Meet Phlegm Boy

Some of you have asked: If yesterday was picture day, how come there were no pictures of me? After all, I am not notably modest — anyone who babbles on a site like this enjoys the delusion that people are interested in him. Well, the short answer is that I’ve been sick the last couple of days, and when I’m sick I tend to look like the very living definition of hell. Nevertheless, to satisfy you people, here I am, in the throes of agony, clutching my binky bear in a sad, sad attempt to eke some comfort out of a virus-laden world. I hope you’re all happy now.

Personally, I’d think you’d all rather look at my wife, whose exquisite beauty is enough to block out the fact that she’s sitting in the festering stinkhole I call my office. See for yourself:

Okay, that’s it for the pictures for a while. I’m wearing out my digital camera (well, its batteries are running low, at least). Leave me to my misery, why don’t you.

More Book News

Another quick note: The Rough Guide to the Universe now has an official release date: May 12, 2003. Which is two days after my birthday. So send no presents! Just buy the book.

Note the Amazon page to which I am linking says it will be released in July. That’s just wrong. And sick.

Also this is a good time to remind one and all I’m still very much looking for suggestions for The Book of the Dumb follow this link to get all the details. Tell all your friends and relatives. The more suggestions I have, the less time I will spend in a massive panic trying to come up with stuff. And that’s a good thing.

iTune This

I love me the iTunes music store, even though I can’t access it right now because Steve Jobs has initially limited it to Macs and iPods, and I have a PC and a Creative Nomad Jukebox. But it’s the first online music model that’s not mired in total stupidity: You pay a buck for a song or ten bucks for an album, and then you’re done. Easy. The music you download is portable, which signals that Apple assumes its customers both actually like listening to their music away from their computers, and are smart enough to get around any lame-ass copy protection they might slap on. It also assumes that people will actually pay for the music they like from the bands they admire.

And will they? I think so, especially the older music listeners like myself, who both have the money and like the idea of putting cash into musicians’ pockets so they can make more music for us. But even the “kids” will probably do it to a fair extent, with the bands they like. Which is what they’ve always done anyway. When I was in college, there were two types of music — music from the bands you liked, whose albums you would actually go out and pay for, and music from everybody else, whose CDs you borrowed from your dormmates to tape that one song you liked for a road mix tape. The mix tape music never would have been bought by you in any era, so as a practical matter, the music industry isn’t losing money on that music — in other words, much of the music being traded now is music that never would have been paid for in any era.

This isn’t a defense of file trading, which I do think has cut into the music kids would have purchased legitimately (partially because kids feel the money they spend isn’t actually going to artists; partially because kids want their music the way they want it), but a recognition that music industry is largely counting money it never would have had anyway. College kids, like everyone else, will support the bands they like if you give them the opportunity to do it the way they want.

The 99 cent per song idea is also incredibly useful for someone like me who has a long list of bands who have that one song I like but which I have no interest in buying an entire album. I’m at a point in my life where I’m not going to spend $16 or whatever for a single song I know I’m going to like, and 10 or 11 I might not ever listen to again. It’s not that I don’t have the money, it’s just that I don’t have the inclination. Thereby there are a large number of bands out there who will currently never see a speck of my cash. Would they (and their labels) like me to shell out $16? Sure they would, but I’m not going to do it. That being the case, they’ll be happy with the $1 instead. It’s better than nothing.

It’s also to the point that for most practical purposes the album — that is, a collection of songs from a single artist — is pretty much dead in the water. Aside from what I do for OPM and IndieCrit, I can’t tell you the last time I actually pulled out a CD and listened to an album all the way through. Right now my primary recreational music listening mode is the random shuffle on my Winamp player. The last album I thought deserved to be listened to start to finish as a coherent whole is Emmlou Harris’ Wrecking Ball, and that came out eight years ago. I’m sure there are other albums since then which deserve a full run-through, but I haven’t found them personally.

This degredation of the “album” concept is partially due to the CD format itself, which allows for 74 minutes of music. They heyday of the album was the LP, which could only manage 46 minutes total. It’s not too difficult to keep a mood for 46 minutes, but doing the same for an half-hour taxes most musicians’ capacity. Also, simply put, some bands are singles bands — they make great songs, not great albums. I want the song, and I’m willing to pay for it. But if I don’t want the album, I won’t pay for that just to get a song.

