construct is that many commentors say that they have always been pro-life, but reading her story has made them realize that the issue is more complicated than they ever knew. One person says:

I used to be a fundamentalist, and was pretty ignorant on all things related to pregnancy problems. I've since done a 180 on most of my views, abortion included, and most of that has had to do more with education than just viewpoint. It was hearing stories like yours that made me realize there are situations I never dreamed of, that the world isn't as easy as I would have liked it to be, that anyone who claims there is "never" a reason to do something is someone who hasn't been exposed to reality.

I am a theist, and nothing is more beautiful to me than someone saying "I used to be a fundamentalist," because it means a person can believe something, learn more about it and change his/her mind. People can re-examine their convictions-- but they do it from hearing new things, from learning subtleties, from unexpected experiences, from gentle disagreements-- from almost anything except HEY MORON YOUR GOD IS A DELUSION.

I think Dawkins certainly has a place in public discourse, but at the same time I wish that some of Pandagon's commentors would consider that the more personal camaraderie of a shared space and philosophy does not lend itself to his sweeping statements and generalizations.



Cho Seung-Hui's Plays

Someone who was in a writing workshop with the gunman said:

When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of. Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn't pressure him to give closing comments.

I find it interesting that in a culture which often devalues the written word-- and here, at a Tech school, where math and science are so important-- it turns out that this man's writings are turning out to be the most reliable source of insight into his psyche, and even indicative of his future behavior.

'Creative Writing Workshops' don't necessarily spring to mind when the world is trying to understand his reasons for doing this-- everyone wants to know about the girl he killed first, how he knew her, if there had been other warning signs to people who knew him.

But the picture being painted as more people speak up is that almost no one knew him-- which means that these short one act plays are going to stand in as his friends and family, at least for now.

And the rage in them is eloquent, even if the writing is not.

The idea that all the people in his writing workshop recognized and feared that rage-- long before the rest of the country would experience the same emotion-- is pretty stunning. There is an artistic conceit that writers can create their works out of nothing but imagination-- yet in my experience, that is rarely true. A classmate with serious sexual dysfunction wrote poems full of corresponding imagery. Another classmate in a fiction workshop wrote borderline terrifying stories about the sexual degradation of female characters, which in turn made me uneasy in my interactions with him. The correlation between writers and their writings has proven to be nearly unavoidable, more than ever this week.

I don't know that the English Department could have done anything to prevent it-- and I think it's an unfair burden to lay at their door. But he buried his early warning signs in that text, and the people who read it understood exactly what it meant, even if they didn't find out how right they were until the killings began.

he also believes in unicorns.

Good call, asshole.

Sen. John McCain says the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech does not change his view that the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to carry a weapon.

“We have to look at what happened here, but it doesn’t change my views on the Second Amendment, except to make sure that these kinds of weapons don’t fall into the hands of bad people,” McCain said Monday in response to a question.

“I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon,” he said. “Obviously we have to keep guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens.”

OH! Is that all we have to do?? WHAT AN AMAZING THOUGHT! So basically what he's saying is that people who sell guns have to be CLAIRVOYANT, right? I'm pretty sure Cho Seung-Hui didn't have an extensive criminal record before his rampage, which is also true of all the past teenage killers who decided to exact revenge upon their tormentors.

I mean, the sheer idiocy of "no guns for bad people" is so extraordinary as to be practically a sign of mental illness. Shall we start relying on pre-cogs as well?

Part of the horror of the Virginia Tech massacre-- and every incident like it-- is that they come from people who seemed fine, who seemed normal, who seemed just like everyone else. If the friends, family and acquaintances of a soon-to-be murderer can't imagine such a thing, how does McCain think A PERSON SELLING GUNS will be able to?


toy stores + rape = ?

Like most...sane people, I have some issues with Perez Hilton-- but I was pleasantly surprised to see a post with this headline:

Rape is Funny?

You want to be offended by something? How about a doll depicting a rapist and sold at Toys R Us?

Quentin Tarantino has been turned into a doll to accompany his appearance as Rapist Number One in Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse movie Planet Terror, which bombed in theatres.

The lifelike miniature is available at Toys R Us stores.

We're sure Tarantino would say, "Oh relax, it's just a joke."

Because rape is so funny, right?

I think it's a bit sad that I'm so suprised at someone in a public forum questioning the comedic impact of rape.