Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sledge Hammer Part 1

This is part 1 of a two part fictional conversation. At least as fictional as any writing can ever be. There is always the grain of truth in words put to paper. OK, not paper, but you know what I mean. To me, the joy of reading is forming your own opinion about what rings true and what does not.

Written as a small part of a much larger piece, I've struggled with this conversation for months. And I continue to struggle with it now. I am hoping that putting it out there on display will allow me the chance to discover it anew and a fresh perspective will give me the push I need to finalize it and move on.

“How does it help?”

Raising her eyes slowly, she swept him into focus. Shoes, dark cordovan, buffed bright. His knees bent, relaxed, slightly spread. The crease in his slacks - where hips meet groin - and the angular lines of his frame in the chair move again from horizontal to vertical. Glancing at the zipper; regretfully noting no strain of fabric or pressure pushing against the fly. Upwards to his chest, the white dress shirt, so cool, so crisp; begging to be tugged, twisted, crushed. Rep tie, no jacket.

Arriving at his face, her eyes dart to each feature, in an effort to postpone what she knew must come next. Finally recognizing there would be no further delay, her eyes met his. She saw no demand, no command, merely the forward march towards the inescapable conclusion he alone would dictate. He had asked. She would answer. And in those eyes she found the strength to forcibly pull her words up from the back of her throat and propel them out of her mouth.

“I have no idea. Nor, can I say where the need comes from, only that it exists.” She paused and realized her breath was shallow. Forcing herself to fill her lungs she went on. “I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to prove that it doesn’t. I’ve finally accepted, at least theoretically, that it does.”

She hoped that admitting her acceptance, her need would be enough. She should have known better. Information was his commodity, his weapon of choice. Never satisfied with just the final decision or essential facts, he required all the background, the details, the whys and wherefores. And since he required, she would provide.

“I can try and explain, but my explanation makes little sense, even to me.”

“Well then, let’s see if I can’t make some sense of it. Sometimes you just need a fresh perspective.” He smiled as if to reassure her that his words were innocent, kindly. She knew better.

Recognizing that the inevitable always occurs eventually, she determined it was in her best interest to be done with it. Get all the facts out, subject everything she felt to the cold, hard light of his disapproval. She’d always hated confessions; hearing or giving them. She just wanted this one over. Taking another lung-full of air, willing her voice to remain calm, she began, bound and determined to expel the words as quickly as possible.

“First, there is the ‘control’ factor. I know this sounds trite, but, there it is. I’ve spent my life controlling everything around me. I was born managing, dictating, delegating. Exerting control has always come naturally to me. Other people seem to sense this and generally fall in line.” She smiled deprecatingly, recognizing the sound of her own ego. “I used to kid myself into believing that people accepted my overreaching control because my ideas or decisions were obviously correct. But I’ve reluctantly been forced to admit that most of the time people go along with me because I am such a pain in the ass when they don’t.”

She thought about this last statement for a minute then went on. “Actually that’s not entirely correct. I think most people are always looking for someone to lead them. Someone stronger, who will make the decisions so they don’t have to. So they never have to be wrong.” She could have continued down this vein, but sensed this was a digression he would not tolerate for long.

Pushing forward in her seat, as if to give impetuous to her words she got back on subject. “To me, every moment of every day is consumed with managing the minutia of my life and the lives of those around me.”

She recognized she was speaking to a fellow traveler. Someone who’s need to not just control but actually dominate every situation and every person was even stronger than her own. It was what she found so fascinating.

“But how this impacts my proclivities? Well … sometimes, everybody needs to not be in charge. Their brain needs time to ask, not tell. They need to not be the dependable one. They need to be the dependent one.

I’ve always assumed most people with my temperament find this down time naturally in some aspect of their lives. But, I don’t seem to be able to shift into that natural, not-in-charge downtime. At least not on my own. I think my brain is missing an ‘off’ switch that comes standard in most minds.” She sighed, feeling suddenly exhausted. She hated talking about this. It zapped her energy and played hell with her emotions. One brief glance at his face told her there was no option except to forge ahead.

“What appeals to me ... what I find alluring … is placing myself in a situation I absolutely cannot control. To know in advance that decisions will be made by someone else and that their control will not be ceded back to me. To accept, because you have no choice. And you will not act, just react.” She smiles almost wistfully, recalling the sensations. “The liberation of not having to think three steps ahead all the time is a heady notion. To just focus on the sensations of the mind and the body as they occur. In the moment. In that instant.”

