Los Angeles Thrice 5-7-5

In honor of being here almost three years:

"Now you don't look like
a computer programmer."
I still fucking tipped.

"Was that a squirrel?"
"That's a rat," she said and peed
in the street, downtown.

"D'you know who I am?
D'you know who I am, you fuck?"
Honestly, I don't.

The Word "Freedom" Has a Definition

Russ Feingold is going to deliver a speech about the domestic wiretaps on the floor of the Senate sometime soon, but you can read it in its entirety over here. He makes a few statements that cut through the typical rhetoric on this issue and finally says what I've been dying to hear:

The President issued a call to spread freedom throughout the world, and then he admitted that he has deprived Americans of one of their most basic freedoms under the Fourth Amendment -- to be free from unjustified government intrusion.

I really can't believe we've gone six years and nobody in Congress has been really direct about calling our President on his empty use of the word "freedom." This word has been tossed around like it's a synonym for "American" while we throw (Arab) people in jail without trials, tap phones without warrants, read private email, corral protesters at political events, push for constitutional amendments to prevent people from democratically deciding who can be married, push for media censorship in the name of decency, and arbitrarily decide which tenets of American liberty to ignore and which to shit on.

What does the word freedom even mean to the people who suggest we need to protect it by infringing on civil liberties? I think it's just a euphonic placeholder, so can we get these people another word -- one that doesn't make my brain bleed?

Now's maybe a good time for you to join the American Civil Liberties Union if you care about this sort of thing. This is still our country, and those in power can only have the liberties we give them. Don't ever buy that "it's too late" bullshit from anyone. This system can be reformed.

(Oh, and I know I hated John Ashcroft enough to put him on a t-shirt, but Alberto Motherfucking Gonzales is intent on sinking the office of Attorney General lower than it's ever been -- and this is an office once held by Edwin Meese, so that's pretty significant.)

Just Figured it Out

They say you'll go through an awkward in-between phase when you're growing your hair out, during which your hair will always just look kind of stupid, no matter what you do with it.

This in-between phase, they fail to mention, represents the entire time between two short haircuts.

We Liberals Piss Me Off

Okay, so you can probably tell my heart's done its share of bleeding. It's bled on my shoes, my belt and my food. It's bled into a lot of what I've said and how I've voted in the past, and it certainly colors the music I really love. So I'm really speaking out of love for you crazy kool-aid-swigging zombies.

Stereotypical liberals make me as uneasy as does the horde of flag-waving conservatives. It's not that I'm against people being vocal about their politics. I mean, seriously -- it's me here... me. It's just that when I can hear 20% of your worldview and deduce with uncanny accuracy the other 80%, you've got a serious problem with forming your own opinions. Beyond that, everything else you have to say just becomes white noise.

Well, maybe not white noise. Maybe that noise that the riot cops are starting to use for crowd control -- the noise that makes you nauseous and reluctant to do much beyond sitting on the floor staring into space while you wait for the sweet reprieve of silence. Anyway, here's a sampling of the list of things that drives me nuts about you... rather, us.

Starbucks is not your enemy. I promise. Sure, it's an irresistible bug light for all of the pretentious fucks and consumer whores with line-of-sight attention spans and marketing-driven cravings who have a direct view of the front door, and these are quite likely empty, boring, terrible, happy people, but Starbucks didn't create them -- it's just feeding them coffee. The same fucking pretentious soy mocha latte they'd otherwise be buying at one of your fifty billion precious artsy almost-but-not-quite-exactly Starbucks clone coffee shops that are so dear to your heart. Starbucks isn't even driving them out of business -- it spawned them. It created the market in which they can exist and you can sit in them reading Fast Food Nation and feel so fucking morally superior with your drink that is named, priced, made and packaged exactly as it would have been at Starbucks.

Bongos are not an instrument of revolution. Shove them up your fucking ass. Look at the Ukraine. No bongos, just orange shit and tenacity. That's how you get taken seriously.

While you're protesting, please stop lumping all of the extreme-left nonsense in together. Be pragmatic and fight one battle with one gathering. Yes, I want to free Mumia too, but I doubt the governor of Pennsylvania is hanging out at an anti-war rally, and even if he were, he'd be too busy being harassed by the PETA dipshits to notice you.

Punk rock is not a political party. Puck rock is not a religion. Punk rock is not your fucking mommy. Rock out, let it challenge what you believe in, let it validate your rebellion, let it inspire you to be you, but for fuck's sake, please stop treating it like gospel or a manual on how to think.

Anarchy is not a ... Okay, have fun with the anarchy. I like you kids and your black flags. Good luck with all of that.

