Friday, November 12, 2010

Beyond Life and Death (Twin Peaks Finale, S2, ep. 22)

Hey! Look at that! I've got a blog!

You'd think I'd forgotten completely, based on my inexcusable lack of posting. All I can say at the moment is that there's a good reason for the silence on my end, that it's nothing bad - quite the opposite in fact - nor is it related to my writing, but that it's something currently taking up a fair amount of headspace. When I'm able to talk more about it I will.

In the meantime, and beginning next week, I promise to start showing up here more than once a week. Please to accept these patented excerpts for Twin Peaks' final episode. It's been a fun ride, and I'm very grateful that you've taken it with me. The full column will post on Chud this afternoon. Next week brings "Fire Walk With Me," the Twin Peaks prequel film. After that it's on to the next show, and I hope you'll tune in and cast your votes.

And now, excerpts!


I’ve talked for a while about Cooper’s resemblance to a knight, and the show’s willingness to paint him in that light. That aspect of the show comes straight to the fore in Beyond Life and Death; Cooper, Truman and Andy explicitly reference the King Arthur legend in talking about the location known as Glastonbury Grove. Note that there are twelve sycamore trees surrounding the grove, and that in some versions of the Arthur legend there are 12 seats at the Round Table occupied by Arthur’s knights, and one seat left open for the knight destined to find the Holy Grail. This seat was referred to as the Siege Perilous, and Bullfinch’s “Age of Fable: Vol. III” tells us that on the Siege Perilous, “No man could sit but he should lose himself.”. Might the Siege Perilous of Twin Peaks be the pool at the center of the Sycamore Grove? A gateway to a realm where “No man could sit but he should lose himself?” Isn’t that, more or less, what we see happen here by the episode’s ending – Cooper losing his true self? The show’s plot also nods toward Arthurian legend by having Windom Earle kidnap a “Queen” and bring her to Glastonbury grove, which mirrors a story told by Caradoc of Llancarfan inVita Gildae ('Life of St Gildas'), and by Chrétien de Troyes in Le Chevalier de la Charette, in which the evil King Melwas (or “Meleagant”) of “The Summer Country” kidnaps Guinevere from Arthur and brings her to Glastonbury.


Mark Frost’s shooting script for the final Lodge sequence differs fairly significantly from what Lynch ended up filming. You can read the script yourself here, but some of the differences are (I think) worth pointing out. Frost’s script has Sheriff Truman glimpsing an Arthurian sword and shield in Glastonbury Grove. Lynch’s episode contains no such image, denying us any further concrete connections between the show and the Arthur legend. Frost’s script describes the Black Lodge as a kind of personal Underworld. Cooper interacts with what might or might not be the spirit of his dead father, working behind the desk of a rundown, Otherworldly motel. He becomes himself as a ten year old boy, then reverts back to adulthood in a blink (and this is one aspect that remains consistent between Frost and Lynch’s ideas – the notion of time as fluid and ultimately, maybe, meaningless).

Lynch’s episode contains none of this. His Black Lodge sequence strips away nearly all of Frost’s ideas and remakes it as a nonsensical nightmare. It veers away from borrowed symbolism to invent its own symbolism from whole cloth. Logic and narrative collapse in on themselves as Cooper makes his way through identical rooms and navigates endless red drapes, participating in a series of conversations that are like encounters in a sinister Wonderland. The Little Man might as well have asked Cooper why a raven is like a writing desk. By refusing us literal meaning the show somehow manages to create a sense of deeper meaning that we're able to touch the edges of, but not perceive clearly. And yet, the real triumph of this sequence lies in its curiously powerful “antilogic”; none of this makes sense, and yet it somehow does make sense to us on an intuitive, primal level.


By 'ending' where it does, Beyond Life and Death makes Twin Peaks into a kind of twisted palindrome with bookending scenes evoking the senselessness of Evil. Like the Little Man's dialogue above, the show's narrative now reads the same backwards as it does forward: Evil lodged firm in the midst of what should be -would be, in a Just world - a place of trust, safety and shelter. Both the pilot and the final episode in part concern the taking of a young woman from this life, either by murder or by metaphysics. Both of these women are Queens – one of Homecoming, one of Miss Twin Peaks. If you’re willing to give yourself over, to invest in the reality of a finale this unreal, then the show achieves a kind of unsettling poetry in it's final moments. We're left totally unmoored.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On The Wings Of Love & Variations On Relations (Twin Peaks S2, eps. 18 & 19)

Sorry for my total lack of presence here, folks. The work week, yadda yadda...

By way of apology, please accept these poppin' fresh excerpts from today's Lost & Found column:


After several episodes of relative tedium Twin Peaks suddenly rallied this week, turning out two enjoyably idiosyncratic installments that advance the show's mythology, play on the quirks of the characters in a more organic, more satisfying manner than has been typical of late, and deliver both genuine laughs and genuine intrigue. These episodes reminded me of how much fun this show can be when it's pitched at just the right ultrasonic oddball frequency. There's still little of the creeping dread and Zen weirdness that Lynch's directorial hand lent to the proceedings but this still feels more like Twin Peaks than the other post-Leland installments. On The Wings Of Love sees a return to Cooper in conspicuous FBI gear, tape recorded missives to Diane (a ritual that ceased some time ago, and one that Cooper's character practically requires - his natural self-reflection and cockeyed observations finding a perfect outlet/signifier in his tapes), Gordon Cole's return to town, and a reflowering of Cooper's bizarro confidence and zen detective determination.


Earle’s description of the White Lodge paints it as something out of a fairy tale, right down to the de rigueur opening words “Once upon a time.” Earle’s words also paint the White Lodge as something lost and gone from us, and the Black Lodge as something very much present and vital: there was a place of great goodness, there is another place. Whether or not this choice of words was intentional on the part of the writers, whether or not the White Lodge exists in the present, or in the past alone, the effect of Earle’s speech is to create the image of the White Lodge as a kind of lost Camelot – a place of harmony and joy and fraternity, a place not unlike Cooper’s idealized view of the town of Twin Peaks – a “brief, shining moment” that is now legend. In contrast, the Black Lodge exists (in Earle’s speech at any rate) in the here and now. And through this speech we learn that it is a “real” place, a physical location that can be found. Earle’s goals – previously assumed to revolve around vengeance against Cooper – are revealed as far more ambitious in scope. Earle wants to locate the Black Lodge and somehow harness its power. I’m a sucker for stories where mad men seek out items/places of ancient power/evil, and so Peaks’ sudden turn toward Indiana Jones territory presses all the right buttons for me as a viewer.


On another note: I’ll come right out and say it: I love Ian Buchanan. Why isn’t this guy a supporting actor in a ton of comedies? He’s got killer delivery and sly timing and despite emerging during the worst section of this show he’s remained consistently entertaining to me. Yes, Dick Tremayne’s wine tasting adds nothing whatsoever to the show in terms of importance or dramatic heft, but unlike, say, Lana Milford, Tremayne is actually funny. I see that Buchanan was a cast member on “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and I’m not surprised, just disappointed that we haven’t seen him pop up more frequently as a funnyman.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wounds and Scars (Twin Peaks, S2 ep. 17)

The Lost & Found column for Wounds and Scars will be up on by day's end. In the meantime, please to enjoy these delicious, minty excerpts:


We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re close. Following this installment there are only five episodes of Twin Peaks left to go, including the two-hour finale, “Beyond Life and Death”. I’m excited to get there, excited to see David Lynch finally return to the show and restore its previous glory, and I’m looking forward to finally talking in more detail about the strange mythology of this show.

But in order to get there it’s necessary to push our way through an episode like Wounds and Scars. Wounds and Scars isn’t a bad episode of Twin Peaks. There’s nothing that inspires the urge to stab one’s eardrums, as with the Evelyn Marsh storyline, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about the episode as a whole. It feels, for lack of a better word, mundane.

And that’s the overall-criticism I’d level at this stretch of the show in general. It’s mundane. The spark of madness that Lynch and Frost injected into Twin Peaks has dwindled away. The charged atmosphere built up over a season-and-change has dissipated in the wake of Leland Palmer’s death, leaving behind a show that moves with a languid, sleepy-lidded gait and no discernable purpose.

Plenty of stuff happens on Twin Peaks during this stretch of television, but little of it feels as though it matters. Even Cooper’s storyline has dragged, presenting us with a lawman drained of much of his former electric eccentricity and a nemesis who seems content to dash around in goofy disguises and play his flutes in between chess moves.

Where are the wonder and the terror?

The answer to that question lies with Lynch. Without his unifying, disorienting vision – without his singular ability to evoke existential dread and profound bemusement – the show has slowly been foundering. Nowhere in this stretch of post-Leland episodes do we find a single image as awful and powerful as the image of a demonic-looking Laura Palmer. Nowhere in this stretch do we find evidence of the spiritual evil that so effectively infected the show and its viewers.


