I owe my father an apology. Not because I forced him to listen to Aerosmith's Pump when I was thirteen, or because I never managed to become a sullen teenager and so talked incessantly about things like Aerosmith's Pump (although I am desperately sorry for both of those things), but because I thought he just had to be wrong about Arizona. Arizona couldn't be that crazy. He had to have misunderstood. 

What a fool I was to doubt both my father and the unlimited batshit craziness of Arizona!

Perhaps ashamed of having a doctors-can-mislead-pregnant-women law slightly less batshit crazy than Oklahoma's, one proud Arizonan politician has decided to give all liberals an early Christmas present by telling a constituent that women who want to have abortions should first be forced to watch other women have abortions.

When he told me this, I of course concluded my father must have been watching Keith Olberman while sleep-deprived and high on something that makes people think totally outrageous things about conservatives. But no. Rep. Terri Proud (R! - Tuscon) responded to a concerned citizen's email about an anti-abortion bill with the following:

"Personally I'd like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a 'surgical procedure'. If it's not a life it shouldn't matter, if it doesn't harm a woman then she shouldn't care, and don't we want more transparency and education in the medical profession anyway? We demand it everywhere else. Until the dead child can tell me that she/he does not feel any pain - I have no intentions of clearing the conscience of the living - I will be voting YES."

This concerned citizen was not the only one to receive this response, as Proud told her staff to send it out to anyone who suggested she oppose the bill.

When the concerned citizen became even more concerned as a result and sent a follow-up email indicating she was both embarrassed and frightened by Proud, Proud responded with: "You're kidding right?" I can only assume this was also a blanket response sent out to all those who'd emailed back to suggest her last blanket response had been embarrassing and frightening. 

So once again, Dad, I'm sorry. I should never for a second have questioned your claims. If you tell me next that a state rep (R!!!) from Oklahoma has suggested women should not be allowed to have an abortion until they have have actually performed an abortion on another woman, I will not doubt you for a second.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

Last week it was Kansas and Oklahoma. This week it's Georgia. Perhaps afraid of being pigeonholed as "those people who have extremely backward views about women", some right-wingers have decided to prove they have range by reminding us they can also have repugnant attitudes towards race. 

Earlier this week, Eric Pfeiffer drew attention to this snappy bumper sticker available for sale on the internet:
In case the smallness of the font or the repulsiveness of the sentiment make the bottom line hard to read, here it is: "Stop repeat offenders. Don't re-elect Obama!"

But wait! If you're thinking, "Boy, that's the most racist pun I've come across in a while," that's only because you haven't yet heard the seller's perfectly reasonable and convincing defense of her product. Paula Smith, of Hinesville Georgia, says the sticker is "not racist" because "according to the dictionary [the N word] does not mean black. It means a low-down, lazy, sorry, low-down person. That's what the N word means." 

And when I read that she not only knows black families in her neighbourhood, but has also helped "to guide them in the right direction", I just knew she was a generous, totally un-bigoted person who was being unfairly attacked for being harmless and fun-loving.

I'm now looking forward to hearing from whoever runs (or used to run - it seems to have disappeared) "Stumpy's Stickers". That's the site where the sticker first popped up, and where the discerning consumer could also purchase such gems as a photo of an ape with the caption "Obama 2012", a drawing of a Confederate flag with the caption "If this flag has offended you, then it made my day!", and a drawing of members of the Ku Klux Klan with the caption, "The Original Boys in the Hood".

Because surely they're just as innocent and as fond of a good joke as Paula Smith. Obama and an ape? Why, that's not racist! That's just a hilarious joke about how an ape would be a really bad president, and Obama is a really bad president, so it's like Americans elected a great, big monkey as president! Hilarious. And everyone knows the Confederate flag is all about wholesome Southern pride and nothing to do with slavery. And everyone also knows that any joke involving the KKK pretty much has to be a benign and funny one. 

I bet if someone manages to identify the Stumpy behind the stickers, we'll find that he or she is simply a high-spirited, down-home soul who has an unusual dictionary and is just trying to guide us all in the right direction. 

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

So many of the things that amaze and terrify me seem to come from Kansas. I don't know as much about Oklahoma, but I'm not entirely surprised that amazing and terrifying things can be found there, too.

I am amazed and terrified by many things from the American South because I am, of course, a cliché: I am a left-leaning, pro-choice woman who enjoys public-access television programming and locally-grown sprouts. So it's really no surprise that the latest legislative craze to sweep the South is concerning to me.

I'm talking about laws relating to "wrongful births." Wrongful births are what result when women are not given information (related to birth defects, possible complications, etc...) about their fetuses that might lead them to terminate the pregnancy. "Wrongful birth" is also one of the most abhorrent phrases and concepts I've encountered in quite some time, and Michelle Goldberg is right to question it. People going before a court to argue that their child's birth was wrong and something they'd have prevented if they'd only known do not tend to inspire sympathy, except for their wrongful child.

But, as Golberg also points out, that doesn't mean pro-life doctors should have the right to actively conceal disturbing facts from mothers-to-be. Because that's what a law being considered in Kansas and already in effect in Oklahoma would do - allow anti-abortion physicians to lie to patients with impunity. If you're afraid telling a mother her fetus, say, does not have a brain might cause her to consider abortion, you can simply not tell her and let her discover it for herself when the baby is born. And she has no right to complain, because you are protected by law.

What I don't understand is why these doctors should be allowed to deceive mothers only in cases involving medical complications. If you reduce this question to its essentials (keeping in mind that I'm not entirely sure what its essentials are and am probably hopelessly misrepresenting the whole thing), what you're left with is a doctor's right to keep from a patient information that would lead her to consider abortion. What if your patient is a left-leaning, PBS-loving defender of a woman's right to choose when it comes to her own reproductive system? That kind of woman doesn't necessarily consider abortion only when there are problems with her pregnancy; that kind of woman considers abortion because she wants to concentrate on her career, or because she's not economically secure, or because she doesn't ever want to be a mother.  

