Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Academy Awards Corrections: On the Fours

I was listening to the Cracked Podcast, where they talked about Year-End lists, and how they look pretty ridiculous in retrospect. They brought up the interesting idea that there should be a five-year waiting period to decide the winners of the Academy Awards. I thought this was really interesting, so I decided that I am going to look at the Academy Awards through the decades, and we can now retroactively make corrections to egregious errors.

I am only going to be looking at Best Picture, since to go through every goddamn category would be insane. I mean, do we need to correct what the best sound mixing was fifty years ago?

Also, this is going to be my own personal list, of course, but I am going to use common sense. For example, I'm not going to replace a well-known movie with some obscure indie movie that no one's ever heard of. The movies I'll be putting on the list will be an "Oscar movie," meaning that it will not only be good, but it will be something that reasonably could have been nominated, had the Academy not had its head up its ass. Also, I'm only going back to the 1960s, because anything before that is filled with a lot of cruddy, dated movies that I don't plan to ever see. Plus, there were only like 20 movies that came out per year before that, so the Academy couldn't screw it up too badly even if they wanted to.

Since 2014 just passed, let's start with the 4s:

1964 ACADEMY AWARDS (37th Annual)

The Actual Nominees:
  • My Fair Lady (Director: George Cukor) (WINNER)
  • Becket (Dir.: Peter Glenville)
  • Dr. Strangelove (Dir.: Stanley Kubrick)
  • Mary Poppins (Dir.: Robert Stevenson)
  • Zorba the Greek (Dir.: Michael Cacoyannis)
Clearly, my favorite movie of this list is Dr. Strangelove, which is one of the best movies of the entire 1960s. And nothing against the movie, but the fact that Mary Poppins is even on this list shows that there weren't a ton of heavy-hitters in '64. It might be the same reason that we started seeing a tenfold increase in fantasy-action movies after 9/11: escapism.

Great movies that could have been considered:
  • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Dir.: Jacques Demy)
  • Topkapi (Dir.: Jules Dassin)
  • Seance on a Wet Afternoon (Dir. Bryan Forbes)
As much as I have a soft spot in my heart for Umbrellas of Cherbourg (including my hopeless crush on Catherine Deneuve ca. 1963), it would have been weird if a French pop-opera had been nominated over any of the American films listed. All five of the nominees pretty much hold up, although to me, Becket feels like classic Oscar Bait in the David Lean/William Wyler/Cecil B. Demille vein; it's got two great performances (Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton) but it's as cold and distant as a 12th Century British costume drama can be expected to be.

For my first stab at this, Oscar got it right.

1974 ACADEMY AWARDS (47th Annual)

The Actual Nominees:
  • The Godfather Part II (Dir.: Francis Ford Coppola) (WINNER)
  • Chinatown (Dir: Roman Polanski)
  • The Conversation (Dir.: Francis Ford Coppola)
  • Lenny (Dir.: Bob Fosse)
  • The Towering Inferno (Dir: John Guillerman)

Okay, this one is going to pretty much undermine the entire point of this exercise, because at least four of these movies deserve to be here, and The Towering Inferno is probably the odd man out. You can't argue with The Godfather II and Chinatown, and The Conversation is kind of a forgotten classic. (If you doubt that F.F. Coppola was the King of 1970s cinema, 1974 should prove it.)

In my opinion, Lenny doesn't hold up on repeated viewings, although Dustin Hoffman's performance is still stunning 40 years later. The Towering Inferno is notable in that it was a big budget disaster movie with two of the biggest stars of its day, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. And I'll be there was a lot of Hollywood money pumped into it, meaning that it had to be nominated.

Great movies that could have been considered:
  • A Woman Under the Influence
  • Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
  • Murder on the Orient Express
The 20/20 Hindsight Nominees:
  • The Godfather Part II (WINNER)
  • Chinatown 
  • A Woman Under the Influence (Dir.: John Cassavetes)
  • Murder on the Orient Express (Dir.: Sidney Lumet)
  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Dir.: Joseph Sargent)
The Godfather II and Chinatown are bona fide classics, two of the maybe 50-75 greatest movies ever made: they stay. A Woman Under the Influence holds up much better than Lenny does, and Gena Rowlands puts in an incredible performance.

Murder on the Orient Express and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three take the other two slots, because they are just as good as The Conversation and The Towering Inferno, and in my opinion, more entertaining. If you're going to reserve a slot for an action movie, I'd take Pelham over Inferno any day.

1984 ACADEMY AWARDS (57th Annual)

The Actual Nominees:
  • Amadeus (Dir.: Milos Forman) (WINNER)
  • The Killing Fields (Dir.: Roland Joffe)
  • A Passage to India (Dir.: David Lean)
  • Places in the Heart (Dir.: Robert Benton) 
  • A Soldier's Story (Dir.: Norman Jewison)
1984 was a good year for a lot of things, but Prestige Movies was not one of them. For every Amadeus, there were three Ghostbusters, Gremlins and The Terminator. It was a watershed year for popcorn movies and pop music ("Born in the USA," "Thriller," Like a Virgin), but when it came to Oscar Worthy Films, the Academy pretty much picked the only five that qualified, and all five meet one of the Academy's unwritten criteria

Amadeus is a period film about a tortured genius. (Mozart, heard of him?) The Killing Fields is a war/journalism picture about the horrors of Cambodia during the time of the Khmer Rouge. A Passage to India was the final film for the legendary David Lean, and it features exotic locales and Alec Guinness as an Indian scholar. Places in the Heart is a triple-whammy: it is directed by an Oscar Winner (Benton, who won the Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer five years prior; it's about the Great Depression; and it's about social issues like segregation. This movie was made to get an Oscar nod. And finally, A Soldier's Story, which is about the segregation-era American South.

Note that not one of 1984's films took place in the present day: A Soldier's Story takes place in the 1940s; Places in the Heart in the 1930s; The Killing Fields in the early 1970s; A Passage to India in the 1920s; and Amadeus in the 1820s. If ever there were a template for Oscar Bait, this one is it.

So, by default, we aren't left with a ton of replacements. Most of the other "good" movies of this year are light popcorn fare: The Karate Kid, This is Spinal Tap, Beverly Hills Cop. Even movies that might have been considered Oscar Worthy, like, say Romancing the Stone or Broadway Danny Rose or The Natural, all lacked any kind of real gravitas, especially compared to war, segregation, exotic foreign lands and mental illness.