I already have a backlist of bands who have single songs I’d love to get, and I’m willing to drop some serious cash to get those songs. I could get them on KaZaa right now, but as I’ve said, I actually prefer to support the bands I like, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. All I have to do now is wait for the iTunes store to start supporting Windows. Sorry, Steve, I’m not going to buy a Mac and an iPod just to access your store. But when I can access it, I’m going to be a big customer. Count on it.

Picture Day Part 9: Strange Room

And so, we come to the close of picture day here at the Whatever, and I hope you’ve enjoyed our little photographic excursion. I leave you in what I call The Strangest Room in The House:

The story here is that the previous owner of the house decided he needed a bathroom in the basement. Which is fine, but then I guess he got to thinking: Why stop there? So he built a whole, actual room instead of just a little bathroom. Then his oldest child, who was 14 or so if I can remember correctly, had one of those “I’m 14 Years Old And I Need My Privacy From Everyone and Everything” moments and apparently appropriated the room as her bedroom. One questions why one would want to have a bedroom that doesn’t have windows but does have a freestanding toilet. But I guess when you’re a 14 year old girl you make do with what you have.

I believe it was also the 14 year old who painted the room in a sort of multicolor spackle motif, which I have been too lazy to remove because, really, like I spend any amount of time in my basement. Right now the room is used primarily as a place to put my drum set, although I suppose if we every really wanted to imprison someone against their will, this would be the room to do it in. Aside from being coercively detained, it’s hard too see how they could argue. Heck, they’ve got a toilet and everything!

Picture Day Part 8: Lawn Goes On

Every once in a while I note that I have a fairly big lawn. Here’s some perspective on that:

The lawn goes out to the telephone poles you see there in the distance. I’m at one end, and from where I’m standing it’s about 500 feet to the nearest of the poles. Bear in mind that this is only the front yard; there’s the back yard too (and a side yard). There’s also the matter that this isn’t the full front yard — there’s a fairly substantial strip of land to the left that you’re not seeing. It’s a big yard.

The reason you shouldn’t construe this as bragging is because all that lawn is a real pain in the ass to mow — it literally takes several days, unless you want to spend an entire day vibrating up and down on a tractor. Which is not a really great idea.

We got a lot of land because of some boneheaded idea I had that what I really needed was a chunk of earth, that whole “You’re not a man unless you have some land” thing that caused America’s European forebears to schlep over the ocean and mug the people who were already here. Now I have a bit of land and I wish I had someone else to mow it. Well, to be entirely honest, I do — Krissy does most of the mowing. But I bet she wishes she had someone to else to mow it.

Too late now. We’re here, we’ve got the yard, we gotta mow. With land comes responsibilities. Let that be a lesson for you.

Picture Day Part 7: Woof!

See, now, this is a dog:

By which I mean that you can look Kodi and say to yourself, “I believe this is an animal descended from packs of killers that brought down bears and moose.” As opposed to, say, a Shih Tzu, at which you look and say to yourself “This is what happens when you put a mop and a stuffed animal in a room with a Barry White CD.” Any grown dog that can fit inside a purse inherently has no dignity. Kodi doesn’t have to worry about that.

Now, bear in mind that the picture above has gotten Kodi at a rather photogenic moment, all big and happy looking and appearing as if at any moment she were to rush off and save Timmy from falling down a well. However, it’s worth noting that most of the time, she’s looking like this:

What’s going on here is that that is the door from which Krissy left the house today. And Kodi really loves Krissy. So Kodi will lay by the door for almost all the day, moping that Krissy is gone and she’s left in the house with me, who is not particularly interesting to her. Eventually Krissy will come home and the dog will undergo spasms of joy which are frankly embarrassing to behold (I am also happy to see Krissy again, mind you, but I have some restraint).

I once told Krissy that the Best Day Ever for Kodi would be one in which she came back to the house every ten minutes. Krissy notes that Kodi would get just as excited about me when I came back to the house, but that would require actually leaving the house every now and again. There’s always a catch.

Picture Day Part 6: Road to Nowhere

Jon asks:

“Umm, where’s the fence? And the neighbor’s house that needs a paint job? How come I can’t see the car behind your neighbor’s garage with three flats and one wheel taken off? Why aren’t you showing us the crowded street with no parking spots available?”

