Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fascinating Ants

I ran across this hypnotic video of a particular type of ants using their powerful jaws to actually leap around. They do it to evade predators, usually. Using slow motion cameras, someone managed to capture and prolong what happens when these ungraceful bugs take to the skies.



The Wikipedia article on this trap-jaw ants (or Odontomachus, if you want to get technical) states that the mandibles can close at 145 mph, exerting the force of 300 times the ant's body weight. It also states that the ant can strike 2300 times faster than a human can blink.
.

Monday, August 25, 2008

There are families, and then there are ... you know... "families".

There's something about the word "family" that just screams "political buzzword", don't you agree? Because that's sure what I think of when I reflect on growing up. For the past few years, you can pretty much guess what political side an organization was on by whether or not they used the word "family". The Family Research Council, the Council for Nebraska Families, the Family and Faith Initiative, Focus on the Family, etc. The idea is that the family is wholesome and nurturing, and everything that's not a family is a lesser quantity or even distasteful. Not coincidentally, the "family" groups hate the "gay" groups.

It comes down to marketing. It's always better to be FOR something, rather than against something. Take abortion, which hasn't yet raised its head too far in the current election. The groups are known as Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. Nobody wants to be Anti-Life or Citizens against Choice; that's just bad P.R. This isn't like the more clear-cut issues, either. You can be pro-taxes or you can be anti-taxes; both of those positions are clearly distinct from the other. But while you can be pro-life, your opponents cannot be "anti-life", unless they look like Arnold and come from the future to assassinate John Conner. It's an example of a logical fallacy called the "false dichotomy", where two issues are presented as opposites when they really aren't.

The false dichotomy they hit on is "family" vs. "homosexual". There were lots of gay-rights groups popping up all through the 80s and 90s, and it was tough on people to be "anti gay rights", especially in the aftermath of the civil rights movement, which kinda turned out to be a good thing: people against civil rights got marginalized and demonized when the "pro" group won out.

So the groups of people who don't like gays put their heads together: what "pro" symbol could they use? It could be "pro-religion", because some particular faiths are really the basis for most of the disapproval of homosexuality in our modern society. But there are some religions that don't actively hate gays, and some even like gays, so that'd be too confusing. They could be "pro-traditionalists", but that's pretty vague too. Getting warmer. They decided on the "pro-family" angle because (I guess) gay people don't have families or come from families. They just spring fully-grown from the heads of their gay forefathers, like Athena of yore.

It's a pretty good tactic, really: nobody wants to be AGAINST families, that's just political suicide. So for years, the number of political groups with "family" in the name that were opposed to gay rights, gay marriage, and gay adoption grew and grew. Then I read an interesting article.

SOURCE

The article is about a proposed ban on unmarried couples having foster children or adopting in Arkansas. It takes a little bit to wrap your head around that ban; is Arkansas suffering from a runaway surge of men and women adopting kids? Probably not, which is why the legislature had to skirt the issue using creative terminology.

First of all, everybody in Arkansas can still have all the natural children they want, no matter what their married status is. This regulation only applies to non-genetic kids, and then only to parents who aren't married. Parents who are married can adopt and foster all the kids they want. But homosexuals can't get married in Arkansas, and marriages performed outside Arkansas are not recognized. Plus, they can't have children naturally, so the whole thing is stitched up pretty tight.

Except for the unmarried straight people who adopt kids. But who does that, right? Nobody! Well, except for weird and anti-family people. I guess that particular couple should stick to their home in New Orleans and stay out of Arkansas, or else ... what? The government takes their kids away? Now THAT would be some kinda uproar.

All this verbal dancing has to be in there, because you can't just word the ban to prohibit gays from adopting. For one, that's probably unconstitutional. For two, you aren't required to put your sexual preference on adoption papers. In either event, opponents of gay adoption still have a ways to go, even if the initiative makes it on ballot AND passes. Because of current Arkansas state law, individuals are not prohibited from adopting. So... if one person adopts a child, and the state doesn't keep track of what a "couple" is, well... the only thing the ballot would prohibit is having two people walk into a courthouse and adopt a child. One person, of any affiliation or sex, could still adopt a kid. They're not opposed to the idea of gays adopting kids, just the idea of TWO gays adopting kids.

As an aside, even expected hotbeds of anti-gay sentiment like Oklahoma and Kansas specifically allow single gay adoptions. SOURCE

There are two groups working on this ballot initiative mentioned in the original article: the Arkansas Family Council and Arkansas Families First. Quick, can you decide which one supports the ban and which opposes it?

