Archive for July, 2008

Legislating Dystopia: Huxley Is Laughing


Today I am having a fit of moral curiosity. It could happen, stop laughing.

As our culture endures a rather lengthy shake up and restructuring due to gas prices and food costs, I’ve noticed something. The government in the background is trying to legislate morality. They are going about it much more forcefully than ever before.  They are in the process of trying and potentially winning a battle to make nicotine a governmental regulated drug. Recently legislation was presented to make female contraceptives on par with abortion.

Why is this being allowed? Is it because we the people lack the common sense to live up to high moral standards or have we just stopped trying? In a culture that excoriates anyone who attempts to live outside the consumer mentality and exonerates greedy corporations for what amounts to illegal activities it is not a surprise that we no longer care. No one is listening. We are not being heard.

At some point being a gansta became the highest achievement teens will reach for. I say this, not because of flimsy media reports, but because that is what the students tell me. So, instead of looking beyond, they look around this country and feel that since it cannot be fixed in any meaningful way they will glorify defiance and violence. And that is where many inner city teens live. Not all of them mind you, but many of them.

And the adults are losing hope as well. We are losing the feeling that this government is for the people. As oil companies take in record profits on the backs of working Americans, many of whom are losing their homes, what is there to makes retain any hope for the future? Apparently nothing.

That being said, do we need government to regulate our personal habits? After allowing greed and gluttony to rule the last eight years what right does the Bush administration have to decide what we do with our lives?  They are trying to tell us who we can sleep with, while Republicans and evangelist ministers are indicted for prostitution and fraud. They are trying to tell us how to have fun, while Legislators are indicted for sexual harassment and fixing the judicial branch to reflect their groups’ philosophy. And more importantly, they are trying to tell us what we should believe in. By passing care for the poor directly into the hands of protestant churches and giving them government funding, by defining what a human being is using a 2000 year old book and repeatedly failing at passing new marriage laws aimed at keeping out non-traditional families, our government is trying to force this country to move backwards rather than forwards.

This moral legislation ideology will only last as long as the current crisis. Once Bush and his cronies no longer have their boot heels on the throats of ordinary citizens there will be a backlash. One has only to look at periods of history to see this. And it will not be good. Our society is in the midst of a shake up, a change. It happens every 65-70 years or so. Social patterns change and grow. Not everyone will engage in the change and not everyone will appreciate the new direction. However, it is coming, and it is coming faster than most of us realize.

To legislate personal choice is a violation of not just the constitution but the section of the constitution that guarantees us the ‘pursuit of happiness’. To look over the neighbors fence and decide that their idea of happiness is just a bad choice is ludicrous. We do not all engage in the same behaviors. Nor should we.

I, for one, would find no pleasure in living in a dystopian society in which everyone is expected to behave the same way at the same time, all the time.

Would you?


Death and The Graveyard


So, being a Gaiman fan of potentially embarrassing proportions for my age I am always at his blog. I love this blog. It’s, like Neil, not like other writer’s blogs. Do you think Chabon would post a picture of himself after being walloped by a PVC pipe? No, no he wouldn’t. Gaiman talks about his books and the books of others and offers praise and advice to random posters. (People who post, not flat wall objects, that would be strange). It’s a lot like having a one sided conversation with a friend.

After that long rambling introduction I’d like to point out that here in the U.S. you can win a proof copy of The Graveyard Book here. All you have to do is compose famous last words for three characters: A famous living character, someone who dies stupidly, and yourself.

So gather up all of your creative energies and enter. Aside from the great prize, what could be more fun than to spend an afternoon thinking up death quotes ?

Have fun!


Random Poll # ????


I can’t remember if this is four or five. And of course, I can’t be arsed to look it up.

Obama or McCain? Neither? Both?

You need to back up your choice with details. Not willing to accept “Because we need a black president ” or “Because he’s just like George”

Rational arguments, precise reasons. I know you’ve got it in you.

This means you too, Glenda! Comment already.


