Worlds & Time

Friday, February 29, 2008

Random Thoughts And Things I'm Reading

Here is my perfect question to be asked of Senator John McCain, in public, on film:

Senator McCain, which is more important to you, protecting the people of the United States from terrorism or upholding the ideals of the United States Constitution?

He'd have to equivocate because if he accidentally responded with a real answer to the question, either way he responded would be a huge misstep for a Republican.

Democrats have it easy. The answer is the latter, duh. Of course the ideals of the United States Constitution are more important than a few temporary minutes of security.

Republicans, however, have tried to shift away from protecting constitutional rights because after George W., that's not an argument that they can win. So McCain has repeatedly said that the most important duty of the president is to protect American citizens. ("The most important obligation of the next President is to protect Americans from the threat posed by violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. " Link) Thus, he can't give the correct answer because that undermines the argument that he himself is trying to make: that the presidency is not about upholding the constitution, it is about protecting Americans.

However, if he was to remain consistent to his previous comments and say that he'll protect Americans above upholding the Constitution, it would mean a PR disaster of truly epic proportions. Granted, some news agencies, notably Fox News, would probably ignore the answer, but you'd at least get a special comment from Keith Olbermann about how McCain has thrown out the very principles upon which our government is based.

I'd love to see someone hold him to the question though.

The best that he could do is say that he doesn't see a conflict between the two, but a real reporter should point out the obvious: McCain has deliberately created a dichotomy between safety and rights with his support of the FISA legislation and Bush Administration's wiretapping activities. And thus, that isn't an answer to the question.

There are also two more brilliant slacktivist posts that I really think are amazing: The Barrel of a Gun and The Imaginary Liberal. The second one is long, but it describes how I sometimes think I'm perceived by Christians.

Update: Also see Kevin Kelly's 1,000 True Fans, which is really interesting.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On Gun Control

Do you know which one of the candidates in this election had a score of 'A' by the NRA?

It was Bill Richardson, Democratic Governor of New Mexico.

Perhaps being from New Mexico is why I'm substantially to the right of most democrats and other liberals when it comes to gun control.

Granted, I do not own a gun and at this point in my life I never have but I certainly don't begrudge people the right to own guns. The second amendment unequivocally states that people should be able to keep their guns.

Of course, those to the left of me ask whether I would like to live in a world free of guns and violence. Yes, sure, but that's an imaginary world. The world is never going to find perfect peace until there's one living human left on the planet, and not a moment sooner. Where there are two people living together, there are going to be two points of view.

We should be pointing out that nonviolent resolution to problems is a good deal more effective than armed resistance, but there are times that I happen to think that armed revolt is the only option. Widespread fascism, for example, during which an oppressed minority is being slaughtered.

But gun ownership is a historic fact in the United States. So is crime. Until the people have no defensive needs (yeah, including from their own government), there is a requirement for some people to own guns.

So the fuzzy liberal notion of turning all guns into plowshares is ridiculous. We live in a real, dangerous, and imperfect world. Guns can't and shouldn't vanish. That's ridiculous and contrary to common sense (See The Simpsons Tree House of Horror II, Lisa's Nightmare).

On the other side, of course, conservatives have gone way past the point of sanity themselves.

In my head, I describe myself as "pro-gun control," but I also realize that I'm nearly unique in my definition of that term.

See, when someone says "gun control" and by that they mean "taking guns away from everyone," I'm against that. Very much so. What I mean when I say "gun control" in my head is actually "gun registration." Universal gun registration for every weapon, with shorter than current waiting periods. I'm pro-gun registration for the exact same reason that I'm pro-car registration: when they get stolen they can cause massive problems for people.

NRA members absolutely hate that position. Once, in a conversation with a real card carrying member of the NRA, I was told that registration was one step away from the government confiscating everyone's guns. Yeah, because we've all seen how car registration has led to a massive confiscation of cars by the government.

Really, what it boils down to is that gun registration would make it easier to control the guns that flow into the hands of criminals. If you can follow a specific gun through it's existence, you can trace where guns leak from legal law-abiding citizens into the hands of criminals, and eventually plug the leak.

Felon's don't have the right to carry weapons and anyone who is careless enough with their weapons to allow felons access deserve to be held responsible in the same way someone can hold you responsible for handing your car keys over to a twice convicted drunk driver that's wasted.

Obviously it would take years for any kind of gun registration system to make an impact on our society, which is why it pisses me off that we haven't started one now that we have the technology to do so.

I mean, don't legal gun owners want to make it harder for guns to make it into the hands of criminals? Apparently not if it means that they have to stand in the "gun" line at the DMV to register their weapons.

I'm aware that I'm not really in the "middle" on this issue. My position is still probably on the liberal side, especially due to massively intense pressure from the NRA. I happen to think that my position is reasonable though. I lack the naiveté of the stereotypical democrats but also haven't fallen down the slippery slope of the stereotypical NRA member.

One last thing, on the saying "An armed society is a polite society."

No it's not. I mean, come on, who's being naive now? In the history of the entire freaking world has the possession of firearms (and swords, axes, daggers, spears, etc before that) ever made a distinguishable difference in how polite a society was?

Think about it for just one moment: The Wild West, Pirates, and the current Mideast. All well-armed societies. Do you see them as particularly polite? Especially to potentially armed outsiders?

The most polite society that I can think of is the British Empire (circa the 19th century, probably), and that isn't because they all owned guns. It was because they thought that being foppish and dandyish indicated their higher rank and classiness.

Please stop saying that armed societies are polite societies. It doesn't make any sense. Find something new. Thanks.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Call For Reservations

So I just got a phone call as part of my job. This is what I have to deal with, day after day. Presented in psuedo-play format.

Her: I'd like to book a room for [Summer month, days, 2008].

Me: Are you with a group or a conference?

Her: Yes, I'm with [Conference]. I must have a room with 2 beds.

Me: Okay, one moment. (I look up the conference.) Alright, ma'am? I'm afraid that I don't have any more rooms available at the conference rate with 2 beds. Let me check to see if I have any outside of the conference block. (I check.) Ma'am, I do have deluxe rooms with 2 queen size beds available for the nights of the conference.

Her: Do any of those rooms face away from the street? I know that you're in downtown Santa Fe.

Me: No.

Her: No?

Me: I'm familiar with all of the rooms of that type, I know where they are in the hotel. All of them face out toward the street.

Her: Well, that's unacceptable. I want a room that doesn't face the street.

Me: Well, ma'am, (I check out the hotel. All of our deluxe rooms, suites with 2 beds, and concierge rooms with 2 beds face toward a street. We are in the middle of a city block, after all. The majority of our rooms do.) I'm sorry ma'am, but the only rooms that we have with two beds have been booked up with the conference. (This is true, all of our "traditional," i.e. cheapest rooms, have been added to the conference block. The conference block is sold out of these types of rooms. Thus, we have no more.) The only rooms that we have available have one bed in them.

Her: What do you mean? You just told me that you have rooms with two beds available? Why would the ones with 2 beds facing inside be booked for the conference?

Me: Because these rooms are deluxe rooms, they're a different type. And all of them face outward.

Her: Well, I want one of the ones that face inward.

Me: Uh, well, all of those are already sold with the conference. I don't have any more. Look, ma'am, we're downtown. It's pretty quiet at night here because there isn't much traffic. I don't think that you would have much trouble with the noise.

Her: Well, what if I wanted to take a nap in the afternoon, huh? I bet it wouldn't be quiet then!

Me: Uh, well, actually . . .

Her: What floor is that room on anyway?

Me: (I check.) They're on the second floor.

Her: Oh no, that's definitely not acceptable. I'm very sensitive to noise.

Me: Ah, okay. Well, let me check. (I do.) Well, ma'am, I don't have any rooms left with 2 beds that aren't going to be facing the street.

Her: You just told me that you did.

Me: No . . . all of those rooms have been booked up by the conference, there aren't any more left.

Her: Well, you just told me that there were rooms with 2 beds that face away from the street. And you said that you have rooms with 2 beds still.

Me: Those are different kinds of rooms, ma'am.

Her: Well, that's ridiculous.

Me: Ma'am, if you need 2 beds . . .

Her: (Interrupting.) I do. We're old friends, but we can't sleep in the same bed together.

Me: . . . Well, you could reserve two rooms, each with one bed in it.

Her: How much would that be?

Me: Well, I have the group rate available for those rooms, so they would be $230 per night . . .

Her: EACH?

Me: . . . Yes. Plus tax.

Her: I thought your rooms were $140.

Me: . . . No . . .

Her: I checked you website, and I wrote it down. Give me a second. (Papers rustle in the background.) Here it is. $160.

Me: We do sometimes have those rates during the winter, based on availability, but the nights that you are looking for are in the summer, our high season, and happen to also fall over our second busiest weekend of the year.

Her: Well, why is it so much?

Me: (Ignoring her question, sort of.) Ma'am, our rooms typically start off at around $320 per night that time of year.

Her: That's just silly. I've stayed all around Santa Fe, and I've never paid that much for a room. How big are those rooms?

Me: I don't know the answer to that question. (I probably should, but it isn't among our material. I've seen our rooms, but I'm not knowledgeable enough about square-footage to make a reasonable sounding guess.)

Her: Jesus. Are you even a real reservations person?

Me: Yes. . . . Well, ma'am, there is one other option. I just checked, and I do have one suite available that would be facing inward. That would have one king size bed and one double size sleeper sofa in the sitting room. That would be . . .

Her: No, I can't sleep on a sofa bed. They're uncomfortable.

Me: Oh. Okay.

Her: How much would that be?

Me: Suites start about $390 per night . . . (She interrupts before I can say that I could offer her the room at $330.)

Her: Well, forget it then. Well, let's just book a room for me, first. You said you have rooms with one bed facing inside, right?

Me: Yes, I could certainly put in a request for that.

Her: How much would that be?

Me: Well, that would still be at the conference rate, so that would be $230 per night, plus tax.

Her: Does that include breakfast?

Me: No, although we do have a full restaurant that serves breakfast in the morning.

Her: Well, that sucks. Do you have a pool?

Me: Yes we do. It's outdoors but it is heated and open year-round.

Her: How big is it?

Me: . . . uh . . . not that big. Not lap sized, if that's your question.

Her: Well, obviously. How big is it, say, compared to the pool at the [Other Hotel].

Me: I've never seen the pool at the [Other Hotel], so I don't know for sure. If I had to guess, I'd probably say that the pool at the [Other Hotel] is slightly bigger (based on their number of rooms compared to ours. I've since been informed that ours is bigger).

Her: You know, none of you ever have enough rooms with 2 beds in them. I'm not just talking about you, I'm talking about [local Hotel], [local Hotel], and [local Hotel] too.

Me: Well, ma'am, we have about fifty rooms with 2 beds in them. That's more than enough for tourist season.

Her: And you don't have one for me?

Me: Ma'am, this group booked 120 rooms. I currently have 93 reservations for it. That means that there are only 27 rooms left, and all of them have one bed.

Her: Well, I'll take one. And I want it to be facing inward, and I want it to be on a high floor.

Me: I'll certainly put a request in for an interior view and for a high floor.

Her: No. If all those other people could guarantee rooms with 2 beds facing in, then I want you to guarantee me a room on an upper floor facing in.

Me: Ma'am, that's not how it works . . .

Her: Obviously it is, because all those other people got promised rooms. What I want to know is why everyone else gets promised this and that, and yet you can't do the same thing for me!

Me: . . . (Waits for her to finish.) Did you want to book that room, ma'am?

Her: You know what, I'm going to have to talk with my friend. I'll call you back.

Me: Alright.

Her: . . . can't believe it, incompetent . . .


Total time: 12:36 on the phone with a crazy lady and no sale. Uhg.

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The Meteoric Return

So, you're probably wondering where I've been recently. You're probably upset with worry, mashing your teeth with tears streaming down your cheeks. You've probably done everything short of calling the secret service to break down my door to find me.

The real reason that I've been gone is that I was involved with a fairly serious legal proceeding that prevented me from posting, in a round about way.

As of tomorrow, I should be free of such mind-numbing restrictions, and I'll start posting my backlog of posts the day after that, assuming that nothing goes wrong.

I am a lot better. My brace is off. I can walk and talk unaided. I've been back at work for some time. I am happy that I can try to put this horrid incident out of my mind.

Here's what I'm planning on doing. Instead of a massive explosion of posts all at once, I will post a backdated post once a day. Depending on where you read this blog, you should see this post remain on top until the backlog is cleared out, at which point I'll start posting regularly again. That will allow me to look over the posts and make sure that they're not completely insane ranting before I post them, and will give the impression that the blog is super active for the next two months.

I know that my readership is gone, gone, gone. Except for the person that checks in daily and refreshes the front screen a bajillion times (me), most people took the ten months that this blog has been derelict to flee to greener and more regularly updated pastures. So, to those of you who may be or are interested in my blog and I know that, I will be sending you emails with links to this post to let you know what is going on.

Great to be back.

Spherical Time (February 26, 2008)

P.S. Speaking of readership: This article by Michelle Sagara feels sort of on topic. Via Whatever, although I read her blog regularly too. I just checked his blog first this morning.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lex and Lia: Three Factions

They held the memorial on the third day, appropriate for someone that had risen to the rank of Matron in such a powerful Coven.

Bliss, as usual, refused to oversee the ceremony, which meant it was up to the Maiden, Belle Aldecott, to run things.

Belle was relatively new to the coven though, just having moved from Boston, and her training was mostly theoretical. She had to read the memorial and the spirit convocation from a book, and didn't add a personalized epigraph to it. Several of the other coven members looked uncomfortable with the formality of the ceremony when this was a woman that they'd known for years.

Bliss smiled as she stood just outside of the glade. It wasn't any personal resentment against Bybreak for dying, Bliss always smiled.

Mistress Greenwood approached her glaring fiercely, but not doing a very good job. Bliss was substantially more threatening than the thin, bitter looking Greenwood could ever hope to be, and she would smile the entire time.

"There was nothing that you could have done?" Greenwood hissed. She wasn't the first to ask, but she would likely be the last. There were few others in the Coven that could stand up to Bliss, even if she wasn't actively trying to be threatening.

Bliss shook her head.

"Say it."

"There was nothing more I could have done to save Bybreak from herself," Bliss said happily.

Greenwood tilted her head, tasting the words, trying to find a lie but there was nothing there to find.

"And the boy."

Bliss turned her attention full onto Greenwood, who shrank back suddenly, as though Bliss' big white teeth in her toothy smile sent forth a chill.

"What about the boy?" Bliss inquired.

Greenwood opened her mouth, closed it, and finally asked, "Are we going to search for him?"

There was a long pause.

"No," Bliss said. "We're going to use him for bait."


Mr. Lo sat quietly in the shadows of the hotel lobby. In Las Vegas so many people lived in artificially lit Casinos nearly all of the time that it was easy to forget that there was daylight just beyond the thick walls. Inside, day and night meant close to nothing.

It was so easy for vampires to blend in, to sit and gamble with their heightened senses in the false twilight. To enjoy a floor show and then vanish into the tunnels that connected the various hotel properties to each other and several of the vampire's holdings.

Lo liked to sit and watch the people come and go. A few were happy, having just won money or attended a wedding, and some were saddened by losses at the tables or waking up to find that they'd enjoyed too many free drinks the night before.

He wore a suit but people's vision slid right over him. If he was important, he wouldn't be sitting in the lobby of a hotel by himself and he certainly wouldn't be relaxing and reading a paper. The few people that could recognize him would not disturb him unless it was vitally important.

So when his secretary Miriam appeared, he put down his paper at once.

Miriam was tall and blond and wearing a silvery evening gown even though it was just past eleven a.m. She looked remarkably beautiful, even compared to the usual Las Vegas girls, and men's heads turned as she walked along. She was young though, only about fifty years dead, and she still had something of the predator to her. The men looked, but discreetly, and no one dared to approach her.

"Sir," she said softly as she approached, and then sat delicately on the chair beside him. "I got a report from . . ." She looked around. "From our friend with the Ladies."

"About the death of their Matron?"

She nodded. "A name came up. One that I think you might recognize." She took a slip of paper from her slim valise, and held it out.

Lo looked at it and frowned. That was deeply disturbing.

"The wolves haven't reported seeing him in the area that they're patrolling for us," he said.

"It happened to the West, in the Executive Airport annex. He's on the move, obviously, but he seems to be out of our area for the time being."

"Sue said that he was last seen in the presence of One of the Five."

"Ah," said Miriam. "I have more on that as well. Our same friend says that the incident that happened at the Coven house on the 26th involved both that one and also him," she said as she gestured with the slip of paper.

Lo tried not to let his surprise show. "I thought that one of the two attackers died in that incident. And if the boy killed their Matron he must have been the one that survived the attack."

Miriam nodded slowly as Lo's undead mind churned.

"Soraperion was not the weakest of the five," he said at last, softly. "And so far the boy has survived encounters with two full vampires and Mistress Bliss twice. And he killed the Matron of the Coven during one of those encounters."

"Do you think that the boy is a trap?" Miriam asked.

"For whom? Me? Bliss? The Ladies in general? The only faction left unaffected is the Wolves, who seem to have had remarkable luck avoiding such a problematic person so far. If you'll remember what happened at our last meeting, it would seem that William is already trying to bait the Ladies on one front. Why not another?"

"Should we let this take its course then?"

Lo shook his head. "Not necessarily. The Ladies have uncommon influence in this dark city. If we have judged the game correctly we may be able to turn these machinations to our advantage in the long run." He thought for a moment. "Cancel the Wolves' patrol of our area, but double the lookout of our own thralls around the Southwest section. Call for a Family conference, in the usual place, for the day after tomorrow."

He picked up his paper again and Miriam, always so good at reading people, took her clue to leave, followed by the adoring stares of several men.


Mohan woke late, rolled out of his elaborate bed, and slipped on his calf skin slippers.

Michael was outside the door, waiting for him. He'd slept through his alarm: he knew that, but he hadn't expected Michael to be here already.

There were no clocks, mechanical or electric, inside of his bedroom. The buzzing of electric devices sometimes bothered his sensitive hearing.

He dressed quickly, stepped outside, and took the proffered watch, wallet and cell phone from Michael. He checked the time and found that he was indeed quite late.

"Breakfast with the Marcandos?"

"I delayed it until tomorrow."

"The business reports?"

"I have them."

They made their way downstairs. Miss Chi-Wong was waiting patiently in the limo. As always, she looked absolutely flawless and completely unflustered by Mohan's late appearance. Sometimes Mohan suspected that she wore her makeup and a suit to bed.

"There has been a delay in the most recent cocaine shipment, of course," she said. "And the witches are already looking for a replacement for Bybreak."

"Wonderful," Mr. Mohan responded. "Have we heard anything else?"

Chi-Wong shook her head.

"That is interesting," Mr. Mohan said. "Bybreak was definitely a calming influence on the Coven, especially with Bliss running roughshod over the rest of them."

"They'll come, eventually." Michael mumbled.

"But when?" Mr. Mohan said. "That's the question. We have a deadline, after all."


Friday, February 22, 2008

Recent Thoughts From Online Chats

First, before I get into the rest of this post, I would like to point out that my absolutely hilarious little brother gave me permission to post a few of his communications from his travels and from his time in Iraq. I've created a whole separate little sub blog here:

Pocket Lint Communications

There are about 40 letters and other works up, and if he ever sends me more then I'll let you know when I update it.

Unlike me, he is brilliant and hilarious. If I could figure out how to get him to write a book, he'd make millions, or at least thousands. We joke about how both my father and I are aspiring writers, and since my brother isn't, he stands the best chance of being published and making a lot of money.

Okay, I've been having some long chats online recently, and I have some things that I want to share from them. The rest of this post is sort of not safe for the more sensitive members of my family. Just to warn you.

First, I discovered a bizarre series of videos on YouTube. They're the "behind the scenes" videos from an amateur gay porn studio. They're all safe for work, contain no sex or nudity, but it's sort of interesting to watch the guys laugh and joke around with each other.

Or just eat chips. There's one video that's just a porn star eating chips. Fifteen seconds of it. I think they're Lays, if that makes it funnier.


The general feeling of these clips reminds me of "America's Next Top Model" or "Make me a Super Model." There's lights, cameras, and the guys are taking direction. If you couldn't see what the pictures were being taken of, and the director wasn't offering explicit direction to the models, I sort of suspect that it would be hard to differentiate the amateur porn video from the high fashion photo shoot.

Anyway, I mentioned these videos to a straight friend online, and he had a few comments. First, I mentioned that the behind the scenes clips are funny, but the actual videos rarely are. For some, I said, reason gay folk rarely like comedy while watching hot guys going at it.

On the other hand, I do like to see some personality. Yeah, I would be attracted to them physically anyway, but seeing them laugh and joke makes them more than just a pretty face, or behind, or whatever.

After some discussion, I realized that I'd been incorrect in my original opinion that gay guys don't like comedy porn. Two of the big winners of GayVN awards recently have been comedies, "The Hole" a spoof of the horror movie the "The Ring" and "The Intern" which is a spoof of the "The Office" television show. There have even been straight comedy porns, although the only one that I can think of off the top of my head will probably get this blog listed as adult content if I mention the name.

After that, we talked about straight gay porn actors. He seemed surprised that I thought that many of the guys seen in the behind the scenes videos are probably straight. I pointed out that this particular studio (although it's certainly not unique in this regard) features a lot of presumably straight guys to appeal to a certain demographic of gay guys (that includes me, incidentally).

I pointed out that in some situations, even if these guys were actually gay, they'd have to pretend to be straight in order to maintain fan interest in them. After all, if they're gay, then watching them isn't nearly as titillating as it would be if they're really interested in women and just convinced to have sex in front of the camera for money. It sort of implies to all of the gay guys out there that all those hot straight guys would be gay, if the right circumstances came up. (Link is slightly NSFW, a few pages in.)

This creates an interesting paradox in which gay people have to pretend to be straight in order to do well in gay porn, essentially forcing them back into the closet. You'd think that this industry would be relatively gay friendly, but what does it say when stars in gay porn have to pretend to be straight to do well in the industry (or at least, in this part of it)?

My friend noticed that one of the photo shoots played on a fairly menial masculine theme: a painter on a ladder. He wanted to know if masculine themes were the norm in gay porn, and I responded that they are.

Mainstream gay porn actors are muscular straight-acting men. The stuff featuring stereotypically feminine, thin, or overweight guys is about as popular in gay porn as masculine, rail thin, and overweight women are in straight porn. It sells, it just doesn't sell the same way the mainstream stuff does.

Personally, I think this sort of skews the perspective on the gay community you get from porn more than it does even for straight porn. You get a serious distortion in physicality and body type in both, and also a serious distortion on how easy it is to have sex with a random stranger, but on the gay side you also get a serious distortion involving a sort of personal characterization. You won't see a lot of lisping men with floppy wrists in gay porn, even if the actors have lisps and floppy wrists in their normal, everyday, homo lives.

The problem is, I don't necessarily think that we need more effeminate men in porn. There isn't something that we can change on the production side that will suddenly change gay people's taste in porn. As Dan Savage often points out, we like what we like. Suppressing it doesn't make it go away, it just makes it more valuable as demand far outstrips supply.

My final thought about porn was this: there is never any truth in it. No model uses their real name, they're often filmed in ubiquitous rented houses and hotels, they use Viagra to induce erections, and the use makeup to minimize any skin problems, and they use men that are better looking than 99% of the population.

So, perhaps that's why I like to see a glimpse of the behind-the-scene truth to the movies. Seeing some sliver of truth to what glossy image is portrayed by the (other) camera is interesting, and strangely exciting by way of its unusual and forbidden nature. You aren't normally asked to connect with the stars, you're asked to objectify and fetishize them.

There's a link between this conversation and the next one, which has to do with self-image.

The stereotypical feminist, whether a real person or not, apparently argues against the internalization of societal values of beauty, especially when you find yourself looking bad by comparison. To accept that all women should be blond size 2s with size DD boobs can seriously impact a woman's self worth if you don't fit those measurements for beauty.

Thus, the argument is that pornography (and pop culture in general) promotes unrealistic views of women and should cease to do so. The problem with this is something that I mentioned in passing above about gay porn: when realistic people are utilized, the interest in the final product decreases. So, despite the best efforts of our theoretical feminists, selling sexuality through highly idealized body types continues to be mass produced and marketed. And it sells very well.

Only a few years ago, back when I was in my first college, I can remember feeling bad about the kind of men that I was attracted to (Tall, blond, with the body of a greek god, see any Abercrombie and Fitch quarterly) because I thought that it was wrong of me to be attracted to someone purely due to their physical appearance. After all, that sort of attraction is very shallow, and I've always been told that it's the mind and personality that should matter most.

In a conversation with a gay friend he said something similar to this, about how his physical self-esteem was low and that he puts a greater premium on personality than on physical attraction.

Over the last few years, I've come to disagree with that. I don't think that it's fair to discount physical attraction.

Switching back to our feminists arguments, I agree that women shouldn't be held to the same physical standards as models, actresses, and porn stars, but I don't think that gutting the porn industry is the answer. Just like kids playing video games don't think that they're actually vital soldiers invading Normandy in 1945, men who watch porn understand that their enjoyment is based on a fictional and fantastic portrayal.

They don't necessarily loose interest in their wives and girlfriends after watching porn, you know.

Now, if they're exhorting those same women to put themselves through the pain of looking like that when they don't want to, that's a problem. In my book, it's just a form of emotional abuse, and that should be stopped. But there's a deep division between portrayal and demanding that women (and men) live up to the same standards as the most common porn shoot.

Thinking back about my three and a half relationships, none of the guys involved looked like porn stars. None of them had a six pack. All of them have been Hispanic or Latino. However, despite the fact my taste in porn runs to white men with six packs that never stopped me from being interested in the guys that I'm dating.

Yeah, real relationships are based on personality and connection and I can't deny that, but you shouldn't deny physical attraction just because it isn't based on the higher minded connection of personality.

I suspect that this is part of the puritan values left over from the foundation of the United States. There's a certain fear of physical, lustful attraction that I think is silly. It might not be the highest form of connection that you can reach with someone else, but as someone whose connections with other people tend to be on the tenuous side already, I don't think that the solace that a meaningless, shallow, lurid relationship can provide is without merit.

In fact, I'm not willing to discount any relationship or encounter that offers something, however small. Just because sex with someone offers a few fleeting moments of chemical induced happiness, it can still be a positive experience. It's when two people have differing understandings of what a particular act conveys that problems arise.

Of course, that's a separate conversation altogether.

Update: It turns out that a few of us had the same idea. Aside from Jesse Santana, the gay porn star who posted about not being a rent boy, Mason Wyler, one of my porn star crushes has a really interesting post that addresses some of the points made in the first part of this post.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008


First, let me just say that Jumper the movie is not Jumper the book. They are separate and distinct mythologies and stories, and except for the concept of teleportation and a couple of the names they have almost nothing in common.

I first read Jumper years ago, when I checked it out from the La Farge branch of the Santa Fe public library system and liked it so much that I went out and bought it.

The premise of the book is sort of a subversion of The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. In Bester's novel nearly everyone can teleport and it has replaced cars as the most common form of personal transport. In the Jumper novel, only Davey can, and no one has ever heard of someone else that shares his ability.

The movie is sort of in the middle. Davey is not unique, but the power of teleportation isn't nearly universal either. He is one of a select few, one in a billion, that is not limited by the need to walk or drive or take a plane when he wants to travel. He can teleport from place to place whenever he wants to, limited only by the necessity of having previously visited a location before he can teleport there.

In the movie there's a new twist that wasn't in the book; men called Paladins that are religious fanatics that are determined to wipe out jumpers, the people that can teleport. Davey avoids their attention for a long time, but they eventually track him down and begin to hunt him, setting up the conflict at the heart of the movie.

I was ambivalent about this addition when I walked into the movie theater, but the screenplay really manages to integrate these murderous men in black well. They're a little vague about what exactly their religious beliefs are based in (Christianity? Islam? Judaism? Buddhism?) and how they came about, but they really manage to move the plot of the movie along. Interestingly, the Paladins replace terrorists as the antagonists which shocked me. After all, terrorism is a really hot topic at the moment, and in the novel Davey's concentration is on plane hijackings. Ah, well, perhaps in the sequel.

The cast is actually very, very high profile, and they all do their jobs excellently. Samuel L. Jackson, Hayden Christiansen, and Diane Lane all play central characters. The British jumper Griffin is played by Jamie Bell (of Billy Elliot fame), and he steals every scene that he appears in. Or perhaps that's because I have a crush on him. Either way, he's great.

Only two thing bothered me about the characters. Samuel L. Jackson's Roland had limited characterization, leaving him a bit two dimensional. The second was Millie, played by Rachel Bilson, who doesn't ask how he survived the apparently fatal accident that allowed him to leave home when she sees him again and then later agrees to leave the country with a man that she hasn't seen in years. Those two little bits of character stupidity strain credibility, and both could have been covered with a minute worth of scenes in which we see Davey charming her as they sit alone in her closing sports bar.

Also, just a note about Hayden Christiansen: He's still a little whiny, but if he hadn't been in Star Wars, you probably wouldn't even notice that. He manages to show depth of character, express realistic feeling, and his dialog isn't the stunted mess that Anakin Skywalker had. He wasn't brilliant, but for a science fiction action flick he was more than competent. If you read it differently in another review, I suspect that the critic is being biased by his previous role.

The effects and the setting are brilliant, just like you would expect from a big budget science fiction movie. If they'd taken the novel's cue, the effects would be much less impressive, as Davey doesn't even make a popping sound when he teleports. The movie's bursts of air and water are much more effective for a screen version.

Altogether, this movie really works and is very well produced. It doesn't try to hard to force the plot together: the action flows naturally from the situations. As I said, it isn't the book, but it doesn't try to be. It has it's own center of being, and it understands that and follows it. I really enjoyed it, and I will certainly buy it when it comes out on DVD.

Kudos to the movie makers, and to Steve as well.

If you haven't seen it, go!

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Friday, February 15, 2008

A Happy Valentine's Day

So, yesterday was a very long, very complicated day which demands a very long , very complicated post followed by a movie review. I think I'm going to divide it into blocks of time, just so that it's easier for me to manage my thoughts about it.

First, I woke up in Albuquerque at my brother's house at 6:30 a.m. and went to a mediation with my lawyers over the whole broken neck thing.

7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mediation: So, I learned something today that I didn't know. The woman that ran the red light and hit me (and broke my neck) is a former Buddhist nun. She's been having horrible problems since the accident because she was absolutely devastated by what she's done. She told me that she had nightmares and wasn't able to drive for about a year after the accident.

She asked to be able to speak with me alone, to apologize, and I agreed. She was crying, and told me how upset that she'd been about disrupting my life, and basically broke down. I couldn't think of anything to say at first, but I finally told her that she had to promise me that that she would work at forgiving herself. I said "everything is going to work out," but I'd slipped into lawyer mode and I just couldn't come up with something comforting that didn't sound like admitting fault.

I can't hate her anymore though. I just can't. She suffered too.

And then there was that conversation that we had, alone in that room. Heaven help me if I ever forget that conversation. It made everything that happened at IIDB feel like a win.

I brought four books. Over the seven hours that I was there I probably could have finished two of them, but I only finished off Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. It's odd because that's a book that I really hadn't heard anyone talk about, but I think that it's definitely one of her best works. I did manage to start Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archives though, so I got some good horrors of the deep laughs from that.

And then, around 2:15, we finally settled. Yes, I covered my medical bills, and I'm glad it's over. Finally, finally, finally. I'm still worried that I made the wrong decision, even though my lawyers and my mother agree that it was the right one.

I didn't think it would be over, but it is.

Let me just point out how wrenching negotiating for this money was. I'm not a good negotiator, but the guy on the other side was just jerking us around. He was good, but the mediator wasn't really conveying what my lawyers wanted to convey from him. My lawyer was giving her cues about how to say x-y-z, but she was just ignoring him. The opposing (i.e. insurance) lawyer was jerking us around, and it probably would have been better for us if we'd allowed our numbers to do the talking instead of the mediator.

