Thursday, March 5, 2015

Abortion, Capital Punishment, and Other Light-Hearted Topics to Discuss Over Margaritas

From now on if this photo appears at the top of a blog post, you know it's gonna be super cereal.

A few weeks ago I went to a Consistent Life conference in Austin to give a talk on pro-life feminism with Destiny of New Wave Feminists. It was a good talk. We had a great time and met some great people. We showed our satirical videos to a roomful of shocked people, many of whom laughed, two of whom scowled throughout our entire presentation. Whatever. Good times.

Afterward I heard Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book Dead Man Walking, speak about the death penalty. She is the nun famously portrayed by Susan Sarandon in the film based on her book. Then Abby Johnson spoke about her experience working at Planned Parenthood. Several times, she said that if one was anti-abortion, being anti-capital punishment was a "no-brainer," and other remarks to that effect.

Apparently I have no brain, because I'm not against the death penalty. I'm also not for it. It is an issue I wrestle with. I've been on both sides of it over the years, and as I sit here today I can't honestly claim to have settled it for myself.

I think there are one or two excellent arguments against the death penalty that have been (and are) on the verge of persuading me. But nothing turns me off the anti-capital punishment movement faster than comparing capital punishment to abortion.

Even the phrase "consistent life" irks me, because it implies that being anti-abortion and pro-death penalty is morally or logically inconsistent. It isn't. Like I said: you can make a sound argument against capital punishment, but that does not make it comparable to abortion.

In one case, the victim in question is a person convicted of a capital crime, who by law has been provided at least one lawyer and may have a team of them. His lawyers have mounted a defense, paid for in many cases by the taxpayer. He has been fed and sheltered and given cable TV and access to a library and a gym by the taxpayer. He has been provided with a mandatory appeals process. His face is all over the news. People who don't know the names of his victims know his name. Priests and nuns and laymen are holding up his photo at vigils and praying for mercy, for his deliverance.

Quick! Name the police officer this guy was convicted of killing.

In the other case, the victim in question is nameless, faceless, unknown, with no advocate besides me and you. If she is lucky, there are people outside the clinic praying on the sidewalk for her and her mother. Maybe one of them approaches her mother and tries to change her mind. Or maybe the fellows in orange vests shield her from the "terrifying" onslaught of pamphlets and prayers. There is no lawyer, no appeal, no jury, and no judge but her mother, whose whim decides her fate. She dies nameless, disposed of as medical waste. Maybe one day her mother realizes what she's done and decides to memorialize her or name her. Or maybe she is never anything to anyone but a clump of cells.

And she never hurt anyone. She never killed anyone. She never even asked to exist. She died in what was supposed to be the safest place on earth: her mother's womb. And it was her own mother that chose it.

So let's make honest arguments, shall we? By all means, argue against the death penalty. But please: stop implying that any opinion on the one requires a certain opinion on the other. They are both legally sanctioned deaths; that is literally all they have in common.

And please stop implying that if you're pro-death penalty but anti-abortion it's because you haven't given it any thought. I've given it thought for years, thanks.

Overall, I have a problem with people hitching abortion to other issues. I think it takes away something from the fight against abortion, the single greatest human rights violation of our time. It especially bugs me when it gets tied in with ideas like "ending war."

During the Q&A session at the conference, a gentleman stood up and said with a straight face that he was an ex-soldier interested in "ending war." At that point I had about had it, and I turned to my friend Katie and said, "He may as well decide to end weather."

When the fight against abortion joins forces with the naivete, foolishness, and even danger inherent in utopian movements, it bothers me.

Let me just explain something real quick: you are not going to end war. War is conflict, and conflict is humanity. It is as inevitable as death, and seeing it as evil is, in a way, evil itself, in that it is contrary to human nature.

Working towards peace in particular instances can be totally fine and even commendable, although it is not always. What pacifists don't understand is that sometimes violence is the answer. Sometimes bad people have to be killed. It is tragic, but it is true.

This is an aspect of the anti-death penalty movement I don't understand. It is to me decidedly irreligious, even un-Christian, to feel that the worst thing we can do to somebody is kill him. And here is the biggest flaw in the Catholic argument against the death penalty: the Catechism tells us we are supposed to avoid it unless "it is the only possible way to defend human lives against the unjust aggressor." And everybody goes "Duh of course! Prison! We can just put people in prison! So we don't have to kill them! Hurray!"

The problem is, my dad worked in a prison for several years. He told me things. (Thankfully, not everything.) Prison is, quite simply, torture.

