So, one of the more odd things about yours truly is my peculiar interest in and ability to retain information pertaining to pop culture. Perhaps it’s a sad commentary on society in the post-modern era (whatever the fuck that means), but I would feel infinitely more confident entering a pop culture show than I would a history one. It’s not to say I can’t fucks with some Jeopardy!, but it is to say I remember a lot of worthless information.
What’s particularly weird is, though I semi-actively seek to stay hip to the game, unless a pop topic is brought up, I don’t really discuss it with other people. More often than not, it is unlikely I’ll open up a conversation with, “Did you see what so and so was wearing at the Emmy Awards?”, but I’ll absolutely know what so and so was wearing. I just generally keep the information to myself. Is it out of shame? I don’t think so. I suppose it’s just one of those quirks about your boy.
Anyway, I was perusing one of my favorite website, thesuperficial.com, and the most recent post on the site was devoted to pictures of Kim Kardashian living her life. To bring up to speed those of you who have better things to do with your lives than know who she is, Kardashian is the daughter of Robert–one of the lawyers who proved O.J. was innocent, friend to Paris Hilton (though I’m not sure they’repeoples anymore) and the vagina of Ray J’s sex tape. In these pictures on the website, Kardashian’s booty looks other-worldly. Literally, it just looks so good that it’s not to be believed. Now I don’t know how half-Armenians get down, but this was just absurd. I needed a consultation.
Talking to my home girl Ms. Thomas-Littleton, I sent the link to her for her perusal. I tend to believe girls have a better eye for certain things than dudes, mainly because the straight ones don’t want to have sex with what they’re looking at. Upon inspection, MTL thought her ass was a cosmetic fakery, noting that the thigh to butt ratio just didn’t add up. I’ve added the link below so you can take a look for yourself:
I’m no one’s doctor, so I can’t really tell you if you can fake a donkey butt. What I do know is happening across these photos piqued my curiosity about her sex tape with Raymond Norwood (which is something of a porny name when you think about it), brother of Brandy. After searching the world wide web for a bit (Sidebar 1: Sometimes, the internet is utterly unhelpful) I discovered the tape in full. Eager to see what the sex tape gods had wrought, I clicked on the link. My date with destiny had begun.
If I had to name the tape myself, I would call it ‘Destiny Unfulfilled.’ This tape was just not terribly compelling in any way. There was a lot of time spent with her in lingerie on the bed, weird splices to them doing regular vacation things in public, then cuts back to her either: Fellating Raymond, getting taken from behind by Raymond or her getting cunnilinged by Raymond. That’s it. As the footage faded to black, I came to an underwhelming conclusion: Celebrity sex tapes are overrated.
Before launching into the discussion, let’s backtrack a bit and get some things clear. People like to watch other people have sex. I don’t know if it’s the erotic element–seeing boobies and nipples and vaginas and mainly parts does a funny thing to the brain, or if it’s simply motivational–as in “Hey, I should go bang too!”–but people like watching other people get loose. The visual sex act appeals to the voyeur in all of us. Still, that voyeurism needs to be controlled because otherwise, it’s creepy. Watching people through their bedroom window? Not tight. There needs to be a liaision to keep it from seeming utterly perverse. That liaision is film (although certain print media does an admirable job as well). Watching people have sex through the eye of a third party just seems more acceptable.
If we accept the above–and we should because billion dollar industries speak some truths whether we like them or not–it’s much easier to understand why sex tapes don’t hold a candle to real, I-get-paid-to-do-this pornography.
A word on the latter: While I’m not exactly a porn enthusiast–for real, I’m not but if I was I’d say so–I can say I do appreciate an adult film every now and again and the type of porn that I’m comparing to the sex tape is particular.
There are levels of porn and I find the mid-level to be best. Amateur, while determined and enthusiasitc, is just that and doesn’t really deserve consideration. Professional, high budget porn is often highly sanitized–in the realm of porn–with storylines that are distracting enough to just confuse the matter entirely. Not to mention the fact that a lot of pros, once they get to that level, just seem to lose the eye of the tiger. Mid-level porn, while often low-budget, is best because it combines the gritty heart and effort of amateur hour porn with the skill and dexterity of the pros. If I had to draw an analogy, I’d say it’s like college football. Everybody goes hard because losing one game could mean your season.
Getting back to the matter at hand, my disdain for the celebrity sex tape stems from the fact that they are, often, completely pedestrian. I mean, I’m glad you’re famous and I guess it’s cool to see you freakin’ off, but really if you’re going to “accidentally lose” or have your sex tape “leaked”, please bring something to the table (Sidebar 2: How the hell do these tapes get out? I mean, only so many people can use the excuse that someone who works for them stole it. Now call me crazy, but if I made a sex tape, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t tell anyone about it or even act like it existed, or maybe even keep a copy of the tape long enough for some shit to happen. Plausible deniability goes a long way).
I mean, there are really only two explanations for this. Either: the persons involved were too stupid to keep this to themselves or they wanted it to get out. If they’re the former, I don’t want to watch two dummies having mediocre sex. If they’re the latter, I don’t want to watch two idiots having mediocre sex thinking I’ll be impressed because they’re famous. That’s just not going to do it for me.
Frankly, filmed sex needs to be left to the professionals. Watch a real porno then watch a celebrity sex tape. The difference is almost laughable. First of all, the picture clarity is incomparable. Yeah, you can try to sell me that bill of goods about the tape being initially made for private use, but as we discussed above, that’s something of a stretch. And since it is, I’d appreciate not having to squint for 30 minutes trying to make out shapes and bodies like it’s the Zapruder film or something.
Secondly, the skill level just makes the situation separate and inherently unequal. While real porno isn’t quite a fantasy, it is comparable to watching a professional sport in that it requires a certain expertise regular people either don’t possess or have not before encountered. Some of you might try to argue that, unlike playing in a professional league, a regular person has the ability to enter the porn world or encounter an adult film practitioner in their lives. I would argue that I could hypothetically play a game of pick-up with Jordan, but I’d probably find the situation too overwhelming to enjoy and thus, would rather just watch him ply his craft. Porn girl? Same treatment.
