On One Hand

March 30, 2007

I’m Dying

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:53 pm
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Uhh…. What kind of person decides it’s so necessary to drink that eigth cup of jungle-juice before crashing on the couch? I guess I do, when I’m stupid after drinking seven.

Most people at the party were extremely attractive. Someone from my high school was there, but I didn’t know his name. It would catalyze a thought process that came to haunt me later in the night. Another guy at the party looked like an Italian New Yorker out of a sit-com from the 80’s, with a wavy shock of longish hair combed across his forhead and a Brooklyn swagger. Actually, he looked a lot from that guy from Scream who turns out to be the mastermind behind the murders.

Then I was bursting into one of the bedrooms to find a guy and a girl there, urging the girl to “think” before she “does anything,” then retracting the statement and spending the next half hour insisting to the guy and to everyone that I am not, in fact, a cock-block. The guy was from Florida and I noted this because he had the same name as a kid from my Kindergarten class who moved to Florida halfway through that school year when his mother died. The next thing I knew I was laying back on a couch, and a girl who lived in the apartment was putting blankets around me and taking off my shoes to make me comfortable. How sweet.

The nice thing about going to bed still drunk (which I would argue is a waste of alcohol) is that I have the most interesting dreams, though they are disturbing. Last night it started when I somehow kept running into people I went to high school with, and eerily, they were all still friends with each other, as if they were trapped in some post-adolescent limbo that maintained all the drama and absurdidty of high school, years into adulthood. I think we were in our late 20s. I’ve only maintained a few high school friends (since I’ve changed so much since then), but one of them was there with me, and we were making fun of people like we always have. Another one of the girls from my high school needed directions to get home to some Denver suburb I had never heard of and I told her to start from the closest place I actually knew and I’d be able to give her directions from there. A thought entered my mind and I remembered her saying, way back in third grade, which was the first time I was in a class with this girl, that her favorite state is Florida and Colorado is only her second-favorite. I remembered the way I thought it was absurd that any other state besides Colorado could be anyone’s favorite. Then another guy from my high school was screaming something about the goth kids, and how they had some information he needed, and I told him “look, dude – there were no goth kids at our high school.” I explained, “A couple might have worn dark eyeliner and black clothes but none of them were really goth.”

Then I was in some kind of candy shop holding a cake that kept melting, even though it was not really an ice-cream cake. I was singing to myself and one of the employees of the candy shop – a short-haired girl in uniform red apron and baseball-cap, asked if I thought I was really good at singing. I said no, I’m just messing around, but she challenged me, leaning over the marbled pink countertop, saying, “if you aren’t serious about singing, why do you have your business card out.” I looked in my hand and one was there; I tried to explain that I do writing and my card is to get jobs in writing. She didn’t beleive me, so then I said “I don’t even really know how this business card got into my hand, to be honest.” She said she didn’t know what I was talking about, and when I looked again, saw that it was actually a guitar pick. An orange one. That’s where I put it.

Then I was interviewing some guy on death row for a newspaper article. He was tall and had red hair and a well-trimmed beard on his chin and cheeks. The interview was far beyond an ordinary death row interview, because the guy was already strapped into the electric chair and would be executed as soon as I was done questioning him. His ex-wife was there, a short, Hispanic woman who was very attractive and had three kids with the condemned man. She had mixed feelings toward him because she onced loved him but then he tried to kill her and their children. She said her ex-husband also had a bunch of kids with other women, and I understood that each of them together had hundreds of children.

In a flashback-type vision I saw the woman standing on a back porch in a dense urban setting, in a 15 X 15 foot yard surrounded by a 3-foot brick wall and by the red brick surface of the row-home, picturesque behind a garden of giant hostas, blooming delphiniums and a small tree with shocks of pale-pink flowers that hung like bunches of grapes from the branches. Her dark, long curly hair was puled back with a white ribbon. The woman was waving a sheet gracefully and in slow-motion in the breeze, ready to hang it on the clothes line draped across the yard. An older, slightly heavy woman – a relative – was standing beside her. A small child was clinging to her ankles. Another young girl was peeking out through the doorway from inside the sun-lit home.

I asked the man on death row why he had done it. The prison guard looked up anxiously as I asked the heavy question. The man strapped to the chair said he didn’t know; he didn’t feel like the imperative to kill came from him – he just couldn’t control himself. He said he didn’t feel completely responsible for his actions but he was immensely releived to be on Death Row now, where he won’t be able to hurt anyone else. He said he is simultaneously guilty and innocent, since he did indeed commit the murders but said that killing came from a part of him that he didn’t see as who he really was: that being, a helpless man held hostage to gruesome urges. He said he was ready to die but also afraid. I scribbled it all on a glossy piece of paper. It was fabulously conflicted, as all good literature is. I would put it all together later in an article that flowed.

Suddenly the man on death row whipped out a small handgun. He seemed a little lost for a moment, as if its presence shocked him as much as it did the rest of us, but he was the one with power now and moments later he was standing un-strapped from the chair and had taken our whole group hostage. Then we were being forced out onto the street, running past boutiques and bakeries. The gun was pointed at me several times. I half-knew that I was dreaming, and wondered what would happen if I were to be shot; I’ve been shot in dreams before and it felt like being shocked with an electric fence, except in a single pinpoint of pain in my chest. There were moments when I had to reach up and wrestle it’s carrier’s arm away from me in case the gun were to fire. The condemned man told me he would write the newspaper article himself based on the quotes he gave me, so it didn’t matter if I was dead or alive since he had the transcript of the entire interview. He seemed to think he had the right to kill me since he had finally found Jesus in prison and I had never found Jesus at all. We were out in the city – we may have passed the very garden with the white sheets flowing gracefully across the yard. No one outside our group of hostages seemed to notice that the former-prisoner, running madly, had a gun, and no one seemed to notice when, moments later, he was shooting bystanders. One by one they collapsed dead onto the street. I noted that guns are not as loud in person as they are in the movies. I heard the gun go off several times and wondered how many bullets it could hold. In the chaos I managed to slip away away and started running in the opposite direction, passt glass-fronted shops and clean sidewalks adorned with clay planters overflowing with short, hanging vines and standing flowers.

I half-knew I was dreaming, again, and though I could not make the man stop shooting – who was in hot pursuit of me now, deeply angered at my escape – I could zoom back from my perspective on the downtown streets and place myself in the suburbs, some twenty miles away, where I knew I was somewhat safe because the man with the gun would take several minutes to run that far. I knew that, since I was dreaming, he would disappear as soon as I forgot about him, so couldn’t be caught off-guard if I was distracted by a new story in my new location. I entertained the possiblity of starting a new dream there. But I realized the setting was helplessly boring, since each of the white-gray single-family homes was identical to every other, with their gray-brown roofs and green lawns and gray six-foot fences separating each residence into its own tiny fortress, alone among the multiplicity of home-islands sprawling endless in every direction. My dream was only under my control inasmuch as I kept it to things that were entertaining, and this wasn’t. Either I would inevitably drift back to the horrifying – but stimulating – flight from the death-row convict trying to kill me, or I would wake up. I made my choice. Seconds later, I was awake.

March 23, 2007

Check-out

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:14 pm
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Dear ex,

I heard from a friend of a friend that you were upset about my failure to reply to your messages last summer.

I am sorry that I chose re-discovering dignity and emotional wellness over preventing you from feeling sort-of rejected by my friendship after you dumped me. I admit my “dwelling-on” of the technicalities of the way it happened; you’re right: a birthday is, after all, just any other day, and an email is an exciting new form of rapid communication. I understanding your frustration at never having been quite able to articulate how I was the one at fault for all our problems.

Perhaps I was foolish, when you wanted to spend time together after we broke up and I begrudgingly agreed – only to be stood up – to then assume you were less concerned about our continuing, transformed companionship than about your being described, generally, as an ass, if I were to fulfil my ambition of being a writer. I know you are no longer concerned with this now since I assured you that if I am ever to be widely published, you or the 8-month span of our fiasco will appear in my memoirs, at most, only in passing. Otherwise, a more lengthy exposition of our situation will take into account the utter gut-wrenching complexity of the whole disaster and accurate depiction of each party’s liability for what took place, in proportion to truth.

