Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bad strategies

This is a very late post. I’m hoping that with my day off tomorrow, I can get caught up, but as soon as I post this I am planning on working another hour of overtime, and hoping to write five pages in the screenplay. So, that’s just how it goes.
I did still get to read some news, and one of the most interesting things today was this piece by Ezra Klein:
There are a few things that are interesting about this. One is just that what these endorsements really boil down to is at its best throwing in the towel on reasonable behavior, and at its worst the sort of thought that goes along with “Well she shouldn’t have been wearing that tight skirt.”
The other interesting thing is Klein’s point is that you don’t want to reward gridlock because that will lead to more of it. There is something to that point, though I am not sure that I agree with his assumption that a Democrat legislature would use it against a Republican president. We haven’t had a chance to observe every possibility of course, but based on observed behavior, obstructionism has been much more of a Republican strategy, while the Democrat strategy has been compromise until you fold.
However, I think there is a much more important point about the consequences of voting for Romney because Congress will work for him, and that is the types of things they will work on. GOP control of the legislative and executive branches could be expected to be devastating to the economy, the environment, healthcare, and as opportunities came up to appoint new Supreme Court justices, I would expect a big shift to the right there, with all of those attendent consequences.
Now, if you are in line with the conservative ideologies, and think that more tax cuts and less regulations are what will fix the economy, and there is no such thing as global warming, and Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act should be overturned, and the sooner the better, then obviously, Romney Ryan is the ticket you want. However, that did not seem to be the point of view of these endorsements.
When you have people with destructive goals, cooperation can be disastrous. A better strategy is to vote more Democrats into Congress, and if your officials are the obstructionists, write to them, and get other people involved. Yes, they need their corporate donor money, but they need it so they can get votes, and it doesn’t have to work. Frankly, the less it works, the better for all of us.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

100% wrong about 47%

My most disappointing moment with Romney probably came when he apologized for the 47% remark. I was appalled by the original remark, but not surprised. When I saw that he was taking it back, I thought maybe he was going to show some signs that he got it.

I was hoping for more explanation about why it was wrong, and that could have been good for other people too, because so many people were jumping right on that bandwagon, talking about the moochers and he was totally right. I believe this was an opportunity for a teachable moment, and no, what we got was more of the same—this is kind of unpopular, so I’m going to back off from it, but in no way that will indicate any change or sincerity or actual care about anyone who is not a huge donor.

So, I’m going to take the teachable moment here. First of all, let’s get some context, because a lot of people defended the comments, admitting that it sounded bad, but suggesting that it was taken out of context and then blown out of proportion. Here is the original question:

Audience member: For the last three years, all everybody's been told is, "Don't worry, we'll take care of you." How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you've got to take care of yourself?

The first point to make here is that message is a myth, as bad as the “apology tour”. Really? Who has been saying “We will take care of you?” What, because unemployment benefits have been extended under an economic crisis? Because of the Affordable Care Act? I guess this is the mindset of someone who can afford to go to $50K plate dinners.

This could have been a good teachable moment for the attendees, but this is what we got:

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it…These are people who pay no income tax, 47% of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll (President Obama) be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.”

Let’s look at that number. The first problem is that it’s saying that this is one group who both relies on federal aid and favors Obama, and does not pay federal income tax. That is incorrect.

One group that tends not to pay federal income taxes is senior citizens, because they are retired, and no longer making income. They make up about 20% of the 47%. They are often on social security, which could count as aid, but they paid into it, and they paid federal income taxes before, and they often vote Republican. Well, Ryan may have alienated a lot of them, though by threatening that other aid program, Medicare, so maybe some of them will be voting for Obama.

Another group that does not pay federal income tax consists of military members serving in combat zones. Yeah, as their salary comes out of the defense budget, I guess they are dependent on federal aid. They may even hope to use the GI bill or a Veterans Association loan one of these days. And let’s not forget those cushy healthcare benefits that are completely adequate and their always promptly processed disability claims. Moochers! Obviously, that is sarcastic, and most of the military members I know tend to vote Republican. However, I think they are statistically insignificant sample, so we’ll move on. (Also, there is a limit to how long they will be in that zone, and they will eventually be subject to federal income taxes again.)

Next up, low-income families, and even some less-low income families, because of deductions. There are deductions for children, deductions for a mortgage and for property and sales taxes, and this can reduce their federal taxable income to zero, or where it’s low. One interesting point about this is that it was the Bush tax cuts that lowered their tax liability. Again, this is a temporary thing, because most likely their children will stop being dependent before they stop working, and then they are probably going to pay some taxes, but their kids will be costing them less and it works out.

Now let’s talk about those deductions, because many of them are on the chopping block under a Romney-Ryan budget. Many of these deductions were put into place to encourage things that are valued by society. For all of the talk about population growth, the birth rate is falling in a lot of countries, but you do need new blood. There are deductions for children and for childcare. There are deductions and credits for education, because having educated people entering the workforce is helpful. Home ownership is associated with stable communities, so you can deduct mortgage interest and property tax. You can deduct charitable contributions because that is using money to do good. There is value in these things.

Also, notice that I keep mentioning deductions for taxes, because federal income taxes are not the only taxes. There are payroll taxes, state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and all sorts of ways that people contribute. The brilliant thing about this is that many people who don’t pay federal income tax may not even realize that they don’t, making it easier to view other people as moochers.

Okay, maybe Romney was wrong on the tax issue, but still, look at all those people living it up on government handouts! There are a couple of ways to go with this, and I am already running late, but I did read something interesting about TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and EIC (Earned Income Credit): they are very effective at moving people into higher income jobs.

Remember, how Romney was criticizing Obama’s eliminating the work requirement for welfare, and he was wrong, and Clinton explained it really well at the convention. Actually they were giving the states more leeway to make things successful, and continued permission was based on success, and all involved more work. So here’s the great news: it works! These programs are turning out to be effective. They are finding ways to help people move up the ladder economically, despite all of the other forces making it harder.

So here we can talk about the things that are making economic success harder, or the tendency to vilify others who are actually quite similar to you. I don’t know in which order it will happen. Right now I need to log back on to the job that actually pays me and try and pick up overtime while it is available (which doesn’t happen often), and with luck maybe I can get another five pages done on my new screenplay.

See, I am working class, and I make less than $50K a year, even when I get overtime, so dinners like that are just out of the question. Well, at least I pay federal income tax.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Problems with Mitt Romney

I had mentioned this earlier, but when we were coming back from Mexico, we were watching the Republican candidates debate and catching up on the news, and I noted that they seemed to be dropping out in the order of least intelligent/craziest to smarter/saner. The only exception was Huntsman, because I felt like he was relatively smart and sane, but I guess he just wasn’t getting enough traction. At that time, it was pretty easy to predict that it would end up being Romney, and it fact, that’s how it turned out.
Okay, I thought it was predictable. I don’t remember what people were saying at the time, because I already knew there was no one that I would vote for on that side. Romney won the nomination because he was the least crazy Republican candidate, and although things are getting uglier all the time in politics, most people don’t like voting for lunatics.
Now, there is clearly a lot to say about why the current GOP seems to do such a good job of attracting lunatics, and how this is politically detrimental, but now I want to talk about this relatively sane man who is really not that well-liked. Most people are not thrilled that this is their candidate.
I have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, having such a marvelously incompetent competitor makes me feel better about President Obama’s chances, so in that way he’s kind of a gift. On the other hand, he is drawing a lot of attention to the Church, and it has tended to be negative, and more on that later.
So, what is Romney’s problem? There are obviously things he can do well, and just for the fact that he has closed so many business deals, I have to assume he has a certain amount of cleverness and charm, but he just ends up so consistently off-base, he alienates people right and left. One reason he seemed relatively sane is that he does not seem married to the hard-core Republican policies, but he changes sides and positions so easily that you can’t feel any trust. Maybe he’s not totally committed to gutting Medicare, but he’s certainly not committed to saving it, so if other people are committed to gutting it, and they are people he will listen to, on with the disemboweling!
I have some thoughts about where this comes from. I remember reading one column (I think it was David Brooks), suggesting that the issue was coming of age in a service-based economy rather than manufacturing or digital, where Romney needed to adapt into the ultimate people pleaser. I reject this, if for no other reason than that if that was the case, he should be much better at pleasing people than he is.
Another theory (and this was from Rolling Stone) was that because Romney saw his father’s political career end because of his stand on Vietnam, even though people would later agree with him, he learned that integrity and authenticity is the sure path to distraction, and left those behind. I hope that’s not the case, because that really would have been a horrible lesson, and surely not the one his father wanted him to learn.
The impression I have gotten is that he is just so sure that he is right that he doesn’t worry about the details. Of course he should win the election, so he can say what needs to be said to do so. I may be wrong, but that’s what I have felt. It’s a dangerous attitude anyway, but there does seem to be a general air of specialness that can easily accompany great wealth.
There was one story going around that may illustrate the point. It was used as an example of how good and caring a man he was. A colleague’s daughter was missing, and they shut everything down to form search parties and find her. It’s like the family Ryan mentioned, where Romney took the Christmas presents. Okay, great, I know about these people, and I care, and so I will do something, because I have a good heart. Except, that there are lots of people with similar problems that you don’t know, and your policies leave them screwed.
It’s nice to locate the one girl, or help the one family, but having adequate police and medical, and a healthy economic model that does not lead to an ever-widening gulf between the richest and the poorest actually ends up doing more good. It’s more practical. And it’s more along the lines what elected officials should actually do.
We’re going to explore this a little more tomorrow, but first some other related fun.
I have noticed a drop-off in magic underwear jokes since I posted. That could just be the people I follow, so I actually went back and searched the Twitter feed on that term, and there was a sharp drop-off after the 22nd, which is when I posted. I don’t think I can take credit for that, but if I helped, I’m glad. I have been seeing more about baptism for the dead, so I’m going to link to my post on that, and from last Monday, and my special post on the possibility of Mitt Romney being the Anti-Christ all at the bottom.
The most pertinent one may be the last one. Obviously it is somewhat humorous, based on the inclusion of the Oprah references (though I am more against “The Secret” now than when I wrote it, and I will be blogging against self-help/positive thinking books in the future). However, if “the Beast” does turn out to be an American president, it would make sense if it was one affiliated with the religious right, and who looked pious. Honestly, Huckaby and Santorum have been scarier than Romney for religiosity (Romney may just be letting Beck say the crazy things for him).