It's tricky, but the Arkansas Family Council is the one gathering the signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot, while Arkansas Families First is questioning the validity of the signatures and preparing a lawsuit to keep the initiative off the ballot. Just for more hilarity and confusion, I also found the Families First Association of Arkansas, which is for the ban, and the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, which opposes the ban. I'm reminded of "The Life of Brian", where Eric Idle can't remember if he belongs to the Judean People's Front, the People's Front of Judea, the Judean Popular People's Front, or the Judean Populist Front. Splitters!

So now everyone's got Family in their names, which must confuse people who only vote by the names of Political Action Committees. Families are what it boils down to, though. Opponents say that the measure will severely reduce the ability of Child Protective Services to find homes for children in Arkansas. Supporters of the ban say, "No! This will mean MORE suitable adopting families, because we're out there telling everyone to keep the gays from adopting. That raises adoption awareness, which is guaranteed to get more straight, married couples to sign up." How can you argue with that logic?

Interestingly, the ... let me see if I get this right... the Family Council Action Committee (which may or may not be different than the above entities) has a FAQ on their website which states that single homosexuals can still adopt children, as the ballot will not prevent them, as long as they refrain from "cohabitating". So I've got this all wrong! It's not really about gays at all! They just want to keep the kids away from couples who are "living in sin", where sin is defined as cohabitation before marriage! They're totally cool with single straights and gays, as long as you don't live with whomever you're dating, because that would interfere with the family atmosphere.

Actually, the proposed Act is VERY VERY CAREFUL not to mention that it's doing anything to homosexuals, specifically. They always mention that cohabiting straight AND homosexual partners are ineligible for adoption. They never mention one without the other, and several times assert that they "are treating everyone equally", i.e. both kinds of couples. Very careful to say that each and every time. No doubt there would be some constitutionality issues if they didn't say that, as they specifically mention they do not foresee vulnerability to discrimination lawsuits because the initiative effects straights and gays alike.

Of course, all my earlier relief at finding out that the Family Council Action Committee wasn't targeting gays is misplaced, because they state that one of the main goals of the legislation is to "blunt a homosexual agenda". So they're just biding their time until they can actually ban homosexuals from adopting, without worrying that "activist judges" will overturn it based on the pesky part of the Constitution that calls for equal protection under the law.
.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Comps are back! Quick, shove me out the window.

I got a quick heart palpitation last night, when I checked my campus email address and had a message marked "Comprehensive Exams". Oh no! Are they writing to tell me it turns out I actually failed? Are they telling me I need to wait JUST a bit longer, because it turns out they haven't all been graded?

In turns out it was just a message sent to all graduate students to talk about the requirements and schedule for this semester's exams. Nothing to do with me personally.

And..... exhale!

You know, I bet if my own experience hadn't taken 8 months, I probably wouldn't be so sensitive.
.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Unions always make me cry

One of the most frustrating things about being a musician has been the musician's union. I've never had any direct contact with them, which is part of the problem. I assumed that, like Actor's Equity, you needed to be a member before you could do any professional playing. That's not directly true.

For my entire career as a musician, I've received conflicting advice about the union. Excellent musicians, whose opinion I respect very much, advised me to, and I quote, "put off joining the union as long as you can". When you're young, that sort of admonishment from someone you care about and respect yields an absolute prohibition. I never even considered joining, never went to the website, never looked at the forms, etc.

Then I subbed for a rehearsal at the local stage band. It was technically a union gig, but the contractor said not to worry about it. I got paid under the table by the guy I sat in for. No worries. I kinda hoped the contractor would say, "It's time to join the union and become a man." But no dice.

Now I'm filling out paperwork for the sub list in the Kansas City Symphony. It makes it explicitly clear that this is a union job, and even the preference will be given to union members. So once again, I'm asking myself if it's time to join the union. Obviously, if I play well, they'll ask me to be on the list regardless of whether or not I'm in the union, as they always do for the permanent auditions in big symphonies. They don't care if the guy they hired has even HEARD of the Musician's Union; they'll sign him up once they have him under contract.

If I thought the Union would have been feeding me jobs, I would have signed up a long time ago. As it stands now, I'm not sure what the benefit would be. It might be a good resource, as their magazine lists upcoming auditions. But so does the internet, so... I just don't know.