I think my indifference shall not cause you dismay, since you once told me, (I beleive it was the night I was in the hospital overnight and called to tell you where I was so you could come by, but you were “already on your way” to your next-door neighbor’s party), that “no one is responsible for another person’s feelings.” I assure you it is a warm indifference that I feel, and that I am grateful to have learned the importance of being willing to visit loved ones when they are alone in the hospital.

I look forward to each of our separate lives and hearing through friends of friends that you are happy, fulfilled, and always loved by people no less sympathetic and well-meaning than yourself.

Sincerly,
Matthew

March 22, 2007

Testosterone

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:13 pm

So, I was wondering.

I know I can “feel” the presence of testosterone in my body, especially when there seems to be a lot of it. It happens most often from the first few hours to the full day after I’ve gone to the gym. More specifically, it happens after the times I do the leg and back exersizes, and much less so (but still some) on the days I do arms and stomach. First it’s a weird pressure/tingly feeling in my stomach, faint but pleasant, but words don’t describe it because it isn’t so much of a physical feeling as just a “sense,” similar to the way you sense being drunk or stoned. Then I feel like there’s some kind of jelly in the muscles of my chest and thighs that needs to be “squeezed out” by flexing, and it gives me the urge to lift heavy things, sprint, or tackle and wrestle people; basically, I want to throw my weight around. I get really hungry and/or thirsty and keep feeling hungry even when my stomach feels full. Small amounts of pain actually feel good; I want to punch things and get that sting in my knuckles. I’m not necessarily “aroused” all the time, but it can come on really, really suddenly and intensely, and I’m attracted to people I am not attracted to otherwise. I’m cocky and confident, and very, very distractable. Sometimes I get stomach cramps. Actually, the stomach cramps can be pretty bad. I also might bleed more easily but it’s hard to tell since I don’t really bleed that often to begin with.

Like I said, it happens after I work out, but it won’t happen if I’m very hung over (but happens more if I drank just a small amount), if I’m not getting enough sleep, or if I’m depressed. It happens more when the weather is warm, but otherwise more in the fall, and also seems to come and go in waves; there will be a week where I feel it a lot, then a couple weeks later there will be a week when I don’t feel it at all.

I’m wondering if estrogen feels the same way. Most people tend to have a lot of one or the other, either testosterone or estrogen, but there are people who have switched genders in their lifetime, and they should let me know.

March 12, 2007

Poll Update: 2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 9:02 pm
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Here’s my new poll for the Democratic Presidential Primary in 2008

In the race for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008, the competition between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is tightening. I get the sense that college students and young people, who tend to support Obama, are drifting a little toward Clinton’s side, while general Democrats, who lean more toward Hillary, are drifting toward Obama. The result is a close race for both teams. (Click on the “polls” tag, here and at the bottom of this entry, to bring up past Presidential polls on this blog, to see where liberal college students, the main group of voters in my polls, have drifted.)

While this is happening, animosity between the two main candidates is starting to appear, with jabs arising from supporters of each camp toward the leader of other. Openly-gay Hollywood-based political ringleader and billionaire David Geffin, who was once a strong Clinton supporter but now backs Obama, lashed out at the Clintons saying, “all politicians lie,” but that the Clintons do it “so easily.” Meanwhile Al Sharpton, who the media often turns to as a spokesperson for the Black community, voiced concerns about Obama’s candidacy.

People say that Hillary benefits from a vicious battle; she is known for her ability to go negative, while Barack’s strong point is his overwhelming positiveness, and in a bitter campaign, he is forced to abandon his biggest selling-point. My sense is quite the opposite; that if Democrats think very positively toward both Hillary and Obama, Hillary wins.

