Why Isn't this National News?

On Friday night, during Ramadan prayers, someone decided to spray chemical irritant (tear gas) into the nursery of a mosque in Dayton, OH. Around 300 people had to be evacuated from the building.

Did you know about it until just now?

Why not?

If this happened in a Christian church anywhere in America, Fox news would have dedicated half a day's programming to it and it would have been unavoidable on other networks as well - but since it's just a mosque, the media decided to pass on this one...

Think carefully about where you get your news, then diversify. That's a papal decree, compulsory for the cyberFaithful.

Stranger in a Strange Land

I have a confession to make.

I didn't watch the presidential debate on tv Friday night.

I know, it makes me a less informed voter, but nothing short of Barrack Obama sprouting horns and proclaiming himself the fleshly vessel of a demon could sway me. And even then, I'd want to know what the demon's stance on health care is - he might STILL be less reprehensible than the Crypt Keeper and the Alaskan Stepford Wife.

To be honest, our political situation has become so depressing that I decided I'd rather play badminton than watch it unfold. It is becoming increasingly obvious that me and mine (liberals of all stripes) are no longer welcome here, and I just didn't want to be reminded of it.

Conservatives, as defined by Conservapedia "are generally characterized by adherence to limited government, public morality, and free enterprise."

OK - how the $700 billion bailout is an example of "limited government" or "free enterprise" escapes me, but that's what it says.

Another definition, this time from the dictionary:
"con·serv·a·tive, [kuhn-sur-vuh-tiv] –adjective
1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change."

How can anyone who has been conscious during the last 8 years think that, 1) maintaining the status quo is a good thing, 2) there is any hope of returning to the good old days, or 3) change needs to be limited? If anything, change needs to be encouraged, welcomed, and accelerated, if we are to survive. If the people opt to be conservative in their selection, in 4 years we'll be facing this decision again, but gas will be $7.00 a gallon, and more young Americans will be visiting (and dying in) exciting places in the Middle East, courtesy of the U.S. military. Is the American populace really THAT stupid?

Well, last time around, they were. And they could be again.

So I didn't watch that debate, and I don't know if I want to watch any of them. I feel like an outcast in my native land (ok - more so than usual...) and I just don't need that feeling expanded by watching the war hero and Barbie touting the benefits of a path of stagnation while half the audience nods in agreement.

Red... Like Blood

The hell puppy is guarding my new kettlebell - a 32 kilogram Russian Red. It's 70.5 pounds of iron; the biggest kettlebell in my collection. Moving it requires care; you don't just bend over and jerk this thing off the floor. I carefully squat and lift it with both hands, using my legs, and it's still a bit of a bitch. So far I only use it for swings, cleans, and floor presses. I have pressed it overhead once... just once, with my right arm.

The overhead press (also known as the military press) is a pretty standard measure of strength. A man can call himself "strong" when he can press, with strict form, half of his body weight with one arm. At my proper body weight, my goal would be to press a 48kg kettlebell - 106 pounds, known around the kettlebell community as "the beast."

I am currently using a 24kg bell - this morning I did a "medium" workout with it, consisting of "ladders" of cleans and presses. A ladder looks like this:

Right - 1, Left - 1
Right - 2, Left - 2
Right - 3, Left - 3
Right - 4, Left - 4
Right - 5, Left - 5

And then you repeat it 4 more times for a total of 150 reps, 75 per arm... or at least you try to do that. Actually, when you can complete all 150 reps with strict form (that is, no leaning, no bending your knees to "jerk" the weight up, etc.) you are ready to use a larger kettlebell.

Last Wednesday, I completed all 150 reps with a 20kg kettlebell, so I jumped up to the 24kg. I've used the 24kg before, but today was the first time I'd tried the ladder with it. I was able to complete 76 reps of the ladder, so I'm about half-way to the next weight. I bought the 32kg just to taunt myself. It's sitting here now, heckling me...

"Betcha' can't press me. Betcha' can't. Pussy."

The hand resting on it is not mine, but that of my tiniest workout buddy. She can deadlift it with both hands, but only just. In all fairness, it IS over half her body weight!

I have been doing floor presses with it - sort of like a one-arm bench press, but tougher due to the kettlebell's fat handle and off-center weight distribution. Ten per arm is a major bitch - like, I just lay there and pant for a while when it's over. Cleans (jerking it from the ground up to your chest in one smooth motion) are less painful, but still quite tough. A set of swings is just fucking awful - after 40 reps my arms were burning and shaking, my legs were wobbly, and I felt like my lungs might explode. All around, it's the most horrible toy I have purchased for myself in quite a while. Naturally, I love it.