Also, ironically, the people we spare the death penalty are often (as you would imagine) the most violent and vile people in those prisons. Unlike death row inmates, who generally are more likely to keep to themselves because they're trying to win an appeal or otherwise save their own lives, the lifers without parole are often the most violent and depraved prisoners. Also ironically, they are the most likely to kill, rape, and otherwise terrorize other people in prison, because they have nothing else to lose.

So: we Catholics are so anti-violence and pro-human dignity we are going to spare the life of a killer, so he can go to prison and kill some more people? Is that what you call "defend[ing] human lives against the unjust aggressor?" Or do those victims matter less because they're prisoners?

Or should these prisoners concern us even more, morally speaking, since we are allowing them to be killed in order to spare the life of their killer? We are complicit in their deaths, deaths which apparently don't matter.

This is Danny Faulkner, the police officer Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing.
He was 26 when he died. His convicted killer is routinely asked to speak at the commencement ceremonies of major universities. Click here for more information on the case and to read a statement from his widow.

So: prison is torture. What is more merciful, more Christian? Sending a man to his Maker, or torturing him for life? But the rabid anti-torture people are just as anti-death penalty as you please. These are the across-the-board "non-violent" types who make zero sense to me. If any kind of violence against anyone ever is bad, what do we with our killers and rapists and pedophiles? Air-conditioned hotels with ocean views? I suppose we will pay for that from the same never-ending fountain of money that is going to provide "free" college and childcare and healthcare for everyone.

Again and again when thinking of these things I am reminded of David Mamet: "Kindness to the wicked is cruelty to the righteous."

The tragic view of human nature says that people are fallen in nature. People sin. And because they sin, it is not only dangerous but immoral to attempt to use human law to create paradise on earth. Tyrants are almost always tyrants in the name of the greater good.

Because people sin, and because utopia is impossible, and because you cannot protect people from their own free will, the best and most moral thing we can do is to allow people the liberty God gave them when he gave them that free will, barring basic restrictions against acts that harm ones neighbor. (This is called the Non-Aggression Principle. Google that shit.)

This will not lead to a perfect society. There is no such thing in this life. What it will lead to is the most liberty for the most people most of the time, which again is the best and most moral society to which we can aspire.

No matter how well-meaning or pro-life we are, we can't flirt with impossible goals like "ending war." They lead to utopianism, and utopianism leads to tyranny.

We also, no matter our individual feelings on the death penalty, need to stop mentioning it in the same breath with abortion. They are not the same thing. Even if you somehow have managed to convince yourself that victims of both are equally innocent, they certainly do not have equal protection or equal access to due process under law.

By all means, if your conscience calls you to oppose the death penalty, oppose it. But when we talk about abortion, let's focus on abortion. Let's focus on the victim who gets no lawyer, no jury, no judge, and no appeal. Let's focus on the unborn human for whom there will be no phone call from the governor, no stay of execution, and no mercy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On Torture

I often argue that it is not justifiable to commit evil in order to achieve good. I suppose this is a fancy way of saying "two wrongs (or three or four) don't make a right." Or: "the ends don't justify the means."

The handiest example I can give you is abortion. The death of an unborn baby can't be justified no matter how deep and sincere the desire for an end to a pregnancy, because the intentional killing of an unborn baby is always evil. Yes, even in the case of rape or incest.

If it is always evil to initiate force - and I believe it is - it is only justifiable to use force in self-defense.

Thus, it is always evil to intentionally kill an unborn child, because an unborn child cannot initiate force. It is impossible. The child, as yet, has no will. He is incapable of acting willfully either for or against anything, including his mother.

He exists through no will of his own. In fact, in the vast majority of pregnancies, there is no aggressor: pregnancy resulted from two people willfully participating in an act they knew could potentially result in pregnancy. (Although, undoubtedly, one of them will ask the other at least once, with wide eyes and in a wounded voice, How did this happen?)

In a small percentage of cases, the initiator of force is a rapist, statutory, incestuous, or otherwise. The question of how to deal with such an aggressor is outside the purview of this blog post; for the purposes of my argument it is only necessary to note that in such a case, it is the rapist who is the aggressor, and not the unborn child.

I have heard this sound argument recently - that good cannot be the result of evil - unsoundly applied to the problem of torture. A Senate report (although, if we are being honest, it is a strictly partisan document prepared by Senate Democrats, or more accurately, Senate Democrat staffers) concerning CIA "enhanced interrogation" techniques was read on the Senate floor by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) yesterday, and it is currently all anyone can talk about.

Last night while looking at social media, I saw where a young woman in her 20s had begun a diatribe with: "TORTURE IS NEVER OKAY." And while I find this particular young woman lovely and well-meaning, I admit I couldn't stop myself from laughing.

If we are blithely handing out nevers, here are some: this young woman has, presumably, never been to war, never been tasked with the protection of a country, and never been face to face with a murderous, cold-blooded person intent on protecting information that could save her loved one or her fellow countrymen with a mere slip of the tongue.

To continue with our never theme: it is easy and in fact justifiable to declare that intentional abortion is never okay. As I've explained, the unborn child can never be an aggressor.

It is less easy to assert that torture is never okay. Because it simply sometimes is.

The handiest way to illustrate this point is with an example. Think of the person you love the most: your child, your spouse, your sibling, your parent, whoever. Imagine they have been kidnapped and held by murderers demanding a ransom you can't pay. Now imagine one of the gang of scoundrels has been captured, and there is sufficient evidence to believe beyond the doubt of a reasonable person that this individual knows the location of your loved one.

If he tells you, there is a chance you can save your loved one. If he doesn't, your loved one will almost definitely be killed.

Don't imagine that you are Jack Bauer. Imagine that you are you. And imagine your real-life husband, wife, child, parent, brother or sister is the one facing imminent death.

The police tell you they are going to use enhanced interrogation techniques on this person. The methods won't do any permanent physical damage, but they will be psychologically harrowing. There will be no red-hot pokers to the eyeballs or bamboo shoots beneath the fingernails. But there may be an ice water bath, sleep deprivation, or a technique that makes them feel like they are drowning.

What do you do, to save the life of your loved one? Do you tell the police "why heavens to betsy, you musn't!"? Or do you make the decision that it is reasonable to subject a criminal holding an innocent person hostage, rather than allowing the innocent to die?

Do you self-righteously declare that "torture is never okay," and sit back to wait for your loved one to be mailed to you in bits? Or do you figure that a little ice water is an acceptable price to pay for a human life?

Now imagine that it is not your loved one in danger, but thousands. Millions. The loved ones of all the nation. Imagine it is not one kidnapping, or one murder, but bombs, rockets, potential nuclear attack you are trying to thwart. And imagine the individual withholding information about weapons, targets, strategy, and hiding places is no mere murderer, but a terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds or thousands of people.

Is it okay then? To pour water on his face until he talks?

This example does not - and is not meant to - illustrate that torture is grand, fine, the best way to get things done, always acceptable, etc. I doubt you'll find many people who would approve of it as anything other than a last resort.

This example is meant to illustrate - and I believe it does - that some practices defined as torture are sometimes morally justified.

Are there instances in which torture is immoral and evil? Of course. No doubt there are countless.

Does even justifiable torture have its drawbacks and limitations? Without a doubt.

But to declare that "torture is never okay" is, frankly, naive.

After 9/11, as a nation we demanded answers, protection, and assurances of safety. Our appeal to elected officials was handed down the line, from politicians to generals and administrators in charge of the war effort, and so on and so forth until it was repeated urgently to the men and women tasked with actually obtaining those answers, that protection, that assurance.

"Give us answers. Give us protection. Give us assurance that we are safe."

If that is what you've been asked for by your superiors - by your country - and you are sitting in a room with, say, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a proven and avowed mass-murdering terrorist holding within his dark little brain information that will undoubtedly save American lives, do you continue begging him for answers and promising him goodies until you're both dead of old age, or do you pour some water on his head until he gives you what you need to protect innocent people?

If it were me: somebody pass the pitcher.

Now we are condemning the people who did this, who did it for us, and who often got results.

I haven't read the 480-page Senate report, and I cannot speak to whether each instance of torture was justified. It's very possible and in fact likely there have been occasions when torture was either too hastily applied, or too severe in its application.

In short, it's not a defense of the CIA I undertake here, but an attempt to explain why a knee-jerk condemnation of all kinds of torture, in general, is folly.

If I have little patience for those who declare that "torture is never okay," I have less for those who would smugly assure me that, in my example scenario above, they would rather see their loved one die than see someone tortured. This is not pure, noble, or merciful. This is immoral, self-righteous claptrap.

As David Mamet eloquently wrote, "Kindness to the wicked is cruelty to the righteous." When you are haughtily, nobly merciful to the evil, you are vainly, abjectly cruel to their innocent victims, past and future.

Christian pacifism carried to extremes is not only immoral, but dangerous. God help us if we teach our daughters that they are closer to God lying raped and dead in a ditch than standing over a dead rapist holding a smoking pistol.

And God help us if we allow the innocent to die so that we may pat ourselves on the back for taking the ethical high ground, while the murderers take their precious secrets to their cells.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Video: "We Need To Have Abortion Pride"

First watch the video.