Actually, Jon, in that first picture (the one with the cherry tree), there is a fence, but it’s not one that works very well, in the sense of keeping anything out. It’s mostly there to prop up raspberry vines and demarcate the edge of my property (or more accurately, the edge of my neighbor’s property, since he put it up, long before I got here). As for the neighbors’ car, it’s better than the piece of crap White Escort I’m still tooling around in (because it simply refuses to die). And as for the street, well, here’s the view looking east:

And the corresponding view looking west:

I suppose you could park on the street, but that would cause the two or three cars that go by every hour (and the occasional Amish buggy) to go into the other lane, and I don’t think that’s very nice, do you?

Picture Day Part 5: Bust a Move

Athena, showing the world the “I’m Four Years Old and Mugging for the Camera” dance, which I suspect is taught to every four year old through the magic of educational television:

Bear in mind I have some shots here in which the “cute mugging for the camera” level reaches the level of lethality normally reserved for highly radioactive materials or Carpenters tunes. So be grateful I’m showing some restraint.

Picture Day, Part 4: Cats

Here are the cats:

Rex of course has been featured here before (he has his own page on the site, in fact), but this marks the first appearance of Lopsided Cat, who you’ll see to the left. Lopsided Cat is so named because his head is always tilted at an angle. The cause for this is medical — apparently he had an ear infection for a very long time — but now the ear infection has been cleared up and his head still tilts, so we suspect at this point it’s just habit. We got Lopsided Cat because he walked into our yard and started loving up Athena, which is one thing Rex won’t do. We suspect he was a neighbor’s cat first, because among other things he’s missing a couple of things that don’t fall off on their own accord. But he was either abandoned or just likes it here better (or still lives with them part-time, which is possible because he’s primarily an outdoor cat, and who knows what he’s doing out there).

Long-time readers will look at Rex and be surprised at his relative litheness; there was a time when Rex topped 30 pounds, which made him substantially heavier than Athena for much of her life. However, about a year ago, Rex got a tooth infection and dropped quite a bit of weight and has now stabilized at about 10 pounds, which is normal cat weight anyway. Having the tooth infection was no good for Rex, but the end result will probably be that he’ll live longer than if he continued his tub ‘o’ lard ways. Aside from the weight, however, Rex remains the same anti-social, prone-to-random-vomiting feline he’s always been. It’s good to have some consistency, I suppose, although personally I wish it didn’t involve partially digested food.

More pictures coming later in the day. Stay tuned.

Book Pages

A quick deviation from the Picture Day theme:

Here’s the page on The Rough Guide to the Universe from Penguin UK. It’s already out there, so be sure to buy it if you happen to live there. Buy one for your neighbors, too. They’ll like you better then.

Nothing on the Penguin Group (USA) Web site, but here’s the page from the Rough Guides site, which include an ordering link for Amazon (both US and UK). So there you have it.

Picture Day, Part 3: Another Tree!

Since you were all such good sports about not screaming at the condition of my desk, here’s another pretty picture of a tree.

This one’s in the front lawn, and I believe it’s a crab apple tree — it eventually provides small hard fruits which I am told are inedible (I haven’t confirmed this for myself, nor am I likely to since I am an agricultural coward and will only eat plants I recognize and/or can buy in the store, the reasoning for the latter being that if the plant turns out to be poisonous, there’s someone to sue). Anyway, it’s still in the process of blooming and really quite lovely, I think. There are lots of bird that make their home in the tree, too. Which the cats enjoy.

Speaking of which, come back around noon, and I’ll display the kitties.

Picture Day Part 2: Office Horror

Allow me, if you will, to provide you a tour of my desk on this Picture Day.

My filing system, needless to say, is opaque to the novice. Be that as it may, there is method to the madness. Current work is at the top of the pile to the right, closest to the computer and where I sit (you can see the papers for the financial campaign I am working for there right now, underneath which is a book I’m using for research for one my own books, and some CDs for IndieCrit. Less critical work slowly moves to the left towards the end of the desk, where it eventually falls off the desk into a pile. See? Curious yet efficient! Underneath all the papers you’ll see my keyboard; to the far left you’ll see my guitar. I play each equally well, and the less that is said about that the better.

The nerve center of the Scalzi empire. The little piggies, incidentally, are swag created to promote my first book, The Rough Guide to the Money Online. I am told the little piggies were a big hit at book fairs, although the book, shall we say, was not an extreme success — something about a book about the Internet coming out when the Internet was imploding. This will not be the case with The Rough Guide to the Universe, however, since the universe is expanding still. Although I wouldn’t put it past the universe to start contracting, just to piss me off. On the actual computer tower you’ll see a pile of IndieCrit CDs I really need to get to, plus the infamous Chocolate Creme Filled Marshmallow Eggs described in this entry.