She stopped. Relieved. She’d done it. Wasn’t sure how much sense she’d made, but she’d said it. She sat back in the chair, surprised at the sharp flair of pain along her spine and the tension in her shoulder and upper back muscles. Her confession had been more stressful than she’d realized.

“And the second?”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

All a Twitter

I am at an age where I am no longer desired by advertisers on either end of the spectrum. I am not interested in ads for X-Box or Play Stations, Proactive acne products, Red Bull, any brand of beer or condoms. Nor am I interested in ads showcasing emergency medical alert systems, Video Professor computer training CDs, Hoveround Scooters or any entertainment attraction in Branson, Missouri.

Likewise, I'm increasingly aware that I straddle two generational extremes when it comes to technology. While most of my contemporaries think that I am truly wired -- as technically geeky as anyone my age can be; compared to my kids, and generally anyone under the age of 35, my use and understanding of technology is antiquated. Their take on tech and what their elders do with it compares to how I viewed the old timers I worked with at my first real job. The women who called everybody else "kid" in a voice so gravelly they sounded like Harvey Fierstein with a head cold. The 'gals' who woke up in the morning and went to bed at night with a cigarette dangling from their red lipstick-slashed lips (back when people used to smoke anywhere they damn well pleased because this was a free country goddamnit!) and drank their lunch of gin & tonics or scotch & sodas at the bar downstairs. The ones who still insisted on using manual typewriters and were proud of it, while I smugly typed away on my brand new IBM Selectric with the little ball that flipped for each letter and built in correction tape. Now that was technology.

Where was this ramble down memory lane going? Oh yeah, sorry.

This wide technology gulf, which I attempt to span in my own small way, was highlighted last night and the pundits will be talking about it for weeks.

Nothing looks more ridiculous than someone attempting to use technology they do not understand, at a time they should not be using it, and fucking it up as they do so. I should know. I've made an ass of myself many, many times this way. It is one of my favorite ways to look foolish.

Evidently the "in" thing now for the over 55, white, male, conservative, republican, member of congress set is to clumsily Tweet on their Blackberry (another technological advancement they are just now learning about and are reportedly most interested in the alarm clock and brick breaker.) To Twitter loudly and proudly for the whole world to see. When their sole job at the time, a job the taxpayers were paying them to do, was to sit quietly and listen to the President's address. Was that too much to ask? But, moving on... then to Twitter really stupid stuff before they realized that people would actually read what they said. And then when the stupid stuff was read by the wrong person, to blame it on an aide.

And if the 'aide' excuse was actually used, which is the sadder picture - a senator Twittering his contempt of the Speaker of the House without understanding the process well enough to realize just who would have access to his comments, or, a senator who wants to appear hip, even though he doesn't have a clue, so he asks his 22 year old aide to Twitter and pass it off as if it is coming from the senator? Pitiful

This unfortunate situation must be dealt with, before we are overwhelmed with head on Hovercraft collisions because 85 year old hipsters are too busy Twitting to watch where they are going. Or before a new icon appears on our Blackberrys, which when pressed, alerts the local emergency call center that an octogenarian, in a Twitting frenzy, overturned her walker and fell on top of it, and was thereby unable to get up.

I am reluctantly realizing technology is passing me by. No matter how hard I try, my Blackberry will never be fully integrated into my life, the way my daughter's iPhone is. Her iPhone is as much a
part of her body as her ears or her toes. To me, my Blackberry is simply a convenient and useful accessory.

While I spend multiple hours each day socially networking, getting my news, exploring and commenting on blogs, listening to podcasts and watching video online, I doubt I will ever feel comfortable using Twitter, just as I never got the appeal of instant messaging. (I assume this is an age thing. But my sometimes, extreme antisocial tendencies may be a factor.)

While this 'technological pass-over' does distress me, I've never wanted to be one of those women who at the age of fifty attempted and failed to look, act and dress like I was twenty-five. If an outfit looks great on a sixteen year old, it will probably look awful on me. If a specific technology is second nature to a sixteen year old, it will probably never be totally comfortable to me.

So to the senators and congressmen who looked utterly foolish last night I say "Gentlemen, be content that you have figured out how to send email. Put down your Blackberry and walk away from the Twitter."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Random Rivulets of Reason

I see a line and feel compelled to blur it. I’m color blind to black and white.