It can be summed up with one sentence spoken halfway through: "I never felt guilt because I put myself first." Simple. But it still needs to be watched because it encapsulates the hypocrisy of fauxminism: that we are so oppressed only oppressing our fertility (with pills and abortions) and oppressing our children (by killing them in the womb) can liberate us.

If that sounds nonsensical, well, it is.

Every sentence from both of these ridiculous women drips with self-absorption and delusion. Try to count how many times they say "I," "me," "my," and "want."

These are the women who paved the way for the hysterical, entitled, selfish fauxminists that dominate the feminist movement today. These women gave birth (proverbially, not literally, because as we all know, birth is gross) to Sandra Fluke and her ilk: women who cry about paying for their own birth control pills and ignore the women oppressed and killed under Sharia law, ignore the reality of Chinese and Indian (and American!) gendercide, and in every conceivable way, ignore the violence that goes on constantly inside women's wombs.

The people in this video - Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross - have a website featuring the slogan "Better Orgasms. Better World." So you know you're dealing with some deep-ass minds.

Here are some of my favorite things these whackjobs say in the video:

"It's a couple of cells that can't exist without you. I wouldn't feel sorry at all." (SCIENCE!)

"George Tiller... [was] performing late-term abortions and saving women's lives." (Wow.)

"If you have terminated a pregnancy, you're a warrior." (Against who now?)

"Honor your abortions." (Pin merit badges on your dead fetuses!)

They repeat the phrase "intentional motherhood" several times. It reminds me of a (hilarious) song my brother's band wrote and performed a long time ago called "Planned Parenthood,"describing a peek inside the clinic waiting room, and featuring the lyric: "It didn't look that planned / In fact it looked unplanned."

I've said it before and I'll say it again: across the animal kingdom and including the human race, sex exists first and foremost for the purpose of procreation. Sex exists - whether you believe it was designed or evolved - to create offspring. Yes, I know. It's hard to believe either God or billions of years of evolution didn't come up with the idea of sex because it feels amaaaazing.

Unfortunately it is surprisingly difficult to divorce sex from its intended purpose. Pills, IUDs, and many other methods have to seriously alter your body chemistry - in some cases creating scary complications such as blood clots and cervical scarring - to keep sex from making a baby inside you.

Jeff Goldblum said it best: "Life finds a way."

And when it does, it's not okay to blame the baby so hard you kill it. Just because you didn't want it doesn't mean you didn't create it. It was your idea to pretend like biology doesn't exist. And when biology smacked you in the face with the reality of a human being inside you that is dependent on you, the fact that you think reality is stupid doesn't justify killing a human being. Of any size, or any level of development.

So anyway. These women are idiots. We don't liberate ourselves when we kill our children. We just do exactly what we've been accusing the patriarchy of doing for the past gazillion years: oppress someone smaller and weaker so we can do whatever we want.

(Hat tip Kristin McHarge for the video.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Your Communist Pope And You

People keep saying Pope Francis is a Communist. I'm Catholic and decidedly not a Communist, so I don't want to believe them.

Then he says shit like this:

"I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel," he said, citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy.
"Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian,'" he said, laughing.

Hahaha! Christianity and Communism are the same thing! It's hilarious!

Except they're not, and it's not.

It's so, so not.

How could a Pope say something like that? It bothers me on levels I didn't even know were there.

Does this man not understand the difference between private charity and confiscatory taxation? He has vociferously condemned "unbridled capitalism" - as if we have that anywhere - but not the unbridled state, which is the actual problem.

Does he really think people in third world countries are poor because of free market capitalism? I hate to disappoint the man, but it's the opposite of capitalism that is to blame, and the lack of a free market - everywhere - that is the problem.

Liberty is not the problem.

I know your typing fingers itch to tell me how Pope Francis himself stated unequivocally that he is not a Marxist. And that's fine. But then there's the Evangelii Gaudium:

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control...
I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity [St. John Chrysostom]: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.”

I get the uneasy feeling that Pope Francis loves the poor so much he wants them to stay poor.

Free-market capitalist Catholic writer Thomas E. Woods, Jr. said this on his blog:

When I noted on Facebook that I was going to discuss the Pope’s attacks on markets, I was told by at least one person that this was the media’s misleading spin on the Pope’s views. But read the document for yourself. He is indeed criticizing markets. I did not make this up.

I could have written that. I have posted several times on Facebook about the Pope's troubling anti-capitalist views, and every time I do, I receive a bevy of comments from disgruntled Catholics claiming anti-Papist bias in the media. Very few of them get around to accepting or addressing what the Pope actually freaking said.

Woods devoted an entire episode of his podcast to Pope Francis and capitalism, and I highly recommend you listen.

