Friday, January 27, 2006

What Global Warming?

It's January 27, 2006 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's 46 degrees. The skateboarders are outside my office, some of them in their shirtsleeves (and they are at least 20 years younger than I am, but that's another story). Now, I know this is all relative. If you live in Los Angeles, say, the thought of skateboarding at all in 46 degree weather, let alone in your shirtsleeves, is bone-shivering. But we are a hearty people, and all we really need is good surface conditions to get out our bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, and rollerblades. This, I love. It can be ten degrees outside, and you still have to "Start Seeing Motorcycles" and watch for bicyclists. That is not my point right now. It's January 27. It's 46 degrees. There are skateboarders. There is no snow.

I know that this alone, this Friday weather, this January warm-up, this freak of winter is not, by itself, Global Warming. The record was 47 degrees in 1934. But the average temp for this time of year is 23. And this warm -up has been going on a few days, weather in the high 30's, low 40's, and looks like it is going to continue. It might rain tonight, for crying out loud. Rain. Not freezing rain. Rain.

By Minnesota Standards, passive-aggressive as they usually are, this is a heat wave. All those maxims about weather-inappropriate clothing denoting craziness go right out the window when it is 46 in January in Minnesota. Shorts. Shirt sleeves. That guy on the bus wearing pajama pants and an open, fuzzy green parka with tennis shoes and no socks might NOT be crazy. It's that warm. Ignore that he is smiling and nodding at everyone who boards while muttering to himself. It could be spring fever.

Of course, for all of February, it will probably be one degree.

And that one degree will be divided over the course of the entire 28 days.

One degree.

That's all you get.

Dole it out as you see fit.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hey Moses! What's For Dinner?

All these creationists and fundamentalists and neo-christians with their “the bible told me to, this” and “the bible says so, that” really make me ill. It would be one thing if they kept it to themselves, like you are supposed to in America, but they need for everyone to live by their beliefs and feel that they are justified in this because they know what God wants. And they refuse further lines of inquiry. A colleague of mine has a creationist roommate who actually said the words “I would rather be ignorant than believe what you believe.” It all comes down to their belief that this jumble of texts sewn into one book has some divine origin and is actually the Word of God, and therefore you cannot argue with them, but come on.

Have you ever read The Bible?

I know I haven’t, at least not all of it, the Psalms and Song of Solomon aside (If you have not read it, you should; it’s dirty. Don’t know how that one got by the censors), but I also know that you can find bits and pieces in The Bible to support whatever position you want. That is how God was on both sides in the American Civil War and how he roots for both football teams in the Superbowl. It’s how abolitionists and pro-slavery Americans could insist that The Bible supported both of their “philosophical” positions. It does. The bible even tells you how you should treat your slaves. Sweet.

My favorite, however, so far, is Leviticus 11. I am mainly using the King James Version of the Bible because I love its flowery, overblown, pompous English. It’s how religions should talk. In Leviticus 11, we learn that the LORD told Moses to pass on to the children of Israel that they should not eat camels. Or rabbits. Or pigs. You can only eat beasts that have cloven hooves AND chew their cud. Not one or the other. It has to be both. Does Satan chew cud? If so, I guess we can eat him.

It’s all about what is clean and what is unclean, though the reasons are usually not given for the delineation. As far as all that live “in the waters,” you can eat these creatures if they have fins and scales. If not, they are not to be eaten (no mermaids). And this is repeated over a few chapters, in different ways, so you really get the point:
“9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.
12Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”


Beware when you ask your waiter for the fish special.

Bird wise, don’t eat the eagle, the osprey, vulture, the kit, the raven, the owl, the night hawk, the cuckow, and the hawk. Oh, and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, and the white owl (when do we just get to say “owls are right out”?), and the swan, the pelican, the stork, the heron, lapwing, and the bat. And any birds that “creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.”

ON the menu, however, are “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth.” And bugs. Beetles, locusts, grasshoppers. But other flying creatures with four feet? Do not make yourself detestable with any “swarming things that swarm.” No. Also, no weasels, mice, or tortoises. Or ferrets, chameleons, snails, and moles.

I think there should be a Leviticus Dining Club. It would be a heretic society that would revel in eating all the things that the LORD says we shouldn’t. We’d feel so naughty.

