Happy Birthday Jennifer!

One of Jennifer’s gags for years now is that she wanted to get a personal birthday greeting from “Weird Al” Yankovic, since they share a common birth date. This year, I rolled up my sleeves and reached out to the musician, explaining the situation and asked if he could help me out. What should come in the mail today?

Al

BOOM!

It may be a little late, but it still counts, right? So, what do you want for Christmas, Jennifer? *cracks knuckles* A unicorn? The Hope Diamond? Your own private island?

The Victims of Prejudice and Discrimination…

…at the risk of pissing everyone off.

My friend Erin over at Lurking Rhythmically posted this interesting piece on her blog. She quotes the insight of one of her friends and explores a fascinating discussion concerning alternative sexual orientation and the gun community. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing. I started to comment there but it turned into a rant. Since this little blog is often neglected, I thought I might as well drag my rant over here instead.

One evening, Jenni and I met another man and woman at a bar and began chatting with them. Nice people. It turned out that they were close friends and he was waiting until his ‘husband’ got off work. A little later the four of us convened to his place to meet up with his other half and hang out for drinks and conversation. When he got home, he seemed a little surprised by the crowd, but nevertheless happy and welcoming to the impromptu party. As much fun as we were having swapping stories and all, when I ducked into the kitchen to top up my red Solo cup, our hosts were in there and got a little makey-outey, like slurpy sounds and all. I will not lie. I got a little grossed out. Of course, I didn’t say anything nor show any outward reaction. This was their home, and I was a guest. And, that’s about as much as needs to be said about the situation. Everyone has the right to pursue happiness in their own way, as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights or freedom, even if I personally think it’s gross to witness two dudes making out. And, that’s where I firmly stand.

Additionally, I don’t like the fact that we are all put in little category boxes, and I hate the fact that society as a whole likes to cram us into those boxes. I’ve met plenty of ‘black’ people who are no less European than I am by heritage, but social pressure causes them to feel a divide. Conversely, I have a friend who is a fellow pale ginger who is married to a quite dark-skinned black girl. Their kids are beautiful, BTW. I had a conversation with a different friend who expressed frustration at the LGBT community because she feels shunned by them. She is actively bisexual, in an open-ish long-term relationship with a man and feels like the LGT’s act like she’s ‘not really one of them’ since her primary is a man. I’m a registered Republican so I can vote in the primaries, although I am more of a get-off-my-lawn libertarian. One of my friends from our local gamer group is a self-proclaimed Obama-voting, liberal Democrat whose car sports a “Democrats Care” bumper sticker. When he and I ill-advisedly talk politics, we find that we are really both centrists in about the same flavor, supporting gun rights and all. It is my opinion that divisional categories for people are often more damaging than helpful. Somehow cephalopods make you hot and you like to smear mustard on yourself while wearing a diaper? Yeah, that’s pretty weird, but I fail to see how your proclivities are the business of the public at large. But, you like Star Trek and beer? Hey, me too. Does that make us Trekkie beer fans or does that box oversimplify and cut into the value that makes us individuals? What do you in the diaper/mustard/octopus community call yourselves anyway? How sad is it that cisgender is even an awknowledged term in a society that calls itself accepting for that matter?

As if all of that wasn’t already bad enough, they’re always moving the goal posts on us and coming up with new opportunities for us to offend each other. I can clearly remember when “oriental” was a perfectly appropriate and accepted way to describe a person from The Orient. *gasp* I’m not sure exactly when that became improper and we started using the less accurate term “asian,” which should more appropriately umbrella Russia and a huge freaking chunk of the Middle East, including several -stans and Israel. “Colored people” became offensive so we started saying “black.” And then, they decided that we needed to say “African American” which is stupid, because I’ve known black people that weren’t actually American, and I’ve known many white immigrants from Africa. Now, I see people referring to “people of color” and so it seems that we’ve gone full-circle there. And, if you can’t keep up with the whole stupid game, you are guilty of microagression.

