Free-Floating Hostility

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

How Important is Sex?

At this time of year I often reread Little Women, but I only recently put my finger on what draws me back to it. March family values need surpisingly little updating. The older girls work (and it is good for them, though they don't always like it), the younger ones go to school and the four sisters are forever making each other laugh and learning the art of forgiveness (superhuman forgiveness in some cases--has any reader really forgiven Amy for burning Jo's manuscript?). But here is a passage I hadn't remembered, one which is not only prescient, but actually more radical than our own mainstream notions of marriage. On the topic of love, Mrs. March advises her daughters, "Make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered you, and contented here if they are not." When was the last time we saw, heard or read a mother suggesting to her daughter the possibility that she might not get married?

Our population is more single than ever, but the pressure to pair off and mate has not changed. 800 years of literature and music combine to convince us that love is the answer to every one's deepest lack--you're nobody till somebody loves you, right? I racked my brains for a work of art that suggests a happy life plan for a single woman, and the only one I could come up with was Waiting to Exhale, which is not a very good movie. If memory serves, the scene where Savannah discovers that she has grown beyond the need to chase a man isn't even in the book.

That doesn't even touch on the less measurable pressure from peers and families. I, of course, am in the unusual position of having spent my formative years rehashing some version of the protest "Because, Mom, all the guys I know are shitbags, and you can get herpes." But I think it's fair to say most people experience the same pressure, though usually from more orthodox sources. To die single, or without children, is to be the object of greatest pity. And therefore most single people have to choose between defending their worth for the rest of their lives or hooking up with someone who makes them unhappy in order to prove that they can.

Many of you have heard me on this well-used soapbox before, but I was reminded of it today while discussing the Vatican's continued embargo on premarital sex and contraception. I am in many ways persuaded of the value of abstinence for clergy and perhaps for the unmarried population in general. How much time do you spend obsessing if not actually over finding and keeping a mate, then over persuading the general public that you would be attractive if you were on the market? There are so many more productive, more self-respecting uses for that energy.

The problem, to my mind, is that the hard line the Catholic church (and some other Churches) has taken on sex has had the opposite effect, and placed it at the very center of Catholic life. Catholicism has lasted so long because it is adaptive, because its dogma was never entirely rooted in the bible or even a school of writing but drew heavily on the dictates of tradition and policy set by living clergy who could change that tradition. Poverty and obedience have been loosely adapted to fit the contemporary world and continue to evolve, so why has chastity become the touchstone of Religious America? Out of all the beautiful and ugly traditions Christianity comprises, why has this one taken hold of Christian hearts? And why have so-called values voters decided to spend their precious suffrage on issues which are largely beyond the control of legislators and presidents?

I believe the answer is the same as the answer to why Americans allow their worth to be distilled to their performance on the dating/marriage market. Because it's easy. If you say you're the church of the poor, then you have to confront the reality of overwhelming worldwide poverty, and that is deeply, psychologically distressing. It feels so large as to be utterly beyond the grasp of any one person or church, like imagining the end of the world (also a feature of Christianity with less and less creedence in modern times). How much less frightening, even subconsciously appealing, to linger over sex. Similarly, it takes real courage to confront dissatisfaction with ones own achievments, or ones relationship to ones parents, or compulsive behavior. How much less frightening to linger over ones loneliness.

From the standpoint of Public Health, sex is incredibly important, because it involves the spread of disease and shifts in population. But the root issue, I believe, is the behavior that underlies it, the psychological detachment that makes dangerous sexual behavior so alluring. Louisa May Alcott was writing in 1868, a time when marriage carried with it even heavier financial, social and biological destiny than any we face today (after all, the most common way for a woman to die was in childbirth). Yet even with so much at stake, she taught her readers to look to their own needs and their own characters both for the formation of happier unions and for the formation of a happy independence.

I tip my hat to Terry McMillan for trying, but as for the rest of you: don't teach your grandmother how to suck eggs.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at December 16, 2004 6:54 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Well let's get one thing straight, sex is very important. And if you or anyone else does not think so, you do not get to have a discussion with Sharon ever again.

    Ok... but what I think your larger question is, is why romantic (or pseudo-romantic) relationships are deemed so essential to a person's life in our society? Why do people always respond positively to people being in these relationships and negatively to these relationships ending? Why did I spend the majority of my college career asking, "Why is everyone having more fun than me?"

    In explicitly traditional societies, marriage is one of the indicators that you have not gone off the reservation. When people get married, it is a clear confirmation they are not off the path, that their parents were good parents, and most importantly, that the world view held by everyone at the wedding is right, just, and true. I am sure there are more reasons, but these are the best ones I can think of.

    Now if you take away Catholicism, Judaism, or whatever was preventing that cute girl to "Bend it Like Beckham" from the equation, I am not sure why a secular, consumer driven soceity still imposes this psychological torture on its subjects, disproportionately against women. My best theory is that marriage includes responsibilities, obligations, and limitations on people's lives and in our "your way, right away" culture, this is the rough equivelant to arsinic. And thus herds of married people exert their happiness monopoly on the unmarried through such hedgemonic methods as happy endings in movies, break up songs, acting happy together at holiday parties, and, of course, saying things like, "You found someone, that is wonderful!" Try getting a couple to discuss what bugs them about their relationship. You would have a better shot at getting a member of the Central Committee to present somethings Stalin could improve on during his next term.

    Any of this carrying weight?

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at December 18, 2004 7:32 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • This is more about marriage than sex. The majority of married people voted for George Bush, 60-39 for men, 55-44 for women. The majority of unmarried people voted for John Kerry, 53-45 for men, 62-37 for women. This may reflect the association between marriage and higher income [possibly higher income causes marriage?] more than social status, since the majority of people earning more than 50,000 a year voted for Bush.

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A divided country

The Republican majority is a fallacy.

In fact, if you look at the state legislatures, it is the Democrats who hold a slight edge, or so says the Nation's Newspaper.

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The NHL Lockout

It appears that the player's union's startling offer of a 24 percent rollback in salaries is not enough for the undisciplined hockey owners. Unable to stick to budgets in a sport that has proven year after year that payroll size doesn't matter, they demand a salary cap instead. So the season is probably over, which is unfortunate because I actually like hockey.

The thing that isn't being talked about is what a disaster a true hard salary cap would be in the NHL. This isn't the NFL, where fans don't care who the left guard is as long as he wears the proper colored jersey, and in many cases whichever team you have money riding on. The NHL is still driven by fans clicking through the turnstiles. Striving for a system like the NFL's would make it even harder to be a fan. Hockey, if it comes back at all, is going to have to rely on the fact that most of the players are good guys who do good things in the community to create goodwill. Creating a system that forces players to leave town every year as a matter of course is a bad a idea. I mean, this is a league where most even the most rabid fans can't pronounce the names of half the players in the league, and that includes broadcasters on the Canadian Broadcasting Company. The union can't win this fight because, the owners are actually making money (read losing less) on the work stoppage. And, not surprisingly, the brain-dead moron who run the sport are steering it toward Armageddon.

The compromise position here is an NBA-style soft cap where teams can make exceptions to sign their own free agents. You would have to insert a tax threshold, based on revenue calculations to make sure that teams who let their payrolls get too high are punished. In the long run it's probably better for the game. The next order of business is eliminating the neutral zone trap, which is what really killed hockey in the late 1990s.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I apologize to Anna for suggesting in the previous post that I preferred Subway or Pita Pit to her cooking. I enjoy the meals that Anna prepares for me far more than any food that I can purchase because they taste far better. Thank you.

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Yes, I am dieting

This came up in the holiday party post. Yes, I am on a diet.

It's not the South Beach Diet or any other of those fad things. Simply, every day I write down the nutritional information of everything I eat, and try not to exceed certain levels in calories, fat and carbs. It means, frankly, that I eat a lot of Subway and Pita Pit, since there are detailed websites with nutrition numbers. Or I eat at home, which is just as good from a financial standpoint.

