Thursday, March 26, 2009

The day the waves stopped crashing

Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a cataclysmic event for the communities surrounding Prince William Sound, Alaska. The local fishing industry was devastated; not to mention the wildlife that flocked there--salmon, sea otters, seals, seabirds. Roughly 11 million gallons of crude oil were spilled into the ocean when a massive oil tanker struck a reef. Apparently the ship was on auto pilot as the men who should have been steering it did exactly what anyone who had not been given a six-hour break between 12-hour shifts would have done--they slept. Prosecutors claimed they were drunk.

Riki Ott, a resident of the nearby fishing village of Cordova, wrote a book about the incident and appeared on Democracy Now! the other day. She spoke of fishing communities economically and spiritually bankrupt; a mayor that committed suicide...I found her words chillingly poetic:

We were worried that the oil—the killing would not stop in 1989, the scientists. It was a huge devastation. I couldn’t even go out on the beaches initially. I couldn’t take the emotional hit. People came back, the fishermen, and they said they had sat down on what they presumed was rock to cry, and it turned out to be like an oiled sea otter or something that was dying. There were just bodies everywhere. The oil in some of the bays was over three feet thick. You couldn’t even hear the sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline; everything was muted. Some of the oil, with the storm that came through—there was a huge storm that came through, and it just smeared oil up to forty feet high on some of our coastline—was in the trees. I mean, it just took animals out, and it was very, very quiet.

And the best picture of a former president from the 20th century award goes to...

The Gipper: camping it up in Vegas variety show. Isn't he fabulous? Bonus points for sporting PBR paraphernalia.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

And no religion too

I read a column in the Christian Science Monitor last week that gives convincing reasons why the collapse of Christian evangelism is fast approaching. This made me extremely happy and greatly relieved. Not because I hate religion--I respect people who are kind and moral and claim to have a strong faith. Yet I can't help but despise those who are intolerant towards others who don't think exactly as they do, and what's worse, those who make their faith political. Evangelicals tend to be this way. I mean, the whole "Left Behind" series-toting, global warming-denying, George Bush-loving, Chicken Little apocalypse-fetishising Creationists have had their time to royally fuck up this country if not world for the past eight years. I propose euthanasia for these anemic ideas; followed by a proper burial.

Oneida, Ky. - We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Reasons for this assessment:

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap ofbelieving in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Little Lord Fontleroy

I'd like to start a new section of the old blog entitled "Irrelevant Victorian slang terms that you will never use." It shall begin with the concept of the "Little Lord Fontleroy," a name taken from the title character of a Victorian era children's book.

Wiki description:

The Fauntleroy suit, so well-described by [Frances Hodgson] Burnett and realized in Reginald Birch's detailed pen-and-ink drawings, created a major fad for formal dress for American middle-class children:
"What the Earl saw was a graceful, childish figure in a black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with lovelocks waving about the handsome, manly little face, whose eyes met his with a look of innocent good-fellowship." (Little Lord Fauntleroy)
Alas, you can now in fact use this term. I came across a real-life Little Lord Fantleroy recently; his name is Arlo Weiner, and he is the son of Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, named after Arlo Guthrie.

This Little Lord is so cool at the ripe old age of eight years, I wish that I too were eight so that I could ravish him (is that so wrong?). I mean, to have Beck stalk you simply because you look so awesome walking down the street--there's something beyond cool about that. (See GQ article).

Tip of the hat to you, modern day Little Lord Fauntleroy!

With one fell swoop of the text

I have become my mother. Well, almost. She's always had this strange attachment to the characters in All My Children; and, recently, a friend who had to miss the latest episode of Big Love texted to ask about it. Here was my response:

"Nicky's affair has been made public and now she's in the dog house. Barb and Margine are real mad. Staying with her brother Albie, so you know she' s up to no good."

I feel a sudden rush of unease now. I am discussing fictional characters the way my mother talks about soap stars, or the way my father references the characters in Seinfeld.

Suck It, Mussolini

The economy in San Francisco is pretty bad right now. Now I'm no economics expert, but I did read that unemployment rates for my state were up to 8.7 percent in December. While just recently, I found that the national average went up to 8.1 percent--not sure how they were in December, but most likely a few percentage points below that. So once again, California has proven itself to be ahead of the pack.

So I've been doing a little house hunting lately. With all these people leaving the city, there are indeed housing bargains to be had. However, some people in this town didn't get the memo. And the Craigslist ads listing rooms for rent are still rife with fascist, crazed a-holes who think they can still give potential housemates a series of hoops to jump through in order to "consider" them.

The first room I ever lived in, in this city, was in a four-bedroom Victorian off of Haight almost three years ago. I lasted three months before the German cancer researcher (and I quote: "I won't get offended if you call me a cleaning Nazi!") and depressive struggling actress had a confrontation with me to kick me out. I was so sad, you guys; I felt really rejected. I asked them if I hadn't cleaned enough, or if I did something to offend them? They said "no." Their reply: "You just don't fit in" and "there's going to be a lot of turnover."