Pink Will Always Get Bad Service


I just read an article about how the British are bad tippers. The best part was the ensuing commentary, much of it from those I can only assume have never waited tables. Suggestions ran from changing the way American restaurants do business to getting a better paying job.  And this all for a waiter in the New York restaurant business. I wonder what those same commentators would say if they were dealing with someone who worked in restaurants that were not top scale?  Where taking home $30 a night was a good night? I’m guessing they would say the same thing.

Ah yes, like most who have attended college I have done my share of restaurant work. Everything from bussing tables/ washing dishes to bartending and floor management. In upscale and ‘family dining’ restaurants. I have to say, no matter where one works, it’s a shitty job.

And it’s shitty because of the customers and the management. The customers want to believe that they are superior to the person trying to accommodate their often ludicrous requests. The management wants one to work like a dog and be grateful they allow you to make money in their restaurant. The word raise is not in their vocabulary. When waitstaff asks management for a raise they inevitably get the same response “Be a better server.” Balls. In some places one can be the top earner and still not make a living wage. It’s arrogant for a customer to make assumptions about the staff. Not every server works in a five star restaurant. Nor is every server a college student who deserves to make less money because they are in school.

A server is a person who works hard for little money. After tipping out 10% to both the bartenders and bussers, and accounting for a standard 15% Federal tax, what does the thirty dollar a night server take home? About 15-17 dollars. Times five days a week, comes to about 75-85 dollars a week. Oooh yeah, they’re living high on the hog!! Oh wait, plus the 2.85 they make an hour here in Michigan, which is automatically taxed, so that’s– Oh hell I don’t know, but not a enough to live on I can tell you. Let alone raise children with.

Nothing gets my fur in a bunch faster than those who take exception to tipping waitstaff.  It’s the superiority of the customer who seems to feel that your service is worth shit. That as a person you are so far beneath them on the social scale that they can ignore your work. And it is work. It’s much more than carrying plates. Servers work very hard to make things look easy to the customer. That’s part of the job. They don’t have a PDF to keep track of the seven to ten tables they have. They rely on memory. They can’t control mistakes made in the kitchen but they are certainly responsible for it. They are not to blame for arbitrary changes management makes from one day to the next but they have to commiserate and ego stroke the ranting of customers who are upset by those changes. And none of this includes the work they do before and after they begin waiting on tables.

I’m not saying every server is stellar. I once refused to tip when the service was very poor. But I then I let the server know why they got nothing. And when they got upset, I told them that waiting tables is a skill, not a gimmee.

Here in the U.S. one should tip 15-20% of the bill. Period. And that is for standard service, not for exceptional service. Exceptional service should be rewarded with a higher tip. Try to remember this. If you tip well, waitstaff will be all over you next time you come in. They will actually squabble in the backroom over who gets the honor of waiting on you.

All servers have great memories. They know who the bad tippers are and they always pass them off to the worst waitstaff. So, if you are constantly getting a different lousy server at a local restaurant, it’s probably because you are a crap tipper and the service will always be rotten, for you. And you alone.

Servers might be poor, but they’re not stupid.


Just Say No To Drugging Children


Is your child a daydreamer? Do they spend time living in a world of their own creation? Do you find it really annoying when they tell you long winded stories about things that are outrageous? Are you concerned that this might be a sign of mental illness because they are not thinking clearly, like an adult?

Have I got a website/cure for you!

Apparently, if you give them an herbal essence you can cure this terrible affliction. In fact, according to this website, you can cure everything that’s wrong with children today with a few drops of flower essences.

I originally found this in a health food store and spent a good five minutes laughing and the rest of the night being puzzled. Clematis is not a flower I would recommend anyone ingest.  People have an over-confidence problem when it comes to anything labeled “herbal”.  It’s hard to keep in mind that all those nifty medical prescriptions come from plants and flowers, the only difference is the active ingredient has been supercharged or isolated depending on the drug. For a long time Comfrey was on the shelves as a tea, despite the fact that anyone with even a little knowledge would say one should never take Comfrey internally. Eventually the government got wise and ordered that all Comfrey teas be pulled from the shelves.