So I'm going to leave this list alone. That isn't to say that it is perfect, or that really any one of these movies (save for possibly Amadeus) is really considered a "classic," but you can't really argue with any of them in a surprisingly weak year. Damn you, Academy!

1994 ACADEMY AWARDS (67th Annual)

The Actual Nominees:
  • Forrest Gump (Dir.: Robert Zemeckis) (WINNER)
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral (Dir.: Mike Newell)
  • Pulp Fiction (Dir.: Quentin Tarantino)
  • Quiz Show (Dir.: Robert Redford)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (Dir.: Frank Darabont)
1994 is one of the most important years in cinema history, and most people will point to Pulp Fiction as the standard bearer, since it really is the movie that changed movies. Pulp still resonates to this very day, two decades later, as proof that film can go in nearly any direction, so long as it follows the language of movies and storytelling. 

Forrest Gump gets a lot of shit, too, because by comparison to Pulp, it seems like a slight piece of pop entertainment, hardly worthy of being even uttered in the same sentence. But take a step back and remember that Gump was a phenomenon, and it is one of the most intricately and expertly crafted movies of all time, despite whether you agree with its socio-politics or its place on the Academy's pedestal.

1994 was so good that movies like Quiz Show and The Shawshank Redemption didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of bringing home the trophy, and they are both fantastic movies, ones that may have won the Award in any of the two or three years before and after. In fact, you have to give the Academy credit for recognizing Shawshank, a box office flop that would only gain its current cult status a few years later when it caught on via home video. The Academy looks eerily prescient here. So what do we have left?

Great movies that could have been considered:
  • The Lion King
  • Ed Wood
  • Heavenly Creatures
  • Exotica
  • The Last Seduction
  • Hoop Dreams
And this is, again, where the problem lies: after The Lion King, which wouldn't be unprecedented, as Beauty and the Beast had been nominated for Best Pic a few years prior, things start to thin out a bit after Ed Wood. The last four mentioned above are all, in my opinion, superior films, but they don't quite meet the Academy's criteria in most ways.

The only real turd in the punch bowl of 1994's actual nominees was Four Weddings and a Funeral, which is fine, but pales horribly in comparison to the other four nominees. The Academy really did get four of the five best films of the year. So....

The 20/20 Hindsight Nominees:
  • Forrest Gump 
  • The Lion King (Dirs.: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff)
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Quiz Show 
  • The Shawshank Redemption (WINNER)
I know Pulp Fiction would get the nod from most cinephiles, and it's a landmark movie, don't get me wrong. But once you get past the non-linear storytelling, it doesn't hold up quite as well as hoped. Shawshank, on the other hand, is nearly flawless, and absolutely holds up after dozens of repeated viewings.

And I'm also not saying that The Lion King is a superior film; in a lot of ways it is the kind of movie Disney would have come up with in a focus group. But when you think 1994, you think Lion King more than you think Four Weddings.

I'm not saying these are necessarily THE five best movies of '94, but they are a good survey, twenty years later, of what the year was about.

And finally....

2004 ACADEMY AWARDS (77th Annual)

The Actual Nominees:
  • Million Dollar Baby (Dir.: Clint Eastwood) (WINNER)
  • The Aviator (Dir.: Martin Scorsese)
  • Finding Neverland (Dir.: Marc Forster)
  • Ray (Dir.: Taylor Hackford)
  • Sideways (Dir.: Alexander Payne)
Let's get this out of the way: The Aviator and Ray have no business being on this list, whatsoever. The Aviator is an interesting, dynamic film about another tortured genius, but as a film it's far too unfocused and flawed to be considered one of the five best films of the year. Ray is just an extremely mediocre film, with Jamie Foxx doing an impressive parlor trick for 90 minutes; Ray's inclusion here is an abomination.

There were quite a few movies I liked from 2004, but wouldn't probably be on Oscar's radar, such as Palindromes, Collateral, Garden State, Layer Cake, Mysterious Skin, Friday Night Lights, A Love Song for Bobby Long and The Woodsman. So that leaves a few candidates that could have possibly been in the mix.

Great movies that could have been considered:
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Dir.: Michel Gondry)
  • Vera Drake (Dir.: Mike Leigh)
  • Closer (Dir.: Mike Nichols)
  • Bad Education (Dir.: Pedro Almodovar)
I am not as huge a fan of Eternal Sunshine as a lot of other people are, but it's about fifty times better than Ray. I think Vera Drake is a very underrated, wonderful little film. And Bad Education is criminally overlooked. Closer is basically an update of Nichols's own Carnal Knowledge -- one of the best play adaptations ever made -- three decades later. That said, here is my own list.

The 20/20 Hindsight Nominees:
  • Bad Education
  • Finding Neverland
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Sideways (WINNER)
  • Vera Drake 
I make no bones about my love for Sideways, and although Million Dollar Baby is a fine film, it doesn't hold up nearly as well against the inexorable march of time as Sideways does.

I am looking forward to going back through the rest of the last fifty-or-so years, decade by decade, to correct the Academy's mistakes. I have a feeling that, unlike the Grammys, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences generally get it almost right. There haven't been too many egregious, "bad" films on any of these lists. (Although get ready for the year 2000, with a movie whose name sounds an awful lot like the type of confection that a candy bar is made of.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

I Hate Christmas Music and So Should You

When I was a kid, I loved Christmas so much. I remember specifically thinking one year that I didn't even need any presents, because just the feeling that I got around Christmas time was magical. You know how it goes: the tree, the colored lights, snow out the window, the cocoa/tea, and of course, the presents.

But even more than Christmas Day -- the day of presents -- I always loved Christmas Eve. I don't know if it was the anticipation or the excitement of what was to come the next day, but for most of my life, Christmas Eve was one of the very best days of the year. We would often go to church -- yawn, I know, but hey, it's for Jesus -- and then we could come home to have a special dinner of some kind. My grandpa used to show up, and my aunt Peggy still does. It was very tight-knit, and although I didn't grow up in one of those "warm" households (like your typical Italian family) those nights were as close to guaranteed perfection as you can imagine.

One of the best memories I have is listening to the radio every year on Christmas Eve, and hearing the panoply of Christmas songs that would come on the radio. Although Christmas was always a big thing when I was a kid, it wasn't inescapable like it is now. There were Christmas commercials, but there were also commercials for other things too. And though you might hear a few Christmas songs in the mall in December, you could still listen to Wham! or Bon Jovi on the radio if you wanted to.