Lately, me and a friend have been comparing our room rental finds. Some of our favorites included an ad that was entitled: "Cool people--let's live together!" --while it gave very little details about the actual house and room, it did contain a collage of people the Craigslist ad creator thought looked "cool": a late 70s surfer dude with wavy highlighted hair on a skateboard, a band shot of some mod rockers, etc. It was weird. And apparently he swtiched the images around almost every day.

Another ad was put up by a married couple. They were strictly looking for a young bisexual woman and requested pictures. Below, a similar ad:

We are three friendly people who share a very large 4 bedroom Victorian flat in the lower Haight. One of us is a youthful older woman who is a body worker, the others are two forty-something men, one a student, the other a body worker.
We have varied schedules and busy lives, but enjoy a friendly atmosphere at home.
Two of us are bisexual and poly, so we'd like someone who is queer-friendly, meaning someone who gets it and won't make us feel like weirdos, even though we are weirdos, if that makes sense.

Right. I'm going to live with some weirdos while living in a state of denial that they are in fact weird. Got it...

Some people are such fascists that they don't even realize they are fascist because they probably don't understand the meaning of the word:

this place have Comes \
Comes with electric kitchen, Dishwasher, garbage disposal and over the range microwave. Indoor Parking for a reserved garage spa
you will share with two korea room mate there both go to school and nice
this picture is you room !! (insert really ugly, terribly-lit room here)
asia only

Awww man, I really wanted the room, but unfortunately I'm not the world's largest and most populous continent and I don't cover more than 25 percent of the Earth's surface area!

And then this one--a true "diamond in the rough" of absurdly fascist Craigslist ads--popped up on the internets just today:

Hallo! Let's get to the skinny. Ideally, you are somewhere from between 30 to 40 years old. You are healthy and shower daily. You appreciate a nice living situation by being quiet during quiet hours (10 pm to 10 am), and you like to clean up after yourself always and after others occasionally. You are not a TV couch potato and have a life. You are not a Bush neo-con supporter and recognize that even Obama has his hands tied by the corrupt party that nominated him. In other words, you'r not clueless and blindly patriotic. NO drug abusers beyond the occasional spliff (that means NO daily pot heads), no alcoholics, no TV couch potatoes will be tolerated. I need to stress this b/c you won't last a week if you say you are one thing but you are not. This is a trial period for you as a housemate. Also, and I stress, I am looking for a NON-SMOKER.

Please tell me about yourself: your age, your work and length of employment there, your waking and sleeping hours on weekdays and weekends, your noise level, your interests, your former residence and city. Send photos or online profile if you like.
First month, last month and a $400 deposit required and I might ask to see proof of income and savings...We are all mellow, respectful, quiet in the mornings and nights, clean and responsible. You must be, too. No posers, please. Again, NO drug abusers beyond the occasional spliff (that means NO daily pot heads), no alcoholics, no TV couch potatoes will be tolerated. I need to stress this b/c you won't last a week if you say you are one thing but you are not. I am also looking for a NON-SMOKER because we've got one who smokes (outside only) and is trying to quit. Feel free to include photos of yourself, a profile or of anything creative you've done. Oh yeah, you must love or at the very least enjoy a small and sweet Dachshund perrito who weighs only 15 pounds. He is all love and is part of the household as much as we are. Alas, that means no more pets so those of you who are inextricably tied to your pets must look elsewhere.
Again, first and last month plus $400 required. That's $1500 plus $400 = $1900. Don't break anything and you'll get all your deposit minus owed utilities. Write Ben at the address above. Move-in date is the 8th of October.

October! Ha! Seven months away, good luck you sweet bastard! Aww gee, I can't wait to tell you about myself. I'm sure we have so much in common! Do you accept political theory essays about the elitist Left and the hypocritical culture of moderates? Because I have one up my ass, lemme just try to find it...OMG Dachshund perritos are my FAV! City dogs that yap all day are the greatest! Now I know you just asked me for my work and sleep hours for both the week and weekend, but can I tell you more? Like, I think you should know my kitchen hours--how long the average meal, the average snack (midnight snacks not included (-;) and oh, I would love to calculate the average time I spend both on the toilet and in the shower per week--month if needed.

I look forward to seeing this ad up for months until these a-holes finally given in and accept a (shock! horror!) COUCH POTATO! Ooohhhnoooo!

Suck it, Mussolini!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Blast from the Past

I spent over five years as a student and resident in Santa Cruz, California--a little dabbling in the extremely liberal arts here; a little reporting for the local newspaper there. I felt I knew that city well.

Nevertheless, it was so shocking to see the following montage of "public comment" before the city council and board of supervisors recently.

Welcome to the patients-running-the-asylum bubble town that is Santa Cruz. Around the time I moved there, the mayor was giving away medical marijuana on the steps of city hall, a former Black Panther lectured at the university, and there was a spot in the middle of the woods where the center of gravity went awry ("The Mystery Spot"--they still give tours). The Daily Show had reported there twice, once referring to it as a town with "more dreadlocked white men per capita" than any other place in the nation.

And as for the city's politics, Santa Cruz had out-progressived Berkeley by several initiatives, making them look more akin to Orange County than your typical liberal college town. Among them: impeaching former president Bush, and immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. Welcome to the circus: