Thursday, November 20, 2008


And this, my friends, is how you do self-effacing humor:

So here I stand…the figure of pure bad-assyness, for the rest of you to admire and fear. I am the MAN of my house and I can do as I please. I can come and go as I want, no matter the hour (one day a week- and as long as get home by 11pm- and bring back a half-gallon of milk). My little girls look at me now with awe-struck admiration. My wife looks at me with a strange new lust that I can’t quite put my finger on, but never the less, it IS lust. I’m a biker mofos, and no Johnny Law can keep me down.

Lesson: Never get between a boy and his bike; more importantly, however, don't get in the way of his wife and hers.

The original title--which was just Duff McKagan: BADASS, was better.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whole Foods Revolver

I'm a tad slap happy today, oweing to novel-writing induced sleep deprivation, but I saw this on Flea's blog, and it reminded me of something barely related and, thus, a posting.

From Flea:

When Chris and I went to the new store last week, we noticed that due to the wretched economy, Whole Foods is now trying to compete on price a little bit, which is adorable. It's like Queen Elizabeth trying to slide herself into a Ford Fiesta and pretending like it was her idea and she's not utterly miserable about what she's been reduced to.

Whole Foods and their various relations (ours being Earthfare) are an entertaining side project of mine. That is, I love to go into the stores and slink around a bit, trying to appear as if I fit in. Now, in Athens, this is damn hard to do. In comparision to my student shoppers, I ooze yuppie-dom-->from the suit (grey, today, if you are interested, no Converses, however, since I have to interview someone later. Do have on a tre' cool Jimi T-shirt with the suit, so not too upper crust) to the Hybrid Escape.

See, folks like me, with three teenagers, cannot possibly fit the whole famdamily into a Prius. We tried; it was rather like watching the old jokes about clowns and VW bugs in action. As such, we follow our natural instincts toward the SUV (read: glorified station wagon) and get the hybrid varient of the Escape. We pat ourselves on the back because we at least didn't go so far as to buy the behemoth: the Hybrid Escalade. Not that we could have afforded it, even had we wanted to. Also, I don't think my levels of rationalization are up to the task of that beast.

So, I drive into the parking lot in my "little" Escape, hop out, and go into the store on a stealth mission, usually for Garlic Vinagrette, which no one else in town seems to want to carry. They usually spot me immediately, since 9.4672 times out of 10 I manage to gawk uncomfortably over at least one price. Also, I tend to hunt for carob-coated peanuts and raisins, which seems to upset people greatly. Carob is wonderfood for the milk allergic, dammit. I am not stuck in the 70's.

It nevertheless seems to bother the folks there.

So, I'm reading Flea and laughing because I love, love, love my little Earthfare, and Flea's Queen Elizabeth analogy was just too perfect for them too.

Then, for reasons I can only begin to imagine, I recalled the stories about the formation of Velvet Revolver, some of which involve a Whole Foods Market encounter between Duff McKagan and Scott Wieland. I make no claims about the veracity of these accounts, but the image is terribly amusing, isn't it? Consider this, Duff, who has an affinity for all things grocery store, wheeling his cart/buggy/call it what you will around the store, either chasing Weiland down (quick, he's on the organic teas aisle!) or bumping into him in front of the kale, wherein they discuss the formation of a band.

This is what happens when rockers grow up, my friends. No more Canter's Deli, complete with beer, chains, and tomfoolery. Rock N' Roll really looks aged when you ponder the possibilities here, doesn't it? I'm not knocking this--dude has to eat. Can you imagine how that conversation would go?

And why the hell does it amuse me so much to imagine the setting in the Whole Foods Market? Oh, right, I remember--the yuppie thing. It feels so short story, so fan fiction, so whimiscal. Maybe that's the thing for me here; there is a certain whimsy to shopping in the "healthy store" as opposed to the big, bad chain (even if one can't possibly afford to do all of one's shopping there). It's a health food boutique; a place to jazz up the normal fare by buying "organic" and "gluten-free"*! Or maybe just pick up your new lead vocalist!

Wait...maybe this all explains the Duff LeBon look he's been sporting of late?-->

He's giving into his aristocratic know, the ones eschewed in "Punk Rock Song" and "Greed."** Whole Foods Market is no longer enough to satiate, he needs to become the New Romantic faux-Percy Shelley- faux-aristocrat!

Or not.

I think I need to get some sleep.

*Truth be told, I am delighted to see the expansion of gluten-free products in the last few years. It's about damn time. But, you've bought them just for the kitsch value, haven't you? Admit it. Like the organic wine. Or the tofu ice cream (which has also, blessedly, improved over the years). Just to say you've tried it. It's okay, I won't tell.

**I laughed when I heard this song; it revisits the themes of "Punk Rock Song" without the snarl. I've often wondered how Duff feels about some of that song--he still does it live, though in the version I have he did not sing the part I wonder most about, regarding daughters and their pink panties. I'm thinking having daughters might make that section of the song a tad more uncomfortable, in that "someone ever says that to my girls and I'll kick his ass" sort of way.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dirty Laundry: Anarchy, Misanthropy, Ethics and Other Fears

I have a fleet of thoughts rolling about in the ole noggin right now; I hope I can attempt to make sense of them. Many of them are personal and directly related to a particular theological struggle within my church, but I think most of them are about power.

My church is conflicted over it's mission--are we a building or are we our missions? Where does "church" exist? G. (poor man needs a better pseudonym than that) and I were discussing such after a particularly stressful board meeting, and I posited that the older members of our church cannot delegate leadership because they do not trust the successive generations to "get it done." In general, we do get the various "its" done, but we do it entirely differently that the "Greatest Generation" and we are therefore perceived as wrong or as suggesting that they were somehow wrong.

Not wrong--just different.

Then, another pseudonymless person sent me this link, wherein Bill T-B discusses the realities of church conversations; I think he's right--it's about power, not about discussion. So, let me put my cards on the table: a church that chooses a structure (no matter how beautiful it is) over human capital--and make no mistake about it, that is what this discussion comes down to--is a church that has already failed, irrespective of how many people attend each Sunday.

Speaking of which, church attendance is not limited to Sunday at 11; good, generous and worthy people show up at other times to worship in other ways and that is a Good Thing. Different is not wrong and it is certainly not divisive. It's just different.

Were I to be able to corner the building faction of the church for a moment and rant, I might say something like the following:

Look, we aren't making comment about you; we are simply trying to create a space for ourselves and our lives, which do not fit within the paradigm that has operated here for so long. I prefer an early worship with a focus on discussion; you prefer the traditional service at 11. That is not divisive; it's just different. We have college students worshiping here on Wednesday nights; they may not come to church on Sunday. So what? Good for them for finding their own spiritual paths and fulfilling their own needs. What we need is not an elevator--we can have a "church" in a tent; we need to work within our community. We have a mission and that mission is about people, not wooden beams and stained glass. Why the subterfuge? Why the insistence that we do it your way? Why the assumption that if you cannot afford to give more that no one else can either? We know you can't give any more than you do, and we aren't asking you to. We are asking you to listen to us. We are asking you to support the mission by supporting our people. We are asking you to trust us. Trust us to be good and joyful people who do the right thing, even if it looks different.

Different isn't wrong. Different is just different.

I was called (and it isn't formalized yet, so perhaps this is the shotgun to the foot approach) recently to serve as an Elder in our church, and, for several reasons, I feel simultaneously called to and unworthy of the task. So, I find myself (following the pseudonymless blog sender above) wondering: Why do we need leaders? To whom do we grant authority, and what ends do we provide to that authority?

Were this an ideal world, I'd be an anarchist. I strongly believe that were we inherently responsible folks, government oversight would be irrelevant. But, while I am a self-confessed idealist, I am also a bit more realistic than open advocacy of anarchy would allow. I believe, as Craig O'Hara suggests, that "anarchists must become 'teachers' to others without, of course, becoming leaders" (84).*

First of all, I work for the state, and, as such, absolute advocacy of anarchy would amount to shooting myself in the foot (Houston, we have a theme). Second, I don't believe that there is anything inherently wrong with a government system, except for the whole human factor. Yes, I am indeed an idealist misanthrope. Third, with respect to say, my church, leadership is needed, because there are people who, whatever their reasons may be, are willing to make choices that are not Good Things and often for very Bad Reasons.

One of the first lessons one learns in AA (or any of the other 12-step programs) is that one cannot face addiction on his or her own. Now, this does provide a delightful self-perpetuity to the whole cause, but I am not so cynical as to believe that is why such remarks exist in the AA canon. As befits a person who is a professor and college administrator and therefore must speak to strangers all the time, I am extraordinarily shy. Making a phone call is a serious production for me, often involving far more time than you might care to imagine. This would include, by the way, calling church ladies about communion bread (though, if you'd ever met some of the church ladies I mean...Ah, see remarks above). Nevertheless, I try to do at least one thing every day that scares me (you'd think I would have run out by now), so I do manage to get through most calls and meetings.

For the record, I took almost 30 days into sobriety to go to AA, because of the whole stranger-anxiety thing. Also, I failed with the AA-sponsor bit. I can mentor people (and have, with some success), but asking that of someone else? When I finally got up the gumption to ask someone, she was too busy, which happens with sponsors who are worth their salt.

Sort of like major professors, now that I think about it. Grad School as the 12-step program intended to cause addictions. I rather like that analogy.

That said, I do understand the philosophy about not going-it-alone, a difficult prospect for many situations, and a nearly untenable one for sobriety (especially in the early days). My personality being how it is, I struggled with this tenet, but I do get it. See, teachers of all stripes are significant, and not necessarily because of the subject-information they impart. The best teachers are guides, not just information banks (though, reams of information are terribly cool too and often come packaged in leader-types, such as Dr. Bill Carroll, my American Lit prof at NSU, who was one of those incredible people who had clearly forgotten far more than most of us will ever hope to learn...gads he was great). Brad, over at Hardcore Zen, has wrestled with the importance of teachers in the context of religion:

In my case, I'm absolute certain that had my teacher not told me how utterly dorkified my little "spiritual awakenings" had been, and how I was hardly unusual, let alone unique, for having had such and experience, I could have easily decided that I was the latest incarnation of God. (Warner 55)

We need leaders and guides, especially when we are stuck, scared, or beginning again. With respect to sobriety, several recent events have made it clear to me that having a local guide or touchstone is a very Good Thing, and that having a teacher is also a Good Thing in all things--someone who can point out, gently one's dork moments. So, I am a teacher-guide of literature, but what of becoming a spiritual teacher--guide (I'm struggling with the right words here--leader? Who am I to lead? Insight--sure; guidance, maybe--but I see my role within the church as one of support staff for the professional we hired--they who teach and guide me). Clearly, this is a scary time--the economy has tanked; I am hopeful about our president-elect, but I recognize that there are many who are not. So be it.

But scary times are not the times to make the easy choices; scary times are not the times to cut missions and to fail to protect people through those missions and through our choices. We must make hard choices and they need to be creative ones. They must be creative. They must be thoughtful and they must look toward a future that is not ours but that of successive generations. That creativity will demand change and demand difference--and that's okay.

Different isn't bad; it's just different.

And it isn't just my church, which is merely a microcosm, it's the whole freaking shebang. Scary times call for creative, ethical spirit and hope for the future, not retreating into the building and hoping it will all be okay.

*Currently have students writing on anarchy; I'm very excited about their opinions on the matter. Very astute thinkers, my group.

**I'll say it now, before you read the works cited list: yes, I am a dork.

Works Cited

O'Hara, Craig. The Philosophy of Punk. San Francisco: AK Press, 1999.

Warner, Brad. Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, & Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye. Novato: New World Library, 2007.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day seems an awfully odd phrase--we invoke happiness here?

Taddyporter captures Vet's Day far better than I. Read well:

The dubya regime of chickenhawks and warmongers has exploited veterans' love of this country and pride in their service for a program of propaganda and coercion. We are told we must support the occupation of Iraq to honor the service of those who have fallen there.The country has rejected this lie. We have issued orders to our new leaders to end the occupation and get us the fuck out of Iraq. How that is done, we leave to them. We require only that it be done speedily and without further damage to our strategic position. The right will resist. They will wave the bloody shirt. They will invoke the memory of our sacred dead. Once again, its down to the triarii. Veterans can stand against this blasphemy the same way they have stood against our enemies. They can tell the story; how our mighty Armed Forces are the Shield of the Republic and must not be wasted on adventurism and buccaneering.Soldiers and sailors of the Republic! We salute you! Now, once more, veterans Up Front!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post-English Major Concerns

As every English and Literature major knows, the most fun one can possibly have is reading the titles and subjects of conference panels, with MLA often providing the best bits of hilarity. Over the past few years, talks on alien sex have been prominent there and also food theory (one of my colleagues submitted a proposal to one such panel and was informed that her paper lacked sufficient "theoretical basis."* On food in literature. Seriously.)

Indeed, this is occasionally the only fun we are provided with.

But, my choice for Best Panel Title this year comes not from the realm of the truly weird, but merely the concisely put. So, from College Language Association's Call for Papers for 2009, I give you this:

“Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow”: Black Men’s Political Writings"

Now, my friends...quoting Funkadelic in an Academic forum...that is true beauty.

Of course, it also makes me wonder about our political and social climate--might we FINALLY see this in action?

* I mock only because I can. Great and worthy things can be said about food and, by extension, hunger in literature. Read Kafka's "Hunger Artist" because you should if you haven't and because it is a text that begs for explorations of hunger (duh). BUT, as with so many of our small stakes in literary theory, the dismissiveness regarding theory was out of line with the significance of the subject.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dreams, redux

Melissa Etheridge is pissed and folks are assuming that she won't pay taxes now (not exactly what she said). What she said is:

Okay. So Prop 8 passed. Alright, I get it. 51% of you think that I am a second class citizen. Alright then. So my wife, uh I mean, roommate? Girlfriend? Special lady friend? You are gonna have to help me here because I am not sure what to call her now. Anyways, she and I are not allowed the same right under the state constitution as any other citizen. Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books.