I guess I should just bite the bullet to get preferential treatment for the upcoming audition. Still, isn't that the kind of thing you're NOT supposed to do?

So confused.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trombone on my shoulder makes me happy

One of the aspects of music that almost everyone thinks about but nobody mentions is the connection between our choice of instrument and our personality. I don't know that anyone has done any research on this at all, so it's probably completely unsupported academically. Like horoscopes, though, it gives us something to think about and brings out the armchair psychoanalysts.

As a general rule, all trombonists get along. I don't know when this first occurred to me, but in all my years of schooling, it's worked out that way. Generally, we (trombonists) are more likely to gravitate towards other trombonists at mixed instrument functions, even when we don't actually know any of the other people. I acknowledge that we all (as people) do that anyway; we gravitate towards the people we'll have the most in common with, to embrace that commonality in the uncomfortable situation. In general, though, I find other trombonists very compatible and fall into easy friendships with them.

It's up for debate whether the personality chooses the instrument, or the instrument molds the personality. I'll readily admit I have certain stereotypes in my mind. I generally don't think about them until the first time someone does something that falls directly in the path of my expectations. For example: if I am going to meet Amy the oboe player, I don't start thinking about all the things oboe players personify. But if Amy repositions her knife at dinner to be at exact right-angles with the dessert fork, the word "fastidious" creeps into my brain.

Many of my oboe-playing acquaintances are very careful and detail oriented. Oboists are required to continually produce their own reeds, shaving the wood and binding them in shapes that are just right. The sides must be complimentary, the wood grain must be understood, and a particular reed may just be unusable on any given day, necessitating a multitude of possible candidates. As I mentioned before, I don't know if the detailing personality picks the instrument, or if the years of careful work develop the personality.

There's a perception (or two or three!) for every instrument. Flutes often have slightly "louder" personalities, as though turned up two or three notches above others. Clarinets are often introverted. Trumpets have a certain élan and so on.

This certainly isn't the Audobon Guide to recognizing orchestral birds. People are rarely simple, and exceptions may be just as numerous as rule-abiders. I would suppose that me saying "tuba players tend towards X" can be just as discriminating as "Mexicans tend towards X". We humans love to classify, though. We delight in being able to put facts into mental boxes. When we find something that matches something else, our most common expression is "Yay! I know where that piece fits."

I was thinking about all of this because of the wedding I was at last week, as well as the opportunity to meet lots of new people from job interviews and being dragged to a single's night. In every situation, I had someone ask me why I ended up choosing the trombone, specifically the bass trombone. For some reason, I drifted off into a tangent of what playing the bass trombone was about, probably in the same way a baseball player unintentionally lectures on what shortstop does and how to play it effectively.

Depending on who I was talking to, this was either actively interesting or politely blinked at. I realized that I was working on a way to describe myself. How much does what I do define me? Or: how much is what I am sketched out by what I do?

Playing trombone is my passion. It is one of the things that drives my existence. Playing music is wonderfully and completely rewarding. Should I ever be lucky enough to be able to make a living playing music, I will have won the game of "careers" as I understand it. One thing I always tell my friends is that being paid to play feels like a crime. It is so easy, so effortless, so rewarding that it almost needs be against the law, like all the other things that feel REALLY GOOD in public.

I'm already lucky, because I know how that feels. I know what it's like to enjoy and work hard at something because you love it and want to make it as close to perfect as can be. Music majors get a little disconnected from the world because we are usually around other musicians who feel similar. I know my friend the conductor wants nothing more than to stand in front of an orchestra and make music with 60 people, even if it didn't pay him a dime. And I understand that goal.

Not to say that everybody needs work to be like that. Some people are content to work jobs they aren't 100% in love with because they receive their motivation from something else. Lovely spouses, kids who need baseball gloves and art supplies, evening softball games with the guys...

My father worked for years as a kind of financial wizard. I think his title was "Director of Banking" and it allowed him to work long hours, sign papers worth ridiculous amounts of money between companies, and take day trips to Brussels to shake hands with someone. But his job was hard. Like "come home and go immediately to work" hard. I remember wondering if he was the only father who needed to fill a room with papers. My friend's dad, the minister, just wrote quietly at a desk, as though he were continually writing letters to someone's grandmother. My friend's dad, the doctor, never brought his business home, even though he was home a lot less on average than my dad.