On the technical level, the divide is extraordinary. I mean, in the fellatio department is not even close. If you know anything about head, you know porno chicks have that doctorate in the cranial arts. It’s just no contest. And while seeing fellatio on any level can always be appreciated, if a person wants to see regular head, they would go out, get some head and watch while it happened.
When it comes to actual sexual relations, I hate to break it to you dudes and dudettes, but all are not created equal. Be not fooled. Porno takes deftness. Those two (or three or four) people really know how to have porno sex. I think that’s why it causes problems with regular people sex. Guys watch a porno, think that’s how it works and then they get into a real-life encounter and find that they were sorely mistaken. It’s not to say that real-life sex is bad, it’s just that porn sex is different and the difference is what makes it great. That’s why sex tapes are problematic. There is no departure from the norm.
Pornos show moves that aren’t even worth attempting in real life, but they’re fun to watch. Sex tapes? They do two, maybe three of the moves we do, put them on a loop, maybe reverse the image to make it look like something different (Come on Raymond, you were right-handed a minute ago) and call that a skin flick. If, by some chance, they do use an interesting technique, it’s nullified by the fact that the camera angle is probably wrong for it, thus making it no better than low-rent Skinemax. I can’t stress this angle issue enough. The fact of the matter in filmed sex is this: You’re either the cameraman or you’re not. Watching you get situated while trying to juggle a Handycam is basically worthless. Not to mention the fact that it’s physically impossible to get the shots that make porno smutty and interesting. You want to watch a sex tape? Put a mirror next to your bed.
For my money, the only sex tape that stands the test of time was Pamela and Tommy Lee’s. It just works on multiple levels. Shit, it might not even work on multiple levels, but as far as being pioneering; it gets the veteran’s exemption clause. In general, the sex tape is oddly insulting yet how people get roped into them is compelling. Much like the Super Bowl, once you take away the name-glamour and perhaps the pleasing aesthetics–Kim Kim is bad as a mufucka, I have to admit–it’s kind of a crappy contest between two parties you probably don’t give a damn about. We don’t watch because it’s compelling or arousing, we watch simply for the fact that we’ve heard of these people and welcome the chance to peek through their bedroom window. God, we’re creepy. Peace to Booty Talk.
Penultimate Thought: Transformers might change my life.
Final Thought: I don’t remember the last time I crank called someone.
So, since getting back into the saddle has been good, I thought it’d be fun to do a hit parade of all my favorite Penultimate and Final Thoughts of 2005, the year this journal came into being. Below are the things I quipped about with some updated comments. Enjoy.
8-3-05 Final thought: In the Ghostbusters theme song, Ray Parker Jr. screams, “Bustin’ makes me feel good” And until now, I thought nothing of it.
The very first FT from the very first post. And, yup, it’s still funny to me. Just try it out. Stop what you’re doing and yell “Bustin’ makes me feel good!” If you don’t laugh, there’s something wrong with you.
8-7-05 Final Thought: I’m too big to be a hipster.
Not that I have an interest in being a skinny, quasi-racist moonlighting as someone ironic with my finger on the pulse of all things hip, but knowing that I couldn’t sort of stinks.
8-9-05 Final thought: No clothing item has had a greater fall from grace than the crewneck sweatshirt.
In the almost two years since I posted this, I noticed crewneck sweatershirts make a come back, mostly among thugs and hipsters, which is amusing for multiple reasons.
8-11-05 Penultimate Thought: ’09 is on suspension until mid-October. And some of you are going to have your faces skeeted in. I’m putting even money on that.
As you might recall, this was the first class that took to the Facebook in droves, friending people before they’d even taken so much as one college class. Needless to say they were out of control and deserved some salt thrown on their fries. Interestingly, I now date one of their ilk, so perhaps the skeet is on my face (Nullus. That was completely unacceptable to write, but even my own rep isn’t exempt if it means seeing a metaphor to completion).
8-30-05 Final Thought: Miller High Life is meant to be had one way: In the bottle.
I see people drink it otherwise and it’s just disgraceful. And don’t get me started on High Life Light. Wow.
8-31-05 Penultimate Thought: ‘Say My Name’ was the heartbreak song of my sophomore spring in high school. Man, songs can bring ya back.
Straight up, any time I hear this song, I go back to that fateful day I finally got my girl on the phone–we hadn’t spoken all week–and she ended it. I was in the dorm computer lab, feeling like my life had basically ended. How little did I know of love then.
9-3-05 Penultimate Thought: Kanye West has won my Usher Raymond “Asshole who makes albums I don’t want to like but do anyway” Memorial Trophy.
I hate both of these idiots, but dammit if I don’t listen to their music. Although, Kanye is starting to be on some other shit rap-wise and is in danger of losing his title.
9-9-05 Penultimate Thought: My junior prom was the first time I had my breath taken away by a young lady. Her name was Celia Coll and she is unfortunately no longer with us. It would be self-serving to say I miss her all the time, for we indeed weren’t terribly close, but I can say she will always have a special place in my heart for giving me that moment.
This will always be an important one because people need to know about individuals and moments like that. Strangely, I got a letter from a buddy today randomly speaking to Celia’s gulliver. She was a good one.
9-11-05 Penultimate Thought: If I’m a few drinks in, and I’m peeing in a restaurant bathroom, and a drunk girl sat down on a toilet I was already peeing into, I’m fairly sure I would just pee on her.
Yeah, I feel the same way. I mean, if I’m peeing, either go in the sink or piss your pants. You can’t just take the right of way like that. Full R. Kelly on this one.
9-14-05 Final Thought: If you were a freshman last year, you CAN NOT say “freshman year” with regard to something that happened the previous school year.
This one really chaps my ass. Seriously, if you’re a sophomore, and you say “last year,” the people listening to you will, more often than not, get what you mean. This eagerness to divest themselves from 13th grade is just awful. And yes, I intenttionally left a space between ‘can’ and ‘not’ for emphasis.
9-15-05 Final Thought: Girls should never run out of underwear. it’s a known fact, along with the fact that girls don’t go number two, that girls have enough underwear to last a few nuclear winters.
Girls underwear shop. They have drawers devoted to draws. There’s just no reason this should happen. And when it does, they should be ashamed.