Nothing pisses people off as much as someone advising they are only playing the “devil’s advocate.” The devil doesn’t need an advocate. He can make his own arguments. So I always avoid this trite catch phrase. But I never avoid the act. ... I argue. Therefore I am.

Regardless of the recent changes in government, the tone of discourse in this country seems to be getting worse each day. I am beginning to believe we should pass federal legislation requiring that “if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t fucking say it!” That should shut the annoying assholes up. And don’t make me name names. You know who you are busters.

Ive read several articles this week by or about sanctimonious twits who feel compelled to point out the upside of another Great Depression, by using the far right code words that send shivers of fear down my spine: cultural renewal, rediscovered virtues, a return to modesty and … ugh … last but not least - family values.

Don’t get me wrong, I think each of these are excellent states of being. It’s the right’s, especially the religious right’s narrow minded, bigoted and exclusionary definitions of each that pisses me off. If I have my druthers, I say thanks, but no thanks to another Great Depression. If that is what it takes to get my morals in line I prefer to stay uncultured, lacking in virtue, immodest and of little value.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And To

I can never use too many.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Point

Except when I am blogging.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's In A Name?

Why the Introspective Liar? Because the older I get, the less certain I am. I now question whether long held assumptions are accurate. Lately I’ve realized that at least some of them, are not.

I thought I was essentially honest, if not always with others, then at least with myself. Through the years, no matter how hectic my life, there have been pockets of time when I was overly reflective, introspective. This led me to believe I knew myself well. I should. I’d sure spent enough time thinking about me. Because of this assumed self-awareness, I’ve claimed that I am my own worst critic and that I am painfully aware of all my faults and foibles. I believed I dressed myself down far more often and far more sternly than anyone else ever would. But now, I’m not so sure.

Rationally I know this current re-evaluation of my essential Lulu-ness has a great deal to do with the fact that I have more time on my hands to think. My career, my family, my friends and my outside interests still occupy much of my time, but not to the degree they did when my kids were younger and my ambition ran rampant.

As I’ve said before, if I have extra time on my hands my instinctive response is to fill it with worry. Right now there is so much in the world to worry about. But too much worrying about things over which I have no control is hazardous to my mental health. To avoid spending all of my available “worry” time bemoaning the fate of mankind in general, which I realize I can do very little to affect, I spend time worrying about my little corner of mankind – my family, my closest friends and mainly, me.

I know. Extremely self centered. It is embarrassing to even admit. But even more embarrassing is that I have concluded I don’t know myself as well as I thought I did. And some of what I do know, I’m not sure I like.

The only thing that keeps me from being absolutely mortified to admit this is knowing I am not unique. We all operate under misconceptions about ourselves. If we didn’t, suicide rates would be much higher. This doesn’t exonerate me, but at least it keeps me from feeling quite so alone in my confusion.

What I am not certain of is, have I been blind to some of the less positive aspects of me or have I recognized them and then lied about their existence? This is one of the primary reasons I decided to start committing some of the ephemera drifting through my mind to print and posting it for the world to see.

I don’t really expect the world to see my scribbling, because I don’t expect an actual audience. I only read what I write, because I kind of have to. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t. But I am
hopeful that knowing what I post could potentially be seen by someone at sometime, will keep what I say more honest.

Some would argue that knowing others might read what they write about themselves would make what they write less honest, instead of more so. But I’m one of those people that, while normally introverted and reserved, will, if given an audience and an opportunity, blurt out intimate details about themselves with absolutely no provocation. Details that are often completely inappropriate to the situation. Which probably explains why I am introverted and reserved. Limiting my speaking and interaction with others is about the only way I can guarantee I won’t suddenly confess something I would rather no one knew.

This blog, by forcing me to face that audience and opportunity, whether actual or theoretical, should assure that I will periodically reveal personal truths about myself, whether I want to or not. It won’t always be pretty, it may be embarrassing, but it will be me at my most honest.

I have several (meaning more than 5 but somewhere less than 50,000) specific examples of “misconceptions”, a more palatable way of describing the untruths, which have guided much of my life to date. For instance, I have finally accepted that I exaggerate far more often than I would previously admit to myself. Especially about numbers. If I say something occurred 60 times, you can be certain that it did occur. But the number of occurrences is probably closer to 6 … or 7. Maybe 8, tops.