My dad worked really hard. Then he found himself, sooner than expected, on the redundant side of a merger. And he didn't have work anymore. Now he gets to do things he WANTS to do whenever he feels like it. Furniture restoration, gardening, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, helping people at the family church, helping my mom organize the garage for the annual garage sale, cutting the weeds in the islands of their street, playing golf... Now he gets to do all these things, and he loves it. He's so much happier now. So much less stress. It can only be better for his overall health.

I don't want this to turn into a belated Father's Day entry on "how much I love my dad". Though, I do love my dad, just for clarity's sake. It's more about happiness. Many people my age don't really know what makes them happy. Worse, they don't even know how to find out what things make them happy. That makes me very lucky that I have several things that make me happy.

The nice thing is that making happiness is like making fire; it's totally counter-intuitive at first (two sticks together? WHA?) but eventually you can do it practically on a whim.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Commercial Sync

It never fails to amuse me when the television networks, who are so precise with advertising rates and down-to-the-second transitions, have to contend with a 3-4 second delay when programming from China. News anchors being cut off to tell me about gutter repair, footage of people staring intently into the middle distance waiting for people to let them know they're "on", and the strange "back in time" glitch that occurs going from the HD television signal to just the SD digital signal.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I feel it in the wind, in the water

It's still in the background, but my favorite part of the year is approaching.

I felt it in the grocery parking lot, as the rains came. I felt it in the grocery itself, where Halloween candy is already on the shelves.

And just now, PBS ran a teaser for a Christmas musical concert...

... coming in September.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Job Huntin'

I'm in the market for a job, and during the course of this hunting, I've experienced some interesting things:

JUST GIVE ME CLOSURE, BABE!

I don't know if this is the rise of the superficially polite culture or if this turns out to be the place we end up when employers have one-too-many "sensitivity" seminars, but some companies seem reluctant to actually tell me if they've tossed me to the OUT pile. I called a business today, asking for a follow-up to my application, which I turned in two weeks ago. They took my name, placed me on hold ("Hammer time!"), and eventually told me that they were still processing applications and would contact people when they're finished.

Having worked in a retail store before, I know applications come in regularly and continuously. Do they expect to get to the bottom of this pile before letting anybody know? I guess that's one way to do it, but most positions like that (dean of a university, CEO of a company) have strict guidelines for applicants and a rigorous cut-off date. I, however, am applying to be a box mover. How many other box movers do they need to apply before they know if I'm at the top of my box-mover class?

Maybe this is a really ephemeral goodbye? I mean, what they said was basically, "Don't call us. We'll call you, if you're special." At the store I worked as a manager for, we received many many applications. We'd sort through and make a pile of "yes", call those people and make interviews. If a "NO" pile person called, we'd tell them that we decided to hire other people. So I don't know if "we're still up to our eyes in applications" is the actual truth, or just a different way of saying they're looking for applications other than mine.

The test is, if I call back in 9 months, will I get the same answer?


YOUR BOOK-LEARNING SCARES US, BUT REALLY WE HAVE ATTACHMENT ISSUES

The first interview I had ended with the lady telling me I had "too much education". I certainly can't refute that. I've been in school of the majority of my years. What this person is actually saying, in a rather unimaginative way, is that eventually I'll leave them. I will, too; working in a furniture store is not my current goal.

Employers have a hard task at hand. Ideally, they want to stock their work force with the greatest and most reliable workers, who will work for them forever. I remember managing the store: if my best workers were on vacation, it was so much more work. So many more problems. Why did those girls have to go away to college!

Companies that talk about "too much education" are really telling me "we don't want to pay to train you, then lose you in 7 months". I respect that. The issue is where is the line drawn? My previous store hired a girl who was only going to work for 6 months or so. She was moving to New Zealand to work on a master's degree in oceanographic research. She's not going to stay if we offer her a $0.75 raise. Still, they hired her and she worked diligently and well for those short months. Why was she an excellent employee? She was smart and friendly.

The flip-side were the people who weren't all that smart. Poor Nancy. She was a sweet girl who had a great disposition, but she was also the biggest weed-smoker I've known. She would come in to work in a fog, not remembering her sign-in number. I remember it! It was 4875-662. Her reaction time was slow enough that she often couldn't dance out of the way of other employees moving fast. She took frequent smoke breaks, which the managers allowed because she would start to whine and become unusable if the breaks were too delayed. I remember repeatedly telling her not to immediately smoke a joint while waiting for a ride after her closing shift; she had a tendency to leave them half-smoked on the window ledges and outdoor tables.