As if to make sure that we’re paying attention, the show’s writers have Cooper’s doppelganger/evil twin/shadow self, aka Windom Earle, comment on the rejuvenating qualities of “country life,” and so highlighting and triple-underlining for us the notion of Earle as a dark reflection of Cooper. In addition to this we also see that Earle is wearing a ring, just as Cooper does. Recall that Cooper’s ring has a kind of mystic/symbolic importance on this show (Bob and Mike’s relationship was a “perfect circle,” the group of people assembled upon the revelation of Bob’s identity forms a circle, Cooper’s ring – a circle – is taken by the Giant and returned on the eve of Cooper cracking the case, etc. etc.). Does Earle’s ring have a similar, negative mystic/symbolic importance? Signs point to “sure, why the hell not.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Harris Gets Moral

The Onion's AV Club has a quite-good interview with Sam Harris up this week regarding his new book, and his belief that science can help us to find a "universal morality." If you're interested in religion and/or morality on an intellectual/emotional/spiritual level it's worth a few minutes of your time.

I am sure that Harris is a good, decent man, but I don't much agree with his attitudes and beliefs toward religion as a whole. Too often he comes across as a really smart, really articulate zealot - an Evangelist who has replaced his cross with an equation. To wit:

The AV Club: ":Let's say science can and will make factual claims about morality. How then do you implement these moral truths to effect change in the world? Wouldn't these truth claims lead to a kind of moral colonialism where the so-called developed world that has arrived at these conclusions goes around the rest of the world to police or enforce these moral truths in other societies that haven't discovered them yet?"

Harris: "Clearly, if we could do that, we should do that."

This is nonsense, and it's kinda spooky to boot. Harris goes on at greater length on this topic, but the essential point is right there in that one sentence. I suppose we can take reassurance from this, at least: As long as your moral truths align with Harris' you won't need to worry about an invasive occupying force that proselytizes to you and attempts to convert you (sort of like a Crusade, one might say).

Never you mind that Harris' morality involves the sanctioning of the same sort of colonialism that he finds so dangerous when couched in religious terms. And nevermind that you may be wondering to yourself about things like "moral grey areas" and "situational morality" and "white lies" and the fact that different cultures have differing moralities. Native Americans thought that "owning" land was absurd. White settlers thought that they were absurd for having such a hippie-dippie philosophy, and murdered a ton of them. Who was "right"? For Harris it's as simple as food:

Harris: "Multiple right answers to moral questions doesn't at all mean that there's not a clear difference between right and wrong answers. The analogy I give for this is food. I would never argue that there is one right food to eat, but there are clearly many things that are not food that will kill us. The distinction between food and not food is still quite clear and scientifically salient."


Except, things aren't quite so clear-cut outside of these rigidly-and-falsely-defined categories. Doritos are food, but eating Doritos is bad for me (and bad for anyone in my immediate breathing vicinity). So, are Doritos "food" or "not food"? If they are food, but they're "bad" food will I be allowed to eat them because I choose, using my free will, to eat them? Or will Harris come in and act all colonial with me? What if a certain food is a delicacy, but might also kill you? Like, say, Blowfish? Should the fact that blowfish is deadly when not properly prepared mean that no one should be permitted to prepare blowfish? Rationally, we know that it makes more sense to eat nothing but the healthiest of foods all day, every day. How many of us choose to do that, all the while knowing that we're being "irrational" in the process? We're not (totally) stupid. We know Doritos aren't good. But we also know that they taste good. And while that's irrational, its also pretty indisputable. What happens when a certain kind of morality "tastes" good to a group of people, but Harris and Co. decide that its "bad"? Who is the ultimate arbiter in that conflict? Reason? Whose reason? What happens to the losers when they refuse to get with the program?

I could play this game all day. Attempting to place food into two categories as some kind of illustration on ascertainable moral truth is to insist that there are only two types of women in the world: Gingers and Mary Anns (For the youngsters: This is a reference to Gilligan's Island).

And if this is true of food, then how much more true is it of moral decisionmaking? Harris is correct when he says that "Science is done in the context of a larger reality in which we know that there are questions we could not possibly answer, but we know they have answers." He is also correct to insist that the lack of an answer is no excuse for not seeking one.

Where he is arguably incorrect is in assuming that stating this sort of stuff absolves him from explaining why science is allowed to take this stance ("We can't explain it! But we know that there's an answer! And that answer is...maybe...string theory?") while religion is to be mocked and/or dismissed for the same sentiment ("We can't explain it! But we know that there's an answer! And that answer is...we think...God?").

/End Rant.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Qur'anathon Day 4: In A Gadda Da Vida

"We said: "O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression/but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrong-doers/and do not approach this tree, for then you will be of the unjust."

- Al-Baqara 2:35 (varying translations)

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." - Genesis 2:17

There are some striking narrative similarities between Torah, Bible and Koran. All three holy books contain references to Adam, Adam's primacy in God's creation, the naming of things, a blessed Garden, and the Tree of Knowledge. Missing from the Qur'anic account of this story: the name of Adam's wife. I'd be curious to understand why Eve's name is omitted from the Qur'an. Is it because "Eve" was a name given to Adam's wife at a later date in time? Are Eve's actions responsible for "the fall," as they appear to be in the traditional interpretations of Bible and Torah? That does not seem to be the case here, according to my reading of the text. The "blame" for their temptation is ascribed to Satan/Shaitan/Iblis, but it would seem from the text that both Adam and "his wife" were equally guilty in breaking God's rule.

Also of interest to me: The result of eating from the Tree of Knowledge (known only as "this tree" in the Qur'anic text) seems to differ greatly when one compares the Torah/Bible scripture with its Qur'anic equivalent. Eating of the Tree of Knowledge in the Bible/Torah leads to death. This is stated (as far as I can tell) unambiguously across multiple English translations. In the Qur'an, however, the punishment is not death - it is, variously, "harm and transgression," becoming "wrongdoers," and becoming one of the "unjust."

"And seek assistance through patience and prayer, and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones," - 2:45

I've been reading "The Case for God," by Karen Armstrong, and upon reading this portion of scripture I was reminded of Armstrong's assertion that achieving a feeling of transcendence - learning to practice true religiosity - is hard work, in the same way that learning to sculpt or paint with some acumen is hard work. I like that the Qur'an advises us of this. I like that it reminds us of the difficulty inherent in transcending Self and achieving communion with Divinity. One of my personal quibbles with religion as practiced by some of my fellow Americans lies in the total lack of difficulty, committment and devotion required of its practitioners. There's a real sense that God has been transformed into an all-knowing Slot Machine; people are told that God will give them whatever they want if they just keep tugging the lever/praying away.

That view of religion seems like "cheap grace" to me, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer ("Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! And the essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite."). It demands little-to-nothing of practitioners, and it creates (to my mind) a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Enough high-horsing from me. Back to the text:

"And remember, We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh: They set you hard tasks and punishments, slaughtered your sons and let your women-folk live; therein was a tremendous trial from your Lord." - 2:49

It's not just Adam and the Garden that get mentioned in the Qur'an, much to my surprise. Al-Baqara also takes pains to link the God of the Qur'an directly to the God of the Torah/Old Testament. Unlike the Bible/Torah, the Qur'an does not have any apparent desire to educate its readers as to what Adam or Moses' story was in any detail. Instead, as noted by Talif Khalidi in his introduction, the Qur'an assumes familiarity with these stories and uses them to underline its points. We'll talk more about Moses in the next post. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Have you anything to share with me and with the readers that might shed light on what we're reading? Are you finding these posts interesting/worth continuing? I welcome your thoughts, your observations, and your questions.

Back To The Theater

I love me some Godfather, some Star Wars, some Indiana Jones, but the film trilogy that has always delighted me most consistently is probably Back to the Future. I adore everything about the first film and consider it to be a near-perfect piece of entertainment. Relentlessly smart, overwhelmingly charming, Oedipally-icky and rib-ticklingly funny, Back to the Future is a Classic Film. And on October 23rd and 25th, Back to the Future is returning to American movie theaters.

That's heavy, Doc.

I've already bought my tickets - why don't you join me? Let's celebrate a classic film together.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welcome, U.S. Department of Justice


In the words of Mel Brooks, I'd like to extend a Laurel, and Hardy handshake to the good folks at the U.S. Department of Justice, who seem to have stumbled across this humble blog in their search for the meaning of "alif lam mim."

You may recall that I blogged about these undefined letters on Day 2 of the current Qur'anathon.

If the individual who chose to enter Verbosity based on the presence of that search term decides to stick around, I'd like to encourage them to comment as they see fit. I'm always happy to have more intelligent, inquisitive and compassionate people here. The next Qur'anathon posting will happen once I've submitted this week's Lost & Found column and attended the eagerly-awaited Deftones/Alice in Chains show scheduled for Friday evening.

Be good to one another,


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Qur'anathon Day 3: Al-Baqara (The Cow) Continued

"And remember when God said to the angels: 'Kneel before Adam'; they knelt, all except Satan, who disdained, grew proud and became an unbeliever."

That's an interesting passage, because it lines up nicely with the commonly-held Christian belief in Satan as a fallen, prideful angel who refused to bow before the primacy of mankind.

More interesting, to me, is that this commonly-held belief has developed extra-biblically - meaning that the Bible itself does not explicitly support the notion of Satan in Miltonian, Paradise Lost terms. Christian belief in this conception of the devil is founded in passages like 2 Enoch 29:4 ("And I threw him out from the height with his angels, and he was flying in the air continuously above the bottomless."), and Isaiah 14:12-15 ("How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.").

Compelling and poetic as these passages are, they don't serve to establish the familiar Satan-as-Bigot-Against-Mankind meme that's now (somewhat inexplicably) so much a part of modern Christian theology (for more on the historical context of these Biblical passages, check out this relatively-informative posting from Pastor Doug Roman). But it seems as though the Islamic faith has a firm textual basis in just such a belief - and it comes from Al-Baqara. I wonder how many zealous, anti-Muslim Christians realize that there's more textual support for Satan as prideful fallen angel in the Qur'an than there is in the Bible?

A Brief Conversation on Surveillance

Co-worker 1: "You know they put in a bunch of new security cameras all through Penn and Grand Central Station? I feel so much safer."

MMorse: "We're turning into London. They've got cameras all over the place these days."

1: "They should put up more. These cameras are so good they can zoom in on you and see, you know, what you're wearing and what color your clothes are..."

Co-worker 2: "Doesnt that bother you though, in terms of your privacy?"

1: "No, not really as long as the cameras are in public and not in my house."

M: "What if there's a camera in public that can look into your house?"

1: "What do you mean?"

M: "Well, what if there's a camera in the street in front of your house? You just said they can zoom in, so what if they zoom in on your house?"

1: "Oh, that's okay. I keep my curtains drawn all the time."

That's verbatim.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Qur'anathon Day 2: Alif Lam Mim & Al-Baqara (The Cow)

Welcome back to Verbosity's Qur'anathon!

Twice a week I'll be posting on my thoughts as I read the Qur'an. It's already been an enriching and educational experience. For instance, I now know that "Qur'an" is preferred over "Koran," and future posts will reflect that fact out of respect.

On Tuesday we examined a tiny portion of the history surrounding the Qur'an, and I wrote briefly about The Opening - a poetic invocation which begins the text.

Today's posting concerns two topics:

1) Alif Lam Mim, and
2) The first several ayat of the first Sura, known as Al-Baqara, or "The Cow."

Alif Lam Mim, the "words" (actually letters) that appear at the beginning of The Cow, are known as Muqatta`āt - literally translated as "abbreviated," or "shortened." If my understanding is correct, the meaning of these Muqatta`āt is unclear, but some Muslim opinion has it that their inscrutability may hide secrets of the Divine (a notion that I like very much, and which reminds me in a way of YHWH, a Hebrew abbreviation for the "true" name of God whose pronunciation was lost to time). Other sources contend that the meaning of these letters is not knowable, and that assigning "Mystical" meaning to them is pointless. You can read more about this intriguing and fittingly-obtuse phenomena by clicking HERE or HERE.

The "Chapter" title Al-Baqara (The Cow) may refer to the golden calf worshipped by the people of Moses, or it may refer to another cow which was somehow used to reanimate the dead (Reason 1 for enjoying the Qur'an: cows are used to reanimate the dead). Wikipedia seems confused on this point. No less confusing are some of the opening verses of this Sura:

"Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them." 2:07

"if Allah had pleased He would certainly have taken away their hearing and their sight; surely Allah has power over all things." 2:20

"And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful. But if you do (it) not and never shall you do (it), then be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers." 2:23-24

And now, going back to The Opening for a moment...

"Merciful to all,
Compassionate to each!"

Really? How does this (admirable, beautiful) invocation square itself with what comes after it, in Al-Baqara? If God has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes.." then does that not imply that it is God who is responsible for a person's unwillingness/inability to hear the "Good News" offered by The Qur'an? And if this is so, then how may we assume that God is "Merciful to all, Compassionate to each"?

We're dealing in antitheticals here - something that Verbosity reader Katie (author of the excellent blog "All Shall Be Well," linked below in the sidebar) pointed out on Day 1. How is God merciful to all and simultaneously proactively sealing people's hearts and blinding them and making them deaf to the revelation He offered to Muhammad? If Allah is compassionate to each then what's with this whole "fire made of stones and men" (a great, grisly image) thing?

This dichotomy - between boundless mercy and endless suffering - is one that has fascinated me since I first picked up a Bible and began exploring its pages. How can a Divine being be both fully-benevolent and yet also potentially malevolent to such extremes? Philosophers and Theologians have spent millenia wrestling with these questions and have spun out countless theories to accomodate for this weird discrepency, either by explaining it or by criticizing it. This split between a God who seems to want nothing but the best for his children, but who is also creepily-eager to blind his people personally so as to prevent them from recieving his grace, is bizarre and compelling and Mystical in the capital-M sense of the word.

One way to explain this discrepency is to assign both "positive" and "negative" aspects to the Divine. Another is to claim that God is ineffable, incapable of being fully understood in aspect or in motivation. Still another is to suggest that God is "merciful to all, compassionate to each" person who accepts his Divinity and lives by "the straight path," but this explanation fails to account for the actions of a God who seems comfortable stacking the deck by making some of his children fundamentally incapable of finding said-path.

What do you think? Is this seemingly-irreconcilable split explicable? Are we dealing, ultimately, with what amounts to a description of Nature itself - both its bounty and its wrath? How do you reconcile this?

They Eat Their Own

Here’s some interesting news. Karl Rove and GOP favorite Mike Castle (R-Del) are now apparently “Republicans In Name Only,” or “RINOs.” If you’re not familiar with the term “RINO,” good for you. It means that you don’t spend much time reading the invective of crazed, double-thinking internet columnists and commentators. Basically, it’s the nastiest thing you can say about a Republican other than to claim that he’s “a liberal” (Oooooh).

After Christine O’Donnell’s “surprise” victory in the Primaries this week, Rove had this to say:

“It does conservatives little good to support candidates who at the end of the day while they may be conservative in their public statements do not event the characteristics of rectitude, truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for… I mean, there were a lot of nutty things she has been saying that just simply don't add up... I'm for the Republican, but I got to tell you, we were looking at eight to nine seats in the Senate. We are now looking at seven to eight in my opinion. This is not a race we're going to be able to win.”

Pragmatic, strategic, analytical. These were all strengths for Karl Rove. Now, thanks to Tea Party fever, they’ve become severe liabilities. If you need any indication of just how divided the Republican party is at this point in time you need only to read the following comments from some of the Right Wing's craziest, most craven commentators:

Sean Hannity: “He sounds like a liberal, blaming other people!”

Sarah Palin: “"Well, bless his heart…We love our friends, they're in the machine, the expert politicos.”

(Note: “Bless his heart” is, as everyone knows, the Southern equivalent of “F*ck him.”)

Michelle Malkin: “Rove came across as an effete sore loser instead of the supposedly brilliant and grounded GOP strategists that he’s supposed to be. Expect more Washington Republicans to start sounding like Tea Party-bashing libs as their entrenched incumbent friends go down.”

Machelle Malkin Part Deux: “The conservative base is in full-scale revolt. This is a good and healthy thing. Close political observers of and on the Right know that the revolt against Big Government/Open-Borders Rove/Bush-ism has been brewing a long time…”

Really? A long time? You mean since they left the White House? Rove was practically the patron saint of Conservatism only two years ago. Now that he no longer serves the Corporate interests of folks like the Koch family (the ostensible creators of the Tea Party movement, and about the least "Populist" clan you can possibly imagine) and Rupert Murdoch he's apparently meat for the the beast.

Some of the comments from my Fellow Americans are as revealing as they are disturbing:

“This was stunning! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Rove cranked up a one man smear campaign on live TV…”

“He’s went so dirty and combative .. I’m still reeling.”

Hey Karl, wake up and smell the Patriots! We're having a Revolution on November 2nd! And if the Voting Booth doesn't work, we'll go the old fashioned way.”

See what I mean? Revealing and disturbing. I empathize with the anger that many people in the “Tea Party” are feeling toward “the Establishment.” That anger is, frankly, well-founded. We’re in the midst of an economic recession that’s cost many, many people their jobs, their homes, and their feeling of overall safety. Our government is largely geared toward serving Corporatist interests over and above the interests of The People. Our elected representatives have consistently sold out their constituents for a piece of the Wall St. pie.

