Because I know you are so utterly dying to know (ahem), here's what I'm doing vis-à-vis preparing for the Jeopardy! audition so far. (Mimi: am totes hoping you and Eddie will join Jim and me for drinks/dinner/commiseration at some point while you're here.)
1. Watching the show! We have a new family ritual to carry out every night at 7 p.m. We settle down on Jim's and my bed ('cause we have no TV in the living room... crazy hippies that we are) and I yell out answers and then every five or so questions I apologize for being so obnoxious about it. Really, I am going to have to cut down on the number of times I yell "Suck it, dumbass!" at an "opponent" who gets an answer wrong. I think that sort of behavior might be frowned upon by Trebek and crew.
2. Making flashcards! Seriously. Names and dates-in-office of US presidents, names and capitals of countries of the world. Wanna hear about Azerbaijan? (Capital: Baku. Government: nutty autocracy.) How about William Henry Harrison? ("Tippecanoe and Tyler, too." Contracted a fatal case of pneumonia less than a month into his term. Some sturdy war hero he was!)
3. Freaking out about math! There's apparently a whole scientific statistics-based procedure to go through when wagering some part of one's score on a Daily Double ("Let's make it a true Daily Double, Alex." How I long to say these words some day! And not to have them come back and bite me in the ass like the woeful shaggy-haired kid who ended up with a final score of ZERO in last week's Teen Tournament. I think zero doesn't even get you the home game.). Slate's Matt Gaffney lays it out for hopeful players, but hell, I can't really comprehend what he's talking about while I'm sitting calmly at my computer, let alone under the heat of the klieg lights with some buzzer-happy mouthbreather lurking near my left shoulder. Let's have "Complicated Calculations I am Virtually Certain to Get Wrong" for $800, Alex!
4. Bemoaning the woeful state of my civics/economics/American history education! There are gaps in my understanding of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries you could drive a fleet of Willys Jeeps through. But that's OK; according to this recent survey, I am in good company, if by "good company" you mean "a majority of American high school seniors." Blargh.
5. Coming up with anecdotes and/or Fun Facts about myself! So far: I homeschool my two insane children; I used to have a radio show which I wanted to call "Audio Quicksand" but which had to be called something else (I think I just kind of referred to it as "The RedMolly Show"); I taught a college class on Vikings and medieval Scandinavia; I would rather gnaw off my own right arm than vote for a Republican presidential candidate; and then I'm at a loss. Um, I can eat more mashed potatoes than can anyone else in my family? And live to tell the *urp* tale?
But regardless of the strikes against me--my nearsightedness, my lack of muscle memory, my general fumble-fingeredness--I decided that I would learn to knit anyway. Largely because of the lovely stuff that I've seen created by talented people like Magpie Ima; less largely because of my love for, er, novelty socks (greatest thing about them: they don't need to match! One argyle can be successfully paired with another!).
So anyway, I signed up for a learn-to-knit class at The Naked Sheep (just a hop, skip and a jump down Killingsworth from us! How I love living in a real neighborhood in a real city!). Went to the first class. Mastered casting on totally fast. I'm a casting-on demon. Watch out! Then we got to the actual making-a-knit-stitch part, and, er, yeah, well, that was pretty much it.
Teacher: OK, we're going to knit another row of 20 stitches. Me: Um... Teacher (patiently): Yes? Me: Um... what did I do wrong here? Teacher (holding up my sad droopy bit of quasi-knittedness): ...Hmmm. I'm not actually sure. It looks like you dropped a stitch... oh, and you got the tail knitted up in here somehow... and... wow, I really don't know what's going on with this part. Let me just take this last row out and knit it up for you real quick... Me (looking around shamefacedly at my classmates, who include two cloth-diapering earth mamas, a sergeant from the sheriff's department and a TEN-YEAR-OLD, all of whom are knitting frickin' circles around me): *sigh*
So I went home and I practiced. Reader, I practiced. I cast on like a madwoman. I knitted a mean row. I realized I had screwed up and unraveled the row and cast it on again (love that part!) and knitted some more. And by the end of the week, when it was time to meet again, I had finished knitting...
...almost two whole rows. And there was a problem in the first row where I'd done some sort of messed-up manglifying thing, the nature of which was wholly opaque to me.
But I proudly brought my bit of bright orange knitting with me, figuring at least it was something.