But on this one night, we would envelop ourselves in nothing but Christmas music, and it was wonderful! We'd hear all the classics -- "White Christmas," "Jingle Bells," "The Little Drummer Boy," etc. -- and it was a genuine thrill. In fact, hearing a lot of those songs still makes me feel good to this day, due to the association. We also heard a lot of relatively obscure Christmas songs (well, obscure for me), like John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)," Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (the Feed the World) song. And hearing all these songs packed into one day as you sat around the tree, opened gifts, or gabbed with your relatives, was just the best.

Which brings me to today, in which case nothing is special, everything is overexposed, and there is no hiding from the ubiquitous spectre of Christmas. Not only does Christmas season start before Halloween now, but when it starts, there is absolutely no escaping it. If there is a War on Christmas, then Christmas is kicking the ever-loving shit out of whoever it's fighting.

The bane of my existence today and for the next three weeks is Christmas music. You may think that's silly, as most Christmas songs are happy and some are really great. It should make me feel good! But it doesn't, and the reason why is purely due to repetition.

The second the clock strikes midnight, turning Thanksgiving Day into Black Friday, Christmas is all you will hear about for a straight month. Most of this I am actually pretty good at avoiding: I do a lot of my gift-buying online, and I don't watch a lot of live TV other than football on Sundays, so for the most part I am able to shield myself from the onslaught that is the GIMME GIMME GIMME BUY BUY BUY Christmas season.

But the music is absolutely inescapable.

One day in, I'm assuming, the late 1990s, some asshole genius decided that, starting on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we needed to have multiple radio stations dedicated to nothing but Christmas music, 24 hours a day, for the majority of December. (In case you're wondering, that makes a total of 28 days, or 672 hours. Or better yet, 40,320 minutes, which means you can squeeze approximately 10,080 four-minute songs into that span.

I don't even have 10,080 songs on my entire computer.

Let's say there are 50 Christmas songs TOTAL (I think I'm being very liberal with that number). That means they are playing these approximately 50 songs a total of 201 times each in a month.

I don't know about you, but I don't listen to my favorite ALBUMS THAT MUCH. Who in Jesus's name needs to hear that "pa-rum-pa-pum-pum" song -- 15 different versions of it, I might add! -- 200 times in a month. Name me one person who that benefits.

I work in an office with music that plays overhead. Which means I get precisely 8 consecutive hours of Christmas music every day, that's only if I leave my desk for a half hour. I love Led Zeppelin IV. If I had to listen to Led Zeppelin IV every day for eight hours, I would tear my eardrums out of my head.

Nobody should have to listen to that much repetitive music all day. No one. This is the kind of thing they use to torture people in Guantanamo.

It's bad enough that most "workday" radio stations just shuffle the same shitty eight-our block of songs so you get a "NO REPEAT WORKDAY!" Having to hear the same song five times a week makes me crazy. HAVING TO HEAR MARIAH CAREY'S "ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU" FOUR TIMES IN ONE DAY (which I did, last December) IS ENOUGH TO MAKE ME HOMICIDAL.

What's amazing to me is that no one else seems to give a shit. Even music snobs like myself -- who never listen to the radio and have thousands of albums and a deep appreciation for eclectic musical styles -- don't say a word about this scourge on our world. They seem to be like "Hey! It's Christmas!" But I'm at the point where I actually dread Christmastime. I DREAD CHRISTMASTIME! I hope the eleven year-old me isn't watching this.

I would be absolutely fine if there was some kind of variety in Christmas music. I wouldn't even mind taking regular songs and fucking with the words a little bit to make them Christmasy. Do about 20 of these a year by big artists, and within a decade or so, we might have a much better batch of songs to choose from. But as it stands now, you have a whole lot of Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and then duplicate versions of the same songs. (And no, Christmas musicians, you aren't fooling anyone with that one version of "Jingle Bells" you do, where you put ten seconds of glissando into "all the way-ayyy-ayyyy-ayyyyy!")

This isn't like "A Christmas Story" being played consecutively on TBS for 24 hours. Not even close. That's because 24 hours of "A Christmas Story" is, well, 24 hours. One glorious day. Also, if you don't want to watch it, you can turn the channel and watch something else! I can't very well ask the guy in the mall to turn the goddamn radio station to Soft Rock Hits.

I want to, again, as I once did, enjoy the holiday without feeling completely suffocated by it. Now that I'm not in school anymore, Christmas's allure has waned. (In school, at least you know you get like a month off around Christmas.) I would just love to be able to casually pop in and out of a Christmas-y mood, without being mandated every waking second of every day to face it down. I have other interests in my life, and I should be able to pursue them without Christmas constantly barreling into me, panting, making sure I didn't forget about it for five seconds.

Bah humbug.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Thanksgiving is for the Chosen Few Now

This was bugging the shit out of me last night. As most things that come up on Facebook do.

There was a click-bait local news article, asking people to comment on the fact that Kmart is going to be open on Thanksgiving Night this year. Which means that instead of Black Friday -- already something I find wholly distasteful -- we now have Black Thursday.

A couple of things that get me riled up about this, the first, and not least of which is the fact that people are shopping on Thanksgiving. I understand Black Friday, as stupid as I think it is. It's become this kind of tradition for some people, to have Thanksgiving dinner, then get up obscenely early (or stay up all night) to get a bunch of deals with a bunch of other thrifty psychopaths.

I don't like it, but I get it.

Thanksgiving is a whole other kettle of fish. Whereas Black Friday unofficially (perhaps officially?) marks the transition from not-Christmas season into Christmas Season, Thanksgiving should be exempt. Why do we let Christmas Season horn in on Thanksgiving, which is one fucking day of the year, and (in my estimation) a superior holiday. Christmas gets a goddamn month, it can wait another 12 hours before it gets started.

I am all about a thriving, robust economy, but are people's lives that empty that they can't even enjoy one Thanksgiving evening at home with their families (or perhaps out with their friends at a pub), and instead have to hurry away the holiday? As of the day after Thanksgiving, you will be hearing nothing but Christmas Songs, and seeing nothing but Santas, elves, snowmen and the like for a solid month.


But some people have correctly -- if extremely short-sightedly -- pointed out that it's a free country, and people can choose to either go shopping or stay home if they want to on Thanksgiving night. Totally true and totally valid, except for one thing: that freedom of choice is not afforded to the millions of retail workers who are forced by their employers to have "all hands on deck" for such a busy shopping season.

Moreso than people choosing to waste precious hours with their families, the reactions to this are what I've become offended infuriated by. And I will give you a little spoiler alert: they are all bullshit, and none of them will ever convince me that it's okay.

Some people say things like "If you don't like it, get out of retail!" Number one: fuck you. Number two: seriously? Number three: I hope either you or someone in your family has to work on Black Thanksgiving because they work retail, so you understand why it's such a burden on those who do.

Just to clarify: I'm not including in this the kinds of jobs where we actually need people to be working, like doctors, cops, firefighters, etc. It's not fair, but at least there is some justification to it. I'm narrowing this down to greedy corporations fucking over working families while their CEOs enjoy turkey and cranberries in their large houses.

Also, if you're going to play the "why don't you get a better job?!?!" card, there are a few things you should understand ...

  • One: some people actually like working retail, just like you like your job. But you don't want to work on Thanksgiving either do you, asshole?
  • Two: have you been paying attention to the news at all for the last 5 years? Not a ton of pret-a-porter jobs out there up for grabs. If you don't understand how a functioning economy works, you should probably just zip it.
  • Three: if you are really the kind of person that says "why don't you get a better job?" then oh my lord, go FUCK yourself. I don't know why I am friends with these people in the first place. (Note: these people are not "elitists" either; they are people who say "Wole-Marts" and watch Two and a Half Men. Where any of them get off looking down at other people is way beyond me.)

Are we really going to start living in a country where we separate people who get to celebrate holidays into the Retailers and the Non-retailers? Is this the country I grew up in? Is the country I want to live in? Shit, I have to work the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm really not happy about it. But at least I get a few very precious hours with my family before I have to drive an hour from my parents' house back to work.

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday. (Yes, you can argue the merits of its beginnings and all the subtext related to Native Americans, but I'm not here to fight that battle today.) And yet, we have people -- many of whom call themselves "conservatives" but are just fake-ass contrarians -- who harp all day about the importance of "family," "family values," "the family unit," and any other empty buzzword you can think of, but almost defiantly support taking people away from their families on the one sacred American day of the year.

So here is what I propose: a federal law. (Yes, a fucking law, you Libertarian fucks.) And the law states thusly:

  1. Any person who is forced to work at any time on Thanksgiving is exempt from working on Black Friday. So if you work for one hour on Thursday, you get Friday off if you want it. Period. If a person chooses to work Thanksgiving AND Friday, they will be paid time-and-a-half for the Friday shift.
  2. Any person who is forced to work on Thanksgiving will be paid at double-time for the first eight hours worked, and triple-time for each hour after that. Since this is a blatant money-grab by these stores, let's spreads that wealth around, eh, Joe the Plumber?
  3. So-called "Black Thursday" cannot and will not call employees into work until 8pm, and stores may not open until 9pm. That gives employees an hour to get to the store and do prep work, and gives shoppers three full hours of precious shopping time before midnight.
  4. Any breakage of these rules by management will result in a fine up to $10,000 (payable to a food bank) and up to three months in jail. Any manager who knowingly breaks any of these rules will be subject to this penalty, going up the chain of command, including any executives who sign off on it.
It's funny that all the people who have decried a War on Christmas, the people who are usually the most flag-wavingly patriotic of all, don't give a rip about the War on Thanksgiving, the most American holiday of them all. If we can't find a way to let everyone -- including those who work at retail stores -- celebrate Thanksgiving Day, then the country I grew up in ceases to exist as I knew it.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

On Manners, Political Correctness and Being a Human Being for Once

There is some shit going on in this country right now, dudes.

So I'm sure you've all read the story about that guy from the Philadelphia Eagles who went to a Kenny Chesney concert (why?) and said something like "I will fight every nigger in here." (I'm not going to say "the N-word," because it's childish, dishonest, and there are like 25 words that start with "N," if not more.) This little who-gives-a-fuck event has brought out the absolute worst in everyone.

Now, I'm not saying that people shouldn't be offended by the use of the word "nigger," because it's a fucking repugnant, vile, demeaning term. The word is loaded by hundreds of years of bad history, and I couldn't possibly fathom the spine-chilling effect that word has on people of African descent. I'm sure it's like opening up a wound.

Having said that .... I have a feeling that the guy who said it (Cooper? Is that his name?) is probably not an out-and-out racist. Sure, he said he would "fight any nigger in here," but considering that he's been hanging out with black teammates for most of his life, do you really think he hates black people? And his career is probably over, not because he's a bad player (although maybe he is, I don't know. He's a white wide receiver), and not because of anything he did, but because of words that came out of his mouth. He will be ostracized pretty much for the rest of his public life. (He should be ostracized for attending a fucking Kenny Chesney concert, but that's for another time.)

The word is so loaded, that simply saying it is like evoking some kind of Candyman/Beetlejuice like spell that cannot be undone. The genie ain't going back in the bottle, the bell can't be unrung, and the toothpaste can't go back in the tube. While yes, the word "nigger" is awful, and makes me feel like shit just typing it, do we have to relegate anyone who utters it complete pariahs for the rest of their lives? Paula Deen, who I could give two halves of a fuck about, is basically done for a while because she used the term. Now, I'm not saying that she shouldn't be fired from whatever who-cares tv show she's on: her employers have the right to do with her what they want. But the idea that somehow just evoking the word -- devoid of context, in the Cooper case -- is a career death sentence.

What Cooper said was stupid and ridiculous, but let's put it in context: he said "I'll fight every nigger in here." So yes, he addressed "niggers" specifically. But ... well, so what? I mean, he didn't say that these so-called "niggers" (his words, not mine!) were inferior, or dumb, or lazy, or any of the other countless bullshit arguments that ACTUAL racists use against black people whilst sitting in their own filth and anonymously making misspelled comments on message boards. He didn't pull an Al Campanis or Jimmy the Greek and try and make some simpleminded "Bell Curve" arguments about the mental inferiority of blacks. In fact, I wonder if, had Cooper said something, "I will take on any of you black motherfuckers," that he would have gotten as much flak. He might have, but I don't know if he would have, because he didn't use the loaded word.

[Side note: I often wonder when it's okay for me to use it, and I'll explain what I mean by that. I don't think it would be ever okay to use it to refer to someone or say it to someone, because it's just a terrible thing to do. Plus, I'd get my ass kicked. But like what if I'm rapping along with some of my favorite rap songs, like Wu-Tang's "Shame on a Nigga," Ice Cube's "The Wrong Nigga to Fuck With," or A Tribe Called Quest's "Sucka Nigga." (Forget the fact that they are using the "-a" version and not the "-er" version.) In this case, I am singing along with songs I enjoy, so should I be able to partake in the integrity of the artists' intents? Or should I self-censor so that I say "NNNN" or "aggiN" (radio-edit style), or just cough. I think I should be able to say it when it comes on a song if I'm rapping along with it, but I'm still not sure if that'll get my ass kicked or not.]