All of these are reasons to be legitimately furious.

And yet, the cognitive dissonance on display here is staggering. The notion that Republicans could be stunned by Rove playing perceived “dirty tricks” tells me that the people making these comments willfully ignored the countless instances during Bush’s administration in which Rove did just that. The fact that the economic difficulties we’re now facing as a country can be laid in large, undeniable part at the feet of a Republican administration who spent trillions of dollars on a war that was obviously, blatantly, desired and so poorly justified as to have been laughable – not simply in “hindsight,” as many of our spineless Media spokesheads are so fond of claiming in an effort to extricate themselves from deserved culpability, but at the time of its inception – seems not to occur to these people at all.

Where were they when billions of dollars in US currency was being lifted on pallets into Iraq, and then “stolen”? Or when the American military was being ignored in favor of private Military subcontractors with no obligation to follow long-standing and honorable codes of combat and conduct? Where were they when Rove and his slimy compatriots were working overtime to baselessly smear John Kerry in the 2004 election? Where were they when New Orleans was left to fend for itself, post-Katrina? Where were they when the crackdown on Civil Liberties – a crackdown that included the denial of entry into public Presidential speeches and the unconstitutional monitoring of communications, to name just two – that they now (in theory) decry was in full swing, was in the implementation phase, was in a “possible to be stopped” phase? Where were they when the financial bailouts they now rail against were being railroaded through Congress by the President they elected and the strategist that served him?

Why, they were cheering for Karl Rove of course. They were a-wavin’ their flags and shouting down all dissent as “un-American.” Remember that? Remember when criticism of Presidential policy was tantamount to treason for these folks? Because they sure don’t.

These days it’s all “we have the right – nay the duty – to fight against injustice!” When their Fellow Americans were suffering, were confused and angry by their own government’s willful, mocking refusal to listen, they were content to tell those people to shut up. But now that they’re suffering the ill-effects of their own misguided “Patriotism,” and now that a black man has entered the White House, it’s apparently time to burn everything down.

Then there's the fact that this "Populist uprising" is funded by anti-Government billionaires (the Kochs, the very "elites" these Tea Party folks claim to hate) and promoted with vicious regularity by Fox News - a multinational corporation whose business interests align nicely with all of this craziness.

Neither of these groups has the interests of "the little guy" at heart. They are gleefully, openly exploiting the base fears and anger of a population that has reason for their anger.

Well, isn't that just...despicable? Deplorable? Depressing?

Pick a D-Word.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Pale King Crowned

Mark your calendars with me - April 15, 2011 brings the release of David Foster Wallace's final novel, "The Pale King." The jacket art, designed by Wallace's widow Karen Green, is pictured above.

If I were to name the authors that have most influenced my thinking, my writing, and my very being David Foster Wallace would probably top that list. His unflinching humanism, his unceasing curiousity, and his erudite sense of humor are inspirations to me in my life and in my work. I felt palpable loss when I heard the news - something that hasn't happened since the death of Jim Henson.

If you're unfamiliar with Wallace's work may I suggest reading one of his more accessible pieces? Fans of Twin Peaks will likely enjoy his in-depth examination of David Lynch, which you can read right here (in truncated form), free of charge. And if you enjoy that I highly recommend picking up "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."

You're missed, Mr. Wallace.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Qur'anathon Day 1: An Introduction and The Opening

Twice a week I'll be offering my thoughts and opinions on the Koran. If you'd like to follow along with me, or just want to refer to the Chapters (or "Suras") I'm discussing you can read along using this online resource. The translation I'm reading is by Tarif Khalidi, and while I've only read a fraction of it I can already recommend it.

Today's post is meant to hopefully give all of us a little background information on the Koran itself, before touching on The Opening - a short, poetic invocation that precedes the first Sura of the text. Thursday's post will focus on the first several ayat (or "verses") of the first Sura.

The word "Koran" (alternatively: Qur'an, Kuran, Quran, Coran...) means "recitation." Muslim believers (if Wikipedia and other online sources are to be trusted) believe that the Koran serves as the "verbal book of divine guidance and direction for mankind." It is named "The Recitation" due to the belief that the Koran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad through the oral recitation of the angel Gabriel over "a period of approximately twenty-three years." Muhammad then dictated these revelations to his "companions," who memorized them and eventually committed them to the written word - supposedly "shortly after [his] death."

Interestingly, and unlike the Christian tradition, there seems to be little disagreement among scholars over which "version" of the Koran is the "correct" version, since Caliph Uthman ibn Affan's order to preserve an official, standardized text appears to have resulted in an admirable degree of continuity and sameness between whatever competing versions exist.

One of the most striking features of the Koran - immediately evident even to my untrained eyes - lies in its nonlinear structure. Unlike the Torah or the Bible, the Koran makes no attempt to present an accounting of events in a linear, "historical" manner. We do not begin at "The Beginning." In this way the text presents itself as being without beginning or ending - a choice that pleases me immensely and that makes manifest in the structure of the text the sort of all-encompassing divine power that the body of the text purports to convey.

The Koran begins with "Basmala," an Arabic phrase meaning, depending on the translation "In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful," or (in my translation) "In the name of God, Merciful to all, Compassionate to each!" and each of the Suras (except the ninth, apparently) follows this pattern - an invocation to the God who gifted this book to mankind. I find the Arabic phrase beautiful to the ear and the eye - a poetic word that encompasses an impassioned statement.

Today's posting focuses solely on The Opening - a short prayer that's quite lovely:

"Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds:
Merciful to all,
Compassionate to each!
Lord of the Day of Judgement.
It is You we worship, and upon you we call for help.
Guide us to the straight path,
The path of those upon whom Your grace abounds,
Not those upon whom anger falls,
Nor those who are lost."

Lovely, right?

I'm especially fond of the phrase "Lord of the Worlds." I assume this refers to the "worlds" of the heavens, the earth, the "underworld" and perhaps the various planets known to Islamic society at the time of the Koran's writing (this is pure conjecture on my part). I'm also fond of the way in which the The Opening immediately and unambiguously asks to be kept from the path of "those upon whom anger falls." The Opening gives the sense of a man's longing for a peaceful heart and peaceful path to walk upon.

Islam has a reputation among certain peoples as being a "violent religion," but this Opening would seem to refute such an easy labeling. Such a designation strikes me personally as ignorant/disingenuous - not because some practitioners of Islam are not violent, and not because (I assume) there are passages in the Koran that I will discover to preach violence, or seemingly condone it, but because EVERY religion shares these qualities, and yet we lend to religions such as Christianity or Judaism an implicit understanding that the actions of radicals and the radicalism of some portions of these texts do not reflect on the entirety of a religion or its adherents.

Opening the Koran

Did you pick up a copy of the Koran/Qur'an this weekend?

If you're like me you don't know very much about this book. You're maybe aware of some of its more famous and/or infamous passages, you're probably aware of the millions of peaceful practitioners of Islam, and you're almost certainly aware of its fringiest, most militant elements.

But how well do you know the actual book and its contents?

"And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture." - The Koran, Surat Al-Baqarah 2:78

Fair enough. No more assumptions from this illiterate. I intend to attempt a rudimentary understanding of this revered book. Care to join me?

Starting tomorrow I'm going to begin reading the Koran and briefly commenting on it here - an exercise that I think will be interesting and conversation-provoking; illuminating for myself and, I hope, for some of you. Twice a week I'll read and comment on one or two Surahs (also spelt as "Sura," and the equivalent of the English word "Chapter") from the above-pictured translation of the Qur'an, and I'll invite you to read and comment with me. I expect that when I'm done I'll turn my attention to both the Bible and the Torah - books that I'm much more familiar with overall.

This is in no sense an attempt to convert any of you into "believers." I will not be endorsing religion or excoriating the non-religious, except to the extent that I will gladly celebrate those passages I find inspirational/beautiful/moving, and will likewise be critical of those passages which I find troubling/confusing/contradictory. I welcome my atheist and agnostic brothers and sisters to join in this little experiment with me. A lack of belief in the divinity of the Koran does not negate the text's importance to human history (past, present and future) and as always your thoughts and opinions are encouraged and desired. What do the words of these books make you feel? Are you able to separate out your feelings (both positive and negative) regarding the institutions that surround these books in order to approach them solely as texts? These are just some of the questions I'd like to ask of you as we go. I'd love to hear your thoughts and recieve your own questions.

In short, I'd like to have a discussion. I'm hoping you'll want to join in it with me, whether you're a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Deist, a Buddhist, a Wiccan, an Atheist, an Agnostic, a Rand-ian Objectivist, or whathaveyou. Remember that Verbosity is a place of respect, treat your fellow human beings as you would like to be treated, and know that all are welcome.

