Archive for April, 2006

Grown Ass Man

(Today’s my day. The culmination of the celebration kicked off by Happy Gestation Day. And as fair warning, if the title of today’s rant wasn’t your first clue, I may be swearing a lot. Because that’s what crotchety old men do.)

Yep. Today I turned 36. Somewhere between my 20s and now, I became a grown ass man.

Pull your damn pants up.

Do you know how I know that I’m a grown ass man? Marketers told me so. I’ve officially fallen out of the hallowed demographic, that 18-35 age group that advertisers chase. Why? Because I’m officially unimpressed with what’s hip. I’m too old to care about what other people think about me. A lot of what’s hip now seem silly. Why?

Because I’m a grown ass man.

Turn your damn music down.

For that matter, you can’t honestly call that music. Music should have a melody. In the last few years, pop music has become noise (yes, hip-hop and techno– music I grew up with–I’m looking at you). I don’t need instructions in my music – it’s why I quit going to rap concerts. In fact, I was at a blues club the other night, listening to grown folks music, when the blues band tried to get me to do too much. Raise my hands, scream … I guess that’s what young people are into these days.

That’s right, a lot of you just became “young people” to me. Not that it matters since I’ve officially ceased to exist as a sexual being to young women. I’m the guy too old to be in the club. Young women look through me now. Don’t pity me, this goes two ways. College kids look like high schoolers to me. High schoolers look like pre-teens. Anyone else are various sizes of toddlers.

Because I’m a grown ass man.

Get off my lawn.

By the way, thank you to all of my myspace well wishers! And I need to go thank my mother.

And Happy Birthday fellow horror scribes Brian Knight and John C. Hay.

Cussin’ & Fussin’ part II

After looking at cussing from the perspective of a writer, I thought that I’d look at it from the perspective of how my faith impacts it. When you get down to it, the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about cussing. A lot of it boils down to two verses:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephsesians 4:29 (NIV)

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:4 (NIV)

Unwholesome talk could be defined in much broader terms than we would feel comfortable with (in regards to what it means to even our most casual conversations): slander, gossip, all other manner of malicious speech, and even sexually charged language (such as double entendres). Another definition of profanity goes something like this: to take something that is high and to trample it underfoot. I’m not going to sit here and parse what I mean by a profanity or a curse. The bulk of what I’m talking about is cussin’, pure and simple swear words. We live in a rated-R world and we have a rated-R Bible, even though a lot of the language is often cleaned up.

In terms of colorful language in the Bible, indeed it is there, and translators do tend to soften it, at times. Examples:
-2 Kings 18:27 in the King James Version, 1611, reads:
“… they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you.”
– milder rendering of “piss” appears in the New Living Translation, 1996, it reads:
“…drink their own urine.”
-Philip. 3:8 in the King James reads:
“… I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
(Dung is translated “rubbish” in the New Revised Standard and “garbage” in the New Living Translation.)

Nonetheless, translators do not always soften colorful words or illustrations. For example:
-At times Jesus used “colorful” illustrations to make his points, as recorded in Mark 7:19 (NLT) “Food doesn’t come in contact with your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then comes out again.”
-In the Hebrew Scriptures, God gave the prophet Ezekiel an interesting recipe: “Each day prepare your bread as you would barley cakes. While all the people are watching, bake it over a fire using dried human dung as fuel and then eat the bread.” (Ezekiel 4:12).
-I understand that one of the strongest swear words in the Jesus’ day was “rhaka” which means, in softer language, “worthless” or “idiot” Another curse word was “moros,” meaning “absurd blockhead” or “stupid.” Jesus used both profane words in this context: “I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire.” (Matthew 5:22 -Message Bible)

The idea here is not the use of the words themselves, after all even Jesus did use them, but rather the intent behind their use. It is all about context and audience. Additionally, in terms of everyday “colorful” language that is not meant to curse or demean another person I can find no Biblical prohibition. But, then again, it is all about context and audience. The word “appropriate” comes to mind. Jesus was always appropriate.

Another example would be found in the Song of Songs. Not to be too crass, but I doubt that a woman’s “navel” is what the author meant to never lack “blended wine”.

I have no real point, by the way. I study the Bible like I do foreign languages: learn the swear words first. Language is funny. Words mean things. My rule of thumb has been one of context and intent. I’m not here to scald sensitive ears. I’m one who wants to communicate to people and let’s face it, some folks stop listening once you drop the f-bomb. However, I recognize that strong times call for strong language. Golly gee willikers doesn’t cut it for dialogue when bullets are flying by soldiers in the trenches. I also hope to be a good enough writer to not have to lean on cuss words as a crutch.

I sometimes tell folks that I don’t cuss because I have enough words in my vocabulary to be able to express myself. But I’m often an ass.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Cussin’ & Fussin’

Are we living in an Age of Profanity? Younger people admit to using bad language more often than older people; they also encounter it more and are less bothered by it. The AP-Ipsos poll suggested that 62 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds acknowledged swearing in conversation at least a few times a week, compared to 39 percent of those 35 and older.

More women than men said they encounter people swearing more now than 20 years ago — 75 percent, compared to 60 percent. Also, more women said they were bothered by profanity — 74 percent at least some of the time — than men (60 percent.) And more men admitted to swearing: 54 percent at least a few times a week, compared to 39 percent of women. Wondering specifically about the F-word? Thirty-two percent of men said they used it at least a few times a week, compared to 23 percent of women.

“That word doesn’t even mean what it means anymore,” says Larry Riley of Warren, Michigan. “It has just become part of the culture.” Riley admits to using the F-word a few times a week. And his wife? “She never swears.” A striking common note among those interviewed, swearers or not: They don’t like it when people swear for no good reason.

Without a doubt, there has been a rise in crassness. Culture is frequently renewed from the fringes and let’s face it, the fringes have become more mainstream. I know folks who use their naughty words to shock or show how hardcore they are, ironically missing the fact that frequent use of their (limited) hardcore vocabulary lessens the impact of the words.

I’ve wrestled with the idea of “bad” language as a writer and as a Christian. This came up recently when a friend of mine told me that he doesn’t cuss like I do. My offending language: how often the characters in my stories cuss. I know that writers typically hide behind the wall of “being real” or “being true to their characters” and that’s fine, but if we wrote how people actually spoke, it would make for quite the tedious dialogue. I like what Gary A. Braunbeck had to say on the topic of profanity:

First of all, unless you’re writing Christian YA (and even that’s up for debate), it would be unrealistic to write a novel or short story wherein one of the characters didn’t swear at some point; our lives have becaome much more fast-paced and frustrating, and a result of that frustration is that people swear more now than they did, say, back in the days of Booth Tarkington’s Magnificent Ambersons.

However (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), there is a difference between the way people swear in real life and how they should swear in fiction. I know a guy who would have a full one-third — if not half — his vocabulary hacked off at the knees if he were unable to say f**k. I’ve passed strangers’ conversations wherein I picked up at least nine different profanities before they were out of earshot.

I remember one instance, while reading Skipp & Spector’s The Light At The End, where in a single line of dialogue, one character used eleven profanities — including all of the Biggies — in one sentence; it was rather impressive…but it was also way too much. Yeah, I have no doubt that there are people out there in the real world who do speak like that, but (and here comes the tip), if you over-use profanity in your dialogue, you rob it of its most important function: profanity is simply violence without action; it should be employed in fiction to either foreshadow or replace violence. If you follow this suggested guideline, you’ll not only use less of it your writing, but what you do use will be so well-placed that it will have ten times the impact of an endless string of curses.

A youth pastor at a church I attended heard that I was a horror writer and wanted to read some of my stuff to try to relate to me. He enjoyed the stories, but said that they would be more effective without all the cussing in them. Ironically, he said his favorite one was the one without cussing, my story “Family Business”. Well, that story takes place in Jamaica – words like “bloody” and “bomboclot” got used quite a bit, but he didn’t recognize them as cussing.

Part of the issue is that we attach stigma to words, deciding is vulgar. Sometimes it’s about cultural context. Let’s face it, if I say “bloody” or “bomboclot” in front of you guys, you’re probably going to think nothing of it, or be mildly amused. However, if we were in England, “bloody” is like dropping the f-bomb; and if we were in Jamaica, well, I’ll spare you the connotation of “bomboclot”.