I also got this nifty thingy. As if battling gravity isn't enough, we also like to throw down with time around here too. The only thing better than trying to press a cannonball overhead 150 times is trying to do it in a set time limit!

This little thingy is not, however, your old gym coach's stopwatch. It allows you to set it for two different intervals - one for work and one for rest - and then you can tell it how many times to repeat them. It flashes and beeps when each interval begins, so you automatically know if you should be lifting or dry heaving at any given moment. It allows you to pace your workout to get maximum cardio benefit and fat burning. I look forward to using it for the first time on Monday - my workout buddies won't know what hit them.

That's all for now, but soon the rest of my new Russian Reds will be arriving. Look for a family portrait in the near future!

Double Contingency

The late German sociologist Niklas Luhmann did a lot of work on what is known as the problem of "double contingency." The idea is that every communication must take into account the way that it is received, and the speaker knows that whatever he says will be received in light of the receiver's estimation of the speaker. This forms an impossible situation; the speaker depends on the receiver, and the receiver depends on the speaker. It's about expectations. The less you know about each other's expectations, the greater the problem of double contingency, and the less likely we are to be understood correctly - and nutty hijinks ensue.

Luhmann went on to posit that the social system based on communication creates social structures in order to solve this problem. Because of social structure, we usually know quite a bit about both speaker and receiver, thus it is more likely that we will be understood. The individual, then, wants to make sure that others have a proper estimation of him. In that vein, let's go over this list of traits you should take into account when estimating me...

I am sinful. A given, I know, but I think it bears repeating. At the very least, I should get bonus points for honesty. These days, my sins are based largely in pride. In the bad old days, rage was my constant companion.

I love oddly. Irritating for those around me, but true. My heart does not move in the conventional way. There are levels and processes and twists and turns - it is a maze for which I don't have the cheat code.

I am observant. While I don't have the powers of Sherlock Holmes, I do frequently catch things that others miss. Don't think I didn't see that startled look on your face - but just because I saw it, don't assume I know what it means. This leads nicely into our next point...

I am frequently baffled by others. I have come to accept the fact that I do not think like others. I have tried for years to put myself in the shoes of others, to no avail. I can now, after decades of trial and error, sometimes guess what another will do, but I assure you that it's not because they are doing what I would do in the same situation. In fact, I have come to expect people to react as stupidly as possible, most of the time. Call me a cynic.

I am filled with remorse. Note that I did not say "regret." Remorse is something all together different - the effect, in my case, of being deeply in touch with your sins, but not believing in external absolution for them. I'm a religion scholar, and familiarity breeds contempt.

I am committed. I want fervently to be something more than I am today. Right or wrong, I have chosen to have faith that the path that I am on will lead to that. I am trying to have faith in the paths that others around me have chosen as well, but that is proving quite difficult at times.

I have hope. Perhaps it is simply that it makes getting out of bed easier each morning. Perhaps it's that I am blind to the reality around me. Whatever the reason, I believe that we can make better times for all. Somehow, I am cynic and optimist at once.

I hope this helps ease our circle of contingencies. Read/hear me as truly as you can.

You can't put apple butter on trout...

All three of my classes are currently in the midst of dealing with sociological theory - which means a ton of heavy, dry, philosophical reading. I'm simultaneously trying to take in various theoretical views on natural and man-made disasters, critical race theory, modern feminist theory, queer theory, neo-marxism, post-modernism, and post-post-modernism. This has created some interesting new pathways in my head of late. Here is how it sounds in there right now...

There is a negative need for a lack of logic - not specifically illogic, but more dislogic. Unpacking words until you are looking at not just the letters but the strokes that make up the letters to see if they smack of Eurocentric paradigms is hardly enough. Examine the chemical components of the ink to see if it was made upon the backs of impoverished persons in the 3rd world - and if so, does making a photocopy alter their suffering, and shift the unconscious intent of the author to a different unconscious? Does it move to a space where carcinogenic toner fills the air and damages the lungs of those forced to labor in a different kind of sweat shop, where they huddle in cubicles instead of huts? Given that the pages were once trees, and the glue binding is probably hoof-based, it is covered in the filth of the lumpenproletariat and my own guilt and shame at being privileged. It's no wonder that I can ingest it but not digest it. I only hold it in my crop, then regurgitate it upon command, like the trained cormorants who used to dive for fish commercially, but now only spit up trout for white tourists.