It's going well and I'm down 11 pounds in five weeks, lighter than I've been since sophomore year of college. I don't feel any different or better, but that doesn't really matter. I just figured that it was time. I'm going to be 25 soon and it's just going to be harder to lose the weight as I get older.

So there you go.

5 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at December 14, 2004 2:09 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • You can't spell "diet" without "die". You also can't spell "Subway" without "sway." Coincidence? I think not. Just think, if you were on the Moon, or in Europe, you would be at your ideal weight already.

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at December 14, 2004 2:58 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • If you don't like eating at home, you can cook your own damn meals. Enjoy your eighty consecutive nights of cheerios.

  •   Posted by Blogger Unknown at December 14, 2004 3:13 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Rich-
    Are you talking about kilograms? I don't get it.

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at December 14, 2004 4:03 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Are you implying that my cooking sophmore year of college had something to do with your weight gain?


  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at December 15, 2004 1:42 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Yes, I was referring to the fact that your weight in kilograms is something like half your weight in pounds. I don't have the conversion rate in front of me. Also, if you were in Spain in particular, and you did not have Anna's wonderful home cooking to eat, you might be half the weight in pounds anyway due to the fact that Spanish food isn't super good. Then again, it's very atkinsy I guess, except for the breading on all the fried crap.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Requiem for Stringer Bell

You probably don't watch HBO's "The Wire" because, apparently, no one does. But on last night's episode Stringer Bell, one of the great characters in the history of television, died in an ambush while meeting with a contractor in one of the buildings he is erecting with laundered drug money.

Stringer was the No. 2 man in Avon Barksdale's drug organization. But he was a far deeper character than your average slinger. In fact, he was virtually unrecognizable if all you've been exposed to is the crop of American gangsta movies. In Bell you had a drug dealer who fancied himself a businessman. Not Mafioso/samurai sort of guy, who savored the violent side of the lifestyle, but a man who saw drugs as a means to an end. Bell died in a building that the legitimate side of his enterprise was trying to build. This was a man who took economics classes at the local community college and tried to apply those principles to the Baltimore drug trade. All that said, Stringer Bell was also a scumbag drug dealer who employed high school dropouts and pushed product to the people of West Baltimore.

It is a hard character to pull off. But there was a great actor, Idris Elba, behind the character. He found the center of Stringer Bell, the fact that this man straddled the streets and high-rolling world of business. He looked at home in a neatly tailored suit, yet a bad temper and violence still welled within him. Early in Sunday's episode, Bell wants to order the murder of a consultant he's been working with. That consultant has taken a quarter of a million dollars of drug money and not delivered any building projects. In this moment the contradiction in Stringer is laid bare. The rules of street violence are too ingrained in Bell to allow him to truly enter the executive suite. Elba understates this in his portrayal of Bell, and it's a mixture of embarrassment and rage works perfectly.

As a show, "The Wire" does the same thing. The mayor of Baltimore is a regular character but so is Bodie, a mid-level dealer in the Barksdale organization who has no power of his own. The show depicts the cops, politicians and criminals with equal depth and detail. Written by a former Baltimore Sun cops writer, "The Wire" presents a full picture of the implications of America's obsession with the drug war and how it effects all sides.

Hopefully HBO wises up and renews the show for a fourth season.

13 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger MPH at December 14, 2004 8:43 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Well it looks like you and I are the only ones that watch the show. I wasn't sure if they would do anything too shocking this year especially after the way Prez went out, but they did. It took a lot of guts to take down such a dynamic character, but it is those guts that make The Wire the best damn show on television.

  •   Posted by Blogger thicksista at September 07, 2006 2:23 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Why kill Stringer BELL, take me instead. I actually loved the show. I really appreciated Stringer Bell's depth.With Avon back behind bars,the only legitimate character left is Bodie...Big mistake HBO. First the death of OZ now this...

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at October 06, 2006 2:34 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I was sad to see Stringer go. He's claerly supposed to be on of the "bad" guys, but you had to like him anyway. Even though he did some horrible things, you identify with because, however amoral he might be, he is not vicious. He's cerebral--wise, even. And you end up rooting for him.

    In many ways he was the counter part to Major Colvin. They both changed the game, they both did their best to keep the bodies from piling up, and they were both assasinated for it. Colvin worked for the "good" guys who don't actually kill you, just your career.

    Did you notice how they both said almost exactly the same thing at their time of death? Stringer faces his killers and says "get on with it then motherf$%-" and is interrupted by gunfire. Colvin, upon being asked to verbally acknowledge the death of his career, says (I think) "let's get this over with motherf*&#-" and is interrputed by a staccato "Excuse Me!" from Rawls.

    Together, Bell and Colvin might have made a better world, now we'll never know.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at December 04, 2007 8:54 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • i'm about three years late to this party. just finished watching season 3 on demand as a buildup to the much anticipated season 5. the somewhat embarrassing thing is that i can make no astute observations that would color in any of the subject matter at hand. i can only gush. best damn television show ever and yes, stringer was one of the greatest characters ever portrayed. a larger personification of all our internal contradictions. least we can say that the show was able to stack up well in season 4 without him. and i'm willing to put wagers that the final season and its concomitant season finale will leave the sopranos and their artsy answer no questions fartsy lame excuse for an ending in the dust. after these final 10 episodes, it will remain to be seen if television can ever be relevant again.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at February 23, 2009 4:33 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Boy am I behind! - I just finished season 3 (Hallelujah for Netflix!!) and still am not 100% sure that I believe Stringer is actually DEAD. He has such an important character and I just can't imagine it being over. Hope I'm right! Plus I've already finished the 1st episode of season 4 - no mention of Stringer AT ALL?! He MUST still be alive.. Hey, a girl can dream, right? ;-)

  •   Posted by Blogger edizzle at July 15, 2010 12:22 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • i just watched this episode... FUCK THIS GODDAMN SHOW FOR KILLING STRINGER. I almost don't want to watch it anymore after this, and I've watched 3 seasons in 2 weeks. SHeeeeiiiittttt

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at June 30, 2011 8:48 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • can't believe they killed stringer. crazy to see how people are typing the exact same wording into google and finding this post.

    It saddens me that The Wire is the best damn tv show ever filmed because when I finally finish season 5, what will I be left with but sub-standard (by comparison) tv shows.

    I felt so deflated after that last episode in season 3. so much goin on. so much change. but then, that's how life is. The only constant in life is change.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at February 02, 2012 6:34 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Looks like I'm not so much behind :)
    I just can't believe that he is actually DEAD !
    I even thought of stopping the show at the end of season 3 but I got to know the end of it right ?
    Just make sure that this show is still watched even it is done years behind because it deserves it !

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at February 08, 2012 2:21 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Started on 'The Wire' box set at Christmas when I knew there would be crap on TV.....what a treat. Now on Series 3...sad episode...death of Stringer Bell....No way man....taken a deep character. lets see what series 4 & 5 hold.....

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at July 22, 2013 5:36 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • stringer bell was the best character on the wire. he is just too damn good. this is by far the most saddening character death I have ever experienced in TV, and I've watched Dexter, Game of Thrones, Prison Break and The Walking Dead, all of which have plenty of dead characters...

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at March 13, 2014 9:24 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I've been watching The Wire for about a two weeks and finished up season 3. I was surprised and bummed out Stringer died even though he had it coming.

    What a great show! I like that I'm 10 years late on this show because I can fly through all the episodes but I also feel like I shoulda heard more about it sooner.

    This thread is so old I had to comment and keep it alive! I'll have to check in awhile if anyone else comes here after they first find out Stringer is dead!

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at August 12, 2014 2:18 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Well I'm re-watching the entire series again 10 years later, and I knew Stringer got shot at some point, but couldn't quite remember when. Well bloody hell!! I was heartbroken Again just as much as the first time.

    As everyone else states, the depth of Stringer and his portrayal of such a complicated character, well I just didn't ever want it to end! Idris made it look so easy to play this character, and he seems to have been the most successful actor after the Wire, however, many others are still very successful too. I will watch anything with Idris Elba in it because the man is talented beyond belief. Period.

    Omar and Avon are very impressive as well. Loved the show the first time and I'm enjoying it ever bit as much nearly 10 years later!

    It really was cutting edge and unique and has so much going on with Each And Every Character, it's truly fascinating to watch. I love getting lost in it. And I am truly saddened to not have Stringer in any future episodes. They let him go too soon.

  •   Posted by Blogger Wharvey at March 13, 2016 12:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Talk about late to the party! Just finished the third season. Sad to see Stringer go down. I had hoped he'd get through it in the end. Such a great character and played so well by Elba. I am going to miss, but not forget, Stringer Bell.

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Up on the Housetop: Fuck Fuck Fuck!

Reader All-Star Frank alerted Free-Floating Hostility to a study finding that, during the holiday season, decorating causes an increase in the rate of injury from falls, especially for middle-aged people and men. Because this is a professional paper, its authors had to define a fall-related injury as "one received when a person descended because of the force of gravity and struck a surface at the same or lower level." We decided this alert was important (amusing) enough to be promoted out of the comments section. The moral of the story: buy a stepladder and a menorah.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at December 12, 2004 3:57 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Question not examined by CDC is alcohol [or other substances] associated with these injuries. When climbing on the roof to hang lights, it is important to remember not to drink and dive.

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The Sports Guy rips us off

Dave and I, then directors of the Carman Hall football laboratories (better known as the lounge,) hatched the "Barry Sanders theory" way back in 1998. The gist of it was that Barry Sanders was the reason that the Detroit Lions never won important games. Sanders, while the only reason that anybody ever cared about that lousy franchise, could break off spectacular 80-yard touchdowns runs seemingly at random. But on third-and-two with the game in the balance, he was pretty much useless .

Sanders ran in fits-and-starts, throwing moves at defenders to make them miss all over the field. Often times, though, he was doing this in his own backfield trying to get back to the line-of-scrimmage. He would often lose yardage. But once a game he would do something spectacular, run for an 80-yard TD or similiar. In football parlance, I believe this type of player is called (seriously now) the "home run hitter." This sort of player is very exciting to watch, but has a limited value when it comes down to actually winning games.

It's a little counterintuitive at first, that a guy who steals points like Sanders was detrimental to winning. But offenses struggle when they get "off schedule," which is to say it's hard to move the ball when you need 12 yards on 3rd down all the time. Within the flow of the game there is a huge difference 2nd-and-7 and 2nd-and-12. Then in the fourth quarter, mindsets change. The team with the lead would like to score, but running time off the clock is just as important. As the clock ticks closer to zero, getting a first down and bleeding two minutes off the clock means more and more.

The Detroit Lions stole more regular-season victories than anyone when they had Sanders. The team would get dominated within the flow of the game, but have a quick-strike touchdown from Sanders on the scoreboard. But the Lions won exactly one playoff game in Sanders' career and were usually blown out in the postseason.

Anyway, I mention the Barry Sanders theory after Dave alerted me to this from the Sports Guy's football picks column.

Whenever people argued that Barry Sanders was better than Emmitt Smith, my head would practically explode. So you'd rather have the guy who gets tackled behind the line of scrimmage eight out of 10 times, then breaks off a 40-yard run, over the guy who rushes for five yards a pop, keeps moving those chains and gets stronger as the game goes along? You really think the Cowboys were winning those Super Bowls because of Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin? Emmitt was the heart and soul of those teams. I loved watching Barry Sanders, and he's in the Pantheon for "Guys You Should Never Bet Against," but for one game with my life on the line ... sorry, I'm taking Emmitt. No contest.

Two things about this:

1. I wish that Dave and I had published a paper on this back in 1998, so that people wouldn't think that this was really a Sports Guy invention.

2. I object stringently when this is applied to Peyton Manning. I know the point is to win games and Manning seems allergic to beating the Patriots, but the problem is not systemic as it was with Sanders. The Indianapolis Colts play defense like the NHL plays hockey, which is to say not at all this year. Manning, therefore, by throwing 44 TD passes is posting crazy numbers within the context of winning games. The Colts have a great running back, so if they felt they could sit on leads they would. I'll admit that Manning laid an egg in last year's AFC Championship Game. But you can make the argument in the opener this season, Manning played well enough for the Colts to win. He didn't win, but the QB did everything he needed to in that game.

Manning is asked every week to win by himself, something Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are not. It's not fair to lump him in with Barry Sanders, this biggest case of style over substance in the history of sports.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at December 12, 2004 2:28 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Another way thinking about the theory is, "Does the style of play make things easier or harder on the rest of the team?" This clearly does not apply to Manning.

    1) Manning on the field means that no opposing lead is safe. That is a good thing.

    2) Because he can score at will, he actually takes pressure off the defense. At this point, the Colts realize they cannot play decent D and have probably resorted to playing more aggressively for turnovers. If they give up points, they can count on the offense to score. Under the best case scenario, they can force turnovers and give Manning even better field position. Manning makes things easier on the defense by freeing them up.

    3) Finally, the conventional wisdom says that throwing the ball a lot is risky. I do not think this statement applies to Peyton Manning. Carman Hall football laboratories last watched Rookie Manning throw several interceptions back in that fabled year of 1998 (and make Ty Law a lot of money). Besides that, he is very careful with the ball and has a Vulcan Mind-Meld with his receivers.

    Because he helps his team and does not hurt the defense, I think he is out of the Sanders category. Perhaps an argument can be made that all the audibles at the line hurt his team, but that has yet to be demonstrated. Hopefully new developments on this theory will manifest themselves in Gillete Stadium laboratories this January.

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

On Red State hypocrisy

I'll admit that in the immediate aftermath of the election, when all we heard about were "values voters" in the red states, I took some solace in the fact that "Massachusetts values" actually meant staying married and waiting until after child-fondling scoundrels. But as satisfying as pointing out hypocrisy on the right is, it's starting to get a little old.

Identifying the liars is important. But the more vital challenge over the next four years is dealing with the implications of these lies. On Sunday, Senate majority leader and licensed physician Bill Frist said that HIV could be transmitted through tears and sweat. That comes on the heels of a congressional report citing abstinence-only sex education textbooks that offer such gems as

? A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."
? HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.
? Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.
One curriculum, called "Me, My World, My Future," teaches that women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.

The issue is not hypocrisy as much as it is lying. In terms of sex education, abstinence clearly is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease. Most kids actually know that, making it stupid to lie about it. Kids don't listen to statistics. They listen to their friends. And friends tell them that sex between teenage virgins who are drunk and have no real feelings for each other is always an awesome, life-affirming experience. Those are the same friends that tell them that smoking is cool, school is optional, and that the speed limit for teenagers in actually 85 mph.

I took a health class in high school that included the dreaded "STD Slideshow," which did things like show you what Gonorrhea did to the human body. It was a right of passage as Cass Tech High School, but I don't believe that it ever had any effect on behavior. Anyone with an elementary knowledge of television soap opera knows that misinformation always has dire consequences. Or at least, it makes the teachers sound stupid.

I think somewhere along the line conservative people either got the idea that schools using the Kama Sutra as a textbook and teaching tantric sex, or they willfully deluded themselves into believing that. The point is that teaching the truth the children, arming them with the information they need to make good choices, is a Blue State value.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Gnus Brief

Goldman alerted me to this article about a man who was killed by his pet wildebeest. Since Sevilla: A Writer's Life shows no signs of blogging it and I'm all hepped up on DayQuil (which is seriously just uppers laced with decongestant), Free-Floating Hostility decided to help itself.

Free-Floating Hostility acknowledges that Isaac Meyers came up with the gnu pun, but he doesn't have a blog and we do.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Infirmary

Anna and I have turned from people into snot machines, dispensing loose mucous and sneezes like Pez. At least we have each other to complain to, which makes it a little more fun.

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

You Can Feel it All Over

Reader All-Star Dave alerted Free-Floating Hostility to this article on Bush's new plan to end the adjusting of how much federal tax we pay based on how much we pay in local and state tax. As a Big Giant Coincidence, the new plan penalizes blue states out of all proportion, including, for instance, New York and California, both of which already put in lots of money to the federal government and get a lot less back, even after 9/11.
'Mario Cuomo practically lived in Washington for a couple of months fighting to
keep that deduction,' economist Bruce Bartlett, a former Treasury Department official, said of the then-governor of New York. 'Eventually the
Reagan people backed down. It's pretty tough to do.'
Stupid useless Pataki/Schwarzenegger mediocrityfest. Someone post and tell me where I can sign up to campaign for the dissolution of the electoral college.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

The Holiday Party from Hell

Last night Free-Floating Hostility was guests at a Christmas party hosted by an editor at the paper. Mike went last year and told me I had to go this year "so that you can understand." Indeed, his description hardly conveyed the full effect.

Our host (whom I have promised not to name) begins putting up Christmas decorations the day after Halloween and finishes just in time for his annual party. Blinking colored lights cover the front of the house from top to bottom and side to side, then sprawl over the lawn and a trellis constructed over the path to the back room. Cutouts of the Grinch and other trademarked holiday cartoons are posed sinisterly underneath two flashing signs reading "Santa Checks his list...TWICE!!!!" and "Don't just park and look, turn on 106.4 AM", this last because our host pirates radio waves for two months out of the year in order to broadcast Christmas carols to approximately four houses. An electric train runs overhead as you wander, stunned, to the back door, where the host greets his "friends" and coworkers.

The interior of the house is full of snoopy-related merchandise of every description from handbells to impressionist watercolors. One of the party games prepared for this occasion is Count the Snoopies. I don't know if some kind of meaty prize was involved, but certain older guests were taking the party games very seriously, and harrumphed at me indignantly for standing in front of a snoopy and throwing off their count.

We made our way to the kitchen where our host's surprisingly normal wife was offering cider and mild humor (we stopped to greet Mike's ex-boss who left the paper to write Christian Young Adult fiction and who by the end of the night was overheard imitating Snoop Dogg) and took our place by the artfully arranged Williams Sonoma chocolates and a TV displaying a DVD of a crackling fireplace. Our host sidled up and asked if we had seen the second story. "There's more?" I said faintly. There was. A whole floor dedicated to floor-to-ceiling shelves of snoopies and woodstocks and another electric train running around the base of a snoopy-festooned Christmas tree.

When we made our way back downstairs a circle of dazed twenty-something couples had formed at the base of the stairs. Only one of the six, an agriculture grad student, had the good sense to be drunk. He was valiantly keeping up the conversation by telling stories of the time he was riding his bike when something crossed his path and caused him to "eat it," which I took to mean that he fell. The story went something like "I just ate it, and the guys driving were like, man, some guy just ate it." One other member of the circle, a firefighter, made a good effort to laugh. I tried to share the story about the kid I knew from Browning who was running and collided with a van that was standing still, but no one laughed. "It happens," the guy who ate it responded sympathetically. I've met these people before, and they're perfectly lively and interesting, but something about this purgatory of a party sucked their will to live and used it to power an electric festival of crap.

After one hour that felt like twelve we made a polite exit and went home feeling more Jewish than we've ever felt in our lives. Happy Holidays.

5 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Lola at December 12, 2004 12:05 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Sounds like a nightmare soiree from hell...

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at December 12, 2004 6:07 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • There you go again... Hope this wasn't the sports editor...

    First, the most important thing about a party critique is the food; and drinkage. Frequently the dividing line is whether comestibles [had to go on line for correct spelling] fabricated from marshmallow are provided. Or, outside of Philadelphia, cheez wiz. Were people mixing Jack and coke [known as a Tennessee Libre]? [A sin against the Jack]

    Second, it's worth noting that the New Yorker ran a huge article about Charles Schultz and Snoopy; the decor may have been an homage to NY recognition of national culture. Does the Grinch evoke the entire Geisel oeuvre [too tired to look up spelling]?

    Third, people should have christmas lights up all year around. The lighted santa, not so much.

    Finally, the question of public health [not mental health] aspect of christmas decoration has recently been examined by CDC:

    This actually deals with falling down while putting up lights. During 2000--2003, an estimated 17,465 persons were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments (EDs) for holiday-decorating--related falls. Approximately 62% of those injured were aged 20--49 years; approximately 43% of injuries were caused by falls from ladders; and males were 40% more likely than females to be injured.

