aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Everything old is new again
As religious right groups go, the American Family Association doesn’t the kind of money, members, or influence some of its better known competitors have, but when it comes to boycotts, nobody comes close to the AFA.
The AFA’s targets have included Disney, Ford, Crest toothpaste, Volkswagen, Tide detergent, Clorox bleach, Pampers, MTV, Abercrombie & Fitch, K-Mart, Burger King, American Airlines and S.C. Johnson & Son, makers of Windex, Ziploc, Pledge, Glade, and Edge, usually because of some perceived “anti-family” animus. Late last year, the AFA also went after the movie “Shark Tale,” because the group believed the movie was designed to brainwash children into accepting gay rights. This year, it was American Girl dolls. Not a single AFA target has ever caved to the group’s demands, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
And according to an alert issued yesterday by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, the AFA is worked up about another alleged injustice. This time, it’s Target and its holiday-celebrating ways.
The AFA is already claiming success:
Your efforts are having an impact. USA Today (11/16/05) announced that “Target alarmed investors by saying projected sales at stores open a year in November would miss the estimated 4% to 6% growth. Shares of Target fell $4.13 to $54.30.” (A 7% drop.)
Target’s ban of the Salvation Army and “Merry Christmas” expresses the same attitude toward Christianity as that held by Michael Newdow, who wants to ban “In God We Trust” from our currency and “under God” from our Pledge of Allegiance.
AFA is asking individuals to boycott Target during the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend-the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Please share this request to boycott Target on that weekend with friends, family and members of your church and Sunday school class.
Emphasis theirs. And though this year they’ve added the “Merry Christmas” issue - it was talked about last year too, just not included in the Action Alert - one year ago, I wrote this same post. I think it holds up pretty well, so I’m including it in its entirety here:
I just got back from lunch. On the radio I heard an ad asking that we boycott Target and visit Wal-Mart instead. The fundamentalist Christian community is up in arms that Target has banned Salvation Army solicitors from their stores. Even some liberals seem to be upset about the ban, but mainly it’s the fundamentalist Christians. Myself, I don’t much care. I don’t really see it as anti-Christian on Target’s part (their corporate statement is here [link is dead, so replaced with this year’s Salon article]) and if I were to take up the cudgel of free speech in the private sphere, it wouldn’t likely be on behalf of an evangelical Christian charity.
It surprised me to hear this locally produced issue advocacy ad on our little country radio station. “Star Station” WLRR 100.7 is a one man operation run from a personal computer out of his home by Craig Baker. The station plays “standards” (in monaural!) that seem so old as to all be in the public domain. I talked to Craig last year when I was looking for work and, as an advocate of local independent media, I was impressed with what he put together and enjoyed what he had to say.
He believes the most important part of his programming is his commercials. He has no DJs so they are the only original content he’s got. He goes out and records, edits and writes them on his own, on the spot, with the local merchants. Now that’s local radio. The ads all have personality, reflecting this time and place like no other media around here. One of my favorites is for Farmers and Merchants Bank, which is touting how it’s now technologically up to date because it just added “telephone banking.”
I’ve listened to the station since I’ve lived here and Craig was right, I listen for the commercials. Lately I’ve noticed a decidedly Christian turn to the station. Maybe Craig’s found a new market and is selling them ads like hotcakes. Maybe he’s playing to his Bible-belt audience. Maybe he’s a fundamentalist Christian himself (the topic didn’t come up in our conversation though I pointedly mentioned my gay partner). I don’t know. What I do know is the station’s quite popular; Craig knows his market. And Target knows theirs. My friends, who like me travel to Macon to shop at Target, all want one to open up here. I won’t hold my breath.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
A wedding today
I just came from a wedding. A beautiful ceremony, it was performed by a gay man; his life-partner was in the congregation. There for the first time I was struck by the irony of his exclusion from the institution he was celebrating. The legal ceremony he was performing. For a man and a woman.
My friend is an ordained minister in the Unitarian Universalist Church. I have another friend here, an open lesbian, who is a Baptist minister. Their faith is deep and heartfelt. They are warmly embraced in their religious communities.