So we have one side of the fence that absolutely has to crucify anyone who uses this word: it's not just black folks either. Although Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson might take their megaphones to the streets to protest any use of the word, they are relatively irrelevant at this point (see Tawana Brawley and "Hymietown" for evidence of their charlatanism). But a lot of it comes from whites. Some people call this "white guilt," and while I think there is definitely some of that (we were pretty fucking awful for a couple hundred years), I think a lot of it is "trying to be down-ism," or white folks grandstanding to show how tolerant and caring and loving they are to all people.

(To wit: click this Deadspin link and read the peacocking, holier-than-thou commenter QqqQ, as he deconstructs a silly meme into his humor vaccuum. If you can't laugh at a Reddit meme about a guy named Tyrone, you have no place in this society. Go find something to be ACTUALLY angry about instead of some silly caption. If QqqQ has a single friend in this world I'll eat my fucking hat.)

I think we are going down a dangerous path when simply saying words -- in a vaccuum, completely devoid of context -- are enough to irrevocably, irreparably change your life. Contrition is never enough, only banishment to leper status will suffice. I'm not saying the guy should have said the word "nigger," but take that word out of the sentence and what do you have. There have been people who have said things much, much more inflammatory about people of African descent, but since they didn't use that nuclear word (the other "N" word), they got away with it. Where is the middle ground? I don't know.

I'll tell you where the middle ground isn't, and that is with the mouthbreathing, self-victimizing white person who says something to the effect of "IF A BLACK KIN SAY IT, HOWS COME I CANT SAYS IT?" The argument is this: rappers and young black men throw the word "nigger" around like white people throw around "dude." Is that a great thing? I mean, I don't think so, but I also don't think it's the most egregious thing ever either. The black community -- TO THEIR CREDIT, I believe -- have reappropriated that word to be a term of friendship and camaraderie.

The word "motherfucker" is pretty vulgar, when you think about it. If you call someone a motherfucker, you're basically saying they had sex with their mother. Not nice. But I can't even count on two hands the number of times a week that I call people -- my friends -- motherfuckers. At face value, them's fighting words. But IN CONTEXT -- the key to all human interpersonal communications -- it's not really that bad. I can call my friend that and he'll laugh and he'll call me that too. In college, we used that word more than we used each other's names. We took a bad word and made it our own, and it's cool.

Now here's the difference, if we were in mixed company, and some stranger tried to step to my friends and start calling them "motherfuckers," we might have had some problems. You aren't us, so you can't use our internal terminology around us. Dig?

But the false-equivalency white asshole will say something like, "Hey, I walk through the ghetto (Ed. note: no you don't, you liar) and I hear these thugs say it to each other all the time. If they can say it then I should be able to say it." Bullshit. First of all, you aren't "one of them." The stigma and the emotional reaction of the word is not something you nor your ancestors ever had to go through. You didn't earn it, you don't have the right to appropriate it. And furthermore, I'm PRET-TY sure you wouldn't be using it as a term of endearment. You would be using it to say something like "Look at these NIGGERS," and then a grin would come across your face, like the cat that at the fucking canary, because aren't you so edgy? And don't you just speak your mind??!? And isn't it refreshing when people can be politically incorrect??!?!

No, you're an asshole who wants to get away with swearing in front of mom. One time when I was a kid, I had a friend over and I wanted to impress him, so I went to my mom and said "Hey mom, isn't ________ an ASS?!" See what I did? I said a naughty word. Holy shit, my friend must have been impressed! This is the same thing: white people want to take the short cut to things; they want to be able to use the word, even though they didn't grow up with it, they didn't have to deal with any history of it, and frankly they haven't fucking EARNED IT.

So how about this, white folk, I'll make a deal with you on behalf of my African-American brethren: you can start saying "nigger" if:

  • I can call your mother, daughter, sister or wife a "cunt" or a "whore." After all, if you can call women those words, we should be able to too, right? RIGHT?
  • You get racially profiled at airports
  • You get pulled over when you're just minding your own business because of what you look like
  • You -- and only you -- get asked for your id, even though you're with like a half-dozen other whites
  • I can use words about your particular European ethnicity, like Dago, Mick, Kike, etc. If I can throw the worst fucking stereotype that exists about your ethnic background, we can make a deal, you filthy Italian greaseball fuck. Or you southern redneck sister-fucking inbred shit-kicking hick? We're cool with all that now, right?
One more rule: you can't say it on a message board, or in a chat room, or in the comfort of your own home or other whites who will guffaw and slap you on the knee when you do it. You have to do it in the middle of a non-gentrified urban neighborhood, with no police or firearms around to protect you. Then we'll really see how fucking brave you really are.

And if you have gone out to purchase a Riley Cooper jersey to "show him support" or to "stop being politically correct," take it one step further. Go to a gun shop, wait for the background check to come back, take your firearm home, take a good long look in the mirror, look at what a victim you've become and what's happened to your life. Put a plastic bag over your head (to alleviate some of the forthcoming mess), put the gun to your temple, and pull the fucking trigger. If you didn't own a Riley Cooper jersey and you're going out to buy one now because he said the word "nigger," you have proven to have zero value in our polite society. Happy trails.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

To Have a Friend You Gots Ta Be a Friend

I feel very bad about myself when I dislike someone who is very nice. I have always been taught that being kind to others is one of the great virtues that we can bestow upon each other, and I would love to be able to honor this trait in others. And yet, I find myself often becoming unbelievably frustrated  -- even to the point of downright dislike -- with people who otherwise should should be worthy of my praise. And my praise, folks, is a great coup for he or she who receives it.

There is a person -- let's call her Janice --  who is in my life basically every day; she truly has a heart of gold, and cares deeply about the well-being of her friends and family. And every day I want to scream at her and tell her to shut the fuck up.

Janice always says she "doesn't have friends," even though she interacts with countless people every day of her life. Still, her social circle seems to consist almost solely of coworkers and family members. This fact further compounds my guilt, as I would love to be someone who is able to reach out and be friendly, but I can't bring myself to do it.

So why is Janice so seemingly bereft of close friends? It isn't because she lacks self-confidence or that she's mean to people or that she's some kind of "loser" who is "undeserving" of friendship. It's because she is just a crappy friend. Not a crappy person, but a crappy friend.