If a doctor is allowed to conceal from a woman facts that might lead to an abortion, and such a woman might consider abortion just because she's discovered she's pregnant, then a doctor should legally be allowed to conceal from a woman the very fact that she's pregnant. He'd just have to be willing to spend a large part of the next nine months convincing her she's let herself go. 

 This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

I owe AMI-tv an apology.

AMI, which stands for "Accessible Media Inc.", is a television station that broadcasts all programs with open described video and closed captioning. I have passed a number of hours with the station because for a few, brief, fulfilling weeks it showed Magnum P.I. reruns on Friday afternoons, and it continues to air Perry Mason on weekends (Raymond Burr calms me). At first I was startled when I discovered that these shows were "open described" and that "open described" meant that a sonorous voice explained what was happening while it was happening ("Magnum smiles cheekily at the scantily-clad waterskier'), but now I've gotten used to it.

The only problem is that now and again, the sonorous voice says things I'm pretty sure are wrong. It describes a character as "downcasting his or her gaze", and/or as averting someone else's gaze. I've been known to make mistakes about such things (I know this because my father has the right to make grammarian's arrests as a result of the authority vested in him by the Oxford English Dictionary), but I searched the internet, and the only people using "downcast" as a verb appear to be those writing Sonic the Hedgehog fan fiction (not kidding) and unsolicited sequels to Pride and Prejudice (also not kidding).

I have been cultivating described-video-related indignation for a while now (and withheld-described-video-related indignation, in that AMI has now replaced Magnum with one of those Law and Order spin-offs that doesn't star Richard Belzer), but, as is so often the case, I've come across something that makes the downcasting of gazes seem downright adorable.

Dancing on Ice, a British reality television show that presumably features both of those things, has recently come under fire for close-captioning the dancing and the ice in such a manner as to confuse, insult, and concern deaf viewers.

The National Deaf Children's Society has called ITV (the network involved) out for providing such captions as:

  • "Across the ice and the Samaritans and speedo you."
  • "Right is affecting their partnership. Pulled your ball up."
  • "The jump just walk straight in the fridge."
  • "...dolomite go horribly one when you got your Blades Court..."
The BBC, unfortunately, is not in a position to feel smug, as it has, in its close-captioning past: a) referred to the Labour leader as the "Ed Miller Band", b) called the head of the Church of England the "arch bitch" of Canturbury, and c) indicated during a report on pigs that the pigs "like to nibble anything that comes into the shed, like our willies."

So maybe I shouldn't feel so aggrieved when the smooth-voiced AMI man averts my gaze; at least he's not telling me to pull my ball up.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.
One of the things I may not have made clear is that while I spend most of my time anticipating the worst and then reminding myself that probably something much worse than that imagined worst will end up happening, when something awful does happen, I become almost simple-mindedly philosophical about the compensations of life.

Last week, my brother-in-law's beloved, serene, ragged-eared, adoring cat died, very suddenly and in a traumatizing way. Banana was one of those cats that in his lifetime, becomes a legend. A round, forever-peckish, unsuspecting legend. People who'd never met him had heard of him; people who had met him were struck by his almost hard-to-believe lovability. He suffered through years of hardship as a street cat, and then found himself surrounded by welcoming laps and edible delicacies in his later years. If Peter's tribute to Banana does not cause you to cry just a bit and gaze at your own pet in desperate wonderment, please don't tell me so, because I would have to stop liking you and tell everyone else to stop liking you, too.

The fact that life can take you from severe deprivation to offerings of curried chicken and half-and-half, and that it then ends inevitably in death, has led Peter to develop the "Life Sausage" theory:

"You can live a hundred years if you never leave your home, never eat fatty foods, never risk love or sex for fear of failure and STDs — and your life sausage will be one long, emaciated pepperoni-stick of misery, hyperextended along one axis but barely registering on the others.  You can fuck everything that moves, snort every synthetic that makes it past the blood-brain barrier, dive with sharks and wrestle ‘gators and check out when your chute fails to open during the skydiving party on your sweet sixteenth. Your life sausage will be short but thick, like a hockey puck on-edge, and the sum total of the happiness contained therein will put to shame any number of miserable incontinent centenarians wasting away in the rest home. More typically the sausage will be a lumpy thing, a limbless balloon-animal lurching through time with fat parts and skinny parts and, more often than not, a sad tapering atrophy into loneliness and misery near the end. But in all these cases, the value of your life is summed up not by lifespan nor by happiness but by the product of these, the total space contained within the sausage skin."

He provides the following illustration of different kinds of life sausages:
I, inevitably, have something to say about the life sausage proposition, mostly because I will probably never skydive or swim with sharks, and yet still want to have a fat and meaty and enviable sausage. 

My elaboration involves the peculiar behaviour of life sausages in close proximity to one another. (This is when I reveal how simple-mindedly philosophical I can become in the face of grief.) When Banana began a new, warm, well-fed, much-loved chapter in his life, his sausage grew fat and meaty and enviable. But his presence in our lives, the clear evidence of his own generously-sized sausageness, also caused our sausages to grow and develop and swell in response. He made all our sausages bigger.  

Life sausages make each other grow. Being around an impressive, joyful, giant sausage can make yours more impressive, joyful, and giant. It is far more likely I will end up a incontinent centenarian than that I will wrestle alligators while having sex high on cocaine. But if I am very lucky, I will have a cat with a fat and healthy life sausage and find myself with a fat and healthy life sausage of my own.