Friday, October 26, 2012


It is time to hit politics head on now, which I thought would start out with some of my problems with Romney, then build into how that reflects the current state of the Republican party, but starting that on a Friday night doesn’t seem right, so I guess I will start that Monday.
Since we are holding off on that, and since I went to the doctor yesterday, I guess this is a good time for a health update. I am doing well.
The thing is, I weigh myself every day, and I test my blood sugar every day, and these are reasonable things for me to do. The downside of that is that anything that happens is very gradual, and I don’t notice dramatic changes. Also, I only know me. I do know other people with diabetes, but not well enough that we discuss it.
The doctor hasn’t seen me for three months, and she sees diabetic people all day long, and here are the things that I did not think of on my own.
·         I am at my lowest weight in six years. Actually, from when I first went in I had gained, because I was put on insulin and that contributes to weight gain. I went from 330 to 350 to about 319 now. The fact that I am going down while on insulin is pretty good.
·         Right now my average score is around 120, but recently it was 140 and when I first went there it was around 220.
·         Since my scores are pretty good, we can reduce the my nighttime insulin dose, which could help with the weight loss a little.
Obviously, that is still horribly overweight, I am still diabetic, and I am still taking a combination of six medications including two types of insulin, and none of that is changing any time soon. However, when it is just me, all I think about is what I have not achieved, and how slowly I am going, and how much better I think I should be capable of doing, and that’s not the full story.
I still have ideas for ways I could dramatically accelerate my progress, but the truth is, even if I could pull them off, I could not maintain them, and I am maintaining this level of progress now.
And, it’s sort of that way with everything. For instance, one thing I wanted to do when I finally finished the comic book script was to dig in right away, and write another three screenplays before the end of the year, because then I would have the magic 9, that average number before the first sale. And then I didn’t have any idea that I was in love with, and also I felt like I really needed to revise some of the existing six.
Also, I need to get over the “9”, because it’s not magic. It’s an average, and I think the reason that average is so high is because you need to write a lot, and keep at it, and I have done that. Yes, I only have six screenplays that are wholly mine, and at least theoretically commercially viable, but I also collaborated on a 7th, there was the pilot and series outline for the drama, and let’s not forget that the comic book script is the equivalent of three and a half scripts in length. Keeping at it is valuable, but giving myself artificial deadlines is not.
Looking at all of the goals in the 10-year plan, I’m not nearly as far along in any of them as I would like to be, but good things have happened nonetheless, and life remains interesting and vital and joyful, and that was the point. It’s not that the ultimate goals are not truly desired, or that they won’t happen, but it was giving myself something to work towards that would keep my life as the kind of life I want. And that is happening.
So, just for the record, I am still overweight, but less so; I still have not sold any writing, but I have written stuff that I’ve loved; and I have still only been on 3 continents, but I’ve still been some cool places and seen some cool things. It’s not bad.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why we need to love

A few months ago there was a post that was getting shared a lot, and that I found very moving and well-written:
Basically, it is about a gay man who is married to a woman, and how that works for them. I had concerns about it, like that people would read and think, well, anyone can do it, and he is pretty clear that is not the case, or that people would look down on him for his choice, which has certainly happened, but ultimately I found it really heartfelt and interesting, and I am glad they have a relationship that works for them, because that’s not easy to come by, for anyone.
There was one thing that struck me most, and I’m not sure how much it was noticed by others, but that’s what I’m going to focus on here, so I am quoting:
“My parents were incredibly loving and supportive, which is part of why I believe I’m so well adjusted today. They deserve serious props for being so loving and accepting—I never felt judged or unwanted or that they wished to change anything about me. That’s part of why I have never been ashamed about this part of myself… I’ve never been shameful about who I am, or about this feature of me as a critical part of my person, which it is in the same way that sexuality is a critical part of any person.”
It’s not that he didn’t face any prejudice, as he definitely faced some abuse in school, but his parents always fully accepted him and loved him. His wife, who started out as his friend from way back, loved and accepted him.
I guess for the past year I have been gaining a growing appreciation for exactly how difficult growing up is, and becoming a person that you can accept and feel good about. Some of the posts in May and June especially relate to that. It starts out hard, and gets harder if there is anything different about you, like being fat, or having a handicap or a lot of other things, and yes, like being gay.
We know what the bullying situation is, and the suicide rates and the runaway rates for gay teens. It would not be easy being gay regardless, and also being Mormon, and in Utah, that would be really hard. (He does not mention how much moving to Oregon helped, but I would still guess it remained hard.) And yet, here he is, having a rewarding family life, and career, and a creative outlet, and he sounds really happy, and I think we have to give a lot of credit to his parents for that, because they just loved and accepted him.
Do you think he would be as well-adjusted if they had tried to “beat the gay out” of him? I would hope he would find a way to overcome it, but why take a life that is hard and then make it harder? Actually, a lot of my political beliefs come from this.
(And I am not aware of any relation to Pastor Sean Harris, but it’s not impossible. Listening to him made me physically ill, but I’m not sure if that makes it more or less likely.)
Now, it is totally true that being loving and accepting may have resulted in them getting a son-in-law instead of a daughter-in-law. There could have been many different results, and part of love is that you have to mean it; saying “I love you” and mentally adding “as long as” is not good enough.
And that’s going to be true with many different things. Children whose parents taught them not to use drugs or have sex or steal will sometimes still do these things, and sometimes children who were not taught very well will end up defying expectations. There are unique individuals here, and there is a limit to how much you can mold them, which is actually a really cool thing.
This is a place where belief in Christ should uniquely prepare us to deal with all of these challenges and fears, because that plan allows for sin. We come here, and we make choices, and at least some of those choices, probably quite a few, end up being wrong, and yet you can learn from these things, and change, in ways that you never could without choice, so we have God sending His Son to pay for those sins, and it works out. There is forgiveness, there is healing, and there is comfort, on a grander scale than this life, and we can have some trust in Him, but that trust includes allowing other people to make choices that we don’t like.
We really need to believe this. For a lot of non-believers the issue (besides the difficulty of faith in the unseen) is that God allows such terrible things to happen. If those of us who believe in God can’t accept that people are allowed to sin, and do awful things that hurt others and themselves, how can they look at us and not see our belief as idiotic? We owe the world better than that, and we owe God better than that. And we certainly owe children better than that.
Many years ago I saw an episode of Maury Povich where it was makeovers for drag queens. I think they had seven, but there was just one that stuck out to me because looking at him in both his drag person and his off-stage personality, I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s like everything about him was screaming “Look at me! But don’t see me!” No one should grow up feeling like that.
There is so much beauty and ability inside each of us, and I want to focus on nurturing that. Yes, if we love people, they will sin. You know what, if we don’t love them, they will still sin, and then we’re sinning too, and we’re making lives harder, and the world uglier. In my experience, all of the beautiful things come from loving.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why I am not mad at Adam Levine

No, it is not just that I favor musicians, even though I kind of do.( I also don’t think that’s why I favor John Mayer over Romney; I think that’s a matter of his youth, where I believe that Romney has lived long enough and had enough advantages that he should be a much better person.)
No, the thing with Adam is that he made one small comment that was merely an immature joke, and then got all of this blowback as if he had done something truly heinous, and then made a comment which again could have been a lot nastier, and even if his understanding of the issue is wrong, his thoughts are not unreasonable. I am afraid it is common that the more unreasonable side is that side that professes to believe in God.
As a politically liberal devout Mormon, I am afraid I give pretty much everyone some room to disagree with me. Also, I may end up going into scolding mode here, which no one likes, and the people who do tend to read my blog aren’t usually the problem. However, I think there is something important here, and if all I really do is give some people who agree with me anyway some talking points that come in handy, well, that’s something.
It is far too easy to have contempt for religion, and that is the fault of the religious.
Seriously, if God were petty, He’d be suing people for slander, and they would deserve it. Instead, non-believers get this twisted idea of what God means because small-minded, vicious, arrogant people have created a God in their own image and they get offended when others don’t accept it.
Yes, there’s a lot of arrogance on the atheist side, and immorality has become very accepted, and people who don’t believe the same way as you do bad things, but I am way more concerned about the bad things done by the people with apparently similar beliefs.
The first thing that is necessary is to get over your own sense of righteousness.
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Do you really think that doesn’t include you? And if you are thinking that your sins aren’t as bad as other people’s, do you really think that’s a helpful viewpoint.
Christ was teaching the Jews. They were the chosen people. They had covenants with God going way back, and they had been given direct teachings and prophecy and the Law of Moses which was rich in symbolism so they would be able to recognize their Messiah, which a large majority nonetheless failed to do. Is that us?
Look at the parables, especially in Matthew 25. Look at the ten virgins. They are virgins, they are invited guests, but only half actually end up inside. That’s not believers versus non-believers; that’s half of the believers missing the point.
Consider the parable of the talents. These are people who have been given specific responsibility, and ability to carry it out. Is that you? What are you doing with it?
The next parable should give you an idea of what you should be doing; feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. Really, it’s ministering to anyone with needs. Sometimes it feels like now it is more for the depressed and lonely and behind on their housework, but I am amazed sometimes at how literal it can be. There are a lot of physically hungry around, as well as emotionally and spiritually hungry. There are a lot of people in prison, literally and figuratively. And He said it’s the same to do it for someone else as it would be to do it for Him.
Remember, the other side felt like they knew Christ, and that they should be on the right side, but it’s not like it was a secret they were supposed to serve. How many times are we told to love our neighbor, and to serve, and that without charity we are nothing? There is no lack of clarity that you are supposed to choose people over things, and to choose love over pride. It’s really clear.
It should also be pretty clear that we are not supposed to pick and choose whom we love. In addition to the scriptural injunctions against pride and judging, we have the example of the Savior Himself, who was freely acquainted with publicans and harlots. He ate with Pharisees too, who had their own issues, and he accepted children and the sick, and really, he was pretty accepting of everyone.
We learn a lot from the type of interactions he had too. With the woman taken in adultery, He did tell her to go and sin no more—it’s not that He told her the adultery was fine. However, He did not condemn her, with a very simple statement He dealt with her accusers, and so we notice He felt no need to pile on.
I remember once noticing that for the different times Christ healed the blind, He used different methods, and what I believe from that is that there were lessons for the people being healed, and they were all being treated as individuals.
Building on that, I noticed that individualization in other interactions too. There are people who wanted to follow and were discouraged, and people who were asked to follow without having necessarily been thinking about it. Christ did not originally tell the rich young man to give away all his goods, but when he was persistent he got that answer, and then the responsibility of following it. His reluctance to give away everything shows some mercy on the Savior’s part, I think. This was something that he really needed to do, and yet was not going to want to do. Christ gave him an out first, and then answered the question. On the other hand all Christ did with Zaccheus was say He was coming to dinner, and it was enough.
Now, the Son of God had more insight and ability than we do, but we do have the ability to get to know people, to care about them, and to serve them according to their needs and our abilities. I think until you have that kind of love, you need to lay off the judging. And when you do have that love, I don’t think you will have any interest in judging.
If you truly believe in God, I suggest you live your life in such a manner that it will not be easy for people who don’t believe in God to think that you’re a sucker. They may be determined, and scorn you anyway, but don’t hand it to them! And if you truly believe in God, I suggest that you live your life in such a way that it will not be easy for others to assume you’re a bigot.
I’m going to go over more on this tomorrow, but let me leave by directing you to Luke 7. Here He is, with both kinds of sinners, teaching and helping them both, and the path to forgiveness is loving much, and it is also the result of forgiveness. That’s how it works.
36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don’t get mad. Really.

