Friday, April 27, 2007

Preparation H Helpful Post Run-in With God Skwodd

The religious right is causing the odd hemorrhoid once again. I’m on a mailing list for a brunch group that meets weekly, and every so often they send an e-mail around regarding the latest Puritan outrage.

Last up was a link to the American Family Association (not some people’s families, obviously), hosting a petition about the Homosexual Agenda. You know, the bullet point right after “world domination” and before “foot massage and bulk ordering of amyl nitrite” is usually depicted as “destroying heterosexual families, marriages, and diseasing their children by the awful terrible, horrible expedient of attempting to live our lives as full citizens of this country.” We ARE so bad aren’t we? (snaps in a “Z” formation)

Now, I know there are several tacks I can take toward an organization of this nature, but I chose three avenues that I hope you’ll all remember next time you go to a site that you fervently hope doesn’t leave foul cookies in your browser like your ostensibly heterosexual neighbor’s dog leaves little “gifts” on your lawn.

Now, I could rail against them just for being discriminatory dickheads, but really, it’s been SO done. First, I chose to use statistics to bash them just a little. Their pointy lil’ heads can always get softer, is my opinion. Please find below my three hurried talking points.

1. If you're going to post a petition regarding the "homosexual agenda" perhaps you would have a more relevant sample size if you left it up for more than three hours.

I mean really. Three hours is how long you leave a Craigslist “Chance Encounters” ad up, if you want to have any hope of reclaiming your e-mail inbox in under a week. Leaving a “petition” up for that short a time just screams “We’re manipulating our sample size/population in order to get the results we want.” Then they wonder why no one credible will take their “statistics” at face value. Somebody quote Mark Twain for me regarding lies and statistics, then P.T. Barnum regarding the chronological frequency of sucker births.

Selected aborted clichés from the website:

"Christ-centered campus ministires bring gospel to America's secular generation"

"Shinning God's light in a pagan culture"

2. If you would like to be seen as an intelligent website for intelligent right wing fundie nutjobs, hire an editor. "Shinning" is something that happens to one's lower extremities. It does not refer to photonic activity. For Pete’s sake “ministering” is what you’re trying to do. At least attempt to spell it correctly!

Seriously, what is it about manhandling one’s elevated equine towards the ostensible moralicious mountaintop that seems to preclude the skillful use of the language? Their websites and press releases are rife with various grammatical gaffes that could only come from the late term abortion of their minimal linguistic aspirations. Perhaps had they been forced to listen to The Tell-Tale Heart a few times, they’d be less sanguine about the beautiful, innocent language they are so callously subjecting to an early termination in the manner they purport to despise. In listening to the predictable plethora of righties hailing the SCOTUS opinion, I hear adjectives like “horrific”, “violent”, even “murderous”.

You know what? I’ve seen an abortion. I’ve also seen a hip replacement and a coupla knee replacements. Orthopedics is far gorier, smellier, and much more visually and aurally disturbing than any OB-GYN procedure (not to mention maxillofacial reconstruction. Oh dear God, I can’t watch that stuff and eat at the same time). The reason they have to use such overblown language is that the procedure itself just isn’t that big a deal.

I also hear the pro-lifers’ new “label” for M.D.s is “abortionists”. Interesting, do we rename every job for a single procedure that takes up less than 10% of one’s worktime? If so, then lawyers are “billerists”, pizza delivery boys are “pornists” and everyone else on earth has the same job description: sleepers/eaters/urinators/defecators. Do you perhaps think that the pro-lifers are generalizing and simplifying a tad too broadly? I surely do (and yes, I called you Shirley. Deal.).

This leads me directly to my final point. Pro-lifers are incredibly skilled at using the language to bludgeon their opponents, much as they’d like to use their signs, but are prevented by various assault and battery statutes. However, they do deserve a grudging accolade from me for bothering to have a website, so here is the most backhanded “compliment” I can muster.

3. Frankly, I'm glad to see that your website is full of the same boilerplate hyperbolic talking point nonsense that is all the religious right can apparently muster.
Best of luck with that.

I’d like to hear the journalists interviewing them to call them on their adjectives. The pro-choice folks aren’t calling abortion “healthful” even though for women with health issues, it may certainly be so. As has become the usual SOP over the last few decades, the sane, balanced scientific side is being outshouted by the overly emotional Frayands O’ Jeebus.

Until that time comes, I’ll be visiting their websites every so often to screw up their poll results and correct their English. I won’t be alone, I’ll be bringing my friend, Ms. Preparation H.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Extempore: Powell Street Station

Powell Street Station’s walls look like the capped ends of a layer of beeswax. Off-white hexagons with a large central dome. Mutated eggcups. It does weird things to the acoustics, because the plastic is hard, and the shapes reflect sound waves unusually.

As I pushed my way through the fare gate I heard a pure bass voice singing something vaguely familiar.

Usually, there are two white men one young, one old, playing bluegrass; the young guy on a mandolin, the old guy on a six-string. It could also be the Mexican guy with the inflated-looking guitar singing spritely songs in Spanish that are yet full of longing. Rarely, there’s an Eastern-European looking 70-ish man playing a violin.

Today, I belatedly realize that the spires of the black Mohawk I can see waving above the crowd belong to the singer. Dressed in skin-tight black jeans, black t-shirt, and a jean jacket (to steal a construction from Terry Pratchett) that, let’s just say isn’t yellow, is a pudgyish pale guy with a guitar.

He’s singing, and singing well; playing and playing with feeling. I place the song, as Folsom Prison Blues. I stop, and just let the cognitive dissonance fill me, flow through me, turn me transparent with joy.

His name is Jesse and he tells me that Johnny Cash was the first punk ever. He dressed in black and sang songs that no one else would sing, or write. I don’t argue, why should I?

I’m just so happy to be here, bathed in the glorious wrongness of it all.

Like the other day, I’m riding BART home, and I notice a simply gorgeous rear bike wheel. It’s a Bontrager, with graphite spokes. My gaze travels to the bike frame, a Trek of course, carbon fiber lovingly slathered in bright red metallic paint. Clipped to it is a hand pump, same brand as my beloved floor pump.

Non-standard carbon fiber handlebar with a Stumpy on the centerpost, best for short-bodied riders, as am I. I can’t place the shifting system, I just know it isn’t a Shimano, standard on most higher-end mass-production bikes. This isn’t one of those.

The pedals are clipped, though, speaking of a biker old enough to not want to learn to step in.

Skiers and skateboarders think that about snowboarding, too. “What if I want to bail?”

Practice, my son. With a snowboard, any bailing happens with the board attached. Get used to it. If your board comes off, it may take your feet or legs with it. Same with clipless pedals.

A young guy hopped into the ER this morning, victim of a bike crash that he couldn’t unclip from in time. So, I can see why a veteran biker would prefer to stay with conventional toecups on their pedals.

What are you picturing in your head right now? This? The rider is wearing classic pro biker attire, spandex from neck to upper thigh. Water bottle in the right back shirt pocket, wallet in the left, windbreaker knotted waist-high. The lightest, strongest, most expensive bike helmet Giro makes, bobbed on the head...

of the 60-something woman who was holding that bike.

I love the Bay Area. Want your assumptions challenged? Want to believe five impossible things before breakfast? Commute, breathe, live here.

Tomorrow morning, I will push my way through the fare gate at Powell Street Station and what will I see? Who knows? I don’t, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile.