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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Taxation WITH Representation Part II

So, last post I covered the basics of a tax system based on the United Way fund allocation model.

It raises some questions – which I will now address.

- Organized crime and the black market

Black markets exist because of government intervention in the market. If you make something illegal and people still want it? They will figure out a way to get it. So make it legal. Put in safety rules and policies to safeguard the public and tax the hell out of the provider and the consumer.

So, on the legalization docket…

- Prostitution (of age)
- Drugs (didn’t we learn anything from prohibition?)
- Euthanasia (think of the industry it would create, the money and energy saved, and the potential win-win for the environment and for those of us who enjoy living?)
-The live organ market
- Adoptions
- Gambling

Are these things victimless crimes? Not under the current system. Could they be? You bet. When you hide things in a closet because they are illegal or because they invoke shame? That’s when the sick and twisted nature of human beings flourishes unchecked (Congressman Foley, anyone?).

I say get it out in the open. Be honest about your nature and human nature. Embrace our real selves. Own up to stuff. Doing so would greatly cut down on the victimization (and criminalization) of women, minorities, and children. If everything is above the table, because there is nothing to be gained by being under it – it would all be out there where we could see it, legislate it, control it and tax it.

At the same time – some things would have to remain illegal – like anything where animals are pitted against one another. The nice thing is – if the above stuff is made legal, law enforcement would have more time to devote to the well-being of all animals and people.

The poor

There are three classes of ‘the poor’ – as I see it:

- The working poor: doing everything they can to keep their heads up
- The lazy poor: doing everything they can to stay on the dole and off someone’s payroll
- The real poor: those who have nothing, due to illness (mental/physical), crime, or victimization.

The latter of these three will always be among us. Some things cannot be planned for or overcome. They must be endured. That said – those who simply can’t support themselves are worthy of help. Always. And any civilized society will see that their basic needs are met and that they not suffer in an unhealthy environment or at the hands of others. For some this is a temporary situation – they just need a leg up. For others, it is a life long condition. In either case they constitute the truly needy and are deserving of our tax dollars. If this is an issue you wish to support… then just check the yes box.

The working poor: Some will argue that what once was the middle class is now the working poor. But a quick reality check will prove that is nothing more than political spin. The reality is: most of us are truly blessed in this country. We have way too much of everything. We have access to way too much of everything. We feel entitled to way too much of everything. The one thing the middle class has become real good at is whining – loudly. The squeaky wheel gets the media attention. The media has a financial reason to give airtime to this group’s grievances, for this group happens to be the ones who can afford to buy (and do buy) their advertisers’ products!

The middle class. They suffer. Oh, really?

They breed. They buy their kids whatever their kids want. They send their kids to schools (private or public) and to college. They drive SUV’s. Many work – very hard. Many want to give their kids ‘everything that they didn’t have growing up’.

Now – hold on – reality check - is that REALLY such a good idea?

It seems to me that being handed everything you want is a good way to teach an individual to have unrealistic expectations regarding the way the world works and what they are entitled to. It blurs the lines between what one needs and what one wants. It creates a generation of even louder whiners. So, let’s for now agree that the working poor does not include the middle class. The middle class, many of which self-identify as the working poor, are poor because of the poor choices they make on a daily basis (credit-card debt, buying a home they cannot afford, buying etc.) and the sense of entitlement their parents instilled in them (little did they know). In short – if you are buying your kids a $200 pair of basketball shoes or are driving an SUV that is less than 5 years old – you are not the working poor.

The real working poor are disconnected from the community as a whole. They need because they lack. They lack access to work that pays well – due to issues of citizenship, lack of education and job skills. They work because they have something the lazy poor do not – pride. They don’t want to be part of the problem – the working poor wants to be part of the solution. So why don’t they get that leg up?

Unfortunately, a lot of unscrupulous employers take advantage of these people. For example: employers who hire illegal aliens for domestic work because ‘they will work cheap’ and will accept jobs that come minus benefits and protection under the law. Or employers who, in order to maintain their profit margin hire such people because without them – they could not stay in business. How many restaurants do you think would still be able to function without those ‘guys’ in the backroom? The same is true of many fast food franchises. These are the people for whom the concept of minimum wage actually exists. Is it any wonder that getting the minimum wage set at a level that people could actually live off of is so difficult to achieve? Most politicians are simply out of touch with what it means to be poor – partly due to the fact that most of the middle class is also out of touch about what it means to be poor. Poor does not mean lazy; poor means trapped - trapped due to domestic violence, citizenship issues, lack of access to decent medical care or lack of education/skills.

As for the lazy poor, they have more in common with the middle class than they do with the working poor or the truly needy. They know how to whine. It’s a skill passed from generation to generation. They know how to work every angle and slide by unnoticed – well, that is until they don’t get something they feel entitled to. Then suddenly they have all the energy they need – to protest, to call attention to the fact that “they ain’t getting’ theirs”.

Many of these people can work, but won’t – because, unlike the working poor – they would rather be the problem than be part of any solution. They simply refuse to struggle. Struggle takes effort they don’t wish to expend. They just want everything given to them. Sound familiar? You see, I have a feeling the suburbs are the new breeding ground for the future lazy poor.

So – what to do with them? To them? For them?

Do we turn a cold shoulder to them? Get rid of the programs that currently support them? Stop building homes and apartment complexes for them to watch T.V. and breed in?

Well… perhaps.

If you don’t have a place to live – you don’t have a place to breed (in theory) – or at least it makes breeding difficult. If only those who could prove a means of support could breed – there would be less of the lazy poor (eventually). Their customs, accepted practices, and ideology of entitlement would die out as their number dwindled. Basically, the only gene pools that would be allowed to flourish are those of working people. This is one of the values this country was built upon – the idea that if you work – you can achieve. Just what that achievement constitutes has been elevated generation by generation. My parents – neither of whom are college educated – now have children who are – children who work in jobs that contribute more to the overall economy and social structure than the previous generations of our family. Hopefully, if my brothers and sisters do not buy into the whole concept of being ‘the working poor’ and truly work up to their potential, then they will support and inspire their children to do as well if not better.

Of course to do this… values would need to be taught… passed down. Which means parents would actually have to spend time with their kids – instead of sitting them in front of the television, or having another parent bus them around to various after school activities. Maybe if parents spent more time with their kids – their kids would not feel the need to ask for a $200 pair of basketball shoes as proof of their parents’ love and parents would not have to work the extra hours to pay for those shoes or buy those shoes just to ease their guilty conscious.

I, for one, do not want to live in a world where a rapper, a rock star, a basketball player, a video game, a movie or any flavor-of-the-month celebrity forms the values of children – which is exactly what those $200 basket ball shoes represent - values.

Instead of values, we teach our children to want. We teach them to want, but do not give them the tools they need in order to earn what it is they want. We also don’t teach them the difference between wanting and needing.

Yes – our consumer-obsessed society is really that messed up. And it’s only getting worse with each generation, each new video game, each new celebrity endorsement, and….

…each pair of $200 sneakers.

Oh… while you read this? Those sneakers were replaced by a new model.

It’s price?

More than our society can afford, trust me.

Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Taxation WITH Representation! Just click yes.

I’d like to propose a new tax system. It’s based on the United Way donation allocation model.

When you pledge to the United Way via corporate donation, there is a space to specify where your money goes. You can actually name the non-profit social service organization you wish to your donation to support.

What if we got to do the same thing with our income tax?

Let’s look at our federal income tax dollars.

Okay – first off, keep in mind that a percentage of your United Way donation is going to go towards supporting the infrastructure of the organization. So the same would be true of our tax dollars. Since it is the U.S. government we are talking about, let’s earmark a good 25% to supporting the infrastructure (with all the government bloat it will probably take 50%, but let’s be optimistic). Then, – just to be on the safe side (pun intended), let’s earmark another 25% towards our national defense fund (it ends up there anyway, right?).

That leaves 50% for us to designate to the programs/causes we wish to support. Don’t want to fund abortions? Then don’t designate – click the no box. Want to keep a woman’s right to receive an abortion legal…. designate it! Don’t believe big corporations should be getting subsidies from the federal government? Click the no box. Like the idea – then designate a percentage of your discretionary tax dollars to it. Feel that the NEA is a piece of crap organization? Click the no box. Believe in supporting artists who urinate into a glass tube and then stick a crucifix in it and call it art? Believe that by supporting such art we will have a better world? Designate a percentage to it.

The thing is… programs that gain support will be supported by people who value what those organizations produce. Those that few or none support? They will go away. Period. Talk about your taxation with representation!

Same goes for our state and city taxes. A certain percentage for infrastructure (government) and a certain percent for police, fire, city services, etc. Want to save the wetlands? Designate to it. Don’t want a new sports arena built with your tax dollars? Click the no box. Have children or planning on having children? Then designate to the public school in your neighborhood. Hate kids? Click the no box. Hate kids, but love public green spaces – designate it for city parks (yes, the kids will benefit, too – but, hey, the rugrats are going to exist so might as well give them green spaces to run in – it will teach them respect for nature).

Then let’s get rid of those complicated loopholes and tax credits. Let’s have a straight tax on everything – except food and clothing. You make a lot of money? Guess what? That makes you privileged. It also gives you a lot of discretionary tax monies to allocate for whatever programs you wish. Plus, then the rich can’t cry that they are footing the bill disproportionately than the rest of us.

And this separation of church and state stuff? What are we afraid of? Let’s tax those church’s! Tax ‘em good! Treat them just like everybody else. Why not? The reason they are tax-free is because of the separation doctrine. So let’s do away with it. I think they would welcome it – aren’t they are always the first to cry foul anytime a Democrat points out when something is in violation of one of its tenants? So – let’s do away with it and tax them the same across the board tax everyone else experiences. And their ministers… they need to pony up, too. No more ministers living a life of extreme luxury hiding behind their crystal cathedrals. That way – if you really want a bronze statue to sit in the lobby of your state capitol building – then designate a portion of your funds for it.

You want to support a nativity scene on the lawn of your state capitol building? Designate to it. Want churches to teach creationism and abstinence in our public schools? Designate to it. Don’t want any of your funding to go to religious-affiliated programs? Just check the no box.

Now, just to make sure that no one skews the system too much by allocating all of their discretionary tax dollars for a pet project (like say, a bronze statue) people will only be able to allocate a certain percentage per project. Let’s say a ceiling of 10% and a floor of 5%. That way you can support 10-20 causes. Don’t want to make that many decisions? Then just check the put-funds-where-needed box – I’m sure the government won’t have any trouble figuring out how to spend your money (they sure don’t now).

Seems simple enough. So why aren’t we doing this?

But what about the poor?

Yes, what about them?

Who will help them?

You, if you so choose. But – you will get a real voice in just how you wish to help them.

If you feel that the world benefits from single mother’s pooping out babies and living on welfare - then designate your tax dollars to it. Feel that a short-term transitional welfare to work program is a better option? Designate to it. Hate the poor? Click that no box. (It’s okay – Scrooge would have in a heartbeat.)

What about the disabled?

Have a loved one who is disabled? Designate to programs that support them.

What about….?

Hey, get with the program, here – designate or check the no box. Come on, already. It really is that simple.

I love this program. It will eventually right all of the wrongs in our society. Our society will become what the majority wishes it to be… and in doing so – certain behaviors will no longer be tolerated and all will truly be represented – we will vote with our wallets!

But gay people and other ‘fringe’ elements will suffer.

No… not really. Not the ‘fringe’ elements that actually work for a living – actually contribute something to society. In fact, I think you will find that once gay and lesbians get a say about where their tax dollars go – you will then learn just how many of us there actually are in this country. That, and just how much money we make.

The thing is… the only ones that will suffer are those that refuse to get with the program. But then they are usually the same ‘ones’ who have refused to get with any program. Their numbers will eventually dwindle, because that kind of behavior will not be tolerated. What do I mean by ‘that kind of behavior?’

Laziness. Laziness as a lifestyle will become a thing of the past.

There’s one other upside to this designation of tax dollars that I should mention. Taxes will now become something everyone looks forward to doing. Everyone will find the time – because it’s their money and they get to say how they want to spend it!

Okay.. there’s more to this post coming – think about the following: Organized crime and other illegal businesses. Think about illegal drugs and prostitution. Think about those that fall between the cracks.

I’ve got more answers for you. So stay tuned.

By the way… I am really curious to here what you have to say about my new taxation proposal. Just use the comments button below and poke holes in my theories. Go ahead. It’s what they are there for!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Water Wings Not Optional

A couple of lesbians posted in the M4M room at Craigslist last week. They were looking for a sperm donor so one of them could birth a child. They explained that their previous donor (they already have one child) was no longer available due to medical issues. They didn't want their current child to grow up alone. I replied.

But I doubt they liked what I had to say.

Basically I told them they were bucking the system - that the universe had made them lesbians for a reason - to get their genes out of the gene pool. Which sounds a tad harsh, I know, but biology/nature is, indeed, nothing if not harsh.

You see, at one point, I, too, wanted children. I was willing to ignore my gay self in order to procreate. I wanted to get married (to a woman) and have children. But, despite my best efforts (yes, I had several serious relationships with women), it never came to pass. And, now, I'm so glad that it never did. I fear I would have been a horrible parent. (But not for the reasons the Christian right would have you believe.)

I am now of the opinion that one of the reasons the universe chooses to make people gay is to remove their genes from the gene pool in order to stem the growth of the population. This is not a bad thing - especially not when one looks at the big picture. When I think of the state of the world, this world that is to be the legacy we leave for future generations to deal with, I am SO grateful to be gay and to not have procreated.

I would have been heartbroken to see my offspring inherit this planet.

One would hope that the drivers of all those SUV’s and obnoxious, fuel-guzzling Dodge trucks would share my concern for the earth’s future. But I have a feeling they are the same selfish bastards helping to overpopulate it.

Then, there are the sheer numbers of people pooping out babies without the means to take responsibility for them. Babies born into dysfunction will in turn carry on that family’s dysfunctional traditions. As long as we, as a society, subsidize parents who fail to have the means to support, raise and care for their children, we, the people, are just encouraging these cycles to continue.

Our compassion becomes a means of enabling bad behavior, and worse... the destruction of our planet.

That is why I don’t think lesbian and gay men should contribute to this problem by breeding. Of course I also don’t think our gay tax dollars should go to fund public schools for children we aren’t sending there either. Or to subsidize their food stamps. Or their medical care. If anything - families with children should be taxed MORE -not given a yearly rebate. They should be taxed - not rewarded, not cut more slack (aren’t they slack enough?).

The breeding practices of these irresponsible parents are placing burdens on our society and our ecology - why shouldn’t THEY have to pay for it?

Now, saying that lesbians and gay men should not breed is not the same as saying they should not be parents. Quite the contrary -they make the best parents - especially if they have worked through the whole sexual identity challenge. Adversity and struggle helps develop great problem-solving skills – a necessary skill when raising children.

Adoption is a great option. There are tons of children who would benefit greatly from the loving home a gay/lesbian couple could provide. And if they should opt to adopt, then, like those heterosexuals that choose to breed, they would have to kick into the kiddy-tax kitty.

But the logic behind all this will fall on deaf ears. Those who need to hear this message won’t be able to due to the fact that they have had to turn up the volume on the television set, in order to drown out one of their kids who is screaming uncontrollably, again. Heaven forbid they should miss an episode of Jerry Springer or Cops and actually supervise their brood.

These parents will stubbornly insist on pursuing their own desires in spite of their children (literally), just as gay and lesbians will stubbornly continue to buck mother-nature’s intent (literally).

I believe that every time we ignore the edicts of the universe/nature and put our own desires before the welfare of the world as a whole - we pay for it. We are punished, and we create more problems for ourselves and those with whom we share this planet. The world continues to produce more unwanted, poorly-educated, poorly-supervised children who go on to live less than spectacular lives. These adults go on to produce more toxic gasses which deplete the ozone which hastens global warming. These adults go on to create tons and tons of garbage -and not just the type that ends up as landfill, but also that of a cultural nature that eats into our collective, ever-dulling grey matter. These adults also go on to poop out more children which in turn grow up and do as their parents did -in ever increasing numbers.

Have you ever grown bacteria in a Petri dish? The bacteria’s population size starts out small. However, as it grows larger, it consumes more and more of its environment. Also keep in mind that, even in the early stages of development, the members of that population not only consume their environment, but also end up poisoning it with the waste their consumption creates. This population grows exponentially until such time that its numbers exceed the environmental resources to support said population.

And when it reaches that apex?

It dies.

It all dies.

There is always a price for such stubbornness. For such arrogance. For such selfishness.

Well, kids, in the immortal words of Peter Gabriel? Here comes the flood.

I hope you all brought your water wings.

Friday, August 25, 2006

When is a life unworthy of common decency and compassion?

Disposable music... and now disposable pets?

Disposable pets?

I realize that due to the increased media scrutiny and our ever increasing population that the number of reported incidents of animal abuse seems to be at an all time high. Examples:

A central Florida woman allows 21 horses to live in filth while starving them.

Lancaster, PA – a sick dog is thrown away like so much trash – in a dumpster no less.

In Long Beach, CA – an employee at K-Mart beats a Chihuahua that has wandered into her store. For 20-30 minutes she pursues the dog, beating it with a 20 lb. weight-lifting bar, fracturing one of its front legs. She then places the dog – still alive and breathing (raggedly) into a plastic bag. The dog dies and she is arrested…

In Syracuse a man is arrested after putting his girlfriend’s cat in a pillow case and throwing it from a moving vehicle.

Why here in Minnesota in just the past two months:

Five meerkats from the MN Zoo are put to sleep after one of them bit a 9 year-old girl. The parents refused to allow their daughter to be treated for rabies, so all 5 meerkats had to be put down in order to perform the necessary autopsies to make sure that none had rabies (they didn’t). It seems the girl had to work hard to get her hand inside the meerkats' enclosure. She crawled over a driftwood barrier, climbed up more than 3 feet of artificial rock and reached over 4 feet of Plexiglas to get her arm into the exhibit. Because meerkats stand just a foot tall on their hind legs, she had to dangle her hand very low for an animal to bite her finger. (Hmmm - Where were the parents when their precious child was sticking her hands where they didn't belong? Should they be held liable – for the cost of replacing the meerkats and charged with child neglect? Hmmm.)

A woman finds 14 Chihuahua puppies in a trash bag in a ditch. Ten of the dogs are dead, but four survive. She adopts three of them and her sister adopts the fourth one. (Did anyone bother to dust the trash bag for prints?)

When a man discovers that his prized pit bull has given birth to mix-breed puppies – he immediately kills of all the puppies by breaking their necks. The police are summoned and he is arrested.

Country singer Darryl Worley kills a tame, caged black bear named Cubby with a bow and arrow, after purchasing the animal from its owner for $4,650 for this expressed purpose. He shoots the animal in its cage, and then drags its carcass about in order to concoct a video depicting him killing the animal in the wild. They go so far as to tag the animal and register it with the MN DNR as a wild kill. Worley and the former owner are arrested.

So what’s wrong with these people? Who raised them with such disregard for the lives of animals? What type of punishment should they receive? Who's REALLY at fault? The animals? The humans? God?

I realize there are a number of people who think that animal activists are a bunch of nut cases. When questioned about the killing of the Chihuahua in his store, the manager of the K-Mart store told the person inquiring that there are real issues in the world they should worry about - like people living in poverty and children starving to death. Animal-rights advocates are frequently maligned, thrown into the liberal cesspool along with the tree huggers and PETA members.

It makes it easier to hurl things at them then - like names - like tree hugger and liberal.

So when is a life unworthy of common decency and compassion?
Strangely enough, many of those that are quick to point out the silliness of most animal rights activists are the same people who oppose a woman’s right to abortion. They will quickly point out that the in the bible God clearly gives man dominion over animals – but then the bible, a book written a long, long time ago by – who else – men (self-serving ones from the looks of it), claims a lot of really not-very god-loving things. I frequently ponder just what such people mean when they claim to be Pro-Life. Does that mean all life? The contradictions apparent in such opposing stances are as deep rooted as they are illogical.

On the other hand – the same can’t be said of those who are pro-animal –rights, and pro-choice. Can it?

In order to be fair, yes, we have to take a look at this.

Is such a stance logical? Well, I bet that ninety-nine percent of all animal rights activists believe in the spading and neutering of domestic animals. So obviously they support proactive contraception for animals. I bet they also would love to see shame-free sex education taught in public schools – along with information about contraception for humans. The same cannot be said for those of the Pro-Life persuasion. Perhaps there are some – but not many. I bet the vast majority of Pro-Lifer’s believe that information of a sexual nature should be taught, not by educated instructors, but by the student’s parents – parents like those of that 9 year-old girl who managed, against strenuous odds, to get her hand bitten by those meerkats at the MN Zoo.

Yep – I’m sure parents like that are up to the challenge, all right.

Is it any wonder, in light of such well-thought out stances, that we have children who become adults who then throw a sick dog in a dumpster?

It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where parents were gifted enough to meet all the needs of their children as they grow up. But you see, dysfunction is like a snowball rolling down a mountain – generation after generation – it just grows in size and velocity until one day little Johnny is speeding down the interstate ready to fling his girlfriend’s cat in a pillowcase out the car window. Or the day little Suzy, who is 14 years-old, interrupts dinner to announce that she is pregnant and going to bear the fruit of her 38 year-old crack addicted, meth-producing boyfriend.

Yes, the trials and tribulations and responsibilities of being a parent are just undeniably overwhelming at times. Or so little Suzy will soon discover first hand.

Suddenly contraception doesn’t look like such a bad thing… hmmm?

Just food for thought…

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Disposable Music

There was a time in my life when a song could rule my every waking moment. Music infused my life – each happenstance a musical cue – it was a soundtrack complete with montages, chases, tender moments of realization, and, above all else, the stirrings of love (or lust). The music meant something and the lyrics were potent and important.

This was during a time when the concept of ‘selling-out’ was something no authentic artist would ever consider. The idea of commercializing a song they wrote – had given birth to - was tantamount to the desecration of the holy. True inspiration and revolutionary innovation were made of the mind, blood, body and spirit – not technology. The qualities that made a song resonate across the airwaves for generations were human ones – very human.

But no more.

Now everything is technical. Everything is commercial. Everything is disposable. And, thanks to the practice of sampling – everything old is new again – or so they would like us to believe – but it’s not.

We live in an age of disposable music. Music created in such sheer volume that one song barely has time to register on the cultural horizon before being replaced by something just as marginal, just as meaningless. Music isn’t ‘catchy’ anymore, it’s frequently merely irritating. Yes, it gets under your skin, like ringworm.

When was the integrity of music replaced by commercialization?

It can be traced back to the 70’s. Disco was the first blow to the empire. Not that there weren’t disco songs with integrity – there were tons of R&B-driven, funky grooves to be sure, but at one point the proliferation of disco albums far exceeded the appetites of its audience. I remember seeing discs dedicated to the idea of ‘the disco opera’ incorporating themes like ‘Dracula’ and featuring song titles like ‘Suck, Baby, Suck’. Kitschy now. Anathema then.

The subsequent backlash was huge. Integrity reared its ugly head in the form of a couple of enterprising radio DJ’s who organized the first ‘Disco Sucks’ demonstration whereby a pile of donated disco albums were run over with a steam roller during the halftime of a local baseball game. It was a shot heard round the world. Disco was dead. Integrity was back.

But it didn’t die. It simply changed its name to ‘Dance Music’. And, as with disco, while there is still the occasional undeniable gem (Suzanne Palmer’s ‘Home’ for example), so much of this genre holds about as much cultural significance as Paris Hilton.

The next step in this rampant disregard for the value of music came, not from the artists, but from corporations. During the 80’s we saw the rise of the corporation as svengali, wielding their financial might as a means of controlling artistic expression. Music became product – success a matter of the financial, not the critical.

Clive Davis, once a talent maverick for Columbia records, would now ask that many of the established female vocalists he signed to the Arista label be remolded in order to maximize, not artistry, but selling power. This frequently meant that these women had to turn their backs on their considerable writing talents (Melissa Manchester, Jennifer Warnes) or previous wealth of work (Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick) and submit to the whims and desires of the powers that be in the corporate office in order to obtain financial success. Those that failed to comply and/or flourish were dropped quickly – this being true of men and groups as well. It was - play by our rules or we won’t promote your music. Discord was frequent. So were label changes.

There were exceptions to these rules – chiefly brought about by numerous independent labels – where innovation still ruled the day. Unfortunately these lights of hope were frequently short-lived or extinguished. They either perished due to poor business practices (lack of financing, lack of distribution) or were gobbled up by the major labels in order for the major to glean the artistic glow of the minor. This made way for the age of acquisitions – when even former major players like EMI, Mercury, and Arista would be swallowed whole by conglomerates with faceless names like Universal, Sony, Polygram, and BMG.

But business practices alone would not account for the lack of integrity popular music would succumb to.

The promotion of style over substance created a generation – an MTV generation. Visuals and pyrotechnics substituted for artistry. The gift-wrap became more important than the actual gift.

Technology would also play a part – computers would make it much more affordable and easier to recreate sounds, splice sounds, manipulate sounds. Manipulation of vocal tone, quality and pitch has become an accepted practice. Indeed, now anyone can ‘do it’.

Encouraged by accountants and corporate conglomerated labels – artistry has fallen by the wayside. The concept of ‘selling-out’ is no longer considered such a bad thing. The Beatles catalog, now in the hands of Michael Jackson and those to whom he owes a lot of money, has been licensed to sell cars on television and a ‘Cirque Due So Lame’ touring phenom. Perhaps integrity died on a sidewalk in New York – or perhaps John Lennon would be just like everyone else and go for the gold that buys future security.

The Rolling Stones have begun licensing their music for use in movies and commercials. These are the same artists who once claimed they would rather be dead than be rocking at the age of 40. Hey, Mick? What time is it?

I watch television. I pay close attention to the commercials. If music videos were the great indicators of our cultural mindset in the 1980’s – then commercials are their 2006 equivalent. Goldfrapp is gaining considerable market recognition, thanks to their presence selling some new electronic all-in-one device and promoting the new season of FX’s popular (and admittedly shallow) Nip and Tuck series. Good for them. IPod commercials have broken a number of new acts and created life for songs that otherwise might have fallen through the cracks – sometimes I’m grateful, more often, not.

Yes, way back when… in the sixties – when many a rocker or songwriter mistrusted the establishment and its apparent desire for the commercialization of popular music – these misgivings were much more than mere poses. But alas, everything they once feared has come to pass. Music is now disposable. Little more than background noise to sell product. (For historical reference, please check out the original cover for The Who’s “The Who Sell Out” album). Little more than ring tones. Little more than a vehicle for promotion.

Ahhh, and I remember when we thought elevator music was the ultimate horror when it came to the devaluing of music.

Now where’s that steam roller?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Here comes that oh-oh feeling again...

My accident…

On July 18th I had a mountain bike accident. That evening I lifted weights for an hour. The weather was wonderful so I felt I should take advantage of it. I got my bike ready and set out on a familiar trek – about 5 miles from my home. Near the three-hole golf course there is a gravel/dirt road that leads to numerous bike trails that weave in and out of the woods. I generally avoid the more ambitious trails and stick to the ones I find interesting, but not dangerous. I had been riding for about an hour and a half when I realized that the light was beginning to fade. I had worked that day as well and that, along with the exercise, began to take its toll. I was a little tired.

Straddling my bike, I stood at a fork in the road. To my right was a simple slope of baby grass and black, moist soil; an easy exit to the road that would lead me back to the black top path that would take me home. To my left – a steep hill made of gravel. Its wicked curve and wild unevenness added an extra thrill. In the past I’d carefully gone down this hill, squeezing my breaks gingerly, carefully so as to ease my way safely. Two days before, I had taken this same road full bore and survived. I had been exhilarated by the risk involved and more so when I made it down to the bottom successfully. So I decided to go for it.

I didn’t make it.

I remember missing the groove of the curve and sharply overcompensating to the left – too sharply – the gravel slipped under my tires, and I hit the weeds. Tall grass gone to seed flies past me as I hear a little voice inside my head say… oh-oh.

And then – nothing.

Next thing I remember: I’m walking up a hill with my bike in pitch darkness. It dawns on me that there are people following behind me to my right. I stop short and ask, ‘Where am I?’ A voice from behind says… ‘Just keep walking’. I do. I ask what’s happened. The voice, a bit impatient, says, ‘You’re almost there’.

Later in my hospital bed I realize that at the time, I thought I was in line to go to the afterlife… whatever that might be. I remember moistness on the right side of my face and that I was completely hunched forward, my shoulders felt odd and I could not move my head. I felt the handlebars of my bike for my tee-shirt – yep, it was still there, tied tight.

We reach the top of the slope and I recognize the blacktop path that normally I would take home. There’s a police car. An ambulance pulls up. I say – to no one – that I just want to go home now. Someone takes my bike. I’m led away. Questions. I try answering… I give them a name - the wrong name. I can’t remember phone numbers. They clamp something hard around my neck and lay me down. Again, I request to go home, as I would for the next four hours each time I catch someone’s eye.

I never see my bike again.

The ride in the ambulance. I don’t remember. Much. Into the trauma center. My shorts are cut off me. A whirl of people overhead. X-rays. Pain. Someone tries to remove the brace around my neck – I scream. Pain shooting up over the back of my head. They stop. They slow down. They want to give me morphine. I refuse. I hate that stuff. I ask for a Valium. No one laughs. I keep trying to give them phone numbers. The numbers make no sense. I try to tell them about my dogs who need to be let out – who are alone. I keep asking what day it is. I keep asking what time it is.

I begin to remember… the bike. The gravel. The weeds. Oh, how stupid. Stupid me. What have I done?

Lots of x-rays, a CAT scan, an MIR. Trips on a motorized gurney, trips that eventually make me sick to my stomach. They roll me on my side and I hurl all over the walls. I forgot to eat dinner. What time was it? Phone numbers. No water? A wash clothe to my lips. No water. Maybe surgery. The whirl of people resides. There’s a gun shot victim on the other side of the curtain. They scramble away. Judy stays with me. She cleans my face. Nasty. Dirt. Grass. Judy is nice. Very kind.

I am sent to the fifth floor. Moved, painfully, into a bed. I try not to make too much noise – they keep threatening me with morphine. I need to stay awake, aware. Phone numbers. Someone is missing me.

Tony is on the phone. It is 1:30 in the morning. Flan, my new nurse asks if he should come. I say yes. Tony is there. He has been frantic. Worried. I had been a John Doe for about 5 hours. I ask him NOT to call my family. This is no big deal. The next morning? My family is there… Mom and Dad. My niece. Mom cries. I tell her it’s not that bad. They give me something for pain. It starts with a ‘G’.

Tally: Bad concussion, broken neck (two places), a chip in my skull where the skull meets my spine (and a crack up to the middle of my head), both shoulders hurt, 9 bad ribs, and the right side of the face is total road rash. Lucky I didn’t lose an eye.

Lucky. Lucky, me.

Could have been worse. Not a scratch from the chest down. I am upbeat and try to minimize injuries – I don’t want more pain meds. I want to go home. Three months in a neck brace? What? Why? No more pain meds, please.

I flew off the bike. I landed. I guess. I guess, because I blacked out. I only remember hitting the weeds and feeling the oh-oh. I wasn’t wearing a shirt. I wasn’t wearing my cap. I wasn’t wearing a helmet! Apparently – two other bikers either saw the accident or came upon my prone body. They called 911. I don’t know if I got up and picked up the bike or if they helped me. The ambulance could not drive back to where we were - we had to walk the half-mile of road to meet them. It grew dark fast. By the time we reached the top of the slope where the police and the ambulance it was pitch black and I don’t know if I am going to heaven or hell. Or if there even are such places. I walk slowly in darkness and do what the voices behind me tell me to do.

I was lucky.

I am lucky.

I hate my neck brace. My head feels like it’s being squeezed out of an eggcup. I should be on the cover of National Geographic. The ribs don’t bother me much. No pain meds. I say things that don’t make much sense for a few days. On the fourth day I see my face. On the fifth day… I go home. Tony is very good to me. He was scared. Me too, a little. Tony baby-sits. My parents baby-sit. I get lots of cards. People at work are worried. Everyone is very kind.

My right ear is blocked. I am having some hearing issues. My right shoulder feels dead, numb – temporary nerve damage? I get dizzy easily and list to the left as I walk. Vertigo. Rooms spin. My middle ear. That first week I sleep a lot – not so much now. My back is always in knots. My posture, horrible. My body feels warped. This too shall pass. Please.