A coworker of mine once said "In order to have a friend, you have to be a friend." And that struck a real chord with me, because what it made me realize is that your own self-worth or face-value quality as a human being does not necessarily equate to having numerous and/or deep friendships. How many people do you know who are total bag-of-shit assholes who have a million friends? They are generally not nice, not that interesting, usually back-stabbing, shit-talking, obnoxious, mean-spirited and grating. And yet they always have a million things to do on the weekends, and a thousand pictures on Facebook where they are drinking on a patio somewhere with what seems to be a dozen other people.

Now I am certainly not bereft of friendship in any way: I don't have a million of them, but I also am not wanting for deep friendship in my life. I have about a dozen or so incredibly close friends that I trust implicitly, fifty or so relatively close friends (I call them "hangout friends"), and maybe 200 acquaintances or friends who are tangential in my life.

Does this mean I'm a nicer person than Janice? Absolutely not, I am a complete asshole: arrogant, pedantic, hypercritical, hypersensitive, stubborn ... if you've met me this is all redundant information. But I know that I'm a better friend than Janice is.

That sounds like an awful thing to say, but my self-awareness of this fact tells me that at least I have the wherewithal to understand what it is to be a friend, and not just a nice person. Let me illustrate the differences.

[Quick note: this is going to seem like me tooting my own horn, but believe me, it's not. This is simply to illustrate the understanding I have of what it takes to be a good friend, versus not really "getting it." Janice, as nice a person as she is, just doesn't fucking get it.]

First, in order to be a friend, you have to care about your friends. This sounds so simple you probably want to slap the side of my head and say "no shit, dummy." But if you've spent a day in your life with someone who doesn't have the curiosity gene, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I was lucky, because I got the curiosity gene in spades, jack. I am genuinely interested in learning not just about events and facts, but about other people. I like to know how many siblings you have, or how you get along with your parents, or what your favorite albums are. Not because I'm trying to kiss your ass, but because you're not me, and I want to know what it's like to be not-me once in a while.

If you tell me, "my sister is being an asshole," someone might say "oh that sucks," which is a nice (if cursory) bit of commiseration. However, I want to know why your sister is being an asshole. What did she do? What did she say? What was your response? You might think that's me being nosy; I consider it moving away from abstractions and into concrete details.

The byproduct of this is that (and this is a little trick you might not realize), since I'm talking about YOU, you are going to find me slightly more interesting. Why? Because I am engaging you in YOUR interests. Again, this is not some ruse or clever trick to get you to give me your social security number: I genuinely am interested. But because I was blessed by God Almighty with a wide swath of interests, I can engage you in almost any conversation you want to have, on your own turf. Because of this, people think I'm much more interesting than I actually am.

Janice is a different story: it is all about her. Always. I guarantee if you put a gun to her head, she couldn't tell you one fact about me: how many siblings do I have? Where did I grow up? Am I married? It never occurs to Janice to ask these questions or to engage people on this kind of level. Not just me, but anyone.

So when you interact with Janice, it becomes about Janice: what's going on with HER, what is wrong in HER life, what is annoying HER. I've seen it in mixed company: a bunch of people get into a conversation at dinner or in a room or wherever, and someone deigns to ask her a question about what's going on, and it usually starts with a long exhale, and then either "Well......" or "So....." And you can almost feel the regret coming off the person who asked the question. They just were trying to make conversation, and instead got sucked into the history of the world.

Secondly, you have to share the burden with your friends. The most wonderful thing about having good friends is the way that you complement each other, balance each other, keep each other in check, and lift each other up when one of you is strong and one of you is weak.

In this same circle of people that Janice is in, I've had some very good, very personal conversations where people are going through crises (or God forbid I'm going through one), and we talk about it, support each other, bounce ideas off of each other, and try to eventually come to a greater truth. Talking about your problems with a good friend who has no agenda is one of the most cleansing and burden-relieving things you can do. It's the raison d'etre of friendship in the first place.

Janice doesn't do this.

Piggybacking off of the example above, every conversation is either about Janice, or Janice doesn't participate. What Janice does do is come into the day with a pre-existing story that she's clearly gone over in hear head about 50 times. She then relays this story not to one person to get it off her chest, but to every single person with which she has regular conversations. And she doesn't just give a 90-second overview: she goes into elaborate, painstaking minutiae, every detail, every nuance. And she does this over and over again. She vents, and venting is okay. But every day she just piles her own shit on everyone else, when lord knows we have our own battles to fight.

Janet will, at least once every 2-3 days, have a tale cued up about some mildly annoying situation that happened at a restaurant, or a store, or in traffic. And she elevates it to epic proportions (even though she doesn't have the oratory skill to make it interesting). She assumes that everyone is going to be empathetic to her tale of woe, even though most of us just roll our eyes, pretend we're reading a text, or quietly slink away so as to not get sucked into a Sorrow and the Pity-length treatise about how unfair life is.

This is going to sound like a stupid parallel but I'm going to use it anyway: remember in high school when your teacher would pile homework on you, and then you didn't do it because you had too much? And then the teacher would say "Well, why didn't you do it? It was a simple assignment!" And you were a kid so you couldn't say it, but what you wanted to say (and goddammit, SHOULD have said!) was "Because I have ten other classes and they gave me a shitload of homework too, asshole!" The teacher forgot that his class was not the center of your universe; you have other matter to attend to. When someone thinks they are the center of the universe -- like Janice does -- they tend to dump all of their problems on you as if it's your solemn duty to help shoulder the load.

Thirdly -- and finally -- and most elementary: don't be annoying to those around you. Again, sounds rudimentary, but how many people don't realize that people are trying to avoid them. And how many people don't realize that the reason they don't get invited places is because they are more trouble than they are worth.

If a bunch of my friends were having a party, and they were purposely trying to keep the event a secret from me, I would absolutely be hurt. In fact, this happened to me a thousand times when I was younger and not nearly as in-demand as I am today. But in my brain, I wouldn't think "Why the fuck didn't those assholes invite me? They are so mean!" I would think, "I wonder what it is about me that caused them not to want me around."

I say this NOT because I feel it's necessary to conform to anyone's standards or try to please everyone in spite of yourself. I'm just saying that some self-reflection can often be a very useful thing. Sometimes, it's the things that people don't tell you about yourself that are the most truthful. If someone has a bone to pick with you, they will tell you flat-out; if someone doesn't want to hurt your feelings, they will try to tiptoe around you so that you don't get hurt.

Janice, as nice as she is, can be incredibly annoying. She is loud; in fact she's unarguably the loudest person I know. Her voice carries across continents, through lead walls, into the troposphere. And it's not just the volume of her voice, it's that she complains about everything that is happening to her at the loudest possible volume. (Again, saddling everyone else with her own problems.)