They’ve redefined “racism” so that it can only be perpetrated by white people against “minorities.” If a ‘person of color’ discriminates against white people based on their race, it’s apparently something other than racism. At least they stopped calling Caucasians “Anglos” whether or not they were of Anglo descent. That was pretty racist if you ask me, and family tracing seems to suggest that I don’t have much English ancestry at all.. And if you want to compare minority cards, I’m a freaking blue-eyed ginger! We make up less than 1% of the world’s population and depending on who in history you listen to, we’re either witches, highly libidinous, bad tempered, alien hybrids, or have no soul, or all of the above. You ever have anyone ask what color your pubes are? Because, that’s not at all awkward or anything. I met a native in Spain who was a fellow blue-eyed ginger. So, would he be “white,” or “latino”? Or should we just call such a person a “white latino,” since the media was nice enough to invent that term to vilify the defendant in a well-known self-defense case?

Because you know, it’s the whites that are all bad. Or the queers. Or the gendernormatives. Or the republicans. Or the Obama supporters. Or the truthers. Or the gun nuts. The Christians. The Muslims. The Zionists. The atheists. The patriarchy. The feminists. The mustard/cephalopod/diaper people.

Do you know what I call my black friend? Brother. Do you know what I call my gay friend? Friend. What do I call my Japanese cousin? Cousin. I don’t call my atheist friends “godless heathens” unless I’m making a good-natured joke even if in bad taste. I don’t care if you voted for Obama or the RINO or neither. Take a guess at how many cisgender pride parades I’ve marched in. Guess how many slaves I’ve ever owned. Is it anyone’s business what flavor of freakiness goes on in my bedroom besides Jenni’s? Would you even want to know? There are people who would use all these categorizations and more to divide us against each other. And by and large, we are letting it happen. We are all the victims of prejudice and discrimination when we let them divide us with the petty details, or when we question ourselves because we don’t fit squarely into one of their pre-defined categories. Can I think it’s gross when two men get intimate with each other and still appreciate them as people? You bet! Will I watch cephalopod and mustard porn with you? Probably not, but thanks for asking. There are so very few situations that can ever really be distilled into an us-and-them. So next time you see an us-and-them scenario come up, I’d encourage you to ask yourself why it’s important for the distinctions to be there; and who, if anyone, has something to gain from that kind of division.

Edited to add: I attempted to post a link to this entry in Erin’s comment section, but it appears that now requires a Disqus, FB, Twitter, or G+ account. Since I didn’t want to sign up for Disqus, or post with my account from one of the other three, I did not. I suppose I understand why many bloggers are getting away from name/url commenting, but I still find it a little irritating.

This Popped Into My Head This Morning

23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

James 1:23-24

Long ago it was explained to me that mirrors were uncommon in the ancient world, and that it was only on occasion that anyone would see their own reflection. Because of that, if you had a chance to look into a mirror, the natural inclination was to study it and take note of how you look. It strikes me that if you took someone from that old world and showed them today’s world, with universal internet selfies, it would blow their mind. I can’t help but wonder if we would have a similar reaction if we took a peek 2,000 years into the future.

KTKC Stunt

As I’ve already said, I don’t have a team set up to accept donations this year, but I am still promoting the cause. Lots of men are affected by male-specific cancers. This is a big deal. So, please watch this video, in which I pet a spider, in the wild, that is nearly as big as my finger.

The more times you watch this, the funnier it gets. But, cancer isn’t funny at all. That’s why you should hop on over to the Kilted To Kick Cancer home page, and drop a few bucks on one of the donation teams there. If you choose to drop a massive donation instead of just a few bucks, I’d encourage you to pick one of the underdogs and completely troll the system. :P

Ice Bucket Challenge

Others will have more meaningful things to say on the subject, but I did get called out yesterday, and I will stand in solidarity. The battery died on one of the cameras, so I actually got a double dose of icy water in the taking of this video.

There was ice. In my jeans. After the fact. Yeah.

As I said, others will have more meaningful things to share. I’m looking forward to Scribbler‘s video.

Guns, Games, and… …Misogyny?

My attention was recently brought to one Anita Sarkeesian. Thank you, JB! She’s a YouTube personality, a video gamer, and apparently a vocal feminist. Watch her whole video if you care to, but this link should take you straight to the money line. In case you don’t feel like clicking over, allow me to quote Miss Sarkeesian:

The belief that women are somehow a naturally weaker gender is a deeply engrained, socially constructed myth, which of course is completely false.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAHHA! I like her. She’s funny. Did you catch that, Jennifer? You have no excuses anymore. That I can do more sit-ups or push-ups than you is not actually a fact, but merely a social construct. You can’t draw my bow? Not so, that’s a myth! And, if I’m carrying more firewood than you? The idea that you can’t carry as much is completely false. In fact, when they’ve had to dumb down the standards for a woman to get into the military, that’s just the patriarchy in action. Granted, I’ve met a few gals that could mop the floor with my happy ass same as I’ve met a few guys that my lovely and girly wife could pound into hamburger meat, but these are the exceptions to the overarching rule that men are naturally stronger than women. Attempting to relabel that fact as a “socially constructed myth” simply does not make it not so.