Pass The Sentence

You know the drill by now.

This week's sentence:

"He'd never seen a house on fire."

Friday, September 10, 2010

International Buy A Koran Day


Aaaaaand the burning is off once again.

Terry Jones is officially the new Axl Rose. Ten years from now he'll finally get around to it, and overall no one will really care. I can only hope there'll be a future collaboration with Buckethead.

Original Post:

So, "Pastor" Jones is a big ol' waffler.

First he was going to burn the Koran, then he wasn't, now he will, if people don't accede to his demands.

Hmmm....Threatening a malign act unless your demands are met? That's pretty much the definition of extortion. Or terrorism, if you're feeling cheeky.

At this point, I don't care what he does. What I'LL be doing tomorrow is buying a Koran. If you'd like to join with me in refuting religious intolerance then go out, buy a Koran, tell the cashier that you're purchasing it to replace any copies that terry "The Waffler" Jones will or won't burn, and take a picture of yourself with it. Send that picture to me at Let's show this namby-pamby nutjob what conviction and tolerance mean.

Lame Is My Name

No column today, folks. The wife and I didn't make it back from our trip until Wednesday, leaving precious little time for watching and writing up the episodes for the week. Rest assured that next week's column will make up for these little speed bumps.

Thanks, as always, for your understanding and for your peepers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

International Buy A Koran Day

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." - Heinrich Heine

For those of you who aren't already aware, a fanatic named Terry Jones is planning an "International Burn a Koran Day" on September 11th. While I support Mr. Jones' Constitutional right to engage in a symbolic act of protest - the same way I'd support someone who wanted to burn an American Flag to make a point - I think he's a loon, and I think that this whole circus is far less about "protesting a religion of the devil," and far more about making Terry Jones momentarily (in)famous.

Inspired by Jones and by the misguided souls who plan to use the anniversary of a national tragedy to indulge in good ol' fashioned, baseless hatred, I'd planned on taking a trip down to the Ground Zero area and standing up for religious freedom there. But here's the problem with that: I'm just adding another body to a mass of people who'll be there with their own agendas and their own lunacies. What would I actually do once I was there? I'd be making a statement with my presence, but I'm increasingly unsure whether that statement would count for as much as it might if I took another approach.

So, instead of delving, probably ineffectively, into the madness sure to be all too prevalent down there - instead of legitimizing, in any way, the protest against the Cordoba House that is scheduled for that afternoon - I'm going to do something that will have a concrete (albeit small), immediate impact: I'm going to BUY a Koran on Saturday.

And I'd like you to buy one as well.

I'd like you to walk into a bookstore and purchase a Koran, and as you do so, I'd like you to say that you're buying it because you're a fan of religious freedom - that you're buying it to replace the copies burned by Terry Jones.

But that's not all. I'd also like you to spread the word. I'd like the people that you know, the people that you write for, The People in general, to know what you're doing and why. I want you to mobilize your friends, and get them to buy a Koran as well. It doesn't need to be nice, or expensive, or new. What matters - what always matters and will always matter - is finding a way to express, to ourselves and to those around us, an affirmation of basic humanity and decency. There will always be those for whom it is a pleasure to burn, as Ray Bradbury once taught us. Let there also always be those for whom it is a pleasure to preserve.

This isn't just about Islam, this is about every persecuted religious group: Quakers, Jews, Catholics, and on and on anon. For every religion there has been a group eager to burn them - symbolically or otherwise. And in every age there have always been those willing to oppose them in word and in deed.

Be one of those people. Join the Buy A Koran Facebook page. Send out a Tweet/email to those you know. Reach out by phone or in person and say to one another "there is power in small, individual acts." Be able to look your future grandchildren in the eye and tell them that you have always supported religious liberty when they ask you about the bigotry of these events.

This Saturday, let's buy more than they burn.

Spread the word.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." - 1 John 4:8

"We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them." - The Koran (3:84 AYA)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

You'll have noticed that it's quiet around these parts. The Lovely Wife and I have been enjoying a much needed (too short) vacation in the great, swelteringly-hot, state of Arizona. Horses have been ridden. Deserts have been explored. Pools have been utilized. Sunburns have been acquired.

Life es muy bueno, in other words. Vebosity will resume it's regularly-irregular posting schedule soon (probably Thursday, if not tomorrow). Until then: Be excellent to each other.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Supernatural Sandman?

It's comic book news/James Hibberd day here at Verbosity, as The Live Feed also reports that Warner Brothers is in the process of acquiring the television rights for Neil Gaiman's Sandman - maybe the single greatest self-contained comic saga ever created (Watchmen fans, commence hating!). Hibberd also reports that Eric Kripke, creator of Supernatural, is in the running to adapt the series for TV.

I love Supernatural for what it is - a pulpy, blue collar, self-aware monsterfest - but there's little of the poetry and lyricism that Sandman contains on nearly every page. That said, deciding to develop this property as a television show (as opposed to a feature film) is an enormously smart idea (in a rather obvious way). Sandman's story is sprawling, epic, and totally unsuited for compression into a two hour running time. Developing it for TV means letting its various-and-sundry subplots, side stories, digressions and quirks breathe in a way that's impossible to imagine on film.

There's a large part of me that would prefer never to see an adaptation of Gaiman's greatest work - who could possibly play Morpheus without inevitably making him less than the sum of his on-the-page complications? How to create the fantastic vistas presented without resorting to fake, ultimately-underwhelming CGI? How to negotiate the sometimes-stunning violence with an eye toward network broadcast (if network is the goal at all)?

And yet, it's Sandman - the one comic book I'd recommend to English majors, aspiring goths, geeks...heck, anyone. It's without a doubt my single favorite work of graphic storytelling, and it could very well be headed into our homes.

I'll watch it, that's for sure.

Fox & Key

James Hibberd's The Live Feed is now reporting that Fox has picked up Locke & Key, the series I "reported" on earlier this week as being in development with Steven Spielberg godfathering, and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman acting as Executive Producers.

Again, this is pretty excellent news. If you haven't tried Locke & Key may I recommend picking up the first volume of the series, "Welcome to Lovecraft"? You can click through my lil' Amazon advertising link and find it there waiting, impatiently, for your peepers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Presidencies of John Adams and George Washington Weigh in on Muslims and America as a "Christian Nation"

"As the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen (Muslims) - and as the said states have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

- 1796 treaty with Tripoli, written under the Presidency of George Washington and signed under the Presidency of John Adams

(And yes, there is some question over the "legitimacy" of Article 11, since it does not appear in the Arabic translation of the Treaty. However, the English version, which did contain Article 11, was signed into law by Adams making any quibbling over this an essentially moot point)

Locke & Whee!

James Hibberd's "The Live Feed" has reported that Steven Spielberg, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have joined forces to create a television show from Joe Hill's comic book series "Locke & Key."

This is excellent news, and I shouldn't have to be the one to tell you about it but as far as I know none of the "typical" sites (AICN, Chud, Collider, Dark Horizons) have noted this.

Locke & Key tells the story of the Locke family and its ancestral home, Keyhouse, the mystery of the keys and doors within that house, and the strange, somehow inhuman, multi-generational enemy that wants something from the family and their home. Fans of Lost and the early work of Clive Barker should be especially excited, as the book is heavily character-focused, steeped in mystery, and not short of grue, humor, or wonder.

Hill is the son of Stephen King, but he's established himself as a solid and popular writer in his own right. His book "Heart-Shaped Box" and his short story collection "21st Century Ghosts" are both worth a look-see. His novel "Horns" is deeply flawed and ultimately (to me) not entirely successful in living up to its initial promise, but it's also very well-written and very readable.

Locke & Key is one of three comics I still buy on a regular basis as individual issues, and if you're at all into the art form I'd highly recommend checking it out. It's available to purchase in collected form through Amazon - why not use my link to get there?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Beck to God

"Something beyond imagination is happening, something that is beyond man is happening. America today is beginning to turn back to God." - Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck said some admirable, reasonable things on Saturday; things like "There is growing hatred in the country. We must be better than what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. We must get the poison of hatred out of us, no matter what smears or lies are thrown our way… we must look to God and look to love. We must defend those we disagree with." I can't find fault in that message, and I wouldn't try.

What I can find fault with, and do find fault with, is the essential emptiness behind those words. It is one thing to pray in public, to make a show of piety; it is another thing altogether to live by your words and demand of yourself real commitment to those words. Beck says that we "must look to love," and perhaps that is an admonishment directed as much at himself as anyone else. But I can't help hearing those words and then recalling these words:

“When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.”

“The only [Katrina victims] we’re seeing on television are the scumbags.”

"The most used phrase in my administration if I were to be President would be ‘What the hell you mean we're out of missiles?’"