Since I don’t want this to go on forever, I’ll stop here and pick up with cuss words in the Bible later. Especially since right now, all I’m reminded of is the comedian who said “For cripes sake? Who would that be? Jesus Cripes? The Son of Gosh? Of the Church of Holy Moly? I’m not making fun of it. You think I wanna burn in Heck?”

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – The Church and Sex

This conversation about sex needs to be an on-going one. Not one “the talk” that happens sometime during the teen years. Advertisers target future consumers starting at age four. We are bombarded with messages about sex from early on and constantly, no matter what tower or home-schooling bunker you think you are raising your kids within. At some point they have to go outside, in the world, and they need to be equipped to deal with it. If you wait until they are teens to talk to them, you’ve already lost them.

The idea of on-going conversation got me thinking about what and how churches teach on sex. More precisely, what did we hear, what were the take home lessons from these talks on sex that many of us had to suffer through? For one, I assume that churches speak on it. That alone is quite the assumption since many don’t. For some, it’s perfunctory at best. They don’t want to speak on it as much as we don’t want to listen to them speak on it. Both sides gritting their teeth with a “let us never speak of this again” attitude as we rush out when it’s over. Too many parents hope that the church (or the schools for that matter) handle their job of teaching their kids about sex. Pity the poor youth pastor, only a few years out of seminary himself, who has to speak to kids on a topic too few speak on in their lives.

Back in my youth group days, we had to suffer through such talks. I’ll credit my church with this much: we had a talk on masturbation. When our teacher was done, he asked “any questions?” I was sitting in the front row. I turned around to see a sea of anxious faces wanted to just get out, despite the fact that I knew they had questions. I know because they kept asking me, like I was some masturbation guru. So I raised my hand and one of my other youth leaders lowered it saying “not you.” (Okay, they didn’t like my initial analysis: of course there weren’t any questions – we already know how to do it.)

I’ve asked several friends what their take home lessons about sex from their years in church were. All they could come up with was:
-before marriage, it’s bad.
-before marriage, don’t talk about it, don’t think about it. Thinking about it leads to it.
-before marriage, don’t touch naughty parts and don’t dance. They lead to it.
-after marriage, you are to feel totally comfortable being naked in front of someone else.
-after marriage, you are to do it regularly.
-after marraige, don’t talk about it.

I think one of the reasons that we’re so afraid to talk about sex is because we’re all so worried about appearing judgmental. We live in a post-sexual revolution age. Sex isn’t something to be judged (or more precisely, we don’t want to be judged as closed-minded or provincial). Another reason is because we hide behind decorum. It’s not polite to talk about bedroom matters. What goes on in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom, between those in the bedroom. We forget that there is a communal aspect to our sexuality.

[As a side note: don’t misunderstand me – sex has a public dimension, but it is still personal. I don’t need to hear how and what you’re doing. Or where. Believe me, most of you I don’t even want to imagine naked, much less having sex.]

It goes back to the fact that we say that we want community, but community also means sharing your life, opening it to possible (and hopefully, loving) rebuke. Community means people “intruding” on your life and generally being all up in your Kool Aid. As an example, I will tell you that community saved my marriage.

The first six months of our marriage were especially rocky (you can’t begin to imagine the joy of living with me). I was all over the place, still wishing to be single, not sure what I had gotten myself into, holdover feelings from previous relationships. My various vacillations wore on my wife to such a degree that the word “divorce” popped up on more than one occasion and before long, pretty frequently. However, we were a part of community. Community is one of the points of “church” weddings: swearing before God and community, asking both to hold you in account. The same community we invited to witness our wedding ceremony and the same community that we swore our vows before. Community meant that friends* were in my business, challenging me, encouraging me to remove my head from my rectum. Friends held us together until we (read: me) figured things out.

All this to say that the church has a role to play in talking about sex, but that first means that the church has to begin to say something. In a lot of ways, we don’t know what we want to communicate much less how. The church has been more about what not to do and less why (beyond unclear teachings about what the Bible says we ought to not do). The church is how we speak to one another and how we teach one another. We need to not be so silent … and also have something to fill the silence with.