Picking up from yesterday, the magic underwear jokes bother me, but I will survive. No amount of stupidity can diminish God, or my faith. It can make life less pleasant, but there are much worse things out there.

The first of the jokes that I was really aware of came from Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5. The reason I was aware of it was I saw a headline, “Adam Levine flaunts anti-Mormon bigotry in tweet about Romney’s ‘magic underwear’”. I was curious about that, so I clicked on the link and found a site called Twitchy.

I kind of hate to link to it and give it any traffic, but recapping it would be pointless, so here you go:

Levine’s initial tweet really isn’t that bad, and anything that is wrong with it I covered yesterday. The reactions, however, can you see what I am saying is worse? He got a lot of negative feedback, and responded with a comment about Mormons being bigots, which then got a lot of other negative feedback, and I think it died down after that, except that I keep seeing more and more jokes. Obviously it feels weird to have staunch conservatives defending Mormons. It doesn’t make me feel as warm and fuzzy as you might think.

At first I couldn’t figure out anything about the site, other than that its purpose seemed to be to find stuff to be offended about and then share it so that no one else had to miss out on being offended, though it does seem to also look for opportunities to mock liberals.

I was later able to determine that Michelle Malkin seems to be involved, so I guess that makes sense. The name is interesting. My first thought was that perhaps it was a combination of Twitter and a possible adjective for Michelle Malkin, which would seem like an odd thing for them to acknowledge. What it really reminded me of was like a twitchy eye or trigger finger, so maybe there is some stress, and some tendency to shoot off, and are we forgetting that these are bad things?

I thought today was going to be about what Christians do wrong, and it looks like that will actually be tomorrow, because I really need to write about how horrible this site is. This may be easier to illustrate with a recent post. Joan Rivers tweeted something about Adele giving birth that was basically a fat joke, and now people are piling on about how ugly and fake Joan Rivers is.

Okay, Adele does appear to be overweight, though you can totally see the double-standard in how big of a deal people make over it, and Joan’s plastic surgery is horrible, so let’s just get that out of the way. Let’s say that you truly feel that the fat joke is wrong, because it is so awful to make fun of someone else’s appearance and be mean. There’s nothing wrong with that. You have a point. You feel that point so much that you track it down and post it on your site so that other people will come and make ugly jokes, because making fun of someone’s appearance is mean. Also, being mean is wrong, but you are specifically looking for things you can mock Liberals about. What are we accomplishing exactly?

Actually, I think there may be something worse going on here than simple stupidity and hypocrasy, where the key conservative strategy is divisiveness and vilification and ways of distracting people from the inherent flaws in the platform, but for now I am going to make two other points, and then tomorrow I will explain why I am not mad at Adam Levine.

The first point is that if on at least some of these posts the issue is anger at religious oppression, because we have such good Christian values, you do realize that this sort of nastiness is not Christ-like, right?

Actually, I’m going to link to an old post from a few years back on not being offended, because it is a timely message, and I know back then it did touch some people, and I hope it can again:

The other point, and it’s really just a tiny question, would you be as outraged by the magic underwear jokes if they were tweeted about Harry Reid?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why it’s not cool to joke about the magic underwear