I manage to pick-up my summer management class. On the first night at the hospital, when I was told I could not go home, I then tried to broker a deal where I could go to class the next evening – my plan was, that if they let me go to class – I wouldn’t come back to the hospital. I’d go on the lam. That was a no-go, too. But my instructor is very kind. The midterm is delayed for a week. I read when I can. Study. Sleep. I go to the midterm exam. She gives me a few mercy points. I am still having trouble remembering things – words. I hang on and finish the class. My memory is good, although I still talk nonsense now and then.

I am lucky. And lost. But mostly grateful. I go back to the doctors next week. I hope they will let me out of this neck brace. I hate it. But it’s better than the alternative. Yes, I am lucky. Grateful and lucky.

Thank you to everyone who has sent a kind word, a card, taken time to help. I am very grateful. Thank you Mom and Dad.

And most of all… Thank you, Tony.

This too shall pass. Please?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fox News Channel - Sock Puppets with Teeth

One of my favorite comedy stations is Fox News. Between guffaws and chuckles I find my jaw dropping to the floor in awe. Kafka at his best can’t touch the twisted logic that guides these news bullies into countless hours of absurdity and unintentional hilarity.

I do have two problems with it. First off, they sell it to America as news – their version of the truth. And secondly, half of America isn’t in on the joke… they believe every big fat sloppy lie served up.

I realize that the likes of Al Franken, Bill Maher, and Jon Stewart have already trod this path and mapped it out quite well. Stewart, in particular, manages to wring out the most from the stupefying rhetoric that falls from the lips of the Fox News pundits. And thanks to his efforts – at least half of America is ‘in’ on the joke that is Fox News.

That said, I’m very curious what our social/political world will look like 20 years from now (providing that global warming – which is a bunch of hoo-haw according to Fox News – doesn’t finish us off before then). It should prove very entertaining in a distorted, funhouse mirror sort of way. Research by Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris of East Carolina University found that nearly half - 48 percent - of college-aged people watch The Daily Show, while only 23 percent of show viewers followed "hard news" programs closely.

I wonder if Fox News is included in that ‘hard news’ bunch. I hope so. Given the history of T.V., it should make for a very Fellini-esque 2028 election year.

If the history of our media has taught us anything it is that once a concept is established and successful it will more than likely continue to proliferate until its original attributes are completely exploited and stretched to ridiculous lengths.

Look at America's love for reality T.V. It began innocently enough back in 1950’s with shows like What’s My Line?, and Kid’s Say the Darndest Things. This evolved into programs like Real People and That’s Incredible – vignettes featuring tiny slices of odd lives.

The invention of the home video camera led to America’s Funniest Home Videos (not in my book) and shows of that ilk. It was about this time that the practice of truth manipulation came into play. America was no longer content with just watching incidental accidents or life as it happened – they began to create it.

Enter the MTV Generation, (No, really? Is there such a thing?), which took it to the next level by cramming a group of mismatched socially maladjusted individuals into a really ‘cool’ apartment and then ‘standing back’ to watch the resulting emotional fireworks. This is the same network that then allowed Johnny Knoxville and his cohorts to bash each other in the athletic cup until they keeled over in ‘laughter’.

Seeing gold in them there hills, Network T.V. jumped onto the bandwagon, spinning off in all sorts of directions with a myriad of celebrity-minded (talk show circuit, product spokesperson, Playboy layout) contestants willing to do anything (eat bugs, live underground with potential psychopaths, play tasteless practical jokes on their unsuspecting parents, have their face and body carved up by plastic surgeons, etc.) all in the hopes of ‘winning’.

I haven’t kept track of who won. (Except for the Survivor contestant who was recently arrested for shooting a puppy ON PURPOSE with a bow and arrow) (All the major networks are planning spin-offs of this reality concept for next season - Kitten in a Blender, Gerbils Eat Their Young, America's Funniest Slaughterhouses, etc.).

But I do know who the big losers are: the viewing public.

These shows exist because they offer unscripted moments of the human condition in all its tawdry rawness (manipulated by crafty editing and producer ‘suggestions’ of course).

These shows exist because people watch them. Yes, we love it when contestants lie, lie, lie.

Lie like dogs. Lie like Kenneth L. Lay. Lie like Tom DeLay. Lie like O.J.

In Reality: These shows exist because they are cheap to make.

The same can be said of Fox News. Fox’s News shows exist because it is much more entertaining and less-expensive to just make up the news (lie) rather than report facts and do research to support those facts. Every Fox News story is the same news story. They serve up the same turd – which they call ‘truth’ - wrapped up in an American flag over and over again. And should some bit of actual truth leak in via a guest politico, that same turd – still wrapped in the flag – is wielded like a club by members of the Fox ‘News’ team to reprimand the offending guest and keep America safe.

The Daily Show does the same thing, but their turds are usually provided by Fox News. The Daily Show merely removes the flag, exposing them for what they are – big logs of bodily waste. And while the talking heads at Fox masquerade as news reporters dishing nothing but the truth – the real truth (is that an oxymoron?), The Daily Show clearly defines itself as a show of political satire.

Both are joking. Right? Right. Ohhhh…. Riiiiiight!

I wish that Fox News would let the other half of America in on the joke. But that would require Fox News to get the joke. Fox News does not get the joke. Fox News has no sense of humor (unless you think of Hannity and Colmes as a sort of modern day Punch and Judy show). They can’t afford one. They have Anne Coulter on the payroll (those identical little-black dresses don't come cheap). They have Bill O’Reilly (vibrators, loofah sponges, sex shows in Thailand, phone sex - I could go on and on, but, tastefully, I won't). They have the aforementioned Sean Hannity (hair gel, puppeteers, ghost writers, enough said). With all those egos vying for airtime… oxygen must be in short supply.

As for those of us in on the joke? We can all breathe easy. At least until 2028, by which time reality and the truth will have been skewed broader than Mary Worth’s face on a wad of silly putty.

Trust me...

It won’t be a pretty sight either.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Internet Equivalent of a Drive by Shooting

I’m puzzled by people on the internet. Not all, just those who cloak themselves in anonymity. It seems to me, if one has the balls to attack or even question someone else’s credibility (their reputation, their motives, their physical attributes, their personality, etc.), then that person should have the balls to publish a photo of themselves along with a complete profile, a link to a personal website (if they have one) and an e-mail address. To commit an opinion or comment out there on the web for others to read would seem to indicate, on the part of the writer, some personal drive, motive, or need to do so. Why then do they choose to not back up their writing with some personal information about themselves?

This type of anonymous posting is what I term the internet equivalent of a drive by shooting. The cowardice of those who practice this type of internet ‘trolling’ is as obvious as their motive – which is to provoke and inflict pain on their target. They accomplish this by distorting some aspect of your profile, the intent and meaning behind a post you made, or the personal information you provide about yourself. They do this under the guise of wanting to set you ‘straight’, to correct your behavior, to come to ‘the rescue’ of another poster, or to call your credibility into question. On occasion, there may be a good reason to do any of these things – for example when people are hurling unkind names at each other, but for the most part there is little basis for such posts. Yes, I know it’s ridiculous, but these attacks can cause the uninformed a great deal of anxiety – which, of course, is exactly the intent of the ‘troll’.