I think that the reason that I'm mostly worried/convinced that I made the wrong decision is because I feel that my side didn't negotiate well. When you're on the side that has the edge, you need to push the other side out of their comfort zone. They had one up card and one reserve card, and they played really conservatively, inch by inch, in a style that allowed them to walk away without a clear victory, but without the huge losses that the opposing lawyer was there to prevent.

Perhaps if I'd sent the mediator along with one of my shoes and instructions to hit it on the desk we would have done better.

Hindsight, you know? It'll kill you every time, and it was potentially enough money to change my life. I still hope that it will, even though it's a lot less that I think we could have played for.

2:30-5:00 Hanging out with Jeff and his roommate recovering and trying not to cry: His roommate is really cute, and he's good at Halo & Call of Duty 4 as well. He was totally beating down on both of those games. Yeah, I'm not much of a first person shooter person, but those games on the XBox 360 look amazing. During this time I recovered from some of the shock that I felt about finally having settled my case.

5:30-7:30 Dinner with Pam and Jeff at Flying Star: Pam drove down all the way from Colorado to come to Jumper, which is based on a book that Steven Gould, one of our instructors at Viable Paradise, wrote. I've been promoting the movie to almost everyone I meet, and I've been looking forward to it for a weeks.

The even more cool thing is that Steven lives in Albuquerque, so he was going to the opening night showing of the movie as well with a huge group of friends and acquaintances. To be able to say that you went to the movie with the guy that wrote the book is a fairly respectable bragging point, and both Pam and I jumped at the chance to represent at the premiere.

I knew that he and a slew of others were going to go to Tuscanos, a Brazilian restaurant, after the movie, but because of the Mediation I hadn't eaten anything of substance all day so I already knew that I wanted to eat prior to the movie. Thus, I ended up with a very good Cobb salad. Hooray.

Pam has kept in much closer contact with the other VPXI alumni, so it was nice to hear what's been going on. I thought that I missed a bit because I was sick, but there seemed to be a lot more that I had either forgotten or missed out on, and I have to wonder about the way my head works some times. Pam is basically the preeminent Anne McCaffrey fan in existence, which is something that I did not have the faintest clue about from Viable Paradise. I mean, I suspect that it was mentioned, but I had no idea of the awesome depths to which her fandom goes. By comparison, my deep commitment to some of my favorite authors is purely dabbling.

If I ever have a fan like her, I will know that I've made it.

7:30-9:00 Jumper: I liked it. I really honestly did, and that's not because I'm going to send Steve a link to the review blog when I post it.

9:00-11ish Dinner at Tuscanos: So, just before the movie started, I saw a gentleman with salt and pepper hair sitting down with his wife. I'm not very good with names and faces, and I'd already been confused once, so I decided that I very much needed to make sure that it was in fact S.M. Stirling that was sitting there in the theater. I went down to talk with Laura, sidled up to her, and in a near whisper I asked her if that was S.M. Stirling, and laughingly said "I've confused him with George R. R. Martin before."

She looked at me and said, "You don't know George?" Then she looked up about four rows from where we were standing and says "Hey George! This is Ben, he'll meet you later!"

I'm not religious, but the best description that my generation uses to describe how I felt at that moment was: O.M.G. In all of the mindless valley girl splendor that phrase implies.

Absolutely extreme fandom alert. My copy of A Game of Thrones was left in Iraq with the marines by my little brother and I haven't yet replaced it, preventing me from rereading the series recently, but it's still the fantasy series at the moment.

After the show, I was trying to figure out the logistics of the situation. Jeff, Nick, and er . . . Nick's girlfriend (darn it, I'm doing really badly with names today) had driven up with me, but I had decided that I was now massively interested in staying for dinner. They volunteered to go back to school by bus, thus allowing me to indulge in a little bit of serial fan worship of a few of my favorite authors. Thank you all so much. I freaking owe you.

Pam and I wandered into Tuscanos. Since both of us had anticipated eating early, neither of us had really anticipated eating after the movie as well, and we weren't part of the 60 person reservation that Steven made at the restaurant. We mutually decided that we should hang around and see if there were any seats left before diving in.

At around this time I was standing near a table where it looked like Laura and Steve might sit, and a woman is looking up at us. She stands up from her seat and starts making conversation with us. I don't remember what the conversation started out as, but my first thought was that she was probably Laura's mother.

Then she introduced herself as Joan . . . Saberhagen.

No offense to Mr. Martin or Mr. Stirling, but of the local New Mexico authors, Fred Saberhagen is probably my favorite. I've got an entire little section of my shelf that contains all eightvolumes of The Lost Swords, The Complete Book of Swords, An Armory of Swords (merely edited by him), Merlin's Bones, and the "Saberhagen: My Best" collection of short stories. And that doesn't even scratch the surface of what he's written. He is awesome.

My eyes just absolutely lit up for a moment, and I pumped Joan Saberhagen's hand, and I gushed for just long enough that it suddenly hit me that he'd recently died.

Darn it.

Darn it, darn it, darn it.

I offered my condolences, but it must be hard to be put in a position where your connection to someone is your recently deceased husband. I can't even imagine. She looked sad for a moment, but she must have the will of a saint because it was only in her face for the briefest second.

I think it was Joan and Steve himself that suggested to us that it was eventually time to get seats, and that we should go for the seats that we wanted, and I did. The table next to George R. R. Martin was partially empty, and so I drew on my reserve of "You already regret one thing that you've done today, just suck it up and remember that if you don't do this you'll regret it tomorrow" motivation and asked George if we could pull the tables together.

Thus, it came to be that I sat across the table from George R. R. Martin for dinner at Tuscanos. I should have offered to pay, and if I wasn't worried that my debit card would be declined if I tried, I would have.

Next to George sat Pam, and between us was a hilarious friend of Steve's named Gary. On my other side was Parris, a gentleman whose name I immediately lost, and a gentleman whose name I think was Hank.

I, of course, made a complete fool of myself, which I do not for a moment regret. It was blissfully, painfully, embarrassingly funny, and I got to tell my "Are you George R. R. Martin?" "No, he's S. M. Stirling" story to George himself. Yes, I may not have made another meaningful comment for the rest of the night, but that little itsy-bitsy anecdote was worth it.

You have to take pleasure in the small things.

It's odd, I tried to listen to the conversation shooting around across the table for the rest of the evening, but the one thing that really caught my attention was when George said that he had always loved the insanely complicated rescue plans, and that one day he'd have to set up a huge one where one person dresses as the king, another as a knight, and then they swing into the feast on a rope.