Towards the beginning of the podcast, Woods says matter-of-factly, "Pope Francis is a left liberal." He also says, "You don't have to get a lobotomy to be a Catholic."

Thank God.

There is certainly a lot to admire about Pope Francis. His personal commitment to the poor, to living a Christ-like life, is commendable and even inspiring. But his failure to understand the difference between a personal commitment and a state mandate is troubling, to say the least.

To live St. John Chrysostom's words, to accept that all you own belongs to the poor, is a beautiful personal choice a Christian can make. To have that "choice" forced on you by an all-powerful state is the opposite of beautiful. It is, in fact, the opposite of Christianity. Virtue isn't virtue if you have no choice. If it were, God wouldn't have given us free will. It is the choice to be a Christian that matters.

Please remember that the Pope's infallibility does not apply to everything, or even to most things. You do not have to believe him when he says capitalism is bad for the poor, and I would recommend you didn't, because he's super duper wrong.

Free markets are the only hope for the poor of the world.

I will continue to be critical of Pope Francis because I believe his adherence to anti-market economic policies is antithetical to Christianity, and that the spread of these ideas will result in more suffering for the poor he loves and sincerely wants to help.

For those who think all this stuff about the Pope being a redistributionist is a bunch of hooey, read Evangelii Gaudium and get it straight from the holy horse's mouth.

"I think this document is a source of tremendous scandal and can do tremendous damage," said Woods. He reminds the listener, at the end of his podcast, of St. Thomas Aquinas's admonition to the layman to correct his prelate if doing so can prevent scandal.

We all need to correct Pope Francis, for the good of the poor, the Church, and the world.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

DDP Yoga: A Fat Review For The Fat

I chose this as my leading image because how could I not.

This is not a real review. This is more like a cry for help.

I just finished Day 3 of DDP Yoga, which is the first day that includes a real, honest-to-God workout. I am typing this through a haze of sweat and nausea.

The workout I just finished is called ENERGY!, and I find it terribly cruel that the workout named itself after the thing it took from me. It would be like me kidnapping your son Ferdinand and then being like, "Hi, I'm Ferdinand."

If you're not familiar with DDP Yoga, that's because you've never been on YouTube. Or perhaps you just haven't made the connection between the famous disabled vet video and the workout that un-disabled him.

Arthur Boorman is an Internet-famous retired paratrooper who used to weigh 140 pounds more than he does now. He was a disabled vet who couldn't walk without canes, and now he sprints around the country being all yoga in people's faces, and helping DDP sell his program.

Arthur before, looking pissed at life.

DDP, by the way, stands for Diamond Dallas Page. That's right: he's a professional wrestler.

At first, my husband and I were making fun of DDP for his silliness as we went through the intro video a couple times. But after I graduated from learning the basic moves to doing an actual workout, I stopped laughing. Because you owe some respect - nay, some allegiance - to the man who invented the thing that is killing you.

DDP is weird, yo. I've been doing workout videos since Legs of Steel 2000 on VHS, and I've never done anything quite like it. Keep in mind there are several workouts in the program and I've only done the Diamond Dozen and ENERGY!, but so far it's kind of like doing an easy power yoga sequence, except it's made harder by the concept of Dynamic Resistance.

Dynamic Resistance is basically the idea of pushing against your own body weight and keeping constant tension in your muscles. Think of it as your muscles being dicks to themselves. You basically just tense everything until you lose all hope.

For a while I was confused as to why they didn't crop the other people out of the photo on the left. Then I realized: she looks even huger compared to those regular human-sized humans, making her shiny-coated transformation (right) all the more impressive. (Dear Stacey, lose the shiny coat. Xo.)

Diamond Dallas Page says he invented this program after injuring his spine and being forced to do sissy exercises instead of pumping iron and doing shups* and lups** at the gym like a true bro. He swears yoga repaired his seriously messed-up body, and that now, at age 55 and ripped all to hell, he doesn't do any other exercise but the sweet-ass program that bears his name.

Ridiculous-looking pro wrestler Chris Jericho also credits DDP Yoga with keeping him jacked sans lifting.

I'll admit Arthur Boorman's tear-jerking transformation video is what piqued my interest in the program, but what sealed the deal is this excellent video comparison - created by an unbiased reviewer - pitting DDP Yoga against the supposed gold standard in home fitness programs, P90X.

The video shows how you get comparable results in a fraction of the time with DDP Yoga. And most importantly, you do not have to be a dadgum American Gladiator to start the program. DDP Yoga is totally non-impact, which is how even a guy who couldn't walk was able to do it.

Arthur after. Holy shit.

The ENERGY! workout is 21 minutes long. You don't have time to get bored. There is barely enough time to bargain with Satan to make it stop, and then it's over.