I would die of mortification ( or maybe boredom) if I set out to provide a comprehensive compendium of all the internal lies I have labored under, lo these many years. And if someone else happened to come across a thorough listing of my internal fibs they would likely find childbirth or passing kidney stones far less painful and far more fun.

But my heretofore misinterpretations (read:lies) about Lulu will pop up, as they are unearthed. They will be inserted into my musings and rants over the course of these posts. When they are, I will disclose them as part of my ongoing effort towards honest introspection. At least I think I'm being truthful when I promise full disclosure. But “truth” and “lies” are such relative concepts. Aren’t they?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Feeling Hopeful

Proof that a few simple words strung together just so, are capable of providing a little moment of perfection in an imperfect day. Thank you Mr. Auden!

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

W H Auden

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Jury of Whose Peers?

I had jury duty last week. It was the seventh time I’ve been summoned, but never served. My profession usually guarantees rejection from civil trial juries and many criminal cases as well. So, I assumed I’d present myself at the court house on Monday morning and be out of there and back to work before lunch.

The jury supervisor did a general pre-screening of the jury pool, but it wasn’t as detailed as in the past, so I wasn’t shocked when my name was called to be on a panel of 70 potential jurors. I assumed I would get weeded out quickly once the lawyers started asking questions. I wondered though, why they needed a panel so large just to fill 12 spots?

The voir dire began after lunch. We were told only that the allegations were contractual and discriminatory in nature, but as the questions started we could fill in details. Throughout the voir dire, I raised my hand to answer several questions. I personally knew one of the witnesses the defense intended to call. I even knew the defense attorney. The heart of the case involved legal and contractual issues related directly to my job. When asked I’d shared that I’d had experience firing people and was aware of the regulations regarding what someone could and could not be fired for. I was one of the panel members who expressed frustration over a specific personality trait of the plaintiff’s that sounded like a critical piece of the defendant’s case. I let the defense attorney know that I had relatives who suffered from the same physical ailment of the plaintiff and that I was sympathetic to those with this particular ailment.

I thought I was far from an ideal juror for either side. I felt certain I would not be selected.

Listening to the lawyers and the judge ask questions I was struck by how many people on the panel were suffering hardships just by being there. I realized that some might be exaggerating, but most were honest. It's difficult for even the most skilled liar to let fibs slip easily off their tongue when they are in a court room, under oath and facing a judge.

There were several who were recently laid off and needed to be looking for a job or were working as day laborers to make ends meet. There were young mothers who could only get childcare if they could pay for it and they absolutely could not pay for it. The guy next to me was to start a new job that very day after being out of work for three months. He was worried how missing his first week would be viewed. There was a woman who’d finally found a job but it was in Salt Lake City and she had to pack and move her family that very week. There was a retired gentleman who’d just gone back to work on the morning shift at McDonalds. And a young man with a wife and a five day old baby at home all alone.

At least half of those employed told the judge they would not be paid their wages while on jury duty. And the $6.00 a day the state paid jurors didn’t begin to replace what they were missing.

Then, just when I thought there couldn’t be a bleaker statement about the dire state of our economy, one of the attorneys asked for a show of hands of people who did not have health insurance, a central issue in the case. Out of the 70, at least 20 raised their hands.

At one point the defense attorney, in what I guessed was an attempt at graciousness, told the panel that he appreciated the pressure they were under. He really did. But he admonished, serving on a jury was their civic duty. Then he asked if it would bother any of the prospective jurors that the plaintiff and the defendant were both well compensated physicians who were in a dispute over money and benefits. As it registered with the panel that both parties in the suit probably made more in one year than they might make in five or ten years, the atmosphere turned almost mutinous.

Regardless of the question asked, many panel members took the time allotted to answer the question to express their growing anger. Their frustration wasn’t limited to the understood financial imbalance - that they were being asked to put aside their basic necessities - finding a job, taking care of kids, feeding a family, to listen to a couple of doctors bicker over what was probably chump change to them. They were pissed about the state of health care in this country overall. They spoke of watching family members being misdiagnosed and suffering through unnecessary procedures. They complained about the high cost of health insurance and the restrictions imposed. They spoke of the inability of physicians to be sympathetic to the patients concerns, their unwillingness to take the time to know their patients and their propensity of talking down to their patients. Several stated that they felt medical professionals treated them like second class citizens.