But she showed up for work regularly. And she'd never leave for a better job. Ever.

Of course, she did go to jail for short bit for showing her breasts to a policeman and trying to force him to have sex with her. But that's not a job.

Or is it?


SEEMS LIKE DISHONESTY MIGHT GET ME FURTHER...

My friend removed his master's degree from his job applications. I was all lined up to get a job at a bank here in town, but I felt compelled to mention that I would need to miss some days because of upcoming tours with the brass band. Two days in November, two in March, and two weeks in January apparently seemed like enough to outweigh all my other good qualities.

My friend Katie told me that one of her friends basically spent the summer living on the floor of her apartment last year. The friend came to visit... and stayed for a while. She even got a job at one of the upscale stores on the Plaza, the premiere shopping area in KC. How? She just didn't tell them she was leaving in 8 weeks, then she quit at the appropriate time.
.

The Anti-Feminists Were Right!

I've been wondering why that attractive lady at the mall pretzel store turned me down. I just thought she was crazy (look at my obvious wonderfulness!), but apparently she's actually under the effect of mind-altering substances!

Namely, birth control pills.

New research from Newcastle, England suggests that women who are taking birth control pills find certain biologically incompatible men more attractive. It has to do with particular genetic compatibility pheromones we all exude. A certain type of them, called major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, play a biological role in who we find attractive. Don't get the idea that this overwhelms personal choice or anything; these MHC-genes are basically a holdover from earlier times in our history when we were more influenced by natural selection.

Basically, the MHC genes describe how our bodies react in immune response. We are usually attracted to people with different MHC "smells" than we have, because our bodies know that should we combine our genes with the attractive person, the baby would be protected against more types of factors.

In essence, birth control pills put a woman's body into a state similar to pregnancy, changing the hormones to suppress ovulation. Women on birth control or who are pregnant seem to prefer men who have similar MHC genes. The theory says that the reaction is part of a pregnant woman's biological aversion to mating. In fact, the pregnant woman may be more disposed to seek family members (who would have genetically similiar MHC genes).

Again, this is just leftover biology. No one's destiny is controled by their biology. At least, not in love. Still, the latent tendencies of our more-animal past playing havoc with our current lifestyle choices makes for interesting conversation.
.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Is it Good Will or Orwell?

I've been watching the Olympics on television. It's absolutely beautiful in HD. I bought my TV shortly before the 2004 games and was astounded by how much it brought to the experience of watching the TV.

I caught the end of the Opening Ceremonies and was suitably impressed. Of course, I figured they'd be something: one of my favorite film directors, Zhang Yimou, was in charge of making it a spectacle. It wasn't a disappointment. The sheer number of people and the technology involved is really something. Coming from a history of wuxia films (Chinese martial arts/fantasy), the use of color and gymnastics seem like foregone conclusions. It was really amazing. Good luck in four years, London!

Did you ever see the Robert Altman film "Gosford Park"? It's set in an English manor house and one of the director's intentions is that there should be a servant in every scene. Even if the scene is only about the upper class residents talking, always in the background is a maid or underbutler. Once you know that, it's a kind of game to find the servant in each scene. There in the background is someone working hard, almost unobserved.

I got the same feeling from watching the fist events in floor volleyball. Every time they reached a technical timeout, the teams would leave the floor and six chinese with floor mops would dash to the sideline by the net, three on each side. They'd freeze as they fell in line, then with the artistry of the syncronized diving teams, they'd begin their routine. Every time they'd interrupt play, the sweepers would do the same thing. Letter perfect and visually pleasing.

In the beach tournament, there were more Chinese workers standing around off the court. Two behind each "bench". I never saw them do anything, but maybe they're go-fers or something. I'm not trying to make a joke about how many people there are in China. In effect, it's like the world's largest stage managing team. I suppose that's appropriate in the world's largest "play".

In a sense, China is leveraging its national advantage: people. They can afford to bring thousands of people to bear on anything. Tens of thousands of interpreters to accompany atheletes, trainers, reporters, and families. Tens of thousands of people trained on how to cheer for particular sports. Since China has shuttered hundreds of factories in the Beijing area to attempt to improve air quality, they've got a large force of ilde people. How better than to use them as professional cheering squads.