Something happened during my musical studies while I was listening to John Mayer. I wasn’t really thrilled about it, and the music was not doing it for me, but I had an impulse to watch him perform, rather than just hearing the music. I brought up a video of him playing live, and I felt something for him.
It’s not that I like his music, or that I don’t shake my head every time he is quoted, or anything like that, but somehow I saw him as a human and I felt compassion for him, and I can’t despise him. Oddly, I have been able to see a lot more of Mitt Romney, and I face no such obstacles.
Now, at this time I am neither dissecting Mitt Romney nor the modern Republican party, though that’s coming, but I mention it because I totally get the animosity that people feel towards Romney, and I don’t blame anyone for that. However, as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and someone who wears garments, the jokes do bother me.
One of the things that I wrote Friday in “Monsters” is that we sell our souls too cheaply, and I think this happens because we don’t always consider the big picture. You don’t like Mitt Romney, he’s a Mormon, they wear special underwear, and the leap is made to comedy gold. I submit to you that the problem with Romney is not the underwear or the religion. And of course, there’s a growing tendency to mock any and all religion, which we will probably get into eventually, but right now, let’s focus on the temple garments.
First of all, no one thinks they’re magic. You will sometimes hear stories of people being protected from physical harm while wearing them, but there are also people who get harmed wearing them, and people who don’t get harmed while not wearing them, so that’s really not a factor. The protection comes spiritually. Wearing them means that I remember that I have made covenants with God—there are things that I have promised to Him and that He has promised to me.
Lots of religions have special clothing for similar purposes. You can make fun of a Catholic wearing a crucifix or a Muslim woman wearing a veil, but you’re being a jerk. I’m sure that at some point if we get a Sikh candidate for president, there will be turban jokes, but that won’t make it right. Of course, those things are out there to be seen, and ours are not, but I think the privacy of the garment is an important point.
What we wear is up to us. Technically it is possible to see the lines under the clothes sometimes, where you can see that someone is wearing the garments, and if someone is wearing more revealing clothing it is easy to assume they are not wearing it, but really, it is private. There are several good things about this.
“But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.” Matthew 23:5
There is not an easy way to get into a game of who’s righteous for us, at least not based on the clothing. I don’t necessarily know if you have gone to the temple, or if you’ve stopped going, or anything, and I shouldn’t. I have plenty to worry about for myself.
And I admit, I am not as on top of it as I could be. I don’t think about it every day when I put them on, because I pretty much get dressed on autopilot. At the same time, they are still there, for me to think about, they do affect the way I dress, and they could affect the way I act. I don’t think that it is any coincidence that my father stopped wearing his before he started cheating on my mother, and that hurt him, and a lot of other people. I with he had let his garments protect him in that way, and protect us.
“Magic underwear” jokes are taking something that is really beautiful, and mocking it, which I am against. Also, they are totally missing the point on Romney because there are really important things wrong with him, and focusing on the trivial can be harmful as a distraction. If he was sticking to an economic plan that seemed like it would work, and grasped the nuances of foreign policy, and did not show such utter disdain for those who are not wealthy, would you care what he was wearing?
So the jokes are wrong, but I will survive them, and there are other things that are worse. More on that tomorrow.

Friday, October 19, 2012


In my first year on the speech team I focused on Impromptu and Extemporaneous, because they required the least preparation. With Impromptu you have five minutes to prepare and give a speech on the topic they give you (generally recommended that you use 30 seconds to prepare and speak for four minutes and thirty seconds). With Extemp, you get your topic and have 30 minutes to prepare to speak for 6 or 7 minutes, and it is always on current events.
Anyway, I remember at one tournament I was going through the current events file and reading an article on Haiti. The opening, talked about how wolves were such a scary part of life in Europe, that it made sense that werewolves became a fear—something deadly disguised as someone like you. However in Haiti the worst part of life was the hard labor, and so the fear of being reanimated and needing to continue to work afterwards as a zombie was a logical fear for them.
I don’t think I used it for the speech I was preparing, but it made an impression on me where I would think of scary stories in terms of the psychology behind them. When we toured the Winchester House, and they explained that her husband died of tuberculosis and her baby died of failure to thrive, it totally made sense to me that she became convinced of the supernatural, because to have all of your family waste away, with no visible reason, would make you crazy. The only thing that would have made more sense is if she had become obsessed with vampires instead of ghosts.
So, I have thought about those things in the past, and of course I have been thinking about zombies a lot now, and the new thing that I have been thinking about is the fear of infection. The worst thing for me about zombies (besides the grossness) is the loss of your identity, and that happens both with the traditional Haitian zombies and the Romero flesh-eating zombies. Death is one thing, and un-death but still as yourself is another thing, but not being you anymore is the worst.
Thinking about the infection got me thinking that this is very common with our classic monsters. Vampires turn you into vampires. Lycanthropes turn you into lycanthropes. Sometimes maybe they just kill you, but there is that possibility of conversion, and usually with some loss of control. The werewolf may be fine in man form, but usually in wolf form does not know what he is doing. The vampire may not want to kill others, but the hunger is so strong.
And those are monsters that people actually believed in. Now, at the time, people may have been more concerned about being killed outright than turned into a monster. Maybe the loss of self issues happened as we got more modern, and individualistic. My point is, it is reasonable to worry about your own capacity for evil, and it is reasonable to worry about being corrupted.
Over the next few posts I will be covering religion and politics, and I may call out a few things as evil, but my main concern is going to be with people throwing away good pieces of themselves, and doing it for bad reasons, and not realizing the bargain that they make. People sell their souls way too cheaply.
But for now it is a matter of metaphor, and one that’s good for this time of year. Did you know that Dr. Jeckyll didn’t want to overcome his good? He wanted to free his bad so it wouldn’t bother him anymore. And even when he saw that it was not working the way he intended, and was causing harm, he kept it up until he couldn’t stop.
Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How this fails as fan fiction