Next up: what the Bible has to say on the topic (read: let’s look for loopholes!)

*The key word being friends. Also the key to avoiding feeling/being “judging.” If you are going to speak into my life, you have to have a relationship with me. More than an “I recognize your face/I know your name” relationship. We have to have lived life together. Shared times. Then you’ve earned the right to speak into my life.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

What’s Exposure Worth?

At the most recent meeting of the Indiana Horror Writers, we got into a somewhat heated discussion over the importance of exposure. Admittedly, it only got heated because I was right and they weren’t getting it (thus, they have said that I occupy (proudly, by the way) the honorary Nick Mamatas chair). My main point was that their idea of exposure was over-rated and that I wasn’t going to break my neck doing stuff in the name of chasing exposure.

Exposure is what? What does “exposure” translate into? Those were the questions I kept asking. Sure, I could give away 100 stories across the internet in the name of reaching and gaining an audience, or I could sell 5 to decent markets gain just as much of a reputation. Kelly Link may not have the exposure of someone who has given away their stories to all sorts of webzines, but I’d commit several felonious acts to have her reputation (or talent).

And like I said, I can’t go to conventions unless my story sales pay for the trips.

It kind of gets down to why are you writing? To be known or to be paid? Sure, it sounds glib, almost like the old writing for art, for the love, versus writing for money, to make a living debate. I think it’s a worthwhile thing to think about because it means thinking long term about what you are doing, where you want to be, and how you want to get there. It’s also about whether I want to keep getting pats on the back vs. building a career. Few people get rich, or can even support themselves, writing, but I need more validation that going over to Shocklines, for example, bragging about my latest give away/$5 acceptance in pursuit of exposure.

I’m a big believer in role-models. People who have gone through what you are going through and have the type of careers that you want to have. Two of my role models are Douglas Clegg and Brandon Massey. I study them, not just their stories – which are great, mind you. I always want to know how great writers write and figure out how to improve my craft. Beyond that, however, I study how they’ve grown their careers. See what mistakes they’ve made, paths they’ve regretted, listen whenever they have anything to say about their writing careers.

If I want to be a writer, to be defined as a writer, all I have to do is keep writing. If I want to make a living doing what I love to do, I need more than having a reputation of being good at what I do. Writers want to be read. We set pen to the page, fingers to the keyboards, with the conceit that we are about to write something worth reading. We want to be read. We want to be known. We want to leave behind stories. We want a legacy. What we shouldn’t want to do is fall into the trap of desperation.

This mentality of “getting your name out there” is the same (often desperate) mentality that drives people to vanity publish (read: PublishAmerica. If you have a book there, get your rights and dignity back). Frankly, you can get your name out there with an interesting blog. If I just wanted to get my name out there, I could run naked across the field at a Colts game or pick fights with writers bigger than myself. Again, what does this translate into? People know who you are, but for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes I think some writers confuse marketing and self-promotion with exposure. Or they want to be able to constantly point to something of theirs, and give-aways provide them something to point to. But that’s another problem. The other reason I can’t give stuff away? I need to know that what I’m putting out there is worth being seen. An editor’s just one person, but it’s someone beyond me, my family, or my friends. Or as JA Konrath put it:

Whenever anyone asks me if they should self-publish, I always tell them no. There are numerous reasons why this is true, the all-encompassing one being a learning curve. I believe that getting published is something you earn, not something you buy. Searching for an agent and an editor, getting rejected, learning about the business, understanding the importance of structure, rewriting, and editing—all of that helps writers grow. Plunking down 400 bucks for a POD press is like giving a ten-year-old a Driver’s License. Things worthwhile in life should be difficult to achieve.

Doing readings at conventions. Doing panels. Maintaining an interesting blog. Having an internet presence (if only on message boards). These are all fine ways to gain exposure, to make a name for yourself. But in the final analysis, you first need to have stories. Stories worth marketing and staking your rep to. Stories done well and placed well. And a sure way to tell how well your story is placed is by how much you were paid. I’d hate to be a famous nobody who couldn’t write.

Or worse, have a name used by porn sites to lure people in. (Sometimes Google is not your friend. Come on: Teen Titans anime porn?)