Still, this is China. They're still secretive. They still try to control perceptions of everything. When the American family was attacked at the Drum Tower, most evidence of the crime had been completely removed by the time the foreign media set up their cameras.

Not to mention the collectivism, so helpful in some ways, is detrimental to the individuals. Did you see Yao Ming in the basketball game against USA? He's in a lot of pain, mostly because he plays year round. When he stops NBA basketball in June, he goes back to China to play in their national leagues all summer long. He's had four operations on his feet and legs in the last five years. Big guys are fragile; the stress on the body hasn't caught up with the physics of large bodies.

But if Yao breaks, he's not easily replaceable, even with 1.3 billion people available. That's representative of where China finds itself. Exposure to the world means exposure to the different ideas of western culture, where the individual is the king. You still have sacrifices for the state (look at our military in Iraq), but personal choice plays a much bigger role. Reading articles about how Yao Ming has changed after spending most of his time in America is an interesting lesson in what happens to the personality of people who emerge from China.

Seeing the soldiers crisply marching the flag around the Olympic Stadium, I was reminded of an independant series about a man visiting North Korea. The emphasis on presentation and posture is very similar. North Korea is the weird flip-side of China. They're both technically communist states, but China is tinged with captialism, while North Korea is verging on a dictatorship.

The special on North Korea is frightening and disturbing, and it puts the Olympic presentation (and surrounding "negative" stories like the response to the violence in the Xinjiang region) into a regional perspective. If you have an hour or so, I recommend you wade through the 14 parts of the video (located HERE) to get the perspective of the video. I should mention the host is sometimes vulgar, but that's worth overlooking for the spectacle of the Arirang Festival. Seems familiar, doesn't it?

.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

It is stirring, though.

I've been watching some of the Olympics this weekend, and I have a quick thought:

I'm curious what sort of deal John Williams gets for the use of his Olympic themes. Practically every lead-in to the commercial break plays a fragment of the Atlanta fanfare. Practically every return from commercial plays a fragment of the Los Angeles fanfare.

What do you think? A Scrooge McDuck money pile for him to swim in?
.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sex on 8/8/08

My commentary on episode two of "Sex and the City" is now available. Took me a good hour just to work out the strange formatting (curse you, HTML!), but everything's fine now.

As always http://sexwithdoctorandy.blogspot.com

.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We can use the wedding programs as fans and still look dignified, right?

My friends Dave and Lindsay were married on Saturday, one of the hottest days this year. I don't think I'd ever want to get married in the summer, but since I'm the one wearing the heavy suit and the bride may end up in a strapless, off the shoulder affair like Lindsay, I probably don't have much of a say.

They were married in Lindsay's childhood home of Atchison, Kansas. The 2000 Census puts the population of Atchison at 10,232. The Census estimate for July 1, 2007 plots that the population has decreased to 10,078. It's a small town. There are stars when you're there at night, which I thought was pretty cool.

Atchison is your typical mid-American small town. The streets are in a grid, much of the town is still hunkered down around rail lines and the river. Oh, and apparently it considers itself the most haunted town in America. I suppose it means ghosts-per-capita, because it seems strange that Atchison could have accumulated more spirits than, say, Los Angeles or New Orleans.

Atchison is also home to Benedictine College, the "premiere Catholic college in the Midwest", according to the news magazine of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City. The College is sponsored by the Benedictine monastery of St. Benedict nearby. It includes 58 monks (all with email addresses!) One of the monks, Father Anselm Llewellyn, directed the choir at the nearby Episcopal Church for 30 years. The bishops of the Kansas City Episcopalian and Catholic archdiocese approved the exercise.

On the way to Atchison, I passed the village of Iatan. Yes, villages still exist even in 2008. This village has a population of 54. It is also home to IATAN I, a large power plant supplying Kansas City. Construction on IATAN II is underway. When it is finished, IATAN II will be able to burn 494 tons of coal an hour. I can't really wrap my brain around that statistic.

I also passed the town of Weston, where apparently Albert Einstein's brain has been sitting for 30+ years. In a jar. In a town. In rural Missouri.

The wedding was splendid, with a great deal of music as befits any music major. The officiant, Pastor Al (no, that's not made up) did a good job, with a short homily and speedy delivery. There were eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen, and it's always fun to see who's not accustomed to standing still for long periods of time.