This one will blow your mind: Globalization presents maybe the most effective and unstoppable force for democratizing the world that has ever been seen. I guess you'd prefer the people of the world either continue living under dictators or have democracy beaten into them with force like the lucky citizens of Iraq have had the pleasure of enduring for the last two and a half years. Sure, pay attention to what you buy and where it's from, but don't let your laziness about looking at both sides of an issue drive you to protest something that could create a world where economies, speech and dissidents are set free, and the dictators of which are powerless to stop it.

Next time: How my fellow libertarians never cease to piss me off, too.

Looking forward: How I personally can't stop pissing myself off.

Update: IRC still sucking strong in 2005.

It was time for my once-per-decade check to see how sad IRC continues to be. Seems like nothing's changed since about 1995.

Me:/join #somefuckingchannel
--- You are now talking in #somefuckingchannel.
--- A dozen or so people are here and they're all ops.
Me:So what's up in here?
Them #1: not much
Them #1:room is comatized
Them #1:carefull, its contagious, ohhh u already noticed
Me:I forgot my surgical mask.
Them #1:damn
Them #1:solly bout that sir? ma'am?
Me:Sir. That is, I'm knighted.
Them #1:k, u must be proud
Me:It's mostly ceremonial these days. No horse, no shining armor, and I don't have to move two steps forward and one to the side all the time.
Them #1:so no hittin with swords on the shoulders? damn, those were tha days
Them #1:Yeah, just a glowstick in my ass. You know... to be honest, it might not have been a knighting ceremony at all.
Them #1:Be Right Back
Them #2 slaps Them #1 around a bit with a large trout
Them #2:shh
Them #2:good boy
Me:God bless IRC. It's good to know that this obsolete protocol has been maintained all these years so people can get some peace and quiet on the internet.
Me:Quaint, quiet, tranquil link to the past untouched by modern technology. It's like a zen garden, really.
Them #1 dashes across teh room and grabs Them #2's trout before he can do any damage with it. What did this poor defenseless trout do to you Them #2 ???
--- Disconnected ().

Okay. So I'll check back in around 2015 and see if they're still struggling to come up with any conversation aside from "r u a girl." I must say, however, that "sir? ma'am?" is probably the most eloquence I've ever seen squeezed out of an IRC client.

Letter to the members of the Kansas school board

Here's a letter I sent to each of the members of the Kansas State Board of Education about their decision to force Intelligent Design into their science curriculum:

It is with despair and sympathetic embarrassment that I write you.

The decision of your board to force creation mythology into science classrooms will stand in history alongside the Catholic Church's condemnation and persecution of the proponents of the heliocentric model of our solar system as an example of how foolish we can be when we let religious dogma stifle the pursuit of understanding. I struggle to accept that the works of Darwin are being treated in the 21st century as the works of Galileo were treated in the 17th, and that this is happening not in some far-off theocracy like Iran, but in what is ostensibly a free, secular, advanced nation. Have we in our modern times actually mandated that biology textbooks be written as Galileo was forced to write his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems?

Your board has brought shame to the United States, and especially to the state of Kansas, but the most egregious harm has been done to the students whose education you've compromised in the face of religious and political pressure. These students are the people to whom you are most responsible, and are ultimately those that you have most failed.

To the members of your board who voted against the teaching of creationism (in all of its guises), I extend my most sincere sympathy for the stubborn ignorance you must have to deal with in doing your job.

If you've got the time, maybe you should write one too.


Dr. Bill Wagnon writes back:

thank you for your sympathy

Heh. Awesome.

Relativsim and Rides

Today was the last day of the 2005 Sunset Junction Street Fair, a perfect amalgam of outdoor music festival, traveling carnival and gay pride parade. It's the kind of place you can get bigass roasted corn on the cob, see a few bands, and ponder exactly where one would find men's leather shorts that small -- oh, at that booth right there.

It's been happening almost weekly since I left Phoenix for Los Angeles. I get these glimpses of life in a real city, glimpses that shake me. I catch sight of myself in a reflection, and I don't see the mohawked, streetwise, punk-rock intellectual I imagine myself to be. I see a dopey suburban white guy who doesn't have any idea what to eat if he can't find a Taco Bell.

Right about now, the Suicide Girls are probably finishing their set, and the New York Dolls will close the night. That's on the main stage at a family event: Girls undressing followed by men dressing like girls. Despite the fact that this will be happening only a few hundred feet from the carnival rides you'd have to be under 8 to fit on, there will be no letters of complaint. There will be no outrage. There probably won't be anyone but me -- just off the turnip truck from suburbia -- who even finds the juxtaposition of these two forms of entertainment the slightest bit odd.