Only to discover that, since last we met, my classmates had each produced like seventeen yards of perfectly knitted swatchiness. Mine was a miserable failure. Miserable! And I'd probably spent more time on it than had anyone else!
I spent the next two hours learning how to purl (it's like knitting, but backwards and therefore theoretically harder, but for me it somehow seemed a little easier). I purled for like twenty minutes, slowly and not well, but making progress regardless. And then--alas!--I reached the end of the row and discovered I'd made yet another in a series of massive screwups requiring rescue by a trained professional.
By this time, I think my ineptitude was starting to get on the trained professional's nerves.
Anyway, we left last week with homework: knitting twenty (!) rows in a variety of knit-purl patterns. I had every intention of knitting for half an hour a day so as to produce some fine-quality knitting to show off, but one thing led to another and it was pretty generally a hell of a week, so naturally, this afternoon found me sitting in my comfy chair by the window trying to whip out my assignment before the start of class in an hour and a half.
I cast on. Man! I am good at casting on! I can cast on like nobody's business!
I knitted a row. All well and good. Until something happened with the last stitch--always with the last stitch!--and I ended up having to take out all my stitches and do the whole thing again.
I knitted a row again. I counted quietly to myself.
Fisher and Rhys came into the room and started hurling Legos at each others' heads.
I lost count. I dropped a stitch, or maybe seven. I swore. I think I may have gotten a little teary.
And then I thought to myself: "Self, why do you torture yourself in this way? Why do you insist on adding yet another thing to the ever-growing list of things in your life at which you are no good?* Why must you scribe another line in your litany of failure?"
And then I thought: "Well, I guess there's no good reason to. Screw it. I'm staying home and having a glass of wine."
And that, Reader, is what I did. Let's raise a glass to the failed knitters among us... bottoms up!
*to wit: parenting, keeping the bathroom clean, remembering to scoop the catbox, turning in work before the deadline, remembering to call/e-mail people when I say I will, gardening, drawing, washing the sheets faithfully every Tuesday, maintaining a consistent program of homeschoolized curriculum, sticking to a reasonable & prudent number of drinks, keeping my office tidy, exercising faithfully, avoiding overeating, sending birthday cards on time, marketing my business to new potential customers, speaking in a kindly fashion to my children and other people, sewing on buttons, sticking to a budget, unpacking my suitcase right when I get home from a trip, filling out financial forms, writing 1000 words a day, ensuring my children complete their class assignments on time, displaying a cheerful attitude, spelling "curiosity" correctly on the first try
Well, not my love, per se, but my sanity for the next thirty-five days. Because that is how long I have to wait until the Jeopardy! live audition to which I received an invite today, after taking the fifty-question online qualifying test about three weeks ago.
Stay tuned for updates from my rigorous training regimen, which may or may not include such highlights as me jogging around Portland while wearing a white terrycloth headband, listening to the theme from Rocky and flipping through a stack of homemade flashcards on the illustrious careers of the American presidents. ("Chester A. Arthur, 21st president, 1881-1885! Best known for signing the Pendleton Act mandating a bipartisan civil service and for, er, his truly spectacular sideburns.")
I need five anecdotes about myself. I am seriously having trouble coming up with any that don't start "Well, this one time I was drinking with my friend...". Your suggestions are welcomed.
Also, I am instructed to "dress appropriately for television." What ought one to wear to strike that critical Jeopardy!-audience-friendly balance between "American Idol" and the six-o'-clock news with Your Weather Authority, Powder von Mascaratufts?
So this whole "evil" thing has been weighing on me rather more than the results of a dopey online quiz have any right to do. Especially because my "angelic" dearly-beloved keeps giving me weird sidelong glances and getting all huffy when I tease him about fantasizing about entertainment. (I mean, really... spending valuable daydreaming time thinking about Jonny Greenwood and Chan Marshall... with their clothes on? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, my friends?)
And naturally, one thought leads to another and then one finds oneself musing about the nature of evil and its varying definitions by varying interest groups, from the Genitally Obsessed to the Environmentally Conscious to the Wiccan Threefolders. Is sex evil? What about premarital sex? Homosexuality? Prostitution? Is it evil to drive a car? To buy an imported-from-China unnecessary but highly enjoyable electronic gizmo? To use birth control pills, knowing full well that traces of the hormones they contain are accumulating in waterways and possibly wreaking havoc on innocent previously-non-gender-confused fish*? Is it evil to go merrily about one's business, knowing full well that billions around the world (probably including many of one's own friends and relatives) are, according to a particular read of a particular set of beliefs, destined to roast forever in the pits of Hell? Heck, does evil even exist, or do bad things just happen?