Lots of interesting stuff over here. Near the top center you can see the stack of DVDs I’ve been sent in my capacity as a DVD critic; in the center middle, more CDs, these relating to Official PlayStation Magazine. Various bric-a-brac line the top shelf, including pictures of Athena, little glass sculptures made by my niece and, my pride and joy, a snow globe representing a plague of locusts. Yeah, how many of you have got one of those? Huh?

My desk isn’t always like this, incidentally. Usually it’s worse.

Picture Day!

You lucky, lucky people. Today is picture day, for the following reasons.

1. I just got a new 64MB Smart Card for my digital camera, which means I can take hundreds of pictures without worrying if I’m running out of memory.

2. I just got a Smart Card reader, which means I am no longer a slave to the depressingly slow software Olympus software that came with the camera, and which doesn’t work on my XP-OS anyway.

3. It’s a pretty day at the Scalzi Compound (as was yesterday, when some of these pictures were taken).

4. I’m really busy today and can’t write one of my usual gassy bloviations about the state of the world.

5. It’s the end of the month and I haven’t yet blown my allotment of bandwidth. So here we go!

So your first photo of the day:

This is a picture of the dwarf cherry tree in the back yard. A weekend ago, there were blooms all over it and it was very pretty, but now it just looks not unlike the Swamp Thing, which is not so bad either. To the left of the picture, you can see a portion of the garden that Krissy and her dad are working on. Inside those little green things are tomatoes; underneath the white strips are infant corn stalks. In both cases, the selective application of plastic is designed to keep the plants inside and underneath warn and happy. Because, really, who among us is not happy, when wrapped in plastic?

More pictures soon — about every hour or so. Because, you know, it’s picture day!

Strawberry Shortcake and Penny Arcade

People who know I’m a fan of the Penny Arcade site have asked me what I think of the recent controversy there, in which American Greetings, the greeting card company who apparently owns some or all the intellectual rights to the Strawberry Shortcake line of dolls, threatened legal action against Penny Arcade if they didn’t take down an image that used the name Strawberry Shortcake to parodize video game developer American McGee’s tendency to nick young female literary characters to create creepy, bloody video games. McGee’s done it once with Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and will apparently be doing it again with Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. In their parody, the Penny Arcade guys had an unfortunate parody choice in that unlike Alice or Dorothy, Strawberry Shortcake is not in the public domain; they probably should have gone with Raggedy Ann and Andy instead.

Bear in mind I’m not a lawyer — I don’t even play one on TV. Be that as it may, the question is whether American Greetings actually has a case here, of if they’re just being corporate assholes lashing out at someone who dares to use their copyrighted property for parody purposes with which they don’t approve. The first blush is of course that Penny Arcade didn’t do anything wrong — Parody is covered by the First Amendment. However, that coverage is not absolute, and it could be that Penny Arcade has gotten snagged in an interesting loophole, which is that if you use a copyrighted entity to parodize something other than that entity specifically, use of that character for parody is not necessarily covered under the first Amendment.

To which you say: Wha? It’s simple: American Greeting’s argument here could be that Penny Arcade’s image is using the Strawberry Shortcake name to parodize American McGee’s tendency to appropriate young female literary characters for his dark and bloody video games, not Strawberry Shortcake herself. Therefore, using Strawberry Shortcake for that purpose is not covered under parody. It’s an interesting assertion.

However, I wonder if this line of reasoning, if indeed it is the one American Greetings is using, is as strong as it might appear initially. This line of reasoning works only to the extent that Strawberry Shortcake herself does not fit the rubric that the Penny Arcade is parodizing, namely that Strawberry Shortcake is not a young female literary character. In fact she is, the main character in dozens of books: Strawberry Shortcake: Meet Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry Shortcake at the Beach, Strawberry Shortcake: The Berry Big Storm, and Happy Halloween, Strawberry Shortcake are just some of the titles in her oeuvre. And in an interesting literary note, in several of these titles, Strawberry Shortcake is either planning or having a party of some sort or another, which makes her activity in the parody (planning a party with her friends) not an atypical activity for her. Although to be fair she’s not typically whipping her friend Plum Pudding at those parties. But that’s part of what makes it a parody.

If you grant that being the main character of dozens of books does make one a legitimate literary character, I would say that Penny Arcade’s use of Strawberry Shortcake is indeed well within the parameters of parody here, because, remember, the boys are parodizing McGee’s appropriation of young female literary characters for his video games. If American Greetings wants to argue that she’s not a literary character, the evidence is rather against them. Thus are the perils of cross-merchandising.

Note again that I’m not a lawyer, so I may be entirely misreading this. I personally would check this with one of them people with a JD. But I’m personally confident enough about being right here that I’m not especially afraid of posting the offending illustration. In my opinion, the only copyright I need to worry about violating here is Penny Arcade’s, since I’m posting it here without their permission or foreknowledge (I got the image from somewhere other than their site). And I’ll be happy to reimburse them for its use if they ask.

X Prime Followup

Mmmmm. Lots of activity here over the last day or so thanks to the “X Prime” posting, which received more than 100 comments (even once you subtract mine) — almost all of them engaging and interesting. I have good commenters. I’m so proud. It’d be Herculean task to compress all the ideas that are getting bounced about in that thread, so I’m not going to bother with that. But I would like to comment on and expand upon a couple of ideas brought up in the thread.

* At least one person brought up a potential flaw in my “I don’t have a problem with X, I have a problem with X’ ” argument, which is that there are several instances in which it makes perfect sense: For example, “I don’t have a problem with circumcised men, I have a problem with circumcision.”

This is not a bad point, and requires me to make the following modification, which is that X’ has to be an affirmative action willingly entered into by the person performing the action. In our culture, for example, most people who are circumcised don’t agree to it themselves, it’s chosen for them by someone else, so it doesn’t fit. But one does (as another example) choose to register Republican, so that one does.

* A number of people suggested that Santorum’s “I don’t have a problem with homosexuals, I have a problem with homosexual acts” statement is just a clumsy and rather specific variation of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” The implication being that “lts, hts” is a more acceptable argument on several levels. But on purely technical grounds, it doesn’t track. By Christian theology, the act of being a sinner fundamentally requires no conscious affirmative act on our part; that’s handled by Original Sin. Unless you don’t want to love anyone, you have to “love the sinner.”

Naturally, this means that the “love the sinner” argument doesn’t fit into the X/X’ argument, and it leaves you free to love sinners all you want. Now, I understand that that’s not exactly how people mean the argument to go, and thereby I’m avoiding the argument on a technicality. But, you know. I didn’t make up the sin schema in Christian theology. I’m just telling you what it is.

Anyway, the “love the sinner, hate the sin” argument is somewhat less than compelling for those of us who, by dint of having no religion, likewise dispense of the concept of sin. In my world, there’s not a thing that’s sinful, although there are a number of things that are immoral, and even more that are simply stupid. However, homosexual acts are in themselves neither.

* Someone asked me about the “is homosexuality a choice or inborn” question, trying to ascertain my views on the matter. My view is, primarily, who cares? No one ever seems to ask if, say, being Republican is a choice, or if people are born with some tendency that expresses itself in our particular culture by signing up for the GOP and clamoring for tax cuts. Maybe someone should.

To be entirely honest about it, my thoughts about the choice/inborn debate have been pretty much limited to the suspicion that the end result of finding a “homosexual gene” would be that a lot of religious conservatives would suddenly find themselves to be perfectly okay with abortion. Aside from this, it’s a tiresome and pointless red herring, deflecting from the point that regardless of how people get to being gay, they are gay, and there’s not much that’s wrong with that.

*The question comes up as to whether creating a new words (like “homophilia”) and new definitions for old words (like “homosexual”) actually does anything of any semantic use. If instead of saying “I don’t have a problem with homosexuals, I have a problem with homosexual acts” you say “I don’t have a problem with homophiles, I have a problem with homosexuals” how does that change anything?

Well, for one thing, it’s now less ambiguous. Currently “homosexual” has a number of interpretations, and which interpretation you choose makes a difference for how you perceive the sentence (note the length of the comment thread for the previous entry). By parsing out one of the meanings and providing it with a new word, communication now becomes more clear. Obviously, that may not be of benefit to Santorum, or other people who use words ambiguously to give themselves wiggle room. But it is of benefit to those of us trying to figure out what others are really trying to say.

It also has the additional benefit of no longer divorcing “acts” from the people who perform them. One of rather annoying rhetorical things about complaining about “homosexual acts” is that the phrase seems to imply that the action is an object in itself — for example, that out there in the world there’s a disembodied, whirling vortex of male-male fellatio that men somehow (you should pardon this pun) get sucked into. Obviously this is stupid. Homosexual acts are performed by homosexuals. If you have a problem with the act, quite naturally you have a problem with those who perform them.