My reason to think this is the age and electibility of both Hillary and Obama. Hillary will turn 60 in October. She’s not old, as far as politicians go, but if she is not the nominee next year, her presidential hopes will likely fade, and Democrats know it. The idea of having political dynasties of a single family in power, like the Kennedys once had, and presently the Clintons and Bushes fill, is a touchy subject for Americans. But they still like Hillary, and many want to give her a chance; she is the best shot for this generation to have a woman president. Meanwhile Obama is young and charismatic – only 45 – and his age and inexperience are a concern for Democrats. He will still be on the political scene in 20 years, being only 65; Hillary, on the other hand, will be 80. Democrats will view this as Hillary’s chance, and favor her, hoping Obama will be president in future cycles. A Hillary-Obama team will certainly turn heads.

If Republicans arrive with a formidable candidate, Edwards will be the likely benefactor on the Democratic side. While Democrats love the idea of having a woman or a black man as the nominee, Edwards is seen as the “safe” candidate who will most likely win. If they come up with someone unpalatable to mainstream Amercians – like Newt Gingrich – Hillary’s support will probably rise among the Democrats who are concerned about her electability. Gingrich is now known for having affairs and for leaving wives with the new relationship already lined up; in once case, the wife Gingrich left was in the hospital with cancer. Think of this match-up in the general race: Hillary, the victim of adultery, runs against a person who victimized someone else by committing adultery. The same would be true if Giulianni is the Republican candidate, but in this case Obama’s charasmatic Christian faith contrasts with Giulianni’s total lack thereof, and with Giulianni’s unsavory positions toward Evangelical issues (he’s pro-gay rights and pro-abortion), Obama stands a serious chance of picking up votes that usually go Republican.

I like the idea of a Hillary-Obama team, but I’m still wary of who Republicans might choose – if a really likeable candidate emerges, Democrats might be better off with Edwards, who I have no problem with either. But my general feeling is that I’m extremely excited about the Democratic field in general; Hillary and Obama are both exciting assets to the Democratic Party, and Bill Richardson has one of the most brilliant foreign-policy minds I’ve seen in my short life. If Richardson wins, that’s great, but since my suspicion is that he won’t, I absolutely want him representing the United State’s interest in the Presidential cabinet.

Liberals are extremely sentimental toward the idea of diversity and togetherness in soceity. We appreciate Democracy as a truly radical thing, given the whole of human history. But we are sometimes critical toward America, because we see Democracy as a process – not a sustained state – and it needs to move always forward, increasing freedom and raising the celing for those who are traditionally excluded. If you want to make Liberals patriotic and exceedingly pro-American, elect Hillary – the first woman – or Obama – the first non-white person – into the Oval Office. We will be starry-eyed when we talk about our leaders.

March 9, 2007

South Park’s rendezvous with “n_ggers”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:51 pm
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The premiere episode of the 11th season of South Park, first shown on Wednesday, opens with Stan’s dad as a guest on Wheel of Fortune. In the final round of the game, he is the only contestant remaining, and gets to guess the word on the board to win $30,000. He picks his 5 consonants and a vowel, and after they are revealed, the whole word except for one letter is showing on the board.

The clue is “people who annoy you.” The letters on the board read “N_GGERS.”

Stan’s dad pasues nervously before he solves the puzzle. “I know what it is, but I don’t want to say it,” he says. After a few moments, he shakes off his nervousness. He answers the puzzle.

The audience gasps.

It turns out, San’s dad got the puzzle wrong. The actual answer was “naggers.”

There are surely people across the country who are angry at South Park’s use of the n-word, which was repeated over 40 times during the episode. The episode is not “racist;” it separates the word from its usual meaning, but to utter the word at all will notheless inevitably cause controversy, and doesn’t show any respect to those who are personally offended by the word.

I’m not going to weigh in and decide if South Park’s use of the word is appropriate or not. I think it’s absurd to say the n-word should be banned entirely, as some suggest – but it is a very powerful word, and I understand where people are coming from when they say it should be limited to a powerful context, that re-presents the condition of racism in this country, past and present. Instead, the South Park episode trivializes the word in the context of humor. As a person who is devoutly interested in free speech but also devoutly interested in tolerance and respect, I can’t choose a side in this case. I laughed at the episode, and beleive the creators had the right to make it, but I probably wouldn’t have been bold enough to make it myself.