The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. “Gallup and Barna,” laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, “hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.” Divorce is more common among “born-again” Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers.
Like the closeted homosexual (often Republican) who is quick to point fingers, condemn and persecute (and pass laws) in an effort to disguise his own proclivities, it strikes me that these sinful evangelicals are the problem. On the other hand:
George Barna has developed a set of criteria to identify people with a “biblical worldview.” These people believe that “the Bible is the moral standard” and also think that “absolute moral truths exist and are conveyed through the Bible.” In addition, they agree with all six of the following additional beliefs: God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who still rules the universe; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; Satan is a real, living entity; salvation is a free gift, not something we can earn; every Christian has a personal responsibility to evangelize; and the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches.
...The good news is that the small circle of people with a biblical worldview demonstrate genuinely different behavior. They are nine times more likely than all the others to avoid “adult-only” material on the Internet. They are four times more likely than other Christians to boycott objectionable companies and products and twice as likely to choose intentionally not to watch a movie specifically because of its bad content. They are three times more likely than other adults not to use tobacco products and twice as likely to volunteer time to help needy people.
Now I don’t doubt that these people with the “biblical worldview” will vote against me on an anti-gay marriage ammendment, but they are not the problem. They are to be respected, admired and courted.
I lost a life-partner to AIDS. Most in his family were practicing Brethren, and conservative Christians of the latter sort.
What was so moving to me at the time was how they used their faith and their religion to deal with a very difficult situation - the loss of a son, brother, nephew and grandson. Grappling with their belief in the sinfulness of his sexuality. And their acceptance of me, his male lover.
They still won’t vote the way I’d like them to vote, but now nearly twenty years later I will go see them at Christmas.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Alabama, Day 5
The most damning argument against capital punishment as a deterrent is that states with the death penalty generally have higher rates of murder than states without the death penalty. In 2003, for example, the murder rate in the 12 states without the death penalty was 4.1 for every 100,000 people. In the 38 states with the death penalty, the murder rate was 5.91 - 44 percent higher.
Even among death penalty states, those that carry out executions the most tend to have the highest murder rates.
The death penalty is most popular in the South, accounting for more than 80 percent of all executions in the nation. Yet Southern states also have the highest murder rates, according to the FBI. In fact, in 2003, the South was the only region above the national average - with a murder rate that was about 50 percent higher than the Northeast, where the death penalty is least popular.
I so very much admire them for their principled thorough well-reasoned series; and for taking the time to make their case over 5 days. Bravo!
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Alabama Day 4
Since 1973, 121 inmates in 25 states have been released from Death Row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. In addition, thanks to DNA testing, dozens of others have been cleared in nondeath-penalty cases - exonerations that have called into question the reliability of eyewitness accounts, co-defendant testimony and even confessions in all kinds of criminal cases.
To put it simply, our system of justice isn’t as foolproof as many of us once thought. That’s why more than a dozen states have launched reviews of the death penalty, as more and more people come to understand that bias, poor legal representation, questionable tactics by authorities and charged emotions can send innocent people to jail and potentially to their deaths, while leaving guilty people walking the streets.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Alabama Day 2 (&3)
One of the most dangerous flaws in Alabama’s capital punishment system is the lack of a statewide public defender system. Instead, the state offers a hodgepodge, bare-bones way of providing lawyers to defend poor suspects. These court-appointed lawyers often have little experience in capital cases, and limits on pay discourage highly qualified lawyers from taking cases. Worse, there are no guarantees after the first round of appeals that an inmate even will have legal help.
I’m in Georgia, not Alabama. We have six prisons in our little town. And not one prisoner advocacy organization.
UPDATE: Reading at night, I got confused with my days. Above is actually Day 3. Here is Day 2, Many murders, few executions:
The death penalty isn’t applied fairly in Alabama. If it were, the horror of a particular crime and the guilt of a particular defendant would determine whether a case ended with a sentence of death. Instead, the outcomes often hinge on the status of the accused, the quality of the defense, the race of the victim, even the location of the crime.
Those who revere life in all its precious forms, as this editorial board does, should be troubled by the deep defects in Alabama’s system of dealing with cases that can end in death.
