Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Materialism Rocks

The people who complain that Christmas is getting too commercial are just mad they didn’t get any good stuff. I got one of those portable GPS devices that looks like a handheld flat-screen TV. No matter where you are, it pinpoints and labels (to within a few feet) your immediate location and surroundings, and how to reach wherever you’re going. I haven’t been paying much attention to new technology for over a year now and I’m therefore hopelessly out of date, since these things have apparently been standard issue in most new cars for quite some time.

I also have a nice leather pouch to carry the GPS and all its accessories. Currently, I’m in the market for an affordable case lined entirely in lead, for those times when I know exactly where I’m going but don’t need anyone else to.

Hope you had an enjoyable religious or secular winter-themed holiday of your choice.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

O Happy Day

In the spirit of this holiday season (which some people say is sacred though I spent my day at a party hosted in a comic-book shop), I offer a ray of hope for our country's future: the BBC reports that hell-and-brimstone evangelicals in Kansas are losing interest in what the headline calls “Bible bashing.”

The article starts with some background about Kansas in general and Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps in particular, and then says this:

The point is that Pastor Phelps and his followers are not much liked by anyone inside or outside Kansas. The "burning at the stake" wing of America's Christian churches - the wing that stresses vengeance over love - is in trouble.

The gentle, Nativity-scene crowd are the ones on the up.

Mr Phelps still grabs horrified attention from foreigners and Americans alike but most religious Kansans (and that means most Kansans) are becoming steadily less aggressive: not less religious but less intolerant.

Opinion polls suggest that younger evangelical Christians are falling out of love with the "big causes" their churches have championed in recent years, in particular with opposing abortion and supporting the Iraq war.

The story goes on to discuss another preacher who lost his megachurch in Wichita and has been reduced to renting hotel conference rooms:

You would expect the Rev Fox in God-fearing Kansas, to be preaching in a mega-church, an establishment big enough to cope with the crowds.

And until recently he was: the Immanuel Baptist Church near the centre of town was his.

It was easily spotted because of the huge, tubular, white cross, 100ft (30 metres) high and heated from the inside so that it does not freeze and topple over.

But the Rev Fox's cross is all that is left of his ministry at the old place.

He tells me it was time to move on but most locals think he was thrown out for being too dogmatic, too extreme, even in Wichita.

To see Rev Fox in action, I had to go to the Best Western hotel out among the tattier motels and gas stations on the far outskirts of town.

Karma! And the bit about the younger crowd drifting away from the values of their parents is heartening, too.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Unsubtle Ploy For Sympathy

GAAAAH! Fuck you, Mother Nature, for going all Joan Crawford on me like that. Behold the breakdown for yesterday:

10 a.m. Leave for work. Thick snow’s already falling, and forecasters say our little corner of New England will get walloped by a winter storm. I know, without even calling, that the office will be closed for the day, but I HAVE to go in because I’ve got a phone interview scheduled with a Very Important National Politician, and I was lucky to get that appointment in the first place (the best I’d reasonably hoped for was a canned statement from the VINP’s third undersecretary), and there’s no way I can reschedule if I miss the VINP’s call. So I get in my car and start what’s usually a half-hour commute this late in the morning.

1:30 p.m. Arrive at the office, which closed an hour and a half before (a.k.a. Two hours after I left). Fortunately, my security badge doubles as an electronic key. The newsroom’s deserted save for my boss, who got there just a few minutes before. “You may as well go home,” he said. “I can’t,” I replied. “[A VINP] is supposed to call me at 3:15 to talk about [this story I’m working on].”

3:10. VINP’s press secretary calls to say that unfortunately the VINP is running late, so could we re-schedule for 4:30? Of course I say yes.

4:30. Press secretary calls. Unfortunately the VINP is running late. Can we reschedule for 4:45? Of course I say yes.

4:53:30. Press secretary calls. Hold for the VINP, please.

4:56. VINP call ends. Wow. The man gives great soundbite. Quotewise, he’s the best 90 seconds of journalism I’ve ever had. Too bad he probably never even knew my name.

5:10. Get in my car and leave for home. Streets haven’t been plowed at all. Thassokay, it’s not like Hartford is anything important like the capital city of Connecticut or anything. No, wait, it is! Streets still aren’t plowed, though.

5:20. Pull onto Interstate on-ramp.

5:21. Interstate closes.

6:15. Still sitting on the on-ramp.

6:20. Traffic is moving! Hosanna! I’m moving, I’m moving. . . I’m two hundred yards closer to home but now traffic’s stopped again. Another motionless half-hour.

6:50. One-hundred-yard advance. Stop. Curse. Swear. Then notice that if I ride on the shoulder for 20 yards I can reach that next exit, which has been plowed.

7:00. And I see that the alternate road I’d planned to take is impassable. The Interstate’s still closed. Now what? Start driving west. I’ll find my way home somehow.

7:30. Where the hell am I? Some ritzy retail district. Too bad everything’s closed; I’d love nothing more than to stop and ask for directions.

7:45. Also, I need to use the bathroom.

8:00. Hey, I recognize that route number! Somewhere south of here, it eventually reaches an intersection not far from where I live. All I need to do is — no, wait, it’s a hilly road. And it hasn’t been plowed or salted. No way can my car make it. Keep driving down whatever the hell road I’m already on.

8:10. Seriously, I really need to use the bathroom.

8:24. There’s a McDonald’s up ahead. And it’s open! There’s people inside! Oh Ronald, my love, your hamburgers suck but for now I adore you. Going up to the counter, I say in what turns out to be the most unintentionally plaintive voice I’ve ever used, “Can you tell me how to get to [town where I live] without using Interstate 84? It’s closed in both directions.” Staff’s shocked to hear that. Turns out I’m only a few miles north of my destination.

9:00. Home. Finally. Over the course of eleven hours I accomplished nothing except a 90-second phone call.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Continuing My Legacy

If future generations remember me for only one thing, I’d hope it would be this: “Jennifer raised ‘fuck you’ to an art form.” In hopes of deserving such a reputation, here’s this week’s cover story for the Advocate: about 1300 words’ worth of me pointing out the perfidiousness of our local DMV.

If they hadn’t been such annoying pains in the ass when I tried getting a simple comment for my "Sisyphus/civil unions” article a few weeks back, this week's story would never have been written. Let that be a lesson to any government officials who try stonewalling me in the future: my boss WILL let me eviscerate you in print, so long as I promise to be funny about it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The True Libertarian Bullion Fetish

So I’ve been amassing a small collection of little silver art bars, because they’re pretty and I’m afraid the dollar might soon go into freefall. Even if it doesn’t, a proper libertarian is supposed to have some bullion lying around anyway, to huddle over from time to time while hissing “We hateses the fiat money, yes we does, my precioussss.” (I am not, however, going to drink any of it, like those in the Stan Jones camp.)

Advice for like-minded lunatics: you can get silver for very little above spot value, or even a tad below, if you don’t mind having it molded into (usually) tacky “commemorative medals” or ingots. And although I don’t usually go for the hearts-and-flowers motifs, I particularly like the .999 fine ingot engraved with same and the words “Be My Valentine, February 14, 1974.”

It takes a special kind of man to give the gift of bullion on Valentine’s Day. Considering that the costs are the same anyway, I’d say an ingot of silver makes a better gift than a bunch of stupid soon-to-be dead flowers, but then I never did quite understand why I as a woman am supposed to get all weak-kneed at the sight of flowers, anyway. What’s the use of dead plant matter if you can’t eat it, wear it or smoke it?

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