*People have brought up the “slippery slope” argument Santorum has raised, the gist of which is that if people are able to have gay sex in the privacy of their own home, it’s just a hop, skip and jump to bigamy, polygamy, incest, sheep fondling, and so on. These sort of arguments always amuse me, because they offer insight into a fearful world in which the slavering hordes of immorality are poised at the door, wanting to violate innocent children and household pets. It really seems to be that lots of the people who want to hold the line on sodomy laws genuinely believe the rest of us are simply lascivious pigs who hold off boinking our sisters only because the cops have the right to bust in and pry us off her.

It’s a messy argument anyway. The path from gay sex to bigamy and polygamy is particularly unclear, since the former is homosexual sex activity, and the latter two are heterosexual marriage structures. But the point of the argument is not to make sense, it’s to pile on perceived deviances until the reader or listener’s ganglions are misfiring in sweaty, moistened fear. So if it’s all the same, I’ll pass on getting all worked up about it.

However, I’ll personally be willing to make Rick Santorum a deal — stop getting worked up about homosexuals having sex, and I promise not to sleep with my sister. Heck, I’ll even promise not to sleep with my brother, and I’ll throw in not sleeping with my parents as a freebie. That’s a hell of a deal, Rick. I don’t see how you can pass it up.

X Prime

“Rick Santorum, the Senate’s third-ranked Republican who is under fire from gay-rights groups and Democrats, says he has ‘no problem with homosexuality – I have a problem with homosexual acts.'” — Associated Press

In logical terms, you could write this as “I have no problem with X, I have a problem with X’ ” in which X is any particular human condition, and X’ is the action by which the condition of X is ascertained; indeed, without X’, X exists in an unverifiable state if it exists at all, since it is the performance of X’ that establishes X definitively. Thereby, in purely practical terms, if you have a problem with X’, you must necessarily have a problem with X.

Saying that you have no problems with homosexuals but have a problem with homosexual acts is logically equivalent, for example, to saying that you have no problems with Christians but have a problem with them accepting Christ, or that you have no problems with Republicans but have a problem with them registering as Republicans, or that you have no problem with Marines but have a problem with them enlisting (or receiving commissions in the case of officers). Each X’ is an affirmative act of association and identification, without which the identification of X cannot exist.

The way to check this is to determine whether the condition of X can exist without X’. So, to go back to our examples — can you be a Christian without accepting Christ? Pretty much not. Can you be a Republican without registering as a Republican? Not really. Can you be a Marine without enlisting or being commissioned? Can’t do it. In each case it’s absolutely possible to manifest an outward appearance of each group — lead a Christly life, vote Republican, or swagger around saying “Semper Fi” to people — But until you get baptized, register or enlist/are commissioned, you’re not one of the members of these groups. The act matters; thereby, having a problem with the act means you have a problem with the condition because the only way to the condition is the act.

Well, you say, the difference is that in each of the cases mentioned above your X’ is a one-time act, while homosexuals do their acts over and over and over again. Couldn’t they just do it once and be done with it? Well, from a logical point of view, the occurrences of X’ is neither here nor there; it doesn’t have to be a one-time thing. The act of hunting confirms the condition of being a hunter; the act of writing confirms the condition of being a writer. People who hunt or write don’t do their things just once, either. Also, of course, even those whose X’ has an initial and discrete affirmative action may adjudge that the X’ requires continual affirmation: A Christian may decide that his acceptance of Christ requires weekly visits to Church.

The other objection I see is one that can be raised by both homosexuals and others who prefer to weasel out of the fact they actually have a problem with homosexuals, and that is the idea that one doesn’t have to have homosexual sex in order to be homosexual. But, come on, people. If we’re going to make the distinction (and it is a fairly recent semantic distinction, since the word didn’t enter the language until 1892), it has to mean something, and what it means is right in the word itself.

Allow me to make the following suggestion to clear up the confusion, if in fact no one’s done this before: Let’s make concrete this distinction between desiring members of the same sex and actually having sex with them. Let’s call the desire for members of one’s own sex homophilia, and actually having sex with them homosexuality. Likewise, the desire for members of the opposite sex is heterophilia, while actually having sex with them is heterosexuality.