There are several "packs" to choose from when buying. I picked something in the middle. It would have cost me an $80 one-time payment, but I chose three monthly payments of $30 each.

The program is 13 weeks long, or 91 days. I started with the Beginner's program, but the booklet also includes schedules for Intermediate and Advanced. There is a possibility that I will switch over to Intermediate before the 91 days is up. Or I may just do the entire thirteen week beginner's program and then move on to Intermediate and then Advanced. There is a lot of flexibility, which is nice.

The workouts are deceptively simple, and you really get out what you put in. If you're being lazy and not using Dynamic Resistance when you move, it will feel a little too easy. It's up to you ramp it up. But when you do, boy howdy.

One day, when I, too, look like a crunchy snack for my former self, maybe I will share the ridiculous Before photos I'm supposed to take of my gelatinous form doing DDP Yoga poses, alongside the majestic After photos of me bending into impossible shapes and holding my foot aloft over my head like a trophy.

*douche for "push-ups"
**douche for "pull-ups"

UPDATE: I just finished Day 1 of Week 3 and I'm a little amazed at how much progress I've made already. I've only done my seventh DDP Yoga session, and it's remarkable how much easier it's gotten in such a short time. I can now actually do the slow burn pushup, without even having to be on my knees for the plank part.

I look forward to doing this instead of finding excuses to skip it.

Combined with strict adherence to low-carbitude, DDP Yoga is already beginning to show me results. I'm starting to see my abdominal muscles again. My flexibility has improved, and my booty looks higher and firmer. (I was passing a full-length mirror the other day and did a double-take at my own ass.)

I'm gonna go ahead and tentatively recommend DDP Yoga.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Help Kristen Pick A Career And Win A Prize!

I need advice. Basically, I need you to pick my career. If your suggestion leads to me declaring a major, you will win a prize. (Read on for details.)

I really want to finish my undergraduate degree. Could do it in two years. Was thisclose to nursing school until digging a little deeper and realizing two things:

A. I'm just now winning my struggle with health anxiety, and just looking at nursing texts and handbooks triggers my hypochondria.

B. I don't really want to be a nurse. Ha! That's a big one, isn't it? I considered it seriously (many times) because it's interesting, lucrative, and obtainable quickly and very cheaply.  (Thanks to Collin College, which has the lowest tuition rate in the state; you can go from zero to nurse in about $6,000 all in). But I don't have a calling for it. I don't want to take care of sick people.

So nursing is out. I am highly concerned with making a good living, so I considered a hard science. A BS in one will give you pretty good job prospects and earning potential out of the gate. Best of all: bachelor's in biology or microiology, a year of lab experience, and being younger than 42 means you're eligible to commission as an officer in the US Army and make shit-tons of money, plus get your student loans paid and your future education paid for. Sweet deal.

Unfortunately, I loathe large doses of monotony and repetition, so lab work makes me feel like sprinting in the opposite direction.

As for other possibilities in the sciences: I also loathe large doses of bullshit so academia is out, and I am not gifted in mathematics, so the sciences that truly fascinate me - physics and astronomy - are out.

(I actually kind of like math now in my adulthood and am even working through Algebra on the free online learning tool Khan Academy for fun. But I am not gifted at mathematics, and even those who are extremely gifted at it find a physics degree challenging.)

I considered geology because it does interest me, especially mineralogy and petrology, but while geologists are highly paid in Texas, they work exclusively in the oil and gas industry, which interests me not at all

Political science, economics, and other subjects I pursue for fun have high unemployment rates and slow growth. English and Creative Writing? Fuhgeddaboutit. Theatre? Hello, food stamps.

Another reason I'd like to avoid poli sci, humanities, and "soft" sciences like psych and anthro? Getting bombarded with the dipshit opinions of professors, and penalized when I refuse to regurgitate the prescribed narrative. (I made a C in a sophomore English Lit class after calling a feminist poem "beautiful nonsense." The teacher was visibly outraged. And this was an online course. After that, everything I posted or submitted had points deducted for vague reasons.)

So to avoid going insane with rage during my education, I'd like to avoid highly subjective majors - the kind where I could write a paper arguing with deadly seriousness that 1984 was a prescient warning against the dangers of animal domestication, and if I did it "right," I could get an A. I don't need that type of horseshit in my life. In science and math, if you say 2 + 2 = $1.50, or hydrogen and helium combine to form carpet, you get an F. And that comforts me.

I think I could love linguistics or even majoring in a foreign language, but did I mention I'd like to avoid academia? And teaching, if possible?

My options dwindle. And I'm 34. I should probably pick a career.