Certainly, we must give due consideration to the sufferings of the 3rd world worker, and the cubicle farm inmate, and the trees, and the hoofless, and the rag and bone merchants, and the cormorant, and the trout, and the tourist - but when will we finally recognize the plight of the theorist herself? She is lost within her own navel, and no amount of ethnography can hoist her back to the surface. Even trying to do so releases the stench of determinism - and we all know how badly that smell mixes with the desperate funk of the grad student. It is a matter of where you're standing, of course, but we can't just give in to relativism. No, that wouldn't be properly academic. We must lift the hood on this whirring engine of inquiry, and pull the distributor cap. If it still runs, it must be, a priori, a sound theory...

This is what it's come to. My stream of consciousness is now polluted - my thought-fish are born with crooked spines. Soon I will be able to create my own grand unified theory of how society works. (I'll give you a hint - in my version, it's all about who has the most songs on their iPod...)

A Simple Test

The people have lost the drive to live.

I believe that the Republican party is working from this theory.

What else could possibly explain the selection and subsequent defense of the VPilf as Johnny Be Good's running mate?

Her lack of qualifications, lack of knowledge, obvious hypocrisy, and general unreadiness to lead this country should John "the Crypt Keeper" McCain keel over can only be seen as indicative that the Republicans believe that the American people no longer have the instinct to survive.

You see, the body politic is a simple creature, and normally it shies away from things which cause it pain without benefit. Over the last 8 years, the Shrub has pushed executive privilege to new and terrifying heights, hacked away at our civil rights, killed thousands of our soldiers in a meaningless, unwinnable war, watched fuel prices triple, and driven our economy to the brink of collapse. Now, the same party that put him in power is asking us to put another of their fold into office.

Seems like a no-brainer. I mean, the pain is obvious and there is no benefit - surely this animal has enough nerve endings left to move away from it, right? This guy and his friends have really fucked things up royally, and now we have a chance to get rid of them... yet Sunday's Rasmussen Poll shows that 46% of the nation would like 4 more years of the same.

I have long held that for many Americans, the choice between Democrat and Republican is about like choosing Coke or Pepsi. They seem about the same to most people - "it doesn't matter, they're ALL crooks," as my veterinarian told me just the other day when the hellpuppy was getting his shots. This kind of platitude usually leads to another, something about choosing between the "lesser of two evils."

This is not that kind of election. This, my friends, is a test.

If the people elect McCain, the Republicans will have proven that the political animal no longer has even the most basic survival instincts. We no longer even shy away from the most obvious harm - it's like giving them carte blanche to become the overt oligarchs our founding fathers feared so much. (I'm well aware that the country is already run by an oligarchy, but at least it's covert... one revolution at a time, ok?)

I hope we have enough collective nerve endings left to save ourselves.

German Dance

The sleepies are upon me. You've been warned.

In discussion with Flynn, we just came to the perfectly reasoned conclusion that changing our socially constructed image of "woman" to include audibly farting in public, allows us to get on lifeboats with impunity. Turns out, allowing farting negates the "women and children first" rule.

It's a harsh trade, but fair. Also - I don't swim so well.

Grape jelly on fried eggs is disgusting on many levels. Initially, I was just revolted by the consumption of the reproductive by-products of Asian jungle fowl, however, Flynn's insistence on being a Canadian redneck has added a whole new level of "uck" to your basic over-easy on toast. The smell is a mixture of grease, slightly burnt bread, and a lifetime of socialized medical care.

Apparently, there is a condition that cats get called "fatty paw." At least, this is what one of my Twitter friends tells me. I believe her, because I have succumbed to the illusory sense of friendship that the internet creates. Because we have been sharing 140 character posts for a few months now, I am convinced that we are "friends," when in reality, this 35 year-old woman could be a 60 year old man with a penchant for buggery and a hook for a hand. Actually, that could explain some of "her" typing errors...

It is clearly time to sleep. Workout buddies will be here in less than 5 hours to sling kettlebells about. I have done entirely too much reading of sociological theory over the last few days. Marx and Weber are dancing in my head. Wearing lederhosen. JUST lederhosen. And those little green felt hats. Weber has a feather in his, but Marx eschews the trappings of the petit bourgeois.

Now I'm worried that said Twitter friend might read my blog and be hurt. Or, perhaps "he" will soon come for me - "I found your blog. You know too much... now I have to kill you. Bend over."

I just had a sandwich - two slices of cracked pepper vegan cold cuts on vegan wheat bread, with vegan cheese, vegan mayonnaise, and the special ingredient, vegan love... Oh yes, there is such a thing. And it doesn't cause suffering. Or harm the environment... but you should still recycle when you're done.

And I'm done. Sleep is for me now. I'd like to say I'm sorry for all this, but I can't. Or rather, won't. And I'm not going to feel bad about it, either. I am unrepentant. Appropriate, for a guy who calls himself "His Sinfulness," no?