9-16-05 Penultimate Thought: Parents of kids that play soccer just can’t be that interested in the game.
Even at high levels, soccer can be a very boring sport to watch save for…10-15 second bursts. Think about it at the rec level where most of the people suck. You can’t tell me parents sit there, actually invested. You can’t.
9-22-05 Final Thought: On August 11th, 2005, I challenged anyone to find a better slow rap jam than ‘Space Age Pimpin’. It didn’t happen; therefore, ‘Space Age Pimpin’ is, without equivocation, the greatest slow rap song of all time. Praise Allah.
Still hasn’t happened.
9-26-05 Final Thought: When I’m going out, I wear proper underwear for the occasion. I prefer the Hilfigers or the red Fruit of the Looms. A little confidence goes a long way.
Well, these days, that matters a lot less than it used to, but I imagine the sentiment still holds water.
9-27-05 Penultimate Thought: It’s been a few months and I still don’t know what a predicate felon is.
Did anyone ever ask Mr. Yayo what this is?
10-18-05 Penultimate Thought: Adidas swishy pants were so ill in 1998. Think about it.
Yo, Adidas swishies were the truth. They were the athletic pants to have. Black with the white stripes? Stop playin’.
10-24-05 Final Thought: If you’re chilling with a member of the opposite sex (or whoever you like “knowing”), and ‘This Woman’s Work’ comes on, your chances of hooking up are 99.713 %. In fact, if you don’t, you’re an out and out disgrace.
Attempt to dispute this. And, if you are in that .287, guess what that makes you?
10-26-05 Penultimate Thought: The ‘rap remix’ has single-handedly destroyed R&B since about 1997.
I don’t wanna hear this shit about “hip hop is dead.” If that’s the case, is there a word worse than ‘dead’ to describe the current state of R&B? This deserves it’s own post and may get one in short order.
10-26-05 Final Thought: How I wasn’t aware of George Michaels’ gayness astounds me to this day.
I just didn’t know.
11-30-05 Penultimate Thought: Ladies: Sometimes, if you’re naked with a guy and about to do the grown-up, and he can’t get it up, it’s absolutely your fault.
I didn’t want to be the one to break it to you. The vagina can’t work miracles. That’s actually a lie. Not all vaginas can walk on water.
12-5-05 Penultimate Thought: I discovered recently that it’s not “stomp on your fingers”, but rather, “stop pointing fingers, the blame is on me” in Boyz II Men’s ‘On Bended Knee’. The former made perfect sense to me. If you can stomp on your own fingers and another person will accept the blame, you do that shit.
I spent close to a decade having no idea about this. But I still stand by the above explanation.
12-5-05 Final Thought: When you have sex with someone regularly, the amount you get head plummets.
Consider yourself warned.
12-11-05 Penultimate Thought: Apparently, on ‘Burning Heart’ (Rocky IV) it’s, “in the darkest night, rising like a spire” not “rising like a spider”, which was unknown to me until I was riding through the desert in a red Ford Fiesta hatchback with my brother on the way to Vegas two summers ago. Again, made perfect sense to me. Spider are gully and I sort of fear them.
Maybe I’m just going deaf.
12-13-05 Penultimate Thought: I cannot go to sleep if my feet are sticking out from under my covers.
I’m a grown ass man who is fairly sure that a monster won’t come out and grab his shit, but why take a chance?
12-30-05 Penultimate Thought: I like fronts. I could lie about that, but I’m not going to.
I don’t like ‘em as much as I used to, but don’t give me no kind of money to fuck around with, ’cause my shit might be sparklin’.
There you have it. Part Deux (2006/2007) will occur at some point that isn’t right now. Peace to the love of the game.
Penultimate Thought: Tide is, far and away, the best laundry detergent on the market.
Final Thought: In order to be self-centered, you gotta know what your self centers around.
So, seeing as it’s this section of planet Earth’s turn to tilt toward the sun, people are celebrating that fact by shedding more clothes and showing everyone if they took the time to hit the gym during the chillier months. Some do, some don’t, but all contribute to the public tapestry in which we walk around and, consciously of subconsciously, see which people look better and worse than we do. Of course, these comparisons happen all year round, but the degree to which that happens is greatly bolstered by the females of the race because…girls hate girls. Still, it is particularly prevalent in the summer months because it’s easier to see saddle bags, love handles, paunch and flesh of the more jiggly variety when not covered by sweatpants and seven long-sleeved shirts.
A while ago, I wrote about the nature of vanity and how it plays into our desire to be physically fit. Many of us feel that actual health is an ancillary benefit to looking swoll up. A six pack and bad cholestrol? Most people would take it. In that same post, I’d mentioned that I was working on getting back into the swing of things for the reasons stated a second ago. Why not be swoll if you can be? Why not be healthy if you can be?
Now, I wish I could sit here and give you a testimonial as to how I got shredded and currently spend my free time crushing brazil nuts in my bare hands, but the reality is that I basically did nothing, ate everything and conducted my life as a tall person who carries their weight well the entire year. I could always convince myself I looked good enough. No one’s Adonis, I also wasn’t the worst thing walking the streets, and the “good enough to get by” carried me through. In public at least.
In private, I pinch and prod and wince and frown, wrinkling my nose in disgust when I twist my torso and see I’ve developed back fat and love handles. Am I being too hard on myself? Maybe, but I’m certainly not being hard on myself in the weight room or on the bike (Sidebar 1: Before we confuse this with the ramblings of another victim of our image-obsessed culture, understand that I’m talking about being in shape. Forget being a physical specimen, I’m not even fit.) Really, I’m performing self-sabotage on my entire life because, outside of living in a physically unhealthy manner that is beginning to catch up with me, I know that the consequence of not taking care of myself and feeling good about my appearance affects other aspects of my life. But this situation is bigger than me.
I have a confession to make: I don’t like how I look naked and I now have a better understanding of why some women will deny themselves physical pleasure if they feel the same way. Now, it’s crazy to think that I would deny myself such a thing because of a little sogginess, but it is accurate to say that your feelings on said sogginess can be projected into intimatecircumstances. I mean, you’re there, naked, and sometimes, you catch a glimpse of yourself and let’s just say it’s not good for morale.