And hey, before you ask me what I would do all day if I had a billion dollars and didn't have to work, the answer is: super hero. You think I'm kidding, but my diaries from late elementary and middle school detail my desire to be a vigilante when I grew up. In particular I wanted to help Indiana Jones fight the Nazis. I knew Indiana Jones wasn't real, but I wanted him to be. As for Nazis, I had to find an encyclopedia to figure out if there were any around anymore, and was disappointed that there weren't, since I wanted to imprison them and Saddam Hussein in a cave in Iraq.

I am not making any of this up.

I took the extensive free career quiz at, and these were my top ten results, with my calculated compatibility shown as a percentage:

Air Crew Officer 100.0%
Special Forces Officer 99.8%
Special Forces Member 99.6%
Infantry Soldier 99.4%
Firefighter 99.1%
Sheriff 98.9%
Detective 98.7%
Police Officer 98.5%
Private Detective 98.3%
Special Agent 98.1%

Keep in mind, this quiz did not have questions like "Would you like to be in the military?" It was more subtle than that, but accurately rooted out my inherent desire to kill bad guys all day long for fun and profit.

Unfortunately, my lack of a time machine or a penis disqualify me for 50% of that list. The fact that I took LSD several times in high school and college and couldn't stomach arresting people for shit that should not be illegal disqualifies me for the other 50%.

Next on my list are the following:

Customs Inspector 96.1%
Author 95.0%
Commercial Diver 93.9%
Singer 93.7%
Actor 93.5%

Remember that thing where I want to make money? That takes out a good chunk of those. As for Commercial Diver, if I am trapped underwater breathing canned air through a tube it is happening against my will. And Customs Inspector is law enforcement again.

Let's look at the final five in my top 25:

Forensic Science Technician 93.3%
Armored Assault Vehicle Crew Member 93.1%
Artillery Crew Member 92.6%
Control Center Specialist 92.2%
Mathematician 91.6%

Three of those are military - I'm out. Mathematician sounds kind of interesting and fun but again - I'm not gifted at mathematics. Maybe with 40 hours a week of intense study I could get through the subjects one at a time. But that's not how one obtains a bachelor's degree in a reasonable amount of time. One takes several courses, including at least two advanced math courses, per semester. And when those courses include advanced calculus and linear algebra, one needs to either be mathematically gifted or just go ahead and shoot oneself.

Forensic Science Technician is semi-tempting, despite knowing the reality is nothing like the TV version. I enjoy investigation and puzzle-solving more than (almost) anything. The problem with that industry is there aren't enough jobs for everyone who wants them. (Thanks, "C.S.I.," for convincing a nation of dumbasses that forensic techs solve murders by themselves and have relationships with each other in sexy labs with recessed mood lighting.)

So anyway. In an alternate universe I'm G.I. Jane. In this one, I need a career. And it doesn't need to be creative or writing-related. I'm fine with letting my passions and interests be passions and interests, and my career be something valuable I have to offer the market.

I do think I would be good at detective work, and enjoy it. The problem is you have to be a cop first, and I don't think I could do something to which I so strenuously morally object. (A lot of things cops do are great, but a lot of other things cops do consist of extorting money from people basically at gunpoint for doing things that didn't hurt anyone. I can't get down with that.)

There's also the fact that virtually all police departments disqualify you automatically if you have ever taken LSD at any time, which is insane but there it is. Haven't touched the stuff in over 20 years, but it doesn't matter.

I'm just... kind of... stumped. I'm in the process of enrolling at Collin, but I have no idea what classes to register for. I'd really like to try some math and science and see what happens, but time is of the essence.

So here's where you come in: suggest a major or career. Make an argument. If I agree with you - even if you change my mind about something I already mentioned - I will send you an autographed (photo)copy of my self-published poetry "chapbook," Why I Don't Have Any Friends, "published" circa 2000 and handed out for free on the streets of the Deep Ellum Arts Festival.

Unless I can't find it, in which case I will send you something else. A greeting card? An autographed sock? Some money?

But seriously I will send you something. And it will be amazing. Or at least hilarious.

Start suggesting now! Please! I need you!

I think I've given you plenty of info to go on, but let me add the following:

- Bonus points for careers where you can start work with an undergrad and get assistance with your grad degree.
- Bonus points if I won't have to sit a desk all day.
- Extra super bonus points if it doesn't involve suits and slacks and whatnot because eww.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Refusal To Mourn

You're not supposed to speak ill of the dead. But I'm bad at rules. And anyway it's been five days. I think that's plenty of time to wait before blogging my refusal to mourn the death by natural causes of a poet in North Carolina.