I knew I would need to go over what is wrong with it at some point. It isn’t that it is so long, or that it lacks slash. Reading in a screenplay format will probably feel weird for some, but it’s should still be pretty easy to follow, and I did leave out a few things that a screenplay would definitely have to increase readability.
No, the biggest problem is that it does not fit within the expanded universe.
Many franchises, especially in science fiction, have novels that go outside of the movies, but that still work with them. Some even become considered canon. That could never happen here, because I don’t fit within anything. Well, technically it probably does fit within the music videos, but what I have written is an origin story that goes right through to killing off everyone except for Frank, so on that level it does not work.
It’s pretty arrogant of me, though that was not intended. None of it was intended. Even when I decided, “Fine, I have to start writing”, I thought maybe it would end up being about 70 pages. When it was clear that I was going to go past that, I thought, well, maybe it will be 120 pages, like a standard screenplay. Now it is like three movies, and the third one is bloated. That is kind of the trend for movies based on comic books. They try and shoehorn too much into the last part. I see I am not immune.
The amazing thing is that there is still so much that could happen. Even just from the videos, I saw other avenues you could explore. Looking at different things on the internet I keep stumbling upon explanations for what different lines mean, and different plot points, and some of the ideas sound really cool. Even just yesterday I was watching a clip from New York Comic Con, and they were interviewing Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and Becky Cloonan, and Gerard was saying how the story had changed multiple times. And what they said is intriguing, but ultimately we won’t really know how it all works out for a few more months.
Actually, it reminds me of Balzac’s La Comedie Humaine. He wanted to portray all of life, with all of its variations. That’s crazy ambitious, and he didn’t finish. There are 91 complete works and 46 unfinished, some of which are just titles. There are interesting overlaps and inversions. For example, you have The Return of Martin Guerre, where a man returns from war and is recognized, but later there are suspicions about his identity (this inspired Sommersby), but then you have Colonel Chabert, where a man who is not an impostor is not recognized, and is unable to resume his place.
I’m not a huge fan of Balzac, but I get why he wanted to do it, because there is so much that happens, and can happen, and it’s fascinating. That makes me feel a little better about having my own take. The other thing that helped me feel better was this:
I just thought this was so beautiful, and it gave me some perspective. One thing that I was worried about between the history of slash and Mary Sues is that if anyone even reads this they will be seeing things that aren’t there. This would be a loss in one way in that if you can only conceive of romantic relationships you are missing out on a lot, because the friendships and familial relationships are really important. Also, Jane has close moments with pretty much everyone, and I don’t want it to be perceived as “She is getting all of the guys, we hate the pretty, pretty princess.”
That is all completely out of my control. I am releasing it into the wild. I will still have all of the memories and lessons of writing it. I learned things about cars and weapons and kung fu, and wrote song lyrics in Spanish, and realized things about myself, and now I am starting to draw. That’s all mine, no matter what.
Now it’s out there for what it can be to others, and maybe it won’t be anything, or it will be something that would make me scratch my head “Really?” but that’s okay. That happens with songs and stories and paintings, and it’s beautiful, even when it’s confounding. Creation is such a gift.
So this was good time spent, even if it is time to move on. I do still feel a little awkward about it, and I guess still some need to self-sabotage, so these are little things I expect people to hate.
·         The car comes from Frank, not Gerard. I feel like this is bad, but it’s just how it made sense.
·         Gerard gets hit in the face three times. I know: Not the face! And he totally didn’t deserve two of them.
·         Ray playing Spanish guitar. It’s only in the one scene. The other times he is playing, it is rock, but this is the most extended musical segment, and it needed that tone.
Again, these things take on lives of their own, and it is an amazing thing, and I am okay with it being out in the world.
This link will probably only work for 30 days. Uploading was harder than I thought, and now I have signed up with five different things and this was the first that worked.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Here in the Pre-Apocalyptic Dystopian Present

You know, I had a post all ready about releasing this thing, because it is in fact finished, but I still haven’t found a place to post it, and I thought maybe I could attach a PDF to the blog post, but I can’t.

So, there was something that I thought I would post tomorrow, which I guess I am now posting today, and then try and find a way to post tonight, and tomorrow work out all my thoughts about zombies so I can start my new screenplay, and I hope blog a few posts ahead. I don’t like running behind like this. The fact that I do it to myself is completely irrelevant.

Speaking of that, if you are wondering if I am going to write based on a band again, I hope not. This has been a great experience, but I want to write stuff I can actually sell. Still, if the right inspiration comes along, it could happen.

I have been listening to Kids in the Street (All-American Rejects) a lot, and there are strong thematic elements, and I totally could pull a narrative out from it. It would be kind of downbeat, but, you know, I’ve been writing about the post-apocalyptic dystopian future. If the characters aren’t constantly struggling just to stay alive, it will be a step up.

However, AAR has not had a music video that traumatized me yet, and if I am not being overtaken by an idea, that’s for the best. It’s like sometimes you know you could fall for someone, and sometimes you’ve fallen before you get a chance to think.

What I was going to write about was that post-apocalyptic future though. What sets everything off here is that there are huge solar flares on December 21st, 2012, that knock out power and satellites and trigger some fires. Those conditions set off a flu epidemic in the main city, and you have a lot of people die, while at the same time wild fires on the outside are just not letting up. A Blackwater-like security firm and a pharmaceutical company are both providing services, and they merge and take over the area, mainly because they can. It’s all downhill from there.

Part of it is just trying to imagine what scenario would get us from where we are here in 2012, to where you have things like Draculoids and Killjoys fighting in the desert in 2019. It also did pull in my worst-case scenario plan though.