"I have been nervous about this interview with you because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. ... And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." –interviewing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim U.S. congressman

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Beck routinely, gleefully, grows the very hatred he decried on Saturday. He spreads the lies and the smears he preaches against. And he spends precious little time "defending those who disagree" with him. But given Beck's seeming recommitment to "turning toward God" and my own desire to live by the words I spout here, I thought this quote might be of interest to him and to those in his audience who confuse self-righteousness with righteousness:

"But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And He said to him: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend all of the Law and the Prophets.'” - Matthew 22:34-40

America cannot "turn back to God" until its citizenry embraces the spirit of this teaching. Jesus does not say "You shall love your CHRISTIAN neighbor as yourself." He does not say "You shall love your AFFLUENT neighbor as yourself." He does not say "You shall love your AMERICAN neighbor as yourself." He certainly does not say that "You shall love your CONSERVATIVE neighbor as yourself." And yet, for all of Beck's fine, carefully-scripted words to the contrary, that's the gospel he truly preaches. Beck preaches a gospel of intolerance, of fear and divisiveness and greed and devotion to country/politics/gold over God.

I would never be so bold or so blasphemous as to assume I know anything of God's "mind," but I do feel comfortable saying that people like Beck abuse the faith that people have in God for ends that are decidedly adverse to Christ's teaching.

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." - Matthew 7:15

Pass The Sentence

(For a brief explanation, click here)

"It rose over the crest of the hill like a rogue sun."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy LOST Day!

Today's an auspicious occasion. LOST, the complete muthafunkin' series, is being released. Commence your happy-dances.

I'm well aware that some folks were underwhelmed by the final season, and as I've said previously I can't blame them. There's a lot to love there, but there's also an increasing sense of frustrated/frustrating ambiguity that most people (myself included) weren't expecting at all.

We entered Season 6, aided and abetted by ABC's nefarious marketing department, convinced we were going to get ANSWERS, ANSWERS, ANSWERS! Instead, we got .....answers?

If you're like me, who found much of my enjoyment from the show in puzzling around its various mysteries, references, allusions and pop culture debris, then the final season served as a summation of all that had made LOST both energizing and aggravating. The answer to the puzzle was more puzzle, to put it too-simply.

And I loved it, warts and all.

Work on Back to the Island: The Book continues apace, and now that the complete collection has been released I'll be incorporating what we learn from that set into the text. But primarily what I'll be doing (at first) is simply enjoying a dip back into this show's singularly-intoxicating world. I know that many of you will be doing the same thing, and I'm looking forward to talking about it.

Have you picked up the set yet? Have you watched its special features? I'll be providing a space for us to talk about them in the near future. Consider this post an initial exclamation point of excitement.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Station Break

Apologies, folks. This week's Lost & Found will be delayed until next week, as I'm in the throes of trying to assemble the Back to the Island book and deal with a rapidly-increasing work schedule.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Keep Using That Word - I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

The First Amendment reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment is a thing of beauty. I love it the way that some folks love the Second Amendment. And it irritates me thoroughly when people who should understand it by dint of their profession or their publically-expressed opinions are shown to have absolutely no idea what it means or how it applies.

First, "Dr. Laura" announced that she was leaving her cushy radio gig at the expiration of her contract following this incident.

Here's "Dr. Laura's" explanation for leaving:

"The reason is, I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special-interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors."

To say that the doc's understanding of her Constitutional rights is skewed would be understating things. The First Amendment (among other things) prevents Governmental interference with free speech - it does not prevent citizens like you and I from speaking freely about her bewilderingly empathy-free remarks and senseless wielding of the "N word." It does not prevent people from "getting angry." If it did then it would in fact operate in the EXACT OPPOSITE WAY its supposed to - by using governmental power to prevent the free expression of ideas.

I am the one-billionth person (approximately) to point this out, and I add nothing to the discussion by doing so. If you have the most basic grasp on your Constitutional rights then you don't need me pointing this out - it's obvious.

But it gets worse.

Sarah Palin chimed in last night on her now-legendary Twitter account with the following:

"Dr. Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence 'isn't American, not fair')"

This, ladies and gentlemen, was the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States - a woman who composes tweets with all the élan of a sixteen year-old girl on a pixie stix binge; a woman who also has zero idea of what the First Amendment functions to accomplish. According to Palin's (let's put it charitably) unique view of things, Dr. Laura's "1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence" which, in addition to being an incomplete (and awful) sentence, is about as flat-out wrong a statement of fact as you could possibly make. The idea that Schlessinger's 1st Amendment rights "ceased to exist" at any time is laughable. The idea that this woman could have been the second-most powerful person in the world?
Not so laughable.

Dr. Laura's First Amendment rights continued to exist throughout this brouhaha, and continue to exist right now, because there was never governmental interference involving her right to speak freely. The vocal criticism leveled at Dr. Laura came from private citizens and "free market" corporations - the very same kind of populist/corporatist activism that Palin pretends to champion when it suits her ever-Kaleidoscoping agenda.

If the First Amendment (a) was actually important to Palin she'd be vocally-opposed to preventing the free exercise of religion via governmental interference. That is, after all, the first sentence of the First Amendment. And yet, Palin continues to flog the "America is a Christian nation" horse, long after said-horse has expired. Palin and her supporters would object to my conflating the two, but I'm not sure why - they're the ones doing the conflating. Arguing for a "National Day of Prayer" that's mandated by Congress (as Palin has done) is to argue directly against the words of the First Amendment. To establish a National Day of Prayer is to have Congress make a law "respecting an establishment of religion." That's logic.

And if the First Amendment (b) worked the way she believed that it does, her words regarding the proposed Cordoba House in Manhattan would, in fact, mean that she was violating the First Amendment by (God help me) "trying 2silence" that community center.

So, here we have a woman who wants 2silence a community center by harnessing citizens to spread and enforce her personal worldview while simultaneously decrying that exact same thing in response to citizens who've criticized the doc's words.
Here we have a former candidate for Vice President without a basic working knowledge of the laws she'd be sworn to uphold. Remember that when she inevitably decides to run again in 2012/endorses someone similarly clueless.

If Palin's looking around for a winky-folksy 2012 campaign slogan that lampoons her hated opponent in the White House she could do a lot worse than "The Audacity of Ignorance."

PS - To read a cuttingly-precise, typically well-written satire of the whole "Mosque controversy" you should head over to Slacktivist. Even Christopher Hitchens, a man I would willingly and eagerly engage in probably-humiliating debate (for me, not him) on any number of issues, from imperialism-as-policy to his whole "God is not great" idiocy, thinks the "controversy" is ridiculous.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Floor Be Yours, Mateys

Today I thought I'd open the floor to those of you who want to share sites you enjoy frequenting, blogs you haunt, and other internet ephemera worth a moment of your fellow readers' precious time. What's entertaining you right now? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Worst. List. Ever.

Worse than the Oklahoma City bomber, apparently.

One of Verbosity's illustrious and much-appreciated readers brought this one to my attention (I'd link to the original article, but it loads as a blank page - perhaps a sign that its creators thought better of leaving it up):

Out of all the gangsters, serial killers, mass murderers, incompetent & crooked politicians, spies, traitors, and ultra left-wing kooks in all of American history — have you ever wondered who the worst of the worst was? Well, we here at RWN wondered about that, too, and that’s why we decided to email more than a hundred bloggers to get their opinions. Representatives from the following 43 blogs responded…

(A bunch of sites I've never heard of are then listed)

All bloggers were allowed to make anywhere from 1-20 selections. Rank was determined simply by the number of votes received. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is a fairly conservative group of bloggers and their selections reflected that. Also, I made a decision to combine the votes given to the Rosenbergs and Julius Rosenberg into one group since most people associate the two of them together. Some people may disagree with that decision, but I thought it was the best way to go.

Well, that’s enough about the rules — without further ado, the worst figures in American history are as follows (with the number of votes following each selection)…

23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)

You may feel free to clutch your head and

Apparently, the people polled for this list believe that Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama are/were somehow "worse" than Benedict Arnold, Timothy McVeigh and John Wilkes Booth. In what alternate universe can one justify such a perversion? Weirder and more uncomfortable still: This list was chosen from "Out of all the gangsters, serial killers, mass murderers, incompetent & crooked politicians, spies, traitors, and ultra left-wing kooks in all of American history." Which means, going by the terms set by Right Wing News and those it chose to poll, that these voters think of people like Carter, Obama, Pelosi, Jane Fonda and Michael Moore as comparable to serial killers and mass murderers.

This is insanity.