My reasons? They are many. First, and least: she was a mediocre poet on a good day. I'll let Colleen O'Beirne at The Overrated Times say it for me, since she said it so well:

The bottom line on Maya Angelou is that she’s symptomatic of what’s wrong with modern poetry in general. It’s controlled by an overly cerebral, politically correct academic establishment. It serves as a meta-comment on what poetry is supposed to be, rather than standing on its own as an art form.

Maya Angelou got famous because she was in the right place (California) at the right time (the late '60s) and was the right sort of person (a weird black woman who wrote weird prose about her weird life.)

Here's Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker:

There is an important phenomenon in cultural life that the hard left has exploited for many decades. Most people cannot really tell what good poetry, or painting, or serious theatre (or artsy film, for that matter) is, but they fear looking stupid if they fail to appreciate what others say is good. So, an “artist” in these semi-esoteric fields who is helped along by a claque of politically sympathetic cheerleaders in academia or journalism can become “widely acclaimed” and, if he or she plays the part well (as Angelou did), even “beloved.”

Angelou was a professor-for-life of American Studies at Winston-Salem University, and boasted several visiting professorships at other universities. She preferred being referred to as "Doctor," and while she certainly lived a varied and interesting life, she didn't have an advanced degree of any kind - not so much as a B.A.

Her resume included prostitute, madam, cabaret dancer, and later, composer, actress, and world-famous writer. Some of those are impressive. But do they - should they - qualify one for a professorship and an honorific? Ms. Angelou reportedly taught whatever subject struck her fancy, including theology and science.

"The solar system - IS - like a woman - WHO..."

This is, of course, when she was teaching at all. Thus goes Daniel J. Flynn's eloquent piece in The American Spectator:

The doctor without a doctorate became a teacher without students at Wake Forest. “She collects an annual salary well into the six figures, yet presently teaches no classes and has no campus office,” John Meroney, then a senior at the North Carolina school, wrote in The American Spectator twenty-one years ago. “The office listed for her in the Wake Forest telephone directory is a storage closet in a building far from the main part of campus.”

Remember, kids: America is super unfair, and the only way to make it more fair is to be unfair in what you perceive to be the opposite direction.

Maya Angelou believed America was an unjust and inherently racist colonial experiment in oppression. She said this of Obama's detractors not long after he was re-elected:

I tell you we are going to see some nastiness, some vulgarity, I think. They'll pull the sheets off.

Did you catch that? If you are an Obama critic, you are secretly as racist as a Klansman. "Nastiness," Dr. Angelou? What's that like?

She praised Louis Farrakhan and Mumia Abu-Jamal, not to mention Castro and Kruschev. Her first published article appeared in Cuba's Revolucion. She celebrated the murderous Castro in part because he wasn't white.

Said the doc:
Of course, Castro never had called himself white, so he was O.K. from the git. Anyhow, America hated Russians, and as black people often said, ‘Wasn’t no Communist country that put my grandpappa in slavery. Wasn’t no Communist lynched my poppa or raped my mamma.’

This shrugging opportunism is nauseating. In other words: it doesn't matter who Communists are oppressing, imprisoning, and murdering, as long as it's not me and mine. How is that justice, social or otherwise?

Or was she utterly ignorant? Did she really believe in the lie, the collectivist paradise? Did she know why the caged bird sings, but not how the damned thing gets in the cage?

For the record, this is how it gets out.

Either way, she doesn't deserve a professorship, a title, or a webiverse of social media tributes.

Flynn writes:

Her greatest performance wasn’t in the miniseries Roots or on the album Miss Calypso. It was playing the character Maya Angelou. There’s a P.T. Barnum quality to Maya Angelou. 
Convincing the world of your greatness requires a greatness. This is especially true of the mediocre.
Going from rags to riches by conquering the business world serves as one American Dream. A more common, albeit less realized version, involves enjoying a six-figure living from a no-show job. 
Her mouth occasionally called the promise of America a big fat lie. Her life begged to differ.

Maya Angelou put words together to make poetry, which is rare. She sometimes told the truth about her life, which takes courage. She certainly lived a rich and varied existence, which is enviable.



Sometimes I wish I could be young again. I wish I could recall what it feels like to read Maya Angelou's poems and like them because I was told they were good. I wish I could read her inspiring quotes on Pinterest and look at her lined face, aching with gravitas and experience, and think, "Wow, what a wise and wonderful woman. We should truly mourn the loss of such a powerful voice." And then go back to reading O magazine and watching "The View."

But instead I'm gonna go ahead and be bitter old me, and use my brain.

Maya Angelou was an overrated writer who built a career on victimhood. She praised despicable men and cheered when evil regimes took power.

I'm not mourning the death of Maya Angelou.