But in spite of its triviality, the episode also brings up a striking realization that is important for us to acknowledge – that the n-word is more present to us in it’s taboo than it is in any other context. When I saw the word puzzle on the screen, the clue of “people who annoy you” and the letters “n_ggers,” I know what I thought the word was going to be. The word “naggers” didn’t even occur to me until after it was revealed. Did anyone see the symbols “N-GGERS” and honestly not think the missing letter is an ‘i’? I doubt it.

To those of us who have never personaly experienced racism from the position of an ethnic minority, the word Stan’s dad shouted on TV is deeply engrained into our psyches simply because it’s so taboo. A lot of us who are not black must wonder, silently, oh God, what would I do if I ever actually SAID it!? There’s no reason we ever would, but the weight of the word lends itself to that kind of hypothesizing – what if it were an accident? A Freudian slip? The first, awful sign of Teret’s syndrome? The sound of our lungs collapsing when we trip over a rock? Those are ulikely scenarios, but they’ve crossed our minds. We’re always thinking about it because we don’t want to say it, and that perseveration leaves the word always in the back of our minds and actually makes it more present to us. We see “n-ggers” and it is so forcefully present then that we can’t see the alternative; “naggers,” which actually makes much more sense. A lot of white people who put their own anxiety above other issues are going to breathe a sigh of release that the n-word’s repeated use on South Park dilutes its stigma a little bit. That’s not a good thing – just a reality.

But it also makes me wonder if some intolerant attitudes coming from some white Americans actually originate in their anxiety over being perceived as racist. This South Park episode certainly brings the focus to that anxiety. People are almost always more willing to focus on problems in other people than on problems in themselves, so when it comes to fear of being thought of as racist, the anxiety comes out not as a call for self-reflection but as anger at those who they think would most likely accuse them of being racist: on people of color and their allies.

It also makes me wonder if this is the very reason why some want the word to be taboo in the first place; because when the n-word is taboo, they reason, the reality of racism is more real to Americans – it refers to a racially-derrogatory slur of the past rather than a contemporary slang word used in music and casual conversation. Unfortunately, I don’t think it works that way. The people who we want to come around will not. I think the taboo puts the focus on the word and not on the issue, and makes people worry about their own anxiety rather than on acknowleging the horrific things that have happened in the past and present.

There are probably some white people who are going to use the South Park episode to blame black people for being “too touchy” about the n-word, and use the episode as an excuse to that African Americans are the “real” racist ones because “they’re allowed to use a word that we aren’t.” I think that kind of reflection is racist in itself – it doesn’t take much observation to notice that the ones who use the n-word all the time and the black leaders who think no one should use it are not the same people. I don’t think the South Park episode’s intent was to criticize black people, and its creators are not responsible for what people might construe of it. Censorship would be very bad, here, as always. If you are look to the world to find evidence supporting your racism, you’ll find it somewhere whether there’s a South Park episode or not, and the program can’t possibly “contribute to racism” in itself.

I laughed – a lot – at the joke in the beginning of the episode. It was funny and poigniant. I think the episode went downhill after that, because it was entirely based on one joke that was used up after about five minutes.

But there was also a poigniant dialog throughout the episode between Stan and Token, South Park Elemetary’s only black student. Token was quietly offended by what Stan’s dad said. Stan approached Token in school, first to apologise and make sure everything was ok between them, then to explain that it was an accident, that it was no big deal, and that he understood why it would be offensive but since his dad apologised to Jesse Jackson it was now a thing of the past. Token was stubborn and said Stan’s excuses didn’t cut it. The viewer gets pretty frustrated with Token as he repeatedly says it’s “not ok” and that stan isn’t “getting it.”

In the last scene of the episode, Stan finally figures it out; “I don’t get it!” he exclaims. He approaches Token and tells him his revelation is that he doesn’t get it, that he will never understand how it feels to be an African-American and have people show prejudice or use the n-word. “I get that I don’t get it!” he says. Token accepts Stan’s understanding, and Token’s former stubornness finally makes sense. The final message in the episode is an acknowledgment of the fact that white people don’t get and they can’t, and to say things like “I understand” just shows that they really never got it. That is an extremely positive message as far as race relations go.