Let us also note that these are two distinct conditions, since the desire for something is not the same as an action. Everyone is born with a “-philia,” but it’s acting upon it that makes it a “-sexual.” So, one can be a homophile heterosexual (meaning you desire people of your own sex, but you actually have sex with members of the opposite sex), or a homophile homosexual(same sex desires, same sex sex), or even a heterophile homosexual, which probably means you’re in prison or a single sex boarding school. Let’s also give a shoutout for biphilia and bisexuality — you love everyone! — and aphilia and asexuality — you don’t want to be bothered!

This is clarifying in a number of ways, but the most obvious advantage is that it helps pin people down. If “homosexual” simply means having sex with members of your own sex, then people like Santorum can no longer wiggle around saying “I have no problems with homosexuals.” He will in fact have to admit he does have problems with homosexuals; the population he has no problem with is in fact the homophiles — the relatively few ones that are heterosexual or asexual, that is. And that’s not at all the same thing.

Santorum and others like him will no longer be able to deny that X is inseparable from X’ — In short, they’ll have to admit their own bigotry, even to themselves. And what a refreshing change that will be!

What Would Jesus Surf

Before I begin, I should note that as I start this entry, there are exactly 666 comments in the comment threads on the site. That’s some irony.

So, I’m wading through my referrer logs, because I’m exactly the sort of geek who does that sort of thing, and I notice that one of the spiders hopping through the site is from “ChristCrawler.” This is a new one on me, as well as something that is not, by name, an entirely savory image (Jesus walked, but I don’t think Jesus did much crawling) so I follow it back to this page, and read the goal of ChristCrawler, owned and operated by ChristCENTRAL:

“ focuses on providing the highest-quality search results for our own users and for corporate [users]. It is our goal to provide a unique, powerful way for Christians and non-christians to search the Internet, finding useful information while knowing that we strive to provide and filter all non-christian web sites.”

“Provide and filter all non-christian web sites” seems to me to be a rather contradictory statement; typically in regards to the Internet, when one “filters” that means one is actually excluding a site. So you’re either providing non-Christian links or not. The site’s not very well copy edited, so I’m thinking there may be a word missing here, and the search engine itself isn’t up, so it’s hard to say what they’re doing. But I suspect by its very name, it’s meant to be a search site that presents Christian-related links first or exclusively while excluding or demoting non-Christian-related links.

This brings up a couple of interesting points. The first being that I would be interested in seeing the technology that ranks and evaluates a site’s Christ level. Current online content filters are of course notoriously bad at this sort of contextual evaluation, so unless there’s a human on the backend, checking each site for its presumed Christliness, I don’t know how useful such a search will be. I mean, my site has a number of references to Christ, hardly any of them non-complimentary (he’s a righteous dude, on any number of levels), but it’s pretty emphatically not a Christian site. That’d be a pretty interesting nut for an automated search engine to crack.

The second is, if indeed ChristCrawler excludes “non-Christian” sites, should it really be called a “search engine”? An engine that searches information to determine if it should be excluded should probably be called an “exclude engine” (or, to go back to more common phrasing, a “filter”). No doubt there are millions of Christ-oriented pages out there, but there are billions that aren’t, so the majority of search cycles will be spent throwing stuff out.

There are of course a number of Christian search engines out there (here’s one, here’s another), but they’re pretty poor analogues to the Web in general. One boasts a catalog of over 30,000 links, which is nice but a drop in the bucket compared to the general Web.

Which may be how the people who use these sites like it; they’ve got their own Christ-centered thing and they’re not interested in stuff outside of it. Which is fine, although I have to say that doesn’t seem very Christ-like to me. I would even go so far as to suggest that the recent wave of Christian cocooning in which some evangelicals have engaged in — in which they endeavor to live entire lives shielded and isolated from the rest of the world — is emphatically non-Christian.

Jesus, you’ll recall, was not someone who spent a whole lot of time sheltering himself against the unbelievers and the scumbags. He was not even unworldly, to the extent that he recognized there was a world concerned with the issues of men and he knew what they were; Matthew 22, verses 15-22 is a fine example of that. And of course, Jesus hung out with some real unsavory types — hookers, thieves and so forth. Jesus was engaged in the world of his time, including and especially the parts of it that some Christians today wall themselves off from.

Jesus was not exclusionary. He had confidence that his message could thrive in the marketplace of ideas. When he searched the Internet, I’d guess he’d probably use Google.