Now, as you attempt to defend yourself, these anonymous, nameless, faceless ‘trolls’ will try to trap you in all sorts of little word games – games where logic has no bearing and semantics are rendered meaningless. Don’t bother. It’s a waste of breath. Like quicksand, the more you struggle (try to explain/respond), the quicker you sink. Keep in mind - they have the power of anonymity on their side. They can say the most outrageous, baseless things and get away with it; for, cloaked in anonymity, how could there be any accountability?

Everything is fair game – especially the truth. And even if you should complain to the moderator of a forum or chat room and manage to get an offensive poster eighty-sixed, just like Hercules’ hydra (cut off its head and it grows another) – they repopulate themselves. ‘Trolls’ have the ability to reinvent themselves countless times. They frequently operate under several different handles at the same time. So, should you be in a forum - the seeming object of the scorn of many – there is a good chance that there is only one very sad, powerless little person manning all those handles from a single keyboard and the same ISP address. A good way to discern this? Check their posting history. If their attacks on you and others that day are the only posts listed – then it’s likely that the handle is merely a beard for another handle on the forum. Another good indicator? Is there a means of contacting them via e-mail? If they have nothing listed – then they’re probably hiding something – like their authenticity. Keep in mind that forums like Craiglist allow everyone to ‘anonymize’ their actual e-mail addresses, while still allowing others to contact them. This type of ‘anonymizing’ is perfectly acceptable given the current climate of SPAM that permeates the web. But given that safeguard, does one have any tangible excuse for not having a means of being contacted? Perhaps they simply don’t want to be bothered with e-mails filling up their in-basket – e-mails commenting on their behavior or making them accountable for something they wrote. Hmm, yes… that sounds very responsible of them. How convenient.

So what can be done about these ‘trolls’? Nothing. It is free speech. They have a right to be as boorish and obnoxious as they like and say or accuse you of whatever their ugly little minds can conjure. Do you have to take it? Sadly – sort of. You can complain – to them (they will just call you a crybaby or worse) or to the moderator of the forum/chat room (but don’t hold your breath to get a response – moderators frequently chalk-up such behavior as something you have to put up with – like bullies on the playground). Your best course of action? Don’t play their game. Tell them to leave you alone – point out their rude behavior and their cowardice (nameless, faceless them) – and then cease responding to their posts. Do not engage them in anyway, no matter how outrageous their behavior becomes – the ‘troll’ will eventually tire out and either go back under their bridge and go to sleep or move on to another ‘victim’.

Oh, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? If you complain? They will accuse you of ‘playing the victim’. And, while you are the target of their boorishness, only you can decide if you want to be their victim. My suggestion? Don’t. Being someone’s victim implies that they have power over you (which is exactly why the ‘troll’ uses this tactic – they will also accuse you of being paranoid, too) - don’t let them. Don’t be anyone’s victim. In our society it’s a role that too many people readily accept and all too frequently it is only because they are too weak or lazy to stand up for themselves. Develop some character – stand up for yourself, but do so without escalating the rhetoric or engaging the ‘troll’.

Odd, isn’t it… that it’s come to this – that discourse and simple conversation can now be used as means of abuse. And it is abuse, no matter how harmless the ‘troll’ will claim their banter to be. Words hurt and bullying – even among consenting adults - is abusive. But what else can we expect from a society that views such banter from the likes of Bill O’Rielly and the entire Fox News team, or ill-informed, celebrity hate-mongers like Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter or Dr. Laura as entertainment and free-speech? Sure, the ‘troll’ is not a celebrity (in fact he conceals his identity), but it’s just as insidious and ugly as the garbage spouted by those cretins of the airwaves (Cretins of the Airwaves - a topic best reserved for another post).

I doubt the ‘trolls’ would agree with my assessment. They don’t see themselves that way. But then, given the anonymous nature of ‘trolls’? – If you did hold up a mirror in front of them?

There wouldn’t be anything of substance to be reflected anyway.

You see, it’s all smoke and mirrors, here, at Wonderland Burlesque.

Until next time.... - mhk

Friday, July 07, 2006

Confidence equals arrogance? Since when?

All my life I have battled with the notion that to feel good about yourself, your accomplishments and your life might easily be construed as being pompous, egotistical and arrogant. It's not that I hid my talents and opinions under a bushel barrel, but I have always had difficulty taking a compliment. The same is true of criticism - which, if it is genuine and given without an ulterior motive, is, in fact, a very great compliment - for someone to have taken the time to give you advice that is intended to truly nurture you - to help you grow - well, that is just as wonderful as being told you're the best thing sliced bread.

Unfortunately, all too often criticism comes tinged with a hue that has nothing to do with wanting to be helpful at all.

Usually it has a lot more to do with the other person than it does your performance, behavior, or opinion. The same can be true of compliments, as well.

Today someone leveled the criticism that I am "too full of myself". Now there was a time when I would have jumped and said... yes, true - what do I have to be proud of? - I should be ashamed!

But... to be proud and confident of who you are and what you believe - WHEN did that become a bad thing?

I've always admired confident people. They seem to cut right through all the tedious things in life that waste time and deter productivity. I always thought it was something given them by their parents, their genes, or something they earned from others. I always thought they were just lucky. But now I know that is not true. Confidence is something you learn about yourself - not through the eyes and words of others - but by learning about yourself - by defining who you are.

Yes, I have met people who indeed, have crossed the line into arrogance - we all have. They're boorish and talk only of themselves and never ask questions of others.

But trust me, it is quite possible to be confident and still be humble.

I'm a very humble person. I feel that all the gifts/talents/blessings that I have were given by the grace of a higher power. Yes, I took responsibility for them, chose to develop them and along the way met a lot of people who helped me do exactly that. Every book I have ever read, every play I have seen, every song I have ever heard - all have contributed greatly to the person I am becoming.

You see, for a long time I did not believe 100% in my gifts - not completely, not truly. I've always held back just a little - because it hurts to be wrong - especially about abilities. "It hurts to be found out public like a frog."

There was a time when I lived my life like a sparkler - shooting off in a million different directions all at once. I wanted to share everything about me. I wanted to prove my gifts. I wanted to be noticed, to be seen. But for the past ten years or so, something has changed. Now I like to keep my gifts very private. I hold them close and share them with very few people - because the longer I spend time on this earth and expose myself to other people, the more I tend to find that people, given the chance, are just too wrapped up in their own muck to really listen to anything you have to offer. They become mean-spirited, spiteful - without provocation. So I no longer share as much of myself as I once did.