Who gets the death penalty - and who doesn’t - is a monumental issue across the country. It’s especially important in Alabama, a state that sentences more people to death and has more death penalty crimes than most other states.
I live in a town where the only way to get the election results is to go to headquarters. No websites update the vote tally. No local TV, or even local access, covers it. Macon broadcasters will have “news at 11.” Takes me back to a different time and place.
So I’ll quote instead our candidate for mayor here, who, when challenged for his lack of electoral experience, deftly appealed to his Bible Belt audience:
“As I said last week, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic,” Bentley said.
UPDATE: He won.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Rethinking the death penalty in Alabama
Over the next five days The Birmingham News will explain why it no longer supports the death penalty:
It’s a matter of law that deeply troubles The News’ editorial board. After decades of supporting the death penalty, the editorial board no longer can do so. Today and over the next five days, we will explain our change of mind and heart.
We know that many of our readers, including families and friends of murder victims, will disagree. We acknowledge we cannot grasp the profound grief experienced by those who lose loved ones in senseless, savage killings. We well understand some crimes are so great that those who commit them don’t deserve to live in the free world ever again, and that some don’t deserve to live at all. Yet we can no longer in good conscience continue to advocate the death penalty in Alabama.
Why? Because we have come to believe Alabama’s capital punishment system is broken. And because, first and foremost, this newspaper’s editorial board is committed to a culture of life.
One tidbit from their data: even in Alabama 80% of those polled think the state could execute someone who is not guilty.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Same sex couples make good parents
“The vast consensus of all the studies shows that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way,” [Ellen C. Perrin, MD, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston] tells WebMD. “In some ways children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures.”
Via Terrance at Republic of T. A Georgia native, he’s one proud gay father. Still:
At one point, one of the relatives remarked that she could tell from watching Parker that we’re good parents. Of course, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be. Yet I can’t help feeling somewhat validated by a study like this. Almost as if it’s needed in order to prove what we already know, but that the rest of the world doesn’t get.
When I was growing up, I was taught that as an African American male there would probably be times when I’d have to be better, faster, and smarter than the next person just to break even and be considered “good enough,” not necessarily to get ahead. I think in some ways the same might apply to being a gay parent.
Probably so. Keep up the good work Terrance.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
A fundamentalist & me
Today I advised a student on buying a laptop. As we were talking I asked what year he was. A Senior.
“Oh, graduating.” I asked, “What do you plan to do?”
He answered that he was already an ordained minister and that since they don’t make much money, much as he loves his job, he’d probably have to earn a second income. So graduate school could be in his future.
Interesting, I thought, in light of the Slate photo-essay on God’s McMansions. While we do have one that aspires to be here, the “Real Life” church, most are quite small. They don’t make much money.
I was aware that I was having this conversation today, on National Coming Out Day. And that this particular student, the ordained minister, is one I happened to overhear last election season telling a friend that the two most important political issues for him were gay marriage and abortion.
Now I’m about as out as you can be—and yesterday a young woman, after attending a “coming out workshop,” decided to try it out on me as I was talking with my evangelical student staff, but that’s another story. Everyone knows Doug and me as a couple on campus.
When I neglected to fill out my form for the campus directory, the
woman in charge secretary, whom I have never met, called to wonder if I wanted my partrner listed with me. I did. And I was moved by the kindness and consideration of the gesture.
So what did I tell the student minister?
I told him to shop around and find a few he liked, then look them up on the Internet and buy the one he determined to be the best. That his budget could be his guide and name brands (even the one the school endorses) are not necessary.
He knows I’m gay. I’m guessing it took a while before he could be comfortable enough even to ask about the computer. He will vote in favor of the marriage amendment again the next time. But I think he’s more reachable today than he was yesterday. And if we keep it up, he may well vote differently one day.