And she goes on to imagine not paying them, sort of. It's a rant; what she will do is up to her and, good grief, focusing on the taxes part rather misses the point of the rant: civil rights and equal treatment.

Go, Melissa. You are at your best when you are angry, woman. Get 'em.

For the rest of you, particularly if you haven't considered the realities of the "yes" vote in CA to Proposition 8, please take a few minutes to read Ding's take on the matter.

Now, I don't live in Cali and haven't for, oh, 31.5 years or so, but it is where I was born, and I am rather fond of it. Breathing my first breaths in California, my mother has occasionally told people, is the primary reason behind my liberal notions. She can't begin to imagine where else such ideas would have come from. *shaking head*

So, I tend to pay a good bit of attention to California politics (and Virginia as well, since I spent my formative years there--proud of the Old Dominion right now). As happy as I am about the outcome of the national election, I am troubled by this Proposition's outcome, for many of the same reasons Ding cites, and the following one in particular:


I couldn't possibly say it any better than this.

Also, the ease with which amendments can be made to state constitutions (and the frequency with which they show up--we had some real oddities regarding tax law even here)...yikes.

So, go read, my friends.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Beautiful Dreams

I cried tonight, watching the election returns come in, mostly when I saw the kids at Morehouse College celebrating. I wish I could see Norfolk State right now; I'm with you in spirit Spartans.

This is indeed a day of magic. Tomorrow, the work begins anew.

Never forget the work we must do in support of equality and justice. Never quiet the call; never shrink from the difficult choices. Never forget who came before us; never forget who stood beside us and who turned away afraid--we must reach out to them all. We cannot remain a nation divided. Most of all, never forget the ones who will come long after we are gone. We build our dreams for them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Alert: Sex Tied to Teen Pregnancy!


In light of my recent comments regarding images vs reality and the importance of critical thinking skills, I present you with this article from MSNBC (though they were not alone in reporting on this study). As you see, the article discussed the ramifications of sex on TV and the potential correlation to teen sex (and pregnancy, more specifically). The original study, by the RAND Corporation, can be found here, though you'll have to connect to Pediatrics if you want to read more than the abstract.

I find this study conceptually flawed because I really don't buy that the images on TV are themselves destructive. Does this mean I advocate showing porn to kids as sex ed (see Duff's "Get in the Ring" post for clarification on this remark), no, of course not. Does this mean I am personally comfortable with the soft core that pretends to be teen TV sometimes? No, I'm not, but not because I think the images of teens engaging in sexual behaviors of various stripes are inherently dangerous.

Here's the problem I'm having: certainly the study makes clear that myriad reasons undergird each teen pregnancy, but demonizing popular culture seems wrongheaded. Sure, teens can get some wickedly bad ideas from TV (or music or whatever), and if they haven't been provided with the tools to THINK about what they are seeing or hearing, then, yes, problems can arise. Somewhere in here we need to give kids the resources and wherewithal to choose as wisely as possible, and, then, we have to step back.

Some of them will screw up, no matter what we teach.

I was one of those cases. I knew the difference between reality and fantasy; I knew how to use protection and where to get it. I just didn't. I wasn't trying to get pregnant, and I had no illusions that a baby would "make everything better." I was far too nihilistic for that; in many ways, pregnancy was merely one more attempt at self-destruction for me. I am fortunate that I had the support that I did with my choices, so that I am still here, pontificating on this blog and raising a tough-guy, whose life was more difficult than was strictly necessary, since his mother was (and is) still growing up during these formative years.

Here's what I kept thinking while reading the articles: we aren't putting responsibility where it most strongly belongs. Parents and schools and communities must educate. Pop culture? It shapes and reflects, true, but education and critical thinking can mitigate the problems presented by pop culture, surely. Make no mistake about it; teens bear the responsibility for their choices. And they must shoulder it. I knew perfectly well what chances I was taking when I got pregnant with my son, and I accept that I was the one who made those choices, in conjunction with his father. Not our parents. Not our schools. Not the popular images we were exposed to.

TV does not lead to pregnancy; sex does.

Most of the time, teen girls get pregnant because they failed to use protection or used it improperly (wrong time, skipped pills, etc). This is a direct correlation of events...the behavior exhibited by the teens themselves. In addition to coaching teens (of all genders) on responsible use of protection, adults (parents, teachers, whomever) must teach these kids how to think! What they see on TV does not have to translate to anything other than entertainment.

Rant over. For now, at least.