I don’t want to be too hard on Sarkeesian because between her platitudes and stale talking points she does manage a couple of valid points, and every now and then even teases at even-handedness. However, one could probably make a blogging career tearing apart her screeds line by line. Without doing a full analysis of all her videos, I’ll spitball a summary and call her one of the tragic cases that could be quite the powerful egalitarian if she’d simply drop the stale talking points, buzzwords, and made up BS that’s so popular among modern feminism. Men and women are in fact different and that’s okay. It doesn’t make girls better than boys or boys better than girls. If I thought that women were inferior, I wouldn’t have married one. In fact, women have great power that they derive from sources other than their physical strength. And, I do love me some powerful women!

In the dating world, the shrinking violets never really kept my interest. It sounds mean for me to say that I got bored of them, but facts are facts. One of the big reasons that I was attracted to Jennifer in the first place, and one of the reasons that it’s been working so well for like seventeen years now and I’m still attracted to her is that she’s a powerful woman. Indeed, I’ve been known to say that when the zombies come, I would prefer to be back to back with her over anyone else. In the above linked video, Sarkeesian bitches about the recurring theme of the damsel in distress in video games. Let’s be real though. We men have an inborn desire to save the girl, stemming from eons ago in less civilized times when it was necessary for the survival of the species for the stronger to protect the weaker, and video game designers have been cashing in on that survival drive since there have been video games. Cheap trick? Perhaps. If you dramatized my life into a game, sometimes I’d save Jennifer but other times she’d save me. Most of the time, we’d be working through our challenges together. The thing is, video games aren’t supposed to be realistic. Games play off of fantasy because mundane games would be boring. If you don’t believe me, click that last link and I dare you to enjoy.

Hopefully Birthday Wishes

Jennifer and I have each been fans of “Weird” Al Yankovic’s work since we were children. His original songs are as well executed as they are silly, and I find his parodies to be not only witty, but often more complex and better performed than the originals he’s riffing on. Floating around the house, we have CDs, records, and even cassettes with his name on the label, as we’ve accumulated them over the years. More than once, Jennifer has expressed her desire to get a personal birthday greeting from Yankovic, owing much to the fact that his birthday is the same as hers. I’d very much like to see this happen. Considering yesterday’s release of his video “Lame Claim to Fame,” it seems only appropriate that I mention this now.

She has a very solid lame claim to fame of her own, and the shared birth date in question is just over three months out. We’re not expecting anything fancy here. Yankovic is no doubt a busy man, and nobody is expecting him to show up in a limo in person or anything of the sort, but a simple birthday greeting by mail, phone, or online would make her day and give her a great story that she’d be telling for years. Indeed, she’s never been shy about flying the flag on this lame claim, as she’ll mention it in conversation anytime either the subject of her birthday or Weird Al Yankovic himself, is brought up. Weird Al has a lot of fans that would also like such personal attention, but the vast majority of those don’t share a birthday in common with him. I will likely at least request a signed photo by mail, but I very much doubt that this option will get her a customized greeting. At that, I will ask you, my friends, fans, minions, and flying monkeys, please spread the word. If this message makes it far enough around the internet, perhaps Yankovic will get the message. If anyone out there has some strings they could possibly pull, please do so. Help me to take her lame claim to fame and complete it. Thank you!

My Good Deed for the Year

In past years, our son has kind of lost his mind over summer breaks between school years, and the ensuing fall has been quite a struggle. So, in the last few years, I’ve assigned him projects to complete, not to fill up his break or keep him busy, but to keep the brain active. Two years ago, I had him write a research paper on the Soviet Union. Last summer, he read The Diary of Anne Frank and worked on video editing and digital music composition. This has successfully eased him into the last few school years, so I think we’ll keep doing this until graduation. This year’s project is to learn to design video games and Android development, with the end goal of publishing a downloadable game on Google Play. This assignment came with the disclaimer that I didn’t really know how much work that would entail, and if it turned out to be an unreasonable goal, we would reevaluate and revise if necessary.