The whole process of putting something out there and then getting smacked back down because people are jealous, or angry, or frustrated, or feel the need to cut someone else down in order to make themselves feel better about who they are - or because the just genuinely don't like it - it's become to risky, too predictable. In a way - by putting yourself out there, you are in fact, being self-abusive - especially if you're aware of the risks involved. Anytime total strangers are allowed to take pot shots at you... you open yourself to all sorts of nastiness that has very little to do with whatever it is you had to offer.

Which I guess is the point of this entry... when people say nasty, baseless things - it really says much more about them than it does their target.

I am fortunate... and grateful for everything - the good, the bad, the success, the failures - that I have experienced so far in my life. It's made me a better person - someone who is confident (most of the time) - someone who acknowledges and is grateful for his gifts and talents and continues to develop them - and most importantly... someone who has defined who he is - and who he is not - and is not afraid of defending it.

When I think of all the years I spent wanting to be ANYBODY else but me... well, trust me, that is no longer true. I really am very happy with who I am becoming. (No, I'm not finished yet. None of us ever really are... )

So - the next time someone accuses you of being too full of yourself... take a moment and think about it - is that REALLY such a bad thing? Also consider the source - and if you find that it is someone who doesn't have a clue about who you are - if they present themselves as some anonymous chatroom handle with no picture, no website, no e-mail address (in short - offering nothing of themselves) - don't give them the power to make you question who you are - you KNOW who you are (if you've been doing your homework).

And that, my friend is a very valuable thing to know.

Keep peddling, Skippy. We're getting nearer the top of that hill.

- mhk

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Forums for ummmm..... all of us?

I've just recently discovered a M4M Forum on Craigslist dot org. It's my first time (just like this blog). Occasionally I spend time there and walk away puzzled, perplexed, confused and just a bit wiser - if not world-weary.

I am frequently amazed by people (aren't we all?); their gullibility, lack of logic, quickness to judge, need to meddle, desire to be involved, to rescue others, to insert their opinion, and above all else... their need to be right.

I'm guilty, too. We all are. Anyone who claims they are above all of this, well, trust me - they are probably more guilty than anyone else.

Sometimes I try to correct something I hear or read or offer my opinion... not as a means of proving some kind of superiority, but simply because someone has done or said something that catches my interest. It may be simply a matter of a difference of opinion, but it's frequently misinterpreted as a personal attack. Of course, that's when things DO get personal. But more on that later.

Now I will try to reason with that person... explaining my position, clarifying my motives - all the while being very respectful and polite. But they don't listen. They're to busy judging. They don't care what my motives may be or whether there is any validity to my opinion... it only matters to them that I see that THEY are right. I try not to get defensive. The word to stress there is 'try'.

The next thing they do is accuse me of not following the rules. Folks, and trust me on this, if someone ever tries to pull this on you please keep in mind... THERE ARE NO RULES. The internet nun is not going to come sweeping into your home via your computer monitor and smack your hands with a ruler. You will never have to sit in the corner. No one will be contacting your mother and, despite the claims of some, there IS no permanent record that your behavior will be noted on... although several clever posters may be able to cut and paste something you said five weeks ago in the room on a totally different topic and use it as proof that your are (gasp)(no, really - gasp here, please) a hypocrite! (We all are - just roll with it).

If I have the time, I will continue to try and reason with the person. Their response? It frequently results in name-calling. They become more agitated, less logical and their attacks? - much, much more personal in nature.

At one time or another I have been identified as any number of things - mostly attributes that, to the clueless, may seem at odds with one another. Can I really be someone who doesn't think people should pay for sex, but CAN see the legitimacy of bath houses? (The answer is - yes. They are, in fact, two very different things.) And can I love my gay-self and yet be critical of certain gay behaviors that I personally find indefensible? (The answer is yes).

Granted - it is JUST my personal opinion, but - and I always make a point of spelling this out for them- they have the right to feel and believe however and whatever they like. (Not that this little nod to free speech satisfies them. Again, your acknowledgment of their position holds no value for them - it's much more important that they simply be declared - once and for all - right!) (Or, as they more often term it, 'the winner'!)

Well, needless to say... suddenly my eating habits become fair game(huh?). We play semantics. And then someone who was very nice to me three days ago, and has not been a part of the thread at all will suddenly pipe in and call me an *sshole. Then I'm fat (I'm not), I'm ugly (just a little bit), old (only in gay-years), I can't get laid (not true), I must hate poz people (I don't - at all), I'm trying to control the room (is that even possible?), I must have no understanding of what it's like to be __________ (fill in the blank) (it's a coin toss here - I have been oh-so many things in this lifetime - but not everything.) I am, however, generally empathetic.

The thing is... I love the human condition. It fascinates me. And at times - and this is my biggest sin - I figure if someone wants to yap nonsense at me while chasing their own tail, well, who am I to say no? I even help them if I can - poke them just right and they will almost spin right off the screen. You see... I love to see just how silly people can get - how out of touch with whatever it is that set them off to begin with. This kind of blindness seems to know no bounds of decency - nothing is off limits - everything is fair game. So, I figure, if that's how they want to play... I'll play too.

Frequently these people have no where else appropriate to go with their anger. So they vent it in forums like M4M at Craigslist at people like me. I only mind a little (I am not fat, really).

Don't get me wrong... there are some really wonderful people in that room... wise beyond their years; talented writers, sexually inventive souls, compassionate hearts and even some just regular joes. I enjoy their 'company'. But - there are an equal number of clueless souls and mean 'ole trolls that just do not have:

  1. any common sense,
  2. any ability to manipulate the English language into anything but finger-pointing, whiny pointlessness or (worse) name-calling and/or slogan-ism,
  3. the ability to understand reason or be reasoned with,
  4. the ability to think outside the box (I hate that phrase - let's just call it - being creative),
  5. the ability to stay on course with an argument without resorting to personal attacks or -
  6. (AND THIS above all else) a shred of a sense of humor about themselves, life or the whims of others.
OMG - can we talk about over-sensitivity? Can we talk about taking ourselves just a LITTLE too seriously? (Really - get a grip guys. We're not birthing babies here!) Can we talk about the kettle being beige?

Well, we could - or I could - talk about those things - but this sort of thing is best served in-house, up close and personal. So venture on into one of the forums on Craigslist... You will start to see where Tennessee Williams got all those characters from, or why shows like Fawlty Towers make us anxious AND laugh at the same time.

Don't take my word for it... Experience it first hand. It's like falling into Wonderland, only Alice is now a hung-over burlesque queen with a bitter attitude and a need for fresh blood.

Ahh... sweet internet - will your wonders never cease?

I hope not.

- mhk