And while it’s true that I could take the Christopher Wallace approach and just say eff it, I have to remember that I can’t rap. Besides, I’m not living the life I used to. When I was single and trying to “knock a hole in everything” as one of the Last Real Niggas Alive might say, a little pudge was something to took a weird pride in. I figured, “Shit, I’m far from Action Jackson’s stunt double and I still pull.” I used it as an excuse not to get my exercise act together.
But the stakes are different now. Not only does the weird pride of my former life not fit, intimate encounters are about more than busting nuts, and coming into that sort of dynamic and not feeling your best is sort of a terrible feeling. The logic may seem counterintuitive, but it plays like this: When you’re with a person who takes you as you are, you want to be a great, or at least a very good, version of yourself, particularly with regard to things that matter to you. When you’re not, it can be disappointing and there is really no one to blame but yourself.
Being in good shape is like having money. It can’t solve all of your problems, but there are some problems that it takes very good care of. Like money, it can help you live longer. In fact, it probably helps you live longer than money can. So, I’m left with only two choices: Get off my ass or watch my stomach pregnify. At this point in life when decisions big and small are being made daily, I owe it to myself to give a damn about myself, to give myself a fighting chance. I also owe it to someone to be, at least, a very good version of myself. Peace to Ms. LaVonne.
Penultimate Thought: Lost tweezers are a terrible thing.
Final Thought: There are fewer things more crushing than seeing the Blue Screen of Death on your computer.
So, the other day while lounging on my air mattress, I decided to give my buddy Pocahontas a call and say hey. I hadn’t spoken to her in a while and figured it was about time to check in and make sure things were cool in her world. OK, the truth of the matter is that I had posted what I thought was a witty half a quip on her facebook wall and her non-response coupled with my nothing better to do prompted me to give her a buzz and get to the bottom of this travesty.
When she answered the phone, I took little time peppering her with questions (actually, there was really only one question–where ya been?–and once she answered that, the conversation sort of moved along). Going through the rolodex of standard summer questions, I soon got to the “So where you at?” Much to my surprise, she told me she was in the Elm City. I shrieked and when it became clear to her that I too was among the New Haven City byke g’s, we began to prattle on like two sixth grade girls planning a slumber party. Desperately, I asked her to set a play-date for that same evening. Though she had a midterm to work on–summer session be like that–she agreed for around ten that evening.
Calling to confirm as she said she would–I was actually nervous she was going to cancel, like legit Prom letdown nervous–Pocahontas informed me that she’d be downstairs from the crib at 9:45. Being the ethnic that I am, I didn’t get in the shower until about 9:33. Being the ethnic that I am and yet, not, she called from down the street, at 9:45 sharp. Still in my towel and feeling panicked, I dressed quickly, making the executive decision to lotion only the most crucial areas, slap on some deodorant and hustle out the door.
Being the supporters of NAFTA that we are, we decided to go to Viva’s and eat nachos and sip from the copa de paz (I wish there was an equivalent to “smoking the peace pipe” in drinking parlance that I knew about, because it woulda been dynamite right here). Anyway, as we sat and fired upon the shit, she made a remark concerning her boyfriend and how he appreciated how I treated him.
When she mentioned this, she, perhaps embellishing a bit (but I hope not), talked about how after leaving my company, he’d be very pumped about being remembered. (Back sentence: Pocahontas dates a younger fellow) I was touched that dude felt that way and admitted to her that the respect was intentional. I had been him once and knew what it meant for an older cat to acknowledge your existence while to their friend/your girlfriend.
The conversation got me to thinking that, though the glory of the wingman is generally found in the ranks of the single, the obligation to give your buddy a fighting chance with someone they’re feeling doesn’t end with the Newsfeed letting everyone know he or she is now in a relationship. The role changes, but the idea is the same: Help your buddy’s cause.
By himself, Pocahontas’s fella is a good kid and, outside of when I first saw them out and about and gave her the “who the fuck is this?”? eyeball from across the dancefloor, I’ve never had reason to dislike him. But that’s not why I go out of my way to greet him if I see him in the streets. I mean, there are all kinds of people who I think are OK who I don’t say a word to. That’s just me (I’m only now getting the hang of introducing people who may not know each other). The real clincher is that homegirl seems to really like this dude, just really has genuine good feelings toward him. And it’s those feelings that prompt me to say, “How can I help this?”
Here’s where the wingman status comes into play. Scenario: I see the two of them coming up the street. Once we’re within earshot, I say the general group hey. Once we’re in arm shot, the formal greetings commence. He gets the first. I probably go with… a firm handshake and a question, possibly two, regarding something or other. Then I turn to her, we banter a bit, but not so much that he left out of the loop. Yes, there are times when it’s his job to just sit there and be quiet, but I make an honest effort to keep him in the game even if the conversation doesn’t actually include him. It’s like a Jordan, Pippen, Kerr. Kerr may sit out on the wing waiting, but when he gets that rock from Pippen or MJ, he knows what to do. The encounter ends with daps, most likely to him first, and we go on our merry way.
Now you might find yourself asking, “How the eff does that help her?” Let me tell you how. Because the pleasant encounter smacks of respect and approval and people like to feel respected and approved of. When thats not a factor to worry about, love comes more easily and selflessly. And who is the beneficiary of that love? Pocahontas. I mean, if dude feels good about the situation, he’s not about to stare into my eyes and feel overcome by the desire to take me in his arms and wisk me down the road to ecstacy (though I would understand if he did).
Before you scoff, just consider the fact that poor interactions between a significant other and a friend can throw monkey wrenches into otherwise nice relationships. And I’m not talking about the instances where people straight up don’t like the other person–that’s something else entirely–I’m talking about interactions that make a person feel isolated and unwelcome. Suddenly, rather than dating and figuring out if they’re worth each other’s time, discussions revolve around the discord and the disrespect and the strain until *POOF* these are people that used to date.