For a cranky old heathen freethinker like myself, the idea of "evil" poses a special problem--it seems that evil is often identified as an external force, intrinsic to the the universe and opposed to an equally externalized "good." The Force and the Dark Side o' the Force; Ahura Mazda and Ahriman; Jehovah and Lucifer; Batman and the Joker; Meatwad and Shake.
But if one considers evil to be not a specific force, but rather a choice and its consequences, then Big Scary Evil immediately loses its power--both its fearsomeness and its lethal attractiveness. Evil doesn't need the trappings of the black-spired castle, the fab black cloak, the sinister laugh.
Evil is as banal as the sweet-faced old Hutu grandfather who points out his Tutsi neighbors to the mob; as omnipresent as the legions of basement-bound keyboard warriors spewing their anonymous hate onto the Internet; as local as the alienated teenager who sits in his bedroom and strokes his rifle's stock and waits.
Evil consists as much of omission as of commission. Evil sees suffering in the world and passes by on the other side.
Evil is swindling an elderly woman out of $1 million for home repairs you claimed she needed, cleaning out her savings and sending her into foreclosure.
Evil is killing an Amur tiger to grind its bones into powder that some misguided idiot will swallow in the hope of enlarging his tiny penis.
Evil is sending troops into battle so ill-equipped that they are forced to capture enemy weapons just to make sure there are enough guns to go around.
Evil is selfishness writ large. But selfishness writ small is just survival.
Evil does not consist of thoughts; it consists of thoughts carried out. You can think whatever insane psychotic shit you want, but once it crosses the brain-body barrier, you have gone from Just a Little Twisted to Seriously Messed Up. And if you can't keep your thoughts from turning into actions, you have problems above and beyond understanding the philosophical definition of evil and should probably check into some nice inpatient program somewhere.
Evil causes harm, and where there's no harm there is no foul. Where there is no choice but to cause some harm, evil fails to minimize the damage. When it comes time to pay the piper, evil shrugs and says "Don't look at me."
Evil is not cognate with "sin." There is a difference between evil and trashy, ill-considered or even self-destructive behavior. Lust? Gluttony? Sloth? Have at it, y'all... you know I'll be right there next to you partying like a snowboarder, or sitting there like a particularly recalcitrant bump on a log, or whatever the occasion calls for.
But, y'know, don't listen to me. I'm evil myself. Some quiz on the Internet said so.
*On a skeptical Science Fridayish note, it should probably be made clear that this "study" consisted of dumping vast amounts of estrogen into a "small lake in Canada" to see what happened to the fish and was not based on any observations made in nature. Also, before you succumb to the siren song of the concern-troll anti-contraception nutjobs who are certain to leap onto this particular hobbyhorse, please note that it's apparently not a big deal to retrofit sewage treatment plants to filter out estrogen.
...sigh... Apparently, according to the authors of this quiz, fantasizing about philosophy is less evil than fantasizing about sex. So woud philosophizing about sex be more or less evil? And wasn't that Augustine's whole raison d'être?
At least now I can provide an objective answer to Diamond Head's (and Metallica's) question: Am I evil? Yes, I must wholeheartedly shout along with James Hetfield, yes, I fuckin' am. (The addition of which two-syllable word completely elevates Metallica's version of the song to another and far superior plane.)
In other news: seriously, at this point I could write a whole blog post about the blog posts I've started composing in my head over the last week and then abandoned. That's what us evil folks do. Eeeee-vil.
Isn't it lovely that there's a day each year devoted to that most bubbly and unreliable of emotions, Romantic Love? Where would florists, Hallmark shops and retailers of novelty panties be without Valentine's Day?
But really, at the heart of it all, beyond the nasty Russell Stover "chocolates" and the limp Honduras-grown roses, romance is all about the hubba-hubba, the bumpin' uglies, the bow-chicka-bow-bow. So it is with the greatest of glee that I offer for your perusal a collection of sexy sex tidbits re: sex.