The Terror of Bad Chocolate

Some people believe bad chocolate is like bad sex: Even when it’s bad, it’s still good. This formulation is nonsense at its root. Bad sex is definitely not still good. It’s actually tremendously depressing, sort of like getting all worked up go to Disneyland just to find that the only ride open in the whole park is the monorail to and from the parking lot — and that the monorail seats smell kind of funky.

Secondly, bad chocolate is worse than bad sex. We accept that sex may occasionally be bad — it’s the inevitable side effect of being human and letting hormonal surges replace rational thought — but chocolate is supposed be above that. Chocolate is supposed to be an absolute good. Occasional bad sex is regrettable, but bad chocolate is a betrayal.

What’s even worse is when you see a Bad Chocolate Moment coming, and yet there’s not much you can do about it. One of those happened last night, when Krissy tossed me a small plastic tub of something pink and asked me to open it for her. I looked down at the tub, and saw that they were, in fact, Frankford MarshMiddles Chocolate Creme-Filled (artificially flavored) Marshmallow Eggs, inexplicably left unopened during the orgy of Easter candy.

Immediately, several issues presented themselves:

1. For people over the age of 10, marshmallow candies are not meant to be eaten so much as they are to be used for various scientific experiments, generally involving microwave ovens, liquid nitrogen and/or bunsen burners. That’s because people over the age of 10 generally understand that Marshmallow comes from gelatin, which comes from something that was scraped off a rural route with a shovel or that once participated in the Kentucky Derby and finished somewhere between 8th and 12th. Also the freshness of marshmallow candies has a half-life shorter than even the most unstable of transuranic elements. The tub proclaimed it was a “Resealable Stay-Fresh Tub!” which was nothing more than a contemptible lie. A stainless steel holding chamber filled with inert helium can’t keep marshmallows from going stale. All told, there are better ways of getting a sugar high than tolerating stale sugar suspensions whose origins inevitably lead back to something with a mane, big soulful eyes, and a small Guatemalan in checkered pants sitting on its back.

2. “Chocolate Creme” — “creme” in the context of candy almost always means “unnatural chain of sucrose polymers.” It’s edible only to the extent that your white cells won’t actively attack it as it courses through your small intestine.

3. “Artificially Flavored” — Artificially flavored chocolate is to chocolate as grape soda is to grapes, which is to say a concoction whose only relation to its natural analog is that it is within 10 Pantone strips of being the same color.

4. On top of this the marshmallow eggs looked like decapitated Peeps, and that’s just wrong.

The artificial flavor theme was reinforced when I cracked open the tub, exposing myself to the sort of chemical smell one typically associates with killing weeds.

I looked over to my wife. “Sweetheart,” I said.


“This might not be an optimal chocolate experience,” I warned.

She looked at me blankly, as if this might not be an optimal chocolate experience were words from a Tristan Tzarza poem, pulled out of a hat and set down in random order and thereby devoid of all semantic value. Then, “Why did you say that? Did you eat one?”

No,” I admitted, with my voice providing a subtext there signifying that while I might smear one across a new picture to stop the photographic development process, I wouldn’t actually put one in my mouth. “It’s just a feeling I have. I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”

My wife gave me a look as if to say, you dear, silly man, give me the chocolate before I am compelled to gnaw on your aorta. So I did, and went back to the magazine I was reading.

For this reason, I missed the part where Krissy gagged and actually spit the chocolate creme-filled marshmallow egg back into her hand rather than have it inhabit her mouth any longer. However, I didn’t miss the part where she picked up the small tub they came in and stuffed it as far down into the trash as it would go. Then she looked over with a face that suggested that she’d just been fed the rancid gut of a raccoon (which, considering what gets used to make gelatin, there’s a small possibility she had). But more than that, it was a tragic look of betrayal. Chocolate isn’t supposed to do that to your mouth. Thus the quick trash stuff. It was too late for Krissy’s innocence about chocolate to remain unshattered — but not too late to spare our daughter. By plunging the Pink Menace into the garbage, Athena might be spare the same horrible fate. Krissy did it for the children.

As for my Krissy, I just happened to have a bag of Cadbury solid chocolate candy eggs, so quickly enough the crisis had passed. But I guarantee you from now until the end of time, I could say to her, “hey, remember those chocolate creme-filled marshmallow eggs,” and it will generate a hearty shudder. It was Bad Chocolate. And you just don’t forget a thing like that.

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