If there's one important thing about being a Pope, it's to rail against relativism. The first thought that occurred to me as I walked around with my daughter in the midst of this rampaging relativism was fuck those papal bastards and their roman numerals; This is the path to harmony and enlightenment. Despite the fact that every cop-baiting archetype was walking around in plain sight, the police -- the fucking LAPD -- harassed nobody. Not a, "hey whattaya got there?" or a "you can't stand here." Despite the fact that most of those archetypes had their sworn enemy archetypes walking around as well, I didn't hear any taunting or see any tough-guy posturing. Even the parents were invariably cool-but-attentive in dealing with their kids, who didn't throw any fits. Dogs and cats living together. Anarchy.

My opinion of relativism waned a bit when Zoe and I got onto something called the Hustler. The carnies at this particular fair were the type often parodied on TV, except these were what I would describe as exaggerations of what I thought were over-the-top caricatures. Here's an exchange I overheard while Zoe rode a smaller kids' ride:
She said "he's a guy with no teeth," and I said "well, what ride was he working?" She said it was Twister, so I said it must have been you.

Anyway, the Hustler's posted height requirements were as such: 36" to ride with an adult, 48" to ride alone. There was nothing to stand next to, but he waved Zoe on. I figured he must have been doing this for so long he could eyeball it. I always like someone who knows his job well.

The Hustler has 4 baskets. Two orbit around each other, while the pair orbits around the second pair. This particular carny, who I had decided was a seasoned vet after sizing Zoe up without so much as a pause, decided to put seven of us in one basket, and none on the rest of the ride. This is where relativism comes into play: If you can run the rides at one-quarter capacity, there clearly isn't a lot of demand. If there isn't a lot of demand, it's a bad time to be a stickler for the rules, operating guidelines, or even common sense, since all of this might scare away scarce business.

As we were getting strapped in, a kid next to me couldn't get his belt to clasp. He switched seats and the next belt failed, too. The carny looked at him, shrugged and said "Hold on." The kid wasn't that cavalier, and switched seats again before finding one that worked. Everyone was buckled in, and the ride began.

I looked over at Zoe to see how she was doing, and noticed the kid next to her was a toddler. Borderline infant. Clearly nowhere near 36 inches. He had a seatbelt on, but was too small for it to really matter. If he's lucky, he might be able to hook his toes on the belt as he flies out. It won't stop him, but it might take some velocity off. As soon as the ride got up to speed, the kid slumped over sideways, expressionless. His mom held on to him, and tried -- well, I'm not sure if she was trying to get him to sit up, or to show signs of life. He lay there catatonic, his gaze straight ahead, unblinking, unwavering for the entire ride as everyone laughed, screamed, and tried to figure out exactly how the unbalanced nature of the ride running at these speeds was going to cause a catastrophic failure. That last one was me. I fucking swear I could feel it tipping.

Zoe doesn't really think about the structural strength of a poorly maintained carnival ride and its poorly maintained operators, so she had a great time. After the ride came to a stop, the little kid was eventually revived, and seemed to have only suffered subtle, longterm brain damage, and nothing requiring immediate medical attention.

Hutta.com Needs a Business Partner

For the last six months, the Hutta.com online ordering system has been shut down. Bank of America was killing me with fees and the cut of credit card sales they were taking. It was costing me money to sell shirts.

In order to have the sales volume I need to drive the website's per-unit sales costs down, I'll need more designs. Before I can get more designs, I'll need to sell a grip of shirts in a hurry. I was wearing the Littering shirt around town a few weeks ago. The place I was getting my hair cut is smack-dab in the middle of hipsterville, so they sell clothes and various other whatever-hipsters-will-buy things. The guy behind the counter started asking me about the shirt, and whether this particular artist had done it. I gave him the whole story, and he insisted I should get the shirts in there so they could sell him. He was familiar with how they sold, and said I'd move a ton of them.

I really have no interest in being a small business asshole. I want to be a loudmouth political shirt guy asshole. So I posted an ad to Craigslist today looking for a business partner. If you know (or are) anybody interested in helping me out with this, I'd love to hear from you.

I'm really looking for someone who knows shop owners and distribution channels in the LA area or nationally, and I'm willing to make this very fair partnership. I'm not interested in getting rich, I just want to move some shirts so I can be famous.

Oh how the sweet musk of fame begs me to bury my tongue in its crotch. Surely you can get it to spread for me.
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