I suspect that if you asked one of this list's contributors to justify it you'd recieve nothing but incoherent anger for your trouble. Questioning the opinions of people like these usually results in being told to stop acting "superior" or "elitist" (which I guess is code for "logical" and "skeptical"). Conservatives who possess a modicum of sanity have already questioned the population of this list, which tells us that no group is monolithic in its beliefs. It's as big a mistake to say that "Conservatives are nuts" as it is to say that "Liberals are socialists." That said, these specific folks are plainly deluded, and that's deeply sad to me. What are you being fed (figuratively speaking) to twist your sense of history this profoundly? When McVeigh places below Kennedy on a list like this what does it say about your sense of what actual "harm" to society looks like?

It makes me want to hug them all - an impulse stifled by the suspicion that they'd shoot me for the attempt.

If there's anything useful about a list like this one, it's that it gives one the ability to, as Sun Tzu and Rage Against The Machine have both advised, "Know your enemy." My personal beliefs teach me to love my enemy, for if you love those who already love you what reward will you get? That said, this powerful and admirable admonition makes these folks no less of an enemy overall - an enemy not to my person, but to common sense, to rational thought, to history itself - and love does not preclude us from insisting upon sanity in our public discourse. We as a people have a responsibility to insist on honesty and integrity from those we love - and to insist on these things is not to act "superior," or to "want to assert a radical socialist agenda" or whatever. To insist on these things is to insist on mutual respect, common ground, and acknowledgement that personal vendettas and personal dislikes do not equate to historical horror.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Did He Just Douthat Deux

(For Part I, please click here)

Ross Douthat, NY Times columnist/editorializer, has elaborated further on why marriage equality is a bad idea (thanks to Silent Speaking for drawing my attention to this). This is interesting to see/read, since that elaboration serves mainly to keep underlining the same, ill-defined, indefensibly-vague opinion that hetero marriage is, like, special. Just because.

The marriage ideal that I’m defending would be in equally serious difficulties in contemporary America if homosexuality did not exist, because what it asks of straight people is in deep tension with what straight people want to do, and with the way that the incentives of modern life often line up.

Well, okay. But here's the thing - I don't see anyone lobbying to close marriage off to those who've divorced, nor to adulterers, nor to the infertile (because the biological ability to procreate is important to Douthat's conception of "traditional marriage"). In fact, many of the people who are so vociferously against the notion of gay marriage are on their second marriage (or their third), or are single divorced fathers with four children who decide, after crusading to crush gay rights, that they're gay.

It's nice that Douthat recognizes the difficulty inherent in maintaining a healthy, functioning marriage. It's not so nice that he can't see past his own prejudices to recognize that monogamous committment is admirable and difficult, period.

A stigma on racism, for instance, would hopefully exist even in a libertarian paradise, but it draws a great deal of its potency from the fact the American government has spent the last 40 years actively campaigning against racist conduct and racist thought, using every means at its disposal short of banning speech outright.

A little later on, Douthat will use the word "naive" to describe one of Greenwald's points. I find that blackly-hilarious, given Douthat's pie-in-the-sky conception of a "libertarian paradise," in which racism would be as equally stigmatised as it is in our own society. I assume that Douthat has never, ever heard of things like, say, child sex trafficking, which is about the most stigmatizable (is that a word) concept in the world. Despite this fact, there is a profitable trade in the abhorrent practice right here in the good ol' USA. If such a horror can exist in America, where it is outlawed, then racism can surely survive transplantation to a "libertarian paradise."

As for the rest of Douthat's thoughts here....isn't he arguing against himself? Is he really saying that the American government should not have "spent the last 40 years actively campaigning" against racism? It's not clear to me and, given the confuzzled tone of most of this response, it's not clear to Douthat either.

Douthat goes on to tie himself in rhetorical knots for a paragraph or so more, then winds up his incoherent stroll with the following:

So if Anthony Kennedy follows Walker and finds that the traditional legal understanding of marriage is unconstitutional — and, by extension, that it’s irrational and bigoted to think otherwise — it’s just naive to say that this won’t have a ripple effect in the culture as a whole. The space for arguing for the distinctiveness of lifelong heterosexual monogamy will shrink, and the stigma attached to such arguments will grow. Old-fashioned beliefs about marriage will be regarded more and more like old-fashioned beliefs about race. And as with the stigma against racism, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to define where the legal regime ends and the cultural norm begins.

Oh, for f*ck's sake.

One: Anthony Kennedy can't "find...that it's irrational and bigoted to think otherwise." That's not how Courts, Judges and the law work. They don't make moral judgments. What they can find - what Walker did in fact find - is that there are no rational, supportable bases to discriminate against the gay population when it comes to the state's handling of marriage.

It's not Walker or Kennedy's fault that such a decision will, in all liklihood, paint people like Douthat as bigots. Besides, Douthat's doing a fine job of painting that picture all by his lonesome. I'd argue he doesn't need Kennedy's help.

Two: Of course this decision (and a possible Supreme Court ruling on the issue) is going to have "a ripple effect on the culture." Where Douthat and reasonable, rational people part ways is in Douthat's choosing to define that ripple exclusively in the negative. Sure, there will probably be a bunch of gay divorces in the wake of legitimizing gay marriage. But guess what? Equality means equality across the board, and so long as we're allowing straight folks the state-sponsored right to get hitched as often as they want I don't see the point in denying that right to gay people. What other "negative cultural ripple effects" can Douthat see from his lofty perch?

Well, that'd be none. None that he'll come right out and say. And why is that? Well, absent evidence to the contrary I think we need to assume that it's because these other, unspoken, effects probably sound a little...bigoted to those outside Douthat's immediate circle. Were it otherwise one presumes he'd use those examples to bolster his larger point. Only, he doesn't, does he?

Three (and this is the "best" part):

"Old-fashioned beliefs about marriage will be regarded more and more like old-fashioned beliefs about race."

WTF? No matter which way you slice it, this sentence is pure bologna. What is Douthat even saying here? (a) That making marriage essentially open to any two consenting adults will somehow operate to discriminate against heterosexuals? (b) That making gay marriage legal will make heterosexual marriage look like an act of racism? (c) That his bigoted, exclusionary beliefs will no longer be tolerated?

Oh. Wait. That last one I can totally get behind.

Yes, Ross Douthat. It is true - in an age wherein gays and straights are treated equally and compassionately your "Old-fasioned beliefs about marriage" will indeed be treated "more and more like old-fashioned beliefs about race," in that they will be considered brutal, backward and shameful.

Maybe that's really what's happening here. Maybe all of this is an over-elaborate attempt to avoid the cultural reckoning that comes with social justice. Just as blackface became inappropriate when people woke up and realized that it was a dumb, racist, insulting act, perhaps columns like Douthat's will be similarly avoided by people of common sense and basic human decency.

One can only hope.

On The Shelf Preview: The Magicians

I've just begun Lev Grossman's The Magicians, a story of fantasy and escapism in the Potter/Narnia vein told for an "adult" audience. I'm told it's quite good, and given both my childhood affection for Narnia and my more-recent affection for Potter it seemed like a fun read.

I'll have a review of it up in a week or so. Consider this a heads-up so that you can read it before I post my thoughts if you so choose.

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Pass The Sentence

(For a brief explanation, click here)

"Happy" Monday, everyone!

This week's sentence:

The Chevy peeled from the parking lot, its rear window shattering.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Demons & Lonely Souls (Twin Peaks, S2, eps. 6 & 7)

The Lost & Found column for "Demons" and "Lonely Souls" has slipped on a pair of troubling gloves for your reading pleasure on You can order Fro Design Co's tremendous limited edition print by clicking the link that's available to you at the end of the column.

SPOILER WARNING: Do not click over until you have watched both episodes. Laura's killer is revealed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Peaks in Print

As I mentioned at the end of last week's column, Fro Design Store is designing a Twin Peaks art print in conjunction with Lost & Found. Well, last night I got a look at the finished print, and it's gorgeous.

I mean that without hyperbole - it's a beautifully-designed piece, one that I'm looking forward to owning.

I'll have a high-quality pic of it available here on Friday morning, hopefully in advance of the column being published. It's a real thrill to see the words "Lost & Found Commemorative" at the bottom of the print, and I expect that if the print sells decently this could become a semi-regular feature of the column. Limited Edition prints based off of shows as diverse as Deadwood, Carnivale, Max Headroom and Profit? Yes, please.

I hope you folks enjoy it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Scenes From New Jersey, A One-Minute Play


The Meadowlands, New Jersey; Brazil vs. The US in soccer. Two men, G and M, sit watching the game.

The game's Announcer speaks. His voice is like God's voice - had God decided to pull an Orson Welles and do commercial work.

Announcer: "Tonight's game is sponsored in part by AT&T! AT&T - providing the fastest 3G service, the most coverage, and the best in business communications!"

G: "These seats are great. Hey, what's the train schedule like for the trip home?"

M: "Dunno. Let me check."

M takes his iPhone 3G from his pocket and attempts to look up the train schedule.