I was amazed. The lawyers tried to cut people off and actually spoke over a couple of them. But the judge didn’t do anything to stop the process. I looked at her at one point and realized she actually looked happy about the strange turn of events. But then again, maybe this was normal behavior. Having no prior experience to compare it to, maybe it just seemed surreal to me.

I was heartened because the people around me, no matter how down on their luck, were still willing to engage in the discussion. Willing to express the anger that has been boiling through a major swath of the citizenry for years. I looked at the lines drawn between the lawyers and doctors on one side and the masses on the other and understood the meaning of the term “class warfare”. I realized that as much as the U.S. likes to be viewed as a class-less society, it only takes a catastrophe like our current economic morass for the differences between those that got and those that don’t to become crystal clear. That thought was more than a little frightening to me.

I realized I was watching a small but mighty populist revolt and was awed.

Control was eventually enforced and the panel was excused while the jury was chosen. As we waited in the hall, the case was not discussed, but people continued to vent their frustration and their fears. People broke into groups and commiserated with each other or talked on their cell phones to family, co-workers or friends.

I was surprised when I was selected. It still made no sense to me. Until I looked around at who had not been chosen. I realized that both attorneys had obviously steered clear of anyone involved in the last bit of the voir dire. Anyone who expressed frustration and anger was excused. Then I noticed that everyone I could remember who’d claimed a sincere hardship were excused as well. I gave the judge credit for that. Once those two groups were culled out of the panel there weren’t very many of us left. Barely enough to fill 12 chairs and a couple extra to serve as alternates. Looking at the group that remained, I was pretty sure we were no one’s idea of a perfect jury and in different circumstances we might have been the first to be excused. But, I finally understood why the original panel was so large.

The trial was alternately boring, petty and aggravating. Neither side was sympathetic. The plaintiff came across as whiny and incredibly naive. The defendant seemed supercilious and smug. The attorneys didn't come across much better, but they didn't have much to work with. (And unfortunately, when the jurors finally got to talk about the case in deliberation, I was actually one of the more upbeat and less critical members.) The issue could have easily been solved in mediation. The actual trial took four full days. The jury, once we accepted that we could not have everyone involved beheaded on the spot, deliberated for slightly less than 30 minutes.

Looking back, I wish my opportunity to serve on a jury was for a case of substance, a case that would make me feel like I was making a real contribution by serving. I’m sure most people, if they have to sit for a week or more, want the case to be noble in nature. My guess is the vast majority of cases have nothing noble about them.

But I was impressed by the afternoon I spent in the jury panel. There were several eloquent speakers who shared their fears, anger and frustration. There were people to whom life had been horribly unkind lately. But they were still engaged in the process, willing to contribute and trying to move forward. Mostly though, I sensed that they represented a larger segment of citizens, who for so long have silently put up with the status quo, and have now decided to start talking. And to quote Peter Finch in Network what they're saying is they are “mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore!”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Pain That You Invite

I’ve known since childhood that I was a masochist. My sadistic older brother revealed my fate to me when I was quite young. This is perhaps a slight exaggeration and far more benign than it sounds.

It was the first vaccination I actually remember. I know I wasn’t even five years old. I have an absolutely clear memory of my brother, older by seven years, giving me some sound advice. He told me that I would not feel the pain of the shot if, right before the doctor plunged the needle into my butt, I would bite down on my thumb as hard as I could and continue biting until the shot was over and the band-aid was on.

At this early age I was already skeptical of my older brother’s shared wisdom. He teased me mercilessly and I had the scars to prove it. Regardless of his assurance, I’d already learned that a bed-sheet did not perform the same function as a parachute when I jumped out of the window of our shared second story bedroom.

The spanking I received convinced me that there was a difference between art purchased at the store, in a frame and hung on the wall, and my crayoned likenesses of our dog, our cat, our house and our entire family inscribed directly on the walls of our bedroom. Murals, my brother assured me, my parents would love. Maybe, he intimated, even have me copy to paper so they could sell it, allowing others to enjoy my art as well.

I’d caught on rather quickly that contrary to my brother’s suggestion, the cat did not really like to play baby-doll. The old tomcat suffered through being dressed up in doll clothes and stuffed in my miniature baby buggy. But he drew the line at taking a bubble bath. He let his opinion be known via the deep scratches on my face, chest and arms. I never tried that again.

