Sometime last night or this morning, I passed 2000 views. As of this writing, the counter is at 2012. Thanks a lot, all, and here's to the next 2000 readers.
We now return to our scheduled programming, already in progress.
--Alex Adrian, 4/8/'14
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Friday, April 4, 2014
****1/2 Another worthy entry to the Disney Animated Canon. A well-made blend of action, humour, pathos, and the old Disney Magic. The songs are good, too.
After last week, I figured that we needed a breather, and what better breather than the latest Disney movie? I recently watched Frozen with my family and–oh, boy. I mean–wow. I'm not ready to declare the 2010s a new Disney Renaissance or anything crazy, but gee, that was good. The animation, the acting, the characters, the songs–Frozen is my new favourite Disney movie.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
A titan of hatred has fallen. Fred Phelps, founder-leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and homophobe par excellence, is dead. I don't know where to go with that. Fred Phelps, dead. Fred Phelps, dead. How do I take that? Do I mourn or rejoice? Should the LGBT community picket his funeral as a last "fuck you" to a man who made so many's lives Hell, or give the Phelps family and Westboro some respite, time to grieve and mourn?
[Fair Warning: When discussing Westboro, homophobia comes up, as do anti-Americanism and simple bigotry. If these offend you or are triggering, move along. The rest of you, click away…]
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
I'm on hiatus for the first fourth of 2014; regular posting resumes in the Spring. Life once more got in the way; I started college and moved across Washington this year, so I've been in a bit of a vortex--perhaps "maelstrom" would be a better word. Once I get into the swing of things (and without classes which require vast essays to preoccupy the writing part of my brain), I should be able to devote more time to this blog.
Thank you for your patience and once again, Happy New Year!
--Alex Adrian, 12/31/'13-1/1/'14
Thank you for your patience and once again, Happy New Year!
--Alex Adrian, 12/31/'13-1/1/'14
Friday, April 12, 2013
- The precept that government is all well and good in its place--out of the bedrooms, gun-lockers, and (especially) board-rooms, and preferably guarding the frontiers or building a road or a canal or something. Government interference is kept to a minimum, on the theory that ordinary decent law-abiding people will by and large do the right thing without some God-damn government bureaucrat somewhere telling them what to do. As a result, the government’s regulatory powers are in theory limited and in practice non-existent.
- The government’s powers in general are limited; the only things it can do are protect the interests of the people (enforcing laws, of which there aren’t many, and settling disputes over property--and a lot of things are classed as property), maintain the country’s frontiers (raise a standing army and/or militia), and pay for those portions of infrastructure that private citizens can’t subsidize out-of-pocket (roads, canals, and the like--and the roads are for the most part funded by tolls).
- Given the lack of governmental support services, welfare is privatised, as is most of the other services a government provides in liberal democracies--schools, broadcasting, etc. The market is the final arbiter in all areas of life.
- Taxes are low, limited to a single flat tax wherein everyone pays five percent of their income, no matter what they earn, and possibly also a national sales tax. The government is forbidden from collecting property, income, or any other kind of tax, besides those mentioned above.
- In fact, the government is limited in what it can own--no more than, altogether, ten percent of Country A’s total surface area and whatever supplies and arms the army and national police force (assuming one exists) require. (Alternately, all land is privately owned; the national and local governments lease whatever space they require. Even by libertarian standards, though, that’s weird.)
- Thanks to the aforementioned low taxes and massive privatisation, the country is a business heaven. Corporations flock there.
- The economy is entirely planned, top-down. The state--through the Ministry of Economic Production--runs everything. Rationing is the primary method of conveying goods to the populace. You don’t like it, go to Country A or Country C, counter-revolutionary traitor scum!
- The state owns. Absolutely. Everything. All industry is nationalised; all property is publicly owned, save for sundries such as toiletries, a suit of clothes or two, whatever food you’ve been allotted, and maybe a bicycle.
- In addition, privacy, while not illegal as such, is looked upon with suspicion, as is a liking for solitude. After all, if you spend too much time alone, out in the countryside whilst not on a community hike, you could be plotting with the imperialist capitalists in Country A, Country C, or (gasp, whispering) Country D!
- There is only one party, making elections somewhat pointless. They carry them out regardless.
- As I said, there’s a strong--or at least decent--governmental safety-net, like that which exists in most of Europe, Canada, and Australia. Welfare, the dole, universal health care, the works.
- There exists a progressive tax structure: a national graduated income tax (inverse-pyramid wherein the rich pay more than the poor) value-added tax (no idea why), property tax, and perhaps a national sales tax for starters, though who’d be in favour of both VAT and a sales tax is beyond me.
- Note that “for starters”; government is fully capable of levying more taxes as it sees fit, unlike the Land of Everyone Pays Five Percent and Only Five Percent, Now and For Ever, Amen.
- Like Country A, Country C is capitalist and has a market economy; however, the government has broadly defined regulatory duties and powers (no horsemeat-contaminated beef here, no sir!) and some industries, though not all, are nationalised (tantamount to treason in Country A)--the post office, coal mining, rail transport, etc.
- Government has all the duties it has in Europe and America: it runs most of the schools, the postal service, some of the broadcasters, the military, the roads, the police and corrections, the utilities...
- All power is centralised in the office of one all-powerful Leader. (Hail, Leader!) This Leader can declare war, order citizens arrested, unilaterally appoint judges and ministers (and dis-appoint them), and dissolve and call Parliament. (The Leader’s such a great guy!)
- While there is indeed a Parliament, it’s essentially pointless, existing only to approve the Leader’s every command and directive and generally burnish his ego and further his cult of personality.
- There is only one legal Party, that of the Leader. (Hail, Leader!) This makes elections even more pointless than Parliament.
- The State (in the form of the Leader) is the paramount power; serving the State--preferably in a manner that involves a heroic death in one of the wars that the Leader (Hail, Leader!) is always fighting--the ultimate glory.
- Government employment carries with it some perks, namely sweet threads. Every civil servant and soldier, from the Leader (Hail, Leader!) down to the lowliest clerk, wears some class of uniform.
- The military is the most powerful force, political or otherwise, in Country D. The Leader (Hail, Leader!) is the commander-in-chief of the military, and holds the ranks of Leader (Hail, Leader!) and Supreme Marshall. All able-bodied adult men must serve for at least five years in the military; if they do not, they’re labelled traitors to the state and sent to the salt mines or somewhere equally unpleasant.
- Country B will have a thriving black and grey market to supply those things that the Ministry of Economic Production will be unable to supply, for there will be shortages of small things: Stockings, razor blades, bootlaces, deodorant, bread, that kind of thing.
- Country A will most likely have massive economic inequality, with a few very, very rich people at the top controlling everything, the masses struggling to survive on a few dollars a day, and a very small middle class constantly getting screwed over.
- Country D will be nearly bankrupt, gouging its citizens to pay for the wars the Leader (Hail, Leader!) is constantly waging and to upgrade its hardware to the newest, shiniest models. In addition, some percentage of the populace will have become radicalised and at least plotting against the Leader (Hail, Lead-Oh, forget it), if not in outright rebellion.
- I have no idea what will be going on in Country C.
--Alex Adrian, 4/6/13
 I’m not counting the rich into this discussion; they get enough help and attention already.
 Hey, wait a second; if the GOP ignored their science teachers in high school, maybe that’s why they don’t seem to believe in evolution...
 Yes, you probably could do this experiment over a few months or weeks with several thousand college students, but where’s the fun in that?
 Haven’t a clue as to what I wanted to write here.
 Does anyone else think that it’s a bad idea to privatise the prison system? What you’re doing essentially is creating a market and demand for prisoners.
 Let’s not argue over whether the Soviet Union under Stalin was fascist or not, shall we? It’s a decent debate, but I don’t want blood on the carpet; bloodstains are very hard to get out. Hail, Lead--Oh, you know the drill.
 Basically, at least forty percent of the adult male population.
 Or, if we’re going to be Roman and shit about it, Dux; perhaps Duce, like Mussolini. Point is, Leader needs a fancy title. Oh, yes, there will be salt mines. Y’ever hear of a totalitarian dictatorship where they didn’t have salt mines? Note: Find location with salt mines.
 Country A doesn’t have any real analogue, although it may, if the R’s have their way. Country B is based on any number of Communist countries; I’m thinking specifically of the Soviet Union. Country C is a moderate social democracy, probably closest to modern Germany. Country D is of course fascist, so probably looks a lot like Nazi Germany.
 Of course, there’ll be shortages. One of the problems of a command economy; it’s impossible to know what demand will be beforehand, so you guess. Generally, you low-ball it...
 You say this wouldn’t happen? That the free market, left to its own devices, will always make all people equally prosperous? Look around at America today; look at the inequality out there. Look at what thirty-odd years of free markets, absolutely unregulated, have brought, friend.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
What makes a slogan great? (Alex Adrian, Diary of an Atomic Man; you know the drill.) What is it that, simply put, causes a slogan to "stick" in our brains, causing us to remember it? And what causes one to become embedded in popular culture--essentially, mooring it in the cultural consciousness for all eternity? And are they all improved by the addition of the word "bitch"? Answers (sort of, and possibly with the exclusion of the "bitch" thing) to come in this week's exciting installment of...The Diary of an Atomic Man!
I must confess to some slight deception in the above paragraph, for while this is partly a look at the topics mentioned above, but mostly a sort of free-form, jazz-like--perhaps even improvisational...reflection, I guess you could call it...about them. Anyway, on with the show...
Due to a minor case of writers' block, and because it has the most examples--that stick in my mind, at any rate--I'll start with Coca-Cola, the largest and most successful soft drink in the world. And it didn't get that way cos of any marketing gimmicks, no siree! No, indeed it did not--it's the slogans that stick, along with the distinctive bottle shape and logo design, which are out of this post's purview. Think about it: "The pause that refreshes"--one of the longest-sticking-around slogans, dating to 1929; "It's the real thing"--somewhat younger, but even stickier; "Enjoy Coca-Cola" or "Drink Coca-Cola"--a simple command, but everyone remembers it: the latter dates from the drink's creation, 1886; "How about a Coke?" dates from the Second World War and is simplicity itself.
Or how about car companies...? While examples of single auto-makers and marques having multiple shifting slogans and said slogans sticking are thin on the ground--companies in this field are more likely to either pick one iconic slogan and stick with it or shift through slogans but only have one remembered; unlike soft drinks, a car is a Commitment, something you want to have around in ten or fifteen years, not something purchased for sixty-five cents and then casually tossed out--but the Ford Motor Company is a major exception, having not one, not two, but three--count 'em, three--major slogans in rotation at any one time. Lessee...there's "Built FORD Tough", a classic, though I'm not entirely sure as to whether or not it's for the line of trucks alone or not; in any case, it's what I always remember it as being for. Then, there's "Have you driven a Ford lately?"--a question, simple, clean, and elegant. Perhaps the simplest yet--and a canny restaging of the preceding, in my opinion--is this command:"Ford. Drive one." It's brief, blunt, and to the point: there's no circumlocution, no "You see, this car is superior cos...", no bull, just "Drive our cars."
Other car-makers, however, lack the plethorae of slogans that Ford offers us--but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in lastingness. "Love. It's what makes a Subaru, a Subaru"--a good one, as it associates something everyone is theoretically in favor of--love--with the superior quality of Subaru's cars. "It's not oil. It's liquid engineering"--the sort of thing that absolutely demands to be said in a thick Germanic accent: "Leek-veed ehnchenheerink". Chrysler is another special case; while it's famous under the slogan "another fine Chrysler product", it recently shifted to "Imported from Detroit", which is factually questionable, as most of the parts aren't even made in America, let alone Detroit; however, in that it appeals to American patriotism, it's rather good–look at what we used to be, it seems to be saying, and look what we can be. Or, to put it a bit more bluntly, and on a slightly sillier note:"'MURRICKA!"
Saturn (GM's hip, with-it, youth-orientated marque–and if you're wondering why a car company would need such a thing, you're not a GM marketing executive) is, from this point, something of an outlier as it had during its twenty-odd years of existence a multitude of slogans, including "Rethink."(yes, that's the actual spelling and punctuation; it started out as "Rethink American.", which not only sounds rather odd and disturbing to me–Why should GM, a car company, tell me how to define my national self-identity? I mean, I'm familiar with the expression, "What's good for General Motors is good for America", but even so–but is also a nice example of the car companies=AMERICA! trope I've noticed); most before this final one, though, focussed on the oh-we're-so-innovative-and-completely-different from-other-car-companies angle, with, in chronological order:"What kind of car is that? It's a Saturn[Oh, I thought it was a Ford]!" being used for the first year of its existence; from 1989-1994 "A different kind of car company." (US–and how is this company different from other car companies? In what ways do the cars differ? Do they run on unicorn-power and have rainbow exhaust fumes that don't pollute? Cite your sources! Show your work on a separate piece of paper!) and "We've reinvented the automobile" (Canada–And if anything, this is even more idiotic than the American slogan. You've reinvented the auto, eh? What aboot it? It looks like any other auto to me; it still has an internal-combustion engine, four wheels, and an interior. Plastic body-panels do not a reinvention of the automobile make! Anyway…); from 1994-2007 they abandoned the idea of separate American and Canadian slogans altogether, using "A different kind of company,a different kind of car" for both markets, a trend that would continue until 2007 with the use of "It's different in a Saturn(HOW!?2002-'04)", "People First(I have nothing to say to that; '04-'06)", "Like always. Like never before(How's that humanly possible? '06-'07 US; '06-?? Canada)", and the above-mentioned "Reinvent." This last would prove to be Saturn's final slogan, as the marque was shuttered, along with Pontiac and Hummer, in the Great General Motors Reorganization of 2010.
I recognize that automobiles are not essential for continued human existence, Twenty-First Century American culture and urban design notwithstanding. Food, however, is, and not everyone can hunt or grow their own. On account of this fact an industry devoted to the sale, manufacture, and marketing of food has arisen. Okay, statement of the perfectly, blitheringly obvious over. Now, the slogans. Weirdly popular is "Good things come to those who wait", which has been used by both Heinz and Guinness at various times and in many other contexts by many people. Fast food restaurants are famed for having memorable slogans: "Have it your way", "I'm lovin' it", "Where's the beef?", to name just a few. Arby's, having long been an underdog of sorts in the Fast-Food Wars, have recently upped the game; whilst they retain their traditional roast-beef and comfort food menu, they've rolled out the slogan (sung, of all things):"It's Good Mood Food". What does that even mean? Is it an equation of Arby's food with good feelings? Does Arby's contain special endorphins guaranteed to cheer you up? If I feel sad or depressed whilst eating Arby's, can I sue the company for false advertising? All in all, it's a pretty stupid slogan. Wendy's "Where's the beef?" has had considerably more cultural impact–indeed, it could be called a meme–owing to, among other things, its use during the 1984 presidential campaign–in context, questioning Gary Hart's qualifications–though it didn't help Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, who ended up losing to Ronald Reagan by the largest margin since Franklin Roosevelt beat Alf Landon in 1936; Wendy's resurrected the slogan–sort of–in 2011, answering its own question with "Here's the beef". In the intervening years the slogan has become a catchphrase in the United States and Canada, carrying with it a connotation of "There's something fishy, here; what gives, Mac?"
On the subject of beef, I suppose I ought to mention a certain very famous beef slogan, the American Beef Council's "Beef. It's what's for dinner."(You don't know that–I could very well be having chicken, or fish, or a green salad.) Taco Bell's "Think outside the bun" is…odd; Mexican food is one of the most popular varieties of restaurant food in America today (for which I've no doubt Taco Bell would take the lion's share of the credit), and tortillas, tortilla chips, taco shells, salsa, refried beans, and other Mexican staples are stocked on supermarket shelves alongside ground beef, chutney, and cream of tomato soup. This has happened for a number of reasons; firstly, because of the many Mexican and Central American immigrants who have came to the United States in search of economic opportunities and a better life for themselves and their children and grandchildren;secondly, because it is delicious, filling, and easy to prepare;and thirdly–though this last be going out on a limb–because of the increasingly broad and sophisticated taste of the American consumer. I can see, though, why Taco Bell would go out on a limb to advertise its menu; though I cannot claim to understand or speak for the average American consumer–indeed am probably not "the average American consumer", as marketing companies and pollsters and Gallup have defined him–I can see why a fellow, wanting cheap sustenance, but unsure of whether to go with Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, or Taco Bell, would hesitate over the latter choice. After all, that's Mexican food; Uncle Gary was once laid up for three weeks after eating some chili de la Dios in Guadalajara! I guess (he thinks) I could give it try; once never hurt anyone, and Grandma always said it never hurt to try something new…
Now, to broadcasting. Since the turn of the last century, broadcast media has metamorphosed from a tiny group of crackpots with crystal radios into the largest industry, hands-down, in the United States. To this author at this time, however, the circumstances under which this rise to dominance occurred are immaterial; only one thing, here and now, matters, and that's the slogans that networks have employed over the years. "This–is CNN, Cable News Network", while it can't possibly be the only reason for the cable network's success, must surely have factored in it to some degree, owing to (a) its simplicity–CNN's not trying to be cutesy, coy, or humorous about its existence; it's just telling you who and what it is; and (b) the fact that the announcer is James Earl Jones. This last may be as or more important than the first, as, well–it's James Earl bloody Jones. You know, Darth Vader? Mustafa? The owner of, without a doubt, the richest, most melodious voice in America–nay, the world–today? If Jones's baritone proclamation that This. Is. CNN! isn't reason number one for its success, it's certainly in the top ten.
Other networks, of course, have slogans, memorable ones, though the "this is___" format is among the commonest; what this is caused by–uncreativity, laziness, a desire to reiterate what the viewer is reading in the lower left-hand corner of the screen–is beyond me. Take, for instance, the USA Network's "Characters welcome". USA has been one of the pioneers in the cable TV revolution of the last decade, along with AMC and HBO; the slogan has (I think, and I've not checked with anyone at USA for confirmation of this) a double meaning, referring to both the character-driven dramas with which the network made its name, and "character" in the sense of someone eccentric, unusual, or memorable. Again, that's only a theory, and a half-baked one at that, but I'd not be surprised if it's true. A&E, the Arts and Entertainment People Yelling at One Another for teh Dramaz with Occasional Biography Specials Network, reflects its priorities with "Real Life. Drama." Yes, A&E; we get that you're all about the drama, now give us something other than reality TV7! Speaking of reality-TV cable schlockmeisters, who says "I want my MTV" anymore, except for lunatics who suddenly start spouting TV catchphrases during breakdowns and time-travellers from the 1980s (two groups which, admittedly, have very little else in common)? For most of the past decade, it's not shown any music videos whatsoever, relying, instead, on so-called "reality" shows of varying but oftentimes low quality, Jersey Shore the show that must under no circumstances be named starring annoying orange people and that defames the good names ( let's not joke) of both Italian-Americans and residents of New Jersey. (The Garden State itself, of course, has done little to improve its reputation as the armpit of the nation, as the primary things the state was known for before The Unspeakable premiered were: (a) being the state near New York that wasn't New York; (b) Mafia; (c) industrial parks; and (d) interstate highways. Maybe, maybe, you knew that Frank Sinatra was from Hoboken; maybe not. Oh, and Princeton. Anyway…)
…And All the Rest!The following paragraphs are my flailing, desperate attempts to cover everything I didn't get to above. First, for no discernable reason, one company–Ivory Soap. The story of how Ivory obtained its trademark buoyancy–of how a worker one day overmixed the soap/air ratio, causing the resultant product to float, and how this was an unexpected, rip-roaring success–are well-known enough that I feel no need to repeat them, here; it is, of course, that same property which inspired the slogan "99 and 44/100 Pure–it Floats", in a canny example of changing an apparent flaw into a product's main selling point.
If one thing has completely and utterly altered life, art, commerce–anything you can think of, really–over the past twenty-some years, it would have to be the Internet. From a bunch of geeks in universities to the biggest thing ever, it now permeates every facet of our life. Now, the slogans. Apple Computer, though it's never had a majority market-share–its representation in the movies and on TV notwithstanding–has nonetheless made one of the most memorable commercial campaigns in the Twentieth Century, with "Think Different"–O dangling, ungrammatical, lopped-off adverb!–accompanied by a picture of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and cetera. Wikipedia has called itself "the free encyclopedia" for years–its entire existence, in fact.
Insurance companies have been at war with each other over which one of them is best at keeping the cars, loved ones, and assets of Johnny and Jane Yank from fire, theft, and other disasters. In this war, they have deployed various slogans–long-lasting ones, memorable ones–to advance their products. "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there", has managed to last for decades, though when it was introduced, I've no clue. Of course, there's no need to mention GEICO and "fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or less on car insurance"; while the claim that switching to GEICO is "so easy a caveman could do it" (cue image of an urbane, well-dressed caveman enjoying the life of a hip bachelor) has been and gone–however, it became a mercifully short-lived national craze, inspiring a mercifully short-lived ABC sitcom–it's been replaced by two concurrently running campaigns alongside the longer-running Gecko adverts: Firstly, a stack of dollar bills with googly eyes (representing, apparently, "the money you saved by switching to GEICO), and secondly, a smooth-voiced chap who asks, "could switching to GEICO really save you 15% or more on car insurance?" then presenting a rather odd rhetorical question–along the lines of "Is the Pope Catholic?" but much weirder. Allstate, meanwhile, has eschewed the silliness that is GEICO's stock-in-trade, presenting a baritone-voiced black man talking about, amongst other things, why it's a bad idea to allow teenagers to drive unsupervised (teens' brains aren't fully developed, and won't be until they turn twenty-four); the spots invariably end with "That's Allstate's stand. Are you in good hands?" Farmers Insurance has the inexplicable "We are Farmers–Bumbumpabumpabum"; what does that mean? Are they trying to say that they're farmers, that their employees spend their time that's not spent selling insurance tilling the soil? Alternatively, are they trying to state that their identity comprises solidarity with the workingman, the farmer, and the farmhand? The mind boggles as to the possibilities.
ConclusionI could go on. However, this post is beginning to get a bit long, and I will clearly need to revisit this subject. I have begun to realize that a product does not get sold on slogan alone, that it takes a combination of a clever ad concept, memorable campaign7, and also a slogan, as a part of the other two, to sell a product. Whether you're selling soap, jeans, soda, or cars, the rules–in broad strokes, at least–are the same.
I dreamt I wrote this post in my Maidenform bra (not really ;)}
--Alex Adrian, twilight hours of 7/16/'12 and 7/17/'12
1. Yeah, right.
2. Indeed, whenever Coke introduced marketing gimmicks, the results have oft been abject failures. Besides the New Coke fiasco–next post, I'll get to that–as Bill Bryson relates in his fantastic Made in America, the company apparently once rolled out Coke flavored cigars.
3. I have absolutely no idea what this footnote is for. I'm serious.
4. You joke about this, but it really happened. Mayor McCheese's heroic last stand before the Burgerian Royal Army, Ronald McDonald and the Burger King in single combat, Wendy tussling with the Hamburglar–Death to McDonald! Find McNinja–he'll help us! We must never forget.
5. I find it ironic that many of the talking heads, politicians, and pundits now expressing anti-immigrant sentiment are the descendents of immigrants–from Europe, yes, but still immigrants–and they presumably came to the States for much the same reasons undocumented immigrants now head north. In conclusion, this is why you should support the DREAM Act of 2010.
6. The story of Gary Smith, who, after eating the Chili de los Dios in Guadalajara, developed severe diarrhea and was rushed to a hospital, whereupon he spent over three weeks confined to bed rest and an additional five weeks with a severe burning sensation in his mouth, is, while an interesting one, a story for another day.
7. However, this can be an two-edged sword; if a campaign is sufficiently memorable, the product that it was selling can be forgotten altogether, with no increase in sales.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Some Thoughts on Homophobia and the Boy Scouts; or, Dear God, Let This Woman Lead Her Son's Boy Scout Troop!
Hey, everybody; I'm Alex Adrian and this is the Diary of an Atomic Man. (Sorry 'bout the lateness, by th' by. Life sort of...got in the way; you know how it goes. Anyhow, the main post, "the biggun", the one I've worked on with skunkworks secrecy these past months, should be up next weekend; this is supposed to be a simple rant-post to tide us over.) Now, Jennifer Tyrell would seem on the surface to be a normal mom: A devoted partner, a Cub Scout troop leader, and a damned good 'un at that--but for one fact: she's gay. While this really shouldn't be a problem--not in this day and age, not with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, equal-opportunity employment legislation, and the general loosening of attitudes towards homo/bisexuality--but according to the Boy Scouts of America, it makes her unfit, completely unfit, to be a Cub Scout troop leader. Homophobia has been called the last acceptable form of bigotry--you can't be racist, you can't be sexist, gods know you can't be anti-Semitic, or discriminate against any religion whatsoever, but should you happen to love the same sex or both, you're screwed,and people are free to discriminate against you;Lawrence v. Texas may've struck down sodomy laws, but all the Southron states have laws banning gay marriage, if not Constitutional amendments, on the books. Stereotypes of gay men and lesbians still abound:effeminate gays and mannish, unattractive bull-dykes, both nearly the opposite sex but for a minor difference of plumbing, hypermasculine leathermen looking like escapees from a Village People video or a Tom of Finland drawing, mincing, misogynistic fashion designers, sadistic paedophiles on the evening news, conspiring recruiters pushing their insidious agenda on America's innocent youth...and bisexuals? Forget it; unless it's two hot girls getting it on--more proof, as if any were needed, that the porno industry is run entirely by and for straight guys--we apparently don't exist. This rather curious phenomenon is known as bisexual erasure, or to Tropers as No Bisexuals, and when bisexuals do appear they're--we're--all too often depicted as either uninhibited sluts out to screw anything that moves or else depraved perverts who couldn't care less if their part--er, victims are male, female, canine, or equine. Then, too, there's the idea that bisexuals are confused or "on the fence" about their sexuality--we're not--and that bisexuality is merely a media fad, something that's simply a passing fancy of today's youngfolk...Ahem. Anyway, the Jennifer Tyrell controversy; more specifically, gay parenting, the Boy Scouts' previous history of doing this kind of thing, and the "gay agenda" crap the right's been spreading. Firstly, gay parenting. I've nothing against it; the kids of gay parents I've known--and the gay people, what's more--seemed well adjusted and normal, studies have shown no appreciable difference between kids raised by gay and straight couples, and why should we care whether a child's raised by a man and a woman, or two men, or two women, or five adults of varying genders, so long as the household's open and loving and the kid's not getting beaten senseless on a regular basis or treated like an undesirable, a stranger in his own home? Jennifer's son is also okay that he has two moms; he made a sign saying, "I love my two gay moms". Moreover, the Boy Scouts gave a rather...idiotic...reason for letting her go. To wit (from the statement they released to CNN): "Our mission does not include teaching young people about sex or sexual orientation, and we do not believe it is Scouting's role to introduce this topic in our youth development program." I...wha...huh...? So...a gay parent would be more likely to introduce kids to sex and sexuality than a straight parent, simply 'cos they're gay? Preposterous! Absurd! you say--some, your 'umble typist included, might even go so far as to call it madness. Besides which, it's probably--hopefully--nothing that the kid won't learn about in health class, or, God help us, his elder brother's sock-drawer. Of course, the Boy Scouts have a history of this kind of thing: you may remember the brouhaha a few years back--though this has quite literally been going on for twenty years--when they refused to let gay Scoutmasters lead scout troops. The Scouts have also a history with the Unitarian Universalist Association; the Scouts refuse to recognize the UUA's religious emblem program, and while there exists a religious emblem program for Unitarian scouts, the UUA refuses to recognize it! The UUA is a liberal denomination, with positions on atheists, agnostics, and homosexuals almost diametrically opposed to those of the Boy Scouts; Unitarian beliefs require not that a worshipper believe in God--only acknowledge a higher power of some sort--and UU's have always been accepting of minorities; indeed, the LGBT outreach and acceptance program occupies pride of place on the UUA website. Given this history, is it any surprise, then, that the Boy Scouts don't recognize Unitarian religious emblem programs? No. Is it, along with their refusal to let LGBT people serve in leadership programs, antiquated, backwards, bigoted, wrong-headed, reactionary, just plain dumb, and a damn crying shame? You better believe it. It's this kind of intolerance, from one of the most-respected youth organizations in America, that leads--in least in part--to homophobia and homophobic violence. And it's not like there's anything intrinsic to Scouting that means the organization must discriminate against gay people! After all, Great Britain--the Boy Scout organization that started it all, I needn't tell you--Canada, and most Continental European scouting programs allow gay people to join. So, what's with the BSA's obstinate refusal to let gay people join? It may be related to the prevalence of certain elements in American society, conservative ones, the Bible-thumping evangelicals; a preacher-man garners respect in American society, moreso than a politician, cop, or lawyer, and many a conservative minister has used this respect to advance his social agenda: In getting stem-cell research banned, for instance; or pushing abstinence-only sex-ed; or setting the cause of gay rights back about twenty-five years with their crap about "homosexual recruitment" and the "gay agenda".
The Gay AgendaOne of the more enduring myths of the right--fundies especially--is that gays are some sort of all-powerful force of evil in America, whose tentacles are all-penetrating, spread throughout American society but especially in the liberal media and the radical socialist atheist communist Democrat party. It's immoral and unbiblical, they say, citing Leviticus and Romans as "proof" that it's wrong for "a man to lay with a man, as he lays with a woman". It's unnatural, they say, here trotting out the hackneyed old one-liner that God made "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". It's a choice, they say, and they bring an "ex-gay" up to show even the most depraved Godless sinner can become a God-loving heterosexual. It's obscene, they say, gays are flaunting their sexuality, they say (though when straight guys sexually harass women or engage in joshing masculine behavior, or when straight women act bitchy, catty, and shopping-obsessed--such stereotype-conforming jackasses are dangerous--they're never accused of flaunting their sexuality). And, they say--and this is perhaps the most damning accusation--gays are everywhere...and they're recruiting. The Pink Menace is, they say, an active force for evil in the world, wanting to turn every God-fearing heterosexual Christian into depraved atheistic Communistic homosexuals...and what they want to do with America's good Christian boys and girls--I-I shudder to think of it! Why, there oughtta' be a law! And, Oh, the children! Won't someone please think of the children? Standard conservative doctrine has it that all of this tripe is true, though there's precious little evidence to support it. The lesson of the oft-cited passage in Leviticus is more "Don't rape angels" than "Don't have sex with guys" and Paul had...issues (he was the one who told women to submit to their husbands, thus making him one of the first advocates of maledom); let's not forget, besides condoning genocide--something not many people are in favor of, these days--the Bible also contains instructions on how to treat your slaves (Cor. 4:1). The gay-agenda crap is really far too big for this one post; I'll get to it some other time.
Conclusion--And a Call to ArmsWhile I started this post in the wake of the Jennifer Tyrell controversy, much more has happened since then in the field of gay rights, specifically on the gay-marriage front. The first thing was the passage in North Carolina, banning gay marriage in that state now and forever; this makes it the thirty-first state to have such a measure on the books. The second--the storm, really--was the combined announcements of Vice-President Biden, Education Secretary Duncan, and Himself, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, all announcing their support for gay marriage, and Mitt Romney, consequentially announcing his opposition to 'em. Duncan, as a Cabinet official, has very little to lose--if Romney or Ron Paul (who's still in this race, let's not forget) win in November, he'll not be reappointed--and Biden sticking his foot in his mouth? Happens every day; what's on TV? However, he and the President are indeed running for re-election, and while some on the left may criticize him, the President, for not saying enough, it must be admitted that this took courage and temerity of a kind rarely seen in DC. A sitting President endorsing marriage equality? How often has this happened before? Oh, that's right--never. What more d'you want--an executive order saying consenting adults can marry whomever they want, regardless of race, gender, or number? Not in this Congress, not with this President; not here, not now. Still, there oughtta' be a law; we have to repeal the lamebrained, misnamed, misguided, bigoted Defense of Marriage Act and pass a law–Hell, a Constitutional amendment, though that's arguably as cuckoo as the attempts by Tories to pass a law banning it--guaranteeing the right for men to marry men, women women, and both sexes each other. And we can't throw this to the states like table scraps to a pack of starving dogs, as we've been doing; else the Southron states will never allow it--they might even go so far as to secede, though how sane reviving the Confederacy is when the US armed forces are that much more powerful, better-armed, and more technologically advanced than 150 years ago is open to debate. No, this must be a federal law; we must state, in writing, that same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage are equal in the eyes of the United States federal government--if not those of God--which is good enough for me. I feel this to be at least partially a matter of national pride; Canada has a federal marital equality law, and if the Goddamned Canucks can do it, why can't we? Hell, forget Congress--we need to take this to the highest court in the land. Yep, we may have to make a federal case out of it–literally:The tenor of the next Congress may be even more rightward (yes, I know) and–somehow–even more obstructionistic and antagonistic towards the President–though perhaps not!–and so marriage equality is may be out of the question just yet; if Obama gets re-elected in November, though, and the Dems take the House and (more of the) Senate…well, we might just get somewhere. Just remember Loving v. Virginia. The repeal of the anti-miscegenation laws clearly didn't cause the death of civilization as we know it, so why should allowing same-sex couples to marry? Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway (why is Europe so much more progressive than the U.S. socially?), Great Britain, as I mentioned above, Canada–All allow same-sex marriage. So what's with the opposition in the States? No idea, though it may be the religio-political complex I mentioned earlier, and probably is. But wait, you say:what about the Southron states, and polyamory, and the Midwest, and civil unions, and the religious right, and this and that and the other thing…? Patience, Grasshopper, patience! I'm no prophet or oracle, able to see the whole future spread out before like a vast tapestry. All I can say is this:We need a federal marriage equality law–and not just this wishy-washy civil-union crap: Full. Marriage. Equality. The fight will not be easy; it will be hard, and it may be long, but it must be won, and it shall. We'll have to work and fight like Hell to get it passed; but it's not impossible or even extremely hard–this is, after all, America, a nation conceived in the name of freedom from the tyrant's jackboot, under the premise that "All men[and women!] are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain rights, among these being the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness[I paraphrase]"–And what's more intrinsic to that last than the freedom to love who you please, to commit them, and to marry–or not marry, as you wish–them? That's all very nice, Alex, you say as you get up for a second glass of Iron Fire, but what can I, one single person, less than a mite in the grand scheme of things, do? That's the thing; you may be just the one person–but a million, or even a hundred thousand, "just the one" people, working in concert, can work as much change as an army of legislators, lawyers, and lobbyists. Here's what you can do:
1. Vote! It may seem like such a quaint, old-fashioned thing to do in an age of NASCAR, Facebook, and YouTube, but Amendment 1 in North Carolina? Passed with eight percent of the vote–out of fourteen percent of all North Carolinian registered voters. Eight out of fourteen–that's fifty-one percent, more or less. That's the tyranny of the minority taking form in a pretty damn tyrannous way. What I'm getting at is, your vote matters. If you're not registered, it should be at the top of your to-do list. If you are registered to vote, but you've not voted in awhile because all politicians are scumbags, why the Hell haven't you!? Don't you know that the right to vote is what distinguishes us from dictatorships like North Korea or Nazi Germany? The right to the franchise is a fundamental American right, just like trial by jury, or a free press, so exercise it! Vote Democratic, vote Socialist, vote Green, Hell, vote Republican if you believe that their platform's right for America–just vote, and let your voice be heard.
2. Agitate. It's a little-known fact that I'm a democratic socialist; I think government control is a good thing–I consider myself halfway between a DemSoc and a progressive ideologically speaking–and that in order for real change to be effected agitprop must be spread. Write your Congressman or -woman telling them how you feel about this Issue–for it has become an Issue, if it wasn't before, now that President Obama has thrown his weight behind it–besiege the Congressional phone-lines–besiege them, I say!–and protest; if nothing else, we must protest against this madness and for equality. But, you say, I'm not the protesty type. You're really starting to piss me off, you know that...? Protesters aren't just grey-haired relics from the Sixties or hot-blooded, earnest college students, you know; there's enough young couples, professional types, and trade-union activists to present a respectable front. On a local and personal level, the Boy Scouts aren't all homophobic–My brother's friend's Scoutmaster is gay, and the troop's fine with that, and of course Jennifer Tyrell's troop all rallied behind her when this happened–and many Republicans are decent, moral, trustworthy folk, the kind who are often described as "pillars of the community" or "fine, upstanding citizens". In both cases the problem lies at the top (though as oft happens in politics any Tory is no friend of mine): As we've seen, the Boy Scouts have issues with LGBT people, and the flock of rascals, jackasses, and bigots serving as the GOP's elected representatives in the House and Senate sicken me; they truly do. Quoting the late, beloved Douglas Adams, they're "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes". I know, of course, that the election will not be decided on this Issue alone, or even primarily; it'll swing on, above all else, the economy, with all the rest, from abortion to foreign policy to this, subordinate to it. But we have the American people, or at least some of them, behind us, for in a Gallup poll this year 51% of all surveyed agreed with the statement "Gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry their partners [again, I paraphrase]", an arguable vote of confidence from a statistical majority that, though bare, is bound to only get larger as time goes on.
The right, the religious right especially, will scream and rave and rant about how this will mean the death of traditional American values, how it's contributing to the further erosion of America's moral fibre, how allowing gays to marry will destroy the institution of traditional (read: Monogamous, heterosexual) marriage, how it's all a conspiracy by Them (who are rarely identified, but when they are, they nigh unto invariably include Communists, "secular humanists", pagans, gays and lesbians, feminists, "uppity Negroes", and immigrants) to erode the bedrock of traditional American values and on and on and on. If we allow gays to marry, their argument goes, Western Civilization, and life as we know it, will end: there'll be men marrying men, women marrying women, plagues of locusts, widespread sex with farm animals, unwed couples living in sin, people rejecting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, cats and dogs living together–mass hysteria! This line of argument, of course, is madness in its highest form; when Tories lament that we're abandoning the values that our country was founded one, I want to ask: Which ones? Slavery? The mass extermination of Native Americans? Whaling? Forbidding all but white males over the age of twenty-one to vote? Anti-immigrant sentiment (one that's, sadly, still not been abandoned)? Isolationism? Imperialism and colonialism? Institutionalized sexism? The right of any man to eat as much as he pleases, then pay what he likes, plus a $5 charge for seating and plates, at Big Bubba's Buffet & BBQ? (I know, of course, that when Tories speak of the "values that our country was founded on", they refer to God and country, to the myth that America was founded as a Christian nation, despite the fact that the Founders feared monarchy and theocracy so much that they not only forbade governmental establishment of religion, but also forbade any religious test for government office; many of them were also Deists, and Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Unitarians. Perhaps ironically from the view of a Twenty-First Century observer, the Southrons were the pro-religious-freedom camp at the Constitutional Convention, with New England and the Mid-Atlantic states standing for the established Church; most delegates from those states were religious conservatives, John Adams and Ben Franklin–along with Green Mountain Boys leader Ethan Allen, a Vermonter through and through, who held the rather heretical view that, insamuch as organized religion was nothing but the tool that tyrants and kings used to prop themselves up and give themselves a shade of respectability, all organized religion was inherently evil–being a few notable exceptions. The switch only became apparent in the 1830s and '40s when the issue of slavery started a-looming. After that conflict began to boil, many Southron freethinkers fled north–if they weren't run out of town on a rail–their abolitionist tendencies making them pariahs in an increasingly traditionalistic, pro-slavery South. In the North the Unitarians and Quakers, both liberal, both opposed to slavery, welcomed the fleeing Southron dissidents into their congregations. Further down the line came civil war and deep cultural divides that arguably still shake our country to this day: in the South, a racial caste system, laws, customs, and attitudes meant to ensure that the black man was the eternal inferior of the white, the Supreme Court-imposed doctrine of "separate, but equal" honored in its first half but entirely ignored in the second; on top a white aristocracy, their standing determined solely by skin color, not by birth or means or any other factor, gathering in darkened barrooms to sip mint juleps and mutter about the damnyankee carpetbaggers, who did they think they were marrying our good Southern girls, the parasites, and what should be done about them uppity Nigras–If you ask me, the feller at the end of the bar says, we never shoulda' let Lincoln win; never shoulda' abolished slavery!–'till all hours of the night, the ruins of Neoclassical antebellum mansions, set afire by either Union soldiers or newly-freed slaves realizing that they didn't have to bow and scrape and do whatever Ol' Massa said, that they were free men and women, now, mouldering away in the swamps; beneath, a black underclass, their status as much related to their skin-color as that of whites. In the North, a general feeling of helplessness, a "what can we do?" attitude, prevailed–after all, those stupid Southrons tried to secede once, they failed, so why should we help? And we gave the Negroes their freedom–What else do they want? So it went–and so it goes:"The South shall rise again", goes the battle cry–"and we'll just knock you down again", comes the Northern reply. Anyway...) If, if they refer to those values, then yes, yes it is. If, however, they refer to freedom and equality, to the belief that all are equal under the law, then no this is not a rejection of those values; it is a confirmation of them.
This is the great civil-rights struggle of the early twenty-first century, the abolitionist movement, the women's-rights and civil-rights movements, the civil-liberties movement, the labor movement, and the ongoing struggle against totalitarianism. If we win–when we win, for it is only a matter of time until this is passed–we can build on it, as the 14th Amendment was, as Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, United States v. One Packet of Japanese Pessaries, and a hundred other laws and Supreme Court decisions were–for polyamory, say, or whatever fights technological advancement will bring as the Twenty-First Century wears on. It can be done, it must be done, and so help me God, it will be done. This is the coming storm, the one fight that must be won right now–and if not right now then soonish–and those who try to stop it will be blown out and remembered poorly, as the racists and segregationists who ran the South when the Civil Rights movement arose were. A stand for this issue is a stand for freedom, justice, liberty, and equality; a stand against, a stand for bigotry and reactionism (Is that a word? It is now). The question is, where will you stand?
--Alex Adrian, twilight hours of 6/6/12 and 6/7/12
1. Holy Hell, did I just come out to the fifty-some people who read this blog? 'Pears so.
2. That's the first man-on-dog/man-on-horse–Hell, the first bestiality–reference 'round here…
3.…And the first official dirty joke.
4. Fun fact: studies have shown that the best parents for kids are lesbians. Interesting, no?
5. My dad has a pet theory about Paul: He was secretly gay–and he can cite Scripture to prove it:"...For I felt a growth within me, like a thorn…this happened to me not once, not twice, but three times…[a third time I paraphrase; Dad, if you can come up with the actual citation, please post it in the Comments section.] Plus, he never married and spent all his time hanging out with a bunch of dudes–highly suspicious behavior, y'know. Additionally, yes, yes, I did indeed make an utterly tasteless joke about one of the arguable founders of Western Civilization that perhaps ten percent of my comically small audience will get. I am DRUNK WITH POWER, DRUNK, I TELL YOU! MUAHAHAHA!
6. The People's Court!
7. The Hell of the situation is, for both sides this is a question of freedom–What it boils down to is, do you want the freedom that's really not freedom, the freedom of the states to do what they please or the freedom of people to marry who they want and have the same rights as any married couple? I stand for the latter; the jackasses and homophobic bigots in the National Organization for Marriage and the Republican Party wish for the former.
8. Interesting fact, here: The Nazis were democratically elected to power by a major industrial nation and campaigned on a platform of "getting Germany back on its feet", "taking Germany back"(from, admittedly, different forces than those that the present-day GOP wishes to–Primarily international inspectors and occupation forces, not immigrants or "international bankers"…weellll, maybe that second one), and family values; y'know, criminalizing homosexuality (or rather enforcing the existing laws against it, for while said laws had been on the books since 1870, they weren't enforced under the Weimar Republic) and stressing the woman's role as mother and homemaker, subservient to her husband in every respect; abortion was criminalized and "Aryan mothers" were awarded medals for bearing vast litters of children. Herr Hitler would fit right in to today's GOP…
9. Incidentally, wouldn't it suck to be a "pillar of the community"? I mean, a community's gotta' weigh two, three hundred tons easy–and prolly a lot more–what with all the bricks and mortar and other building materials on your head; I'd hate to be one.
10. Incidentally, this marks the tenth Diary of an Atomic Man post, at least according to the Blogger interface. And now, the coda…
CodaToday, an e-mail from Change.org arrived in my inbox, one that shifted my entire post and reminded me of what an ungodly slow worker I am: What it said, among other things, was, owing to the Jennifer Tyrell case–which, you'll remember, was what started this post in the first place–the Boy Scouts are now allowing gay Scoutmasters to serve openly. Thus, the overall framework for this post is now out-of-date; however, the overall idea–that gays and lesbians face discrimination in America that can only be compared to that seen in parts of Africa–remains, I think, especially pointed, with Referendum 74 in Washington, which would keep legal same-sex marriage in the state I have been proud to call home these past eight years, on the ballot. Homophobia is still rampant in our great nation; LGBT students face discrimination in schools from fellow students–our future leaders, the men and women who will run this country or do other, equally noteworthy things in future–and the religious right has this debate by th' short-'n-curlies, equating same-sex marriage with polygamy, incest, and bestiality. (I wonder how many of these ministers were born of unions between first cousins–or their mothers and animals. God knows they act the goat…Poor taste, I know. Anyway…) This item is but one victory in a long fight, but it's an important one, and a precursor–I hope–to other, larger victories. If you live in Washington, vote to approve Referendum 74; this is a stand we can make here and now. What must be done must be done, even something as small as this. Excelsior!
--Alex Adrian, 6/10/12