Herbal medications, like general prescription drugs, ‘cure’ nothing. They alleviate symptoms. And there are a whole bunch of provisos that if one is not aware of can actually make one very ill. For example, if you take warfarin or coumadin you should never drink chamomile tea. Chamomile contains cumarins and if you are on a blood thinner you could bleed internally.

All that aside, if you are giving your child herbal medications to fix shyness or tantrums, there is something wrong with you. Some children are shy, some are bratty,  it’s called having a personality. As for a daydreamer, well some children are more creative than others. It’s not an affliction that needs medication. If they refuse to have any social contact or scream when you touch them get them tested for autism, otherwise leave them alone.

I for one am a champion daydreamer. I love to slip off mentally and take a vacation once in while. Then I write about it. My son also spends time in a world of his own. Then he writes music. There is nothing wrong with nipping out just to enjoy your own mind every so often. It’s called being creative. Without it science would never catch up to fiction.

So parents, relax, and know that having a creative intelligent child is not something you need to have them medicated for. They’ll either outgrow it or write a new symphony.

Hopefully, we will soon find a plant that will cure overactive stupidity in parents, until that day comes……


By Tor, I think They’ve Got It


So amid the gas crisis and Obamania something really fantastic has occurred. That’s right is up and running. The official website is now alive and well.

For those of you unfamiliar, is a website of fantasy and science fiction, art and commentary. It worth a visit just to read the new Sci Fi writers and to get a sense of the new directions the genre is taking.

For a limited time (until July 27) one can download all of the books and wallpapers that were offered for free on the other site.

I got this one to use as wall paper for my computer.

So run don’t walk over to the new site to get free e-books and wallpapers from wonderful artists and writers.

Go now, I got nothing left for  you.



Symbols Are Nice, Talk Is Better


First, I wish Bloglines would stop messing with my post displays. Every time I log in these days it looks different and I have to jump through new hoops. It’s disturbing. I’m old, I don’t handle change well. It makes me want to shake my cane at them. *shake, shake, shake* Whippersnappers.

Today I was idly butterfly stroking through the news and found a little gem of a piece over at Time magazine. It was a maudlin, slightly gaspy, story about Purity Balls. If you’ve been living under an atheist rock and haven’t heard of them, they are interesting. A Purity Ball is a precious little ceremony for fathers and daughters, in which everyone dresses up and the girls, one as young as four, promise not to have sex before they are married. They are given a purity ring by the dads as they meet before a cross under two crossed swords. The author seems to think this is okay and helpful. Personally, it might be okay if they weren’t using phrases to describe the father’s position as  “covering my soul until my husband takes over.” Blech.

To me this sort of nonsense is about as useful as a U2Euchrist.

Wouldn’t a private conversation between the fathers, mothers and daughters be  more useful?  How much does a four year old understand about the topic? I’m guessing not much. Also, if the parent’s are doing their job well they don’t need a ceremony to discuss the tough choices facing teenagers. Teens already know what they are. Yet, in families I have observed over the years, frank discussions and limits on teens do not exist. Guess what parents, you can limit what your child does. SURPRISE! There is no real need for Purity Balls, what there is a need for is limitations on children trying to get through the very difficult moments of puberty. And parents are afraid to put those limits in play. If they want to go out on a date at thirteen, say no if you’ve a mind to. After a few days of  tantrums and perhaps a little sneaking around it will all shake out. At the very least the teen will know where you stand and what you consider to be acceptable. This is called guidance. It’s the parent’s main job.

Things like Purity Balls set teens up for failure. And horrible guilt. They try to impose moral ideals on a natural cycle of growth. Puberty and the contemplation of sex is determined by the hormones not by the parents. Each child needs to have the proper tools to decide what is right for them. Information is the best weapon against the boogey man of sexual activity all parents fear. Denial, rituals and mental religious flogging all put more stress and fear into a time when teens are already struggling. Giving reliable information, a clear set of guidelines and the safety net of honesty between parents and teens does more good than a white rose and a cross.

Thin symbols can never take the place of strong parenting.