And she says the word "fuck" a LOT. And I mean more than any person I've ever met. She doesn't just say it when it's needed, such as for emphasis or out of frustration. She uses "fucking" as an adjective. Like: "All I wanted to do was order a fucking soda." Or: "This fucking guy has no idea what he's talking about." And "They told me it was gonna be a five-minute fucking wait for a table." This is clearly the speech of someone who has lost all perspective of when it's okay to use "fucking" and when you're literally just trying to fill up word-space.

Also, the word coming out of her mouth is like a dagger in the eardrums. There are certain people who are great at swearing, who give it a certain savoir faire. George Carlin was one of them; my uncle Jim was one of them. Janice is not one of them. Every "fuck" or "fucking" that comes out of her word-hole is akin to a window-pane shattering in the other room. It's not soothing, it's not refreshing. It sounds vile, and it sounds like white trash.

So to recap: when your friends feel like they have to appease you and "live with" your more overbearing qualities, it might mean that you are being tolerated and not necessarily "liked." Ironically, it is polite society that often shields us from ourselves, in that no one wants to tell us when we need to tone it down. (I would much prefer someone having "the talk" with me so I can be aware of my shortcomings or perceived shortcomings, rather than obliviously go on repeating them to an increasingly annoyed group.)

If you want to have friends, try and be the person you would like to be around. There are enough people out there like you that will appreciate it. And maybe they'll invite you to parties and shit.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Green Lakes: A Shitty, Racist Place

You know who hates camping? Me.

Okay, so I don't really "hate" camping. It's more like I am not an "outdoorsy" type. I hate bugs, I hate the heat, I hate sleeping on dirt and/or mud, I hate sleeping with bugs, I hate freezing my nutsac off, I hate waking up in a haze and walking into the wilderness where there are no toothbrushes or flushing toilets. Man used to camp because man had to camp. It was necessity borne of a dearth of technological advancements with which we are now quite blessed. Even the Amish have cellphones now.

So a few friends of mine decided they wanted to go camping for a few days. It was kind of short notice so I knew I wouldn't be able to go, but I told them that if it was close enough, I would swing by for the evening to hang out, drink a couple of craft brews, regale them with my rapier's wit, and perhaps eat a hot dog or six. I roll with a pretty awesome crew: they are intelligent, interesting, humorous, thoughtful and kind. We like to hang out, talk, listen to tunes and enjoy each other's company. As Slick Rick once said, we don't cause trouble, we don't bother nobody. Here's a brief introduction to my crew this evening:

  • D.J. and Jenna: together for 13 years, married for a couple with a young boy.
  • Rob and Kim: married just had their second kid a few months ago
  • Richie and Ploy: a younger couple who have been married a couple years
  • Dwayne: my neighbor who lives down the street from me.
  • Andrea: amicus curiae ("friend of the crew") who showed up a little later
If you're scoring at home, we have an diverse mix: five males, four females. Two African-American males, three caucasian women, two caucasian men, and a Thai female. That isn't really relevant but I just want everyone to know how tolerant I am of various cultures. We are like a walking beer commercial.

Turns out that the campgrounds starts kicking out visitors around 9pm. Also, the campground said that there are to be no more than six people on the campgrounds at any time. Green Lakes is not far from where we live (20 minutes from pretty much any of our houses), and probably not that expensive, which is why I think it got picked as a last-minute camping option.

So I get there around 8pm and the sun is still out. We have a couple drinks, some food, play a little beer pong. The Park Rangers come by to do their cursory check of everything: keep the music down, don't be rowdy, don't do anything illegal. Strictly boilerplate stuff. We listen, we adhere, we are polite. This isn't an actual warning, it's what these folks have to do every night to make sure everyone is in compliance. Fine.

Anyway, the night gets a little later, and I can hear ruckus from some of the other camps. We are playing our music at a very, VERY low level. (I basically can't hear any of it, and I guarantee anyone more than 8 feet away can't hear it either.) I am getting ready to leave until I am encouraged -- nay, ordered -- to have another drink or six. I comply and seat myself.

Shortly thereafter, the kinda bitchy female Ranger comes back saying that another camp has been complaining about our noise. I find this claim to be spurious at best. First of all, we weren't even being that loud. Secondly, the camp directly to our left was being even louder. Thirdly, and maybe this is may own naivete, but wouldn't the camp come to ask us to please keep it down if we were being too loud? 

This last query brings me to one of two possible conclusions: one, another camp was sincerely bothered by our "noise" (they must have had fucking super-hearing) and were too chickenshit to come over to us like a MAN and ask us to keep it down. So they tattled on us to the park ranger. 

Two, there was no complaint and the park range was just making her rounds and got on a power trip. She decided that since she's the big swingin' dick in this place, she's gonna unzip and show us who's boss. It wasn't just her presence that brings me to this conclusion, but the fact that she said "I believe I asked you to turn your music down," and then before she left said, "This is my second time visiting you: you do NOT want me coming a third time." As if the first visit the rangers made was anything more than a standard "have a good night" and sniff-check for weed. I have a feeling Ranger Lady had a bit of a hard-on for my peeps.

Another thing: Ranger Lady said "there are only supposed to be six of you here and I count seven, so one of you is going to have to go." Really? Just like that, one of us has to go. Andrea said, truthfully, "I just got here, they let me in the gate." To which Ranger Lady replied, "They SHOULDN'T HAVE." Then bitch, go talk to your coworkers about letting people in after they're supposed to.

Now to be fair, Rob has one of those voices that "carries," even when he doesn't mean it to. So he was talking at what he considered to be a regular volume, but whenever he does this, the other six of us say "SHHHHHHHHH," since he's so fucking loud. It's not really his fault, he can't help it.

Now here comes the kicker....

We are still hanging out, keeping our music on at a VERY LOW volume. (Literally, they played "One Love" by Nas, a song I've heard a thousand times, and I couldn't even identify it until about 75% of the way through.) There came more flashlights, ostensibly from the Park Ranger Lady. Even though we had raised nothing remotely resembling a ruckus, I dart to the restroom to keep our total number at six (as far as the Rangers were concerned). Well, that and to take a leak. I had been drinking for like 4 hours.