I also learned the hard way that when I had an unfortunate “accident” (when I was very young I tended to pee a little when I got excited or anxious), attempting to hide the incident by taking the wet panties off and burying them in the backyard did not fool my mother, who expected to see me in underpants each evening as I got ready to take my bath or dress for bed. Another one of my brothers brilliant suggestions.

But to my surprise the thumb biting trick really did work. Every time. It became a habit fully ingrained whenever I faced an unavoidable pain. And a coping device I assumed others practiced as well. So as a teenager I was more shocked than embarrassed when I suggested this trick to friends, and they looked at me like I was a freak. They had never tried this? For god’s sake, why not? How could something that brought me so much … well … comfort in a weird way, not be embraced by everyone.

There was only one type of pain I found that could not be eased by biting my thumb, and that was really due to logistics. I firmly believe that dentists are the most sadistic people on earth. Other than the dentist who allowed me as much nitrous oxide gas as I wanted, even when my child was actually the patient, I’ve hated every dentist I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately my sure fire way to avoid the pain and suffering they delighted in inflicting was impossible. It was hard to bite down on your thumb when the dental assistant was prying your jaws open and you had six fingers, a drill, a mirror and the little suction hose all occupying your mouth. Not surprisingly, biting down on the dentist’s thumb really didn’t have the same affect. In fact I’m sure it made them more committed to their task of inflicting slow, agonizing torture through dentistry.

I bit my thumb through childbirth - twice, multiple vaccinations, the setting of several broken bones, sprained appendages, infections, cramps, smashed toes, numerous minor surgeries, and innumerable other traumatic and physically painful events. And it worked. Every time. Like a charm.

I’ve been a little too enthusiastic a couple of times and have actually drawn blood. The first time this happened my brother, still disappointed that his plan had backfired and his advice actually worked, suggested that I should probably be treated for rabies. Because, he explained to my parents with all the force of his thirteen year old wisdom, you just never know what might happen. I didn’t yet understand the fallacy of his argument that I could give myself rabies and spent days worrying about how I would hide the eventual foaming at the mouth. I wasn’t too concerned about the series of injections he’d described to me in gory detail. But I did acknowledge that getting through all of them might require the use of both thumbs.

I can now advise that other than the fact that one thumb is slightly misshapen, with permanent indentations where my teeth usually rest, I have suffered no residual damage.

Through the years, this “habit” of mine has caused me to consider my reaction to pain in general. I can unequivocally state that, all things considered, I prefer to avoid it. But I don’t shy away from it, perhaps because I have a tool I can use to manage my reaction. And I do get a sort of grim satisfaction from knowing that so far life hasn’t thrown me any physical pain that I could not soldier through. In some bizarre way, I almost welcome the challenge. I am, as my husband begrudgingly admits, something of a bad-ass when it comes to dealing with the aches and pains life inflicts upon us.

Does this self-inflicted pain I willingly invite make me a masochist? Probably/hopefully not. But, I can’t help but wonder.

So periodically I break into an old Shel Silverstein song and then test my reaction to the lyrics.

Oh, ever since my Masochistic Baby went and left me
I got nothin’ to hit but the wall.
She loved me when I beat her,
But I started actin’ sweeter,
And that was no way to treat her at all.
Yes, she is the one that I’m dreamin’ of,
And you always hurt the one you love.

And ever since my Masochistic Baby went and left me,
I got nothin’ to hit but the wall, oh no...
Nothin’ to beat but the eggs
Nothin’ to belt but my pants
Nothin’ to whip but the cream
Nothin’ to punch but the clock
Nothin’ to strike but a match.

Am I repulsed or enticed by the song's imagery? I’ll never tell.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sex and Sensibilities

I’ve followed numerous blogs for several years now and I’ve noticed a consistent content division that I find interesting. If you focus on what I call “personal” blogs, for lack of a better term – blogs that are not specifically tied to business, politics or world affairs – they seem to fall into two camps.

1. Those that never mention sex; and
2. Those that almost always mention sex and are clearly focused on sexual
activities/ lifestyles/preferences.

Blogs in the second category may include posts that are not sexually oriented, but most deal with s-e-x in some fashion. Romantic sex, vanilla sex, kinky sex, bizarre sex, etc. You name it, if it is in anyway tied to human’s sexual lives, problems or pleasures, someone is writing about it. Usually multiple someones. Sometimes thousands of someones.