See, in my emergency preparedness background, I have thought about what would be the worst that could happen, and then use that as a baseline for how to prepare. My thought was in the middle of winter, after a lot of rain where the ground is just saturated, you have a major earthquake. The quake and the accompanying mudslides damage a lot of housing, so you have people exposed, and then the flu kicks in.

(Actually, worse might be it happening in a hot summer, because it is easier to make heat happen in the absence of power than to get cooling working.)

Obviously, I did not use the whole thing. That level of wet would not support the fires, which matter for the type of landscape you end up with, and an earthquake would not knock out satellites, so communication would come back up too soon, which would pretty effectively remove the opportunity for the corporate power grab. This is good though, because I don’t really want this all to happen. Things are already dystopian enough in the present.

Remember how early I read a case study about a future earthquake the day before it was set to happen, so that procrastination set me up for something really eerie? So I am working in that timeline now. Right now, Jane and Gerard would be in the middle of the semester. I’ve never tied anything to actual dates before, and it feels a little different.

I was telling a friend about it, and she asked if it does happen, does that make me a prophet. Well, we’ve covered that already, although it’s been a while:

I’m going to go with a “no”, but It would feel very awkward, and I would probably feel guilty, even though it really would not be my fault.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Character Bios

Last week, I found there was one other thing that I needed to do to complete the story, and that was really figuring out all of the characters. There were some that I had pretty clear views of, especially the main five. However there were some that were more placeholders, which did not feel right, and there were some that had started out as placeholders but were changing. Also, if I was going to be adding in more description on the rewrite, I had to know how much I knew about them.

I ended up starting a separate Word document, and just writing every name down, then going back and filling out details about them. I ended up with 61 names or titles. I never named the “Announcer”, but the “Bouncer” ended up being Doug. That was helpful, because they are in the same scene and the rhyming seemed silly.
Also, even though I found that I understood Jenny’s father really well, and I got him a name and a description, his one scene ended up cut. Also, there is a bio for Christian, and he doesn’t even appear in a flashback—he is just mentioned in a conversation. However, at this time I was starting to realize that drawing it was inevitable, and the panels of a conversation do not merely need to show the characters talking, and they often won’t, so maybe he would still appear at some point even with no lines.
So, it might be just 59 characters, depending on how you count, and then there are people who must be there, but aren’t really characters. I feel worst for the helicopter pilot, because clearly someone other than Tony is flying, but you never see him or hear about him and one would assume he dies too, though it isn’t really addressed. Some roles are more thankless than others.
I did use actors when I could to try and draw a better picture, though I’m not sure it helped. For example, Natalia is kind of a cross between Eva Mendes and Rosario Dawson, Don is similar to Daniel Sunjata and Frank Olive, and Derrick is a cross between Billy Zabka (Karate Kid) and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter). Shoot, I could have just written blond bullying weasel, I guess. Not everyone looked like actors though, and with Dante I mentioned Gary Busey, but it’s not really that they look alike physically—you just get kind of the same sense about them.
Anyway, there were two things that went differently than expected with writing the bios, which is probably why I feel a need to write this piece at all.
One is that my intention was to be clear on age and physical appearance, and then I kept on writing more about their personality and how they ended up where they are. This has been an issue for all of my writing really. It’s not that I don’t have an idea of how things look, or even that I don’t think it’s important, but I do consistently get distracted by the non-visual. So, I would write a really good bio, and realize I did not have age or appearance down yet, and had therefore not met my purpose, even on ones where I had the clear mental picture and it should have been easy. I’m not fighting it too much right now, but it is something for me to keep in mind.
It was not terribly surprising that some characters became so real, though it did become a little complicated when I realized that the three injured that arrive via helicopter needed to totally change around who had what injuries and who did what later. I think I got all of those corrected appropriately.
The other surprise happened when I was writing Angela Simpson’s bio. I have stated before that I am not Jane, and her mother is not my mother, but when I got to Angela, she ended up being a big worrier. Have you met my mother?
It was interesting because Neal Skorpen ( had posted something recently about how every time he writes parents they end up being his, and I remember thinking, no, not me, and that was good because I was killing off a lot of parents in this, and so it would feel more awkward if they were definitely mine. Had I just killed my mother?
The thing that helped was the other character bios. The other mothers are all worriers too, and that very much came out while I was writing about them. Even when it didn’t come out in writing about Mrs. White, I look at some of the conversations she has, and yeah, she worries. So, had I killed my mother multiple times, or do I just have a stereotype about mothers?
I still wondered if that was because my own mother imprinted so strongly on me that it led to the assumption—hey, that’s just what they do—but I was thinking about my friends who are mothers, and yeah, it’s not just Mom, they all do that. It’s not a generational thing, or an ethnic thing. Maybe some worry more than others, and certainly different ones focus on different things, but yes, it appears to be a constant. So I still killed several mothers, but none of them were mine. Guilt crisis averted!
Seriously, though, I suppose a devil-may-care mother should be added to the list of characters I have never really written, like a blonde heroine or a dumb protagonist. I could put them all together, but does it negate the impact of the lack of worry if the reason seems to be that she is too dumb to know she should? And even without a strong initial tendency to worry, wouldn’t that be overthrown when you were in a situation where you were constantly threatened by zombies?
It just raises questions.