The South Park episode is usefull because, even though it exaggerates, it calls the world for what it is. Viewers are taken through a process in which they wonder what position the episode is taking. In truth it doesn’t seem to be taking a position. It’s useful because we can see racism in where it really lies – in ourselves – rather than in other people.

March 7, 2007

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Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 9:51 pm

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March 6, 2007

Lawmakers “Pressure” Federal Prosecutors

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:48 pm
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Ex-prosecutor says lawmaker tried to leverage him

This CNN article reports that ousted federal prosecutors are complaining that various Republican Senators and Congressmen pressured them to indict Democrats for corruption before the midterm elections of November 2006.

The article is hard to decipher in places, but its lede puts the focus on Republican politicians, namely Senator Pete Domenici and Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who called then Federal Prosecutor David Iglesias asking him to speed the high-profile indictments of Democrats on corruption charges. The Republicans wanted to speed the indictments, Iglesias implies, because the news coverage would hurt Democrats before the Midterm election, and increase the chance that Republicans could keep the House or the Senate.

The CNN article is good journalism and I wouldn’t suggest reporters shouldn’t cover the topic – I don’t have anything against the article itself except that it is difficult to follow. (In one case it reads: “The Bush administration also applied a heavy hand after the firings of eight prosecutors became public…” What the heck is a “heavy hand?” That doesn’t mean anything to me, and the article never explains it. The article is ridden with stuff like that.) One important detail is that the federal prosecutors quoted in the article have all lost their jobs. If the article is referencing the possibility that the prosecutors were fired by the Republican White House Administration for political reasons, this is certainly a big deal. But inasmuch as “pressure” on prosecutors from congressmen is concerned, I don’t buy Iglesia’s complaint. Perhaps someone else knows more about this or can decode the news story better than I can.

From what I can decipher in the article, this is a free speech issue for me. The Constitution gives all citizens the right to petition government. Federal prosecutors are part of the government. Nowhere does the Constitution say that that right to petiton ends when you are in elected office, or that that right to petition ends when you are doing it for self-serving political reasons. If Republicans want to call up a federal prosecutor and urge him to indict Democrats soon because it will help them in the midterm elections, this falls under protected speech under the Constutution. No matter how “pressured” anyone feels about it, no one has done anything wrong.

If there was extortion or threatening involved (such as the threat that the prosecutors could be fired if they did not comply with the Republicans’ wishes), this becomes a serious legal issue. But Congress doesn’t have he power to fire members of the Executive branch. Pressure from Republicans in Congress might be evidence in a case that the also-Republican Executive branch fired the prosecutors for political reasons – which is well worth making public – but a tenuous connection. Otherwise, this is a free speech issue and the Republican office-holders did nothing wrong.

Much to the chagrin of some of the Republicans I am defending now, I am an advocate of interpreting free speech as liberally as possible, which in this case works in their favor.

On a slight change of topic,

I hope a prominent Democrat points all this out. I know Republicans have played a lot of dirty games with making allegations in recent years, *coughPatrickMcHenrycough*cough*, and that it has likely helped them win certain close races. But I just don’t think Democrats should stoop to that level. Ever. They should defend the good guys everywhere because liberalism is all defending the good guys, even when they’re different than you, and liberalism is about not punishing the good for the sake of punishing the bad. It’s worth it to treat your political opponents with fairness, even if it sometimes hurts, and I think that if Democrats really made this their mantra, to be exeedingly self-critical and avoid double standards, they would win. It would hurt for one election cycle, because all the negativity from the other side would result in painfull losses for elected Democrats. But then they raise the bar of rhetoric across the board, and the debate is about ideas and solutions rather than character assasinations. And I think, and I hope you’ll agree, that the Democratic agenda is the winner when it comes to ideas and solutions.