UPDATE: Edited to give credit where credit is due.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Rush’s Georgia “mistress”
She’s apparenlty CNN’s Daryn Kagan:
LIMBAUGH: In fact, I got a note from my mistress in Georgia this morning, who was watching the speech. She said, “This is great. This sounds like you wrote this speech. This sounds like you giving this speech.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Pyramids & pancakes
I was thinking of William Gibson‘s oft quoted “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
And I thought that it applies to talent, only in reverse: Genius is evenly distributed. We just don’t know it yet.
Now the genius I mean includes a whole bunch of things, talent of all kinds: artistic ability, musical ability, craftsmanship, business acumen, you name it. Not so long ago, in order to shine in any of those areas—or, rather, in order to be more widely recognized—you had to leave your hometown and go to the city.
That was a function of our primitive ability to find and produce you; we didn’t have a more efficient structure. And for all it cost to produce you once found, you’d better be a star. Not a whole lot of room there for particular tastes.
The internet has made it possible for us to stay in our own towns and shine.
Lately I’ve been quoting Michael Lewis’s metaphor of “pyramids and pancakes.” It’s a chapter title from his 2002 book, Next: The Future Just Happened, that describes how the successful organization of the future (and the future is now) will not have a top down, pyramidal structure. Rather, the organization will be flat, like a pancake, and draw intelligence from those of us on the edges.
All this comes to mind thanks to a significantly successful week of student media production here in rural Georgia. I am wonderfully and genuinely and joyfully impressed by the quality of their student work. And this is just the beginning; their homemade micro-content is tomorrow’s Media Giant killer.
I’ve been down this road before; cable was once my technology of choice. This is better. I know they’re going to do great things.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
We’ve got six prisons in our town. But not one prisoner’s rights advocacy group. It’s the parole board that’s come up with this:
Under a new policy proposed by the state parole board, people who have been convicted of one of 20 serious crimes would no longer have to serve 90 percent of their sentence before possibly being paroled.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles set the current policy in 1998 when there was political pressure to completely abolish parole in the state.
The public probably won’t let it happen. Among the crimes covered by the proposed new policy is child molestation. Here’s what one Georgia legislator proposed just last week:
House Majority Leader Jerry Keen has a message for sex offenders: Go somewhere else.
The St. Simons Island Republican leader is pitching changes in Georgia’s sex crime laws, from substantially increasing minimum prison sentences for several charges to requiring lifetime electronic monitoring of those who are labeled dangerous predators.
Check out this quote, as
edited clarified by the reporter:
“I hope this law becomes so onerous, costly, inconvenient (for sex offenders) that they leave Georgia. I don’t care where as long as it’s not here.”
Lest you missed it, the irony is his actual words might apply to Georgia’s citizens. The onerous cost will inconvenience taxpayers who pay for the care and feeding, minimal as it is, of the incarcerated prisoners.
Remember, it’s the folks who work with the prisoners—have you met any parole officers lately? They’re not the liberal elite—who are saying let these folks go.
I want law and order too, honest I do. And I don’t want dangerous child molesters running around free. But the cost here is not just money, which is significant; it’s also the human lives sacrificed, all those prisoners sitting in prisons.
I just know some of them are innocent, and some are in on trumped up charges. That’s not right. It’s not moral.
A factory, one that’s been here for 34 years, is closing down at the end of the year. We can’t afford that:
Georgia’s job growth is ranked among the 10 worst in the country, and the industries adding jobs the fastest don’t pay enough to afford the median-priced home, according to a quarterly economic report released Tuesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
For April-June, payroll growth in Georgia was only 0.5 percent higher than the same period in 2004, and less than one-third of the nation’s tempo. Georgia’s pace is behind what it was before the 2001 recession even though more than 400,000 people have come to the state seeking work since then.
Five Georgia metro areas, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Macon and Warner Robins, have fewer jobs than before the recession.
Monday, September 26, 2005
No school today
The governor cancelled it. Democrats think that a bad idea:
“Right now, half of Georgia is saying, ‘Just how out of touch is this guy?’ and that’s going to be remembered,” said Morton Brilliant, campaign manager for Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who is challenging Perdue. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, another Perdue opponent, also criticized the move.