Being a relationship wingman is not nearly as glamorous as it’s single version. There aren’t really tragic tales of hilarious misadventure in which you bite the bullet (and sadly, little else) so your buddy can close some ass. Being a relationship wingman entails more endearing tasks like making those little efforts that help your friend go closer to another person. While nice, it’s not exactly something you recount while you and your boys get to the bottom of a bottle of Henn. Still, unless you just don’t like your friend’s boyfriend or girlfriend, you should keep your wings. No, you may not fly into the danger zone any longer, but you can always help a friend get their breath taken away. Peace to Kenny Loggins.
Penultimate Thought: I find it outrageous that stamps are 41 cents.
Final Thought: If I played hockey, I would never want to wear the assistant captain’s “A.”
As the war in Iraq grinds on and the bodies of young men and women continue coming home, the issue of flag-lowering has come into the national debate. In the New York Times the other day, there was an article discussing the differing policies of states when honoring the dead. More than half of the Union lowers the American flag and the state flag for 24 hours; others only lower the state flag. In some states, like Michigan, the lowering of flags falls to the discretion of the governor while in other states, the decision is made by the federal authorities in that state.
The controversy seems to swirl around who the flag should be lowered for, when and where flags should be lowered and what the overall intent is of the gesture. This last point, the gesture, is particularly interesting in that the schism is between the notion of honoring the dead and lowering the flag in shame, an act of antiwar protest.
To me, the matter of gesture is most important. Whatever your opinion on this particular war–and frankly I think it’s an out and out disgrace–the fact of the matter is that there are people who must take up arms in defense of our nation and its allies. I’m no dummy; I am fully aware that these individuals are mere pawns in the agenda of the powerful, but it doesn’t change the fact that these men and women are doing a job that has to be done.
Now while I have a vastly different opinion on people that join the armed forces because they want to kill and torture people, I do believe that people who forfeit their lives in service of their country deserve to be acknowledged by the symbols and values they fought to protect. A lowering of the flag for someone who died to protect it? The trade is so staggeringly unequal that there should be little discussion as to whether this gesture is appropriate.
Some argue that the lowering of the state flag should suffice because it is more a local tragedy and that the lowering of the American flag should be reserved for deaths of prominent figures that affected the nation. I feel this logic is terribly flawed on a practical level. I understand that deaths of prominent figures deserve their proper respect (though I can’t for the life of me think of someone–outside of politics I guess–who would be deserving of such an honor these days), but that gesture is comparing apples to Ikea. In the death of prominent figures, EVERY flag in the United States of America is lowered to show respect. In the case of a dead soldier, the American flags in his or her home state are lowered. Is a final salute by the symbol someone got their head taken of their shoulders for too much to ask?
Here, I think the question of truth is problematic, especially for those who conduct the business of war. The truth, in this instance represented by death, is bad for morale. We’re a nation that likes to wage war, but we don’t really dig it when Americans actually die. And while the United States Flag Code–which offers non-compulsory flag etiquette guidelines–was passed in 1942, it is my sincere doubt that flag-lowering was done for the GIs of the European or Pacific theaters. The efforts of the Department of War (which the book The Censored War does a good job of shedding light on) seem anathema to such measures. The administration of war in the domestic sphere was, and still is, of tantamount importance.
But that was 65 years ago. The Information Age precludes such censorship from being feasible (Sidebar 1: Son, the degree to which the War department had control of what got the American public was eerily inspiring. Sure, they didn’t have to compete with camera phones and YouTube, but wow. Peep the book. They had shit on lock). And while I don’t believe the debate over flag lowering is some disingenuine conspiracy, I do think the focus on how the soldiers coming home dead every day should be honored distracts from the fact that soldiers are coming home dead every day in a war that was declared over. An interesting quote from the Times article: “When we lower it now, people notice it and ask why,” Mr. Burk [a postal worker from Crystal Falls, Michigan] said. “If you lower every time a soldier dies, it will be down so often that people will only notice and ask when it’s up.”
With regard to flag lowering and its pro or antiwar stance, I think the rhetoric that breaks the silent dignity of a flag at half-mast speaks volumes. I personally think flag-lowering acknowledges a basic truth: An individual gave their life in service of this country and that service deserves respect. It is what it is. The responsibility to be informed on the truths being illuminated with each passing day are not on the flag or the soldier lost; rather, it is on those who are still alive to think for themselves and make decisions. I’d argue that they owe it to the dead.
The flag doesn’t lower itself to the level of grandiose “hero” speech, using the word as an opiate to divert attention away from the fact that blood continues to be shed. It doesn’t appeal the society’s reverence for the hero figure, a quasi-mythical place where people never die in vain. At half-mast, the flag speaks to a more subtle heroism, of an individual’s bravery and courage and says little else.
So then, can you make an antiwar statement while also honoring the dead? Can you use the lowering of the flag to show respect while also voicing shame and indignation at how this event came to pass? In my estimation, these are the concerns of the living who must ask themselves if that individual being honored died in vain and what to do if that is the case. In this present quagmire, shame and indignation at the use of warriors as cannon fodder in a sectarian civil war would seem appropriate.
The matter of honor, in some sense, is restricted to the relationship between the soldier and the flag. And the discourse over pro-war/ antiwar, prominent figure/ Joe Regular get away from the point. Some young man or woman paid more than the price. It is only decent that they receive their change. Peace to those who answer the call.
Penultimate Thought: My Far Side calendar is on point.
Final Thought: Dustin Diamond has to be top-5 reality TV villains.
If you have the wrong disposition for it, living by yourself can be a bummer. And while improper dispositions make anything that doesn’t agree with them generally wack, I think the term “bummer” is apropos. While getting older has that there are a good deal of people that don’t matter–and I mean ‘matter’ in the most innocuous way possible–it also teaches you that the few that do hold a lot of sway in your life. And when those individuals aren’t around, it makes the days a little less fulfilling.
Part of growing up is experiencing that whittling-out process. I’d argue that one of the main purposes of school is to develop a crew of people who you consider friends, people who will be there for you and each other as best the can after they take that plunge into the real world. In school, everyone’s path is different, but the journey is the same. There is a fundamental wavelength that everyone agrees upon. We go to school because that’s what pretty much everyone our age is doing. School, however miserable or awesome, is where the party is. This like-mindedness, combined with proximity, is conducive to bonding.