The groom was nervous, the bride radiant, and all regular wedding customs were observed. Alas that the presence of scores of people easily overpowered the church A/C. Even the reception, held in the Benedictine College dining hall, was warm. The food was delicious, though. I was pleasantly surprised, after some of the weddings I've attended.

At each place setting was a small box containing some peppermint bark, which must have some association with the happy couple I'm not aware of. I can't say that I've ever had it before, but it's delicious! I've been breaking it into small pieces and using it as an after-meal palette cleanser. Tasty.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sex on the Brain

As promised, the first episode summary is posted to my parallel blog, http://sexwithdoctorandy.blogspot.com

A link is also available in the right column for future use. And be sure to start at the bottom, since entries are posted in reverse chronological order. I recommend making extensive use of the calendar tree in the right hand column to navigate.
.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sex and the City and the Single Guy - Introduction and Coming Soon

Last summer, I watched the entire "Sex and the City" series. It's good popcorn television, in the sense that it's not preoccupied with heavy or weighty subjects. Fancy shoes get stolen, people make a lot of money and behave badly, etc. Plus, there's a fair amount of sex talk. That talk probably gave the show most of its publicity at the time, as one of the vanguard of the HBO series for adults.

The show is now in syndication on broadcast TV, but it's late at night and heavily trimmed and censored (I'd imagine, otherwise it would make the Janet Jackson boob-slip seem like small potatoes.). This makes me laugh, because everybody kinda knows what they're talking about. I mean, the word "Sex" is in the title. But even though WE know what they're saying and the NETWORK knows what they're saying, we have to make sure they don't say it.

I'm sure I wouldn't have thought about this at all, had it not been for the death of George Carlin earlier this summer. He made his mark on political history by being a part of an indecency case that went to the Supreme Court for his "Seven Words You Can't Say" lecture. As many of the obituaries and remembrances noted, one still can't say the majority of the words on his list.

Back on topic. Why am I writing about this a year after I watched the show? I've gotten a fair amount of feedback on my viewing of an episode of "Gilmore Girls". Though almost no one completely agreed with me, people seemed to get something out of it. One person specifically (and several others tangentially) suggested that, with the new "Sex and the City" movie recently in theaters, I might tackle the series.

Those comments have been brewing around in my head for weeks. When I wrote about "Gilmore Girls", the most interesting part of the feedback was when I was told that I had made them think about something in a new light. From the other direction, I was exposed to a lot of things I hadn't really though about either. After all, the relationship dynamics between a mother and a daughter is pretty far out of my bailiwick.

I do enjoy writing and thinking about things, though. Whatever one may say about the series, it does raise a lot of issues about life, love, and happiness.

So, with the help of my local library, I'm going to be starting a new blog entry series. Because of the content of the TV series and the inability in Blogger to hide the majority of the entry behind a link after an introductory paragraph, I've started a second blog. I'll be dealing with the episodes in chronological order but the entries will not be *spoiler-free*. For the most part, I'll try to stick to developments that follow the time line of the story, but I'm not promising that an occasional entry may reference future events.

Despite the lurid content and intentionally provocative title, my goal is to discuss the issues that each episode presents. I'll let you in on my view of sex in "Sex": it's not really about that. No doubt some would disagree; foremost in that line would probably be HBO, because they'd have a hell of a time marketing the show if it weren't for the sex. That's why there's boobs available for viewing less than two minutes into the first episode.

If I'm lucky, perhaps I'll even be able to be able to bring out new issues even for people who have already seen the show. I know several women who are devotees and willingly align themselves towards one of the four main characters "compass points". I also know a few men who are willing to admit ("off the record") that they enjoy the show too, and not just because there are breasts on display.

Because I'm going to be trying for some depth in the ideas that I cover, I'll probably end up doing an episode per week. This will still be my main blog and I don't want to start something new and leave my first blog behind. I'll post helpful updates here when I add a new entry there but that's pretty much the extent of interaction between them. This allows me to preserve the illusion of allowing somebody's grandparents an un-sexy browse through my blog, but still having the option to move over if they so desire. Plus, the focus of this blog is mostly about me and my everyday thoughts, so the two blogs do have separate goals and functions.

I'm working on the first episode now, but it isn't quite ready yet. I got the first disc from the library last night, but I'm neck deep in wedding preparations and don't have as much time as required to devote to it. Tonight's the rehearsal dinner and tomorrow is the ceremony, so with fair wind and a following sea I should have the first episode commentary ready by Sunday.
.