“When he made this hasty decision, Gov. Perdue obviously didn’t take into account the family needs of parents and students and didn’t seem to understand that this could easily create a panic that will drive up gas prices and hurt consumers,” said Kristi Huller, Taylor’s spokeswoman. “Sadly, it’s part of a pattern. With Gov. Perdue, schools, students and families always come last.”
Democrats also argue that Perdue’s call to remain calm in the face of possible fuel shortages caused a rush to the pumps, similar to what happened just after Katrina.
“This is typical of him. He has an idea, he doesn’t talk to anyone, and he does it,” said Rep. Bob Holmes (D-Atlanta), a Clark Atlanta University political scientist.
I’m not a fan of Perdue but I’m not sure what I think of the decision to close schools. There was a Katrina gas rush in my town too; maybe suspending school and the gas tax has kept us calmer this time around.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
The theater here was recently renovated so I’ve been wanting to get back to going out to the movies. I’d like to see Good Night and Good Luck for example.
People here don’t go out to the movies much anymore. They’re not alone:
I think moviegoing is doomed to die off slowly unless Hollywood can come up with a reasonable new experience. As it now stands, I can feed an HDTV signal into a standard Toshiba LCD projector through the composite video ports and blow out a 100-inch 16:9 image on a screen and get a theater experience in the home. With progressive scan or line-doubling DVD players, the experience is phenomenal. Use a DLP theater projector or a large-screen plasma display, and you’re in heaven.
So why do I now want to go to the theater? Do I want to go because it’s more expensive than a DVD rental? Do I want to go for the greasy popcorn coated with trans-fat butter-flavored oil? Do I want to go so I can hear cell phones going off all over the place and people yakking on them? Do I want to go because most of the movies aren’t shown on large screens at all, but in boxcar-sized rooms with screens not much bigger than my projector screen at home? Do I want to go because the sound is turned too loud and pumped through a mediocre audio system?
A friend mounted his living room projector and drop down screen yesterday; his sound system is probably better than the theater’s. Another, a Bollywood buff, cancelled his popular home movie nights until he gets his tenure packet in at the end of the month.
It’s not likely I’ll get them to go out to a theater with me.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
I’ve been especially tuned in to Judge Roy Moore and his Ten Commandment monument since Nightline did a fascinating program about it (the monument, not the judge) last year.
For those who might not know, the monument’s been on tour, hauled around by a guy from American Veterans in Domestic Defense (!) on the back of a flatbed truck. The truck pulls into town, they push a staircase up to the back of it, and folks clamber up top to marvel at the monument.
Or at least they did. The website for the tour, standingforgod.org, sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, but has no reported tour activity since spring. I’ve been visiting regularly to see if the monument might be coming to my town.
The townsfolk sure would like it if it did. Around here, Ten Commandment signs are the lawn ornament of choice; there’s no other issue that has such resonance for local people.
So I read with interest Joshua Green’s Atlantic Monthly feature story, Roy and His Rock. Green rode with the monument ("like riding in the Rolling Stones’ tour bus") through Georgia and Alabama:
When the Rock attends a convention, it is the first thing to arrive and the last thing to leave. The process of moving it is orchestrated by Chris Scoggins, the stocky, bespectacled, and deeply sunburned driver of the International flatbed, who, with his assistant Mike Hill, works for Clark Memorials Incorporated, which carved the monument and now sees to its safe passage.
Typically, an image of the Rock is beamed onto a giant screen before Moore takes the stage. Most of his speeches, and even his idle conversations, obsessively return to it. He has even copyrighted the monument. Today the Rock plays a role weirdly analogous to that of a retired Kentucky Derby winner gone to stud: with Moore’s blessing, it is being cloned for a Baptist group in Atlanta.
Anyone who’s ever presented at a conference or a workshop recognizes the importance of props. Judge Moore, who deeded the monument to the state of Alabama but included a clause that returned ownership to him in the event of its removal from the courthouse, sure got himself one great prop…
Sunday, September 11, 2005
This in the state where people find Georgia Equality’s benign “We Are Your Neighbors” billboard campaign “disgusting.”
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Thomas Sowell on “black rednecks”
I have found Sowell a fascinating character ever since reading, and being utterly convinced by his arguments in, Ethnic America, which was published in 1983.