But rather abruptly, everyone’s frequency changes. School is out and it’s time to commence into one’s life and start a new journey that is unlike any that you’ve experienced in your whole life. Looking back, the big deal people make about high school graduation is sort of a joke. Not because it’s not a milestone, but because the next year will be a different version of the same thing. While I believe that college is not for everyone and therefore cannot be considered everyone’s next step, I would say that, contemporarily, a good deal of high school seniors are staring down the barrel of drinking multiple nights a week, not getting in trouble for missing class and complaining about not sleeping enough even though they put off work until the night before and regularly skip class to sleep in.
Graduating from college is different. You spend for years trying to figure something out–about yourself, about your life, about your future–and suddenly someone hands you a diploma (that you may or may not be able to read) and basically says, “GO!” Even the people that have their shit together feel the lurch of a life dramatically shifting course once they get that papyrus. There are plenty of well-educated and well-adjusted people who are sitting somewhere wondering how, in the blink of an eye, their weekend was just reduced from four nights to two and are befuddled by the fact that they have to do something all day for five or six days a week.
In a lot of ways, college isn’t practice for real life. Real life is practice for real life and, the sad truth is, knowing that does not make Life’s punches to your grill any less impactful. In fact, sometimes it just makes it worse because your grill would love nothing better than for you to move so it doesn’t lose any chiclets, but all you can do is sit their and hope it accepts your apology because Life doesn’t accept Dean’s Excuses.
Outside of the things that you learned about Life and yourself in your collegiate years, the only defense against this assault are the people that care about you. When you take off your cap and gown and realize the world is much bigger than the internet makes it seem, these people are reminders that if you just keep kicking your legs, they won’t let you drown. But the stakes are different now. While the sincerity of friendship hopefully supersedes time and circumstance, you can’t ignore the fact that both the paths and the journeys are no longer the same. Sometimes, Life dictates that these people can only be there for the things that are really important. Getting older forces you to acknowledge an essential truth: You have to learn to be there for yourself.
Whatever your opinions on marriage, I think it’s the mulligan that Life tosses us. Adulthood takes us in so many directions that the idea of corraling two or three people who care about you face-to-face on a daily basis is too absurd. And since the idea of a person having no close relationships apparently bores Life, it allows one person to take care of another on a daily basis (don’t be fooled, I’m convinced the vast majority of Life’s entertainment comes from people ridiculous with one another in their interpersonal relations. It’s like reality TV, but with all of mankind.) These companions are there for the important stuff and the stuff that is too stupid to bring anyone but them into.
Yes; this one person may change over the years, but the idea doesn’t. We get so out of the school multiple-friend mindset–this starts, I think around junior year of college and ends with your having genuine friendships with only a handful of people–that we begin to only be able to tolerate that one person on a daily basis. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a conspiracy (eyes squinting suspiciously).
But before you get to that point (if you ever do), you sometimes live by yourself and hear life passing by out your window. And while you could see it as a perfectly good opportunity to strike out and meet new people, you don’t want to do that. It was an effort just to figure out that handful of people. So you sit, and selfishly wishing you were the life passing by someone else’s window with just one or two people from that handful of people that count. But that’s not how it goes and sometimes, you find yourself alone, wishing for the pleasant imperfection of what used to be. Peace to the thing that keeps me company.
Penultimate Thought: Congrats to TD and Court on their anniversary.
Final Thought: Applying baby oil gel is a labor of love.
So, among the many things I did in college that were worth a damn was take a class called Daily Themes. It’s an English class and the basic premise is that you are given a theme to write on every day. Allegedly, it’s the oldest class still in the Yale curriculum and Black students weren’t able to take it until 1981. That last part isn’t actually true, but the whole old thing is and my reason for even imparting that unnecessary factoid was because I can. Anyway, of the many things in Daily Themes that the professor said, I remember one in particular. He was quoting this French writer who said “20 lines a day, genius or not.” It sounded better in French and if I remembered it I would have written it, but I didn’t, so my ignorance will have to suffice.
“20 lines a day, genius or not.” Until very recently, that was terribly hard to come by. When I first started doing this semi-seriously, it was very “for the love of the game”-esque. I enjoyed it, it came “easily” and I think, for the most part it made people feel; feel good, feel outdone, feel whatever they wanted. But then the feedback came and I got scared. Rather than being told it was crap and feeling confident it was otherwise, people told me it was good and that I should really try to take my talent somewhere. This was almost a kiss of death, and coupled with my feeling like a liar for not telling the story that I wanted to tell, I felt paralyzed. Anytime Iwrote, I felt like people were counting on me to be good, or insightful or any number of things on purpose. Rather than just let my weird thoughts spill onto the page, I started filtering and writing for an audience, rather than writing because I enjoyed the craft. I no longer felt like an observer; indeed, the task was no longer to tell the truth as I saw it. It was about being profound–whatever that means.
While I feel like I’ve improved as a writer–for a long time, I refused to even call myself a ‘writer’, I thought it was smug and disrespectful to the craft–I don’t feel that I have recaptured that purity with which I first began putting entries into this journal. The struggle is to be inspired.
But waiting on inspiration can leave you out of shape. Leaving the plying of a craft in the hands of inspiration can, in fact, lead you farther and farther away from it. Indeed, self-critique only gets more difficult the longer one is away from the thing being critiqued. I can honestly admit that I was posting so infrequently that I had to, on more than one occasion, look at an old journal to see that I was using the proper format. That’s no way to break out of a slump.
Now that I’ve killed, or at least, severely wounded my elephant, it’s time to get back into a routine.
While perusing ESPN.com this afternoon, I happened across a story in which a 16-year old girl married her 40-year old track coach. When her parents got hip to the fact that the two might be having an inappropriate relationship, they took the proper steps to put an end to it–talked to the guy himself (who denied it), talked to the school, the cops, their pastor. This did nothing. The girl stopped speaking to them and one day presented consent forms so she and the coach could marry. Broken down, the parents relented and signed the papers.