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Indiana: We Need a New Slogan

Hey, we enjoyed Indiana, but it was definitely time to go. And while Indiana’s new tourism slogan — “Restart your engines” — doesn’t exactly get our motors running, neither is it a clunker. The bigger challenge for attracting tourists to Indiana isn’t picking a slogan; it’s the amount of money the state invests in the effort. The state’s tourism budget ranks 42nd in the nation, and well below neighboring competitors such as Illinois.

And that’s why this state needs me. Hi, I’m Maurice Broaddus, new marketing consultant for the state of Indiana tourism. I’ve been tapped to come up with a comprehensive campaign designed to highlight all of the great things about this state. Who knew that states even had useful mottoes? “The Crossroads of America” was fine when we all used maps, but we’ve got gps now. We’ve entered a new age and a new age demands a new paradigm. Long gone are the days of one motto. No, what we need are many, rotating mottos. Why be limited to only one identity?

Sure, some have scoffed because I can’t even come up with a motto for my message board, but I say, this black man shall get the last laugh.

Here’s the list thus far, culled from my best consultants:
Indiana: Brown people don’t scare us. Much.
Indiana: As long as it’s not Sunday, it’s time to drink!
Indiana: Now in the 20th century with Daylight Savings Time.
Indiana: We don’t really know what the f$!% a Hoosier is, either!
Indiana- Play euchre. Warsh the car. And try not to fall in the crick.
Indiana: Could be worse…this could be Kentucky.
Indiana: We’re nice!
Indiana: It could be so much worse.
Indiana: If there was more than corn here, we’d sing about that instead.
Indiana: It may have been an accident, but you’re here now. Enjoy it.
Indiana: You think we only have corn? Look at our goose poop.
Indiana: How the hell did we get here?
Indiana: We gave you four years of Quayle jokes.
Indiana: Come for our basketball and tornadoes.
Indiana: Where good sports teams go to choke.
Indiana: We made driving in a circle a national sport.
Indiana: If you lived here … you’d be complaining like the rest of us.
Indiana: Where even the dead can cast a vote. And they vote republican, baby!
Indiana: We were the 19th state, but first in your heart.
Indiana: We gave you Bobby Knight. And Hoosiers.

And my personal favorite:

Indiana: We now have black people in every county!

Keep in mind that no state motto is complete unless it can be put to music and sang by Jim Nabors. Anyway, like the editorial said, one motto can’t hype all that we have to offer. We have Santa Clause, Indiana, where it’s Christmas year round. We have the world’s largest ball of paint, the House of Bells, and the world’s largest sycamore stump. When our nudists need to know what time it is, we have the giant lady’s leg sundial. And who, what right-thinking American, can pass up a visit to the RV Hall of Fame? And you can’t make fun of us for being hicks with no sense of humor: we name our malls after female body parts (come on, say “Clay Terrace” with a straight face). No state gives you all of this.

I am setting an appointment with Governor “My Man Mitch” Daniels now.

Brilliant!

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board.

Friday Night Date Place – The Talk

(Or, I’m not talking about the DTR!)

I said in my introduction to Friday Night Date Place that most Christian books on singleness boil down to “don’t have sex before you are married.” Well, we are many weeks into Friday Night Date Place and I thought that we could spend a few nights talking about sex (I fought the temptation to rename this “Friday Night Sex Place”). This is a topic that I have visited before (though that paper reflected where I was at that time, there are some things that I would probably word differently). And it is a topic that continues to pop up and be discussed, so I’m probably long overdue to write on this topic. One of the things that I’ve been reading, and highly recommend, is Lauren Winner’s book, Real Sex; so sometimes this will seem like Real Sex – lite.

There has to be more to the topic of sexuality than “before marriage, bad; within marriage, good.” Our sexuality is one of our most powerful drives. It speaks to part of our identity, the essence of who we are. So naturally, any discussion of sin in this area strikes particularly close to home. This has to be an on-going conversation within the church because it certainly is an on-going one outside of the church. Each day we are bombarded by our culture’s story of what sex is and should be. As liberating as the message seems, it is actually desensitizing, desensualizing, and dehumanizing sex. Desacralizing. In the casual way that we talk about sex, we have robbed sex of its deeper meaning.