A comprehensive overview of immigration in America, the book’s conclusions are apparently echoed in his Black Rednecks And White Liberals, published last April. From the Publishers Weekly review:
The title essay posits a “black redneck” culture inherited from the white redneck culture of the South and characterized by violent machismo, shiftlessness and disdain for schooling. White liberals, gangsta-rap aficionados and others who lionize its ghetto remnants as an authentic black identity, Sowell contends, have their history wrong and help perpetuate cultural pathologies that hold blacks back.
In the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal in April, Sowell writes:
For most of the history of this country, differences between the black and the white population--whether in income, IQ, crime rates, or whatever--have been attributed to either race or racism...Three decades of my own research lead me to believe that neither of those explanations will stand up under scrutiny of the facts. As one small example, a study published last year indicated that most of the black alumni of Harvard were from either the West Indies or Africa, or were the children of West Indian or African immigrants. These people are the same race as American blacks, who greatly outnumber either or both.
If this disparity is not due to race, it is equally hard to explain by racism. To a racist, one black is pretty much the same as another. But, even if a racist somehow let his racism stop at the water’s edge, how could he tell which student was the son or daughter of someone born in the West Indies or in Africa, especially since their American-born offspring probably do not even have a foreign accent?
What then could explain such large disparities in demographic “representation” among these three groups of blacks?
The redneck culture proved to be a major handicap for both whites and blacks who absorbed it. Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today’s ghettos is regarded by many as the only “authentic” black culture--and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct.
The people who take this view may think of themselves as friends of blacks. But they are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies.
I tend to agree. And I think liberals should take the culture argument on.
For example: I support abortion rights because every child should be a wanted child. Abortion improves society. I support same sex marriage because gay marriage strengthens all marriage and marriage means a more stable, productive and healthy society.
And I’m inclined to think Bill Cosby is a liberal (I don’t know how he self-identifies) who’s taking on the culture argument. From Nightline last week:
June 29, 2005—It came as a shock to many last year when Bill Cosby, one of America’s top TV dads and comedians, strongly criticized low-income African-Americans, and then took that message on the road.
In a series of “Conversations with Cosby” held in cities with large urban and poor populations, Cosby has said African-Americans are not “holding up their end of the deal” and need to take more responsibility for their families and communities.
Critics call it the “Blame the Poor Tour,” and consider Cosby’s remarks “hurtful and stereotypical.”
Cosby calls his town meetings “call outs” and has traveled to 12 cities so far, spreading his message of personal responsibility.
He has lambasted “lower-economic people,” parents who spend more on athletic shoes than education, and children who use poor English and curse constantly. He has said blacks need to stop blaming whites and take control of their children and their communities.
I respect Cosby for putting his money, his name and his reputation on the line for something he believes will help Black America.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Bobbing for pig feet, the mud pit belly-flop, the armpit serenade - they are all part of the Redneck Games, a series of good ole’ympic events for the ain’t-so-athletic celebrating their 10th year in middle Georgia.
Started as a Southern-fried spoof of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, with a propane torch lighting a ceremonial barbecue grill, the gag games draw tourists like moths to a backyard bug zapper. Organizers estimate 95,000 attended the July event during its first decade in East Dublin, a rural pit stop of 2,500 residents between Macon and Savannah.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
We’re opening a Media Lab in the fall; I’ll manage it. As I plan the student media production, the podcasts and webcasts, I keep in mind what Duncan has to say:
By the way, welcome to the future. I know the future is already here but it’s noticeably more distributed this week. Lisa has a show and I’m going to watch it. I found it through a trusted filter and I enjoyed it. It’s free, syndicated and entirely unmediated. The cost of content production/distribution is rapidly approaching ZERO and I haven’t turned on my television in over a week. Nothing on TV will engage me like something Lisa can and will create. The quality of television has never been better in terms of production value but the content is like a race to the bottom. Who can come up with the worst show ever!? What is it now? Evander Holyfield dancing or something? Sofa king (#2) mindless.