Now, I’ve gone to school with lots of smart people who advance some very interesting theories on socially-constructed societal mores and raise some very compelling questions with regard to that which we deem acceptable and appropriate behavior in interpersonal relations. Upon reading about this case, I felt myself furrowing my eyebrows, really considering some of the sociological and anthropological theories and concepts I’ve encountered in my time spent in a fairly reputable institution of higher learning. After much thought, I came to this conclusion: As a parent, I would whoop that dude’s ass.
At 16, you’re not as much of a baby as adults like to think–seeing newscasters talk about the girl and teenagers in general as if they’d just learned how to wipe their ass was troubling–but that doesn’t change the fact that at 16, you’re an idiot. That’s the technical term. Idiot. If this girl wanted to marry a 20-year old I’d be a bit concerned. Let’s throw out the issue of “acceptability” for a moment and just consider the age of the young lady devoid of the age of her now-husband.
As I recall–and as this dude should recall–the leap in development between 14 and 18 is staggering; the difference between a freshman in high school and a senior in high school/freshman in college is borderline absurd. Shit, at 14 I played in my first varsity football game and I got blown for the first time. At 18, I thought I knew the woman I was going to marry and didn’t see the point of finishing college. But wait. There is another leap between 18 and 21 that is damn near ridiculous, more ridiculous than the first, and at the end of this leap, it’s generally believed you’re supposed to have a job or something to do that isn’t nothing. Were I born in 1982, I’d probably be able to tell you the the difference between 21 and 25 is pronounced as well.
The person in the situation equipped to make a decision–at least more equipped than someone who may or may not have their driver’s license–thinks it’s a good idea to do this. Ofmy many question, I have a fairly reasonable one: How do the two maintain the relationship? What do a 16-year old girl and 40-year old man talk about? I’ll go out on a limb and say I don’t doubt there is genuine affection between the two. In fact, I’d argue, to a point, that it’s no one’s place to make exclaims about the love between two people. However, some love, due to circumstance, should go unrealized.
It would be uncouth to discuss this without devoting some time Mary-Kate LeTourneau and her now-husband Vili Falal. As you might recall, she was his teacher, started banging him, went to jail, got out of jail, banged him again, got sent back to jail and upon her release from jail–after having birthed two of his seeds–got married to him. This was over the course of about eight years that this happened and, call me crazy, I think it is the exception to the rule. Why? Because despite Mary-Kate being a diagnosed bipolar, she and Vili stayed consistent and married after going through a whole rack of crap. Do I think it’s kinda weird? Yup. Do I feel forced to shrug my shoulders and say, “Hey if it works you”? Yup. If you go through all that and are still standing, I don’t feel I can opine too much.
So why then would I whoop this dude’s ass? Because at the very most, I’m gonna make someone I’d perceive as a pervert earn my daughter’s hand in marriage. I’m serious. If you can take me and my wife stomping that ass out over the course of two years, I won’t be any more inclined to let you marry my daughter, but by that point she will be 18 and has the right to get the fuck out of my house. At the very least, I would think he was a scumbag pedophile who needs to get tuned up.
I mean, since the daughter seems convinced of what she wants and the issue of losing her seems a foregone conclusion, you might as well throw bows. There is nothing that says a parent has to be cool about that shit. There’s just no way that I sign those papers. I’ll kidnap my own damn daughter and we’ll move away before I let someone who is basically my age have sex with her. Sex that I have legally consented to. That’s just not going to happen. Those smart people theories and concepts didn’t stick that well. Peace to the Last Real Niggas Alive.
Penultimate Thought: Unfortunately, it appears I don’t know/remember everything ever and, in the case of my movie condom-use reference, neglected to recall that Omar Epps indeed suited up before Sanaa Lathan put her womanly work on him in Love and Basketball. Special thanks to Adia Hinds for the addendum.
Final Thought: I don’t know that we’ll see a megastar like Michael Jackson again in our lifetime.
While I have made a point of discussing the ins and outs of sex–witty pun clearly intended–I have not devoted a great deal of time to sexual health and awareness. And, to be frank, I probably wouldn’t do so now but for the new Trojan condom commercial that has recently come to national attention surrounded by a cloud of modest controversy spearheaded–oh, another!–by people that have nothing better to talk about. Since I don’t have a job, I figured I’d take a crack at it. This crack is going to have a heterosexual bent–I’m on fire right now–mainly because I don’t have sex with men and thus can’t really speak to that dynamic, though I’d imagine the issues outside of pregnancy should still hold water.
Firstly, a word on condoms and their usage. While it is politically correct to be staunch supporters of condom use, plenty of people in America are decidedly more flexible behind closed doors. That is not to say there are not people who are strict in their sexual habits, but it is to say that, of the people for whom sexual relations are not a taboo, there is a laxness that comes with age. As a teenager, we’ve been scared into believing that impregnation and disease are a guarantee without condom use. The second young people find out that that is not the case–coupled with the arrogance that such things can’t happen to them–rubbers start to get a worse and worse rap.
Condoms become a taboo best left ignored because their presence acknowledges that there are unpleasant things like disease in the world and in what is arguably the most intimate act between two human beings, who wants to ruin the mood with a dose of reality? Consider this: You don’t see movie sex scenes where rubbers are anywhere in sight. What would it look like for the dashing hero–who has fallen for the women he is trying to prevent from falling into the clutches of evil–to run to the corner store? It would look like a little too much information for the audience. To my knowledge, Fight Club is one of the only movies in which condoms where not displayed in some comical way a la 40-Year Old Virgin. They were used, floating in the toilet, realistically represented. But that’s rare. In general, the condom buzz kill is left to the people who are susceptible to disease. For the record, these ‘people’ include everyone who is not the two people trying to bump uglies.
People can’t really quibble with the practicality of rubbers; they’re meant to prevent disease and pregnancy–two good things–and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that hates on them in that capacity. Instead, they are assailed on the matter of the pleasure principle. They’re too tight, they take a little length off, they dry her situation out, and, my personal favorite, courtesy of a buddy, “They’re like working out all day, sweating and then jumping in a refreshing pool with a body bag on.” With denouncements such as these, condoms become less a requirement and more a suggestion.