This being George R. R. Martin though, he pointed out that everything would have to go wrong. I pseudo-countered, pointing out that if he was the writer, the author would expect everything to go pear shaped. It seems so obvious now, and I wish I'd come up with the obvious conclusion to that line of reasoning: If it was in one of his books, in order to subvert the reader expectations the intricate, complex, and convoluted rescue plan would have to succeed from top to bottom, and then go completely wrong once they thought they were safe.

The guy sitting between Pam and me, Gary, is unbelievably funny though. He was the most interesting dinner companion. He works with GPS systems, although I swear that we made it through dinner without touching on that subject once. It wasn't until later that I found that out.

A note about Tuscano's itself: They have cute waiters. Really cute waiters. With those pale blue eyes and short hair, and everything. Oh, and I find their premise interesting. They've got a salad bar (and it was a good one), but then the waiters traipse around the restaurant carrying kebabs of meat. Bacon wrapped veal, tri-tip steak with various glazes, roasted chicken, spicy sausages, and everything else. If you want some, you get a bit. It wasn't phenomenal, but it was still on the good side. Pam's chocolate hockey puck thing was excellent, for example, and I couldn't get enough of their spicy sausage.

At some point around 11 p.m. I realized that I'd missed a call from my mother. She told me that due to weather I was to "Stay with my brother" and two sentences later "drive right home so that you don't get caught in the storm." As of the time of this writing, a day later, there still ain't no storm, and I don't think she ever managed to fully clarify which of those two orders she actually wanted me to follow.

11ish to 12:30 Champagne at Steve and Laura's: Now, you have to understand that I'm not much of a champagne person. It think it tastes bad, but I think that about nearly everything with alcohol in it, and it apparently was a really expensive bottle of champagne, so I had half a glass, and it was the best that I've ever had, which means that I got it down and I managed to make it stay down.

Upon arrival at Steve and Laura's (and I used to live in the same part of town, actually), I realized that they have more books than I do. Way more books. Way, way more books. I mean, wowsers. I wish I had shelves like that.

We sat around, talked for a while. I told my story about the neck, and for the first time it was a story that is in the past tense. It is something that happened to me and is not still happening to me. It was a really happy evening for me.

I got to see the office, which I now know is famous. I don't get it, I thought I knew the author's online domains, but I was quite wrong about this one. Steve has a blog, and it will be going up on the side bar when I get a chance to move things around. (Note: Ta-dah!)

I did get some pictures though, by the machinations and manipulations of those around me. Two of me, one with George and one with Pam and Steve, are visible at Pam's blog here. There's also one involving the chocolate hockey puck taken of Pam by me.

12:30-2:00 a.m. Driving home: Yes, I finally did drive home, stopping to get gas and use the restroom. It wasn't the drowsiest that I've ever been on the way home, but it isn't an experiment that I'd likely repeat soon.

I just remembered something that I'd forgotten, so I'll mention it here: I was carrying around my (second) copy of Jumper, and got Steve to autograph it. He wrote something really awesome in it: "To [ST], who will write others as good." Awwwwww . . .

And that was my Valentine's day.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Science Fiction Psychiatry

I've been reading a few books recently that take an extremely optimistic view of where psychiatry and psychology were going to lead the human race, and I just wanted to point this out. The few top ones are Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat, A. E. van Vogt's The World of Null-A, Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man and to a lesser extent Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven.

Right, there are some spoilers below for those books.

In Vogt's world, instruction in Null-A (non-Aristotelianism) leads to nearly perfect super men running society. This is sort of a personal problem for me, because I am myself an ethical subjectivist of sorts and while this is sort of the premise of Vogt's Null-A world I don't think that if the entire world embraced my beliefs that we would suddenly fall into a huge peaceful co-existence with each other. Humanity just doesn't work that way.

Vogt's book suggests that once people understand the multifaceted states of gray that exist in even the most clearcut black and white ethics questions they won't have the internal conflicts that characterize humanity today. Thus, properly Null-A people are patently unbiased, non-bigoted, and willing to work together to reach consensus.

The plot revolves around people that have "imperfectly" accepted the null-A philosophy and are thus violent and determined to overthrow the null-A based government to seize power.

In the far future world of Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat, society has progressed to the point where most people are content to live on their planet, do their jobs, and not rock the boat. The Stainless Steel Rat character, James Bolivar diGriz, is an exception to this pacifism and is basically an adrenaline junky that gets off on robbing banks and being one step ahead of the police on any planet he happens to be on.

The first book of the series revolves around his recruitment by law enforcement and then his battle of wits with a brilliant criminal woman and murderer. diGriz is a criminal himself, but he considers anyone who would murder someone else to have a mental problem. At the end of the book he captures her and they "heal" her murderous tendency leaving the "brilliant criminal" part. diGriz then promptly marries her.

Similarly, in Alfred Bester's classic The Demolished Man, one of the main characters spends the entire text attempting to get away with murder in a world with telepathic police. In the end he is finally outwitted by the police, charged and sentenced. Instead of the death sentence, or even prison he is "demolished," his psyche is carefully dismantled, reorganized, and reassembled without the drive to kill. As the book ends one police officer comments to another how sad it would be for society to lose someone intelligent and driven enough to have almost gotten away with murder.

There's also a hint of this in The Lathe of Heaven, in which psychiatry rewrites existence several times over while avoiding the cure to a man's problems. At several points it is implied that the doctor probably could cure the main character, but doesn't. After all, if he doesn't, he gets to control reality for a little longer. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that.

The common thread that I'm grasping at in these books is the optimistic view toward understanding our minds that these stories hold. Just like there was optimism about sentient computer systems with emotion and flying cars, these stories looked at psychiatry and psychology and assumed that some day we would be able to fix nearly any mental issue that we would have.

We haven't gotten there, and the more we learn about the function of the mind, the more hopeless it seems that we'll be able to create miracle cures for mental illnesses and societal problems. We'll probably never be able to reach a perfect state of rationality as described in The World of Null-A, the ability to completely remove bloodlust as per The Stainless Steel Rat and The Demolished Man, and we'll probably never have the ability to solve serious psychiatric difficulties with hypnotism as portrayed in The Lathe of Heaven.

Update: I just thought of another example as well: This Alien Shore by C.S. Friedman. In those books, mental illness is mostly a thing of the past. Only one world has retained any mental issues, and instead of castigating the mentally ill, the differences in brain function are embraced and eventually lead to nearly supernatural abilities and specialized positions, such as the ability to pilot FTL spaceships across the galaxy and break complex codes.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The End of the World Sucks

There is a giant asteroid headed toward earth. What do you do?

I'd probably complain about the impending destruction of the Earth for a while and then go check some S.M. Stirling books out of the library.