First of all: Gorillas Gone Wild! Gorillas, like most other animals--including our other non-bonobo primate cousins--usually have sex in what is described scientifically as the "dorso-ventral position," or colloquially as "doggy-style." But two days ago, scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology released photos of two gorillas mating "ventro-ventrally," or "face to face," or "people-style." Awww! Sweet! Romantic! Those big fuzzy lugs are just like us. Except, rather disturbingly, the photos include the female partner's juvenile daughter sitting off to the side and observing, which, ew, that's why Mama and Papa have a door that closes. (Hat tip: Herm.)
Second of all: Texas Smackdown! The Texas Legislature, home of such popular laws as "no buttsecks for anybody" (struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003), has long kept the good people of Texas from being able to legally acquire and use a variety of sex toys. But yesterday, the Fifth Circuit Court struck down the law forbidding the "sale or promotion of obscene devices," finding that this law violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of privacy. For a very funny, uniquely Molly Ivins-style look at the absurdity of this law, check out this edited version of the Dildo Diaries (note that "edited" means "shorter," not "child-appropriate").
Hooray, Texans! Time to celebrate! Might I suggest a celebratory stop at a fine purveyor of adult products such as Blowfish or Good Vibrations?
Third of all: Does your boring relationship need some spicing up? Surprisingly, you can restore that brand-fresh excitement by... um, doing something less boring than what you're used to. From the Department of the Startlingly Obvious comes a study showing that couples who engaged in "novel" activities (such as riding a roller coaster together) experienced higher levels of brain activation and expressed more satisfaction with their relationships than did couples who engaged in "pleasant" but familiar activities such as eating at a favorite restaurant. My prescription for marital happiness? A skydiving trip, followed by purchase of an "educational model" and/or "personal massager" and some serious ventro-ventral action. (Or dorso-ventral action. Whatev. Gotta keep the novelty level high.)
I grew up learning to respect the police. Police officers were our friends; we waved to them from my mom's VW Dasher; we knew we could turn to them in times of trouble.
Sadly, there are those police officers who didn't grow up with good parents like mine and hence never learned to respect other people. They're the ones who end up doing things like putting non-resisting 14-year-old skaterbois in headlocks and shoving them to the ground:
This officer has since been suspended for an "internal investigation." Which, alas, will probably mean "sweep it under the rug for a couple of weeks until everyone gets caught up in the next news story and then pretend it never happened."
Interestingly, this happened in Baltimore--setting of the two best cop shows ever to appear on TV. Those would be "Homicide" and "The Wire." Since we started Netflixizing "The Wire" about three weeks ago, we've just kept bumping the discs to the top of our queue. It's one of the best-written shows I think I've ever seen, and I find myself wondering about the characters even when I'm not actually watching it. But (and perhaps this shows my biases) I kinda find myself rooting for the confused young drug dealer D'Angelo instead of Baltimore's finest.
Another reason we homeschool: we're trying to teach our boys to question all authority. Ours (though, admittedly, that gets annoying sometimes), the media's, the government's, the police's. I think I'll show this to them and ask them what they think.
"OK, so there are 21 calories in each ounce of wine. I pour a six-ounce glass... that's 126 calories. So I can drink ten glasses of wine a day and not eat anything and hey, there we go. Or I could cut down to nine, and then I'd lose weight really fast. Woo!"
"OK, so there are 48 calories in each Oreo*. If I didn't eat anything but Oreos, I could eat... let's see... [Google calculation]... 25 Oreos a day and still lose weight. Rock the hell on!"
"OK, so there's 1 calorie in a 4" piece of celery. If I didn't eat anything but celery, I could eat... oh, hell, who wants to eat that much freakin' celery?"
"OK, so I haven't had anything to eat today except 22 Oreos and six glasses of wine. I've still got some calories to burn. Please pass the hanger steak with shallots and blue cheese... thanks... mmmmm... ooh, mashed potatoes... mmmm..."
*by "Oreos," I obv. mean "Jo-Jos," which are cheaper 'n' better
OK, this has nothing to do with science. Because I haven't finished started writing the Science Friday post yet.
So have three videos, instead. Happy weekend!
I remember making our own punk Barbies with the aid of Magic Markers and a pair of pinking shears. The delights of goth culture lurked in the future then, waiting, waiting, waiting like a red rose petal in the frozen mud, like a razor hungering for the blood. Like, um, a big fat juicy Milk Dud.
In other goth news, I accidentally discovered that there are like seven thousand Christian Death videos on Youtube. I spent the last three years of high school lusting after this fellow (Rozz Williams):
Yeah, that was healthy. Almost as healthy as my obsession with Mike Patton (video mildly NSFW):