As was mentioned before, plenty of people just don’t think disease can happen to them, so in that way condom use is basically off the table. But what about pregnancy? Here an interesting class divide comes into play. For those that can afford it, the pill is considered the best choice in making babies not occur while still getting the most bang for their sensual buck. If the pill doesn’t work and a baby is indeed created, that baby will be dealt with per the beliefs and or whimsy of the mother. To put it plainly, abortion is middle-class birth control. Check one in the loss column for condoms.
As far as the poor are concerned, resources aren’t an option, so the pill and abortion are essentially out. In my estimation, in cases of disease or unwanted pregnancy it comes down to acculturation, misinformation and the pleasure factor. Access to resources equals an access to information; indeed, information is a resource itself and without it, ignorance reigns (yeah, ignorance can reign with information as well, but just go with me here). Unlike the middle class, members of this class can’t ask for a mulligan when this ignorance becomes a serious issue. Not unlike the middle-class’s generally-accepted ”no babies until we feel like it” policy, the disadvantaged also have a policy that is par for the course. While disease is a dangerously-kept secret across class lines, babies are considered OK among the disadvantaged. Being a young mother, more often than not, does not elicit disapproving frowns. It’s not to say that people are jumping up and down with joy, but babies are a fairly common reality that, in these communities, is dealt with accordingly.
Granted, it can be argued that people in these situations should learn from the experiences of others around them but that’s smug advice. Using that logic, groups of friends shouldn’t know more than one victim of drunk and reckless driving fatalities, but they do. These cautionary examples aren’t capable of overcoming the id within. People want pleasure and taking steps that could inhibit that pleasure isn’t a necessity because bad things happen to ‘other’ people.
On to the commercial. It’s a hip, mostly white bar/lounge type of setting, very Sex and the City, with various women being talked to by pigs. Whether these pigs are mostly white, I can’t say. One pig is talking to a beautiful blonde who isn’t terribly interested in his advances, so he walks away from the bar, buys a Trojan condom from outside the bathroom, turns into a good-looking white boy and returns to the bar. The woman, previously a Muslim–she wasn’t down with the swine, ya dig?–looks at ole boy and appears more intrigued by the prospect of copulation.
In general, I think the ad is funny. Seeing pigs trying to rap at women is much like seeing those guys in the bar: those dude–struggles onto themselves–trying to get the attention of the women folk, via smarmy remarks and other stuff that helps their cause in no way. Pretty hilarious. The one Black girls stank face was epic–clearly the Trojan ad people did their homework on that front.
Still, I found myself having some issues with it. Firstly, why are only the dudes pigs? If it’s a matter of ignorance, there should have been all pigs because, if my 5th grade health class taught me anything, it takes two to tango (but only one to masturbate, which our teacher made a point of telling us she was not going to teach). Women, oddly enough, can be grimy in their own right and the onus shouldn’t fall squarely on the man’s shoulders.
However, ‘shouldn’t’ is a stupid conjunction more often than not and I guess rubber totage is the responsibility of the guy in the end. This is less a matter of moral fortitude on the part of the man–recall people’s feelings of invincibility and loyalty to their own pleasure–than it is a desire to advance one’s own cause. Whether the condom ever comes into play is another matter entirely. Is that to say that men don’t use condoms voluntarily? Of course not. But it is to say that many men won’t think twice–or really once–about going au natural if it’s an option. If the issue of protection isn’t brought up, plenty of guys won’t bring it up. The thinking is: it’s better to have and not use than it is to not have and go home with your nuts in your stomach (Sidebar 1: For any ladies reading this, and frankly this should go without saying, if protection matters to you, ALWAYS ask if dude has any. It’s probably a good idea to have some yourself. Either way, ASK because plenty of dudes work under a “If she doesn’t ask…” policy. Trust me).
Sure, women like to have sex as much as the next guy, but that desire does not preclude most from maintaining their ‘I could take it or leave it’ clause, especially if prophylactics are a deal-breaker for them. And in situations where they opt for the ‘take it’ in the clause and bring someone they don’t know well home for a one-night tussle, my female colleagues have informed me that the least the guy can do is provide the condom. I get the feeling there’s a sense of female entitlement inherent in the above statement, as if vagina is a favor. But let’s be honest, it kind of is.
And finally to the controversy. Fox refused to run the ad, stating “contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.” I don’t know that the commercial takes a stance one way or the other in that regard. What I do know is that the hip, middle-class Sex and the City crowd is not worried about crumb snatchers. Don’t let Knocked Up fool you. When you’re wearing designer clothes and pounding down $20 martinis, your thoughts on sexual health are most likely somewhere in the ball park of “I don’t want it to burn when I pee.”
CBS also declined to run the spot, saying “while we understand and appreciate the humor of this creative [ad], we do not find it appropriate for our network even with late-night-only restrictions.” CBS comes off a little better than Fox–a good deal of their viewers are senior citizens for whom sexual discussions are a dish best served never–but in the end the sources of their success work against them. Indeed, the entire CSI franchise comes into question. Call me crazy, but I think if people can see decomposed bodies, women with their bosoms hanging out and the anatomy of a gun shot wound to the head, they can handle an ad which implies that putting a condom on your penis is a smart and responsible move. At least the commercial advances a good idea. To my knowledge, seeing somebody get shot in the head has, for me, only advanced the idea that I never want to get shot in the head.
Condoms are not bad. I have had my own love-hate relationship with them over the years. In truth, it’s more like-despise: every bad thing said about them above is true. However they also do those goods as well, not to mention they help your time in the sack–some vagina just feels too good and you need any help you can get–and frankly, you just feel better after having used one. There is peace of mind in knowing that you did what you could do to protect yourself while getting after it.
Disease and unwanted babies are a downer and people, Americans in particular, need to come to accept that being squeamish and negative about condom-use does little to prevent these issues. If you’re going to throw dirt on one of the realistic and tangible ways–outside of abstinence, which is just not for everybody–don’t then turn and wonder why sexual disease continues to be a prevalent issue. I find it ironic that purveyors of smut would be so hard on something that attempts to make smut a little more safe. But I guess that would make it too real, and who would want to see the autopsy of a hooker after that? Peace to the youth.
Penultimate Thought: I need to learn how to read again.
Final Thought: Pacman Jones apparently has no interest in being paid to play professional football ever again.