I mean, seriously, if it's about the size of Texas, we're basically all doomed. Some people may be able to survive if they're:
  1. In the right place at the right time (i.e. where the asteroid doesn't impact the earth)
  2. Capable of finding the mythical twinkie factory to feed them.
  3. Unaffected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  4. Important enough that people who can arrange for 1 and 2, and find a psychologist that specializes in 3 (i.e. the government) wants you to survive.
I'm not one of the above people, but if I check the S.M. Stirling books out of the library I can probably fake 2 for a while. I'm certainly not a member of 4.

Seriously though, both of the movies on the subject suggest that nuclear weapons are the solution to this scenario. They're not. By the time we detected the asteroid (granting that we detected it before it hit us) it would be much to late to blow it up or change its course substantially. Do you remember how the asteroid split and went just around the Earth in Armageddon? Unfortunately there's this thing called gravity, which means that an asteroid that big and a planet the size of Earth are unlikely to just drift away from each other, especially when they're so freaking close together.

And that's not even counting the momentum of a Texas sized object.

The funny thing is that I'm not a math guy. I can't prove any of this mathematically but it isn't even logical to the most unsophisticated rational mind.

I think the worst thing is when writers (or editors, or producers) say something that sounds good but doesn't make the least bit of sense. There was an episode of Star Trek: Voyager that included a throwaway line about how a certain species' technology allowed them to exist on the surface of a neutron star. Then they fought them with hand phasers. I don't care what the hell the premise behind a phaser is, if these guys can stand on the surface of a neutron star, then no Federation technology is going to be anything more than a pretty light. As I understand it, the energy present on the surface of a neutron star is like standing in the middle of a series of nuclear explosions at the rate of a million megatons per second. Or something like that. As I said, I can't do math, but no one is going to convince me that phasers output more energy than a million nuclear weapons a second.

A neutron star is so powerful that there is no such thing as atomic structure on it. No iron. No lead. No oxygen. A thimble full of neutron star material would be enough to poach the planet Earth. And probably all of the other planets in the solar system too.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Star Trek: Voyager, but when I watch episodes like that one, I just have to cringe. Mistakes like that force anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge out of a willing suspension of disbelief, and the whole episode or movie is completely ruined.

Don't even get me started on "The Core." Some movie executive must have turned to a producer and said "Hey, end of the world movies are popular! Come up with another situation in which the world ends that involves nuclear weapons!" and then they must have hired a hack writer to churn it out in two days.

Good Omens is the best Armageddon story that I've ever read. I desperately wish that I could write something that funny, but I'm more of a dark writer. I fear for the presumed upcoming movie, because it doesn't involve nuclear weapons or hellfire, just a lot of really funny, quirky characters, and I'm worried some idiotic producer is going to demand a Keanu Reeves playing the part of the mindless American savior of the world. You know, like the Matrix. Or Constantine. Or Little Buddha.

The point is, that things that are engaging and well written do better. It's not a sure fire way to make money, but the better that a movie or a television show or a book is, the better the chance it has of making a lot of money. Remember, having a Keanu Reeves style actor isn't a surefire way to make money any more, either.

That's why the Star Wars prequels sucked, incidentally. They were horribly, horribly written, but unfortunately none of the movie executives cared. They knew they were going to make fist fulls of money anyway, so they thought it didn't matter. And, in that specific situation, it didn't.

It saddens me that there isn't a lot more effort put into narrowly averted catastrophic destruction, but today America seems to be infused with the idea that if something is sufficient it is good enough. Really though, we should be reaching and doing our best on every single ounce of demolition, destruction, and apocalyptic horror that we produce.

And that's why I'm voting for Obama.

(Yeah, I'm in a really strange mood today.)

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Worst Thing That I've Ever Done

I know exactly what the worst thing that I've ever done is, and to this day it sort of haunts me.

I don't even know if I am going to let this post go through. This is beyond embarrassing, this is me being a bad person, being evil, and no one wants to let other people see how bad of a person they secretly are. This is one of those things that most people will hide to their dying day.

Here it is: I once told someone that they could count on me, and I gave her my phone number. Then, when she finally called me at 3 a.m., in a bad section of Albuquerque where her car had broken down, begging me to come pick her up, I told her that I was tired and I didn't go.

Geez. You don't know how hard that was to write. It looks so simple and innocuous on the screen now, but I kept pausing, hoping that if I did the words would go away, and what I did would go with them. I shouldn't have to write a story about how much I suck.

(Note: Even now, months after writing this, I want to go back and add some mitigating circumstances to it. I want to modify the language so that it doesn't sound as bad. I want to convince myself that the way I want to remember it is true, and not what I said above.)

Letting down a friend is something cartoonishly evil. That's something that a villain in a movie might do, not a real person. I don't know what I was thinking at the time. I can't justify what I did.

So, of course, now that I know what the worst thing that I've done in my life is, I can beat myself up with it when I want to. When I tell people that they can count on me, I get to dredge up this old memory of when someone couldn't count on me, and it tears me up inside.

I know my friend is okay. Or, at least, that she survived that night. She never trusted me again, and I can't blame her at all. Even the next day, I couldn't believe what I'd done to her, and if I was her, I don't think that I would have ever talked to me ever again.

I tell myself that I won't ever do that again, that if someone calls me and tells me that they need me, I'll go find them no matter what time it is or how tired I am, but I can't be sure. I flaked out once, perhaps I'll flake out again someday. I tell myself that I screwed up once, and that I learned from my mistake, and it won't happen again, but down in my stomach, my conscience is screaming up at me "HOW CAN YOU BE SURE? YOU LET SOMEONE DOWN ONCE, AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN."

Damn it to hell, I hope not. Please don't let me ever let someone down like that again.

So that is, by far, the worst think that I have ever done in my life.

So, what makes me write that? A porn star, of course. Some tabloid claimed that Marc Jacobs was sleeping with porn star Erik Rhodes, and Rhodes refuted that on his blog. Thus, through the general interconnectivity of the internet I find out that Erik Rhodes has a blog and I get a link to it.

(Link is Not Safe For Work or Family) Erik's blog is here. His real name is James.

After the naked picture of him, the first thing that I want to draw your attention to is the "About Me" section, which say (and I quote) "Erik Rhodes[,] Miserable Porn Star with nothing better to do with his spare time."

In one sentence that sums up his blog. Despite his looks, his popularity, his porn star status, he's miserable. He's desperately alone, he's a sex addict, and he's getting hounded by guys that don't know him but want to have sex with him.

I feel just awful for him, but I can't do anything, I couldn't offer to help without that little voice telling me "Even if he trusted you enough to talk to you, you're just going to let him down."

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