  •   Posted by Blogger Unknown at December 12, 2004 9:29 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • This wasn't the sports editor, though he was there and looked slightly overwhelemed.

    The trouble with the party, I think, was that not enough people were drinking. I am dieting, so can only drink if I know the nutritional content of the food I'm eating. But other people there have no such excuse. There was a lot of breakable stuff and it would have added some much-needed nervous energy to the party to have people wobbling around threatening to break stuff.

    I was at this party last year and can vouch that the decor has nothing to do with any recent articles in the New Yorker.

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at December 12, 2004 7:45 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • You are dieting? Please explain. I think this deserves a post of its own.

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at December 13, 2004 10:08 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Yes. Please explain. What exactly can't you drink on this diet? White russians with whole milk?

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A Sad Day for Baseball, a Happy Day for the Flaxseed Industry

As you all know, when Barry Bonds was applying both clear and creamy steroids to his body throughout 2003, he apparently thought it was flaxseed oil. He still thought it was flaxseed oil when he recommended it to his friends Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, who promptly doubled their body weights and developed medical maladies that certainly included a tapeworm. Many journalists have already pointed out that it's pretty hard to be on steroids and not know about it, and that Bonds must be a credulous fellow indeed to think flax can make you break Babe Ruth's record. But I believe I am the first to point out that it's pretty hard to be on flaxseed and not know about it. Those of you who had dinner at the Wagner-McCoys' last summer, the night Sarah baked us a delicious flaxseed bread, know just what I mean. Most of us had seconds and some had thirds; everyone crapped the whole night long. Flaxseed oil, it turns out, is a powerful laxative. So unless Mr. Bonds can account for his apparent failure to defecate linen in the dugout, he has a lot of explaining to do.

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In which I Shill for Handel

As the season of advent is upon us, I encourage everyone to give Handel's Messiah a listen, especially in concert. Performances of this piece are plentiful this time of year, and it's a creative date/weekend activity. I promise, you'll get choruses in your head. Even Mike has come around, although his favorite movement is "All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray" because he thinks it sound like they're singing "Oh, we like sheep."

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  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at December 05, 2004 7:24 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Among the notable events of the Erasmus Hall High School calendar was the Christmas Concert. There were about 6000 of us in 3 grades. On one day there was a cycle of 4 concerts in the auditorium, called "Chapel." Not sure if it accomodated all the studentry, or if many just ducked out.

    I was in the the orchestra, and we played the Hallelujah Chorus sung by the Choir, as well as some other Christmas pieces. So, a whole day of pretending to be a full time musician [trumpet, actually 3rd trumpet.] And each of 3 years. Of course, the school was then about 2/3 Jewish if not more. Singing Christmas Carols.

    Musician 1: Can you play the Hallelujah Chorus?
    Musician 2: I think I can handle it.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Analysis of the Use of Time I allotted to my Application to Berkeley this Month

Estimated Hours per Project:

Composing Open Letter to Department--0.4

Composing other Blog Postings--Two

Debating whether to submit Open Letter instead in lieu of real essay--Eight

Working on mother's birthday gift--24

Reading Michael The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate, and two thirds of Brideshead Revisited--20

Self-Quizzing on Spanish vocab from translations of Harry Potter books--Three


Memorizing "Let America be America Again"--Two

Forgetting it again--0.000000000000034

Berating my mother and godmother for micromanaging my godsister's college applications--Three

Reading the Borges Jeff gave me for my 24th birthday--10

Trying, for the third time, to read v., which Jeff gave me for my 22nd birthday--Six

Obsessing over the condemnation of Ron Artest and whether buzz about the latter joining the Knicks might be considered a mitigating circumstance--6.02 x 10^23

Talking myself out of applying to Grad School--16


Writing Essay--perhaps six

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at December 02, 2004 11:48 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Sounds like you're way ahead of most people. particularly in the stretching department, but also the grad school app department. chin up
    - sol

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