This week Teen Bot is taking a video game design class. It’s a workshop offered to local area youth for four days this week for seven hours a day. Yesterday morning, I got up, took him to the grocery store to pack him a lunch, and dropped him off at the community center. I was quite excited for him, and admittedly a little nervous to entrust him to strangers. It’s odd how we as parents do that. I know full well that he’ll soon be an autonomous adult, but I still can’t help but be a little protective. I returned to pick him up in the afternoon, and he was excited to tell me about his day. He used some kind of game design program to make two video games, one of which includes three levels of play. Of course, I’m looking forward to hearing about today’s experiences this afternoon.

As we made our way home, he asked me, “did you see that phone back there?”

“No I didn’t,” I responded, “what and where?”

“There was a smart phone lying in the street right back there,” he said.

Imagining some deprecated piece of junk phone roadkill, I humored him, “do you want me to turn around and go back for it?”

“Yeah, I do,” he said.

So, I turned the truck around, and he pointed out the device in question, lying in the street as he said. As we passed it, it appeared to be intact. I turned around again and instructed him, “I’ll pull up, and you can reach out the door and pick it up.” When he retrieved the phone, we could see that it was an AT&T HTC in a sturdy case with a screen protector. This was clearly someone’s baby, not their beater. I don’t know the HTC models very well, but from the lack of wear, I would say that it was not very old. I figured once we got to the house, I’d try to figure out who it belonged to and reunite it with its owner.

When we got back to the house, Teen Bot began to gather the phone up with his lunch bag and other stuff. I stopped him and said, “why don’t you let me take care of that phone?” I took it back to my desk to try to figure out what to do with it. I thought maybe I’d browse the contacts and see if I could get in touch with a family member of the owner. When I hit the power button, it brought up a lock screen asking for a password. Great. A quick Google search gave a few suggestions on how to hack past the lock out, using a PC and Android exploits. Red flag. I pulled the case off of it to see if there was a serial number or other identifying marking in the battery compartment. Not being familiar with HTC products, it was not immediately clear how to open the battery cover. I put the case back on the phone, wondering what to do next.

And then it rang. The caller ID came up as just a number, evidently not in the contact list. I answered the phone in my friendliest, warmest tone, but there was no reply. “Hello? Hello? I can’t hear you, if you can hear me.” But, there was nothing on the other end: no voice, no background noise, just dead silence. A few minutes later, it rang once more. This time the caller ID read “mamma.” I attempted to answer it again in the same fashion as before, with the same results. When the phone disconnected, mamma began to call it incessantly. When I tried to answer it, I still got nothing. I tried to call the local AT&T store, but I wound up in automated-message, on-hold hell, with the classic, flat, female voice informing me that all customer service representatives were currently helping other customers. There were options that she suggested, but I missed them over the cacophony of mamma calling. “Teen Bot,” I said, “let’s take this phone down to the AT&T store and let them deal with it.”

As we drove the two miles, give or take, to the store, mamma continued to ring the phone, evidently as often as was possible to connect, go to voice mail, disconnect; lather, rinse, repeat. Arriving at the store, I expected them to be very busy after my failed phone call, but they were not. As I came through the door, a sales girl, Suzie or something, diligently approached me, no doubt hoping to score SPIFFs for selling me a new iPhone 5.1sx or Galaxy S23 along with a phat new contract. Before she could say anything, I presented the HTC to her, saying, “I found this laying in the street in my neighborhood, and somebody is going to want it back. Can you make that happen? It rang a couple times, and I tried to answer it, but…” Before I could finish, mamma cut me off as the phone rang yet again.

The sales girl answered it, saying, “this is Suzie at AT&T.” *pause* “I work at the AT&T store on Blank Street.” *pause* “Yes, your phone was just turned in.” *pause* “Blank street.” *pause* “Well it’s here now, and you can come pick it up.”

I lipped “thank you” to her and left. Perhaps this will earn me some Karma points. I have to wonder what the story was on the other side. There weren’t any street rash marks on the phone or case. I can understand that stuff gets dropped by accident, but people are usually more careful with The Expensive New Toy, not that I’m being judgmental toward them. I wonder if they thought their phone had been stolen somehow, and the strange male voice coming from my end was the perpetrator of the crime. I hope not. Rather, I’d like to think that they were thankful to the anonymous stranger who went out of his way to protect their lost valuable property, and see that it was returned in a timely fashion. At the very least, I hope it made for a good story they can tell.