Sunday, January 13, 2013

Advice for Those in the Friend Zone

I'd like to speak to some of the menfolk for a moment.* Specifically, I'd like to speak to those of you stuck in the "friend zone." You know who you are. You've got a bunch of lady friends who love you so much - as a friend. You're so nice to them, but they never see you as more than just a friend, preferring to date jerks who treat them terribly. Well, I want to say that I understand your pain. For a long time, I too found myself in such a situation and I know how frustrating it can be. So now, somewhat older and more experienced, I'd like to give you all a little bit of advice.

Get the HELL over it.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why I am no longer an Eagle Scout

On August 22nd, in a small manila envelope, I mailed my Eagle Scout badge and medal to the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board, along with a letter explaining why I could no longer associate myself with the organization. If you're interested, you can read the text of my letter here, and can read some of my prior thoughts on the matter here and here.

This wasn't by any means an easy decision for me. For many of you who've only met me within the last decade or so, the fact that I am - was - an Eagle Scout is probably a pretty early thing you learned about me, and your response was probably something to the effect of "Of course you are." Many of you who knew me before that attended my Eagle Scout Court of Honor, and some of you knew me primarily or entirely through Boy Scouts (heck, several of you are Eagle Scouts yourselves). Those of you who've known me since elementary school may remember that one day a year when Cub Scouts - often just me - came in to school in their uniform. And if you knew me before I was in Scouts... well, I think there may only be three or four of you out there, tops, that aren't related to me.

Point is, being a Scout has been a big part of who I am since I was seven, nearly as long as I can remember. I distinctly remember, one of the main reasons I joined was because my cousin had just earned his Eagle Scout badge, and I wanted to do the same. So I joined up, and over the course of the next twelve years I went into the same Boy Scout troop my cousin had been in, held leadership positions (including being in charge of the whole troop as Senior Patrol Leader), went back to my Cub Scout pack as a Den Chief, was staff at leadership training camps, camped in all sort of weather including sub-zero temperatures, went hiking through the back country trails of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, and worked as Field Sports Director and Nature Director at a Cub Scout Camp. Shortly before I turned eighteen, after months of planning, organizing, and hard work, I'd actually done it. I earned my Eagle award. That was thirteen years ago, and it's remained one of my proudest achievements.

But I can't do it anymore. I can't continue to associate myself with an organization that betrays their own ideals, their own history of including boys of different races and religious affiliations long before many other groups did, by unanimously reaffirming in a "secret council" to maintain their policies excluding lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* youths and leaders. I can't be true to the many loved ones I have that lie along the LGBT spectrum or to myself as an atheist, another group considered too immoral to be members, while continuing to link my name up with them.

You who know me well also know that I'm not really one for making big statements. I like to be quiet, to support more privately, and keep out of the spotlight (and no, acting doesn't count.) Hell, that's part of the reason this blog is so infrequently updated. While I support a number of progressive causes, I'm not likely to be found at protests, or rallies, or otherwise actively, publicly advancing those causes. Rightly or wrongly, I feel like I don't have much of value to contribute.

But... I can do this. And I'm not the only one. At the time I write this, at least 156 Eagle Scouts, some who earned their badges back in the 1950s, have sent their badges back to the National Council to let them know that this is not okay. And it's not because we don't love Scouting. We do, so much. Many people I talk to or who write online about this think that the Boy Scouts is a hopelessly outdated relic, with nothing of value to offer youths of today. Well, I don't think that's true. I personally got an enormous amount from Scouting. More than nearly any other thing growing up besides school and my family, the Boy Scouts is responsible for making me the man I am today, and I know many of these other men feel the same. But that's why we have to speak up, because they can do better, and we feel they're worth saving. And if they won't, if they continue to betray the very ideals that made them great and that people like me hold dear, then they're going to find themselves consigned to the wastebasket of history, a shadow of their former selves, left behind by standing still.

For it to possibly make any difference, of course, it needs to be public, and loud, so that the National Council knows that the American public can see that these former Eagle Scouts - held up as the best, the highest pinnacle of Scouting - wants nothing more to do with them. So this is it, my resignation. It hurts, it feels like I'm giving up a crucial part of my identity. And I hope that they'll eventually come around, because they are on the wrong side of history. But until that time, in order to stay true to my ideals, ideals that the Boy Scouts ironically helped instill in me, I can't support them anymore, even if it is only in name.

I am no longer an Eagle Scout.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Over-Analyzing Church Signs

Hey, still reading this thing? I know I just posted last week, which means that based on prior experience my next post should be due sometime in February, but I want to try to be a little more regular about this. The purpose, after all, is to help myself be more confident in my own voice, and to do that I actually have to do it.

To help with that, though, I'm introducing what I hope will be a semi-regular feature: "Over-Analyzing Church Signs." I've gotten into the habit lately of taking pictures of church signs that I find especially interesting, for whatever reason. Now, since religion is a very powerful force in our culture, and church signs are a way for religion to get its message out to the general public even if they never set foot in a church, they deserve perhaps a closer scrutiny than we usually give them.

I want to make clear, though, that it's not just about whether I agree or disagree with the message (as an atheist I'll most often disagree, but not always). I saw one today that said "Grow in the Son's light." I have no problem with this, besides the rather overdone sun/Son pun. I disagree with the message, but it's clear, inoffensive, and uses an effective metaphor. In other words, no fun at all.

It's also not about simply making fun of them. I'm not going to be picking apart their grammar and spelling (though it pains me not to do so), and I'm not going to be pointing out unintentional double entendres only to follow with "That's what she said." After this one.

"She" being the Virgin Mary
If it doesn't come, the 10:30 brunch will be AWKWARD.
No, this is about the message, and how well it's coming across in the limited space available to them. It's about confusing metaphors, mistaken assumptions, and sometimes just plain bafflement. In each case, I'll try to tease out the intended meaning, and what the problem is, usually in extremely nitpicky fashion. On that note, let's start off with a real over-analysis:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Somebody Make This Happen

So I've got this idea, but I lack the technological knowledge/connections to implement it.

My wife and I recently decided to drop our cable television service.  We realized that we rarely use it, as most of the shows we go out of our way to see are available streaming somewhere online, or we just wait for them to come out on DVD and Netflix them.  I used to have TV on as background noise almost constantly, but for the year and a half I lived by myself I couldn't really afford it and never really got back in the habit once I could.

I've never really gotten into streaming TV as much as many other people, though.  I mean, if there's something specific I've heard good things about, or that I'm already into, I'll watch it, but I rarely think "Hey, I'd really like to watch a specific episode of this particular show," which you have to do with either streaming or DVD.  Part of what I really liked about regular TV was the surprise factor, especially regarding reruns.  You could flip through the channels, find, say, a twenty-year-old episode of Wings ( I feel old) and enjoy watching it.  Now, I'm not likely to ever search Wings out specifically (though now that I bring it up, I kind of want to), but it was a good show that I'd enjoy seeing a random episode of now and then.

I apparently remember more about Wings than I realized
That's what I miss: the randomness.  Coming across a show or an episode that you wouldn't think to search for.  And not just coming across it in your taste preferences, that doesn't cut it.  I gloss over seeing Wings there, because if I feel like something random I don't want to have to sort through seven years of episodes.  Do I want to watch the episode where Roy tricks the others into thinking he buried a fortune in his backyard so they'll dig him space for a hot tub?  Or the one where Joe finally snaps and runs off to be a beach bum (a two-parter)?  Because, really, sometimes I'm just in the mood where I want to go "I don't care.  Surprise me."

What I want is this.  I'd like some sort of programmable stations for streaming television, sort of like Pandora is for music.  Plug in some specific series that you like (as few or as many as you want, as long as they're available), tell the station to play episodes from only those series or to add in episodes from series like them, and then whenever you go to that "station" online, it'll pull up a random episode from one of those series to play.  Once it's over, they'll pull up another one.  Naturally, if you don't like the episode that's up, you can just skip to the next or ban it outright, because really, "Beer Bad" was a terrible episode of Buffy.  Similarly, you could ban an entire series because you may love Lucy, but you probably don't love Life With Lucy.  

You could set up stations with different themes: Rob's Sitcom Station (Wings, Dick Van Dyke, Roseanne, Arrested Development), Crime and Punishment (Law & Order: SVU, Bones, Dexter, Hill Street Blues), Saturday Morning Cartoons (Looney Tunes cartoons, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Animaniacs, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), or make it just a little of everything you like.   You could even check a preference so that it'll only show episodes of a given show in the correct order, or leave it totally random.  There could be some pre-programmed stations, of course, but the real draw would be the ones that you program yourself.

The services wouldn't need any more rights permissions than they already have, I wouldn't think.  Obviously, the selection would be limited to the shows that are already available to stream, which increases all the time.  It would only be available to those who get the streaming shows anyway (Netflix subscribers, Hulu with commercials, whatever), all it would require would be a new infrastructure to support it.  Would it be that difficult to set up?  Couldn't they use Pandora or Slacker's music algorithms, and just replace the music library and player with video?

I know, I'm not a programmer.  Maybe there are some sort of technological issues that make it too difficult, or maybe there are rights issues I'm not aware of.  But couldn't this be done?  Is it being done, and I'm just not aware of it?  Am I the only one that would really use streaming services a lot more if something like this were available?  Do I waste enough time looking at a computer screen as it is?

Surely someone out there can make this happen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

To Joy

I'm not a music person, not really.  I mean, I enjoy music, of course.  Well, certain music.  But it never really seems to... I don't know, transport me the way it seems to for so many other people.  Maybe it's some sort of in-born temperament thing, or maybe it's because I never really learned the language of music properly, I don't know, but music rarely speaks to me the way many other types of art do.

I'm best with highly narrative music.  I do love me a good story, more than almost anything else, and music can certainly be a way to do that well.  When there's no real story evident though (to me, at least), I find it much harder to grab onto it, emotionally speaking, and it becomes just sort of pretty sounds to me.  I find this is especially bad with things like jazz and classical music, music that I know - I know - can be profoundly emotional artistic statements, but the meaning, the true genius of these pieces, always seems to be just out of sight for me, and I feel like I'm missing out.  It's like listening to a foreign language: you may find it pretty, even beautiful, but you don't understand.

Sometimes, though, sometimes... I catch a glimpse.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Anti-Vaccine = Pro-Disease

It's taken me a long time to write this post, because it just makes me so very mad.  I can't even include many of the pictures I originally considered in this post, because it makes me too angry.  People who know me know that I don't get mad easily, probably not nearly as easily as I should.  If I am going to get riled up about something, it's most likely to be less an interpersonal thing and more some big, social issue.  I've touched on some already: civil rights, creationism in public schools, etc.  If you really, truly want me to get spitting mad, though, one of the best ways is to bring up anti-vaccinationists.

Smallpox vaccine
Surely you've heard about it by now, from someone, somewhere.  The story most often goes that vaccines contain some sort of toxins that cause developmental problems -- primarily autism -- in children, and that the rise in cases of autism since the early 1990s is directly caused by an increase in the number of vaccines children get.  Supporters of this idea cite their personal experience, where their children only started showing signs of autism shortly after getting vaccinated, and a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in The Lancet.  They claim that children are getting too many and too dangerous vaccines, that they are being pushed on us by the pharmaceutical companies not for health reasons, which are negligible compared to the risks, but because of profit and greed.

This drives me insane.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: The Book Thief

For some reason, when I go to the library I often get out books on a theme, usually unintentionally. A few months ago (because I take a while to read and, more importantly, write), the theme was "books and censorship." Oddly specific, I know. It largely started because of a novel that happened to catch my eye in the young adult section: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, about a young girl who steals books in Nazi Germany, narrated by Death, all sort of things that appeal to me.