I come back and apparently everything was okay: Ranger Lady had not shown up. Not five minutes later, a car comes down the road with its headlights on and stops in our area. I am about to go to my car and start driving home. Before I can, a police officer sees me and says "How you doing?" I, being fearful of all authority, am exceedingly polite. The cop I talk to is VERY, very cool. He basically says (paraphrasing), "Look man, I don't want to be here but technically we got a complaint from another camp and when that happens we kinda HAVE to check up on it. You guys look like you're not doing anything bad, just keep it down, okay?" I thank the officer and walk back to my crew, waiting for them to leave so I can hop in my Altima and get the fuck outta Green Lakes.

As I walk to my peeps, I notice that the OTHER police officer is talking to Rob (who resembles Jake Gyllenhaal, kinda) and Dwayne (who looks kinda like Turk from Scrubs). The other cop seems to be a bit more of a hard-ass, taking a firmer tone with the two of them. Dwayne and Rob are both talkers, and they use this opportunity to start sweet-talking the officers and hopefully get them on our side(s). Rob starts talking about the Yankees, Dwayne starts talking about having kids, etc., etc. 

Suddenly -- and this was the fucking coup de grace -- the officer asked to see Dwayne's (Turk's) ID, saying something like "I just need to see your ID, you understand." He took it and scanned it through his police scan thing. He didn't ask anyone else for their ID. Not Rob (who was standing beside him), not Ploy, not DJ, not Richie, not Andrea and not me. Only Dwayne; only the black guy.

Luckily for Dwayne, he is an upstanding citizen and has no outstanding warrants (that the cops will ever find out about!), and so it was all good. Still, this level of harassment for such a paltry infraction screams that there is another agenda. Long story short, do not go to Green Lakes, because the people who run the place are racist.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hetero As It Gets (Ladies...)

It has been brought to my attention -- more than once, I might add -- that some have bandied about the notion that I, your humble narrator, might be a homosexual. This truly baffles me. But first a few housekeeping tips.

I don't think there is anything "wrong" with being gay, obviously. In fact, I would like to think that if I thought I were a gay guy, that I would be comfortable enough to come out and say it. I don't know if, when the rubber met the road, I would be able to actually do this. But I would like to think I could.

In the wake of Barack Obama finally joining most non-hypocritical people by saying he thinks gays should be able to get married, it seems that most of my friends are pretty tolerant of gay marriage and gay-related issues too. And actually, I am super-tolerant of all lifestyles. After all, if you live in a society where homosexuality is marginalized, why would you "choose" it? Wouldn't it just be easier to "choose" to be a heterosexual? I don't think you pick it; it definitely picks you.

Which brings me to this point: I absolutely love women. It's not something I talk about all that much, because I have a working brain and don't have to default to uninteresting neanderthal grunting. I love girls a lot. I am very shy around them, but that does not mean I don't admire them. I did not choose this, by the way: I did not wake up one day and decide to become attracted to women. I've been attracted to women since as far back as I can remember. Even when I was a kid, I knew that there was something about chicks that was pretty all right. I never admitted this to anyone, mind you, because of the guilt inherent in an Irish-Catholic upbringing. But I have always -- ALWAYS -- been into broads. Sorry, "skirts."

That brings me to a second point, and please hear me out. I know I just said that I'm crazy-tolerant, and I am. But here's the deal: homosexuality disgusts me.

Let me finish.

I'm not saying that a person's lifestyle disgusts me, or that I judge anyone, or that I look down upon anyone for any reason. Someone being a homosexual doesn't bother me at all. Not in the slightest. But the idea of two men being together -- sexually, I mean -- makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Especially the thought of one of those men being me.

Now before you play junior psychoanalyst, no, this is not one of those "I think he doth protest too much" situations. I already told you that I'm cool with gay dudes who wanna rail each other in the privacy of their own homes. But in the few instances where I've been privy to images of male-on-male action, I get incredibly uncomfortable. I loved Brokeback Mountain ... except for all the dude-on-dude action.

To me it's like spiders: there is nothing inherently wrong with spiders, but they gross me out, dude! I wouldn't want to be sitting in a pile of spiders, or a pile of naked bro's for that matter. It's just a matter of personal preference. But I'm not saying that spiders should all be eradicated or that spiders shouldn't be allowed to marry other spiders if they want to.

If I may sidebar: I think this makes me more tolerant that most people even! It's easy for people who "support" homosexuality (ie. aren't grossed out by it) to be tolerant. It's a whole other kettle of fish for people who think it's grody to be okay with it.

Back to the original topic. I can see how someone might surmise that I'm gay since I haven't had a significant relationship with a girl in about 6 years (at least that anyone knows about!), but that doesn't mean that I haven't had ... let's say "episodes" here and there. And it doesn't mean that I haven't been working my magic.

I tend to fly solo to bars and when out to dinner, but that doesn't mean that I'm a closet case.

I will say this: I think that gay dudes are generally very interesting, more interesting than a lot of straight guys. I don't know if it's that they are wittier, more bitchy or better with cultural references (all three of which I am as well ... I guess that might be leading people to the wrong conclusion), but I do find that I enjoy talking to to them. I just don't wouldn't enjoy making sweet, sweet love to them.

What confuses me about the conspiracy theory about me is that I don't "fit the profile" of a gay man in any way. I am 250+ lbs., I am sloppy as hell, and I dress like shit. I will admit that I can perform a perfect sibilant "S," which also might give people the wrong impression. But don't take my quick wit and whistlin' "S"s fool ya: I'm all about boobs and child-bearing hips. Always will be.

I will say that I possess, one could say, less "masculine" qualities. I am sensitive (overly so, one might say), I get easily emotional, and I get nervous easily. I don't do manly shit like going to shooting ranges or doing Vegas with a gaggle of douchebags. I like foreign films and independent music. I'm pretty sure all the hops I've consumed in the last half-decade have quadrupled my estrogen levels, but that doesn't mean I want to grab another dude's johnson. Not by a long shot.

I guess if you were to look at the circumstantial evidence, I come off as a regular Kevin Spacey, without the acting chops, that the world knows about! I've never been married or even engaged. (Incidentally, I was at dinner with some new coworkers a few weeks ago, and I was asked if I've ever been married or had kids; I replied no to both, and everyone said, "Really? Never?" As if it was impossible to believe that I wasn't at least divorced at my age.) But I live alone: you will never hear of me living with any "longtime companions," unless you're referring to the silverfish under the floorboards.

Long story short: you have nothing to worry about ladies. I am as straight as an arrow and as hetero as the day is long. Sometimes I wish I could just get down with dudes, because frankly most girls suck. But I would just end up feeling like a real silly goose. What with all the male genitalia in my bottom and all.