Lisa’s show is Walk Los Angeles with Me and Duncan finds it “wonderfully engaging/bizarre:”
If you think its hack, amateur or stupid then you just don’t get it yet. Turn your computer off and go back to watching TV and don’t say another word about the “main stream media.” Or pick up your weapon of choice and become the media!
My job is to create an atmosphere where our students can explore and become part of that future, and to hold those who “just don’t get it” at bay.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
One man’s truth about Iraq
I ran into a guy, a former police officer from around here who is now training the police force in Iraq. He’s home for a break after a year’s service and returns next month. I asked how was it going?
He’s gung ho.
He says that eleven months ago he thought it was hopeless; that the older guys he’s trained are worthless, it’s the young ones “who have experienced oppression and are ready to fight. The old guys were used to it and just accepted it. They’re worthless.” And being weeded out.
He said he’s more optimistic than President Bush; that “in a couple years, no fourteen months, things will, uh, improve.” My sense was he started out to make a much more optimistic prediction, but pulled back.
He said some things about the people there that I wouldn’t quote even if I could precisely remember them; things not exactly biased or bigoted but that would have sounded so quoted here. He gave me his honest opinion and I was interested to hear it. He was glad to tell it.
He and I wouldn’t likely see eye to eye, but it was an interesting conversation. When it was over I shook his hand, said thanks and wished him good luck.
Living here I am much closer to the people who fight the war than I think I would have been living in New York. I’ve met soldiers on leave at parties; folks I know and work with have sons and daughters over there.
I prefer a draft because I think it is both more fair and just, and that it spreads the cost of war more evenly and makes us consider such actions more carefully.
But I have to say that the people I experience here who are closer than I or over there fighting, they’re foursquare behind it.
Monday, July 04, 2005
DÃƒÂ¼sseldorf and the South
Here are some pieces of advice for my fellow Americans who choose to move to Europe:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Don’t brag to other people about how hard you work. If you go up to someone in Europe and say “I work 10 hours a day, six days a week, 51 weeks a year. Look how much I achieve!” you’ll get the same reaction you would in America if you said “I wash my hands exactly 169 times a day. Look how clean they are! Look! Look!!!”
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Learn your environment. Take into account how much work you can really expect from Europeans. Don’t expect anything to get done in August, don’t expect a response to your email the same day. If you really need to get in touch with someone while they are on vacation, or on the weekend, you won’t be able to. Which means not that they are being irresponsible. It means you don’t really need to get in touch with them.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Change your standards. Realize that when someone complains about being horribly overworked, even though you know they are working about 40 hours a week, accept it. By their standards, they are working very hard. Helpful thought-experiment: Europeans pay about $5/gallon for gas. Wouldn’t you want them to display compassion for you when you complain about paying $2?
My partner Doug spent four of his five years in Germany living in DÃƒÂ¼sseldorf (and I expect that with this post he’ll become a regular reader of Hammel’s German Joys). He loves Germany; and he is a born and bred Southerner.
But my point is this: As a New Yorker living in the South, swap out European and replace it with Southerner. Hammel’s advice is the same advice I’d offer a New Yorker planning on moving to the South.
Oh, except that his thought-experiment doesn’t work for the South. We were just in Manhattan. Gas there was $2.99 a gallon. Here it’s $2.03.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
What would Jesus ride?
In The Future of Freedom, there’s a compelling and well argued chapter entitled “The Death of Authority.” In it, Fareed Zakaria sees a populist evangelicalism that coddles its flock. “People are praised, comforted, consoled, but never condemned,” he writes.
Zakaria follows the evolution of Billy Graham from a “fiery preacher of perdition to a benign father figure” that coincides with his rising popularity and move to radio and television evangelizing, the development of Jerry Falwell’s megachurches modeled on shopping centers to “attract the massed to the gospel,” and Bill and Tammy Fay Bakker’s “Christianity should be fun” hedonism, to illustrate the populist democratization and rising politicization of evangelicalism:
What remains of the old Protestant fundamentalism is politics: abortion, gays, evolution. These issues are what binds the vast congregation together. But even here things have changed as Americans have become more tolerant of many of these social taboos. Today many fundamentalist churches take nominally tough positions on, say, homosexuality but increasingly do little else for fear of offending the average believer, whom one scholar calls “the unwashed Harry.” All it really takes to be a fundamentalist these days is to watch the TV shows, go tothe theme parks, buy Christian rock, and vote Republican.