I think that’s what happened in 2002 and 2004 – the Democrats played fairer than Republicans, so suffered for a few years under the assaults of “the terrorists win” rhetoric from Conservatives. But we saw them bounce back, we saw the Republican’s allegations about a Democrat-Terrorist alliance seem more and more absurd to average people, and now Democrats have enough political momentum that they stand of chance of getting a woman or person of color in the Oval Office. If they Democrats can keep doing that, they can convince the middle-roaders that Democrats are the more reasonable party, and achieve long-term success.

March 5, 2007

Chant

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 7:33 pm
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At five-feet-eleven-inches and 163 pounds, I am the king of the gym.

I need no to teacher, no role model, no standards – I am my own ruler of inclination. I am my own motivational coach and my own golden carrot dangling forever before me. I am powerful – nothing can stop me. It is six full years past the millenium, and I am twenty-one years old.

That’s what I said to myself, in the middle of this, last December, chugging gallons of protein shake and shot-glasses of olive oil to bump up my daily calories when they were too low.

Olive oil!?” my roommate asks, and wrinkles her nose. Hell yeah, I say, and sure, maybe it makes me gag when I drink it, but still; look how smooth my skin is.

“Ooooh!” my roommate says, feeling my arm. “That is smooth.”

Last May I weighed 132. I started lifting in June, eating 3,000 calories a day. Now, in March, I have come a long way – in nine months of working out, I gained 30 pounds. You can hardly see my ribs anymore! Take that, naysayers. That’s 30 pounds of rippling, bulging muscle, and nothing but rippling, bulging muscle. Conceited, you ask? Hell yeah, and I’ll say it again: rippling. I deserve to check myself out in the mirror the way that makes my roommates laugh at me.

“Do you know what you have to put your body through to gain 30 poinds in nine months?” I asked my mom when she said if I want to gain weight so bad I shouldn’t be a vegetarian. I asked her again, “when’s the last time you gained 30 pounds in 9 months?” My mom answered that the last time she gained 30 pounds in 9 months was in 1985, and that when she was done gaining it she went so far as to have “lost it all in just one day – speaking of ‘what you have to put your body through.'” She said the weight she gained was 30 pounds of Matthew.

“Me too,” I said smugly. “I gained 30 pounds of Matthew.” I did it, and I’m a vegetarian.

I need no mentor, no instructor; I need no Men’s Fitness guidelines telling me to eat beef and whey. I am my own coach, sitting like a dentist’s patient on the pec machine, millitary-masculine, silent shouts of motivation roaring like trumpets in my head.

Do you want to press 140!

Hell no, sir!

Why not!

Because it hurts, sir!

What are you gonna do?!

Do it anyway!

How’s it gonna feel!

It’s gonna hurt, sir!

When are you gonna stop!

When I’m no less than sixty-five percent to what my goal is, sir!

What’s your goal?

Ten reps, sir!

Then how many reps are you gonna do!?

At least six and a half, sir!

And when it hurts!?

I do it anyway!

I said what are you gonna do when it hurts!

Do it anyway!!

Are you ready!?

Yeah!

Ready?!

Yeah!!!

Go! And…

One! (one!)

Two! (two!)

Three! (three!)

Fffour! (four!)

Fffivvee! (five!)

Sssssiiiiiiixxx! (six!)

Sssseeeevvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv-sixandahalf!

Six and a half!

Hell yeah!

Yeah!

Yeah!

Perfect!

And I am roaring, chest heaving, heart pounding, veins bulging and neck rippling to hold my expanding body in one piece. Already I am sixty-five percent as heavy and muscular as the average male college student in the gym – so sixty-five percent to where my goal is. Sixty-five percent! I could stop now, based on what I told myself when this began. Sixty-five percent! But I won’t stop. I will not stop! I’m on a roll, approaching slightly-above-average in fitness for men. I am twenty-one years old. I gained 30 pounds in 9 months. And at 5’11” and 163 pounds, I am the king of the gym.