Announcer: "AT&T! Your world! Delivered!"

The phone flashes "cannot connect with server." M grumbles, tries again. And again. He waves the phone around, peering at it occasionally like a wary ape inspecting a Monolith. The phone now reads "No Service."

M: "Is this ironic? I think this is ironic."

G: "Gooooooooooooooaaaaalllll!!!!"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Great Scot(t)?....

So. Ocasionally I'm going to put up an opinion piece about upcoming film/TV/entertainment projects. I like to read about this stuff, and once in a while I feel compelled to say something about it. If you read about something that you think is fun/cool/awful/bewildering, and you think I'd be interested in reading or writing about it, I encourage you to let me know. You can do so in the comments or via

According to Dark Horizons (and a number of other places), Tony Scott is attached to direct the film adaptation of Mark Millar's Nemesis - a comic book that has two existent issues to its name, neither of which is worth much beyond the essential core concept: Super-villian vs. Cop.

Tony Scott (aka Ridley Scott's brother) hasn't made a film worth sitting through since Crimson Tide, back in 1995. Since then, Scott's mostly been experimenting with visual techniques designed to blind, disorient and stupefy you. He calls these experiments "movies," but that's eminently debatable as anyone who's sat through Domino could tell you.

Mark Millar (presumably NOT Ridley Scott's brother), the man behind such titles as Kick Ass, Wanted, and The Ultimates, has plenty of sizzle in his figurative skillet, but far less red meat to speak of. His stories are, almost to a one, nihilistic tales of "heroes" that routinely murder/abuse each other/other people, and generally behave like psychotics off their medications. Which, given the general interests of many comic readers, means that he's phenomenally successful. I have nothing against shock value in my entertainment, but Millar tends to go for big "shocks" (Hank Pym beats his wife! Hulk wants to rape Freddy Prinze Jr.! A ten year-old girl is a mass murderer...err...vigilante!) at the expense of most everything else. Garth Ennis, a similarly-"shocking" writer, is much, much better at making you (a) care about the people he's writing about, and (b) laugh your @$$ off.

I was not a fan of Kick Ass: The Movie. What it seemed to amount to, more or less, was the first Spider-Man film, minus all the superpowers and most of the heart, but with more gay jokes. Nor was I a fan of Wanted, the other film created from Millar's work. Basically, both of these films are copies of other, better films. Wanted is Fight Club-meets-The Matrix, but without any of the intelligence or truly subversive intent so admirably abundant in both of those films.

None of which leaves me feeling very enthusiastic about Nemesis - a project that, as of now, is a carbon-reversal of Batman (here he's the villian, he wears white instead of black, and Jim Gordon is trying to stop him, not help him), directed by a man who seems to want to literalize ADD with his films. It promises "shock," but no awe.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Did He Just Douthat?

Ross Douthat, columnist for the New York Times, has decided to weight in on Judge Vaughn Walker's now-historic decision (something I wrote about last week) which finds California's (odious, insupportable, inhumane, indefensible) Proposition 8 Un-Constitutional under the law.

Douthat gets credit for immediately lining up a platoon's-worth of justifications for opposing gay marriage, then roundly shooting them all in the face without hesitation. Were that all he'd done, I doubt I'd publish another of these eye-rollingly-earnest missives.

"Luckily" for you and for me, Douthat didn't stop there.

So what are gay marriage’s opponents really defending, if not some universal, biologically inevitable institution? It’s a particular vision of marriage, rooted in a particular tradition, that establishes a particular sexual ideal.

This ideal holds up the commitment to lifelong fidelity and support by two sexually different human beings — a commitment that involves the mutual surrender, arguably, of their reproductive self-interest — as a uniquely admirable kind of relationship. It holds up the domestic life that can be created only by such unions, in which children grow up in intimate contact with both of their biological parents, as a uniquely admirable approach to child-rearing. And recognizing the difficulty of achieving these goals, it surrounds wedlock with a distinctive set of rituals, sanctions and taboos.

Let's stop there, shall we?

Remove the words "two sexually different human beings," "reproductive" and "biological" from that chunk of verbiage and what do we have? A definition of marriage that applies just as powerfully and as equally to gay Americans as it does to straight Americans. A commitment to lifelong fidelity? Check. Mutual surrender, arguably, of self-interest? Check. A domestic life in which children grow up in intimate contact with both of their parents? Check.

What's missing? The ability to biologically procreate. So, all heterosexual marriages in which one or both partners is incapable of doing so, but nonetheless loving? You're not "the ideal." All of you children of divorce? You're not "the ideal" either. I'm not sure what that has to do with anything, since you're presumably sane and functioning members of society who love and are aggravated by your family in largely the same measure as those "ideal" folks out there, but apparently Mr. Douthat just wanted you to know that, ultimately, you aren't measuring up to his invisible ideals.

And - by the way - those ideals being lionized so very vaguely by Mr. Douthat have been in place for less than a hundred years. So they are obviously Ancient and Wise and Should Not Be Disturbed. Not when it might somehow, indefinably, make some dude from the NY Times a little uncomfortable when he mingles with The Gays at Sunday brunch.

The point of this ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.

Oh, now I see. The point isn't that other relationships have no value. The point, apparently, is that they have lesser value. For no definable reason that Douthat can offer us.

That clears things right up. Oh, and also?


Sorry, but sometimes you have to call them like you see them. Douthat pulls a (theoretically) impressive rhetorical trick here by lining up the Usual Ideological Suspects against gay marriage and killing them off all at once; he's apparently done this so that he can then, Lazarus-like, resurrect the hoariest, most insupportable, most insubstantial, gossamer-thin argument of all and drop it, as if in innocence, back into the substance of his editorial without us having noticed.

What Douthat is arguing for here, boiled to the essence, is the state-sponsored protection of his preferred family experience - an experience that, as he himself admits, is a decidedly new, decidedly Western conception of the Marital Institution - one that is already flawed aplenty, fractured from the blasé societal acceptance of things like divorce and infidelity:

Again, this is not how many cultures approach marriage. It’s a particularly Western understanding, derived from Jewish and Christian beliefs about the order of creation, and supplemented by later ideas about romantic love, the rights of children, and the equality of the sexes.

Or at least, it was the Western understanding. Lately, it has come to co-exist with a less idealistic, more accommodating approach, defined by no-fault divorce, frequent out-of-wedlock births, and serial monogamy.

So....what was Douthat's point again? How, exactly, do we get from the regrettable-but-Eternal fact of marriage's constant volatility to Douthat's contention that Walker's opinion was wrong?

If this newer order completely vanquishes the older marital ideal, then gay marriage will become not only acceptable but morally necessary. The lifelong commitment of a gay couple is more impressive than the serial monogamy of straights. And a culture in which weddings are optional celebrations of romantic love, only tangentially connected to procreation, has no business discriminating against the love of homosexuals.

Ah. That's how. Douthat, for all his posturing and his "reasonable tone," is apparently something of a bigot. No culture that pretends to a Democratic ideal has any business discriminating against the love of homosexuals - those folks being, in point of fact, a participatory body within that Democracy. The lifelong commitment of any couple, regardless of orientation, is more impressive than serial monogamy. Anyone who's been married longer than a few months knows that very well.

But if we just accept this shift, we’re giving up on one of the great ideas of Western civilization: the celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate. That ideal is still worth honoring, and still worth striving to preserve. And preserving it ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different: similar in emotional commitment, but distinct both in their challenges and their potential fruit.

Well, that's a pretty string of words, but they don't mean anything - not if the Constitution means something to you. The United States does not discriminate against its own citizenry. Despite the obvious fact that this country has done so in its past and will continue to do so in its future does not, and should not, prevent us from losing sight of the ideals embodied in that formative document.

If Ross Douthat wants public acknowledgment of lifelong monogamy, unrestricted by bigotry, then he'll get that once gay marriage becomes a "norm." If what he wants are public acknowledgements of lifelong HETERO monogamy, then he'll need to be content with making those public acknowledgements from the relative comfort of his cozy, nation-wide editorializing berth at the Times. Because, no matter how the bigots twist and pull at Walker's decision it is solidly grounded in the Rosetta Stone of America's secular law - a law that We The People established precisely so that people like Ross Douthat couldn't decide that their marriage is worth more/is more special/is healthier/promotes-better-teeth-cleaning-habits than your marriage.

But based on Judge Walker’s logic — which suggests that any such distinction is bigoted and un-American — I don’t think a society that declares gay marriage to be a fundamental right will be capable of even entertaining this idea.

Y'know, when a columnist misrepresents the law and its workings so fundamentally and so egregiously I think it's best to let the experts take over. So, on this last point - a point which mangles and warps the legal nature of this decision - just click on over and read Glenn Greenwald. He strips Douthat's legal fig leaf away faster than The Flash at a Red Bull Flugtag.