A story from the Faith and Values section of the AJC today (which also features an interview with Southern Baptist Convention president Bobby Welch in which he calls Jim Wallis an “ignoramus who is wedded to socialist-mandated policies") asks, What would Jesus ride?
It’s hard to be still at Atlanta Fest, a high-spirited, fist-pumping Christian youth festival that combines roller coasters, rock ‘n’ roll and more than 20,000 young people for three sweltering days every summer at Six Flags Over Georgia. The festival, in its 19th year and its 13th at Six Flags, started Thursday and ends today. It draws about half its attendees from Georgia, the other half from about 12 states, mostly in the Southeast.
One of the few places of relative tranquillity was the Prayer Labyrinth, a covered picnic area in the shadow of the Scream Machine..."The irony is to have this beautiful place in all the chaos of the theme park,” said Nancy Thompson, Atlanta Fest’s director of Christian education. “It’s all very focused on the Word of God, and the responses of the kids overwhelm you.”
Not all the Christian teens go to the labyrinth; some have a more freewheeling approach to a three-day bash at an amusement park that’s coupled with marathon evening concerts with their favorite Christian rock bands, including Audio Adrenaline and Third Day.
“Everybody gets so distracted with the rides and everything,” said Kayla Chambers, a freshman at Rockmart High School in Rockmart.
“Some people are just here for the girls in bikinis,” added her friend Anna Burnette.
Indeed they are.
UPDATE: Another example, today in the NYTimes:
Brian Racer is pastor to Laura and Dave Clark and a local opinion shaper on social issues. He is a tall, rangy 43-year-old man with a big mustache and a conversational style that is casual but enormously self-confident. Racer has a vigorous Christianity-in-society approach, which is illustrated by a recent move he made. When Mel Gibson’s movie ‘’The Passion of the Christ’’ came out in February 2004, he, like many ministers around the country, booked a whole theater in the local multiplex to accommodate the members of his church. But the venue itself—comfortable seats, good acoustics, convenient location—clicked for him. He worked out a rental arrangement with the manager of the theater. So now the Clarks and their fellow congregants worship at the Open Door Bible Church in Theater 24 in the Muvico multiplex at the Arundel Mills Mall. ‘’The teens think it’s pretty cool,’’ he said. ‘’After service they can go have lunch at the food court, then come back to the theater and see a movie.’’
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
We talked Georgia state politics over dinner tonight with a knowledgeable friend. His take is that of Gov. Sonny Purdue‘s Democratic challengers, Cathy Cox is terrific, and stands a chance, except that a bitter primary fight with Mark Taylor will probably destroy both of them. Taylor, in this friend’s view, is a smarmy but smart old-style southern politician.
Sounds like what we need is the Republicans to self-destruct. (Sonny tried with the Georgia state flag.)
Our friend points to the AJC opinion page today, where Bob Irvin, a former Republican state representative and House minority leader calls on Ralph Reed to, “Please withdraw your candidacy for Georgia lieutenant governor.”
Reed, he says, is “simply too divisive” because of “the ongoing scandal over casino money” which is “only the latest, but not likely the last, scandal to surface.”
Irvin, an evangelical Christian, calls Reed an albatross who could destroy the Georgia GOP majority coalition because he is four things that Georgians don’t elect--a lobbyist, a Washington man, an ideologue, and a career politician:
In the last few weeks, I can’t tell you the number of people who have come up to me and volunteered something like, “I’m a Republican, but I’m not voting for Ralph Reed.” Generally, they live in the suburbs, the decisive battleground in this and future elections, but some of them are in South Georgia.
They are mostly long-time Republican activists, people I have known for 30 years or more in the finally successful effort to build a two-party system. Reed’s nomination will alienate them. His defeat will alienate his naive but devoted supporters. Either way, we’re left with a minority.
Howard Dean says Georgia is still in play. Maybe so.