I firmly believe that there is a mystical component to sex. If you don’t feel the transcendent aspect of sex, they you’re probably not doing it right. I know it will sound to some–to paraphrase a line from 40 Year Old Virgin–that I’m putting sex on a pedestal. The Bible speaks to the mystery of a man and a woman becoming “one flesh.” The unity described by this phrase encompasses familial, emotional, and spiritual ties; an entwining of souls and body not knowing where one ends and another begins.

We can’t let the mainstream culture define neither the boundaries, nor meaning of what sex means. Our culture’s idea of sex, frankly, leads to bad sex: “I need to get off, you are the means to that end” – my needs at the expense of yours (as if getting off was the entire point of sex). And that idea gets carried over into the marriage bed. This kind of takes us back to the sacredness of sex, but sex has its own ends/purposes:

1. To unite two people. The mystical union between two people. Sex is supposed to be (and is) a special bond between two people. That sense of connectedness that goes beyond the act.
2. To lead to children.
3. To recall (“re-enact”) the promise of fidelity. The faithfulness and intimacy of one to another as well as illustrate the same of God to all of us. (It’s the profound mystery that Paul alludes to in Ephesians 5:32, that sacramental element.)

Some people have trouble defining what sex even is. For example, many people don’t consider oral sex or anal sex sex (I guess the fact that both phrases include the word “sex” wasn’t clue enough for them). Furthermore, we have lost sight of the implications of sex; forgetting that there is not only a physical dimension to the act, but also emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions to it.

Yes, we harp on sexual sins because a lot of our identity, who we are, is wrapped up in our sexuality. However, our body parts, and their various interactions, do not define us en toto. We aren’t victims of our bodies, desires, and impulses. We still have will and reason. God created us as sexual beings and ordained sex as good. With the “Fall”, everything (including sex and our sense of sexuality) became distorted, disordered. We are sexually broken people. We are selfish. It’s not like marriage guarantees a mastery of sex because part of marital sex involves surrendering control of your body to another. And we are selfish.

Sex equals work. I’m not talking about the act itself because as the great philosopher, Bernie Mac, pointed out “three minutes is a heavy weight round.” Sex is a life uniting act. Kids are a life-uniting act. (I’m not one to demonize the act or its possible consequences, but when you think about it, disease can be a life-uniting act, too.) The bottom line is that there is no such thing as casual sex.

So, for the next few weeks, we’ll come at this topic from various angles:
-Looking for Biblical Loopholes (what DOES the Bible have to say on this topic anyway);
-The Line (probably the number one question I am asked)
-Chastity as Spiritual Discipline
-The Church and Sex

If I didn’t believe in God, if we were cosmic accidents living lives of no significance, then I could rut at will like any other animal. However, through Christ, all things have been re-ordered. So it’s important to continue to look at why we do what we do. Our life, our journey, is about (spiritual) formation. We will come back to the same questions: who created us? For what purpose? How does what we do form us and to what end? Because of Christ, to please Him, to know Him.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board.

Clothes As Story

Today’s fashion kills me.

Low cut jeans are no one’s friend. Low cut jeans, hip-hugging pants, mid-riff revealing shirts – not many of us have builds worth showing so much of. Recently, a friend of mine spent her Sunday morning at church struggling to keep from mooning everyone. I kid you not: every movement led to her flashing us boobs or butt crack. As long as she did nothing but pose (or, as she eventually did, if she just laid still on the floor), everything was good. I pointed out that maybe once she went through puberty, she might have something to hold her ensemble up. But, hey, no one said that trendy was practical – only good to look at.

This may seem like a one-sided bashing of one gender, but the images and expectations that our culture defines as masculine and feminine ideals are different. Women are to be “Barbies” and men are to be “Kens,” the chief difference being that women have (moreso) bought into that image wholesale, while guys are still capable of staring in the mirror at their gelatinous, beer-fed frames and say “Yeah, I’m hot. I need a Barbie.”

Clothes tell stories of who we are.