I find the way adults tend to compartmentalize their interests, values and beliefs into neatly defined boxes endlessly fascinating. We have hobbies and leisure activities, careers, social causes, spiritual lives, family and friends, political affiliations and we have sex. There is some overlapping of compartments – we work with our friends, or our religious and political beliefs are intertwined. But in real life, our sexual box (pun intended) is kept distinctly separate from everything else. It may be a plus if you bear affection for your sexual partner, considering them at least a friend, but it isn’t necessary.

We all have a sex life -- single, married, straight, gay, sexually active or celibate, it doesn’t matter. Our sexuality is a constant in our lives, whether we are getting any or not. It may be actively pursued and consumed, exist solely in the imagination, buried deep within one’s subconscious, stridently denied or submerged, but the fact that humans are sexual creatures cannot be avoided. It’s one of the few constants that not only inserts itself into our waking hours, it occupies our sleeping hours as well.

This compartmentalization is carried into our online lives. At first pass this seems logical. People like a certain degree of anonymity when they discuss their sexual habits. Especially if their sexual habits involve anything beyond a married husband and wife performing intercourse in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation. And despite how loudly or often our more upright or uptight fellow humans protest, the vast majority (I’m thinking 99.7653%) of all humans’ typical sexual practices fall outside that narrow and stultifyingly dull scenario.

There are real ramifications to making your sexual practices or desires public knowledge via the internet. Ramifications that could impact your marriage, your family or your career. In a perfect world this seems grossly unfair, but there it is.

There is also valid concern about children having access to any content of a sexual nature, so we separate and hide sexually explicit content behind parental controls and warnings.

This compartmentalization of sex in real life and on the web also stems from how much we treasure our sexuality. Face it, no matter how good your life is, a fair-sized chunk of it sucks at any given time. Ideally, and I am always an idealist, a person’s sex life, whether real or fantasy, is a high point among a lot more low points in any given day. So we guard and we treasure the gift. If we are going to share the details of our sexuality with others, we want to share it with people that are genuinely interested, sympathetic and worthy of the sharing. We don’t want to expose our vulnerabilities to people who will be offended, belittle or denigrate us because of our sexual choices.

Another reason this great blog divide exists is that people have difficulty absorbing too much diverse information at one time. Rather than reading these online journals for the simple sake of enjoying them, regardless of the topic, we visit blogs that feed us the specific content on the specific subject we want to read at that moment.

I don’t go to one of my favorite blogs, written by a single mother discussing the trials, tribulations, humors and joys of raising a special needs child, to read about her date with the attorney who asked her to spank him, or her ongoing struggle to end an intense and extremely erotic affair with one of her son’s married doctors. Conversely, I don’t follow one of the adult content sites I check in on occasionally because I am looking for a critic’s discussion of the movies nominated for an Academy Award.

So, there are valid reasons for this separation of sexual and non-sexual content, although I think the distinction is too severe. But readers do a disservice to themselves if they limit their reading to blogs falling only into one category or the other. The great gift the internet provides is the level playing field for accumulating knowledge through the sharing of information and opinion among a disparate group of people. Someone who never explores that diversity of content, including sexual, will miss out. They miss the whole picture, the complete story, by limiting their exposure to websites or blogs that never disagree with their own world view, that only discuss topics they are fully comfortable discussing and that never offend their sensibilities. Sensibilities should be offended. Fairly frequently. It is one of the ways we learn about ourselves and the breadth of our personal boundaries

Some of the best short stories, essays and poetry I’ve ever read are on sexual-content blogs. There are amazingly talented writers, who just happen to chose sexuality as their subject. Some of the most positive affirmations of life I’ve ever seen are on sexual content blogs. Some of the most heartbreakingly sad, yet beautiful imagry and dreams are expressed in adult content journals - content that truly stirs the soul.

Likewise, some of the most negative affirmations of life I’ve ever seen were on blogs that at first appeared to be totally innocuous. Some of the most offensive writings I have ever read are on sites that tout themselves as morally superior and always truthful. Images of mankind at it’s worst are often seen through the camera of self-righteous, narrow-minded prudery and posted on blogs under the misconception that they represent the only “correct” way to view the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I, Jurist

I am on jury duty. This is momentous news to no one but me. However, it has made me the laughing stock of my office. I work in an industry that historically almost guaranteed I would never get picked for a jury in a civil trial. But, I guess the seventh time is the charm.

