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One of the things that annoys me about living in the twenty-first century is that the technology has come so far and yet it still fails to meet my expectations. How is this possible? Am I really that fussy? Apparently so, because I bought this new cell phone (to replace the one that is dead), and it is driving me nuts because I can’t figure out its black magic.

This is the first phone I have bought for myself. My husband bought my last two phones. I have always heard that buying a cell phone is easy. You walk into the store and say, “I would like to buy a cell phone,” and the person behind the counter guides you through the entire process. I suppose that is true, to some extent. I walked into the T-Mobile store and said, “I need to buy a new phone,” and the person behind the counter asked me what kind of phone I wanted, and I said, “One that is like this dead one I am holding right here.” I considered getting a fancier phone than the one that was now dead, but the dead phone, before dying, had always served me well and I really don’t know what I’d do with a phone that was smarter than I was. My husband has owned two Blackberries, and they make me crazy. I can’t stand them. He asks me to look something up on his phone while he is driving (since it is unsafe and also illegal to use your own phone while driving), and I can never do it right, and he gets exasperated, wondering how he ever managed to marry such a big dummy, and I want to throw the phone at his stupid head because to paraphrase Forrest Gump, I may not be a smart man, but I know what user-friendly is. A really smart phone would be idiot-proof, but instead he has a phone that likes to taunt idiots, which I think is kind of mean. I don’t like bullies, never have, but anyway, that’s how I came to be in the T-Mobile store asking for a phone that will at least pretend to respect me.

So the salesman pointed me toward the three phones in the store that were primitive enough to be comparable to my beloved now-dead phone, and I asked him what the difference was between two of them. He said, “This one has bigger numbers and a bigger screen.” Being that I’m old and my eyesight is going, I figured I should opt for bigger, so that’s what I did. I was a little bit sad because my old phone was lime green, which matched my iPod that is lime green and my Kindle cover which is also lime green, and I am just superficial enough that if there had been a lime green phone in that store, I probably would have bought it no matter how smart it thought it was. But there weren’t any green phones, so I settled for this midnight blue one. I felt a little mismatched when I left, but I was still excited to have a new phone because a) presumably this one worked and b) I might just find I liked it better than the old one (no disloyalty intended, but it’s not like the old phone can hear me, being not only merely dead but really most sincerely dead).

You see? I had an open mind.

Anyway, I do not like this midnight blue phone with the bigger numbers and the bigger screen better than my old phone with the adequately-sized numbers and screen. It is not as easy to use as my old phone was. It’s not impossible to use, like a Blackberry, but it’s just not easy. More to the point, I believe it is harder to use than it has any business being, given that it is allegedly not a smart phone. I don’t mean that it is putting on airs, but I think it is being deliberately annoying. I blame myself, because I believed the hype that it is really easy to go into a store and just buy a cell phone. I know better for next time. Next time I will ask the important questions. At the top of the list will be “Which phone requires the fewest steps to access my contacts list? Ideally, I would like something under three. One would be just super. There was this lime-green phone you used to carry that only required one step to access the contacts list. That was so convenient. And intuitive. You opened the phone and the word ‘contacts’ appeared right on the screen, and you pushed a button and there were your contacts, just as if you’d requested them special. Do you have anything along those lines?” I will sound matronly and old-fashioned, but it won’t matter because old ladies don’t care what other people think; they only care about getting what they want. That’s the sort of person I aspire to be.

But that’s in the future. For now I have to live with this phone, on which it is actually easier for me to just memorize all the numbers I need and punch them in myself than it is to access my contacts list. A phone number is ten digits, eleven if it’s long-distance, and that is about as many buttons as I have to push to access a particular number on my contacts list, and dialing the number my damn self will give me a sense of accomplishment and also have the side benefit of not making me want to kill someone because who the crap invents a phone that is this ridiculous? What’s the main reason anyone owns a phone? To call people! At least that’s what I’ve always assumed. Perhaps the twenty-first century has left me behind. Who knows what the kids are doing with phones these days? I don’t even want to know. (And it’s good that I don’t want to know, because I probably couldn’t figure it out even if I wanted to.)

There is another, secondary function that I like my cell phone to have, and that’s a camera for taking pictures. This phone has a camera, and after an entire afternoon on my part and ten seconds on my husband’s part, I have discovered how to access the camera in fewer than twelve steps. The problem is that there is this additional feature on the camera part that allows you to enhance your photos with these cute backgrounds–like, the actual photo part is this relatively-small circle/square and the rest of the picture is this cute background giving your subject animal ears or putting them on Mount Rushmore. The default background is a milk carton with the slogan “Got Friends?” And when I say that is the default background, what I mean is that that particular background is the default setting for the camera. I have to scroll to get to the no-background option. And there doesn’t appear to be any way to change the default setting. I’m sure there is a way, because it just seems that if there weren’t a way, that would just be too asinine for words. My head would literally explode if someone informed me there was no way to change that setting. But there doesn’t appear to be any way to change it, and if you haven’t gotten the idea yet, that is my number-one requirement for a technology device: there must appear to be a way to change it. Otherwise, there really may as well not be. And that’s where I’m at now. There is no way for me to change this setting. I have to do it manually every single time I want to take a picture, until such time as I want to make it look like I’ve taken a picture of a milk carton.

Naturally, I have some questions. To begin with: Am I SEVEN? Why would I want this feature AT ALL, let alone have it as my DEFAULT SETTING? And to end with: Why? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY???

That’s my main complaint about the camera. My other complaint–minor by comparison–is that there is no zoom on the camera. My old phone camera had a zoom. Not a great zoom–almost an inconsequential zoom, really, but at least it was there and made me feel like it was at least making an effort. So fine, I have no zoom. I’ll live. Instead of a zoom, I can adjust the brightness. I guess. That appears to be what those controls are for. They’re probably going to be about as consequential as my old phone camera’s zoom, but at least it’s something.

My only other complaint–and this is the last one so far–about the phone in general is that I like to use my phone as a way to tell time because I no longer wear a watch. I used to wear a watch a long time ago–wore watches for years, actually–but one day my watch broke and it took a long time to replace it and by the time I did, I was used to not wearing one, so wearing one now actually bugged. I tried to get used to it, but then the watch stopped working. Then my mother-in-law got me this cute Snoopy watch (I love me some Snoopy), and I was willing to try to get used to wearing it, but that watch never worked. It was only cute. And thus ended the watch-wearing chapter of my life. I would say “but I digress,” but the digression is already over, and I’m back to the phone now. I want my phone to tell me what time it is. My old phone, which was a flip phone, had this button on the side that you could push and light up the clock on the outside. This new phone, also a flip phone because I wanted a phone just like the one I had before, also has a button on the side, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the clock. I have to open the phone up to see what time it is. That bugs. And now I have my number two question for when I go in to buy my next phone.

My number three question will be “Which phone comes with an actual instruction manual, containing actual instructions?” This phone came with a “health and safety manual,” which explains in English and Spanish how to use your phone without causing a car accident or getting brain cancer, and a “start guide,” which is sort of like an instruction manual, except that it’s useless. I will summarize its contents for you: “If you are so STUPID that you can’t figure out how to use a PHONE, here’s a quick tutorial: 1. Open phone. 2. Push the buttons that correspond with the numbers you wish to dial. (Note: If you do not push the buttons in the correct order, the phone may not dial the party you wish to reach.) 3. Talk.” That’s it. Don’t do drugs, stay in school. That’s all it’s got for me.

You know, I don’t mind being condescended to, as long as I receive useful information in the process. Otherwise, have some respect.

Incidentally, I’m sure I can find solutions to all of my phone problems on the internet. Or by letting my husband fiddle with it for 15-25 seconds. But this was more emotionally satisfying. And now I’m going to take a shower.

Okay, I have a question for you crazy kids. Girlfriend’s birthday party is tomorrow. We ended up inviting 23 children. We would have invited 24, but I neglected to mail one of the invitations. Oops. (Seriously, it was a mistake. I had nothing against this kid coming, but it’s a little late to invite him now. Well, I suppose it’s not, technically. I could drive over to his house and tape the invitation to the front door or something. Is it ruder to invite someone less than 24 hours before the party starts or to not invite them at all? I suppose when I put it that way, it’s clear that I should drive over to his house and tape the invitation to the front door, but I dunno, just something about that plan screams, a) “Weirdo!” and b) “There are already 16 positive RSVPs and wouldn’t you rather just feel really guilty afterward???”) Anyway. As I mentioned in the parenthetical aside, there are at least 16 children aged 5-6 coming to this party. No, I am not prepared. I’m not remotely prepared. But it could be worse. I’m going to start a new paragraph rather than dwell on this point any further.

Positives about this party: 1) It’s at my MIL’s house, not mine. 2) It could possibly make my daughter happy. I might even say probably, except that life is unpredictable, and I try not to have expectations. 3) …. Well, those first two should be good enough. Especially since we’re not talking any more about the negatives!

Except for this one thing, and this is just a general children’s-birthday-party complaint: Goody bags. (Here’s where you should be envisioning Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man character from Saturday Night Live while you read.) I hate ‘em! In my day, you got invited to a birthday party and you brought the host a present. They weren’t expected to give any to you. They already invited you for cake and ice cream and a rip-roarin’ good time, and that’s all you had. That’s the way it was, and we liked it! We LOVED IT! Nowadays you have to send every guest home with a bag of loot to remember you by, but why? WHY????? (I’m not channeling Dana Carvey anymore, I’m just being myself. Envision me as you will.) It isn’t just that I resent having to spend money and time on goody bags for my kids’ party guests–although it’s certainly mostly that–but it’s also partly that I think it’s just a stupid practice in the first place. I hate it when my children come home from parties with goody bags–it’s all just sugar sugar sugar or cheap Oriental Trading Company crap that clutters up my house, not to mention the earth, and you kids know I don’t even care about the earth that much–so if I’m concerned about the environmental impact of something, doesn’t it stand to reason that it must be evil? And yet I don’t dare buck the goody bag trend. I’m anti-social, but my husband isn’t it, and since he generally does the lion’s share of party-managing, I suppose I have no place to complain…except that I seem to always get put in charge of goody bags, and I hate ‘em!

Can you tell I haven’t figured out how I’m going to fill these stupid goody bags without making me hate myself? What do you think would happen if I just didn’t do it? If I just sent children home empty handed–what would people think? What would YOU think, gentle readers?

Here’s another thing: I got a RSVP from someone who wondered if the invited guest’s two siblings could possibly tag along. This isn’t an unusual request. I have certainly had it before. And in the past I’ve said, “Sure, why not?” because I just…can’t…say…no. Even when it’s a Pump It Up party and you have to pay extra for extra guests. Because…just because I can’t say no. I’m that way. But I had to say no today because there are 16 (possibly 16+) children coming to this party, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of two more children, and I had no idea how old these extra children were, but I couldn’t envision a scenario in which two extra children would work for me at all. Older children–might get bored and cause trouble. Younger children–might start missing their mommy and crying. I don’t know. Just–no. I couldn’t deal with it. So I very kindly and self-abasingly said, “Sorry, but no.” I’m okay with it. I thought the world would crack open, but it hasn’t. Yet.

It’s just this–in a million years, it would never occur to me to ask someone–especially a stranger, but not even a person I knew–if it would be okay for my kid’s siblings to come along to the party that only my one kid was invited to. Never, not in a million years. And it’s not like the practice is unusual–apparently–but it would still just never occur to me. Ever! I figure that if you wanted more kids than just the one, you would have specified on the invitation “Kid 1 plus Guest(s).” You know, like when you invite someone to a wedding and they’re expected to bring a date. But that never happens with children’s birthday parties, and so I always assume that “Kid 1″ means “Kid 1″ and not “Kid 1 (unless there are any more like him at home–wink wink!).” Seriously, am I just old-fashioned, or is this kind of weird? I wouldn’t even call it rude because it’s just so weird to me that the question of rude or not seems beside the point.

It frequently comes up with parents who have to work. I understand that parents have jobs and jobs are important, and I don’t expect anyone to take time off work to take their kid to a birthday party, but the thing is…weren’t you going to work even if your kid wasn’t going to a birthday party? Who was going to watch all of your kids before one of them got invited to a birthday party? Or had you not reasoned it out that far yet? Do you see what I mean? Weird. Or am I just insensitive?

I don’t know. I have to go grocery shopping before it’s time to pick Girlfriend up from school. Wish me luck, amigos. I’ll see you on the flip side.

So Princess Zurg has been complaining to me for quite some time about how the kids at school wear those pink I LOVE BOOBIES bracelets that are supposed to raise breast cancer awareness, but among middle schoolers really only raise boobie awareness (as if it needed raising).  If you read my one blog in October of last year, you know how I feel about being naughty for breast cancer awareness.  No, you don’t have to click on it, I’ll just tell you:  I find it an irritating trend.  Number one, I think just about everyone who could possibly give a crap already knows about breast cancer and how there isn’t a cure yet.  Number two, if you’re going to be naughty in the name of a good cause, at least do it for money–you know, something that might actually help the cause and not just remind people of something they already know about.

That said, I can’t say I have a lot of righteous indignation about the I LOVE BOOBIES bracelets–maybe because I spent all my righteous indignation on that one blog post.  Although I’m sure a portion of the proceeds from selling these bracelets goes to breast cancer research or breast cancer something-or-other, I’m reasonably certain that most of these middle schoolers mainly think that it’s cool to wear a bracelet with the word “boobies” on it–which falls squarely into the category of being naughty for awareness, which I’ve already explained is lame.  But whatever.  The point is not my righteous indignation–which is pretty well summed up with one big eyeroll–but PZ’s righteous indignation, which is summed up with a lot of complaining about how she doesn’t like the word “boobies” and how most of her classmates aren’t even aware that the bracelets are for breast cancer awareness (quelle surprise!) and how the school can’t legally forbid the students from wearing the bracelets because that would be encroaching on their right to free speech.

You might also already know my opinion of middle schoolers having a constitutional right to say “boobies” whenever they want.

But again, my indignation has been limited to eye-rolling, and I’ve tried to persuade PZ to limit her indignation to eye-rolling as well, since this is a heck of a hill to die on, when you consider all the problems an eighth-grade girl can have, not to mention all the problems in the world.  Also, I am trying to teach her to be less uptight.  (If you haven’t guessed already, she’s kind of a prude.)

Today, however, she was talking about a school policy that I already knew about and had previously rolled my eyes over:  Students are not allowed to hug each other.    They’re not allowed to hug each other because hugging a) can be construed as “borderline sexual harassment,” and b) is a gateway drug to hardcore public displays of affection.  I mean, obviously there are a lot of legitimate issues to consider here–or maybe there’s only two.  1)  We don’t want students sexually harassing each other.  2)  We don’t want students making out in the hall.  So it just makes sense to ban hugging.  It solves all kinds of problems–or, you know, it solves two problems.  You could just ban students from touching each other, period, but that would be extreme.  Insert eye-roll here.

So today PZ was complaining about the boobie bracelets again, and then she was talking about the no-hugging rule.  And suddenly the lameness of it all was in such stark relief.  You have a constitutional right to wear a bracelet declaring your love of boobies because that’s free speech, but you don’t have the right to hug your friend because that could lead to sexual harassment or public sexytimes.  PZ said that one of the justifications of the no-hug policy offered by school personnel is that some people might not want to be hugged but they don’t feel comfortable refusing and therefore will end up with an unwanted hug.  So, you know, better make a rule so no one has to be uncomfortable.  Unless someone’s declaration of boobie-love makes you uncomfortable, of course.

I’m sorry, but didn’t we give these kids the “good touch, bad touch” talk already?  Isn’t saying no to a hug, even from your friend, good practice for saying no to a host of other things you’re going to have to say no to for the rest of your life?  What’s wrong with teaching kids to say, “Hey, you know?  Not really a hugger.  How about a fist bump instead?”  It works for grown-ups; it can work for kids, too.

As long as we’re stretching the First Amendment to the breaking point, how about we invent a constitutional right for a middle schooler to give his or her friend a hug if the friend happens to…oh, I don’t know…have a mother dying of breast cancer?  Is there room in your America for such normal human interactions, or only for boobies???

Lame lame lame lame LAME!!!

When I read this story about the Hasidic newspaper Der Tzitung photoshopping Hillary Clinton and another woman (Audrey Tomason, the national director of counterterrorism–file that away for future use on Jeopardy!) out of the photograph of Pres. Obama and his staff watching the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, I thought, “This is appalling, but not shocking.”  Apparently their editorial policy, based on religious beliefs about modesty, prevents them from publishing photographs of women because they might be seen as sexually suggestive.  So some very conservative religious people do something that the rest of us think is wackadoodle–stop the presses, you know?  Anyway, there it was.

Then this morning I read about the newspaper’s apology.  They had permission to use this photograph, provided they did not manipulate the image; they manipulated the image, thereby rendering their permission to use it void.  (I could have been a lawyer, only then I would have to read sentences worse than the one I just wrote.)  It was an oversight on their part.  So that’s fine.  We all make mistakes, even big stupid ones that should be obvious even without reading the fine print, so we’ll cut you some slack this time.

But then there’s this line in their official statement:  “The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel.”  They go on to point out that Secretary Clinton was a New York senator for several years and enjoyed strong support from the Orthodox Jewish community, which is fair enough.  That certainly adds some context for their actions.  They insist that their policy of not printing photographs of women is based solely on modesty concerns and they are sorry if others saw this as offensive.

Well, Der Tzitung, on behalf of twenty-first century America, I am sorry if you were offended by our failure to understand how you can respect women so much that you feel compelled to make them invisible.  Forgive us for trying to make sense out of that one; we assure you there was no malicious intent on our part.  Rubbing women out of recorded history, deceiving your readership and effectively lying about what transpired in the Situation Room (love that name, “Situation Room”–I need one of those), rather than allowing anyone to gaze upon photographic images of their fully-clothed bodies may have been motivated by a sincere religious belief, but it strikes us as weird–morally weird.  If you think not publishing photos of women is the correct way to show respect for women, then don’t publish photographs of women–that is your prerogative.  Doctoring photographs so that women are effectively disappeared from public life is not your prerogative.  Perhaps we can avoid such misunderstandings in the future if  you just refrain from publishing photos that contain women, i.e. photos that have ever at any time contained women.  Maybe you can fill those inches of blank newspaper with a detailed explanation of why there is no photograph.  Or you could use a picture of baby pandas.  Everyone likes baby pandas.

In other news, while I was looking for appropriate linkage for the aforementioned story, I stumbled upon this other story about a fifth-grader who got sent home from school because he decided to celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death by painting an American flag on his face.  Actually, the school asked him to wash off the face paint, and his mother responded by pulling him out of school for the day.  There is a difference.

An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer said the district overreacted.

“There’s a difference between discussion and debate, which schools should encourage, and a breakdown of discipline in the classroom,” ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper told the newspaper.

How’s this for a concept?  You don’t have a constitutional right to wear face paint to school.  Kids, you know I’m as happy about Osama bin Laden being dead as the next person–which reminds me, I still haven’t baked those cookies–but I still think it is not unreasonable for a school to expect students to show up with clean faces.  I mean, we’re talking about a diversion you would enjoy at a carnival, not the Federalist Papers.  I don’t care what you have painted on your face–be it the American flag, a unicorn jumping over a rainbow, or even baby pandas–there are boundaries, people.  If you wanted to express your happiness over a U.S. military victory by dressing up as Uncle Sam and belching “The Star Spangled Banner,” I suppose the ACLU could make a federal case out of that, too, but is that really the hill you want to die on?  (More to the point, is it the hill you want our Navy SEALS to die on?  Do Navy SEALS die on hills?  I don’t know.)  The First Amendment exists for a reason, but this isn’t it.
In fairness to the fifth-grader, he plans on sticking to T-shirts from now on.  Good call.

When I first read about the new edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which will excise all instances of “n—–” and replace it with “slave,” I thought, “That’s lame.”  That was a couple days ago.  I was a little pre-occupied with some other stuff.  This morning I have showered and unloaded the dishwasher and eaten breakfast and my five-year-old is still asleep, so I’m thinking, “What shall I blog about?” and what’s on my mind is this lame publishing company that thinks it can write a better version of Huckleberry Finn than Mark Twain did.

Now, it’s not as though the original version of Huckleberry Finn is going to be phased out or something.  This is just an alternate edition, kind of like an abridged version of a really-long-novel-that-doesn’t-really-need-to-be-that-long (does it? because I’m a little short on time).  And in the words of Keith Staskiewicz, who wrote the EW article linked above,

The original product is changed for the benefit of those who, for one reason or another, are not mature enough to handle it, but as long as it doesn’t affect the original, is there a problem?

I think there is a problem.  It’s one thing if you want to take “s—” out of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” for the radio edit–because let’s face it, what does that song even mean?  I don’t know.  It’s her s—.  (And it’s bananas.  B-A-N-A-N-A-S.)  Not much violence is done to the artistic intent if you replace “s—” with, say, “stuff,” although one might well argue that “stuff” isn’t quite as musical as the other.  But I digress.  We’re not talking about a pop song that half of you reading don’t even remember and the other half of you might be angry with me for putting in your brain because now it’s going to be stuck there all day.  Am I sorry?  No, because I was making a point, which is that we’re talking about the seminal American novel that everyone has to read at some point in his or her education because it’s important.  And if you change the language in which it was originally written, it’s not like an abridgement–it’s like a bad translation that fails to capture the essence and intent of the original. It is an inferior product.

“Nigger” is not interchangeable with “slave.”  If it were, “nigger” would not be offensive, or “slave” would be spelled “s—-.”  (Not to be confused with “s—.”) “N—–” has a connotation that goes way beyond “slave.”  A black person wasn’t called a “n—–” because he was a slave; he was called a “n—–” because of white racism.  White racism justified black slavery, but beyond that, even black people who were technically free were not equal under the law or in society.  Replacing “n—–” with “slave” not only screws with the novel’s voice , but it severely diminishes Twain’s anti-racism message.  Good golly Miss Molly, this is like Huck Finn for second graders–I feel ridiculous having to spell this out on a blog post intended for grown-ups, but it wasn’t second-graders who censored Huckleberry Finn; it was well-intentioned adults who ostensibly care about bringing a literary classic to a wider audience.

But these well-intentioned adults are missing the point.  If you are too immature to handle the N-word in historical and literary context, you are too immature to appreciate Huckleberry Finn.  You may as well just watch the TV movie starring Ron Howard and Donny Most because the finer points of the novel will be lost on you.

As I said in my tiny-rant on the Facebook this morning–oh, how I hate to repeat things I’ve already said on FB, but I only have so many original thoughts–it’s like taking out the “F— You” in Catcher in the Rye and replacing it with “Go jump in a lake.”  Say what you will about the literary merits or moral value of Catcher in the Rye, but such a Bowdlerization would render that climactic scene fairly meaningless.  Writers choose their words carefully.  (Even I choose my words carefully, sometimes.)  Because writers know that words matter.  How you use words matters.  When you use certain words instead of others matters.  That’s why we have writers and why we have censors.  There are times when putting things a bit more delicately is appropriate, or at least benign.  It is not appropriate or benign to re-write Mark Twain.

I think I understand how offensive the N-word is.  I move in circles where there is very little vulgarity spoken aloud.  I find the F-word extremely jarring when it is spoken aloud, but if someone said the F-word in front of me, I would be merely jarred–as opposed to if someone said the N-word in front of me, in which case I would be horrified.  Because the N-word has connotations that are beyond vulgar or offensive.  That is why it’s so important that the N-word stay out of our polite discourse but stay in Huckleberry Finn. It does us no good to pretend that the word wasn’t commonly used in the nineteenth-century South or that it doesn’t have a history the pre-dates rap music.

I’ve been known to protect my children from a lot of things I consider vulgar and offensive.  (I won’t let them watch America’s Got Talent, for example.)  Our house is the Euphemism Capital of Suburban Portland.  But my children are going to read the real Huckleberry Finn, if they’re going to read it at all.  Anything less would be unacceptable.

.

Krusty the Clown: Now, boys, the network has a problem with some of your lyrics. Do you mind changing them for the show?
Anthony Kiedis: Forget you, clown.
Chad Smith: Yeah, our lyrics are like our children, man. No way.
Krusty the Clown: Well, okay, but here where it says, “What I got you gotta get and put it in ya,” how about just, “What I’d like is I’d like to hug and kiss ya.”
Flea: Wow. That’s much better.
Arik Marshall: Everyone can enjoy that.


So this morning I read this story about these buses in Fort Worth, Texas, that have atheist ads on them, and how Christians are upset about them because dude, it’s Christmas, and do we really have to put up with your godless crap at Christmas? and how some God vans are following the atheist buses around town to counteract this abomination, and here, I’ll just quote some of the article for you:

FORT WORTH — Stand on a corner in this city and you might get a case of theological whiplash.

A public bus rolls by with an atheist message on its side: “Millions of people are good without God.” Seconds later, a van follows bearing a riposte: “I still love you. — God,” with another line that says, “2.1 billion Christians are good with God.”

A clash of beliefs has rattled this city ever since atheists bought ad space on four city buses to reach out to nonbelievers who might feel isolated during the Christmas season. After all, Fort Worth is a place where residents commonly ask people they have just met where they worship and many encounters end with, “Have a blessed day.”

“We want to tell people they are not alone,” said Terry McDonald, the chairman of Metroplex Atheists, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, which paid for the atheist ads. “People don’t realize there are other atheists. All you hear around here is, ‘Where do you go to church?’ ”

But the reaction from believers has been harsher than anyone in the nonbeliever’s club expected. Some ministers organized a boycott of the buses, with limited success. Other clergy members are pressing the Fort Worth Transportation Authority to ban all religious advertising on public buses. And a group of local businessmen paid for the van with the Christian message to follow the atheist-messaged buses around town.

“We just wanted to reach out to them and let them know about God’s love,” said Heath Hill, president of the media company that owns the van and one of the businessmen who arranged for the Christian ads. “We have gotten some pretty nasty e-mails and phone calls from atheists. But it’s really just about the love of God.”

The face-off here follows efforts in other cities by several coalitions of atheists — American Atheists, the United Coalition of Reason and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, to name a few — that have mounted ad campaigns to encourage nonbelievers to seek out others of like mind. Some have compared their efforts to the struggle of gay men and lesbians to “come out” and win acceptance from society.

So now you know what’s going on.  And here’s what I have to say about it.

First of all, who knew that atheists felt left out at Christmastime?  I thought atheists were supposed to be all badass and rational and not need anyone else because they’re so smart and independent-thinking, unlike people who need to cling to myths to create meaning in their lives, but whatever.  You all know I fully support atheists building up their own community instead of just complaining that they don’t fit in because they are too rational and S.M.R.T.  There’s a local atheist group that meets at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe the fourth Wednesday of every month, and they all slurp mochas and talk about how they can share the joy of atheism without being, you know, all evangelistic and crap.  I don’t know how much success they’ve had in their wider agenda, but they’ve been meeting there pretty consistently for the last two or three years, and I know they have a good time doing it, and that is what really matters.  Yeah, they get a little rowdy sometimes.  Those atheists love to talk–at least when they’re in a group of like-minded people smart enough to understand where they’re coming from–but that is why God created iPods for the other customers, i.e. me.

*Note:  I know that God technically did not create the iPod.  (Or did He, technically?  Does it really matter, as long as I have an iPod?  I think not.)

So, yeah, if a bunch of atheists want to pool their money together and buy some ad space on the city bus so they won’t feel alone at Christmastime, that’s no skin off my nose.  I’m just happy they’re happy.  (I don’t know what God thinks about it.  I wouldn’t presume.)  It doesn’t bother me when atheists talk about being good without God.  I wish more people would be good, with or without God–I’m not picky!  Whatever floats your boat.  And if they can advertise an aquarium called The Wet Spot around these parts, why shouldn’t some atheists advertise some atheism around those other parts?  (We don’t need to advertise atheism in Oregon, particularly.  I think we’re the most unchurched state in the Union, so atheists don’t feel quite as put upon here as they might in Ft. Worth, even if they do still feel the need to imbibe mocha as a group.)

No, I’m actually really annoyed with the Christian businessmen’s response to this.  Seriously, following the bus around all day so people don’t forget that God always gets the last word?  Number one, is that really necessary?  Answer:  No.   Number two, aren’t there better/more important/more useful things to do with your money, not to mention time, than follow a bus around all day?  Answer:  Yes.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Yes.”  As central as evangelism is to Christianity–and I admit I say this as the World’s Worst Evangelist, but at least I am aware of the legitimate place of evangelism in the Christian religion–I really don’t think this sort of thing helps anyone.  I mean, obviously, it doesn’t feed the hungry or clothe the naked or liberate the captive, but more to the point, it isn’t really spreading the Good News, either.  It’s less “Jesus Saves” and more “People who follow Jesus are even more insecure than atheists if they have to hire a van to drive around town responding to the ad on the side of a bus, which would probably be largely ignored if it weren’t for the crazy van people following it all day.”

I guess I’m just different from a lot of people because I don’t get the indignation.  I feel that indignation should be reserved for big stuff that really matters because if you only get indignant about stuff that really matters, more people will pay attention when you’re indignant.  When you get your nose out of joint over every little thing, people tend to start ignoring you.  Just like they do with the atheists.

I really don’t think I’m picking on the Christians, either.  Believe me, I can just as easily see a bunch of atheists getting miffed about a bus ad about Jesus saving, only instead of hiring a van to follow the bus around and say, “OH NO HE DIDN”T!” they would just hire a lawyer and start suing stuff.  (When was the last time you saw an atheist driving a van anywhere?  I rest my case.  Actually, no, I’m just curious.  Do you think atheists drive vans as often as Christians do?  Because they’re apparently kind of loners, those atheists–no one to talk to and commiserate with–so they probably don’t need a lot of passenger seating in their vehicles.  It’s just a theory.)

So what was I saying?  Oh, yeah.  I don’t get the indignation and feeling like you need to do something when someone’s bus ad rubs you the wrong way.  Unless it were a bus ad supporting communism.  Except the public transportation is sort of like communism, so it’s actually kind of fitting.  So never mind.  I guess I just don’t get the indignation.  Especially during Christmas.  Aren’t there better, less “nyeah, nyeah” ways of sharing God’s love at Christmas?

That’s all I have to say, and now I have to go play with my daughter before she goes off to get indoctrinated with this God stuff at her Christian preschool, to which I shall drive her in my unmarked (mini) van.

So this morning on the Facebook I posted a link to this Reason article about why the government shouldn’t ban Happy Meals.  It’s not because I love McDonald’s, because I really don’t, even though I’ve been known to eat there on a fortnightly basis with my daughter.  Yeah, I’ve already admitted that on this blog about a million times, so it’s not like I’m going to start denying it now.  But I’m only there for the playground, I swear!  I find their food tolerable, at best.  Okay, I’ve been known to enjoy the occasional McNugget–they’re Satanically delicious!   But I would never argue that eating at McDonald’s is good for children or other living things.  And frankly, I hate the stupid toys that come in kids’ meals because they are nothing but landfill fodder.  Yeah, I give them to the Goodwill instead of throwing them away, but let’s face it, Goodwill is just the middleman in that scenario, and is the energy spent on transporting the toys to the Goodwill any less destructive to the environment?  But I’m losing the thread of my own story now.

Let me sum up the point of the previous paragraph:  I don’t have any great love of McDonald’s, but I don’t have any great hatred of it, either.  If my kid’s getting fat on french fries, that’s my fault.  No one’s holding a gun to my head and forcing me to take her to McDonald’s or any fast-food restaurant.  I understand the “foodstuffs” there are all processed and crap.  You don’t need to tell me how awful it is.  I mean, I can taste that for myself.  But if I want to feed myself or my little darling bad food, that’s my business, as long as I’m not poisoning her.  (And I think the legal definition of “poisoning” does not yet include the occasional trip to McDonald’s or even habitual servings of margarine, knock on wood, so I’m still safe on that front.)

I don’t really have a problem with people talking about how bad fast food and processed food is for you.  I mean, it gets a little boring for me, maybe even a little irritating sometimes, but I figure, hey, I have my religion, they have their religion, and can’t we all just get along?  So I have a high tolerance for people moralizing on this subject, even if that tolerance consists mostly of rolling my eyes and ignoring them.  I just don’t like them forcing their morality down my throat, as it were.  Or, you know, I don’t appreciate their morality reaching down my throat to yank out the evil McNugget because, hey, I was eating that.  My body, my choice!

As Steve Chapman, who wrote the Reason piece, points out, if people can’t go to a restaurant for their fat and sodium, they will just find it elsewhere.  If you really want to go down the interest-of-public-health-fat-people-are-a-drain-on-the-system road, you’re going to have to get way more intrusive than banning Happy Meals to make a difference, and that should make all Americans uneasy.  It doesn’t, obviously, or we wouldn’t have Americans banning Happy Meals, but whatever.  I’ve about exhausted my interest in the subject.

What I dislike almost as much as, or maybe more than, people taking away my God-given right to eat bad food is people employing dubious tactics to scare me away from bad food.  I already know the food is bad for me.  Most people know the food is bad for them.  You don’t have to be smart to recognize that it’s bad for you, and if you don’t recognize that it’s bad for you, you are probably too dim to be persuaded by a more sophisticated argument.  So I didn’t like that SuperSize Me movie.  Yeah, obviously he made himself really sick and unhealthy by eating at McDonald’s three times a day every day for thirty days, but who the hell does that?  Only that guy!  It doesn’t prove anything except that some people will do anything for attention.

Another thing I didn’t like was that video about the McDonald’s hamburger that doesn’t decompose. Dude, I already know that the food is bad for me!  You can stop grossing me out now!  I never actually watched the video for the same reason I don’t click on links that tell me other gross stuff that I already know and don’t need to know more.  But I was happy to see this item, also this morning, which explains that the reason McDonald’s hamburgers don’t decompose in open air is the same reason any hamburger of similar proportions does not decompose in open air:  it dries out before it has a chance to rot.  If you refrigerate it or package it in such a way to preserve the moisture content, it will decompose just like any other hamburger.  But why would you want to do that?  Moldy hamburgers are really gross.  (And, I’ve heard, bad for you.)

I would have posted that link on Facebook, too, but a) I didn’t want to look like a fanatical McDonald’s defender and b) I wanted to post this sign:

So if you’re going to resolve not to eat at McDonald’s anymore, be sure you’re doing it for the right reason:  because their food sucks.  And your body is a temple, by gum!  A freaking temple!  But don’t do it because their hamburgers don’t decompose because they have a very good excuse for that.

P.S.  I do congratulate you on not eating fast food because you are a better person than I am.  And you know what else?  If you’ve never had the opportunity to observe fresh, healthy food failing to decompose in open air in your own household, I also congratulate you because, well, I think you know why.  But let’s not dwell on that!

Technically, I am on a self-imposed blogging sabbatical right now.  But I am (temporarily) breaking my blogging fast to say this one thing:  I am tired of using breast cancer as a noble excuse to be naughty.

Really, I don’t have a problem with being naughty for naughtiness’s sake, or even naughty for profit.  If you want to be naughty, by all means, be naughty.  It’s no skin off my nose.  What annoys me is random naughtiness in the name of Making A Difference.

To wit:  If you want to post pictures of your breasts on the internet, great.  I’m sure your breasts are lovely and will bring joy to many.  If you want to charge people money to look at your breasts and give the proceeds to charities that fund breast cancer research or provide free mammograms for women who can’t afford them, that’s some naughtiness I can respect, I guess.  But posting pictures of your breasts on the internet for free in order to “raise awareness” is just kind of lame.  You have my attention, but ain’t nobody’s boobies so spectacular that just looking at them makes people think, “Must. Cure. Cancer. NOW!”  Also, there just seems to be something slightly slap-in-the-face-ish to women who’ve had to get their breasts cut off to save their lives.  Not intentionally so, of course.  I don’t question anyone’s motives here.  Just the overall effect.

And then there’s this message in my Facebook inbox:

There was a game last year about what color bra you were wearing at the moment? The purpose was to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was a tremendous success and we had men wondering for days what was with the colors and it made it to the news. This year’s game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home for example “I like it on the couch”, “I like it on the kitchen counter”, “I like it on the dresser” well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your status with nothing more than that and copy and paste this message into a “New Message” and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let’s see how powerful we women really are!!! REMEMBER – DO NOT PUT YOUR ANSWER AS A REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE- PUT IT IN YOUR STATUS!!! PASS THIS TO EVERY WOMAN YOU KNOW

Okay, I have lots of friends who played the bra game last year and are playing the handbag game this year.  I don’t think anything less of women who choose to play.  It’s whimsical, it’s fun, and it’s for a good cause.  Most people aren’t cranky like I am.  The person who sent me this e-mail is a perfectly dignified human being, and I have no doubt she sincerely cares about breast cancer awareness.  Don’t we all care?  But this just bugs me.  At least the bras had something to do with the breasts, which are getting the cancer.  Handbags don’t have anything to do with breasts.  No one keeps their breasts in a handbag.  I mean, theoretically you could keep your falsies in a handbag, I guess, and who needs falsies?  Women who’ve had mastectomies because of breast cancer–but that’s way too many steps to go through before you get to the point!  And anyway, if you needed falsies, you would not keep them in your handbag; you would keep them in your bra–but then that brings us back to the original problem, which is that we need a new way to be naughty for a noble cause, so handbags it is because who uses the handbags?  The ladies.  Who have the breasts.  Unless they’ve lost them to cancer.  Must. Cure. Cancer. NOW!

It probably wouldn’t have irked me so much if it weren’t for the line “Let’s see how powerful we women really are!”  Really?  Is this woman’s superpower, making irrelevant double-entendres on the Facebook?  Really?  Because I am so depressed now.

All of this stuff is harmless, yes, but it’s also pointless.  If you want to be naughty, be naughty.  If you want to do something about breast cancer, do your monthly self-exams, schedule your mammogram, and/or nag someone you love to do the same.  And/or donate to a charity.  Multiple choice–I have made it easy for you!  And you didn’t even have to show me your hooters.  You’re welcome.

Madhousewife is the new Breast Cancer Awareness Czar for the Obama administration.

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I just read this article on The Hill, “President Obama calls African-Americans a ‘mongrel people.’”

When asked about his background, which includes a black father and white mother, Obama said of African-Americans: “We are sort of a mongrel people.”

“I mean we’re all kinds of mixed up,” Obama said. “That’s actually true of white people as well, but we just know more about it.”

The president’s remarks were directed at the roots of all Americans. The definition of mongrel as an adjective is defined as “of mixed breed, nature, or origin,” according to dictionary.com.

Obama did not appear to be making an inflammatory remark with his statement and the audience appeared to receive it in the light-hearted manner that often accompanies interviews on morning talk shows.

I’m not really interested in what the President said; in point of fact, I have no reaction to it whatsoever–kind of like I imagine the audience must have done, being that “Obama did not appear to be making an inflammatory remark” and “the audience appeared to receive it in [a] light-hearted manner.”  Rather, these are the questions that spring to my mind:

* How does the President appear when he is making an inflammatory remark?  Does he give smoldering glances?  Does smoke issue forth from his nostrils?  Methinks the public wants to know.

* If no one appeared to be shocked or offended by the President’s remark, why is it a story?  Did someone in the vicinity or elsewhere actually have a reaction yet not make it into the story?  Or is it just that the reporter himself found the President’s word choice odd and this was the only way he could draw attention to the thing that made him go “hmmm”?  Either way, it makes for an interesting reporting style.

* “The View,” Mr. President?  Really?

“Obama did not appear to be making an inflammatory remark” is going in my scrapbook of journalism greatness.

Meanwhile, I am so bored that I am reduced to blogging about stupid crap like this.  Somebody give me a topic, quick!

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Puzzlement of the day #1

Princess Zurg and Mister Bubby are attending a book-binding camp this week at the rec center.  Today I noticed that on the back door of the rec center there’s this sign that says, “For the safety of our children, help us monitor who comes into the building by entering through the front door only.”

In other words, if you want to sneak into the building, here’s the place to do it.  Wouldn’t it be safer to have no sign at all, which would at least deter those child-harming types who assume (naively) that there is some other form of security beyond just asking people to enter through the front door and announce their presence?  What is the purpose of this sign other than to guilt law-abiding citizens into inconveniencing themselves?

And if you’re guessing that I entered through the back door, yes, you are correct.  And no one stopped me. I could have been anyone!  I can only assume that my children are not safe here, with people like myself just entering through unlocked doors willy-nilly.

Puzzlement of the day #2

This bumper sticker:

NO ONE IS FREE AS LONG AS OTHERS ARE OPPRESSED

What is that supposed to mean?  It’s obviously false.  I’m free.  Others in the world are clearly oppressed.  According to bumper sticker logic, this should be impossible.  And yet–here we are.

Explain it!

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