At my family reunion, one of my cousins decided that she’d rather spend the reunion hanging out with me. Now, there were over 100 cousins there to choose from, many of us meeting each other for the first time. She said she made her judgment based on my clothes. After wading through a sea of t-shirts with images ranging from “Free Mike Tyson” to Big Dawg to marijuana leaves, she said she liked the fact that I wore Malcolm X quotes, slavery remembrances, and odes to our African roots. Because clothes make a statement about you.

Personally, I don’t believe in wearing clothes that have ads on them. If I’m going to be a billboard for you, you have to pay me. It’s harder to do in these the-label-is-everything-days, but if I have a choice, I’m going to go without someone else’s name plastered across my chest. Now, I’m not going to front: I’m a bit of a clothes horse. For those who give me grief about how I dress on Sundays (watch closely as I rationalize my brand of sartorial splendor), I worship differently when I’m all dressed up. Not to say that I can’t have a heart to worship without a suit or that “Sunday best” is required for church, but my heart is more bent toward reverence. For me, Sunday is a moment of occasion (an appointment with God), and I dress for the occasion.

Back to today’s fashions, “Don’t objectify me!” has come to mean: “I only want the attention of cute guys I might be interested in dating. Other than that, my boobs on display and my jeans so form-fitting I might as well have spray-painted them on are my forms of expression. You should direct your attentions to my intellect. Now treat me seriously.”

We’ve lost the sensual mystery of less is more. We’ve lost any sense of modesty that we can be beautiful and be more than sex objects. We’ve lost the notion that modesty protects and inspires allure. The power that the 1940s movie starlets had on folks. Where a simple look was captivating. Again, I’m not going to lie: you bare a midriff, I’m going to stare at your midriff (while, uh, contemplating your inner beauty). However, those baiting their hooks by having all of their assets on display shouldn’t complain about the quality of people (or whatever else) that they catch.

Sure I think there is a propriety to dress, especially since how we dress affects how we carry ourselves and what our priorities are. I even like the idea of dress codes and school uniforms. Professional dress makes you act professionally, interact as professionals. How we dress often reveals how we see ourselves and shapes our identity. We often reinvent ourselves through wardrobe changes. What not to Wear. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. A host of other programs my wife makes me watch. They all tell the same tale: people recreating themselves through their wardrobe choices.

Clothes tell stories of who we are.

The question is “who are you?”

This blog brought to you by EmerJeans

Brown People Scare Us?

The most important legacy of the histrionic debate over immigration reform will not be any piece of legislation, whether enlightened or medieval. It will be the big demonstrations held in cities throughout the country over the past few weeks — mass protests staged by and for a minority whose political ambition is finally catching up with its burgeoning size.

I find myself joining the chorus of preening intellectuals of a message board that I frequent. You’ll never accuse me of entering a debate uninformed. Look at all the protests going on and look at who’s doing all of the protests. Who is doing my house and yard work when all of these protests are going on? Don’t these people know that these storm-damaged roofs won’t repair themselves? Yes, I want fries with that. Such selfishness is not what true Americans are about. So you know what? I am all about sending the immigrants home. Sure, I was actually born in London, England, and currently enjoy dual citizenship status; but my family’s already snuck in and are now legal.

In other words, I gots mine so let’s close the gate.

I apparently firmly echo the sentiments of my local MENSA members:
Making strict laws and imposing them on illegal immigrants will be create more problems that they solve. However all should be required to follow the laws to become a US citizen. To give them a free pass is wrong. Just because someone has been here x number of years working and raising their children, sending them to school, does not make it right. And I hear that all the time. If that’s the logic that you follow. Then it would be right to say that the person who committed a robbery then had a clean record for x years was now free of their crime.. It doesn’t work that way. Illegal persons continue to content about their rights. If you are here illegally you are therefore breaking the law, you have no rights.

Amen, brother. Or sister. Heck, Amen you right-thinking American you. This country was built on the backs of immigrants (both the willing and unwilling kinds–we’ve never discriminated that way). They sneak over here, “looking for a better life” and “to provide for their families” in the land of opportunity. Boo-hoo. What they do is come over here, take all of our good jobs, use up our health care system and take up slots in our schools. Pretty soon, the only option left for us will be home-schooling. Or fleeing to the suburbs to get away from them, which lowers the property values of the places we leave, but, well, that’s the immigrants fault too. Home-schooling and urban flight: that’s what all good Americans, and right-thinking Christians should be doing anyway. God doesn’t like illegal immigrants either. It’s in the Bible somewhere. Near the back of the Old Testament or something. I know this because He gave Americans Manifest Destiny, no one else.