March 4, 2007

The Right Box

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:04 pm
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The Christian cannon has Jesus explaining the importance of faith. But the importance of the “Christian” identity is more deeply rooted in the thoughts of later writers like Augustine and Calvin. Those men built the theological system in which it is through faith that we are saved from damnation, to the extent that, to be saved, we do not only have to beleive in the right God, being the Trinity, but must also know the correct facts down to some important specific details. Those details are about why Jesus died, whether Jesus is in the Eucharist or not and which specific acts are sins and which are not sins. You need to know the details because you are cleansed from sin by Jesus’ death because Jesus loves you sooo much, but if you do not claim Jesus’ death with the right particular language, the request doesn’t go through so you go to hell because you are still full of sin. One example of not using the right particular language is claiming Jesus without realizing how it relates to your inherent sinfulness as a fallen human being – that means saying you’re Christian without knowing why, without beleiving in Hell. Another example is claiming Jesus while beleiving in evolution and not undestanding that this is all necessary because Adam and Eve, two real historic humans, ate the forbidden fruit. A third example is claiming Jesus, but voting for the wrong political party or mistyping the word “Jesus” on your divine Atonement application forms. That is why it is necessary to spell-check everything before approaching Jesus to be saved, and why Hell is full of dyslexics.

Those last two sentences are a joke, but everything else is substantially true. In Christianity, having faith is considered a paralel to being a good person, or sometimes causes you to want to be a good person, but the two are distinct, and Faith is the more necessary component. No matter how “good” you are, you cannot get into Heaven without having faith that Jesus’ crucifixion washes away your inherent sinfulness, which was brought on by the first sin of Adam and Eve, and a decent understanding of that down to the details. In Christianity, being a “good person” is secondary to being a beleiver.

In Islam, though, beleiving in God is one of the first principles of being a “good person” in the first place. If you want to inquire whether or not a man is good, you first ask if he beleives in God. You can do good deeds all your life, but if you do not beleive in God, the One God, and the correct God of scripture, you are not a good person, and will be punished for not being good. The importance of beleiving is imbedded deeply in the Qur’an, coming straight from the teaching of Muhammed, who, in Islam, recieved telepathic messages directly from God’s angelic correspondents.

Maybe if God had ever communicated directly to me, I would have faith like Muhammed. However, I have not been so lucky, being born of this world and knowing nothing but the phoenomena therin. I would surmise that few have had the fortune of having seen direct evidence of God, but are instead left to rely on the merits of their faulty rational enqiry. And it’s too bad that 95% of humanity is automatically dammned because, even though some religions have substantial proportions of the World’s population, the nuances of beleif that are necessary to salvation are not shared by more than a small faction of a fraction within the One True Faith.

When I was going through my religious crisis in my late teens, I started to see the religions that beleive in Hell and the necessity of Faith for salvation like this:

Imagine that you unexplainedly find yourself in a dark room, and in the dark room are several lit doors engraved with symbols that are intrinsically meaningless to you, but claiming their own meaning. Each door is posted with reasons it is superior to the other ones, that usually read something like this: “this door is superior to the other ones because it is right and they are wrong.” You might find yourself starting out with your hand already close to the knob of a particular door, or you might be far from any door. You understand that if you pass through the correct door before your allotted time is up, you will find Paradise on the other side. If you choose the wrong door or, or find the correct door but are not sufficiently confident in your choice of that door before your time is up, you will fall into a pit of burning molten lava and writhe in it forever. You are given no other information, except that the being who created you wants you to pick the right door and in his infinite wisdom has determined that you truly deserve wherever you end up based on your choice of doors.

This is basically why I first gave up on Christianity, Catholocism in particular, and Abrahamic religion in general. It is not because I “disagree” with Catholic politics, it is not because I am gay, not because the Catholic Church “kicked me out,” and it is not because I am bitter or have insufficient “proof” of the historical phonomena any religion is based on. It’s because it’s hopeless – that is, to say, each religion only explains itself, to itself, and is otherwise devoid of meaning. All religions can understand the world reasonably well on their own, but in the presence of each other, no religion stands out, and to alledge that any person has a fair chance of choosing the right one out of so many is absurd.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 7:25 pm

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