And then there are cleaning instructions for your vessels, lest any of the carcasses of the unclean that shall not be eaten should happen to fall into them, or touch them, or look at them funny. And instructions for your cooking areas and fields lest any carcasses of the detestable should come into contact with them. If you touch any abomination listed above, you are to wash your clothes and be unclean until evening. The original “Go to your room.”

Clearly, “God” is just trying to watch out for public health in a hot climate with no refrigeration. Smart that “God” would be trying to keep people from getting sick through the use of superstition. After all, he’s God, and “I got you out of Egypt, and I’m holy, so you have to be holy too.” So paternalistic.

I guess that when we start hiring for the Leviticus Dining Club, we have to make sure that we don’t hire a literalist chef. He or she certainly would not cotton to the club charter let alone the menu requests, but they might wander in to the interview just because of the name. Unless he or she is a person who is willing to pick and choose what parts of The Bible they adhere to literally and are willing to compromise their religious morals for a little cash.
But come on, what do you think the chances are of finding someone like THAT?!

Monday, January 23, 2006

According to Reuters (January 19, 2006), a UCLA alumni group, not affiliated with the University, is offering a reward to students for exposing “radical” professors. Now, unlike the bounties for coyotes, mountain lions, and wolves that were all the rage in late 19th and early 20th century America, in order to claim the money, students do not have to provide pelts of the professors, just a recording. This means that we, the public, won’t be subjected to pictures like this:

that show rows of tweed sports jackets with frayed leather elbow patches, stained and bloody, with smoking bits of American flag melting the thin snow below them.

This all sounds so familiar. These “suspect faculty” are on a list called the "Dirty Thirty". Those who are “considered by the group to be the most extreme left-wing” and it includes a profiles of their “political activities and writings.” So familiar. Where have I heard of things like this before?

I am sure it will come to me.

To be fair, the Chancellor of UCLA has denounced the campaign and warned students that to present recordings of lectures would be a violation of university policy, and many members of the board’s advisory group have resigned. The founder of the group, Andrew Jones, says he wants to "restore an atmosphere of respectful political discourse on campus." But he seems to only be picking on lefties. Strange.

Seriously, this sounds so bloody familiar.

This is part of on ongoing recent campaign to purge liberals from college campuses in the United States. This is presumably also part of the general disdain preached from all corners of the land against “that intellectual elite from the blue states.” Did you know that liberals are responsible for the decline in the sales of American automobiles? I had no idea that I had so much power. It is probably way past time that I started using it for good instead of evil. Or is it the other way around?

I guess, on the bright side, this backlash against progressive ideals that started, well, when Bill Clinton helped move the Democratic party to the middle, continued with the “election” of George Bush, the death of Paul Wellstone, the re-election of George Bush, and the avalanche of books like “Bias” and “Treason” and my favorite “Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism” (If there were not so many people in American taking this sort of tripe seriously, it would make me laugh), shows that us liberals really are a scary bunch, if we need this much vitriol in order to keep us down. I guess it’s fine to attack a bunch of snotty smarties who vote “(D)” with books, if they are poorly researched and written books. Anything else would fly in the face of their own anti-academic, anti-intellectual rhetoric.

In the meantime, we truly must get our fresh-faced, impressionable, would-be-conservative-if-not-for-those-commie-teachers away from any new ideas, or history of ideas, or study of ideas, or teaching of critical skills to formulate ideas, or independent thinking ideas of any type.

Snotty liberal remark:
Has anyone else noticed that King George’s accent is getting even hickier?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

this is it

"I never thought it could be this good," Pete said as he washed the dishes in his blue rubber gloves while I fed him home-made french fries.
"What? Life, or frenchfries?" I queried.
"Marriage.... I mean, I know that technically, we are not married yet, but..."
"This is it. This is the way that it is. This is how we live together; it's been over a year" I said.
"It's been a very good year... And I love you very much," he replied.

The french fries were really good.

If I weren't so happy, we would make me ill.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Home, Sweet Home

It was the kind of lightning that made Ben Franklin giggle with girlish excitement.
It was the kind of lightning that reveals the murderer, and he is right behind you.
It was the kind of lightning from which sirens spring.
The atmosphere this evening on our way home had the manic quality of an unstable dinner guest with a drug therapy problem. We drove home on a rain black street into a panoramic screen torn by flashing blue-white crags that lit the sky purple and gave the neighborhood an ominous feeling of twitchy, untrustworthy daylight. The lightning was so continuous that the thunder was an afterthought—a low, monotonous grumble, unnoticeable in its repetition. Even the rain was secondary, not pouring down in torrents that pounded the pavement but a steady shower that would have been pleasant for gutter splashing were it not for the threat of electrocution.