Let’s put all of our cards on the table: they don’t look like us. They don’t act like us. They have weird accents–why can’t they learn the language like real Americans? But that’s not their biggest sin. They are leeches, adding nothing to our culture or economy. And that’s what it boils down to: them eating my share of the American dream pie. They’ve complicated our church services, now we have some just for them. They’ve left us with a bunch of restaurants that I don’t eat at anyway. This is America, baby. We speak one language here: American. When we go to your country, we don’t learn your language. Why? Cause we’re Americans. We only believe in knowing one language and you should too: ours.

Either we should annex their country and just be done with the issue once and for all; or build a fence along the border of the country.

If only we could find some decent laborers.

Lousy Canadians.

For the record, I started writing my blog before I saw that Brian Keene had touched on the same topic. Great minds and all.

On Looks (Or, The List, P.S. )

My boyfriend is FOINE!!!, and I love looking at him. However, he’s also one of the kindest, sweetest men I have ever met in all my life. That may have a little to do with how physically attractive I find him to be, too. It’s all connected, for me.

But, I believe men will ALWAYS go with what looks good to them, initially, so I won’t waste my time talking about a woman’s “inner beauty”, cuz if the guy doesn’t think a woman’s attractive, he’s not going to be willing to get to know her, and see if her looks get better to him. Guys just don’t do that, in my experience. While I believe a guy can “grow on” a woman, if he’s got what it takes emotionally/spiritually and intellectually (and for some, financially) and he doesn’t look like a complete troll, I don’t believe a woman can “grow on” a man, as easily.

I also know that a man can look like the bottom of a dirt pond, but he’ll always try to holla at a super model type. Guys don’t seem to stop and consider that just like they rule certain women out, because they’re not “hot” enough, women do the same thing. If you ain’t fine yourself, and you have no other “drawing” factors, like a working brain, above average intellect, or mad cash, you ain’t got no business only goin’ after model types. If you got a loose gut, don’t be demandin’ that your date look like a workout queen. If you ain’t receivin’ offers to pose for GQ, then don’t be lookin’ for Vogue cover candidates. If you happen to luck out, then praise God! But guys don’t seem to have a realistic grip on the whole looks thing.

Yeah, I don’t really have anything to add to that, actually. Pretty much sums up my thoughts and I wanted an excuse to post her comments.

Superman Syndrome vs. the Barbie Complex

A concerned friend of mine came up to me after one of our meetings with the following concern: most women are looking for a superman. I, of course, responded that my wife deserved and found Superman, why shouldn’t other women? Narrowing his concern, he speculated (because let’s face it, when you aren’t having the best of luck, you start speculating on what the other sex wants as if they know) that women, especially women in a Christian singles group, are looking for a man who is: involved in church, a professional, a handy man, and a family man. Problem one, which I didn’t point out to him out of pity, was that the list he proffered wasn’t exactly asking for the location of King Solomon’s mines. It’s not exactly an intimidating list, yet some guys feel that in order to compete they have to be part pastor, part tool man, part corporate executive, handsome, and funny.

Well, frankly, if you were all of that, I’d date you.

Men aren’t off the hook, the problem runs both ways. An awful lot of men are convinced that they need, want, deserve Barbie on their arm. Mind you, this is no matter what the guy in question looks like. I’ve listened to many a guy wax on about what attributes “his woman” (any usage of this phrase is always a tell-tale sign, ladies, of what you are getting into) must have. I’m convinced that all the mirrors in their houses must be broken. Leaving women feeling like they have to be part swim suit model, chef, Bible study leader, sex goddess/slut and mother in order to be noticed. I’d make a comment about how I’d date you, but well, chances are I’m within striking distance of my wife.

Just remember, nice teeth can’t raise kids. Good shoes won’t cook you dinner. And a fine (insert body part of choice) won’t take care of you when you’re sick.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board.