Although my coworkers assume I must have done something terribly stupid to get caught, I was actually kind of happy when I realized that my profession would not be held against me and I might be picked for a change. Kind of like the last kid chosen for a pickup game of baseball. Sometimes if feels good just to be chosen next to the last.

I think that serving on a jury is every citizen's responsibility and I thought seeing how the legal system worked from the juror's perspective might be interesting.

It might be ... but you could never prove it by the case I am hearing. Ugh.

Even though I don't expect this posting will be read anytime soon, and I am not identified, I will still do the right thing and not discuss any of the specifics of the trial.

But when it is over, I may rant and rave for a week. To say the experience has not been an opportunity to increase my positive perception of the legal system would be a gross understatement. I've told my coworkers that the next time I decide to exercise my civic duty they have my permission to gag me, tie me to my desk chair and lock me in my office with my TV running continuous loops of the Judge Judy show, until I come to my senses.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sticking My Nose In Places I Belong

I am one of those people who can go online to check what time a movie starts, only to find myself four hours later immersed in the world of Robert Clive and the establishment of British India. (This particular exercise is not nearly as highbrow as it might sound. I started down this path, not because of a thirst for British history, but because I happened to hear the tail end of a news story advising that Clive’s supposed pet, a giant tortoise, had just died in 2006, making it approximately 250 years old at the time of it’s death. I had to know more. That is exactly the kind of fascinating information they never teach you in school.)

As I have alluded to, I live to poke out arcane facts, figures and rumors scratching beneath their surface to discover if they are really as meaningless and trite as others think they are. The answer is almost always - yes. But the joy is in the hunt, not the trophy.

All of this poking around has introduced me to fascinating websites and blogs, fueled by people who obviously share my thirst for the sublime and the ridiculous. Many of them are quite well known, sites visited frequently. But some of them are sites I either accidently happened on and discovered the wealth of knowledge they contained or I undertook an exhaustive search to track down sites I had only heard whispered of elsewhere. On the off chance that at some point someone may happen on my scribbling, I will list several of these on this page. As I stumble upon new (at least to me) fascinating ones I will add those as well.

One caveat, I also follow several blogs/sites that include adult content. There are a few that I find so compelling, due to the author’s talent with words or the subject matter, I will list them too. They will be listed separately with an adult only warning. Even if the topics aren’t your cup of tea, if you appreciate elegant writing and are open minded, I encourage you to explore those as well.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Men and Their Balls

just have to say that I absolutely hate football. I do not get it. At all. But does this fact make me un-American?

I’m watching the Super Bowl tonight with family and friends. (By “watching” I mean I’m on my computer and trying to block out the infernal racket.)
I'm wondering about the un-American part because the whole event seems wrapped in the American flag. Not just the Star Spangled Banner. We also got America the Beautiful and an armed services color guard. Then the fighter jets. And the fireworks. What does any of this have to do with football?

By admitting I hate football, something that has become such an accepted foundation of Americana, am I un-American?

I will never understand the game, its appeal to the masses and especially why grown men are happy to go out on a hard field, dressed in cumbersome and uncomfortable equipment, usually in bad weather and then willingly get the shit beat out of themselves week after week. Damn, sounds like fun to me. I know the money is really, really good if you are one of the few who actually make it to the pros. But the downside - the injuries, the limited window of opportunity to make those big bucks, did I mention the injuries? When I see a player on TV discussing his latest injury and whether it will end his career or not, I just want to reach through the screen, slap them and say “Stop It! Grow up and get a real job where you don’t have to worry about blown out knees, concussions, paralysis or permanent brain damage!”

Men and their balls … go figure.

But it is the wrapper of patriotism that is really bugging me tonight. I don’t think I am unpatriotic. I have a pretty definite view of when public displays of patriotism are appropriate and when they aren’t. I could rant on the subject of patriotism for hours. But I won’t, not today anyway.

I will just say, somewhat smugly I admit, that tomorrow I will be executing one of the most patriotic acts a citizen of this country can perform. I will present myself at my county courthouse tomorrow to perform my civic duty. I’ve got jury duty. Of course I am doing this because I was summoned and the idea of a bench warrant issued in my name if I don’t show up is fairly motivating.

By the way, did I mention that I hate football?