Eventually, the rain overtook the lightning or at least matched it, and streets began to flood, traffic began to stall. We passed safely through on our way to meet friends at a tapas bar in Minneapolis. Minneapolis. My old neighborhood. I felt like I was spectating, a tourist… all the pretty lights, all the traffic. All the night-life, at 9:30 in the evening. I felt like I was in an entirely different city because, well… I was. Minneapolis and Saint Paul, though they rub lasciviously against one another at certain junctions in their municipal plottings, are separated by the Mississippi River in other places. That river intervenes for a reason. Aside from the mundane facts of modern boundaries and governmental organization, they were founded years ago, many miles apart at the time, and thought of themselves as different entities, if they thought of each other at all. They still do.

I used to get lost in St. Paul, until I bought a house there and left my young, irresponsible, Minneapolis days behind. It was time to bring a little life to the capital city. Or at least a few tax dollars. From 1841, when its name was changed from Pig´s Eye Landing to Saint Paul, right up until this morning when I walked the half a block to the bus stop, St. Paul has been thought of as sedate, responsible, reliable if a little boring. This was, no doubt, why it was chosen to be the state capital.

On the east side of the river, the village of St. Anthony was settled around1839. Presently, it is represented only by a struggling shopping plaza named “St. Anthony Main” as the city of Minneapolis, which originated on the river's west side in 1847, annexed St. Anthony in 1872. The resulting city was a lumber and flour milling center, bustling with merchants and manufacturing, clearly too unstable to represent the state and host the government.

After all, St. Paul gets Garrison Keillor, and Minneapolis gets Prince. St. Paul has the Winter Carnival, and Minneapolis has Holidazzle! St. Paul had F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Minneapolis had Husker Du, the Replacements, and the Suburbs. (Actually, these things are not so far apart. F. Scott was a wild man.) St. Paul has the hockey team, Minneapolis has the basketball team. Chamber Orchestra? St. Paul. Symphony? Minneapolis. Science Museum, History Center, State Capital Building... St. Paul. Art Institute, First Avenue, Dream Girls... Minneapolis. You see my point.

A few years ago, our wrestler governor made headlines when he announced on a late night talk show that St. Paul’s streets were designed by a bunch of drunken Irishmen. People got upset. Whether or not it was true that inebriated former island-dwellers from across the pond had laid out St. Paul, it is true that the streets are often convoluted and many people from Minneapolis fear to go there. But give the guys a break; they had a river, bluffs, and interesting glacial topography to contend with. Apparently, “people” say that St. Paul is the last eastern city, and Minneapolis is the first western city. I had never heard this before last weekend, so who these “people” are is as yet unknown. It is amusing to me that there are not numbered streets in St. Paul, most everything seems to be an avenue, and the numbers on houses correspond to precisely nothing. You have to rely on your sense of direction to find places and not on an organized system. Luckily, I have that sense of direction to fall back on because I really do tend to appreciate an organized system here and there.

When I started looking for houses in 2001, I was initially hoping to own in Minneapolis, in the same neighborhoods I was accustomed to living. Uptown. Uptown was definitely where I wanted to be. After all, I had lived in the general vicinity since 1992. However, this desire proved impossible, due to my measly income, and I was nudged into either North Minneapolis or St. Paul. North Minneapolis seemed farther away from Minneapolis than St. Paul, and the quality of the neighborhoods varied block by block.

I drove by many places and marked certain ones for entry. First there was the house that was near one of the lakes and within my price range, but was so thickly painted as to hint at concealment of a crime that involved bodily fluids. Then the house that my realtor basically said I would never be able to afford once the bidding war was over. Then the house that already had an offer. Then the house for sale by owner that was priced way above its worth. And then the house that was passable.

My little house was the seventh house I walked into, and I knew right when I entered its dark, paneled kitchen that it was my house. I saw what it was right away, underneath the carpeting and paneling and boxed in bathroom appliances. St. Paul became my home because it was where my house had been living, all this time, without me.